For My Daughters…

I am older than you – a whole generation apart. It may seem to you like I was born in a different era, and that I don’t understand what you’re going through.

But in many ways I’ve walked in your shoes. Like you, I’ve grown from infant to child. From child to teen. From teen to young woman – filled with hope and aspirations for my future.

The world has changed for sure. But in the end, the human heart doesn’t change that much. Not really. At the end of the day, we all need the same things. Love. Significance. Purpose.

I’ve walked further along life’s road than you…and experienced some of the things that I know you dream of… Bride. Wife. Mother.

I’ve cried my way down the aisle (yes, I’ve always been a crier!) I’ve carried four utter miracles within my womb – including a set of very wriggly twins!

I’ve cried tears of bewildered joy as I’ve held each precious gift in my arms, knowing that me and your father’s lives would never be the same again and wondering how it was possible to ever love someone quite that fiercely.

I thank God for these precious, God-given experiences – my cup truly runs over! Life is full of these changing seasons. It has its mountain top moments, and also it’s valleys. But all these experiences, every single one, is a part of the beautiful, tapestry of life.

But if I could stop, for just one moment, look over my shoulder, and give you some wisdom for your journey, even though it may be different to mine…..what would I say?

There are some things that I’ve learned over the years (often the hard way) that I would love to pass on to you. And so without further ado, I’m creating a series of posts, entitled, ‘For My Daughters’…(but of course, Samuel – my precious & only son, and the rest of you, dear readers, are all invited too!)

And here’s the first thing:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made

Psalm 139:14

As sisters you might be alike – yet each one of you is totally unique. Each human being has their own specific genetic code. 26 pairs of Chromosomes paired up in a completely different permutation, meaning that you are a one-of-a-kind work of art! Interestingly, every human being on the planet shares 99.9 per cent of the same DNA. It’s that 0.1 per cent difference that determines your hair and eye colour, the shape of your face, your height, your natural abilities etc. I don’t know how this kind of thing is calculated, but they say that if your DNA was somehow unravelled, it would stretch to the sun! All the way to the heavens!

Embrace who you are! Don’t try and be someone else. This world will try and sell you the lie that your value as a woman is wrapped up in the way you look. Don’t waste time comparing yourself to someone you’ve seen on Social Media, or wishing you were just that little bit thinner here, or a little bit fuller there. Don’t try to be someone else. You can’t be. Because, praise God, you’re you! You’re a miracle! You are not some random, computer-generated, pot-luck type of person. Look!

For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You,

For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.

Psalm 139: 13-16

The words of this Psalm are completely staggering. Even though I carried each one of you within my womb, I couldn’t see much of what was going on as you were forming and growing. But God was there! He saw it all. He was involved. He formed your inward parts! He wove you together. You were skilfully wrought. His eyes were upon you even when you were still unformed.

And all your days were already ordained! God is the author of your life! He is writing your story. He’s not standing afar off! No. He’s intimately involved and acquainted with all your ways. Remember, you are precious; unique; significant; loved. Loved to the uttermost by a wonderful heavenly Father.

Praise God!

Thirsty!

I love a good game of Spot the difference, don’t you?…

Have a good look at these two sets of pictures. They are both photos of the tomato plants that I’m currently trying to grow.

Now tell me…what’s the difference?

Water.

That’s the difference! Set one is a photo of my tomato plants when I got back from my holiday a few weeks back. (What a sad and sorrowful sight!)

Set two is a photo of my tomato plants the following morning, after a great big, refreshing drink of water.

It’s remarkable, isn’t it?!

I don’t think I’ve ever come across plants that are quite as thirsty as these. If you forget to water them for a single day, they literally droop and wilt and look all but dead.

But give them a good old glug of water, and half an hour later, they completely revive!

Thirsty?

Have you ever been thirsty? Have you ever experienced that dryness in your mouth and throat, that feeling of agitation, of desperation, where all you can think about is water?

The trouble is, just like my tomato plants, one drink of water is not enough. We need to keep drinking in order to survive.

The Woman at the Well

Jesus had an interesting chat with a woman at a well once. They were talking about water. I guess when you’re standing at a well, water is a fairly obvious thing to talk about. In fact, Jesus dares to ask the woman to draw him some water.

According to the gospel of John, this rather surprises the woman:

You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews and Samaritans do not associate with one another).

John 4:9

Jesus answers her:

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

John 4:10

Ok, what is Jesus doing here? He’s gone from talking about H2O – literal, physical water- to something entirely spiritual.

LIVING WATER.

The conversation twists and turns like this for a while, with the Samaritan woman still not really seeing, not really perceiving.

Jesus says:

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become to them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Through a series of further interchanges, Jesus lovingly draws this woman out. It’s as if He sees right into the depths of her heart and reveals all the emptiness within. This woman has been desperately thirsty. She’s been searching for years and years – desperately yearning – for a love that lasts – that really satisfies. Jesus sends the bucket right deep down into the depths of her soul. Why? Not to make her feel ashamed. But because He knows her lack. He really, truly sees her. He rightly discerns that she’s had five husbands. And that she’s not married to her current lover. This woman cannot seem to find what she’s looking for. She cannot seem to quench her thirst. She’s placing all her hope in human relationships, going from husband to husband, lover to lover – looking for true love and happiness, where it just can’t be found. It’s like she’s got this desperate, insatiable thirst.

Empty Wells

Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again…

Are you thirsty today? Are you searching down an empty well?

Money. Sex. Relationships. Fame and popularity. Success. Likes on Social Media. Drugs. Booze. Possessions. Houses. Careers. Ambitions fulfilled. Children. Family. Clothes. Holidays.

All of these things can fill a void temporarily. But the trouble is, they won’t bring lasting satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these things aren’t BAD in themselves. Some of these things are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed. But the point is, sometimes we focus on the gift, forgetting that the most beautiful thing about a gift, is the giver.

There is nothing on earth that can fill the God-shaped void within each one of us. These things may momentarily quench something within our souls. But they will always, always leave us thirsting for more.

Living Water

The good news is, God wants to give us His LIVING WATER – What’s Living Water? The type of water that fully satisfies. The type of drink that puts an end to all our searching. We will never find lasting satisfaction in the temporal, in the carnal, in the things we spend our time and money acquring, the things we try to hopelessly keep stuffing into the empty places.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2-3

At last, the Samaritan woman finds it! She finds the living Water as she talks with Jesus at the well. She comes to understand that HE is the living water – He is the end of all our thirsting. When we meet Jesus, and fully understand who He is, and the gift of salvation that He brings, we will never thirst again. Rivers of LIVING WATER will flow from our inner most being. If you’re thirsty today, then the following invitation, from Jesus, is for you…

‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

John 7:37-39

Two Builders

Blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise –

Proverbs 8:33

Once there were two builder guys,

One was foolish, one was wise.

Built their houses by the shore,

Bang, Tap, Hammer, Saw!

Both their houses looked so grand,

One on rock, the other sand,

Who’s been foolish, can you tell?

Who’s built badly, who’s built well?

Trees are swaying, skies are grey,

Who knew it would rain today?!

Run inside, shut the door,

Looks like it’s about to pour

Thunder cracks – what a din!

A sudden storm is rolling in,

Rain is falling, waters rise,

Now we’ll see which man was wise.

The storm keeps raging all day long,

And the house on the rock keeps standing strong,

But creak, wobble, crash, bang, SPLAT!

The house on the sand has fallen flat!

A Story Jesus Told…

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall!

Matthew 7:24-27

Which kind?

Which kind of man did Jesus say was wise?

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them

Which kind of man did Jesus say was foolish?

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act upon them

Both of these guys HEARD.  Both of these men built houses – that’s pretty clever, right?

But only one of them built on the right foundation.  Only one of these houses was founded on the rock.

Hearing God’s word is not enough to make us wise.  We need to obey, if we want our lives to be founded upon the rock.

When the storms came…

It wasn’t until the storms came, that we found out which man had built wisely.

When the storms of life come – our foundations will be tested.  Is your life founded on the rock of Jesus Christ, on His death and resurrection, and on His free gift of righteousness? Or are you trying to build on your own foundation?

What kind of builder will you be?

Don’t Worry – Lessons From The Lillies!

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…

Matthew 6:25

Anxiety. It’s a killer.

Anxiety is a thief that steals away your peace and robs you of your joy.

Falling Apart!

The Greek word for anxious (merimnao) used in this passage, has a somewhat surprising meaning. It means ‘a part – as opposed to the whole.’

The inference is that when we’re anxious, we’re divided, we’re pulled apart, in opposite directions. In other words, we go to pieces. We’re just all over the place.

Gosh, I can definitely relate to this. Can you?

What if…?

As a mother of four, I am constantly tempted to worry and fret and get anxious about all manner of things. What if this, or what if that….and…what on earth is the answer?

Look!

Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:26

Consider!

Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil, nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon, in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Matthew 6:28

The word consider here means to thouroughly understand, to learn a lesson from.

Learn!

Jesus is inviting us to look around and learn a profound lesson here. He deliberately chooses the birds of the air and the lillies of the field (wild, grassland flowers) Why? Because they’re everywhere! They’re all around us as a constant, daily reminder.

Okay…so am I missing something? How do common old garden birds and meadow flowers teach me not to worry?

To understand the lesson, we need to read the passage as a whole.

Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow, nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil, nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious saying, “what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things and Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6: 26-34

Five Lessons to Learn…

  • Sow. Reap. Gather. Toil. Spin. Notice, all these words involve labour. They involve effort. The word toil in particular denotes the kind of laborious work that makes us exhausted, both bodily and mentally. As human beings, we tend to focus on the wrong things. We spend our energies on earthly, fleeting treasures. We feel our lives would be so much better if we only had x, y or z. We’re constantly craving the bigger, the better. The next new thing. Being overly anxious about food, clothes, provisions and such like is EXHAUSTING. We’re not meant to live like this. The birds don’t. The lillies don’t. WHY? Because God takes care of them. The birds of the air and the lillies of the field rely solely on the GOODNESS of their Heavenly Father.
  • Anxiety doesn’t add – it takes away. Who by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Anxiety steals the life from us. It makes us sick. It stops us from enjoying the moment. It chains us up and keeps us from really living. From the moment we are born, til the moment we take our last breath, our lives are in God’s hands. Worrying doesn’t change a jot. It’s just a huge waste of time.
  • The phrase: “O you of little faith” occurs five times in the New Testament. Each and every time, Jesus is rebuking the problem of FAILING TO HEAR HIS VOICE. In other words, failing to believe and act on what He says. Anxiety stems from a lack of faith. It’s failing to believe how VALUABLE we are to God (so much more than the birds of the air). It’s failing to believe that ETERNAL things are of much more value than earthly things. It’s failing to believe that we have a Heavenly Father who KNOWS our every need and will provide it at the right time…and so on.

For the Gentiles seek after all these things and Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be axious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself, sufficient for the day is it’s own trouble.

Matthew 6: 32-34
  • Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter here. If we get our priorities right, then most of our anxiety will simply disappear! Interestingly, He uses two different words for ‘seek‘ here. In the first case, talking about the Gentiles, the word seek means: to clamour after, to wish for, to crave. It speaks of spending our energies on material things, fleeting treasures, vain, empty things that don’t provide real lasting satisfaction. In the second case, where Jesus instructs us to SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, it’s a different kind of seeking altogether. It means: to search for, to require, to seek by inquiring, to search out a matter. It’s about KNOWING, FINDING OUT, LAYING HOLD OF. It’s going after God, and laying hold of all that He promises. It’s about the eternal.

  • And all these things will be added to you – the inference here is one piece at a time. God gives us our DAILY bread. This instruction is so helpful. Stop worrying about tomorrow. It’s not even here yet. Just take one day at a time. God’s grace is sufficient for the here and now. If you’re worrying about tomorrow, you’ve gone beyond where Jesus would lead you. Come back to today, to the here and now! See, that feels so much better! We’re called to live moment by moment.

I really hope this study blesses and encourages you as much as it did me! The word of God does us so much good.

Happy Friendship Day!

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of friendship.

My friend Jenny and I, recently enjoying a rare day out together https://imarriedatravelagent.com/2019/07/09/sissinghurst-visit-to-an-english-country-garden/

We all need Friends!

Now, here’s a confession. I can be quite an introverted person, if I’m not careful. I’m very happy spending time alone. I often crave peace and quiet and a bit of space to think and ponder. I like to potter about. I like to express myself through the written word and arrange my thoughts in my own time, in my own way.

My Father-In-Law, Bill, is wired the same way. We get on like a house on fire! Both of us love to read, and visit places of interest, and generally ponder life quietly to ourselves. We’re real kindred spirits.

Bill lives on his own. Not through choice. He became a widower in 2013. Recently he’s been coming up to stay with us a bit more often, because sadly, life without Helen, can be lonely at times.

Whether you’re young, old, married, single, intravert or extravert- whatever age or stage in life you’re in – We all need good friends!

My daughter Emily, and her pal, Ethan, are such good friends!

Friendship -true companionship – is such a gift. Sometimes, when it’s right under our nose, we can take it for granted. I know I often do.

Friendships can spring up in the most unlikely places, between the most unlikely of people – or animals!

pinterest.com

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

The Gift of Friendship

So today I want to honour God for friendship. I want to be thankful for my loved ones, near and dear, and for every friend I’ve ever laughed with, cried with, prayed with, played with.

Friends old, friends new – friends I hardly ever see, friends I rub shoulders with every day. Friends I’m only just getting to know, friends that have been in my life for as long as I can remember.

Friends that have cared for me, encouraged me, cheered me on, sent me a note, called me, hugged me, helped me, challenged me, inspired me, guided me – and just been a ray of sunshine in my life.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly kindness. Outdo one another in showing honour.

Romans 12:10

Today, I recognise that I need to be more intentional about friendship – I want to think about others more. I want to smile more, listen more, give more of my time.

Today, I want to be a better friend.

To finish, I’d like to recommend a beautiful film (based on a book by R.J.Palacio) that celebrates friendships in it’s many forms – It’s called ‘Wonder.’

If you’ve got a moment, I’d love you to join in. Please share one of your favourite books, films, or stories about friendship in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

Restoring The Secret Garden

Recently, my daughter Emily has discovered one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s a beautiful story about a long forgotten garden, and the lives of the characters who discover it, gradually being restored.

In the following extract, the main character, Mary, (with the help of a friendly Robin) finally gets into the the secret garden, which has been locked up for ten years.

Mary’s heart began to thump and her hands to shake a little in her delight and excitement. The robin kept singing and twittering away and tilting his head on one side, as if he were as excited as she was. What was this under her hands which was square and made of iron which her fingers found a hole in? It was the lock of the door that had been closed ten years, and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key, and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it. It took two hands to do it, but it did turn.

And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if anyone was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door, which opened slowly – slowly.

Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.

She was standing inside the secret garden.

The Robin Who Showed the Way, Chapter 8 – The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Place of Delight

Right at the start God placed mankind in a garden. Have you ever wondered why?

The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.  Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight, and good for food.

Genesis 2:8

Whether or not you like gardening, I’m sure everyone of us would agree that spending time in a well-tended garden can have an extremely restorative effect on the soul.

Photographs taken at Sissinghurst, a National Trust Garden I recently visited

From the above verse, we learn that God not only planted trees and greenery to give us nourishing food, but also as a visual feast for the eye to behold!  Scientists have discovered that green is the most restful colour for the human eye to gaze upon.  And God made an abundance of it!  What an amazingly kind and generous Father!

The White Garden, Sissinghurst

Many biblical scholars talk about Eden being a place where Adam and Eve walked and talked with the Lord, in perfect intimacy and without any shame. The name Eden itself, means delight!

The Fall

We all know of course, the sad story of the fall.  Of how this amazing openness and trust between God and man was stolen by Satan, the father of lies.

We hear about how God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden, and placed the cherubim and the flaming sword to guard the way back to garden.

We also know, that right at the start, in midst of the garden, stood the tree of life!  The good news is, that even before the foundation of the world, even before mankind sinned, Jesus, the lamb of God, was slain on the tree to restore us to right relationship with the Father! 

Open the gates – The King of Glory is Coming In!

When you become a Christian and surrender your life to Jesus, it’s a bit like giving Him the keys to a locked-up garden!  The King of glory comes to take up residence within us!  In comes the Master Gardener to do His incredible, transformative, work in the garden of our hearts.

I have a very small garden – it’s about 55 feet long.    When we moved into our house, ten years ago, it was literally a terraced lawn, flanked by two small strips of sun-baked earth.  It had not plant, nor flower, nor anything remotely beautiful about it.   The only thing it did have, was a ton of weeds, and a ton of potential! 

My mum has always had a love for gardening – I learned from watching her over the years, that if you want to sit in a nice garden, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get digging!  And so I began…

Turning over the soil was hard graft.  Removing all the stones and stubborn weeds was painstakingly laborious.  The groundwork was probably 80-90 percent of the job.  And it’s an ongoing task!

Some of the blooms in my garden…

Ten years later, after much trial and error, weeding and digging, procrastinating and persevering, I now have a place where I can sit on a warm summer’s evening and enjoy the colour that each season brings, plus the occasional visit from a robin or a blue-tit.  It is my delight.  Not because it is yet perfect, but because it’s come on such a long way! 

Potted Pansies brighten up a spring morning

Unseen Work

When you go and visit a beautiful garden, it’s so easy to miss the hours of work that have gone into it.  What we don’t see, are the unseen hands and feet that have spent hours and hours digging and weeding and pruning and mowing.  The garden, in many ways, is just the outward display.  But it’s the unseen effort, that has taken place, perhaps whilst the garden was closed, probably in the early hours of the morning, when nobody was watching that has made all the difference.

Aren’t our lives a bit like this? 

Much of the fruit that we display in our lives, is formed and fashioned in the secret place.  It’s the times when we’re alone with Jesus, often in the early hours, when nobody is watching, when God’s handiwork is really done.

The Secret Place

“But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6

Today, I believe God is calling us afresh, through the rusty gate, down the path, and into the garden – to the secret place. He longs to meet with each one of us on a daily basis.  To walk and talk with us in the cool of the day.  Today, if you listen carefully, I believe that you might just hear Him calling you. 

Will you trust me?  Will you yield to Me and allow Me to have My way in your life?   Will you allow Me to root out the stubborn sins that spoil and choke growth?  Will you seek after me with all your heart, and spend time with Me in the secret place when nobody is watching. 

I know exactly what kind of garden I want you to be.  I have a unique design and plan for each one of you.  I want your life to reflect My beauty and My glory.  I want you to carry My fragrance and to become a place that others can come to for rest and refreshment. 

Today I stand at the door and knock – will you open the door of your heart?

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like the following:

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growing-pains

A Whole Lotta’ Self Control…

Emily, our crazy little coconut…

The other evening, I overheard Nathan talking with our six year old about ‘self-control’.

Nathan said to Emily: “Have you heard about the fruit of the Spirit?”

Emily replied: “Oh yeah, I know all about that…I think one of them’s a coconut!”

Well, as you can imagine, there wasn’t much self control after this comment – we just errupted into laughter! Kids! Don’t you just love them?!

I think one of them’s a coconut!

But i’ve found myself thinking about self control ever since. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few thoughts…

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls!

Proverbs 25:28
blazinheart.com

Confession Time

Wow! Isn’t this such a powerful and accurate image? I can so relate to this…When I first got married and had kids, I’m sorry to say, I discovered I had a bit of a temper. Maybe it’s the red hair, or something, I dunno? Or maybe it was the stress of having twins first time round? But anyway…it wasn’t good!

Here’s a typical scene that might have played out : (the part about the eggs is absolutely true btw)

The kids would wake up at the crack of dawn. I’d be cranky and tired after being kept up in the night. One of them would spill their breakfast. Milk would literally be dripping off the table. Then me and Nathan would have a cross word about something or other as he was going out the door to work. I’d decide to bake a cake to cheer myself up. I’d open the fridge door and realise we were out of eggs. I’d load the kids into the double buggy, and set off down the road to the shops. Whilst shopping, one of the twins would start screaming because they wanted some sweets or a magazine. The buggy would keep tipping up. I’d plod home feeling more and more wound up. I’d unload the shopping and place it on the kitchen table. Then the phone would ring. It would be an annoying sales call. I’d walk back into the kitchen to discover that one of the kids had cracked every single egg I’d just bought, and I now had a sloppy, gloopy mess all over the floor. And to top it all off, I’d now have to go back to the shops.

And then something inside me would just go snap!

I’d fly off the handle, yelling at the kids only to feel hopelessly, despairingly guilty about it afterwards. I’d berate myself mercilessly and vow I’d never shout at the kids again – only to do it again a few days later. It was like a terrible cycle. I felt powerless and unable to change.

Like a city broken into and left without walls

I don’t know if youve ever heard of Colin Buchanan, the Australian Kids worship guy? Well, he’s just fantastic! He’s written a song called ‘A Whole Lotta Self Control’. The words are great:

When you bite your tongue, and you hammer your thumb,

And your brain is starting to ache,

When the traffic’s crawlin’ and the mower’s stallin’

And you’re just about ready to break,

When you’re getting hassled beyond belief,

Don’t give everybody else the grief

It’s time for a whole lotta self control,

It’s time to fix your eyes on the heavenly goal,

Well it’s time to keep in step with the Spirit,

If you’ve gone and put your big foot in it,

Confess your sin and consider the good of your soul,

And pray for a whole lotta’ self control!

Colin Buchanan – from the album entitled “follow the saviour”

The Good News!

I am so pleased to say that things began to change in me, when I regularly began to cry out to God for help!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and SELF CONTROL!

Galatians 5:22

Self control is NOT produced by human effort…it’s not a work of SELF, as it’s name might suggest, it’s a work of the Spirit!

Friends, this is such amazing news! I don’t have to try and conjur up self control without the Holy Spirit’s help. I don’t have to grit my teeth, or beat myself up in order to produce it. The law renders me powerless. My flesh is just flesh. I can’t produce any Spiritual Fruit without the Holy Spirit.

Grapes, or tomatoes, or apples or peaches – they don’t struggle to appear, do they? Fruit comes as a result of the tree being rooted in good soil. The sun shines, the rains come…and pop! One day the fruit just appears.

The wonderful Farm Shop at Pollhill, bursting with fruit and veg

I am the Vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do NOTHING.

John 15:5

My job, is just to abide….to remain attached and connected to Jesus, the Vine. My job is to keep in step with the Spirit. How? By asking for help. By leaning in close to my ALL SUFFICIENT SAVIOUR. By asking Him to fill me and give me all I need to face the day. By coming daily to the throne of grace, for mercy and help in my time of need.

If you’re in need of some self-control today – ASK! Speak to Your Heavenly Father – confess your lack, and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. He is able to strengthen us in the inner man.

This is how we overcome!

Bangin’ Salmon!

This Salmon dish was one of those really fortunate experiments that turned out right first time! It’s seriously tasty, and an absolute doddle to make. It’s become a fast favourite of mine for occasions when I’m entertaining, as it can be prepared in advance, and it’s soooo easy to make, that it frees you up to concentrate on catching up with your friends! Also, it’s pretty healthy, so you don’t need to feel too guilty about having dessert!

I’ve named it ‘Bangin’ Salmon’ – as this seems to be my three teenage kids’ new word for anything that’s ‘cool’, ‘fab’ or in any way ‘good!’ (And because ‘Serendipitous Salmon’ just doesn’t have quite the same ring…)

Anyway, here’s how I made it:

Step 1:

Place some Salmon Fillets in a foil lined tray. Season generously and add some finely chopped red onions, red peppers and Vine/Cherry Tomatoes.

Step 2 – Glaze

My glaze consisted of:

  • a chunk of finely chopped fresh ginger,
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon or so of freshly squeezed lime juice

I made this up really quickly in a dish.

Step 3

Pour the glaze all over the Salmon, and pocket the salmon loosely in foil, adding some fresh coriander, if you like it.

Looks pretty, too!

Cook for about 25-30 mins on a moderate heat (I cooked mine in a fan oven at 180 degrees). You’ll know everything’s ready when the fish turns pale and flakes easily, and the tomatoes are close to bursting. And the smell of all that yummy glaze will make your mouth water.

Serve with new potatoes, broccoli, or a crisp green salad, and of course a glass of Pinot Grigio! And be sure to spoon over some of that glaze – delicious!

A Moment With My Maker

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies, Your righteousness is like the mountains of God, Your judgements are like a great deep

Psalm 36: 5-6
Barbados, August, 2018Read more about my travels at http://imarriedatravelagent.com

I waded through the water,

Ever deeper out to sea,

Using all my strength to push against

The waves surrounding me,

I laughed and caught my breath,

The bracing temperature surprising,

Then plunged my shoulders under,

And felt my spirits rising,

The waves they did not heed me,

As they drew me out and in,

They swirled and crashed about me,

With their great resounding din!

How small and insignificant,

I felt amid the weight,

Of those foamy, rolling billows,

The Atlantic vast and great.

Then I thought about Your power, as strong as any breaker,

And I thought about Your glory,

Oh Lord, Almighty Maker!

And I sensed Your gentle whisper, with the ocean’s crashing roar,

“My love for you is deeper

Than these waves you stand before!

My grace is more relentless than the never-ceasing wave.

And my love is so much stronger than the power of the grave!”

Anouska’s Story

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine.

Anouska and I were childhood friends. We went to church together. I can still picture her back then – a pretty snippet of a girl – a little bit cheeky – always laughing and full of beans. She was named after a character from a book that her mum was reading about a Russian Ballerina.

Years ago…Crystal Palace Park

Sadly, at around age 11, life took us in different directions, and for years, we lost touch. One day, I heard from a mutual friend, that Anouska’s life had taken an extremely difficult turn. At that time, she had all but lost her faith. I began to cry out to God for her. One day, out of the blue, she messaged me on Social Media, and eventually we met up for coffee.

Not long after, I had the privilege of praying for Anouska at her baptism, in June 2017. It was impossible to hold back the wave of tears and emotion as I witnessed her go through those waters, and listened to her testify about her strong faith in Jesus, through the storms of adversity.

I don’t think Anouska truly knows the impact she has had on me, and many many others.

This is her story.

  • Sep, 2011 – Anouska was diagnosed with HER2 Positive Breast Cancer. She was just 35.
  • October 2011-March 2012 – Extensive Chemotherapy (which forced her through early menopause).
  • April 2012 – Double Mastectomy with immediate reconstuction (9 hrs and 30 mins in surgery)
  • April 2012 – Declared Cancer Free!
  • September 2013 – After months of excruciating headaches, doctors discover a Stage 4 Breast Cancer related Brain Tumour.
  • October 2013 – Undergoes surgery to remove it.
  • November 2013 – Ten sessions of whole brain radiotherapy
  • Jan 2014 – Anouska’s beloved Mum, Gill passes away from a sudden massive heart attack, four days after she is diagnosed for the third time with a small secondary breast cancer in the liver.
  • February 2014 – April 2014 – Undergoes Chemotherapy and targeted therapy antibody drugs, Herceptin and Perjeta.
  • April 2014 – Anouska contracts the hospital superbug ‘C-Diff’ and is unable to continue with her chemotherapy.
  • May 2014 – Continues with 3 weekly antibody drug treatment and is told that this will continue for the rest of her life.
  • June 2014 – Full body scans – receives the magic words: ‘Anouska, you’re in remission!’
  • October 2017 – Routine Scan shows up a small secondary breast cancer brain tumour.
  • November 2017 – Undergoes surgery to remove brain tumour, reopening scar from first brain surgery. Developed complications, leaking cerebral fluid from scar. Develops a CSF infection (viral meningitis.)
  • Anouska is hospitalised with severe headaches, dizziness, vomiting and an intolerance to light. She is given intravenous antibiotics.
  • Sent home from hospital on 23rd December 2017 but is still vomiting and dizzy with constant severe headaches. So she is readmitted to hospital for six weeks, until finally she is sent home as the hospital need the bed.
  • May, 2018 – Begins 3 sessions of cranial osteopathy – which are unsuccessful. On fourth session Doctor tries acupuncture. Finally, the room stops spinning, the headaches and vomiting stop.
  • September 2018 – For some time, Anouska has been experiencing weeping from her right nipple. Biopsy reveals Cancer in her right nipple.
  • October 2018 – Surgery to remove both nipples.
  • Jan 2019 – Scan reveals small tumour in brain. Further scan shows 2 more.
  • February 2019 -SRS Radiotherapy treatment.
  • May 2019 – Scans on brain and body ALL CLEAR!

Quite a journey, hey?

Yet if you met Anouska, I’m pretty sure you would have no idea what she’s been through in the past eight years. Instead, you would be met with a beaming smile, and a friend who, time after time, is far quicker to ask how YOU are, than talk about herself.

She’s the type of person that shows up with a pair of Marigolds on and does your housework when you’ve had a busy week- and I’m not exaggerating.

She is unbelievably generous and kind. She bowled us over with this stunning hamper when she came over for Christmas Dinner last year.

Treats Galore!

She is always the first one to wash up, or bake a cake, or help serve at a church event. She recently served on our Homeless Shelter Team.

When Anouska’s mum passed away, Anouska took up full care of her 29 year old foster brother, Christian, who has accute physical needs, due to being born with an extremely rare condition.

I’ve never heard Anouska grumble. I’ve never heard her moan. But I’ve heard her crack plenty of jokes. She sends me encouragements. She cheers me up. She tells me off when I moan about my bad hair day, reminding me that she still doesn’t have any hair to moan about. She rocks a wig better than anyone I’ve ever met – and looks just as beautiful with a turban on her head.

She is positive. She is grateful for the small things. She oozes faith and hope. Her smile lights up the room. She lives life to the full and she never sweats the small stuff.

She lives out, on a daily basis, her favourite scripture verses:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “what shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all of these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:24-33
Cheers…

She sent me these words today:

Before I met with Jesus, I blamed God for all the bad things that happened to me, and I felt like I was facing everything on my own – especially when my mum passed away 5 days after I was diagnosed for the third time.

Now instead of blaming God for letting this happen to me, I thank Him for the world-surpassing peace, strength and positivity He has given me.

My faith in Jesus is everything now. I know that even when I’m sitting in the treatment chair, laid on the radiotherapy bed, or on the operating table, Jesus is with me, I’m not alone and I never worry about what the future may bring.

Anouska, I salute you. It’s a privilege to be your friend, and I love you from the bottom of my heart!

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31