Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Nifty Notion #1: Sweeping the Room with a Glance


No, this is not a joke. Neither is it really a cleaning tip. What it is though, is a necessary place my heart had to come to - in order to love and accept myself right here where I am at.

It is permission to not be okay. Authorization to acknowledge a day that is just plain ‘blah’; to sit and listen to music, to sew, to read a good book, to put my feet up, to ignore the housework. Why? There are days, dear friends, when my body (and possibly yours) just needs to rest. Pushing myself to achieve things on those days would only result in being extra useless for the next few.

With a certain amount of awe, I have listened to other women discussing how long it takes to clean their houses each day. The sheer number of tasks they can achieve.  My comparing mind works overtime, soon leading to frustration. Discouraged I focus on the negative and forget to see the positive.  I become depressed.

But this is not God’s plan for my life. While we are called to be good stewards of all that He has given us, He does not intend for us to be overwhelmed by it.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(NIV)

Consider the story of Mary and Martha.

Luke 10:38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”(NIV)

This passage is not suggesting we should never do housework (wouldn’t we all love a verse like that!). Elsewhere Martha is acknowledged for her contribution.  But Jesus clearly states that it is not the be all and end all.  

Today, if it is not possible to be a Martha, be a Mary. Sweep the room with a glance and rest at Jesus feet.  

Monday, 27 August 2012

Nifty Notions

A few folk have asked me recently, “How do you do it?” The ‘it’ referring to raising a family, keeping house, and dealing with CFS.

The simple answer is one day at a time and God!

In practical terms I have learned how to cheat (gasp!). I would love to live in an always organised, mostly tidy, feel-free-to-drop-by-at-any-time-and-I-will-not-be-embarrassed house. However this is just not reality. Over the years I have come up with a few simpler ways of doing the house work; or rather coping strategies for days when it is all too much.

Sometimes providing a meal for the family can also be a draining task. Take-out is not only expensive, but does not tend to be overly healthy either. As a family we have come up with a few favourites for such occasions.

A little light bulb came on (in my head) the other day. Why not share these things? Well…why not! I know I am not alone in this and have been grateful for friend’s suggestions over the years.

Consequently I am creating a new page to share my discoveries with you.  

Stay tuned for Nifty Notion #1…

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tickle Me Dad!

God has blessed us with a very dear child who just loves to laugh. He is always first to see the funny side of things.

Each and every morning when the blinds in his bedroom are raised – we hear the same delighted squeal and laughter at the whizzing sound it makes.

Odd shaped fruit and vegetables are amusing.

Apparently drawing smiley faces is funny, but his attempt at not so happy ones is even more so.

Showers are hilarious too; they tickle.

As a tiny baby he would even laugh when dressing him. Between putting the shirt over his head and appearing out the top there would be giggles, and other happy baby sounds, while he was in the middle.

Some days we just sit and laugh at each other for the pure joy of it.

So I should not have been surprised recently when the following little scene unfolded…

“Tickle me Dad,” he said, lying on the floor.
“Why?” we inquired, genuinely curious and somewhat puzzled.
 “So I can laugh!”

But of course!!! (How silly for us not to know this.)

What a great example he is. Not waiting for joy to come but actively creating it.

‘Joy is not in things. It is in us’

I do not know who first said that, though I have heard it several times over the years. And it is so true!!

No matter if the house is neat and orderly (or not!), whether I’m in good health, a humongous bill has just arrived, or whatever circumstances may be… I'm choosing joy. I choose to see the bright side of life. I choose to seek it out if it is not apparent at first. And I can do this because of my God who loves me.

I did a little search on what the Bible has to say about joy. There are many verses. I encourage you to seek them out yourself. Here is a small selection:

Nehemiah 8:10b “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

John 15:10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Romans 15: 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…

How will you choose joy today?

I would love to hear from you…

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Figless Trees

This week has been tough.

I have had the flu for nearly two. A difficult one to crack and there is plenty of it going around. Just as I begin to feel better, my husband succumbs. Here we are sneezing and coughing together; consuming vitamin C, cough medicine, and lozenges like they are going out of fashion.

What has kept me perky? While resting in bed has been necessary, there dreams can flourish too. God has placed a vision in my heart, a kind of commission if you will. First planted a little over three years ago, I often wonder when the time will come for it to bloom. It has been on my mind quite frequently of late. Pondering the reasons for this I sought Him.

Not wanting to read into things and create ‘signs’ that do not exist I tried to ignore them. All the more they appeared. Inspiring quotes on friends facebook updates, topics of blogs I’ve been reading, even internet advertising. Convinced in the end that I should do something, I came up with a brilliant (or so I think) plan. Not only does it serve others but also has the potential to create an extra income that we could genuinely use.

The one big physical thing holding me back from fulfilling this aspiration is a lack of finances. It will require funding to get off the ground and established. Right now we simply do not have that kind of money. Not because we don’t earn it, but because we have an obligation to pay the cost of living of my step-son. Talk about expensive. I’d be lying if I said we had never been bitter about it. Not so much the fact that we have to pay (we do want to do the right thing by him), but rather the amount and what we see it being spent on. Unnecessary luxuries that we could only fantasize about having for ourselves.  The government care little what she does with the money or that I am financially dependent on my husband. Sometimes it feels like a slap in the face... 

So I had never dared to explore the possibilities too much or allowed myself to believe that hope might come to fruition any time soon…

Overcoming shyness I contacted companies for exact quotes. We also comply with the rules and regulations, so far so good. Laying it all out there on the line we approached the bank believing that if God wants this to happen then it simply will…

We do not have the final word on the matter, and I have not given up hope just yet. But things are not looking good. For the bank to agree to the loan, a small miracle is required.

Right now, emotions run deep. We are so close and yet so far. I do not understand what God is doing. Why does He allow the dream to stir if the season has not yet arrived? Or have I run ahead of Him without meaning to?

Pouring my heart into his hands, I’m a blubbering mess. I often find that writing things out is a great way to lay burdens down; scrawling in my most chicken-scratchy writing for pages until I finally get to what really matters.  Fully expecting just this, I begin…all that comes though is this:

When life overwhelms,
I turn to you.
When I can’t see the way forward,
I turn to you.
When all seems so unfair;
When ungodly men profit
At my expense.
Turning the fulfilment of dreams
Into a lesson in trust and patience.
I know that you are there.
Then, almost immediately, I am compelled to write these words underneath:

Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
                                    (NIV - Emphasis mine)

I do not know the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ in this situation. Having all the answers is not my job. Mine is to trust. Simply trust Him.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Learning to Dance in the Rain - Glandular Fever and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ‘How It All Began’)

Once upon a time there lived a happy healthy young girl. Playing with friends, creating things, dancing and dress ups were amongst her favourite pastimes. (Not so) secretly she had aspirations of becoming a princess. Though a little shy, she was full of life and energy.

One day, when she was no longer a young child but not yet a grown up either, she became very sick.  She had a sore throat, incredibly swollen and tender glands, a large headache and felt very dizzy. Light was too much. Focusing became difficult. A rash spread across her stomach. Resting in bed with the lights off and the curtains closed, she wondered what was wrong and hoped to be better soon.

The first doctor poked and prodded, looked down her throat, inspected the rash and otherwise did not have much of a clue.

“Some sort of virus,” he said, sending her home.

Mother was more on the ball. Taking the medical book from the shelf she soon found that the symptoms matched those of glandular fever.

“Oh, I hope not,” she worried, and booked an appointment with another doctor.

The second doctor (more worthy of his qualifications) poked and prodded, looked down her throat, inspected the rash, ordered a blood test, and confirmed that, yes indeed, Mother was right. 

Much too sick to attend school, she cried upon learning that it might take six months to recover. This was a lonely time, though not as lonesome as it might have been.  Her sister was also unwell and unable to go to school.  Jesus too was there. Reaching out to him, she became surer of his presence. 

Slowly healing came. After two months she was able to return to school but could manage no more than two or three days a week. Determined not to repeat a grade she pushed herself really hard - eventually able to attend all five days a week.  This was not a sign of full health though.  Coming home each afternoon she would climb into bed and sleep until dinner time - utterly exhausted.

A year went by.  The glandular fever had gone, however energy had failed to reappear. Any kind of physical activity left her weak. Even day to day tasks were sometimes too much.  Concerned, the family sought answers.  The verdict this time was chronic fatigue syndrome.  Although she suspected this was the likely answer, it was not something she wanted to hear.  But once again she was not alone; her sister was given the same diagnosis. As always, she had Jesus.

By the grace of God and sheer determination, the girl finished high school and went on to gain a degree at university. She studied when she could and slept and rested when her body was too tired for anything else. Sometimes it was a real battle to focus; comprehending new things made difficult by a head that felt, at times, like it was stuffed with cotton wool – or enveloped in a big grey cloud.

Speaking of which, they all have a silver lining don’t they? Chronic fatigue has its uses too. Not being a very sporty type, it came in rather handy for being excused from school sport and those dreaded Physical Education classes.  Not everybody understood though and some, no matter how much explaining was done, just thought she was lazy. If only they really knew.  

The tale is not all sad though. She met and married her prince charming and now is the mother to two very wonderful and unique individuals. Taking each day as it comes she is (still) learning to look to Jesus. He is teaching her how to dance in the sunshine and the rain.

Her earthly father (who himself has battled leukaemia - but that’s another story) once told her that, if nothing else, she can use this experience to reach out and be an encouragement to others who may be facing similar circumstances… And so that’s why she wrote this down for you. Wherever you are at, whatever you are going through, Jesus is there, right by your side. Just reach out and take his hand. He’ll carry you.

Lizzy xx

PS: take a moment to listen to (and watch) Laura Story as she sings ‘Blessings’ – a beautiful song that speaks of the ‘heart lessons’ I've been learning. 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

When Life Hands You a Bucket of Seedy Mandarins

Come on, say it with me..

When life hands you a bucket of seedy mandarins you make – juice!

(OK so a little different to the one we all know about lemons, but you get the idea).

There are a few other things you can do too.

  1. Be grateful for the bucket of seedy mandarins. Especially because they were free thanks to their sheer seediness.
 Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.(NIV)

  1. Think of all the goodness going into your body when you drink the delicious juice. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure there is a fairly high concentration of vitamin C going on in there. (If you are like me and curious, check out this really great site I found) 
 Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.(NIV)

  1. Upon reaching the bottom of the bucket – go and fill it again! We are very grateful for our friends who own several mandarin trees. We can have as many as we like of the seedy ones as they are not really into them. Really?? These are very sweet fruit, albeit very seedy, but they make really yummy juice.
 James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.(NIV)

Let’s not be put off by a few seeds in our circumstances. There’s always a way to see the bright side. I’m not for one moment pretending that’s always easy, though I do firmly believe that if you seek you will find.

Did I mention how seedy they were? (insert tongue firmly in cheek here)

Just look at the bright orange (er…mandarin) goodness!

One last thought...

Hebrews 10: 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (NIV)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Consider the Lilies of the Field…and the Tiny Sea Shells

Do you ever doubt that God cares?

I must confess to thinking like that from time to time. Let me tell you a story of one such time…

I was over dealing with life’s daily issues, tired of not knowing how to communicate properly with my Asperger’s son, and frustrated with my own physical limitations. My soul was dry. I needed a hug and a holiday. I needed to know and feel that somebody cared.

Thankfully school holidays were fast approaching. Recognising the need to just get away and have some fun as a family we booked ourselves a week of camping in a quiet little coastal town we had never been to.

Somehow we managed to squeeze everything we needed (minus a few things we forgot) in our not quite big enough car. Day one began with a happy morning splashing about in the beautiful clear calm water. I ran my fingers through the wet sand intending to show my youngest how to make sand ‘dribblies’. Something caught my eye. Not much bigger than the rough grains of sand was a teeny weeny but perfect little shell. I absolutely adore miniature stuff so was delighted with this discovery. 

  Over the next few days, each time we went for a swim, I kept an eye out for more miniature marvels.

By the end of our trip it had dawned on me that God was pointing out these tiny treasures just for me.

Studying each little shell I quickly came to realise that just because they are miniscule does not mean they are simple. They are just as detailed as their bigger counterparts. 

The thought came to mind, if God takes the time to make these so perfectly detailed - how much more does he care for us?!…hmm this is sounding familiar…
'See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you...' (Matthew 6: 28-30)

 Yes! God cares. He cares that life can overwhelm at times. He cares very much. He cares enough to put such intricate detail into his creation and then makes sure that I see it. Like a little love letter I am reminded just how treasured I am. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

An Introduction

I love treasure hunting. Who doesn’t? The definition of ‘treasure’ is different for all of us. Some people love old things. Others prefer new. It can be made from anything in any number of ways; jewellery, gemstones, furniture, shoes, food, woodworking, quilting, houses, music, fine china, glass, flowers, great works of art and even humble postage stamps. The list is endless. 

Personally I love a variety of things but those that catch my eye are often just that little bit different, quirky even. Peculiar you might say.

God is into peculiar treasure too. I was delighted to discover this when reading Exodus 19:5.

 Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (KJV)

I am captivated by the phrase the King James Version uses – peculiar treasure. My mind conjures up images of beautiful but oddly shaped gemstones. Each one all the more precious because of its uniqueness. There is comfort in that.

This blog will be some of my collection of ‘treasures’ that I have encountered along life’s journey - little lessons and moments with meaning that God has used to speak to my heart. As we are called to be encouragers, I’d like to share them with you. My prayer is that not only will you find encouragement but that you will also be inspired to share your peculiar treasure with the world too.

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