There's a lot of fear in the world at the moment. Fear, panic, paranoia. I think the fear is worse than the virus itself. Fear feeds off itself, growing ever bigger and more overwhelming. It makes normally sane people do some really stupid things.
For the past couple of months, I've done pretty well ignoring it all, convinced that the whole Coronovirus thing was blown out of proportion and that if I just kept doing what I'd normally do, everything would be fine.
Until I couldn't.
Events were cancelled. Church culled. I couldn't do my groceries online like I usually do. The medications I'd ordered hadn't come in when they were supposed to. It wasn't just something out there anymore which I could ignore.
And suddenly, yesterday afternoon, the fear hit me. I closed myself in my room, tears dripping down my face and finally admitted to myself that I was scared. Really scared. What if this was bigger than I'd given it credit for? What if people I knew and loved got sick? What if I did? What if I was making a bad decision in letting my kids still go to school? What if I couldn't get my medications when I needed them? What if....???
In desperation, I pulled out my Bible. I didn't want to be afraid. I didn't want to let the fear overwhelm me, and the only way I was going to get past it was to find something bigger. As I sat there, reading the Psalms, God reminded me of something I'd not only known my whole life but believed so strongly, it had bled out into my characters' lives as I wrote:
All will be well.
A promise. Not only for my characters but for me. For us all.
Not that sickness won't touch me or my family. Not that life would settle down and go straight back to normal. Not that this coming year wouldn't be tough or that it would all pass straight by me without affecting me or my family.
No. A promise that even in all that, God would still be God. That God would hold us all. That because of him, no matter what, all would be well.
I don't know where you are today - whether you're out in the world or in some form of quarantine, whether you're fighting fear or clinging tight to faith, whether you're living day by day or looking ahead to the year to come - but I do know this: God is still God. He's still in control. He's got you. He's got me. He's holding us all just as tightly and lovingly as ever. And because of that, all will be well.
Am I still fighting back fear? Yep. Every day. But I'm not fighting it alone. I'm choosing to believe all will be well.
I’m one of those people who loves the start of a new year. Not because of the fireworks or holidays or any of that but because of the idea of a fresh start. Forget what’s happened, leave behind the regrets, leave behind the pain and those things that have held me back and start anew. There’s such beauty and freedom in a fresh start – even if it’s only in my head.
That didn’t exactly happen this year. The thought of asking God for a word for the year or setting goals or even just thinking about something new was one thing too many on an already overwhelming list. Instead of being excited about a new year, I kind of staggered into it – exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious, and grieving alongside so many Australians as we helplessly watch our country burn.
Even reading my Bible seemed a bit much. Not that I didn’t want to, just that I couldn’t handle another person or verse telling me I needed to do something. Care more. Love more. Pray more. Be more hospitable.
I just didn’t have any more.
So, I opened my Bible to Psalms. Psalm 23, to be exact. The first psalm I ever memorized in full as a three- or four-year-old. The one I could say without even thinking. The one with no chance of having hidden words or meanings in there anymore because, seriously, after thirty years of holding on to it, hearing it preached on, reading about it in books, seeing framed on walls, wouldn’t I have found them all?
I love how wrong I was.
Over the first week of 2020, I read that psalm, over and over again. Just one psalm. And in it, I found comfort. Because in that psalm, I found not only a shepherd, but so many different names for God – every one of which I could spend the rest of 2020 delving into the depth of.
And in those, I’ve been reminded that yes, I might be overwhelmed, but I don’t face any of this life alone. When I’m exhausted, he offers me a place to catch my breath. When I’m afraid, he walks beside me. When it’s all too much, and I don’t even know what to pray, he fights for me. When I feel like this pain will never end, he reminds me that there’s hope and what I see now won’t last forever. There’s a place for me at his table. His arms are waiting for me to crawl into, even if all I do is sit there and cry.
So, as a new year and all its highs and lows begin, let me pass it on to you:
When you’re exhausted, God offers you a place to catch your breath. When you’re afraid, he walks beside you, your guide, protector and companion. When it’s all too much, and you don’t even know what to pray, he fights for you. When you feel like this pain will never end, he reminds you that there’s hope and what you see now won’t last forever. There’s a place for you at his table. His arms are waiting for you to crawl into, whether it’s to excitedly spill about all the thrilling things happening in your life or simply sit there and cry. Because you know why?
It’s amazing the things you see around Christmastime. Yoda fighting Santa on someone’s front lawn (okay, I didn’t see that in real life but I did see a photo on Facebook), people walking around with reindeer antlers, cars with reindeer antlers, gifts fitting more in the Weird and Wacky category than useful or hoped for (a toilet piano?? Really??, houses lit up with so many lights you don’t know where to look first, shop front windows you could stare at all day and still not find all the secrets, foods like turducken (has anyone tried this??? I haven’t yet been game…), and the list goes on.
One thing I didn’t think I’d see was a church, all decorated in Christmas lights and decorations, with John 11:35 on their billboard. Two words. “Jesus wept.” I know it’s a nice short verse and doesn’t take too long to put up but Jesus wept? Not exactly going with the joy of Christmas here, are we? I felt like reminding them that it was Christmas.
Only straight after that thought, instantly came another.
Maybe that’s exactly what some people need to hear this Christmas. Maybe even a lot of people. Maybe even me.
Christmas is about joy and hope and celebrating but, for many people, it’s also a time of tears and pain.
Someone’s missing from their table this year.
Their heart is breaking because they can’t give their child a simple gift under the tree.
They’re tired or sick and wondering where the strength will come to meet all the expectations everyone has.
They’re all alone.
They just found out that this might be the last Christmas with a loved one because of a diagnosis they were really hoping wouldn’t come.
Christmas brings memories they’d rather be forgotten.
They’re putting on a smile but crying inside. Maybe even outside. Christmas is all just too much.
They’re weeping. But they’re not alone.
No, it’s not the happy, inspirational, cheer-filled Christmas verse I would have chosen but it’s perfect. A church, reminding those who weep – especially at Christmas – that they don’t weep alone.
If you’re one of the ones struggling this Christmas, please know you’re not alone. Christmas isn’t about the angels and singing and light shows and finding the perfect gift. It’s about God, seeing us in our brokenness and tears and knowing He couldn’t let us weep alone a single moment longer. It’s about Him coming down to sit beside us and hold us as we hurt.
Cereal is my friend in the mornings. School lunches are not.
Not that I hate making lunches or anything but, well, between the nut-free rule cutting out my kids’ favorite spreads, the Queensland heat knocking out a bunch more options and plain fussiness knocking out the rest, finding something (read that as anything) to put in the kids’ lunch boxes five days a week is a serious challenge.
So yeah, not my favourite part of each morning. But, something that has to be done because, hey, kids need to be fed.
I was thinking about school lunches when I read the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand last week (John 6:1-14). I know, I know, I should have been focused on reading my Bible but in this case, my distraction actually led to a big spiritual moment for me so it was probably good.
Instead of thinking of the miracle, all I could think of was the mum who’d probably packed that boy’s lunch. Probably the same thing she did every morning. I don’t know what mums were like in Jesus’ time but I’m guessing their lists of things to do each day (every single day, over and over again) weren’t all that different from my own.
Cook dinner, make kids’ lunches, change nappies, do laundry, clean the house, wrack their brains for a thousand answers to, “Mum, I’m bored…” Day in, day out.
I imagine that morning for her went something like mine… get up before everyone else, wake up kids, convince them breakfast really is a good thing, find their missing socks (in the sock basket, believe it or not), get lunches sorted, send them off to school, remind them again not to forget their lunch as they run out the door…
She probably sat down, once her son had left, and tried to find a moment for herself amidst the craziness of the morning and her never-ending to-do list. I doubt she thought, even for an instant, that her faithfulness in making her son’s lunch that day and making sure he took it would impact so many people.
I know, I’m probably being totally fanciful and, for all I know, the boy packed his own lunch. But what if it was his mum? What if she did it every single day? What if she was feeling down about her to-do list which just replenished itself every single day, never to be complete no matter how many hours she spent on it?
What if, that day, Jesus didn’t only feed over five thousand people?
What if he encouraged one mum that what she does every single day is important? The things she thinks are just another thing on the to-do list. Just another thing she does every single day which nobody notices because she really does do them every single day. That lunch she made, that moment of faithfulness, used not only to feed a multitude but be astounded over, told and retold by people the world over for millennia to come. All because she did her one little thing. Because she was faithful in the little things God had given her to do.
Romans 12:1, The Message version, puts it like this:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your every day, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
That every day life. Those things which don’t seem important. They’re worship too. God can use them. God does use them. Nothing you do is unimportant.
The laundry you hung. The cushions you picked up. The rooms you tidied which were messy again the instant the kids breathed in them. The floor you swept, and swept, and swept and was still covered in crumbs at the end of the day. God noticed. He saw you. The first time, and the second, the third and the fiftieth. He noticed and he cared. About you. About every single one of those moments of faithfulness at the job he’s called you to do. Those little things you do for your kids, they matter. God can and does use them all.
I’ve sung it a thousand times. Anyone who grew up in Sunday School or has taught young kids probably has. One of those oldies which we’ll probably still be singing kids for decades to come. Yep, The Butterfly Song.
If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you, Lord, for giving me wings.
If I were a robin in a tree, I’d thank you, Lord, that I could sing.
If I were a fish in the sea, I’d wiggle my tail and I’d giggle with glee,
But I just thank you, Father, for making me me.
For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile,
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you, Father, for making me me.
It goes on to list other animals – elephants, kangaroos, an octopus and that crazy fuzzy wuzzy bear – and what they’d thank God for, but always comes back to the main chorus. That I thank God for making me me.
Like I said, sung it a thousand times with probably a thousand different kids, but for some reason the truth of it just hit me last week. I think it was due to a combination of things – a verse I underlined in my morning Bible reading, an announcement I really wanted to be excited about on Facebook (and was, alongside the jealousy and wishing it was me) and a giant butterfly photo on a wall. Strange how they’d all come together to leave me praising God.
The verse was Psalm 9:1-2. “I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart. I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, jumping for joy. I’m singing your song, High God.” (The Message)
Funny how up and down emotions can be. I was so excited when I read that verse and underlined it in the morning. Yes! I thought. That’s exactly me! I’m so awestruck by your wonders, God, and everything you’ve done and are doing in my life that I can’t keep it to myself. I’m writing the book on your wonders. Whistling, laughing, singing. What an incredible privilege to be able to write and have that book published and share with others the incredible hope you’ve given me!
And, not two hours later, I’m down again. Wishing that friend’s announcement was mine. Wishing I was in their shoes, with their story, praising God with their words. Kind of pathetic really.
And then my family and I went to the museum and I saw that butterfly on the wall. I called my daughter over for a photo first, loving how she was the perfect height to stand right in the middle and ‘become’ the butterfly. Then my little, not quite tall enough but still totally cute, son wanted a go and my other daughter and then, just as we were leaving, I went back for a photo of my own. It was sweet. I liked it. And started singing the butterfly song to myself because, well, it was pretty engrained in my head after all those times singing it.
But as I was singing it in my head, smiling at the photo of me pretending to be a butterfly, the words got to me and I realized just how thankful I really was to be me. That God hadn’t created me to be a butterfly with giant wings or a robin, singing its heart out in praise. That God hadn’t made me my friend, with her particular story, journey and beautiful book cover. I really was, right to the heart of me, singing and jumping for joy, thankful that God had made me me.
Me, with my story. My journey. My family. My publishing house. My way of looking at the world. My way of praising God. My heart, my smile. The ones that God gave me. Not them. Me.
God already has that person’s praise. He already has butterflies and robins and fuzzy, wuzzy bears praising him in their particular way. What he doesn’t have, if I’m too busy trying to be someone else or comparing myself to them, is me. My praise. The thousand reasons he’s given me to worship.
If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you, God, for giving me wings… But I’m not. I’m me. Hannah Currie. And today, and always, I’m incredibly thankful that God made me me.
What are you thankful for today? What has God given you that you alone can praise him for?
One of the most memorable, challenging, shoot-right-to-the-heart-of-me-challenging talks I’ve ever heard was given by Mike Pilavachi at Hillsong Conference one year. It was at an elective for youth leaders and I honestly don’t remember what the actual topic was and whether this was part of the talk or the whole of it but it impacted me that day and has almost every day since – especially since I started pursuing my dream of becoming a published author.
He talked about Nehemiah and the wall of Jerusalem that he rebuilt. Or, more specifically, the challenges along the way. See, Nehemiah set out to rebuild a wall. Not a little retaining wall but a giant one. Picture one of those ones that go around old cities and castles. Huge. Solid. Thick. The town’s first and best defense. It was supposed to be protecting Jerusalem. Instead, it was a pile of rubble.
But God put a passion in Nehemiah’s heart to see it rebuilt. So, he left his prestigious job, travelled back to Jerusalem, convinced its people to help and got to work.
And straight up, faced opposition.
Before he’d even started laying the first bricks, the naysayers came. Three guys who didn’t believe in God, didn’t believe in Nehemiah and definitely didn’t want that wall rebuilt.
“Do you really think you can do this?”
“You think you’re all that?”
“You’re crazy, you know that, right?”
But Nehemiah shook them off. “God will help us succeed. He gave me the dream, he’ll see it through.”
And the wall started going up. Section by section, it grew and grew, alongside the faith and enthusiasm of its people, until it was halfway done.
And the outsiders, those naysayers and their friends, got angry. I can just see them, arguing back and forth between themselves, pointing fingers. “You said they’d fail. You said it wouldn’t go up. Now look. It’s halfway done. We have to do something about this. Words aren’t working.”
Giving up on their taunts, they started attacking. The builders were spending as much time fighting as they were building. The people grew discouraged. But, back came Nehemiah, reminding them God was on their side. Stationing warriors alongside the builders. Holding a spear in one hand and a trowel in the other. Fighting for what was right.
And the wall kept rising.
Until it was done.
Well, almost. 99 percent. The whole wall, so solid it was watertight, but not the gates.
And in one last ditch attempt, the enemies came back. Not an attack this time, not even taunts. An invitation. “Come, meet with us. You’re pretty much done. Good job.” And when that didn’t work, they started first one rumor, then another. All trying to get the work to stop.
Nehemiah saw through their ploys, prayed for strength, and at last the wall was done. Finished. One hundred percent. God’s people were safe again. Nehemiah saw with his own eyes the fulfilment of the vision God had given him.
Mike talked about the different points in which the enemy attacked and the different ways he does it.
At the beginning. When you’re just starting out. Full of faith and excitement but also wondering if this giant, often humanly-impossible, dream God has given you is even real or you’re totally deluded. That’s when the doubts come. The questions. “Are you sureGod gave you this dream? You think you’rethe one to do this? Seriously? You? Who do you think you are??”
In the middle. When you’re halfway there and tired. Worn out from the work. You’ve fought through the doubts and questions and you know this is where God wants you but you’re physically tired and it all just seems too much. You don’t know where you’re going to find the energy to keep going.
And at the 99 percent mark. When it’s pretty much all done. Not totally. There are a few more bits and pieces to finish off but, really, you’re pretty much there. Surely, there’s time to celebrate. After all, you’re there. You’ve done it. You fought through all the opposition, kept fighting through the weariness and you’re done.
It’s the last one I’ve always struggled with the most and the place I think the enemy will always try to hit the hardest. When we’re almost done. The end is in sight, and this is his last chance.
It’s the place I’m alternately fighting from and struggling in today, three months out from my debut book being published.
For almost a decade now, I’ve been fighting for this dream. Through a barrage of self-doubts, rejections, characters that won’t behave, physical pain and sickness, dreams which seemed dead, others’ doubts and a bunch of stuff which should have stopped me. But didn’t. Because I held on to the fact that God could do this, even if I couldn’t.
And then the book was written. The contract came. The edits were done. The date was set. And all of a sudden, just over three months out, when the book could pretty much do itself now without any more of my help, I’m tired. Doubting. Wondering what I was thinking to think I could do this. Wondering what I was thinking to think this book was any good and that anyone other than family would want to read it.
It’s a scary place to be because I know it’s not real. I know it’s a last ditch attack. But it feels real. The doubts are there, every day, eating away at my faith. The despondency creeps in. And I have to remind myself, day by day, minute by minute, to look up and not out. To keep my eyes on God and his purpose, rather than what I see, or don’t see, around me.
To, like Nehemiah, beg God for one last bit of strength.
We were in the middle of Brazil, surrounded by palm trees, bamboo and humidity so thick you could touch the water in the air. Our boots were coated in mud, so much so that they looked like platform shoes, and weighed twice what they would clean. Most of us had just as much mud on us, having run through it, crawled through it and fallen into it. But we kept on, knowing that the timer ticked on – and two hundred Brazilian teens and their leaders were watching. We'd been through our own Boot Camp and now were helping run theirs.
We’d been here before – not in Brazil but through Boot Camp’s Obstacle course, even if this one was on the other side of the world. We knew how it worked. We’d done a countoff (this time in Portuguese), climbed a giant ladder, run through tires, crawled through a tunnel made of palm leaves, swung on a rope over water. All that was left was the wall. By this stage, we were pros at this obstacle.
So, hands up, eyes up, we began. First one team member, then another. Over the wall. Someone called my name – “Hannah! You’re next!” – and I pushed to the front, put hands on two teammates’ shoulders and stepped up on their clasped hands, felt them push up and grabbed for the hands of the two guys sitting up on top. So far, so good. There was yelling around me – leaders reminding us to keep our hands and eyes up, the Brazilian teens cheering us on, my own teammates calling out encouragement and advice – but all I was focused on was keeping my mud-coated boots flush up against the wall. Lean back, walk it up. Trust their hold.
And then, I don’t know what happened, whether the humidity made the guys’ hands slip or whether one of my boots did, wrenching me out of their grasp but, almost to the top, I fell.
And, for the time it took me to fall backward two metres, I totally panicked. Actually, panicked isn’t quite the word. More my brain rushed a few thousand times faster than it should thinking through every worst-case scenario it could come up with. Which was a lot given how little time it had.
I was going to break a leg. A compound fracture, of course. In the middle of the Brazilian jungle. Forever away from a hospital.
Land on my tailbone, jar my back out of alignment, partially paralyze myself.
Hit my head on a rock. Lose consciousness. For days.
Crush those beneath me. Wipe out the team.
Silly things. Completely ridiculous now I think of it but fear has a way of making the ridiculous sound real.
Of course, none of those happened. Not even close. I didn’t even get a scratch. Why?
Because my team caught me. I didn’t even hit the ground. And less than a minute later, I was up again, walking up the wall. This time, making it over.
I’d been with that team for almost four weeks already. We’d run Obstacle Courses, done classes, screamed out warcries, worked together, spent two days on a bus and two and a half on planes/in airports, prayed together, put up tents together, washed my hair in buckets and brushed my teeth alongside them. I knew these people. I loved these people. But I never realized how deeply I could trust them – with everything I had – until that day I fell off the wall and they caught me. That moment was such an incredible turning point for me. To trust to the point of letting myself fall.
And has been such an incredible challenge to me ever since. One I really hate. One I still fail at.
I hate the feeling of being weak and out of control. I’m pretty sure most people do. I want to be independent and strong and enough. All on my own. I want to have it all together. I hate it when people see my weakness. I’ve gotten really good at letting people see what I want them to see. Which isn’t weakness. Or if it is, it’s once I’m past it. Once I’ve gotten through whatever it is and can stand proudly and say I did it. I – with God’s help – got through. I’ll accept God’s help – how can I live even a day without him?? – but other people? No, thanks. I’m good. I can do it myself.
Just like a silly toddler. “Do it myself, Mummy.” Yeah, sure.
Want to know something? I’m forcing myself to write this post. Why? Because I haven’t conquered this one yet. I’m not writing from the end, when I’ve learnt the lesson and can encourage you all to do it too. I’m still in the middle. Still failing every day to trust those around me to catch me when I fall. Still struggling hugely to let them even see that I’m falling. Still clinging to control till my fingers bleed.
All these people around me with their hands up, eyes up. All these people wanting to help. Already praying. On my team. Who love me. And here I am, struggling up the wall myself, determined to get up there alone. Clinging to the illusion of control. Too full of pride to let myself fall.
The thing is, I know they’re there. I know God has sent them to help me, but I struggle so much with pushing my pride away enough to let them.
But here’s the thing – and I’m telling myself this as much as I am you reading this – you’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to let yourself fall. Let them see that you’re not okay. Give them the opportunity to bless you. Be there for you. Be Jesus to you today.
It wasn’t climbing the wall which showed me the power of team. I’d done that a few times already. It was falling off it. And having them catch me.
But they didn’t stop there. They didn’t just lower me to the ground and say, “nice try, Hannah, guess you’re not strong enough after all”. The lifted me again. Grasped my hands again. Pushed me up to try again. And this time, I succeeded. Because of them. Because of the people around me.
Like I said, this is a lesson I’m still learning and, with my stupid pride, probably will be for the rest of my life. It’s a tough thing to write about because I know how often I fail at it. But maybe you, like me, need to be reminded that you’re not alone. That there are people around and underneath you who are on your side. On your team. With their hands up and eyes up. Ready to catch you. Ready to help you up again. You can’t do this alone. You were never meant to.