Apples.

The first seeds I remember planting were the pips from an apple.
They grew.

They reached maturity and produced their own harvest. I have to admit the apples produced by our trees had little resemblance to the parent plant.
They where sour tasting apples hardly fit for eating. I remember the screwed up face I made the first time we ate our harvest. Trying to convince myself they where good.
I grew up watching these trees change with the seasons. They out grew the pots on the kitchen window seal. Became rooted into the ecosystem of my Great Aunties garden . They saw me though school, marriage and the birth of our daughter . When auntie died the apple trees in her garden remained firmly planted in my memory.
When I opened my hand as small child I received two apple pips. My plan was to grow apple trees to produce apples we could eat. Apples that would taste as good if not better than the parent plant.
We could have never seen the world of wonder that these seeds would grow.
This blog is not about growing apple trees, it’s not even about bad tasting apples but about the plans God has for all of us.
I think about Gods plans for us and how they are often so very different to our plans.
I wish I could say that God’s plan will always makes sense, but it doesn’t. I wish I could say that God’s plan will always make us feel good, but it doesn’t do that either.
I wish I could say that God’s plan will always make our lives easier and more comfortable, but I am fairly certain that’s not the case.
God’s blessing doesn’t always come as Red sweet tasting apples.
It might even come in a harvest of Red bitter tasting apples. Grown with love and memories that will live on in my heart. Memories that have helped me to see who I am, and where God might be calling me.
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Psalm 104 The Message (MSG)

24-30
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.

It’s a wonderful world!

Imagine my delight to see a delivery of manure on the allotment . Yes I’m blogging very excitedly about a large pile of crumbly well rotted horse poo.
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Theirs a Richness to this manure. It’s full of potential, nutrition and fertility.
Beneficial bacteria, fungi and other organisms have the job of breaking down this organic matter.
It’s hard for some to imagine this transformation as beautiful. But it truly is!!
Fungi Mushrooms represent rebirth, rejuvenation. Fungi transforms and generates soil that gives life.
It’s a hidden microscopic miracle that is constantly happening, causing our world to change around us.
Curiosity takes us on journeys of discovery, awakening us to the world we cannot see.
Viewing this beautiful transforming changing world can only happen when we stop to learn its language. When we make ourselves available to enter the world in which the invisible inhabits.
Opening our minds takes us on a journey through the diversity of creation, that in turn opens our hearts to God.

Genesis 1:31 The Message (MSG)
31
God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!

A Prayer for my sister.

Day 34 – Lent challenge – Accept.

I sat on my mums lap, her arms wrapped around me. She moved slowly and rhythmically as she held me in her arms. It comes so naturally to her. We sat together with other families listening to the story of Jacob and Esau.
A story where sibling rivalry try’s to distort and destroy all it touches. The story of two bothers fighting over the love of their father, fighting over what they both consider to be rightfully theirs. It’s God that sees these two brother reunited .
My beautiful mother knows so well the pain caused when siblings fight each other. You see my sister and I are not exactly the best of friends.

This lack of friendship does not stop me loving my sister. Just as last night I was not to big ( just over sized ) to sit on my mums lap. Being held in her love surrounded by Gods love.
Listening to a story that in so many ways echoes my own relationship with my sister.
Our story is a painful story. The saddest thing about our story is we both hurt the person we love; our mum. I can no longer accept this. I would never want my actions to hurt others. So why do I constantly hurt my mum.
The biggest reason is fear. It’s a selfish fear for which I am sorry. It’s a fear that my sister will hurt me as she has done in the past. I fear her scheming, deception and the way she can manipulate me. Taking advantage of my weaknesses, leading me to a place of trust only to hurt me as she has done before.
This is no longer an acceptable way to behave. I no longer have to face these fears alone, I am ready to move forward. Taking that leap of faith, knowing that wherever I land God will be with me. In my weakness, he is strong. I pray that we can be reconciled together in some way. What ever way this happens I know God will be a part of that reunion. A reunion that will give peace and joy to my mum.

Last night as we were listened to the story of Jacob and Esau the listening turned into acting. The last part of this story is reconciliation and of course a hug. It’s amazing how much more powerful words are when accompanied by actions. We all played roles, I was one of many donkeys. Jacob and Esau were played by twin boys. Seeing these boys walk towards each other and give each other a awkward hug was profound and moving . After a hug we had prayers. We prayed for people that we wanted to build relationships with. We prayed for broken relationships and healing.
Praying with children and their families is always a privilege and a joy. Being with them as they explore and grow in faith is awesome . I get so excited by their prayers. The language the children use to talk to God is always so pure and humbling. It excites me how obvious children make faith, how uncompleted it is to them. As adults we over complicate something so simple and beautiful as prayer.

A Prayer for my sister.

Loving God
This is pray for my sister.
I pray from my heart through you to her heart.
I ask that we see each other and love each other as sisters should.
That in this loving we heal past hurts and soothe past deeds.
I ask for forgiveness for the pain we both cause to each other and those that love us.
I pray that our families can be joined in love, your love.
Lord I ask that somehow you open doors and opportunities for our relationships to heal and grow.
That we will have the wisdom to see and use these opportunities for love. That from that love friendships may form and grow.
I pray for the sense and understanding to be realistic and accept the path this journey will take.
Please give me the strength to listen to you. I ask that my words will be kind, my thoughts loving and my actions sincere.
I ask that we will find peace hope and forgiveness as we journey with you.
Amen.

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2 Corinthians 12:9 Good News Translation (GNT)
9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.

Unplanned Retreat.

Day 31- Lent challenge – Retreat.

This blog is to author Paul Young.
2017 Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday I went on a personal unplanned retreat into a virtual world. An absorbing journey that seeks to provide answers to the question ” Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
A journey that confirmed what I already knew. A journey that gave story to my pain. A journey into the pages of a novel. Deep into the pages of a book.
“The Shack” by Paul Young.
I know this book has it critics. It’s said not to be theological sound, incorrect in its teachings even a danger to the christian faith.
To me “The Shack” is a powerful novel telling a story of grief and pain. God’s love giving comfort to those who have been overwhelmed by tragedy. It does not try to be anything else. It tells a story; a story that tells us nothing new. A story that tells us God is good. A story that added depth and understanding to the questions that played on my mind.
The story brings the issues of forgiveness and places them in a modern world. It gives a voice to frustration and anger caused by pain, heart felt pain. Theirs real understanding that when bad things happen it hurts.The shack shows us, walks with us through our emotions to a place of forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget or accept someone’s actions. It’s forgiveness that releases angry burdens that we carry. In that letting go of angry we heal slowly, we heal in love.
God is always their in our deepest hurts, regrets, and longings.
One of my deepest hurts was a short car journey to say goodbye to a special little person.
I could feel God was with us on that short journey. It was obvious and powerful.
The shack made me think more about the three people in the car that day. Seeing us as three individuals traveling together, each of us having a deep personal individual relationship with Jesus .
We were on the same journey in the same car, all with our own different emotional needs.
These needs were acknowledged and meet by God. Intimate conversations lovingly whispered. Our own taylor made personal emotional survival kit. Through the pain God did not leave us.
Taylor made support surrounded by love.
I knew all this all before reading “The Shack “. But it was not until reading the book did I realise how comforting that was to me. How important it was to me that the little person that I loved so much was not alone. Jesus her special friend was with her. Never leaving her, being where I could not.
As this little person told me herself so many times. “Jesus is my friend he’s always with me. He’s with me in the playground, he’s with me at bed time, he never leaves me”.

It’s strange how obvious some things are. How we deeply know them to the point that knowing becomes a feeling. We read listen, are told over and over again; We understand .Yet it took a trip to “ The Shack “ for me to realise the depth, vastness, greatness, wholeness and the comfort of what it means to know you are never alone.

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Isaiah 49:16 Good News Translation (GNT)
Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.

Love is joyful sacrifice.

Day 26 – Lent Challenge – Sacrifice.
To love requires us to give something of ourselves. Love is a gift that is given from God to us. A gift that keeps on giving.
When we love we give time and tangible help. We cannot love if we don’t give. We love because we are loved. When we give, we always receive something back in return even if we don’t see that return ourselves.
Love requires sacrifice, love is not a word it’s a action from within. When we give, we should focus on the joy of giving, not the sacrifice involved. When we love, we automatically sacrifice, it’s not a conscious decision it’s a product of love. Our sacrifice may be obvious to others but not to ourselves. If it were obvious than it would not be a sacrifice but a job a chore not done in love.
Today’s blog is for a lady with the warmest biggest heart. She has given everything to her children , grandchildren and great grandchildren. God is at the heart of all she does. Her love extends past her family and into our community.
This lady has helped me see the importance of making space for myself. Finding a place to recharge my batteries. To be with God,
Making time, not robbing time from sleep eating or family. Time not spent thinking about my every growing todo list. Time spent looking inwards growing my relationship with God. Giving time for prayer, worship and deepening myself. Remembering who I am remembering and why I love.
Stopping long enough to feel that deep love that comes from God. Stopping is never sacrifice it’s a joy.
Writing every day over lent has made me realise that I don’t make enough time to just be me. I need to feel the soil in my hands I need to be outside.
That’s when God talks to me at his loudest. I need to reconnect with myself and in doing so with God. I need to pause long enough to recharge my heart. To garden my soul. Look inwards and not create words that challenge me, but look inwards and feel the Joy of knowing God.
God came to me as a feeling, a presence, a voice that said you can do this, I am with you. God came to me without words. The words took along time to form, the words that slowly came from my heart. It’s going back to the God the resides in my heart as a feeling not words. It’s taking myself away from trying and thinking, going outside and just being me and God.

Not sure if I had just hit the bloggers wall. Having some sort of mini lent melt down or just worn out and over emotional after a tough week. With 14 more blogs to write it’s getting harder but than I guess this was not meant to be easy.

John 13:35 The Message (MSG)
34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

Our stories of struggle.

Day 25 – Lent Challenge – live.

My Mother’s day stall has reminded how much I still need to cry out to God. Reminded me of how far I have come.
Mothering Sunday ended in tears. Emotions were high after the Sunday evening church service. The mother’s day run away service was a place to lay bare my pain, placing it in front of God. It was painful and exhausting; a place to just be, to cry out surrounded by friends, to fall apart in the warmth of the church, a place to be held, a safe place to ask why?
No need to pretend, no false smiles. A whole precious peaceful hour to just be. A hour carved out of a busy day to acknowledge it hurts. To lament and invite the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.

Today’s blog is to my great auntie. A lady that faced grief alone, she settled for simply surviving the pain and challenges that come her way. Her life stopped she turned away from her faith, she bottled it up. She refused to even enter the church. Angry she set herself a path in life that God was no longer a part of. Going it alone she had no one to share her pain with. No one shout out to. When we we turn away from God and those that support us our lives change as does the way we live.

This blog is also a thank you for those that understand our grief, come to us in our pain. For those that acknowledge life is hard. For those that plan and organise services that give us the space to safely fall apart.

On remembrance Sunday last year in the church where auntie was baptised, I shared Auntie and Jacks story. I am going to share it with you too.

Jack
Each year I trace the bronze words spelling out your name on the war memorial. It’s tracing the letters that connects me with you and your story. You were aunties first husband and her one true love.
You worked as a farm labourer and married my Auntie in the December of 1939.
I don’t how long you had together before you were enlisted but I guess not long.
Auntie was a war time bride, widowed within 5 years.

Gunner 1086881 172 field reg royal artillery was killed in action on the 20th January 1943 age 32.
Your story is also aunties story – you see Auntie was never the same after losing you.
She remarried in 1946. She never removed your wedding ring, placing the 2nd wedding ring on top of yours.
As a child I would sit on her lap and be fascinated by the two rings how they sat together. The rings had become almost one but with my small fingers I could separate them into two.
Even as a child I understood the questions I wanted to ask were to two painful for her to answer .
She never talked about the pain and the loss, it was all locked away unspoken like so many.
I grew up knowing the story of you going of to war and never coming back.
I would look at your photo framed in the front room. The room that was never used. The strange blue sofa that was never sat on. In the room that you never came back to.
Auntie just she carried on, remarried and had a different life. She longed for the children which never came and a husband that never came back from the war.
Auntie carried the scars of war with her for the rest of her life.

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Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Energy that challenges and funnels.

Day 23- Lent challenge – Challenge.

I have been thanking and blogging about all the people that have challenged, changed and influenced my life. I think I need to include myself in all of this.
My personal challenges this year include reading the bible in 365 days. And of course this lent challenge.
The lent blog challenge is once again helping me try and make some sort of sense of my faith journey so far. It helps me see things I did not see before. It helps me let go of pain and join up my worlds. Exploring thoughts and feeling that otherwise I would not face.
Blogging in its self is growing and challenging me. God is changing me.

I heard the other day on a course that discipleship is riding the wave of the Holy Spirit.
For a non surfer It took some time to relate to this but my little doddle in my notebook has been in my thoughts the last few days.
For me the whole idea of bobbing around in the deep sea waiting for a wave petrifies me.
You have no control of the waves. Or the size of the waves that are heading your way. No idea when the wave is coming. You can’t change it.
In riding the wave we to respond to its power. Surfing in a style that reflects who we are on our individual journeys. Surfing with focus energy and drive. Surfing at different levels according to our ability but all going the same way forward.

It’s trying to visualise the wave of the holy spirt. A wave taking me closer to being within my own depth and understanding.
My hunger to learn comes from listening to the Holy spirt. It’s waiting for the wave learning to be instinctively aligned with the energy that comes from within.
Than at precisely the right moment riding the wave feeling the energy that brings me closer to God.
It’s this waiting and listening that allows me to connect the thoughts in my heart and convert them into words feelings and tears.
It’s that energy that challenges and funnels me. The waves never stop. Some are bigger than others. Some waves seem impossible challenging me in many different ways, some almost to the point of drowning. Without the Holy Spirt lifts of creative energy I might be left out of my depth in the deep scary water.

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John 14:26-27 The Message (MSG)
25-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

Ordinary things impact people in extraordinary ways.

Day 21 – Lent challenge – Deliver
This blog today is a thank you to my Sunday school teacher.
I remember one Christmas afternoon a car driving down our road, that was strange in its self. Our quiet road of only five houses had very little traffic. A car we did not recognise was certainly out of place on Christmas day.
Moments latter a card came though our letter box. The card was a birthday card addressed to my sister from our Sunday school leaders.
It was not the card that stood out to me but the fact my sister was remembered by them on Christmas day. They took time out of their busy Christmas to deliver a her a card. It meant the world to my sister who’s birthday was always overshadowed by Christmas.
She was thought about loved and valued on her birthday. In that simple act of hand delivering a birthday card they showed such love for the family’s that attended Sunday school.
Sometimes it’s the simplest acts of kindness that have the most lasting effects. Sometimes ordinary things impact people in extraordinary ways.
There are opportunities all around us to show God’s love. I need to be reminded that we don’t have to always think big or complex, acts don’t have to be extraordinary.
They can be the normal,everyday things we do. No matter how simple or complex, no matter how ordinary or unique we always have the opportunity to show the love of Christ through our actions.
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Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We can show God’s love for us through our actions. We can serve by accepting that Jesus served us first

Celebrating love.

Day 17 – Lent challenge – celebrate.
This blog is for my husband.
Twenty four years ago we stepped out of the church and into the world as husband and wife. We honestly had no idea what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams.
It’s been tougher than I ever imagined. The truth is marriage is hard work. Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible, more deep joy than we ever realised existed.
Our love has changed over time but it’s never gone. 
I have loved when I did not feel loved. Been so scared I could not function. Cried tears of pure joy and tears of my own making.
Our hearts have been broken by love, soothed and healed by love.
All the things I loved about him when we were dating I still love. His sense of humour, honesty and the way he makes me laugh. There’s often a right way and a wrong way or a different way to do something. I normally head full on towards the difficult way. The path with most resistance.
I will crash through brambles wade through rivers. Often repeating the journey to put right my mistakes.
My other half will get out a map out and plan. But he follows me silently though the mud and brambles, I love him for that. We are opposites and he is annoying normally right.
We are both discovering and learning what it means to be loved by God. Sharing God in our lives has been something I never ever thought we would do.
I have seen a side to my beautiful man that I never saw before. Jesus unites us in our thoughts and he is our standing with us.
Celebrating love, marriage and that God reaches us all in different ways.

Ruth 1:16-17 The Message (MSG)
16-17 But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”

Comforting powerful words.

Day 16 -Lent challenge 2018 – Stillness.

One of the things that has really helped me find my faith is all the little seeds of faith planted by the wonderful community and family that surrounded me as I grew up.
Today’s blog is a thank you to our next door neighbour for teaching me Psalm 23.
I don’t have many memories of her. But I do remember her dark brown doors with high handles that I could reach but my younger sister could not.
Being in the garden while my mum and next door where both hanging out the washing. They Stopped to chat over the fence,the excited conversation about the pope visiting England. I had never next door so excited before.
But most of all I remember my visits to her house, when she would take down Psalm 23 and recite it to me and my sister.

When my life became full of pain it was Psalm 23 that gave me such hope and strength. The words that where once forgotten became alive. Comforting powerful words backed up by a strong healing message wrapped in Gods unconditional love.
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Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.