Tag Archives: #messybeautiful

Tangerine lanterns

Have you ever made one of these? It’s actually terribly easy to cut around a tangerine or clementine, pull out the fruit and pop in a candle. As you can see, it makes a beautiful little lantern, with the added bonus of a sweet orangey aroma.

As I made the lantern with my sweet girl I learned a few things, and today I’m hearing the Spirit speaking through them…

One is that putting a light inside a tangerine peel makes it very, very beautiful. Something which I would ordinarily throw away, consider worthless, has its deep beauty revealed by the light that shines out from within it.

The second was that if you fit the two halves together and attempt to seal the light in, it is very quickly starved of oxygen and the flames go out. I needed to cut a hole in the top to make it able to keep burning. The hole iets some of the light and heat that the flame generates out without spoiling the gorgeous effect of the light breaking through the thin places (and the scars), and the flame stays alight.

We also realized, after we’d made our lantern, that to really appreciate it in all its glory we needed to carry it outside into the darkness and watch it glowing beautifully there.

You can probably already see how the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me through this picture.

It totally fills up my heart to think that God can use me to bring light and joy to others even (or perhaps especially) when I feel ready for the compost heap; it delights me to think that even those places where I’ve been deeply wounded can become beautiful as his light shines through them; and it’s good to be reminded that although without God I am not much to speak of, his light inside me can bring out deep beauty that might otherwise never be seen.

I’ll be thinking about those other things too..  About how it’s really not possible to have a hidden, private faith, concealed completely from the world because that hidden-ness would stifle the flame and perhaps even put it out. And also that places that are already full of light don’t always need a lantern or appreciate its beauty, and that there’s a good reason we are called to take that light out into dark places, however challenging that might be.

Whatever else, when I look at this picture, I am amazed at the transformation that takes place when the candle is lit, and I want to cry out to God to shine brighter inside of me, and to tell myself again never to be quietly conned into thinking I can do without him,  not even for a moment.

I don’t have anything to ask you to pray about this week, but I do have a challenge for you…

If you are in a part of the world where it’s possible to get hold of a tangerine, a box of matches and a tealight candle – make yourself one of these.  My painting really doesn’t do it justice, and seeing and smelling it will speak to your heart.  Then take it and sit with it in a dark place for a while and see how God speaks to you through it.  I guarantee it will be ten or twenty minutes well spent, and I would love to hear what he has said to you.

Be blessed.

tangerine lantern

A Christmas Card from Postcards from Heaven

I’ve been in conversation with God for some time now about what picture should appear on the front of your Christmas postcard… A scene of Bethlehem? Something tinselly? But no, this odd little bauble-bottle is what keeps coming into my head and there’s no getting away from it…

it doesn’t have a name, as far as I know it doesn’t even exist and I can’t imagine it would be useful, but Jesus often doesn’t follow my rules and I always eventually realise it is easier just to go with what I think he’s showing me! So this is it: A two-chamber bauble-bottle that holds more one type of liquid.

Christmas is just like this.. Christmas is a container that holds more than one thing..

I really love it.  I love the kids’ excitement, the preparations, the sense of specialness, the time with friends, the family traditions, the special food, the random animals in nativity plays and even the theologically-challenged carols.  I just love it.

and yet…

Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday, and this will be our sixth Christmas without him. And at this time of year, I miss him more than ever. I can’t enjoy our traditional family singsong without missing the sound of his voice, I can’t watch my kids in a recital without thinking how proud he would have been of them, and I just can’t do Christmas day without missing his energy and sense of fun.

And I’m guessing for many, if not most of you it’s the same. Along with the joy comes an acute awareness of what has been lost.

Christmas is a container that holds both joy and sadness, and somehow they can only be poured out together.

For me, it’s not possible to experience the joy without also walking through the sadness.  To not allow one of them to be released from the bottle would be to stifle the other as well.  And I really want the joy…

It seems to me, at this time of year, that the world is conspiring to show me a perfect Christmas.  One with perfect, complete families where no-one gets sick, or forgets anything, or worries about money or falls out over the rules of a board game.  Where teenagers leap with joy at the idea of a game of charades, the roast dinner is all warm at the same time, the whole family gather around the piano to sing carols (in four-part harmony) and above all, no-one feels sad, not even for a moment.

It’s not true of course, there is no ‘perfect’ Christmas.  It’s just another impossible standard for me to fail to reach. Not everything has to be perfect anyway, and I suspect that the fact that the joy always comes mixed in with sadness just makes me normal.

For those of you who are similarly normal: Know that God understands.  He understands great joy and deep sadness.  And he reaches out to carry you through both.

So on this festive postcard I will wish you a Happy Christmas, but because that on its own doesn’t seem quite real enough:

This Christmas

May you have enough joy to soften your sadness

Enough peace to calm your storms

and enough hope to look up into the eyes of the Saviour of the World and to find yourself covered by his love.


Sometimes you just become so used to things that you can’t see them anymore.

After we took down the old cooker hood in our first home we were left with an ugly taped-up wire sticking out of the kitchen wall. In the beginning it really annoyed me, but after a few months I stopped noticing it and after two years we were discussing jobs that needed doing and I genuinely thought we had already had it fixed!

Even gruesomely patterned wallpaper like this one can eventually become so familiar that you no longer notice it (or no longer find it offensive!).

Whether or not we notice it, most of us have wallpaper inside our heads:  The background messages of the things that were spoken over us, or that we said to ourselves, when we were kids and trying to make sense of the world.  Messages like ‘I’m not important’ or ‘it’s not safe’, ‘I’m lazy’ or ‘I’m not good enough’.

Many of us have come to faith in Jesus and have valiantly tried to paste the truth he has to say about us over the top of the words of the past, covering up the old messages with the new ones that know in our heads are true.

I don’t know about you, but my trouble is that the wallpaper of my past is definitely of a 1970’s variety – Bright bold patterns and made of shiny vinyl.  It’s a big job to get any new wallpaper to stick over the top of a decorama vinyl like this one… and even if you do get it to stick, chances are that a pattern this bright and bold will show through whatever you paste on top!

When this happens to you, it’s not a sign that you’re not a good enough Christian; that you’re not ‘saved’ enough; or that you’re not believing hard enough… It just means you need to do some redecorating..

If this was a wikihow, there would be pictures… but:

Stage One: Notice what’s there

Ask God to show you what it is your believing about yourself, or Him that is not true.  Even if you’re so used to it that you don’t really see it anymore, ask him to show you the wallpaper.

Stage Two: Look at it

Admit that what’s there is not the truth about you.  Even if you’ve got so used to it that it feels kind of comfortable and familiar, if it’s not what God says it has to go…

Stage Three: Get rid of it

Now you’ve seen the ugly truth… Don’t just try to cover it up again! Start stripping it off. Confess to God that you believe a lie about yourself, or Him.  Repent of it.  Choose not to behave as if it’s true.. Ask him to reveal the truth under the layers…  Just as it takes steam to melt the glue that sticks the paper in place, so it takes some prayer (yours and maybe someone elses) to loosen the grip of old lies in your life… but it can be done.

Well doesn’t that make it sound easy.

Honestly?… Anyone who has stripped off Vinyl wallpaper will tell you it’s really hard work, but not impossible.  Be kind to yourself… do a bit at a time!

And finally- Whenever we take down old wallpaper in our house in England, I’m always afraid that the plaster on the walls is going to come away with it, like actually it’s only this sheet of wallpaper that’s holding the wall together, and taking it down is probably a really bad idea.

If you’re afraid of taking down your wallpaper, because of what you might find underneath – know this: The moment you trusted in Christ, and handed over the reins of your life to him, the plaster, the part at the core of who you are, underneath all the messages you’ve papered on, was made completely new.



Without bump or blemish.


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”


For your Journal:

Ask God if there’s a wall that needs a bit of attention in your heart.  Ask him to show you if there’s a lie you are believing about yourself or about him.

It might not just ‘fall into your head’, but at some point this week it might be that the Holy Spirit draws your attention to something you think or feel, or an incident that hurts you or angers you more than you think it should.  If you have one of these ‘aha’ moments, choose to look at the wallpaper and see it for what it is.  Then start to take it down.

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.


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?





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!