He is already there

There’s less than two months to go until our baby is due. According to the books, my Facebook feed and the weekly Baby Center updates, we should probably have the nursery fully set up and stocked with hundreds of nappies, singlets, wipes and baby toys by now. It’s not.

It’s tempting to get caught up in planning the physical aspects of bringing a baby into the world. Of course there are a few essentials to buy and borrow. I keep wondering what my life, our life, is going to be like with a baby? Life beyond May (when our little one is due) is a great unknown. It’s one thing to watch close friends with their new babies, but I’m pretty sure it’s rather a different thing to have your own. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very excited. I can’t wait to meet her. I’m just also rather nervous about bringing a new member into our family.

It was such an encouragement to be reminded on the first night of Colour Conference, (now a couple of weeks ago) that God goes before me – before us. He is already in our April, our May, our June and beyond. He knows what the birth will be like, he knows if she’s going to be a good sleeper or not. He knows her. We are all in his mighty hands.
***
As I was first writing this post, sitting on my own in a food court in Market City (opposite the Conference), one of the volunteers from Hillsong sat down opposite me with her dinner. We shared a little of our stories (Hayley was fresh out of high school in the US and loving her first semester of Bible college) and how we were enjoying the conference. When I shared that I was expecting a baby, she immediately offered to pray for me and our bub. She got out of her seat walked around next to me and put her arm around me and prayed. This lovely young woman I had only just met prayed passionately for our little girl to grow to know and love Jesus as her Lord and Saviour and to calm any anxieties that I had about this new chapter. I was deeply encouraged by her bold faith and her loving prayer. An experience I won’t forget.

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Book Review – The Envy of Eve

I recently finished reading Melissa Kruger’s The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. One of my friends gave it to me for my birthday. She read it last year and it changed her life. This year God has been working through this book to change me too. What a gift!

If you had asked me before I started reading The Envy of Eve whether I struggled with the sin of coveting, I probably would have said no. And I probably would have claimed to be pretty content. I would have been lying. I do covet. I struggle with contentment every day.

The book starts by unpacking what coveting is and how it is different to longing for something in a good way. She says that there are three characteristics of coveting which make it a dangerous sin to ignore and leave to grow in our hearts:

  1. Coveting is a sin pattern, not a circumstance. Kruger says, “Coveting can so blind our minds that we come to believe that if we could just attain the longed for item (a job, a baby, a spouse, healing) then we would be able to be content in life. However, our inordinate desires are never sold by attainment. Today we may covet one item, but once it is given, we will soon begin to desire something else.” (p.25) How often have I wrongly believed that if my circumstances were different, I would act differently/not sin/be happy?
  2. Coveting is marked by comparison and entitlement – we think that if others receive something we want, that we deserve to have the same. If we don’t get what they have, then we wrongly believe God has failed to be good to us. There are lots of problems with this, but I was particularly challenged to reflect on the fact that when I compare myself to friends, neighbours or colleagues, I’m failing to love that person.
  3. Coveting is a ‘begetting sin’. Coveting inevitably leads to other sins like envy, greed and lust (cf. James 1:14-15). It’s dangerous.

One of the things I loved about the book from the start was that it’s so grounded in God’s word. Each chapter focuses on a different story in the Bible and the ways that people like Eve and David fall into coveting, as well as highlighting God’s grace to them despite their sin. All coveting comes out of unbelief in God. It is a failure to trust in God’s sovereignty, love, power and provision in my life. As Eve doubted God’s character and the truth of his promises in the garden of Eden, leading her to sin, when I covet a friend’s circumstances or abilities, I’m actually failing to trust that God is good, sovereign and loving towards me.

But God is absolutely good and sovereign and loving. And because of this, he is working in and through me and the circumstances, relationships and gifts he has ordained, for the best purpose of all (cf. Romans 8:28):

At every moment, God is working to conform each of us into the likeness of Christ. Thus, whatever we lack, it is so we will grow to look more like Christ. Both our blessings and trials propel us toward this ultimate and better good.

Whether life is difficult or good, I pray that I will keep coming back to this truth and believe that the God of the universe loves me and is achieving a greater purpose – to mould me to be more like Jesus. And there’s nothing better than that.

More reflections on what I have learned to come…I hope.  

the myth of missing out

On Tuesday I stayed home from work sick with a nasty headache and pounding pain behind my eyes. I was only feeling marginally better by the evening, but as I tried to decide whether to go to bible study that evening, I found myself torn – 15 minutes before it started. I struggle with a fear of ‘missing out’.

In my childhood and teenage years there were orchestra practices, netball training, violin lessons, tennis, swimming squads, hockey training, bible study, school musical rehearsals and youth group. I’m thankful for all these opportunities and for my parents funding them and ferrying me around, but I think somewhere in amidst all this busyness, the fear began to creep in.

Maybe it started in Year One when I was sick the day they gave out parts for the school play – I was given the role of playing a mustard pot in ‘Food, Glorious Food’ from the musical Oliver. Or maybe when I stopped doing ballet at the age of nine, and I wanted to start jazz ballet. I was probably busy enough, but I thought I was too old to start. I had missed out already.

As an adult I still don’t like to miss dinners with friends, church on Sundays, or failing to do things I’ve said I will do, whether for illness or because I can’t be in two places at once. When I have to make decisions like these I’m plagued with thoughts of “I really should…” and “what will so and so think?” Sometimes I just put it off until I really have to or I get others to make the decision for me. The husband is not a fan. “What if I don’t choose the best thing? What if I get sicker? What if…?”

Well I recently joined with thousands of women at the Equip Conference in Darling Harbour. The Bible talks on the theme Heaven is Waiting were a powerful reminder to live in light of eternity – looking forward to Jesus’ return.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives  as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13

Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection we can look forward with hope to the day of Jesus’ return, when he brings heaven, where God dwells, to us (Acts 3:21).

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20

This world is not where I belong, but it matters how I live here. In Di Warren’s talk at Equip she gave four suggestions* for how we live now in light of our true citizenship. The first:

We enjoy good experiences, but we don’t chase them

This is the counter to my struggle. To entertain the idea that I am ‘missing out’ in any sense, amounts to a lack of trust in God.  This world offers many good things, but ultimately it is fallen and is just a shadow of what is to come. No amount of me controlling the events of my life in the pursuit of happiness will truly satisfy. In fact, usually when I pursue the ‘perfect’ day, I end up sad or fighting with my husband because things didn’t go according to my plan.

This world isn’t intended to satisfy and I’m not supposed to be in control – Jesus is Lord of my life. The worst that can happen in any situation is that I die or am injured in some way. Death and injury do not justify a life lived in fear. Because heaven is waiting. God doesn’t make mistakes and always works for the good of those who love him. Not for our happiness, but our good.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
― C.S. LewisWeight of Glory

I’m challenged to make decisions in faith. Yes I must be thankful and enjoy God’s good gifts – delicious food, breathtaking sunsets, soul-nourishing time with friends, inspiring music, my loving husband. But I’m convinced that with God in control, ‘missing out’ is nothing other than a silly myth.

heaven is waiting

***

* Di Warren’s other helpful suggestions for living as citizens of heaven:

  • We invest in our homes, but we don’t over-invest (Matt. 6:19-20)
  • We save souls, not the environment
  • We have hope, even in pain

I did it!

Earlier this year, my friend Kath inspired me to embark on a two month challenge of not spending money on myself (with the exception of essential items) until my birthday. The goal – to think less about me and my wants and more about… God and other more important things. She was doing a three month challenge and is still going strong!

Today is my birthday, so I’m happy to say that I made it!

The shops were essentially off-limits, except for buying gifts for others. I was liberated from being lured into the clothing and accessories shops that lie between the office and the train station. I’d like to say I didn’t do any net browsing for pretty clothes and shoes but I mostly blame joining Pinterest for that! I have spent most lunch times outside, often reading my Bible, instead of in the shops.

now what?

We’ve always channelled some of our income into separate ‘spending’ accounts, since we got married. As a rule, he likes to spend, I like to save. It has worked a dream for us. So Adam challenged me to consider giving the money I saved by not doing any spending, to someone else. Good challenge. I prayed about it and I’m eager to do this.

But there’s more. Going to the Hillsong Colour Conference last week has left me pondering whether I could make this challenge not just a one-off thing, but a way of life. I’m so thankful for all I have received, from education to jobs to friends and family – I’m very blessed – so how could I be more generous and help others? Stay tuned! If you pray, pray for wisdom and guidance from God about the ideas and stirrings on my heart.

made to be friends

Created for relationships

Relationships are a really important part of my life. Chapter 4 of The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller is titled “The Mission of Marriage” and Keller starts by looking back to the first marriage in Genesis. Being created in God’s image means that we were designed for two relationships – vertical with God and horizontal, with one another. And so, God created Eve to be Adam’s ‘ezer, his ‘helper-companion,’ his friend.

I think it’s so good that our triune God wanted us to be in relationship too. Keller says “there are two features of real friendship – constancy and transparency.” (p.112), both of which are key to marriage also. Friendship is…

the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. (Craik, A Life for a Life, p.169 in Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.112)

This is such a beautiful picture. I thank my Heavenly Father for the blessing of a husband who has shown me grace like this time and time again, and for friends about whom I can confidently say – this describes you too.

Something more

Adam and Nai old school. I think there's always been that something more...

Keller looks to the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and C S Lewis – who both said that even with constancy and transparency, a true friendship can’t just be about the two people involved.  It has to be about something. A common purpose, vision, passion. Perhaps like a mother’s group where the babies were all born within weeks of each other – brought together by the “me too” moments as they experience motherhood week to week month to month.

For any two Christians, faith unites us. A few nights ago we met a couple who are old friends of our housemates for the first time. As soon as we learned of our common faith, the small talk wasn’t so small – and it was a privilege to hear how God has been at work in their lives and humbling to be warmly embraced and encouraged ourselves.  Faith can make new friends like old ones. We’re all journeying forward to the ‘high and far’ horizon of the day when Jesus returns.

Friendship is a deep oneness that develops as two people, speaking the truth in love to each other, journey together to the same horizon. (p.116)

Not speaking nice appeasing words to avoid a fight, but the truth in love. Another blogger recently suggested “Five ways to fight your way through to a loving marriage.”  Intriguing idea, but the old adage ‘the truth hurts,’ is… true. In the short term words of truth spoken in love can sting the ears and heart. Conflict can be necessary. But as we travel the journey of marriage in joyful servanthood not self-centredness, the sure hope of Christ appearing again must keep us focused on helping our spouse to be growing into the man/woman God wants them to be in the long term.

The bigger picture

My anxieties and concerns with the smaller things have often caused major blind spots to seeing the bigger picture of what God has planned for my husband and the man God is shaping. Self-centredness can be destructive to the true friendship God desires for marriage.

Adam and I talk about the bigger picture more and more these days. We wonder what God’s plans are for him this year and for the years to come and we yearn to understand what God is teaching us through this time of uncertainty.

Keller says,

The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved. You see even now flashes of glory. You want to help your spouse become the person God wants him or her to be. (p.123)

Yes! That is what we journey towards. An ultimate cause which unites.  From the menial to the magnificent, each day together as man and wife, we get to play a part in helping our best friend to be more like our creator God as we look forward to the day of Christ Jesus. God is at work in our spouse and sometimes he may use us, his humble vessels, to do this work.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

new year, new hope.

When I flipped over our photo calendar on January 1, I saw what I’d written last year on the front cover – “Adventures and challenges, hopes and dreams, joys and trials await.” I didn’t know what they would be, I just knew they would come.

From beholding the Swiss Alps and being drenched in water on a boat at the base of Niagara Falls with Adam, to finishing up my work with International Teams – a job that was more than a job – it was a deeply life-changing chapter. From the joys of witnessing up close our precious God-daughter’s growth and development and the new adventure of moving in with another couple, to a very dark week when people we loved passed away and a close friend’s marriage fell to pieces.

God knew it all before the year began, indeed before time began. And He was right there with me, with us, with my friend through it all, and always will be.

And so, as I write my first post for 2012, I wonder what it holds too. When it struck midnight on New Years Eve the people at the party were all exchanging resolutions – one said no caffeine, and another was resolved not to speak negatively about herself. I hadn’t really thought about it. Last year I resolved to write a blog post once a week all year…and that went well for the first few months and then petered off.

Was it even helpful to have one? New Year, new start…an external motivator to seek some internal change and growth. Can’t hurt! (provided I don’t get guilty about not doing it!)

Since I tend to default to worry in most situations – always scanning the future for possible issues and discomfort, and instead I would really like to be more fully trusting God with my future, from little to big things, I’m trying to think of at least one thing at the end of each day that I can thank God for. It seems easy and simple, (the hardest part will be to remember to do it…maybe I should be writing each thing down?), but I sense that it will help me see the day-to day things of life more positively and that thankfulness, no matter what life brings day-to-day, year to year, is an important part of growing in Godliness.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

joy+trials+perseverance=faith.

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. James 1:2-4

Within the space of just over 24 hours this week, we found out that my mum was sick and on an antibiotic drip at home, that my husband’s Nan had liver cancer and then that my father in law had a suspected stroke and was in emergency at the hospital.

We heard good news earlier tonight that his Dad is home. My mum is on the mend but slowly. His Nan, well that’s going to be a longer process. We visited her yesterday –  she has not just liver cancer, but also issues with her thyroid, so she is still in shock but thankful for her family rallying around her at this time.

We love our families and try to make them a priority, and especially at times like these we of course want to be supportive and loving as much as possible.

But finding all this out when we did – just at the start of the long weekend – I felt a deep frustration. Resistance was rearing its ugly head again. We had sought to keep the weekend unusually clear to allow AJ to do lots of work on his EP songs (check the pre-releases out here). Why were these things happening? And why now?  He has been compromised for time on his music for most of the last month, and this was meant to be his time! I had to put this aside and trust that God had bigger plans than ours, as we set off for the hospital and visits to Adam’s Nan and my Mum yesterday. It was such a good thing to visit them.

Thankfully, because his Dad was doing so well, Adam was able to spend today on his songs and make some good progress and we’ll head out to see everyone again tomorrow. Praise God!

What a challenge the verse I shared at the start presents. I fully agree that perseverance leads to greater faith. I have witnessed this in other’s lives and believe it to be true in my own life too. But to consider trials a joy is a tough exhortation to live out in practice. Joy was not really how I was considering things yesterday. I felt troubled. We are trying to focus on the positive things which could result from all of this, and, quite remarkably I think, even as we processed the shock of it all, both the sick and the well could smile together yesterday. With Adam’s Nan, we pondered how experiences like this can force us to re-evaluate our priorities. Good things are possible, we believe. But joy now? Really?

I think I will keep wrestling with what James says in this passage. I am encouraged by the promise in verse 4 of maturity in faith and of not lacking anything. Perseverance through trials seems to be par for the course in this life.  This time is a trial in only small ways for me, but my prayers are for the sick and those closer to them – that is where the bigger trials are at and where much perseverance will be called for.

In all of this, I am once again reminded also how thankful I am that I know God because of what Jesus did at Easter so many years ago, that He is in control, He will never leave us and He will one day return. Amen!

resisting resistance

Disclaimer: I wrote this almost a week ago but hadn’t come back to post it. Let’s just say that the ante has been upped since I wrote this. Stay tuned.

Sore throat. Late night. Plans change. Late night. No exercise. No space. Late night. Can’t think. What to wear? Can’t write.

resistance.

I’ve posted about resistance before. This week and to some degree the last few weeks, we have felt increasing resistance to doing the particular things we feel called to. I guess this should not be a surprise – Jesus said somewhere ‘in this life you will have trouble.’ Resistance is always going to come – weekly, if not daily if not hourly.

Resistance really got to me on my Monday off work last week. I had set aside some time to reflect on my heart for missions in our church and to seek God’s wisdom and guidance – I was hoping for half a day. As I sat in the car for the second time, trying without any luck to reach Adam to sort out car logistics, I lost it. I felt so angry, sad and guilty too that for various reasons I was only going to get an hour.

On Saturday, as he prepared for our friend’s live recording, I think I was a channel of resistance to my husband. I was deceived into thinking that what I wore mattered more than anything, expressed in tears and obsessive worrying. Adam was amazingly patient but firm with me. And this helped me crawl out of the sorry pit I had fallen into

Resistance can take many forms, and it probably differs person to person, but in my life it’s generally either some form of spiritual attack or area of sin BUT it can also come in the form of very good and worthy things too. In the latter case, I feel that trying to make priorities and establish some boundaries on our time is part of the key. Discerning where to draw the line can be really hard.  When it comes to the former type of resistance, on the upside…

  1. If it is attack, then it is my hope that I/we must be doing something right to be worthy of attack; and
  2. Whether it is sin or spiritual attack or a bit of a combination, then it is an opportunity to repent, grow in faith and trust in God.

The real test is – how do I deal with it when (not if) it comes? Often I don’t realise that I’m succumbing to the temptations that resistance brings with it – especially the negative personal attacks. I think I see it more clearly than I used to – but there is still endless potential for growth – towards not giving in at all. Perhaps the best battle plan is constantly praying against attack and asking God to help me see it for what it is when it comes, and then resisting it with words of truth – like “God loves me. Nothing can change that.” or “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” Even declaring them out loud if I can. For I must remember that God is victorious over all my resistance.

How do you deal with resistance?

holding on to hope

As I read news broadcasts and see photos and videos about the flooding in Queensland, I’m reminded both that life is precious and this world is a broken place. It is hard to comprehend that much water, that much devastation to lives and families, happening in my own country.

And today I have also been thinking of Haiti. It’s one year today since the earthquake. Though there are stories of hope and survival which have come out of this very poor country at its darkest hour, I have read news reports today that life remains dangerous, many people are still suffering and homeless and rebuilding is slow.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be there. But a few months ago we met Joel and Rachel when they were looking for a church and thought ours in Redfern might be local to where they hoped to live. This amazing couple have helped us get some kind of idea.  Joel and Rachel were working as missionaries in Haiti and were two of only a few people in their building to survive the quake. They lost almost everything except their lives. They left Haiti soon after the quake for medical treatment etc and sensed God moving them on from there – ultimately to Sydney. Today Joel posted a song on their blog which paints a picture of what it was like.

As we have shared meals and life together over the past few months, I have gotten this deep sense that God has purposed this friendship. Joel and Adam share a unique passion for creative expression and Rachel and I share a heart for justice for the poor and oppressed.

I’m so thankful that God was watching over them and that we have the honour of being their friends. In their courage, passion, wisdom and strength, they inspire me. I’m praying for them today – how hard to reflect on something so harrowing and life-changing one year on.

In times like these – as floods and earthquakes devastate the physical world and human life – that I am struck again by what really matters in life. For me that’s people – family, friends, the lost, the poor and oppressed.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

I want to hold on to hope because I know Jesus will be ultimately victorious and that a day will come when the turmoil of this earth will end.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

hanging out with rachel and joel in Balmain

 

 

a brave step

My husband is pursuing his dreams.

He has taken time off work and uplifted almost his entire home studio setup and driven up to a little house in Katoomba to record for a few days. In the last few months he has written and recorded demos of 10 songs, with the plan to record an EP of 6 songs. The recording starts now…

And I could not be prouder!

The fact that he is simply there; ready to record is a success in itself. He may spend a large chunk of his time trying to help people use water more efficiently as an Environmental Engineer but I think most of his brain space is devoted to his music. And to that he is deeply devoted – from gear to software to singing techniques – he reads about it, thinks about it, talks about it, loses sleep over it, and would love to be making it as much as he could. It is truly his passion.

Adam loves his gear

 

If only there was some way it could actually make money for us to survive on. His is our main source of income now since I took my job with the mission organisation.  We hope and pray that someday, somehow he can be spending most of his time on his passion. That’s in God’s hands and even though it seems impossible now we are trying to keep trusting that he’ll work things out for good!

One of his big dreams is for us to live in a house with a studio by the beach – recording all day, afternoon surfs. So a borrowed house in the Blue Mountains with road cases as tables is not quite the same but all things considered, I think it’s a brave step in the direction of his heart’s desire. And as his wife that is a source of great joy to me.

By the way (and i’m not biased at all) his songs are powerful and honest. The man is talented… http://www.birdsinbranches.com …is where you can find out more and read his blog!