You’re 7 Georgia Hope!

Tonight when I squeezed you at bedtime it was the last time I would ever hug my 6yr old princess.

IMG_4406IMG_4407IMG_4408IMG_4401IMG_3061IMG_3800IMG_4397Oh my dearest Gigi – today was wonderful, even if we did steal it together due to less than ideal circumstances. You have been so very sick this week and I have been so very worried. But today you smiled and joked with me again and I took you on a mini adventure to Target, which was nearly too much for you.

If you ever read this when you are older please know that at 7 yrs old you are delightful. Intense and focused and insular. You love fiercely but choose rather to be hugged than to hug. Your physical demonstration of love and affection does not match the intensity of your devotion, or empathy, or compassion. They are written all over your face, and in the time you choose to spend, and in the words you use.

Honestly you can be quite hard to figure out sometimes. I sometimes have to try a multitude of tactics to get you to talk to me about your life. But maybe I just need to learn to listen in the way you need me to. I pray always that I will know who you need me to be, so you can be the best version of you. And sometimes that’s hard – you can be so independent. I would really like to keep you from the world altogether, and even pretend that you will never see the heartache and tragedy that this world faces. It will break your heart one day, when you see and know. But I think it’ll drive you to love too. I hope I get to see you move in love for our heartbroken and heartbreaking world.

Don’t ever change Georgia. Of course grow up and learn stuff and do stuff and imagine stuff and create stuff. But stay like you are: slightly awkward, so much fun and cheeky as, full of kindness and grace, beautiful to the core, compassionate and true. Stay you. ‘Cause you’re just perfect.

I can’t wait till the morning when I get to squeeze my brave and strong 7yr old princess. I can’t imagine anything better.

Sleep tight my angel girl.

I love you.

Mom xxx

Let there be Light!

So I am a part of this group of creatives and lovers of art and music and soul and worship. And YHWH.

We meet together. We sing. We encourage. We learn and hone our craft and strengthen our hearts. We love and challenge and are challenged – in the hope of His glory. We lay ourselves down, face down and reverent (a fight sometimes).

Last night was one of those meetings; the first of the year. Beautiful and raw and confronting and at times a little awkward. I think thats ok though. A little awkward in the connection can sometimes lead to the greatest of collaborations – the most expansive heart-art.

My friend spoke to us about his pilgrimage, his great adventure – the one he has chosen for him and his. And us, if we choose to join him on his quest. A quest that chases after Light and Love and all that is Holy.

I am stirred and more than a little agitated at the prospect of an unknown journey, an unknown path. The newness, riskiness and outright wildness of a very great adventure moves my very core. An adventure into the darkness, to dispel the darkness, to bring Light where there is no light.

I consider these things:

The cost of grabbing the opportunities when they come. The capacity required to say ‘yes’ and to embark on and complete that very same journey.  The anticipation of newness – both petrifying and exciting. The rhythm and groove of moving forward that my heart sets the beat for, and my mind rails against. (My fickle mind… only occasionally does it align with my heart and His truth.)

I stand on the edge of this very great adventure, with my God and these my people. And I say ‘yes’. I will rage against the creeping darkness; I will fuel up my little lamp. And above the deafening sounds of fear and doubt and apprehension I will roar,

“LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

Picture Perfect Pain…

… and the answer to it.

[Sometime over the Christmas break, somewhere in Australia.]

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I’m sitting on the beach in paradise. It’s really windy and bright. Above the noise of the crashing waves and roaring wind I can hear the excited squeals of children and grandparents and teenage girls.

Little puppies trot after their people and young boys throw footballs with their dads. Women are dotted here and there in stances of solitude – stealing a moment from the crazies of the last few weeks, with closed eyes, soaking up the life in the suns rays.

It’s a perfect picture.

Creation showing off to Creation. It’s joy, it’s fun. It’s family. But I am acutely aware that it’s also pain. Every single person here, alone or in a crowd, is in pain.

Our world is cracked and bleeding. Our nations are are slowly haemorrhaging. And we are oh so busy… trying to meet expectations. Trying to find our reasons. Trying to fulfil our dreams, and others dreams for us. Trying to do and be what we are told to do and be. Trying to find peace.

And forgetting who we are and why we are here.

But we are the salt and the light of the world to preserve and illuminate her; a city on a hill to be a beacon of hope that God has the last say in the awful, sinful mess. A holy nation; a royal priesthood. We are believers and followers of the One True God. Lovers of the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And we have the answer to the pain, if we could only just remember…

…and wake up… and rise up… and just get it done in this infinitely minute allotment of time we have been so graciously given.

The greatest commandment (a divine rule rather than a suggestion when we can muster enough energy or self-righteous piety) given to us by Jesus himself is this, that you should “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And … you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”*

And then He commissions us, gives us purpose, fills us with hope, reminds us why each one of us is here and what it cost Him. And simply says ‘now go and tell them…’

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”**

 

*Matt 22:36-40
**Mark 16:15-18

‘Just Be’

People are funny. We try so hard. We make so many plans and have such high expectations. But at the same time we doubt and waiver and fail.

I think it comes down to three things. And what we choose to do with them.
Faith. Hope. Love.

Maybe if we had an understanding of these three we wouldn’t struggle so hard. The fights we engaged in would maybe be worthy of our time and energy. We would win more and be more content and secure, even when we failed. Failure would not mean the end. It would not be conclusive. But instead it would push and prod us away from the despair of not trying or changing at all, and closer to the discipline of using failure as a catalyst to greatness.

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I have feared failure my whole life. It has stopped me and robbed me and paralysed me. It has lied to me countless times and in countless ways. Yes it has been powerful – gripping me even in my strengths and assurances and intelligence and gifts. But only because I let it. Only because I said it was OK. It had all the power I gave it.

Faith, hope and love. Words I have always heard and known about. Scripture quoted… and these three remain… But I really didn’t have a clue. And I needed a clue!  I had to stop and be still. Not just for a moment, or a day. But indefinitely. I had to stop and breathe and live in that stillness for a long time – until I could be shut up enough to hear Him speak to me. About me. To learn the ancient things for me today. Of faith and hope and love… and not of fear. But I was busy. Busy doing ‘important’ things – for others and for Him. I didn’t know how to be still.

To have real faith in the Unseen but Ever-present I had to be without anything I could muster up myself. I’m really good at getting by, scraping the barrel and making it look like I’m nailing it, loving life. After awhile I believed I was and that all was well.

But I discovered my soul was dying inside. Doing so much; being so many things; working so hard to make sure I never failed; always saying ‘yes’ so I never disappointed; never admitting weakness or shedding a tear for fear of being frail or vulnerable. Frailty and vulnerability equalled weakness to me, residue of growing up in a nation that refused me. Never let them see how you really feel; never let them know how it hurts; don’t you dare let on how much you really are not nailing this. Weakness meant failure to me – and I was afraid.

Funny how we think if we hide it from ‘them’ and pretend long enough that God Himself will be fooled. Funny and utterly ridiculous. He knew. He knew me. And although I had served Him vigorously for decades, and I had loved Him since I was a child, He began to earnestly call my name as 2015 began. Or maybe He had been calling me all along and I had just become desperate enough to hear His whisper. “Come to Me Shans… Get away with Me. I will give you rest.”

Over and over He called me to Him. And I heard Him. But for months I didn’t listen. Until one night in a broken, messy act of worship I asked Him to take a real good look at me. I stood there with all my tears and my arms wide open and inwardly shouted to Him. “Here I am. This is me. Search me out. And if you still want me, tell me what to do.”

He said, “Stop. Stop doing and just be. You are so very much more than what you do or what you bring. I cannot love you more. You cannot win my heart – it’s already yours.”

I was undone. So I stopped.

I ignored my mind that was screaming, “You can’t stop! That’s failure! What about everyone? What will they think? You’re letting everyone down! You can’t stop serving! What will you do? Who will you be?!”

I listened to my heart and the Lover of my soul; He is Love. I stepped off and I stepped down and I put all my faith and trust in the One who is already in my future. And it was easy. Surrender to the Love and the Hope that is in Him was easy, no matter the steps that were to follow. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like – will I ever live the life I have dreamed of and pursued since childhood? I don’t know and that’s OK with me. Because I feel like up until now I’ve been living my version of events. His is far superior. I think I’ll enjoy His more.

A year has passed and I can breathe all the way in. Rest is a beautiful thing. With rest there is space to hope again – to really live and be – without fear.

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

All my delight is in You Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in You Lord
Forevermore

None But Jesus (Hillsong United 2006).

Don’t be a fraud.

A couple of months ago a whole bunch of questions about servanthood, leadership and integrity went rolling through my head. These are serious questions I feel I need to ask myself on a very regular basis. The answers say a lot about who I am. They may do the same for you.

(Also I love the TV show Suits. It provides much thinking material!!)

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QUESTIONS:

Shana how do you treat people?

How do you use the authority you hold over people?

How do you show value to the people around you?

What is your character?

Does your insecurity make you a bully?
Do you need to prove yourself through negative humour or degrading others?

Do you change how you are when you speak to those above you, below you, your peers? Do you live truthfully in all these situations?

Is what you believe also what you accept in life?

Is the faith you speak the same as the life you live?

How do you think/act/walk/speak in your home and behind your front door?

How would Jesus be?
What would he say?
How would he treat those around him? Who serve him and work for him and sacrifice for him?

He is love and He brings freedom.
Do I?

I used to be so full of hope – my future was exciting and eagerly anticipated. I desperately want that back. And I have a feeling that integrity has a lot to do with that. Integrity means closing the gap between the seen and the unseen. Closing the gap between faith and life. Closing the gap between talk and walk.

Don’t be a fraud Shana.

Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
Ps 139:24 (MSG).

This verse scares me but it’s my heart’s cry.

But God…

Day 7.

Seven days of pain, more pain than I can remember. Seven days of fog. Seven days of asking and crying. Seven days of determination and rehabilitation and doing the hard thing to break through to an ounce of relief. Seven days of prayer and seeking and worshipping anyway. Seven days of incremental relief and choosing joy and choosing love.

Today with the sun came a touch of deliverance. I can stand undeterred and take steps without agony. And my heart rests in the hope that is Him. My heart leans into the assurance that His name is higher. And I breathe Him in and rest my tiredness in the knowledge that He has never failed me.

And my thoughts turn to those who live and survive in constant agony, who choose each day to lift Him higher, and I am overwhelmed by the ‘But God…’ moments of their lives. And my own. The moments that in spite of it all they choose to lift their eyes to the hills from where their Hope comes from. How they still believe.
And I am filled with gratitude.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV).

And I still believe.

Jubilee

Mom and Dad arrived in Australia 7 years ago today. I received this message from my dad this morning. The following words are written on their behalf.

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Our gratitude is all-consuming. We will forever lift His name high. Beyond our wildest dreams and more than we could hope or imagine.

 

The journey has been tough and wrought with potholes and crevices, bumps and mountainous blockades we thought we would never conquer.

But holding fast to the hope that is our Strong Tower, that our God is faithful and He cannot lie and He doesn’t change His mind, we clenched our teeth and pressed on.

And the blessings flow and overtake us. Take us by surprise and remind us we are not forgotten but pursued by the Almighty. And so we face today’s challenges hand-in-hand with our Deliverer who has never failed us. And eagerly anticipate all He has planned for us in the days to come.

Great is HIS faithfulness.

 

 

Georgia 5

From her first birthday I have written her a love letter every year. This is number 5…

Look at you. So bright like the sun. Shining amongst the grey. You are so wonderful. Wonderful and full of wonder. And unlike any child I’ve ever known.
You surprise me and make me look good.
I’m watching you now making forever friends in the playground with total strangers. You have no concept of status or beauty or class. To you, all are of the highest quality and more than worth your time and affection.
Sometimes you let yourself be restricted – by unexplained fear or your drive to push the limit. The very same drive that will take you to the highest of heights.
So full of questions and always needing a better explanation. Your head is full of puzzles to be solved and mysteries to explore. A never ending desire to know and know more. It drives you crazy and exhausts you. Brave and fierce. My little princess warrior.
5 years old today and crazy about life. Crazy about us and loyal and true.
I love you my baby girl. Thank you for being you.

Always I am a Storm.

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A relentless fighter against the norm, the mediocre, the safe, the acceptable.
The ineffective.
A storm.  

He stood for me and fought for me, before I even knew His Name. He stands by me and fights for me now as I stand for Him and what He holds in His heart.

Sometimes I’m a fighter – strong and powerful and sure. I know who I am and who I am meant to be. I know who you are and who you need me to be and I am her with confidence and finesse. I am all I was called to be and all He created me to be.

Sometimes I fight to be a fighter. I feel the weight of the expectation from my world. From my people. I know who I am and who you need me to be. But the horizon is far and my vision is blurry. I am tired and it’s hard. I can be her; I can and I fight to be and I make it across the line. Just.

Sometimes I want to run from the fight. I don’t want to fight. I doubt. I don’t want to be who you need me to be. I don’t want to – it hurts too much. It’s too dark and hopelessness seeps into my veins. But you need me to and they need me to and I have been called by the Almighty to. And I can, if I trust really hard and I pray really hard and forgive really hard. Forgive you and forgive them. And forgive me. And trust Him.

Sometimes I am these. I will not be beaten. I will not back down. His power is perfect in my weakness. The hurt; the disappointment; the being misunderstood and falsely accused; the insults – all lead me home. When I am weak then I am strong.

Always I am a storm.

2 Cor 11-12 (NIV). Thoughts from the first half of this year.