Sunday, 13 June 2021

I want the road map


It was one of those days on the trip when I had a lot of driving all around a busy city. I had 5-6 appointments/ meetings to go to and I knew that it would be a big day of getting from one place to another.  I looked at each place on google and worked out roughly what timing would be okay, but of course I had never been to any of these places and never driven around this city before, especially in an 8-metre van.   But for me the day began with a sense of excitement, for while I didn't know exactly where I was going, I was excited for the challenge. I didn't give it another thought, until I met a lady before I left who, when she asked about my day and I told her, her first response was, “In that van! Oh my, that’s a big thing to do. Where are you going, can I help you in case you get stuck?” To which my reply was, “I don't know where I am going, I only know where I am heading first up!” She said I was brave and went on her way.  I didn't feel brave at all, I suppose over the years I have just been able to take each step as it comes and enjoy the adventure of it. I mean, I didn’t really care which way “google” took me today, as long as I got there in the end. Today, like the past 4 months really, I have been happy to see where the journey takes me and sometimes the detours or unexpected/unplanned roads I have travelled have been the most interesting and enlightening experiences.  

 

So, the question remains, why is it so easy to drive into the unknown around Australia and not so easy for life in general?  I can have a rough map of where I want to aim for and then set off and see where it takes me when it comes to driving around Australia. I can actually find it quite exciting and freeing. But when I don't know what is around the corner in my life, I am paralysed. 

 

But in my head, I know that when you are walking on the journey with Jesus, you can read the instruction manual, there are helpful guidelines along the way and you know the final destination. He gives you are a purpose along the way and things to do, and says He wants us to have life to the full (John 10:10). Why can’t that be enough, just hit the road and see where life takes you and Jesus? 

 

Ah, no. Instead, I am in a pickle, because I don't know what is around the corner. I can’t see what is next! As if COVID didn't teach us that even when we think we know, we actually don’t. And yet, I am still unable to just go with the flow. I just can’t seem to live life as easily as a road trip and see the adventure of it so much these days and I suspect I am not the only one. 

 

I used to, but that was when I thought I knew what my future looked like.  Like many today, I stare down the future barrel and find so much has been whisked away.  It could be you have no job, no marriage, loss of a deep friendship, no idea what ministry looks like, unsure of income and how to survive, loss of house, children all leaving home or all the above.  Why can’t I see that God’s end game and promises still haven’t changed and find enough assurance in that to simply take the next step in the journey and trust God for the rest? 

 

It seems I not only want the road map, I want it clearly marked out, so I can see every step of the way. To be fair on myself, I may not need to know exactly where I am going when I drive, but I do know at any time I want to know, I can simply talk to ‘google’.  There is an assurance in that for sure. So, I take the approach, ‘I only need to know what I only need to know’.  I feel like that is the approach I have lived by for a long time in most things, which is fine until you find that what you thought you knew has changed and now you have no idea what you know. I think I just lost myself in my own writing and yet I think it makes sense (ha ha). 

 

When we don't know what is next and when the ‘why’ is not clear, that’s when I am learning that I am asking the wrong questions. 

 

“Shift from asking why God allows hard things to learning how to rely on Him in the midst of circumstances that make you resistant to trust”. Lisa Terkusrt  

Yes, I want to the road map and is that such an unreasonable request?  I suspect the key word there is “the”, if I am honest, I want “the” road map that makes sense to me. However, “the” road map has been there since the beginning. It is all there in His word, but it is just not as directional as we would like it or, let’s be honest, it’s often NOT the roads we might personally choose if we were in control. Surrendering to God’s map is what He asks us of all. To let go of your own “road map” and to stop asking why we can’t go in that direction is what we must do. Then all we CAN do is trust Him and learn to be happy with making the next best step at the time, based on where He is leading us.

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. Theres far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we cant see now will last forever."     

2 Cor 4:10-18 The message          


 

“Help me Lord, to only need to know what I need to know and trust you for the rest. Help me to stop asking the “why” question and begin to ask “what next”. Lord, I want to thrive and not simply survive, and that means letting go of what I cannot see and learning to enjoy the moment that is right in front of me, knowing you know the final destination.”


Monday, 31 May 2021

Choosing Brave



 ‘You’re so brave’ was the comment I would get when people found out about the trip I was planning. 

Wilson - The Van

When I would land at a caravan park and set up, people would say hi and couldn’t believe I was on my own.  Time and time again I would hear it, how brave people thought I was. I know in some ways there were elements of bravery being on my own in a big van, but really if you knew me, the adventure and exploration part of the trip was actually not me being brave, but me being who I was created to be. The study part was also something that was so satisfying. The opportunity to watch the sunrise and sunset each night outside my window and walk in His creation was an oasis that I savoured every moment of. Even the not knowing where I may land my head that night was exhilarating. 

 

Phil 4:8 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things”  

 

Out on the road on my own I could do this for the first time in what felt like18 months. There were no


other distractions, voices, responsibilities pulling me back into the stuck place I had found myself in.   Like any mountain top experience that we have, it is powerful, special, peaceful, life giving, and like Peter I simply wanted to camp there. (Matthew 17) So what people were saying was “brave” I was simply feeling like it was ‘hiding’, ‘choosing safety’, ‘maybe even running’.  If I could pitch my tent and stay there forever, roaming the country from beautiful scenery to beautiful scenery I would. To be honest I am still trying to work out how I can continue to do this in my future.  When it is just you and Jesus, it is easier to think on things that are true and pure and right. When it is just you and the ability to choose which beautiful destinations you are going to head toward, it is easy to think on things that are excellent, lovely, praiseworthy. 

 

Matt 17:4

Every sunrise and sunset, mountain and valley, rock and tree filled my broken heart with hope, peace, joy, and His majesty. As Peter said, “Lord, it is good that we are here”

 


We all love those mountain top moments, they are important in our faith journey, and you know the feeling of never wanting to leave and go back to everyday life. 

 

The bravest thing that I have done by far on this trip was to choose to come home. 

 

Coming to the end of the trip was by far the hardest thing I did. I chose to fast from meat and Moscato (which I was drinking too much, if I am honest),  in order to take even more time in slowing down in the last 10 days to prepare for the end. It was so rich that I thought “I got this” until I drove closer and closer. I had to come down from the mountain. As you come into Wollongong, you literally come down a mountain and suddenly I felt I couldn’t breathe again. 

 

Under my breath it was all I could do to speak out the promises that I have been given over the past 10 days. Like a mantra, they were something I knew I must say. All the while, the fog was setting in, the cold literally set in, and I felt like I could see nothing. All I could do was put one simple step in front of me. It was like walking into a storm from the calm eye of the storm, that I knew He had placed me in for the past 4 months. 

 

I can relate to Peter wanting to stay on the mountain, for as soon as they got down from the mountain, the demands began; heal me, speak to me, why don't you do this, do it now! The disciples who had just been in the presence for God, were quickly reminded of how their faith so quickly waivers when the first challenge comes. (Matt 17:20)  Oh, how disappointed I was in myself, how weak I am, how sad that I can so quickly crumble. Have I really learned anything that You have taught me in the past 4 months? How quickly was the fall into a slump of bad thinking, doubt and confusion.  How come I cannot hold onto His promises no matter the circumstances? I want to be so much stronger than I really am, as brave as people think I am.

 

I am so thankful for Peter and Paul and many of the people in the Bible who tell me I am not alone in my doubt, fear and lack of faith.  When Paul asked for his burden to be taken away, God responds: 

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness… When I am weak you are strong” 

 

Yes, I know I can love and flourish in times of strengthening and mountain top experiences, but am I brave enough to stand strong when I am weak and trust His grace is sufficient? I know it is who I want to be, I know in Christ it is what He wants for me, I know He doesn’t ask me to do it in my own strength, I know it is the place He wants us most. But to step into that space in this next season, will be the bravest thing I ever do. 

 

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Unravelling

 There is a song by Cory Asbury called “unravelling”.  It is unnerving and raw and there is a deep story there, as with many songs.  They touch our own deep and raw stories and minister to us all in different ways.  The last lines of the song haunts me: 


“I’m coming apart at the seams, it’s worse than I thought it would be … but I have never been happier.” 


They haunt me, because I am not there. The song takes me to my raw sadness and I feel deep loss, and then it ends with, “I have never been happier.” It is just not the way I would end the song. It feels so wrong for me, for my story, for my pain, for my loss. I can’t imagine ever being ‘happier” again. I know it sounds hopeful, but it is hard to hear when you can’t imagine it is even possible.





I have a dear friend who is currently knitting a blanket for me as she is praying for me. What a gift, what a beautiful thing to do for someone. Over the 4 months of my trip she is knitting, creating and praying while she knits. 


‘I am shaping the physical representation of my prayers for you, so when you arrive home, you can keep warm and snuggle under our love.”  (her words).  


I understand enough about knitting to know it takes a long time to create something.  It is a slow process and it requires you to sit still. All good things for healing and prayer. But I also know that with knitting, if something goes wrong or you make a mistake you can’t just keep going on and hope it fixes itself. In fact, sometimes the mistakes or accidents are so big that you must unravel the knitting back to the point where the incident happened and start again.  If you have come so far, it is painful to unravel and start again. I mean really, let’s be honest, who wants to do that?  I get why at this stage some simply quit. There are many pieces of knitting in people’s homes which are unfinished, I am sure.  It is easy to feel gutted and like it has all been a waste of time. 


While my friend is knitting me a blanket of love, I find myself in a time of life where the unravelling is so painful, so huge, so overwhelming that I can’t ever imagine being happier.  To unravel something that has been made over many years still takes my breath away, daily.  I feel each day, a piece is being unraveled and I watch all that I thought was being created with love and care and joy, being unraveled with silence, confusion, hurtful words and actions, shame and doubt, fear and hopelessness. I know what it is like to feel gutted. I have felt the pull of wanting to quit, the questions ‘WHY’ with no answers?


To unravel a mistake makes sense. Although I am not the perfectionist, I would probably leave the mistakes and see them as unique and special. That says a lot about me, doesn’t it?  However, there are times when this is necessary. I am all for refining and becoming the best you, the you you’re created to be, and that means at times the “unravelling’ is the best thing for you.  


But then there are times when something beautiful is being "unraveled” and to watch that, is to break your heart. It is like when you get a snag in your favorite jumper. Worse still is when someone comes along and deliberately begins pulling a loose piece, as a joke, or maybe they are not even sure what they are doing. Sometimes it is meant to be hurtful, other times it is simply an accident. Either way it is something that happens to you and you have no control over it. This unravelling is the saddest kind. 


Whether it is a good or bad unravelling, I know the story of the unravelling is so that it can be re-knitted correctly or simply for the reminder that things unravel and there is always a chance to start again. In the end it is about the cycle of life and death, and that HOPE is sometimes all we have to hold onto. But when you are being “unraveled” is it is so uncomfortable. 


For me, every stitch that comes apart, releases another and another and pretty soon you find yourself with nothing to show for yourself for all that you have given and invested, wondering what was even real.  When it is unraveled, it is gone, you can no longer see it, you can’t get it back, you simply have to start again.


“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God”. Corrie Ten Boom


I am unraveling. I can’t say that I am happy, but I know the story isn’t over yet, the knitting of my life is not finished yet. And I know in the unknown re-knitting I choose to trust. It is all I can do. 


I imagine you have your own story of unravelling.  You may be at the beginning, you may be like me in the middle and not able to see the ‘happy’ yet, you may be at the end and able to sing, “I have never been happier”. This is the power of sharing our stories and unravelling together.  We see we are not alone, and that there is an end. We see with Him there is always HOPE that at the end of the knitting it will be beautiful.