Category Archives: Identity

Nametapes

This is how I remember it… like a page in the much-loved story book of the children’s early lives… a moment that God used to touch my heart.

It’s more than ten years since my firstborn started school, but I still remember the day when I was battling through the pile of freshly-bought school uniform, dutifully sewing in the little white woven name tapes, and my four year old came to ask me what I was doing.

Now, I’ve read that the average four year old asks around 200 questions a day, and mine was maybe even a little above average in this department, so I cast around for an answer that would pre-empt any further questions and maybe even send him back to his lego:

“I’m sewing in little tapes with your name on them, to show everyone that these clothes belong to you; and then no-one can take them away from you and they can’t get lost.”

It must have been a good answer, because he just looked very thoughtfully at me and then disappeared upstairs to his room again.

A minute later though, he reappeared, dragging his much beloved (and slightly gruesome) Blue-Blanky. This worn and grubby cot blanket had been at his side constantly for the past three years (apart from one heart-rending moment in a motorway service station and some late-night under-the-cover-of-darkness trips through the washing machine…) and was a great source of comfort to him, and occasional stress to me!

“Sew my name on Blue-Blanky Mummy,” he said earnestly, “then everyone will know it’s mine, and no-one can say it’s not and it can never ever be lost, or taken away”

So I did.

About a week later I was reading Ephesians when this verse caught a hold of my heart:

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory” Ephesians 1: 13-14 NIV

I suddenly realised that the Father has done the equivalent of sewing a woven nametape onto my very heart and soul – he has marked me with a seal.

Isn’t that marvellous?… isn’t it wonderful?  The Holy Spirit is the irrevokable royal seal on your life that declares to the earth and to the heavens for ever and ever:  “This soul is MINE”.

When I look at this picture, I hear God whispering:

“Everyone will know you are mine, no-one can say you are not, and you can never ever be lost, or taken away”

I wonder if you do too?

cashtape

There’s no place like home

It’s our nomadic season!

Once a year we run from the summer heat and leave the small island of Cyprus for the slightly bigger one of the UK, where we live out of (several) suitcases for five fun, but long, weeks.

Sleeping in a tent or on the guest beds of our fantastic welcoming friends and family is wonderful, but I can’t help missing the feeling of being ‘home.  Of course, the point of being here in the UK is not to feel ‘at home’, but to have fun, invest in friendships and do things that can’t be done when we’re in Cyprus.  But, although I’m having a great time, it’s actually quite difficult for a homebird like me to be on the move for that long.

I’ve been reflecting on that strange tension between the longing to be home and not feeling ready to leave yet.  Just a couple of weeks ago I was really wishing that I could pop home for a few days, run the washing machine ten times, sleep in my own bed and then pop back to spend more time with the friends I love (and the massive to-do list!)

It’s made me think again about Paul describing our bodies as ‘tents’  (in 2 Cor 5).  He seemed to think of his earthly body as ‘temporary accommodation’, to be replaced by a permanent building in heaven.  I’m fairly sure that most of the people Paul sold his tents to weren’t weekend leisure-campers either.  Tents were for people who for a long time or a short time were living on-the-move.

 Heaven is where our home is – life on earth is just camping

It’s made me wonder whether my life is, in reality, quite a lot like my family’s summer trip back to the UK.  It’s an interesting thought. …Maybe the point of my life is not really to be comfortable, or settled or easy; but to do (and enjoy) those things that won’t be possible in heaven… Chasing after the lost, loving the outcasts, defending the oppressed, caring for those in need.

Perhaps we are all ‘temporary nomads’ in the world for a while before we head back to our Home in heaven.  The long-term-travelling-camping thing is fun, but not easy.  It can be uncomfortable and difficult and inconvenient and we may never feel quite settled.

This time next week, we’ll be on our flight back to Cyprus.  There will be tearful goodbyes, and regrets about the stuff we didn’t get done… but it will be OK… we’ll be going home.

blue tent

Hanging on the Line

I’ve heard that it’s not the thing to air one’s dirty laundry in public, but I promise you that this lot is definitely clean, straight out of the washing machine, slightly damp and smelling of soap.

Today it was a mixed wash, so the line has my daughter’s summer dresses, my husband’s work shirts, some pillowcases, socks, a swimsuit and a white (wonder what made me think that was a good idea?) shower mat.

Sometimes I’m astounded by the power of Dixan (washing powder). I put all this lot in the washing machine, grubby and malodorous, and an hour later here it is… clean and sweet-smelling, blowing in the breeze. Even the shower mat, which was frankly gruesome when it went in (how is it that children’s feet come out of the shower still so dirty?), is now white, soft and fragrant… It’s a domestic miracle.

And I’ve been thinking this week about the truth that in Jesus we are washed completely clean,  because on Friday I had the glorious experience of seeing my fifteen year old son being baptised.

baptism

 

As I watched him going down under the water and coming back up again I thought again what a wonderful picture this is of being washed clean, of getting a new start. All the the mistakes, the falling short and the deliberate disobedience of our lives washed away. We leave every stain, every bit of dirt, every echo of guilt there in the water forever, not just that one time, but every single time we come to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Beautiful.

I love this from Colossians 1:22

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

Fortunately I don’t have anyone in my life who is likely to walk up to my washing line, stare at my shower mat and point out any stains on it!

In my spiritual life I don’t need someone else to do that, I’m actually pretty good at accusing myself.  But this verse tells me that I am utterly clean, and that God isn’t pointing out my stains and blemishes, not because he has developed selective vision, or because he is being polite, but because once i’ve asked for his forgiveness and been washed, THERE AREN’T ANY THERE ANY MORE.

(This isn’t a claim that I don’t mess things up anymore – far from it.  I end up in the laundry pile painfully often, but then I come to Jesus and ask to get washed and then I am CLEAN)

Although I knew that truth, I also struggled for years to get rid of the feeling of being dirty. In the end it took a powerful picture from God of myself standing under the flow of Jesus’ blood and seeing it removing the stains from my hands and heart before that particular piece of truth made it’s journey from my head to my heart.  Sometimes it takes God to write something directly onto your heart for you to get it!

It was hard to believe that the shower mat would ever look clean again… and so much harder to believe that God could come and wash every single dried-on, ground-in stain from my heart, but it’s true.

and if you want it, it can be true for you too.

 

washinglinefeat

 

 

For your journal:

Be honest, where are you in this process?

If you’re in the laundry pile, in need of forgiveness, come to Jesus and ask for it.

If you’re looking at a life that has been washed, but still pointing out stains that are no longer there, remember that when Paul said no-one was able to accuse you anymore that includes you! Don’t risk telling Jesus that his blood was all very well, but not enough to clean your heart up… you know that’s not true.  There are no exceptions.

If you, like me, struggle to shake the feeling of being unclean, dirty, messed-up , take a risk – ask God to show you how clean you are.  Get that truth into your heart where it belongs.

Superhero Socks

This is my sweet five-year-old, dressing up in her fifteen-year-old brother’s superhero socks. He has a wide collection, and likes to wear them mismatched as a tiny but significant (?) piece of rebellion against the oppression of school uniform…

I’ve been thinking about superhero socks a lot this week.  In my last postcard I mentioned IHE’s -Impossibly High Expectations – and the potential they have to limit us from being all God created us to be.  And I’ve been thinking about my own, and how to describe them to you, so that you can spot yours!

On reflection: having an impossibly high expectation of myself is like being quietly stalked by a Superhero.  This SuperSomeone tiptoes along behind me, like a malignant imaginary friend, waiting for  the moment to point out my inadequacies, show me how I could do things better, or encourage me to aim ridiculously high.  Next to her, I always feel pretty rubbish really.
Now, while it’s perfectly OK to enjoy a good superhero story, and even (in some circumstances) to wear the socks; I’m sure you’ll agree that to believe that you can be a superhero is a dangerous, possibly even life-threatening delusion.

But, we all seem to do it. We all seem to invent a ridiculous, superhuman version of the role we’re in, and then expect ourselves to be it : SuperSomeones.

My loudest and most powerful Supersomeone is ‘SuperMummy’. She stands in the background of my life, ever ready to rear her (very beautiful and perfectly made up) head at any opportunity. For some reason she is most likely to manifest the night before the children’s birthdays, or Christmas, when she’forces’ me to organise beautifully themed birthday parties, icecakes until 3 in the morning and try to make everything  ‘just perfect’.

If I ever take my eyes off Jesus and let them settle on SuperMummy, I’m done… I come to a few days later, confused and exhausted, wondering (again) why on earth I thought I needed to do all that stuff.

You see SuperMummy always wears make-up, is slim, has beautiful hair, can wear scarves stylishly, bakes perfectly, has a beautiful home (she found that piece of furniture in a second-hand store and distressed it herself) and a high-powered career, is amazingly spiritual, never shouts, and can preach in high heels without falling over. SuperMummy reads bedtime stories to all of her children every day, never forgets the PE kit, or shows up with kids in uniform on Mufti day, can instantly find a protractor the night before Maths exams, runs the PTA and never misses a dentist appointment…  Gosh, she can probably service the people carrier (minivan) as well.

SuperMummy does NOT exist… But do you know what? if I let myself be conned into trying to be her, I may not exist for very much longer either.  Trying to be a superhero is exhausting and dangerous… and not what Jesus has asked us to do.

Whoever you are, and whatever stage of life you are at, I bet you
have a SuperSomeone.. A SuperPastor, SuperDad, SuperFriend,
SuperDaughter, SuperWorshipLeader, SuperChristian.  Walking
quietly beside you, whispering over your shoulder, “You need to be more like me”  Do you know what? –  You need to get rid of them, right now, whatever it takes.

SuperWhatever will distract you from what God is calling you to be and to do, he or she will suck all the life out of you, exhaust you, whisper ‘try harder’ over your shoulder until you can’t manage another step and then show you all the ways you’ve failed.

Whatever you think about what he has written or said since, a few years ago Rob Bell, in a very popular book called Velvet Elvis had a moment of pure genius. Writing on this subject he said:

‘KILL YOUR SUPERWHATEVER… ACT NOW… SHOOT FIRST!’

At the moment we fell into his arms and surrendered to him, God our father gave us a gift to help us defeat the Supersomeones. An enormous endlessly supplied water cannon, filled with… grace.

There is grace enough to cover ever one of your imperfections… and mine. There is grace to not to have to be perfect, to be a superhero. In fact, Grace says “you aren’t a superhero, I didn’t make you that way”.

Of course, our kids, work colleagues, churches, friends, families, need us to try to be ‘good-enough’, but there’s a loooooong way between that and a superhero.

So there’s my challenge for you for the week: ask God to shine his light on your inner Superwhatever; ask him to show you where you have ridiculously high standards of yourself and then apply a ridiculously generous amount of grace…. Shoot first.

superherosocks feat

For your journal:

Is it time for you to give up wearing some superhero socks?  Have your worked out who your supersomeone might be?  Spend some time asking God about it this week.

Then set yourself some challenges… For me, shooting grace at the supermummy meant making some good-enough decisions, some of which I found very hard. ( Buying a pile of chocolate muffins instead of baking a birthday cake is one I especially remember:)

What challenge will you set yourself to be ‘good-enough’ this week?

 

P.S.  In case you don’t scroll down that far… Commenter Deborah wrote this, and I think it’s great:

‘What other approval is there, that compares to the voice of God whispering to my heart, “You’re mine”.’

 

 

 

The Father’s Heart

Sometimes, a picture can speak to places so deep in our hearts that too many words might just get in the way.

This postcard is one of my all-time favourites.

I’ve been saving it – but I’m posting it now as a testimony to what God has been doing in my heart lately.  I’ve ‘known’ this a long time… finally I’m starting to ‘get’ it.

If you too, have ever struggled to call your Heavenly Father ‘Abba’ or ‘Daddy’, to accept his unconditional love and embrace, then maybe you should spend some time with this picture this week, asking him to take the truth it represents and write it deep into your heart.

 

Image

 

My child

when your heart is hurt
 don't turn your face away

when your soul is bruised
 don't break away and run

when all you have to bring is shame
 don't find a place to hide

turn to me, run to me,
 dive into my embrace
 and find your rest in your Father's arms

 

reflect white

 

 

For your Journal:

Take a while to look at this picture and write down what you feel God is saying to you through it.   Have a go at writing your own poem, or write a letter back to God to capture what it means to you to be this child; to be  welcomed and embraced by your ‘Abba’, to be unconditionally loved.

 

Spacewalking: life in the wilderness.

I watched the movie ‘Gravity’ last night, have you
seen it? I rather enjoyed it in a heart-in-my-mouth sort of
way. There’s a scene in it where a space-suited hero is drifting,
cut loose in the vast emptiness of space, alone and helpless.
And I suddenly thought, “I know what that feels like”.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t have a secret previous life as an astronaut (!) but I have had a ‘spaceman’ time in my life,
a time when all the things I did, all the things I knew, all the
things that made me feel ‘me’ were emptied out and I felt as
adrift and powerless as the untethered spacewalker in my
picture.

I often think and write about the seasons of life. Seasons of light
and darkness, seasons of
celebration and of grieving, seasons of
work and seasons of rest. I love this from Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
(NIV)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them

It tells me that this change from one season to another is a normal part of life.

My spaceman season was one of the hardest I’ve walked (or floated!)
through. In fact, it was less of a season and more of a space
between seasons – a wilderness.

I live in Nicosia, Cyprus, a city that has been divided for more than 40 years. The South is part of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus and the Northern half is in the area occupied by Turkey since 1974. The city’s two halves now have very different peoples, cultures
and languages. It is possible to walk through from one
side to another (with your passport), but to do so you have to
leave one ‘side’ and walk through the ‘buffer zone’- a gap of
about a hundred metres of emptiness between the two sides:
abandoned streets and buildings, layered with 40 years of
dust. No one lives there and no one goes there. Nothing happens
there.

My ‘walk’ from being a ‘normal’ person living in the UK
to being an expat person living in Cyprus felt very much like
a walk from one half of this city into the other. Eventually
I ended up in another place, with new friends and a new
understanding of what God is calling me to do. But for a while
there I was trapped in the emptiness of the buffer zone; in a
nowhere-space between places.

If you’ve been there, you’ll know how hard it is. There are lots of things that can happen to cause an emptying, a time where God strips away roles, tasks or relationships that have filled your time and given you a sense of purpose. There is a sense of grieving for the ‘place’ you
have left behind and uncertainty about what the place that lies
ahead will look like, and about how long it might take to get
there!

I’d like to tell you about how marvellously I pressed into God when I was floating in space… but honestly?

I spent most of my first year in the wilderness confused,
frightened and very, very angry. It took me a long time to
turn and lean on Jesus.   When (about 14 months in) I eventually
calmed down enough and was able to ask God about the blank
sheet of emptiness, he showed me something very beautiful.
wildernessRight down in the corner of the blank sheet, I saw a tiny seedling. Something growing, something completely new. And I realised that the clearing, the emptying of my life had made space for new things
that there would never have been room for before.

Eventually I learned to look at the emptiness of
my wilderness and see it differently.

Instead of endless, terrifying nothingness (like my spaceman picture above), I began to see it as a blank sheet of artist’s paper on which God could ‘start again’ and paint something entirely new. The
emptying, painful though it is, makes room for a re-filling.
As my perspective changed I saw that emptiness is full of
potential, of endless possibilities. When you start to see it
that way, it’s just about possible to surrender to it, and maybe
even to embrace it.

 

This is something I wrote which sums up some of the things I learned in my wilderness. I wonder what you’ve learned in yours?

wildernesspoem small
wilderness
reflect greens
For your journal: If you’re in a wilderness of some kind or another, write God a letter… tell him what it feels like to be in your wilderness. When we’re angry we often’punish’ God by not speaking to him. Break the silence!

Song of songs 8:5 asks “Who is this coming up from the
wilderness leaning on her beloved
?”

What can you do in your wilderness to lean more on Jesus, so that when you come up out of it you will still be leaning?

Little Flowers : : my messy beautiful : : Postcards from Heaven

A while ago Glennon Melton of Momastery.com posted a challenge.  -If we believe that sometimes what’s messy about us is also what’s beautiful about us, then we should write about it… Here’s mine:

I went for a walk this morning to have some time to ask God about what I should paint and write. The one thing I noticed was that the orange trees in my neighbourhood are just bursting with hundreds of insignificant little white flowers.  Now, when God draws my attention to something like that it’s usually because He has something to say to me through it.  And today He said: “that’s your messy-beautiful:  You’re an orange blossom… but on the inside you really want to be a rose:  a huge, red, eye-catching rose, that is perfect and unblemished and beautiful and that everyone notices.

Hmmmm.

OK, I admit it.   I’m an orange blossom: small, a bit damaged, no shelf-life unless stuck to the tree and in the middle of a wonderful community of a million other flowers just like me.  And God is OK with that… but I struggle with it!

The bit of me that wants to be a rose is called something like, “I need to be significant”.  It’s not small.  It’s like a deep, deep hole that’s been there forever and grows every time someone forgets to copy me on an email, or ask my opinion about something.  A huge gaping unfillable bucket of a hole in the middle of my heart.  Now that’s messy.

I’ve been walking with Jesus for a while now, so I know that I’m very important and significant to Him.  I also know that only He is able to fill my need-to-be-important bucket.

But here’s the thing- every time something comes along that I could use to measure my ‘significance’, I look away from Jesus and I try to fill the bucket again myself.  And IT NEVER, EVER WORKS…

bucketI can confirm that it is impossible to fill up that bucket with nice facebook comments or website hit stats or well-behaved children or good grades or a shiny car (that was a while ago) or a trim waistline (that might have been a previous life ) or ANYTHING other than Jesus.

I’m a slow learner.

So I often ask myself why Jesus would ask me, with my gaping wound of an importance-hole, to put myself out there on a website or in a book or anywhere where I could so easily fall into the trap of trying to fill my own bucket with reviews or stats or happy comments…  Or where I could be destroyed by bad ones!  Why would He ask me to follow Him into a place where I know I’m always going to be limping?

… It’s a good question.  But I think I got a hint of an answer the other day when someone sent me this verse:

Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved? 

Songs 8:5 NIV 

Do you see it?

God chooses wounded people because those who limp, lean.

Don’t discount yourself because you’re wounded and limping.  Do lean on Jesus.  And in the words of Glennon:  Do show up anyway.

There’s a world out there that needs changing… and it’s only going to be changed if limping, messy people with mixed motives and scared hearts lean on Jesus and show up and start changing things.

 

blossom detailAnyway, back to the orange blossom…

I picked one off the tree and brought it home to paint and to ponder on.  On the kitchen table when I got in, abandoned by my five year old chaos-generator, was a beautiful red rose.

“That’s really not fair” I said to God.

But I walked over and picked it up anyway.  It was a fake! – made of plastic and silk.  It looked great from a distance, but close to it felt rough to touch, and it smelled of… nothing.  In that moment I looked down at the little orange blossom flower in my hand – soft, small and already wilting from being taken out of the tree, and it smelled AMAZING.

So that’s it.  I’m not going to pretend to be a rose and smell of nothing.  I’m going to be an orange blossom, working together with lots of others like me to fill the streets with the sweet fragrance of Jesus.  Who is with me?

 

 

orangeblossomfeature

 

reflect greens

 

 

For your journal:  Ask God about the messiness and beauty inside of you and see what He shows you.  You might ask Him whether you have a ‘bucket’ of your own, and what you do to try and fill it.  What would it take for you to hand it over to Jesus and let Him fill it?

 

This ‘bonus’ postcard is a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the amazing, beautiful, grace filled book that is Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

MBW-285

 

On Resting…

This week’s postcard is this violin.

This instrument is completely beautiful, a piece of art in its own right.

Craftsman made; carefully designed and created with a specific task in mind.  A piece of art and a piece of engineering. Each part is doing a job and the whole is tuned and ready.

And yet, until it is resting on the shoulder of the master musician, and surrendering to the tune that he chooses to play, it cannot achieve its full potential.

So often we fight back, unable to trust and rest, unwilling to surrender to the tune the master wants to play with our lives.  While we are wrestling we are still beautiful, still the work of a master craftsman, still treasured by him; but when we rest on his shoulder, and he turns his face to us and lifts his bow- then we become what we were always intended to be.

 
I rest here
on your shoulder
confident in you
my maker, my friend
 
I rest here
on your shoulder
laying down my right
to wield the bow
or write the tune
 
I rest here
confident, assured
knowing that the song
you have in mind for me
will be the one my heart
was made to sing

On Resting...