Tag Archives: busyness

The Art of Balancing Oranges

Ever played the orange-balancing game?  Players see how many oranges (or in this case mandarins) they can stack on a tea-plate, then try to stand up, turn around and sit down without dropping any.  It’s trickier than you might imagine.

Sometimes my life feels a lot like this.  There are so many oranges: so many things yelling for my urgent attention, so many people that need me to do something, or be somewhere, or find their shoes…

There are days when I think that if someone tries to balance one more orange on top of the pile (just one more) I might yell, throw the whole lot up into the air and storm away to some imaginary place of peace (maybe some arid place where no-one has ever even seen an orange).

I don’t of course, I just keep on balancing and dropping… And avoiding people who might have oranges in their pockets that they want me to carry.

I’ve slowly learned over the years that it helps to pray about things.  So I was moaning to God the other day about all the problems and worries and things to do (he called some of them blessings and opportunities, but I wasn’t in a totally positive frame of mind) and telling him how I really needed FEWER oranges thank you very much, or I couldn’t be held responsible for the mess I was going to make on the pavement, when he suddenly stilled my heart and whispered a word of great wisdom and encouragement:

 

“Get a bigger plate”

 

“There are bigger plates?” I asked incredulously, “I hadn’t thought of that

So it’s led me to a lot of thinking this week about what ‘plates’ might be made of, and how you could go about growing yours to fit your needs.  And my thoughts are, in no particular order:

  1. Take care of yourself.  Mentally, and physically, as much as you are able.  It makes a difference.  I hesitate to say this, given the shape I’m currently in, but it really is true that exercise gives you more energy. I don’t know how exactly, but I get more done on days I’ve made it to the gym. Invest time into your  mental health too, play, create things, get enough sleep, drink more water.  All of these things grow plates.
  2. Take care of yourself spiritually too. Pray! Walk as closely to Jesus as you can, not as far away as you can get away with, take time in God’s presence every day, even if it’s just a little bit.
  3. Choose wisely. Ask for wisdom so that you can make good choices and walk in them.  Don’t try to be superman, or superwoman, supermum, superdad or superpastor. If you don’t get what I mean by that please read this.
  4. Finally, grow your faith.  Faith is like water that goes granite-hard just as you step out onto it.  It gets stronger, wider and more weight-bearing the more you use it. If you never step out onto the water, maybe you’ll never get to learn that it can take your weight?

 

I pray that if you are balancing oranges, you’ll find ways to grow a bigger plate.  That your current burden would become a breeze to balance, and that you would be able to learn to let Jesus take responsibility for the weight.  I pray also for those days when oranges fall, that you would be enveloped in a grace that enables you to trust our Good Father -the ultimate expert fruit-catcher.

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Shaken?

My smallest girl was so excited yesterday unwrapping our Christmas snow globes.  She gave each one a little shake before she found a place for them on the bookshelf and watched the swirl of white glitter surround the figures within.

This time of year is a bit like living in a shaken snow globe.  All the busyness of school plays and concerts, shopping, cooking and trying to get everything done is like a huge swirl of glitter celebrating yet surrounding and sometimes obscuring the message at its heart.

At the centre of my advent snowglobe there’s the extraordinary miracle of a newborn king laid in a manger, Almighty God constrained in weakness, a world changed forever.  I desperately want to celebrate it, to marvel with the shepherds at the miracle of the incarnation, to be soaked in the reality of God-with-us.

And yet there are days when all I can see is the snow, and however hard I try I can barely make out the outline of the new parents cradling my lord and my saviour. This postcard is exactly where I’ve been for the last few weeks, struggling to get a glimpse of Jesus through the snowstorm.

When I started to pray about this picture I was certain that God was going to talk to me about finding stillness,  about making space for the glitter to settle so that I can see clearly.  And that would no doubt be a great plan.  But I was wrong, he wanted to say something quite different –

 Know

Just know it.  Even when you can’t see it, know that he is there, at the very centre.

The shaking of our snow globes doesn’t remove the figures inside, just obscures them.

Know

This Christmas, even when you can’t see for glitter, know that he did invade the world that he created.  Know that he brought his Kingdom to Earth and that, in spite of all appearances, the increase of his government and peace will not end.

Know

Know that however much the snow globe of your life is shaken, and by whatever means, he will still be there. Even when it feels as though the world has been turned upside down and the storm is at it’s most suffocating – nothing has changed… he is still there.

And it is possible to reach out through the storm or the glitter and catch hold of him, perhaps as Jacob did -stubbornly refusing to let go until you get a blessing.

He is still there

 

 

 

 

a moment’s peace

I wonder how many times a day I wish I could have a moment’s peace and quiet?  Not just from the actual noise of my family, but from the things-to-do, worries, good-ideas and other thoughts that constantly spin around inside my head.

My life is inside-and-out noisy.  Good noise mostly just now, but I know from the past that grief, pain, anxiety, disappointment and not being very good at saying no to things can also cause different kinds of overpowering ‘noise’ that I eventually become desperate to escape from and utterly exhausted by.

I said I would write for the next few weeks on some of the ways that having a relationship with Jesus makes a difference to my life.  If I had to answer the question ‘What difference does it make having Jesus in your noisy, cluttered, slightly out of control life?’ – this is the picture that comes into my head:

My life is like an LP being played at full volume on the record player my dad gave me when I was 9 years old.  It’s loud with no pause button and I mostly love it, but every now and then, I come to God desperate for some respite, and for a moment he carefully lifts the needle from the record and holds me there, out of the noise.

recordplayer2

And those moments- of peace, of restoration, of rest – I could no longer live without.

The peace of being lifted out of the noise is not just silence… it’s a stillness, a quietness of heart that somehow enables me to hear the pure, clear song of heavenly places. The voice of God that can so easily be drowned out by the clamour of our everday lives, has the power to lift and restore us, to reset our perspective and slow down our anxious hearts.  Hearing it, allowing it to wash over you, leaning back for a moment into God’s arms and listening to the song he sings over you, is inexpressibly beautiful.

And after a little while, sometimes just five minutes, sometimes a bit longer, he gently lowers the needle again and the music begins to play in more or less the place it was in before. The noise resumes, but now my heart is better able to deal with it.

I know that each of you who reads this are living different, complicated, unique lives.  The noise you might need to be lifted out of might be very different to mine.  Loneliness or boredom can be just as deafening as busyness is.   However, I’m equally sure that there is noise that you need to be lifted out of and away from once in a while.

This picture is a promise to each of you.  Although the record will probably not stop turning, and your own noise may well still continue for a while; at any time you can call out to him,  and God will lift you out into this place of peace.  He will hold you so that you can lean into him, he will whisper to you in the stillness,  he will sing his song of love over you and he will restore your soul.  And then… he will put you back into your noisy world, but with the stillness of heaven in the centre of your heart.

Apple Chunks

Today I felt God saying that for this week’s postcard I should paint an apple.  So here it is.  My favourite kind, a sweet crunchy Gala. Yum.

Shortly after I painted it, my youngest asked if she could eat it, and as she is still a bit short in the front teeth department, whether I would mind cutting it up for her.

I wonder if what God is trying to say to me today is in there somewhere.  The good news about Jesus is the sweetest, most beautiful, healthy ‘food’ we could ever have the joy to taste.  But it’s also easier to eat if it’s cut up into chunks.

The advent season is a wonderful time to talk about Jesus, about the extraordinary miracle of God becoming a helpless child, about that tiny baby who was also the Saviour of the World, about the stories of shepherds and wise men and how they responded to him, and about how we choose to respond to him.

Advent is a time when faith conversations naturally start, so watch out for opportunites, and when you see them, don’t be ashamed to catch the moment and join in with what God is doing in people’s lives.

But, (and here’s where my picture comes in) don’t feel like you have to give them the whole apple.

Cut it up and hand out some slices. The gospel is biiiig. It’s much easier to digest in little chunks. And it’s also possible to share it out while remembering to eat some of it ourselves!

And, you know, when people taste that sweetness, many of them will come back for more.

I don’t know about you,  but I like this picture.  It takes the pressure off a bit, and I need that at this time of year!

But it also helps me to think that it might just be possible to join in with the conversations God is having with my family and friends this advent, and to have some conversations with God of my own in amongst all the pre-Christmas chaos. And that would be good.

An invitation

“This picture is an invitation.”

I lost count of how many times I said that over this last weekend.  I was sharing postcards – pictures with a message – with the many lovely seekers-after-truth-and-comfort who visited our booth at the local Mind Body Spirit Fair.  And as I shared the pictures I’d painted, I kept hearing myself say that phrase: “this picture is an invitation”.

And I suppose that many of the pictures I paint are just that: An invitation to trust; an invitation to step out; an invitation to surrender; an invitation to love and be loved;  an invitation to ask for more…

This one is an invitation to come and ‘be’

A bench sits in a shady part of the garden.  It’s a place of peace, rest and friendship.  It’s a place of quiet and of conversation.  It’s a place for you to meet with Jesus.

Have you been there lately?

Sometimes I get so busy with life that I forget to retreat into this place of quiet with Jesus, forget to do the one thing that restores my soul and enables me to keep up the busyness.

Sometimes I’m so ashamed that the garden that is my life has become overgrown and messy that I put off inviting Jesus into it until I’ve had a chance to tidy it up a bit.

How foolish am I, that I am so busy trying to make my garden look pretty that I forget to take the time to sit down and have a cup of tea with the master gardener that is waiting for me?  How crazy is it that I stand alone, fighting to hack back the weeds with my bare hands, while Jesus stands behind me holding a scythe?

 “I’ll be with you in a minute Jesus, just let me deal with this first”

 

Here’s the news:   Once you’ve invited God into the garden that is your life  he is always there.  He is always ready to sit with you on this bench, to listen to what is on your heart -however ugly it might be- and to speak and to pour out forgiveness, restoration and love into your heart.  He is waiting.   And he already knows about the mess, the corners of brambles and weeds; he even brought a spade.  But his priority, his heart, is to take time to be with you.

 

So you don’t have to invite him in, and I suspect you can’t keep him out, but you can refuse to listen to his invitation to join him in this quiet corner.  You can be too busy, too distracted, too tired or too ashamed.  There might be a hundred and one things you think you need to get done first.

But hear the invitation he is speaking to you now:

 

come to me

 

I wonder if it would be even better to not wait until I am aware of how weary and burdened I am, but to come today anyway….

… and when you come and make time to sit on that bench,  I think he says something like this…

come in poem

 

bench

 

 

reflect greens

 

If you’re reading this post, and thinking that you’ve never invited Jesus to be a part of your life, never known the closeness of a friendship with him that is like sitting on this bench in a garden with him, please find someone who knows him and ask them how.  They will be so happy to talk to you about their friendship with him.  And if you don’t know anyone to ask, drop me a line – I would LOVE to tell you more…

 

For your Journal:  (it’s great to process things with God on paper – I can heartily recommend it)

How does this picture of a bench and the idea of sitting on it with Jesus make you feel?

What things in your life distract you or hold you back from spending time alone with Jesus?

What do you find hard about making time with Jesus and what things could you do/ put in place to make it easier?