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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Biscuits at Nana's

Ever feel slightly under-appreciated? I do. Not that I need to take the credit all the time but there are times when a little would be nice.

Like the day my family and I were going to visit my husband’s Nana and my young daughter piped up about how much she loves going to visit Big Nana. “Why’s that?” I asked, anticipating all the reasons it might be – the special toys she has, the bike the girls love riding which was my husband’s when he was little, Nana herself.

“I love her biscuits! She’s such a good cooker, Mummy. She always has really yummy biscuits for us to eat.”

Yup, under-appreciated. I sat there in the car trying to figure out whether to laugh or be offended! (I laughed) See, Nana doesn’t bake. I do. I make a point of taking homemade biscuits with us every time we go visit her. Gingernuts, choc chip cookies, shortbread, snickerdoodles, gingerbread, double choc, iced sugar cookies… Those afternoon teas my daughter so appreciated Nana creating for her were biscuits I’d spent my morning baking. Every time.

I didn’t need the appreciation, I love baking, but it would have been nice for my daughter to notice that I’d been the one to provide the food, much as I laughed about it at the time.

I was laughing about that story again last week as I was trying to think of what type of biscuit to make when we visited Nana on the weekend. It made me wonder how many times God has given me a gift or gone to the trouble of setting something up and I, like my daughter, have totally missed who the real benefactor is.

I call it coincidence, think it’s of my own making or assume it just happens when God is the one sitting there waiting for me to notice that it was him and say thanks.

I challenge you today to think through your life and find moments to be thankful for. Big ones, little ones, seemingly completely inconsequential ones, the things that wouldn’t matter to anyone but you, the sunrises and sunsets, people being in the right moment at the right time, things that just ‘happened’ – because God made it so.

No matter what kind of day you’ve had – whether it’s been brilliant or one you’d rather wish you could have skipped altogether – find something to thank God for in it. Because I guarantee, there’s something.

And he’d love the appreciation.

Monday, 16 January 2017

It's Good to be Green

I have a few Bibles. Okay, so I have a few more than a few but they’re all different versions so that’s okay, right? Anyway, the one I use the most currently is my NIV/The Message Parallel. If you haven’t seen a parallel Bible before, it’s where two different versions are on each page, parallel. Yep, makes sense. I like it because while I love the wake-me-up different-ness (yes, I’m making up words) of The Message, I always find myself having to go back to the ‘real Bible’ to find out what the same verses are there. Having them parallel makes that incredibly easy.

I was reading Romans 15 the other day and The Message version of verse 13 stuck out to me:

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

I like that. It’s inspiring. And a great prayer to pray for people. I especially like the ‘God of green hope’ bit.

Now, personally, I have no idea where the green description comes from. None of the other versions I looked up had any colours described but for some reason The Message wanted it in there. 

Look up the word ‘green’ in a dictionary and there are lots of meanings.

The colour, obviously. Or that a person is feeling sick. Or that an area is designated for plants and growth. That something is full of plants, like a green salad. Or that something is unripe. And a bunch of other variations of those.

It can also mean inexperienced or naïve, which is the one that immediately came to mind when I read the Romans verse.

We all know someone who’s been ‘green’. If not personally, in a movie or something. That one person who turns up all excited while the rest of you are standing around smirking. Give it a week, kid…

Green hope. Inexperienced hope. Naïve hope.

Sometimes hope involves us being green. Ignoring reality and focusing instead on what could be. The best possibly scenario. Before we get bogged down and discouraged and learn just how impossibly unlikely what we’re hoping for is.

I don’t know about you but my hope tends to feel a little discouraged at times. Usually when I’m focussing on all the reasons something is never going to happen. My hope is strongest when I ignore reality and reason and focus instead on the God who said he could do anything. The God of the impossible. I say, ‘so what?’ to the voices in my head telling me to come back to the real world and cling instead to the God of green hope. It's not always an easy thing to do. Usually quite the opposite. But it's then that hope rises.

So, here’s what I’m praying for you. That the God of green hope would fill you today with joy and peace so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, would brim over with hope.

And that you’d have the courage to be green.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Faith and Photography

I’m not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination but I do take a lot of photos. It’s pretty rare a day goes by without me taking a single photo, and even more rare that I’ll just take one whenever I pull out my phone. I go with the idea of take ten photos and delete nine! I used to feel guilty that I took so many, until someone pointed out that it’s just part of who I am as a storyteller. My photos tell stories just as much as the words I write.

Fortunately, digital cameras (and even better, mobile phones!) make it incredibly easy to capture moments, keep thousands of photos, and delete all the bad ones!

I wondered if I was going to have to delete almost every photo I took the other day. My husband and I took our three kids swimming at the local lagoon. It was our littlest one’s first real swim so, of course, I was taking photos.

Thing was, the sun was so bright, I couldn’t actually see what I was taking photos of. My phone screen was just black. I pointed it in what I hoped was the right direction and clicked the capture button but had no idea whether any of the photos would actually work. For all I knew, they were completely out of focus, if I’d even managed to get people’s heads in to start with.

Looking through the photos later, I was delighted to find that the black screen I’d been looking at when I took the photos had miraculously transformed into gorgeously bright, clear pictures.

I took photos blindly in hope, much like I do a lot of things.

God seems to like asking us to do things without knowing the outcome.

But he also delights in surprising us with outcomes beyond our wildest dreams, where we suddenly look back and everything is clear because, unlike us, God can see what’s going on.

Going in to 2017 has been a weird feeling for me. Usually I get all excited about the new year and all the plans and hopes I have for it. I have this little game I play with myself called ‘I wonder where I’ll be this time next year’. Up till now, I’ve had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen each year. Not everything, of course, but a pretty good idea. I knew if I started a grade at school, I’d finish that same grade by the end of the year. Then there were the years I knew I’d meet the child within me before the end of the year. Fairly predictable.

This year, I was faced with the weird realisation that I had no idea. I could get to the end of 2017 and be standing in exactly the same place I was this New Year’s Eve, ‘nothing’ having changed. Still in this house, my family a year older but still the incredible people they are at the same places they are, me still working on getting my books published.

Or, I could be standing in another house, maybe even in another town, my kids at different schools, my book having a contract (hey, I can hope!) and my life changed entirely. It’s such a strange thing to realise that all could be exactly the same, or completely different. Weird.

Like those photos I took which looked only black at the time, I’m in the dark about what will happen this year. But, I’m believing that, just like those photos, I’ll look back sometime – maybe at the end of this year, maybe in a decade or more – and it’ll all make sense.

Because God sees everything – past, present and future. And he’s got me, my family and my dreams for the future, in his hands.

Going into a new year, I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be.