Monday, 25 April 2011

The Garden

I love to journal; it’s not like keeping a daily diary, more of an ongoing conversation with Jesus. I try every day to read my Bible, pray and spend time with God. Inevitably this doesn’t happen every day, but I find when I do make time for God my days are so much easier to face and get through.

My journals are really precious to me, full of words from God, cards and letters from friends, songs, poems, pictures, and conversations with Jesus. I started journaling on Saturday 26th April 2006, and so much has happened since then. It is great to be able to look back to see what has been going on in my life and just how much God has done for me and in me, during that time.

I don’t often share what I write in my journals, but I was really moved by something I wrote last week and I feel God is asking me to share it with you. A couple of weeks ago my friend Rex, challenged me to “find somewhere nice to sit with Jesus and see what happened”. This is what happened on the first occasion I did, on the 14th April:

The Garden

I walked towards a beautiful ornate metal gate in a really high, thick hedge. The gate was really cold to the touch as I pushed it open. But as I walked inside the hedge it was really sunny, bright and warm. There was a garden, filled with lots and lots of flowers; tall ones, short ones, all different colours, no rhyme or reason to how they were planted. They were all moving slightly in a light breeze, almost dancing – as if they were laughing and having fun.
There was a gardener standing right in the middle and I can see, on closer inspection at low level that there are lots of brambles with sharp thorns beginning to constrict the flowers freedom of movement. But the gardener has a huge smile on his face and a pair of secateurs in his hand.

He calls me to join him in the middle. I make my way to him, but my clothes keep getting caught on the brambles, my legs getting scratched. It is a slow process getting to him as I have to untangle myself from the brambles.

“Well done, you made it” he says and laughs at the same time, “isn’t this glorious!”

“Yes, it’s beautiful, so beautiful, but I am a little sad that the brambles are beginning to take over” I said.

“Don’t you worry, we can sort that out” and he begins to chop each bramble off at its root, gently moving each beautiful flower to one side to get at the source of the bramble. “Here you go, just follow what I am doing” he says as he hands me a pair of secateurs. “I’ll show you how.”

So in the beautiful sunny garden we work together for hours, gently freeing the beautiful flowers from the brambles. Both of our hands and legs are scratched and bleeding from the brambles, but there seems to be no pain. The pile of removed brambles becomes bigger and bigger. The flowers are able to dance freely in the breeze, nothing hindering them.
As we chop the final brambles, he laughs loudly, “Well that’s a great day’s work eh, how beautiful is that?”

I laugh too, like I have never laughed before, our hands are scratched and dripping blood, our legs the same – yet we laugh and it seems as if the flowers are laughing too.

“I love doing jobs like that, so satisfying” he says.

“You did a great job,” I replied “thanks for teaching me and letting me help you. It is very rewarding to see the flowers so free.”

“You can’t stop now” he said, “those brambles will be back, they are sneaky, you chop them down here and they come back there. Keep those secateurs, you will need them. Keep an eye out for the brambles, keep them under control, keep cutting them back – I will always be here to help you. I love doing it, it is FUN!”

“But what about your hands and feet,” I ask “surely they hurt”

“Oh no” he says “It’s only a little scratch, and it’s worth it to be able to see such beauty don’t you think?”

I had to agree. He started laughing again and we laughed together for ages.

Happy Easter to you all, I pray that you meet with Jesus, the Master Gardener, and allow Him to come and help you clear the brambles from your garden and in turn allow Him to help you keep them under control. He longs to see beauty in your garden, He longs to hear you laugh the laugh that comes with the freedom that knowing Him, and working alongside Him brings!

Friday, 8 April 2011

When do you stop worrying about your kids?

When do you stop worrying about your kids?

When I was 21 the most embarrassing thing of my life happened. I had been working in the City for three years and was still living at home in Enfield with my mum and dad. I was on a night out with my friends from work and it was 1am when we decided to head home. Two of my friends had to get back to Essex, but by that time had missed the last train so I offered them a bed at my house. So we all jumped on the night bus and headed back to Enfield. At 2am, as we approached my house, I saw the living room light was on, which I thought was a bit strange. I put the key in the door and let us in. We walked in to find my mum sitting on the sofa in her dressing gown, knitting; she turned and smiled and said “ok love, just catching up on a few episodes of Minder.” Oh my gosh, it’s 2am mum! She was waiting up for me and I had bought home two friends to witness this majorly embarrassing moment in my life!

I want to say a huge sorry to my mum, because I now know exactly what she was thinking and why she was waiting up. I now understand that you never stop worrying about your kids, no matter what age they are; five, fifteen, 25 or 55.

Even when I was grown, married and had children, whenever I visited mum and dad, to let them know that I was safely home (in Finchley after the perilous 20 minute journey from Enfield), I had to give them ‘three rings’; which meant phoning their telephone number, letting it ring three times and then putting the phone down.

I am that mum now, sitting catching up on episodes of ‘Jamie’s Dream School’ whilst waiting to collect my girls from wherever they are ‘til midnight, stressing out when they are 20 minutes late home from school; concerned when they are not answering their mobile phones, praying for them in their every move. You will never stop worrying about your children; the list of things you can and will worry about is endless. But remember to cast your cares on God; He loves them more than you. It says in Philippians 4:

6-7 Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.

I thank God for my beautiful girls and that He loves them more than I do, although I do question how that could be possible! He loves your children too, more than you do! Remember to pray for them, from the little worries of school place to the big worries of who they are going to marry. God hears every prayer, big or small. He has it all in control, He knows our concerns, He has plans for our children and will settle our worries. Put God at the centre of your family, trust Him with your children. Let Him do the worrying.

I wonder what God watches on TV at 2am when He is waiting for us to come home?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

From generation to generation .............

The Bible is a historical account of the people of God. Stories of generations of people, all learning from previous generation’s successes and failures, striving to improve life for the future generations.

That is still a truth for the people of today as we strive to bring better lives to our children. Steve and I made a conscious decision when we had our girls to improve on the parenting we ourselves received, not to just replicate our parents parenting; we felt it was important to try to understand the world our girls were going to be living in and parent accordingly.

Not to say that our parents were bad, but a symptom of their generation seemed to be secrecy and inhibition. Both of our parents didn’t talk openly to us about sex or relationships. I can understand their shyness at approaching these topics, but I in particular made some choices I wished I hadn’t made in my teens and twenties due to being under informed and having to find out about life for myself.

Conversations about sexual and emotional integrity are not easy, you have to step well and truly out of your comfort zone to broach them, yet they are so important. Especially in a world that seems to be sexualising children as young as six or seven years old with inappropriate underwear and clothing, TV programmes and movies.

Our children need to know that:

  • they have the right to own their own bodies – no one as the right to touch their bodies without their permission, that there are good ways to touch a person and bad ways.

  • that they have the right to say no to anything – regardless of what others try to get them to do if it doesn’t feel right they have the they have the right to say no.

  • they have the right to drive rather than be driven – if they are in a situation that they don’t feel is right, they can drive that situation in a better direction. It is ok to swim against the tide and be their own person.

  • they have the right to be choosy – especially in the arena of dating, that dating is about choosing and not being chosen.

  • they have the right to defend themselves and others – they should never ever have to tolerate someone mistreating them or anyone else. If they tolerate mistreatment they are enabling that person to think it’s ok to talk disrespectfully to them or take advantage of them.

  • they have the right to privacy – that their friends do not have the right to be completely in their business; personal lives are personal lives. They have the right to privacy whenever they feel they need it whether it is changing clothes in private or keeping a diary.

The children of today are going to live in a far different future to the present that we live in now; and their children, our grandchildren will experience the same fast moving, fast changing world. Frequent chats with your children about sex and relationships, a willingness and openness to talk about any subject with them at anytime can greatly strengthen family bonds and build them up in their life’s journey.

Wouldn’t it be great if our kids always called on us, their parents, for answers to their questions about sexuality, relationships and life because they knew we were not only willing but eager to answer? And because they felt that no one else knew as much about the topic as Mum and Dad because we are able to be open and honest with them?

When your children need to talk about these topics, who will they go to? Will they be free to come to you?

Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, starstrewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path will glow like stars forever. (Daniel 12:3 The Message)