Do you beat yourself up because your faith isn’t clean and tidy, or sprinkled with memorized Bible verses and blissfully free of nagging doubts?
I see other women with their worn and highlighted bibles and tell myself they obviously love God way more than me. Perhaps if I used neon pens I’d be a better Christian?
I hear others talk of seeing God move in answer to prayer, while I stare at the unmoved mountains in my life and conclude He doesn’t love me as much.
I dream of being a woman of great faith, unshakable, unflappable, with it tattooed on my heart, but I wake to a reality that disappoints. I’m a muddy, scrappy disciple, clinging to faith with chipped nails on one hand, and a large glass of doubt in the other.
Not quite a Mary or Elizabeth. Not much of a Ruth or Esther, am I?
What if we could look objectively at the pain and hurt of life? Could we, like a wine critic, take time to reflect on its different nuances, rolling them around our palettes?
This guy here, the one with the big, black ant on his nose, and the enormous grin plastered across his face, makes me think that we might be able to do just that.
Let me introduce you to Justin Schmidt, a.k.a. The King of Stings; an entomologist from Arizona.
Having allowed himself to be stung thousands of times (yes, thousands dear friend) by over 80 of the world’s most venomous insects, he’s become famous for developing the Schmidt Pain Scale that categorizes the pain these creepy crawlies inflict.
Not only is he able to objectively dissect the agony, and rate it on a scale of 0 to 4, he adds descriptions that wouldn’t be out of place on a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. To give you an idea of quite how mad this man is, here are two of my favorite descriptions from his book The King of Stings.
When stung by the bald face hornet, he described the pain as
“Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to having your hand smashed in a revolving door.”
and the Eastern yellow jacket was
“Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.”
Pain, either physical or emotional, seems to be as much a part of life as breathing and the Kardashians doesn’t it?
Ironically, I’ve found an unexpected hour to relax can be disastrously stressful.
Have you ever felt like that?
Your world is spinning with deadlines and demands, you’re feeling over worked and under appreciated, then you’re suddenly presented with an unexpected moment of calm; a glorious opportunity to finally relax. Yet the relaxation you so desperately crave remains tantalizingly elusive as you spin in circles, desperately trying to decide how to spend your precious free time.
In fact it’s so ironic I gave it a name: Relaxation Anxiety*
Have you ever prayed for God to reveal His will for you? Prayed for Him to reveal it in a ridiculously obvious way that leaves no shadow of a doubt that He’s spoken? You know, write it in the sky, or in the froth of your cappuccino?
Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that does it? But that doesn’t seem to stop us praying that He’d PLEASE just SHOW US which way to go! Which job to take, which man to date or which outfit to wear (yes, I’ve prayed that prayer!).
Twelve years ago, my husband Al were in seminary in Oxford, England, and we were madly praying for revelation. We’d been asked to lead a church plant to Charlotte NC where a group of people wanted a church with the same DNA as our vibrant London church, and pretty much everyone believed we were the ones to lead it.
Being the couple of deep, unwavering faith that we are, we immediately said, “Are you kidding? No way! Move our three kids across the pond and start a new life? You must be joking. No. Absolutely not.”
But we did agreed to pray about it.
I’d like to say that while in deep meditative prayer, the Lord spoke in a booming, Morgan Freeman-like, audible voice. In truth, I spent two weeks frozen in perpetual indecision, turning in circles like the spinning beach ball of doom I get when my computer jams.
One moment I was sure that God wanted us to move, start a new life in the land of the free and resign ourselves to having kids that say cookie and sidewalk with a Southern drawl, not biscuit and pavement. Then, in the blink of an eye, I’d do a complete180; sure that God’s call was to stay and evangelize London’s un-churched, and raise our kids to drink tea and watch rugby.
One morning the beach ball abruptly stopped spinning.
Standing in the chaos of my daughter’s classroom, I turned to my friend Stephanie, “We’re going,” I calmly announced.
She nodded unemotionally, “Yes, yes you are.”
And that was it. No fireworks. No fanfare. No massive revelation
We went straight back to tying shoelaces and hanging up rucksacks, before I went home to talk to Al.
The only way I can describe it, is to call it a realization. I had prayed for a revelation, but what I got was a realization. A deep knowing, anchored right in my core that this was right, this was God’s plan, and this was what we would do.
Twelve years later we’re those Brits in Charlotte leading the church that serves English cream tea on their annual retreat. We love it here and so do our kids. We’ve learned the rules of American football and how to order water in an American accent so the baristas at Starbucks understand us, and I think we’re here to stay.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. We’ve had a bumpy road that has included terribly painful times of leadership and financial crisis, my cancer and most recently, Al’s burnout.
Yet it’s been at these darkest times that this deep realization of God’s call has saved me. I know that I know, that we were called here – that this is where God planted us. Many times, as I’ve been tempted to give up, head back to Blighty and the bosom of our family, this deep realization of God’s will has held me firm and strengthened me.
Are you praying for guidance, clarity or direction? Are you pleading with God to write it in the sky or send a good looking angel into your living room like He did for Mary (Luke 1:26)*? If you are, I feel your pain sweet sister.
I pray that the God who knows your heart, your dreams and your desires, gives you a deep realization of what His will is. I pray that you know, that you know, that you know. I pray that He writes it on your heart where it will not fade, so that when you enter stormy waters, it is there, anchoring you to His will.
* By the way, biblically there is no evidence to confirm Gabrielle’s dashing looks, but I’ve always imagine Him as the tall dark and handsome type, haven’t you?
This week on Their Story, Their God, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Katie M Reid. Katie’s honest confessions of being a tightly wound woman, and the struggles and eventual joy it brings, are salve to so many of us who battle the control freak giants lurking within us. Grab a cuppa and enjoy discovering the grace in a closed door.
A Closed Door Can Unlock Grace: By Katie M Reid
I was five minutes late. The door was locked and on it was a sign, “Next session starts at 11:30.” I knocked, hoping they’d still let me join the 10:30 training session. A woman cracked open the door and reiterated what the sign said.
As I head “off grid” this month (Yes, we’re heading to a secluded mountain cabin with no wifi or cell phone service and 45 minutes from the nearest grocery store. I’m still not sure if it’s brilliant or bananas – I’ll let you know) I’m excited to invite two friends to share Their Story, Their God, with you.
This week Kellie Stuart shares the touching story behind her new book Like a River From It’s Course. Kelli is not only a successful author (you can read all her accolades in her website bio), but a wife, mum to four rambunctious kids and a selfless friend. In the short time we’ve known each other she has made me laugh, encouraged me to be a better person and writer, and inspired me to more of who God created me to be. I know her writing will do the same for you.
If you read one book this summer, it should be Kelli’s. It’s part of our history, it’s part of our humanity, and it’s a story of God meeting us in the midst of horrendous evil. Grab a cuppa tea and enjoy both Kelli’s story and her book.
My Story, My God, My Ukraine – By Kellie Stuart
My mom and I stepped out onto the sidewalk, and I took it all in. The city of Kiev stretched before me, and I blinked back tears. I was back in Ukraine for the first time in five years and the sights, sounds, and smells were like music to my ears.
I was home.
Not really home, of course, since I’m as American as apple pie. But Ukraine had rooted a place into my heart a decade before this particular trip, and it felt like I’d come back to a place that was always meant to be mine.
“I’m so happy right now,” I told my mom. We looked both ways, then hustled across the street toward the trolley stop. Just as I stepped up onto the sidewalk, my foot got caught on a wire that was lying randomly on the ground. And before I could say, “I love Ukraine,” I fell flat on my face.
When I’m tired I can’t be bothered to be spiritual.
It’s easier for me to flop on the sofa in front of the TV than get on my knees in front of God. When I’m worn out I’d rather devour a box of Oreos than a book of the bible, or procrastinate rather than pray.
Do you find that being spiritual can sometimes feel too much like hard work?
Does tiredness turn you into a physical and spiritual sloth too?
When a good night’s sleep doesn’t fix the weariness, it’s so easy to slowly drift away from God isn’t it? I call it the Downward Spiral of Spiritual Apathy. It looks like this (I’ve drawn a very scientific chart).
The Downward Spiral of Spiritual Apathy
If we want to feel alive physically, we need to come alive spiritually. Somehow we must break this downward cycle.
But how on earth do we break it and feed our hungry souls, when we can’t be bothered to get off our bums and open the fridge door, let alone feed on the bread of life?
Feeling Weary? The Secret to Recapturing Your Get Up & Go.
Some days, and seasons of life, can zap our energy faster than a couple of rounds with Mohammed Ali, can’t they? If running late is your only workout, yet you’re still zapped at the end of the day, you’re not alone. Over 75% of us feel tired many days of the week.
The good news is, there’s no need to carry on feeling worn out. We can shed that sloth like feeling and recapture our get up and go when we Keep Moving Forward PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY & SPIRITUALLY.
In Week 1, I talked about what it looks like to keep moving forward physically. If you missed it you can catch up here, and if you’ve put some of the steps into practice do share in the comments below how it’s gone and how you’re feeling.
This week we’re going to Keep Moving Forward EMOTIONALLY
Let’s be honest. Unless we grew up in a vacuum, or on Little House on the Prairie, we all have emotional baggage. Yours might be cute, matching, carryon baggage or more like my cardboard box shrink-wrapped in airport security tape, but either way, we all lug around our emotional baggage.Continue Reading
Do you ever feel weary? Maybe even a bit apathetic towards life? Like your get up and go has got up and gone, without leaving a note to say “goodbye and thanks for all the chocolate”.
I do and I’m so frustrated. Despite a restful week at the beach, eating, sleeping, reading and learning boogie board (who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?), I’m in a weary funk and it’s driving me crazy. Nothing traumatic has happened, so I should be rested and revitalized; yet within a week of being home, I feel weary and woebegone.
Do you feel a bit like that too? Weary for no particular reason other than life, with its ongoing demands and worries, is draining the energy out of you like a blood sucking leach.Continue Reading
I'm a wife, mum, dog-lover, tea-drinker, fresh air junkie and Brit in the USA. I'm also a tell-it-how-it-is writer, English Flapjack baker and cancer survivor.
I wish we could chat over a cup of tea, but failing that, stay a while so we can hangout in cyberspace. You can subscribe to my blog to not miss a post or just click the icons below to say hi. I love making new friends.