Saturday, 21 December 2013

Emmanuel - The God who really is with us.

As part of a much bigger story, which I will write more about after Christmas, I wanted to document the amazing events that have unfolded for us over the last couple of months which have shown me what it really means to call our God, 'Emmanuel, God with us'.

Last summer, we began to feel it was right to take our family to visit India.  Now, this is no small task for someone who doesn't even like the torture of being trapped in a car with the boys for a few hours.  We've never taken them on an aeroplane and, living in our white middle class small town, have never exposed them to other cultures which are so different from our own.  We don't have enough money to even go on holiday, let alone take them so far abroad.  Eating naan bread is exotic enough for them.  And anyway, the rules about taking the children out of school have changed and we now can't take them in term time.  Quite honestly, the thought of it filled me with terror.

Despite all these (very good, in my mind) reasons not to go, we felt it was something God was asking of us.  Seriously, I thought, we have no money, the boys don't have passports and school will never agree to it.  I went along with the dream, never for one minute imagining it would become a reality. 

Knowing that in the past God has faithfully provided for us, we began praying for enough money for the trip.  There was no way we could save that much money in such a short amount of time.  I approached the schools and, to my secret horror, they understood and agreed we could take the boys out of school for the time we'd asked for without being fined.  God was with us.

One morning in October when I was praying, I looked out of the window at the tree outside and heard God whisper into my heart that by the time the leaves had fallen off the tree, we would have enough money to book the tickets.  I held the whisper in my heart for some time before telling anyone else.  Every day I would peek out at the tree, counting the remaining leaves.  Mid December, there were six leaves left and we still had no money.  

"It's now or never, God." I prayed.

That week, £1000 was anonymously deposited into our bank account.  By the following day, the tree was empty of leaves.  God was with us.

We booked the tickets, without knowing how we would pay for the visas.  Two days later, we were given an envelope with enough cash to pay for visas.  God was with us.

And so, in February, we fly to India on the biggest adventure our family has ever undertaken.  Schools have agreed, the money has miraculously been provided and, with great excitement, we will board the plane and hope very much that the people sitting close to us will like children!  Each step of the journey has proved His faithfulness to us, and as we take steps that are a bit scary we can stand on His promise to us that He is with us.  The dream has become a reality and over the next few weeks and months I will write more of our story - both the events that have brought us so far, and the adventures that await us.

Have a fabulous Christmas.  Emmanuel - God really is with us.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


I remember when the boys were younger and I tried to be an educational mother.  I'd buy them jigsaws and then sit, hands under my legs, as they attempted to fit the pieces in and taking forever while I could easily see where the pieces needed to go.  I tried not to be bored, but, honestly, it was boring.  Doing the same jigsaws, day after day, week after week.  I could do them in my sleep so why couldn't they do them more quickly?!  Each time I had to be patient, and each time I had to be excited when they'd finally finished it.  Again.

And I realised this week (and most of you have probably realised this a very long time ago) that life is a bit like a jigsaw.  One piece has to be fitted before the next piece.  Sometimes, you have to be patient and allow another person to learn where it goes.

Teaching our boys a love of the outdoors (bear with me, there is a link, I promise) was, for me, an end in itself.  I wanted them to breathe big gulps of deliciously fresh air and run off their energy.  I wanted them to experience that peace that washes over you when you sit, high up, in a tree.  I enjoyed squelching in muddy puddles.  It felt healthy.  It was good for them.  And I wanted them to learn about risk-taking.  It just felt like the right thing to do.  I never realised it was part of the jigsaw.

Setting up Outdoors Unlocked was an extension of this.  Our family's love of nature and adventure, shared with others.  But at the same time, we had to learn to trust for our provision and not to rely on ourselves.  We learnt to pray and trust like we never have before.  And our boys joined us.  We sat around our breakfast table, together, putting our finances into the hands of the One who knows what we need.  We thought it was good for the boys to be involved.  But it wasn't just about setting up a business.  We never realised that this, too, was part of the jigsaw.

And so, now, when we say to our boys 'Let's go on this adventure', they say 'yes'. This is a bit bigger and a bit more scary than jumping off a cliff into the sea or doing a high ropes course, but because they are confident risk-takers and because they have seen the faithfulness of the God we serve, they say 'yes'.  Because they have learnt to obey and to trust, they follow without hesitation.  Because they know their lives are safe in his hands, they climb into those enormous, solid, protecting hands and go where he takes them.  And that piece of the puzzle slots in.  How glad I am that we have been along this journey.  How grateful for the steps we've taken as a family which have led us to this point.  The mud in the boot of the car and the clogged up washing machine is so very worth it.  It all makes sense now.  Well, at least some of it.

We don't know what the final picture in the jigsaw will look like,  but we know the One who does.  And we trust, and we obey, as he slots the pieces in at the right times.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Don't Waste Your Life

A history-maker has taken his last breath.  His legacy is enormous.  Described as a 'fighter', even in his last few days, Nelson Mandela never gave up and preached a gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness, despite the fact that he, more than any of us, would have a reason for revenge.

One life, unwasted. 
One life, passionately surrendered to all he stood for. 
One life, focused.

What if all of us were to live like this? 

Waking up to the news of Nelson Mandela's death this morning, I remembered these verses I'd read just a few days ago in my Bible:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
What if we all lived like this? 
We have a fleeting life.  Here one minute, gone the next.  I don't want to waste mine.  I don't want to go from one day to the next, having never changed history. 
We can't all be prominent and influential, but most world-changers start with the small.  Can we share our food with the hungry?  Can we make a stand for those who can't do it for themselves?  Can we give clothes to those who need them?  Can we fight against injustice, even in small way?  Can we work together instead of pointing the finger at each other?  Can we help to rebuild people's lives, damaged by war, abuse, poverty or injustice?  Can we love the unlovely?  Can we teach our children to put others before themselves so that the next generation continues the fight?
Nelson Mandela was just a man.  A courageous one, but still just a human being, fighting for what he believed in.  We can too.  We're no different. 
Don't waste your life.  Make it count.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Lost For Words

Those who know me will know that it is rare for me to be lost for words.  And yet, at the moment, that's how I feel.

When we began a few years ago on our 'adventure of faith' I had no idea where it would take us, but back then, when we were further away from the cliff it all looked pretty easy.  If you stay back from the edge and look at the magnificent view, it doesn't look too scary.  But when you are standing on the edge of the cliff, preparing to harness up, your head starts to swim with the heights and the reality begins to hit home.  Gulping and breathless, words fail me. 

Uncertainty becomes a constant 'friend'.  Fear of the unknown is a daily battle.  Vulnerability, so often seen as a weakness, is my ally.  Each week, each day, begins with a wondering.  "What will today bring?"  "What will have happened by the end of this week?"  "Can I actually make this leap?"  Adventure isn't just for thrill-seekers.  Adventure requires taking steps forward into the fog of the unpredictable.  And I like predictable. 

And so, as I peek over the edge of the cliff, wondering what twists and turns will come in our story this week, I remind myself of the only certainty that underpins us.  In the good old words of hymnwriter, Fanny Crosby, "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine."  What sweet relief to know that I belong to Him, the writer of our story and the holder of my harness. 

This song, from Hillsong, eloquently describes those deep gulps of emotion that I can't quite put into words....

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. 
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.