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Sunday, 26 August 2018

When God Made You

It’s almost birthday week in my house. Two of my three kids have birthdays two days apart (and Father’s Day is always that weekend too) and, despite us not being big party people, the celebrations always end up stretching a week. Or two. And, of course, birthdays mean cake. Lots of cake. 
If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you’ll probably have picked up the fact that I love baking. I enjoy decorating cakes too. Mostly. Somewhere along the way, my family got the idea in their heads that I can make anything – superheroes, instruments, their favourite TV characters, etc – and every year their requests for what they want their cake to be get more and more difficult. I like a challenge, and I love my family and making their days special, so I keep saying yes. Which either ends up with me bouncing around the house thrilled at how well the cake has turned out or sobbing my heart out while I wonder what on earth I was thinking. And how on earth I can fix it. 
Needless to say, I’ll never be a professional cake decorator or go on any sort of baking reality show. 
This year’s requests have been a My Little Pony cake and a MarioKart track. Over the past month or so, I’ve googled photos of those kinds of cakes for ideas, planned out my design, figured out what I need, listed off the different parts I need to make and colours of fondant/icing I’ll need, etc. 
I spent an hour this morning making fondant coins, blue and red Koopa shells, banana peels, a rainbow and a whole stack of leaves which, thankfully all turned out great. I can now enjoy how clever I am for a week before I have to decorate the actual cakes and remember why I don’t do this for a living… (See Cakes, Bakes and Expectations for how that usually goes!)
I was thinking as I was rolling and colouring fondant this morning, cutting out shapes, about the way God created us. The fact that he made us from nothing and, like me and the fondant spheres I couldn’t get smooth, left his fingerprints all over us. 
Did you ever think about that? That God made you? Not just in some ‘he spoke and it happened’ way but that he formed you with his hands. 
I spent a month or two thinking about these cakes, planning them. God spent an eternity planning you. The shape of your ears, the colour of your eyes, the way you smile, the length of your fingers. But more than that even, your character. Not just the way you smile but what makes you smile, what tugs at your heart, what you love doing, what you’re good at. Whether you’re analytical or whimsical, quiet or loud, need lots of friends or just one, are musical, sporty, creative or can’t draw to save your life. 
By the time I’m through with making my cakes, I’m ready to take a few photos, sing happy birthday, and dump them. God’s not like that (thankfully!). He can’t get enough of his creation. He absolutely loves you. Not only did he delight in creating you but he adores you. Wants to spend every day, every hour with you. You know those people who can’t stop bragging about how precious and beautiful their kids are? Yeah, that’s God. He writes songs about you. Brags about you. Can’t wait for you to wake up in the morning so you can spend another day together. You are his absolute delight. You were the day you were born, you still are now.
And, unlike me, God didn’t cheat when he made you. Yep, I cheat. Ponies? Seriously? I can’t even draw them, let alone make them 3D. Sure, I could probably try but why spend that much time (and frustration) trying when I can just buy a few little toys? Total cheat. 
God doesn’t cheat. Every part of you, he made just for you. He didn’t buy in bulk or raid the closest cheap store for what makes you you. He didn’t decide the last person he made turned out pretty awesome so he’ll just use that mould again. Nope. You are an original. God took a lump of cells and made them into you. Beautiful, one-of-a-kind you. Dreamed, planned, designed, handmade by God. Covered in his fingerprints. 
You are loved! 
Way more than cake :)

Thursday, 9 August 2018

You've got to Water the Roots (So I learned...)

I’m not a gardener nor have I ever been accused of having a green thumb, or even a slightly teal one. I’m more likely to forget a plant exists than remember to water it, but I do like watching them grow. There are so many incredibly beautiful plants in this world! I love all the different shades of green, the way some flowers are vividly bright and others more subtle, how spiny cacti can have the most stunning flowers and how the tiniest of buds can have such perfect details. 

But no matter what type of plant it is, they all have one thing in common – whether it’s a little or a lot, they all need water. Yup, someone’s gotta water them. 

I don’t think I did it often (sorry Mum!) but I remember watering plants when I was a young child. I used to love the way the leaves looked when they were wet, so shiny and glossy. I’d put a lot of effort into making sure every leaf on the particular plant was wet because that’s how I’d know it was done. Feel like I should apologise to Mum again for all the plants I likely killed telling her I’d watered them when all I’d actually done was clean the leaves. It took me way longer than I should admit to realise that it was the roots I should have been watering. 

Yup, somehow I missed that vital point. It’s from the roots and soil that the plant grows, not its leaves. Sure, there are some plants which capture water in their leaves to send down to the roots but not the trees I was watering. A plant might look really pretty with shiny, glossy leaves but it’s never going to grow if you don’t water the roots. 

Same as us. 

It’s easy to look all glossy and shiny on the outside, going to church, looking the part and saying all the right things. Believe me, I know. I’ve done it. There was one period of my life in particular when I went to church twice every Sunday, was a passionate youth leader, was even doing a full-time course at Bible college – and wasn’t even sure I liked God let alone believed he cared about me. I certainly didn’t trust him. I stopped reading my Bible, convinced it was full of lies and did my best to shut God out entirely*. I didn’t tell anyone this, of course. On the outside, it probably looked like nothing had changed. My leaves were nice and shiny but inside, my roots were dry, if not dead. 

They needed water. They needed better soil. They needed me to start actively pulling out the weeds stopping them from flourishing. 

In a practical sense, I needed to be reading my Bible every day. For myself and not because others were watching. I needed to be filling my mind with and reminding myself of God’s promises rather than listening to the doubts and fears trying to take over. I needed to be honest with God about my frailties and trust that he was big enough to handle them – and wanted to. 

Some days it’s easier to do all that than others. I’ve found since getting married and having kids, I’ve had to change a lot of the ways I do that. It was really easy to make time for God and reading the Bible when I was a teenager with very few responsibilities. I was never all that great at reading in the mornings but used to love spending half an hour or more with God every night before bed. Nights are a bit crazier these days with four other people vying for that time but I’ve recently come to love getting up half an hour earlier and doing Bible study then and just doing a short devotional before bed. It’s taken me a while to figure it out (um, close to a decade...) but right now, that's what works for me. 

Maybe you're like me and mornings before everything gets crazy are the best times, maybe another time works better for you. Whenever it is, I challenge you to find it. Figure out what works for you. Figure out how you can best strengthen and water your roots so that you’re going deep into God. Because you, like me, need it. Especially on those days when doubts and fears swirl like a storm around us. It's God's promises and faithfulness which will keep you strong. 

And the thing is, the more you water those roots, the better everything else will grow too. That’s the wondrous thing about watering the roots of a plant. When the roots are strong and deep, the tree thrives. And the leaves are glossy too ;)

Find that time and place each day where it is just you and God. Fight for it. Treasure it. Whether it’s ten minutes or two hours, it’s worth it. Every plant needs water to grow and every God-follower needs God. 

Come Living Water. 

*For the record, it didn’t work and, six months later, I gave up and grudgingly toddled back  to God, admitting that, while I still wasn’t sure I trusted him, I couldn’t live without him. Easily the best decision I ever made! Finding that closeness I'd lost didn't come the second I turned back, there were still a lot of doubts and things I still had to work through, but we got there. I love that God let me go through that time because I'm so much closer to him now because of it.