Hi, I'm Louise and my life's not perfect

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On Sunday I did something new – I admitted my life wasn’t perfect into a microphone at the front of church.

I told everyone that I had a row with my husband right before hosting life group that week and that when my life group arrived I told them too.

I can see a few of you cringing at the thought of it – the thought of opening up your life like that, of exposing your humanness.

You see, we work so hard at hiding, hiding our faults, hiding our mistakes, hiding the very fact we are human and fallible.

All of this hiding has to stop. It has to stop because it is exhausting, it takes up almost every fiber of energy we have and it causes us to miss out. We miss out on the opportunity to let people into our messiness and the opportunity for others to feel less alone.

Guess what? After I admitted that Sunday no one accused me of failing at life, of falling short, of dispelling the myth of perfection. In fact, I am sure I audibly heard people breathe a sigh of relief, of release even.

I wasn’t mortified either, I felt very much more alive than I have in a while – it was liberating!

You see we’re very happy to model and be examples of things like prayer, giving, serving, bringing words, being out in the community, leading… I could go on but no one wants to be an example of messiness do they? No one wants to be an example of falling short despite the fact we all fall short.

The thing is until more people are happy to speak out and stand up and say ‘I’m a mess, I get it wrong a lot but this is how I’m working through it.’ all we are doing is perpetuating the myth of perfection and ultimately I believe that is far more dangerous, damaging and devastating than being vulnerable, open and sharing our fallibility.

So I’m making an attempt, my own little stand to stop it happening. I am breaking free of ‘Sunday face’ and attempting to fully embrace what it means to be real.

Anyone else want to join me?

Ever had a 'should I have got out of bed?' day

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So today didn’t start well. Had a row with my husband before church and made him late for serving on PA ( am sure no one ele has ever done this, I realise I am a complete minority in this)

At this point, the day could have been a write off. Mainly due to my mind continually letting me know what a screw up I am and how I had ruined everything (my mind is a drama queen – anyone else’s?)

I managed to stop sobbing and text a few friends, telling them exactly what had happened and how I was.

I then partook in a bit of blowing raspberries therapy, which if you haven’t heard of it involves blowing raspberries at your small child to make them giggle. 15 minutes of this and I was semi normal again – enough to make it out of the front door and head to church.

I arrived and was happily greeted by a friend who chatted to me and gave me a hug. Got a bit teary again but then felt ok.

The thing is, the last place I wanted to go was church. I was feeling a bit broken and vulnerable and yet my natural reaction was to hide.

This is not a comment on my church or my church family. It is recognising the fact that there is something a little inherent in me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, that makes me feel I have to be perfect and smiley and raring to go on a Sunday and quite frankly that’s the biggest lie we can hold on to.

Jesus himself said he did not come for the righteous – so why do I aspire to be like that on a Sunday.

Church should be a place of refuge and yet today I was afraid of judgement of appearing a failure and that has nothing to do with anyone or anything said. It has to do with my own battle with perfection and owning up to the fact I struggle.

Right now, I don’t feel I am a good enough mother, wife, friend or family member. That’s my own journey and it’s ok for me to be on it, there isn’t a quick fix in all this.

I cancelled going to my son’s swimming lesson today ( Mum guilts kicked in big time) but some vindication came in the fact he napped for over 2hrs in the time we would have been. Sometimes, I really should trust my instincts and stop using the selfish word when I make these decisions.

Friends invited us for lunch, and I was nurtured and refreshed and offered a place of safety where I could be just as I am.

So, even though it was tough today, it was also important as I learned how to share those parts of myself that I would rather hide, I realised it’s not so bad saying it how it is and feel a little more confident in my messiness but still have a way to go – work in progress right?

Tonight is the church prayer
meeting and I am sat instead at home in my pyjamas. Another chance for my mind to tell me I have my priorities all wrong… at one point someone told me ‘Sometimes the most holy thing you can do is rest.’ and I am very good at saying this to other people but right now, I think I need to say it to myself, believe it and remember that there is no condemnation.

Don't write off the small things…

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Hearing His Voice

I got a tweet yesterday in my timeline from @lisabevere with a link to the above message. I favourited it but did not listen to it until this morning. It is about the Holy Spirit and hearing from God. It feeds into exactly the journey I have been on recently. 

While listening I got emotional with God. I had tears. It really spoke deeply into my heart. 

Hearing from God is an odd phrase – often it is met with consternation and skepticism. It can fall into the weird category and can frighten people. We can build it up into something so big that we avoid it at all costs. We shy away from it and often times ignore it. 

For me, promptings from the Holy Spirit are not big booming voice encounters – it comes from within a nudge, a sense that I should do or say something. 

One part of the message really pierced my heart…

There are so many other things I said to you and you second guessed them.’

I know this is true in my own life – that I have felt promptings, to pray out, to sing out, to pray for people, to encourage, to acknowledge, to speak a word and I haven’t because i have second guessed myself. I have allowed fear and doubt to prevent me from doing what I have been called to do. 

I started a journal a week ago – I can see evidence of hearing from God, of being prompted by the Holy Spirit and I have been following those promptings. It hasn’t been anything ‘huge’ just small things. Sending a tweet, an email, writing a blog post but there has been fruit. There has been a momentum building. 

How often do we write off the small things? Does the word not say:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin… Zechariah 4:10

The problem is that in our humanness we don’t want small, we desire big, we want more, we want fireworks and lights and fanfares. We go from following a prompting to wanting to build a ministry. We don’t want to start small but that is how it all begins. 

Starting small is exciting and we need to recognise that. Do you want your faith life to be a journey, an awesome adventure? Do you want to be able to see how God has worked in your life? It doesn’t happen overnight, as much as we would like it. It is about the small steps towards greater obedience. 

I love to praise and worship God. I have a real heart for worshipping. There is nothing better for me than singing my heart out to God. For me, it is through worship that the Holy Spirit stirs within me. It is through my recognition of who God is, of His love for me, of his amazing faithfulness that I feel the spirit stirring me and moving me. 

On Sunday, I went from dancing around my kitchen lost in wonder, love and praise to praying fervently for the church and weeping. That was a prompting – it came out of my worship. 

On Sunday, I was prompted to pray for a friend and I walked all the way to the back of the church, took them by the hand and said ‘Can I pray with you?’ Turns out they really needed prayer but wouldn’t have asked. 

As I listen to preaches and talks, I often hear passages read and the Holy Spirit will speak a name to me and I know I have to send them that passage. I don’t always get a response, or know how that has spoken to or affected them but does that mean I should stop?

Following promptings is not about our glory but God’s. It should not be done to get recognition for ourselves but for God. So it doesn’t matter about the response to me, it matters that I have been obedient. 

I don’t want to write off the small things. I want to make sure i don’t miss out. I want to follow every little prompting I get. 

How about you? Have you been prompted recently? Have you been too busy second guessing that you have missed opportunities? 

 Can I challenge you to follow a prompting today and see what happens? 

I want to finish with a video of a worship song that is constantly on my heart at the moment. It is about God’s faithfulness and the fact we are never alone.

Why not start from a place of worship and see where the Holy Spirit leads you today?

Getting emotional with God

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“What is it about tears that should be so terrifying? the touch of God is marked by tears…deep, soul-shaking tears, weeping…it comes when that last barrier is down and you surrender yourself to health and wholeness” David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade

I read this quote today and it really struck me. It spoke to me deeply about my own reactions to tears, it brought to mind many instances when I have experienced exactly the above. 

I would describe myself as an emotional person, I cry at adverts, I cry at new stories, I cry when I am angry, happy, frustrated. It seems to be a bit of a default and I suppose that is why when I experience tears in a spiritual context, I tend to write it off. 

I have said on many occasions ‘Why do I always get tears? Why can’t I get laughter?’ Belittling in a way the experience, the deep work that is taking place within me. But why?

In society, crying or tears are seen as weakness. A sense that you have lost control or have become ‘over emotional’. People who cry are often written off and not listened to – they have shown themselves to be fallible and incapable of maintaining their dignity.

I have sadly bought into this perception all to often and in the process been happy to write myself of as ’emotional’ as if it is a dirty word, not to be seen as a quality but to sneered at and embarrassed about. 

I believe that God is doing a work in me about this. I believe He has started gently with the quote above but I know need to accept it is a big part of who I am and who He created me to be.

On Sunday, as I prayed in my kitchen before church, I was overwhelmed by emotion and I cried. Thinking back to this now, this was about sensing God’s heart and I wiped my tears away and ‘pulled myself together’ ashamed, feeling silly. I repent of that now. 

After the service, when I prayed for friends again I was overwhelmed by tears and it was again God’s heart – I realised it more then, I did not allow it to hinder me but to spur me on and I felt that God was working, that he was moving. I accepted the tears.

Who am I to deny attributes in myself when ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made’? I have not been called to write myself off. There are plenty who will, there is an enemy who will make sure of it but I am not to join in with that – to belittle God. 

Can we reclaim the word ’emotional’? Can we accept tears as the touch of God?

How often do we sing or pray ‘break my heart for what breaks yours’ and then berate ourselves for feeling the emotion and weeping? How often do we ask to see the world and people through God’s eyes and then put ourselves down for getting ’emotional’?

Will you join me from today and accept that tears are not a weakness but a sign that we have experienced something of the heart of God? The heart of God for those we are praying for, for our current situation, for the stories we read about and watch on the news.

Will you join me in recognising that compassion is something far more than just thinking ‘Oh that’s sad.’

Will you join me in getting emotional with God?

 

Enjoying God

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I spent the morning listening to a preach by Judah Smith about Enjoying God.

http://thecity.org/message/enjoying_god

There was so much in it that really spoke to me about where I am at the moment. It follows on from my posts about Coffee with God and Walking with God

As I was listening, I tweeted some of the content because I couldn’t help but want to share it. I also emailed the link to some friends who I know will be blessed by listening to the message. 

I am so fired up and inspired by what I am learning and experiencing at the moment from changing my whole approach to my relationship with God and my Christian walk. I am seeing how God is moving and working in my life and the lives of others in such a short space of time.

Keeping a journal really helps – not in a strict, I must write in it everyday kind of way but in a Wow! I need to write this down – I need to remember this, I need to be encouraged by this and I will need this to keep me going kind of way. 

There were a few snippets of the preach that really struck me…

‘A lot of us treat our relationship with God like a formal living room, to be looked at and admired but we don’t live with him.’

I was immediately reminded of my grandparents house. They had a formal living room at the front of the house and it was never used apart from on very special occasions. It was beautiful and awe inspiring but we hardly went into it. 

How true can this be of our relationship with God? We acknowledge that he is amazing, awesome, wonderful but we don’t take it any further – an arm’s length approach. A head knowledge approach – we know how to describe him and all that he is but do we know him?

Abide – continue, stay, dwell, remain. Don’t treat God like an antique piece of furniture but an Ikea couch!

I have a carving chair in my house, it was my Granddad’s. When I first got it I didn’t want anyone to sit on it. It was just to be looked at. Now, anyone can sit in it, after all that is what it is for!

I love the analogy used here – you are far more free to let people live on your Ikea couch than your antique furniture – you recognise it is it to be lived on and in. The same is true of our relationship with God – it is to be lived on and in. 

You have permission to enjoy God. You have permission to let him love you.

How often do we reduce ‘relationship’ with God to :

Daily quiet time

Reading the bible

Praying

Nothing wrong with any of those things but God wants all of our life and that means the making dinner, sitting in the sunshine, going for a walk, having a coffee, relaxing on the sofa parts of our lives too. The writing blog posts, posting on social media and watching a film parts. 

We need to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’

We need to stop trying to earn God’s love and favour.

We need to accept – we are loved, we are loved, we are loved.

We need to enjoy God.

How are you going to enjoy God today? How are you going to give yourself permission to accept his love?

 

 

Walking with God

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The phrase ‘walking with God’ is one that is often used but do we really think about what it means? In Genesis God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden – amazing. The closeness and depth of relationship that allowed.

It is available to us right now thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection but how many of us take hold of it?

At times in my own ‘walk’ I am guilty of holding God at arms length, or of treating our relationship as one of sharing platitudes with a lofty far away being.

When you walk with someone, you tend to walk side by side. At times they may go ahead of you and make sure the way is clear or that you can safely navigate. As you walk, there is a dialogue, a conversation and it allows a certain closeness. You walk in the same direction and you make progress together.

Today, I felt like I was finally in step with God once again and I realised that the one thing I did differently was to just be and not do. Sounds simple? I really think it is that easy.

Recently in my Christian life I have tried to force things I realise. I had been over thinking everything that is had rendered me all but silent. I didn’t pray out because I convinced myself I needed to have all of my words in order before I began. I didn’t sing out because I only had one line. I prayed for people but didn’t step out in bringing words in case they were wrong.

This morning before church I listened to some worship songs and let myself just be and worship – out of that came a prayer for our church that resulted in tears as I saw God’s love afresh.

When we prayed before the service I was amazed to hear the words I had prayed privately in my kitchen being repeated by different members of the congregation and I prayed out myself, speaking boldly, not stumbling over my words.

After communion, there was a time of ministry and prayer. I prayed for a friend and her daughter and two other friends. As I prayed it wasn’t about me but all about what God wanted to do and say. There was a real freedom in that , one that I haven’t experienced before. I was not self conscious because there was no ‘self’ in what I was doing.

There had been a word brought about God wanting to release the gift of Prophesy – as you know if you have read my previous post about dreaming big dreams – this is on my list. I didn’t have prayer about this as I was praying for others but I felt in my heart that it had been for me and I felt really encouraged as it is only so recently I have spoken this dream aloud.

I was helping pack up after the service and the pastor spoke to me saying that he believed the word about prophesy was for me. That as soon as it was brought he thought it was for me and he looked over at me and my bump ( I am 29 weeks pregnant) and felt that God was birthing words in me, that this was a time of preparation and expectancy for things to come.

I explained that it was really exciting to hear that as I had felt that God was birthing new dreams and visions within me through my pregnancy and that I had recently finished reading ‘A life unleashed’ by Christine Caine in which she uses the stages of pregnancy to describe dreams being birthed within us.

Far too much for coincidence and so much in a short space of time from writing that first post of speaking my dreams aloud. I am definitely maintaining momentum and it is is truly exciting.

So, today I felt that I finally understood what it meant to be ‘walking with God’ and that there is no better feeling.

How is your walk with God? What has He been doing in your life? Do you need to rediscover what it means to be walking with God?

Maintaining momentum

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Yesterday, I spoke my big dreams aloud, put them out there for the whole world to see – what now?
How do I ensure that I am maintaining momentum?

The key thing for me is to ensure that I don’t push things too hard or too quickly – this is a journey and the destination is not one that can be arrived at in a few days, weeks or even months.

Therefore, I could just sit back and wait for it all to happen but that isn’t how it works. There needs to be activity day to day that ensures I keep moving forward, however small the steps, and don’t stagnate.

I read a book yesterday ‘The Grace Outpouring – blessing others through prayer’ This is the story of God’s work at Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat centre in rural Wales. It raised a few thoughts for me :

1. The ‘Grace First’ approach. One that Christians and churches claim they have but do we in practice?

2. Praying blessing over people, the local area and the nation. This is something I want to explore further. Is there a tendency to over complicate or to try and force things?

3. Building houses of prayer. This concept really moved something within me and has got me thinking about how it could work practically in my local area. Where would it be? Who would be involved? What impact could it make?

These seeds of ideas and inspiration being sown because I focused some time on reading about what others have done – what worked and what didn’t. How it all began and grew.

These are things I need to think further about, pray over and seek God for. The important thing is doing the seeking.

Friends contacted me about my post yesterday with encouragement and words that I need to spend time weighing and meditating on.

What if I hadn’t written the post? What if I had kept everything internal?

There is a momentum and it all began with speaking aloud the desires of my heart but I can’t stop there.

When you have felt stirred, moved or inspired to act, what have you done to ensure you have maintained momentum?

Fear and Faith

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Today, I went to a Women’s conference at New life church East Grinstead.

Recently, I have been a bit stagnant in my Christian walk. Not completely but I have become quiet, just coasting.

I was looking forward to today not because I was seeking a spiritual high that would boost me for a little, but because I wanted to wake myself up to the bigger picture again.

Livy Gibbs was speaking and she got to the heart of the matter – fear…

‘Fear and faith can’t co habit in your heart, one makes its home at the others expense.’

This pinpointed exactly where I was.

Fear is a natural reaction – feeling out of control and what we tend to do is make attempts to gain control. This can lead us into idolatry -putting our trust in people and things that ultimately will let us down.

God is in control of my unknown future. So I can either fear or have faith…

Do I see the future through fear or faith? I know what I want to answer but the other happens so easily.

There are many unknowns coming up in my life:
How will we manage financially with a major works bill and a baby on the way?
What will happen after maternity leave?
What will my spiritual life look like in 3 months time?

It would be so easy to be fearful, to panic, to lose hope and strive to control it all. The truth is I can’t and by trying I would simply tie myself up in knots and become more fearful.

I have faith that it will all work out, I can’t tell you how and it may seem illogical but I choose that over fear any day. Fearing the future does nothing to change it.

‘She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.’ Proverbs 31:25

I want to be able to laugh without fear of the future and the only way to do that is to admit I am not in control and walk in the freedom that brings.

We are called to love…

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Have read a lot of Adrian Plass recently. Completely compelling writing, tongue in cheek at times but also quite pointed. Has made me think a lot about Christianity and church.

‘The Church’ to the outside world is often viewed as a place full of pious, out of touch people who closet themselves away on a Sunday, sing hymns and feel that they are superior to everyone else.
TV does little to dispel this myth. Have seen a couple of dramas recently where the Christian character comes across as a ‘weirdo’. One of the most high profile churches in the media is Westboro Baptist known for their messages of hatred.

Church in reality is very different. I tweeted on Sunday that I had really enjoyed church because it felt like family. Now when we consider the word family, we think of different generations, personalities, characters etc who all get together and spend time together because they are related. For me, church is the same, I spend time with people of different ages to me. I love the fact that my friends would not be considered my peer group. I have learnt so much and been really supported by having friends of different ages. This is something that is often missed out on.

Also, like family there are times you fall out, people get on your nerves and it can be strained but ultimately what unites us is so much stronger than that. There is a shared mutual love and support and an inbuilt support system when things are tough.

Sometimes we get things wrong and that is because we are all broken, messy people. We don’t have it all together but we do have each other and recognise that we are better together than we are apart.

It is not an exclusive club it is an inclusive club.

Sadly, many people will not set foot in a church because of misconception, because of the message that has often been heard, because of silence when there should have been words.

Ultimately we are called to love and we all need to get that little bit better at doing just that.

Broken, messy, used to failing

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Broken, messy, used to failing. Not the adjectives you would expect to be used to describe a Christian. I would use them to describe me as a Christian.

You see the opinion a lot of people have is that Christians are pious, judgemental and have it all together. The ‘holier than thou’ approach.

Is this unfair? I don’t think it is. I think the issue is that we have forgotten how to vulnerable, forgotten that ultimately we are broken and that we need help to be fixed, we can’t do it alone and that help comes from Jesus not from working on it ourselves, by doing as many good deeds as we can in the attempt to earn goodness.

Human achievement – society is based on this concept. That everything is earned through doing enough, working hard enough, being busy enough. The problem is in the attempt to earn goodness and achieve accolades we have lost the art of vulnerability. We have created a culture where vulnerability is synonymous with weakness. We strive to out busy each other, to prove we are better than the next person. We lie about the fact that we are struggling. We pretend we don’t care about others.

I myself have fallen into this trap. Why? Because I am broken and messy and at times I fail.

We don’t like the word fail but the truth is that we all do but rarely will we acknowledge it to ourselves let alone others.

In the church we have become adept at hiding our failures from one another. Forgetting the very reason we are there. We need to return to a culture of vulnerability. We need to be prepared to say to each other that we are broken and messy and that we fail. That we can’t fix it all ourselves.

If we don’t, there is the danger that we create a place where people feel they have to live up to a certain set of standards to belong and that is far from the church we are called to be.

We need to be prepared to say to the world that we don’t have it all together, that we struggle, that we don’t have all the answers, that life is hard. We need to be vulnerable. We are no better, we are not ‘holier than thou’.

We need to display that we love each other in our messes, in our troubles, in our failures. We need to show that ultimately we love.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t live out of my brokeness but I know I have brokeness. I don’t live feeling a failure but I know I fail. I don’t call myself a mess but my life can be messy.

Vulnerability is hard because it means being susceptible to attack because you let people in to your life as it is without hiding anything.

I think that means being prepared to die to self doesn’t it? forgoing reputation?

This post is my first step towards true vulnerability. What will yours be?