Hi there, I’ve written a review – or more of an exhortation – over at the Delight Podcast blog about Ed Drew’s new parenting book. A less mature person might call it a Book Reddrew but I’m a teacher, I have standards.
I wanted to tell you the story of how I first met Ed Drew, but it could be misinterpreted so I didn’t want to inadvertently slander him. However, I will tell you that I last saw him at the Choir!Choir!Choir! 80s night at the Clapham Grand in which we learnt a four part harmony to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. This isn’t relevant to anything really, I’m just glad I got to tell you about it. Please read the review, and more importantly the book. And, you know, don’t stop believing [in Jesus].
I wrote yesterday about my recent journey of discovery regarding my own wisdom and God’s wisdom. (The upshot: God is infinitely wise; I’m not.)
A month ago I was diagnosed with a rare, chronic endocrine disorder called Addison’s Disease. If you’re the type of person who worries that they have an illness, let me tell you that the chances of you having it are infinitesimally small. (Seriously, if you’re somebody who a) reads my blog and b) knows they have Addison’s, please comment below. And perhaps buy a lottery ticket (joke).)
This is a chronic condition that is treatable but not curable. I’ll most likely have it until (whoop whoop) I get my new body from the Lord Jesus.
Let me tell you that these past few weeks have not been a time of serenely delving into God’s word and floating on a cloud of the peace which transcends understanding. I hope I can encourage you today, but from the perspective of someone who’s weak and broken in the storm rather than someone sleeping on a cushion.
When shocking news comes, most people go through a range of emotions. I’ve been through a few and haven’t finished. There was a day when I cried a lot. I prayed and I didn’t feel like praying, I listened to music, I talked to family members. I was grief-stricken. I was grieving the loss of my health.
I’m so grateful, and I was even on that teary day, that we’re allowed to be sad. Here are some things you sometimes hear, which don’t help at all:
Life is hard and we should expect things like this
I know we live in a fallen and broken world, full of disease and death. But I also know that God made us for life, not death, and our hearts long for the world without any of this. (See for example Romans 8:22-25)
I’m weak. There’s nothing quite like an illness to drive this home. But in my weakness, the Lord is my strength. (See for example 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Things could be worse: I should just be grateful for the care I’m given
I am grateful for good care. Chatting to a friend from Côte d’Ivoire, I was reminded that I don’t need to choose between food and medicine. But I’m also grateful that God doesn’t compare me to others, and I’m allowed to be sad about the dependence on medicine whilst also giving thanks for his provision.
It’s not a big deal
It feels big to me. The Lord doesn’t weigh up my problem and decide whether to meet us in it or not. (Remember when God made Elisha’s mate’s axe head float?) He knows our hearts. He’s patient with me, guiding me through. The more we depend on him, the more we honour him. (See for example Psalm 23;Psalm 131)
(Aside: Sometimes we don’t feel able to read our Bibles. That’s when we need our friends to preach to us. I hope you’ve got friends like that. I’ve also found that using a Bible app that reads the Word out to me can help me when I don’t have the energy to lift my head.)
So it’s not wrong to be sad about things. But if I had no hope, I’m not sure I’d dare to lament.
As a Christian, with the hope of eternal life, I see in the psalms that lamenting is a process which doesn’t last forever. In order to reach the level ground of acceptance or the dizzy heights of heartfelt, joyful thanksgiving, I need to pass through the valley of lament.
A dear friend preached Psalm 13 to me the week I was diagnosed. She showed me that the Lord has gone before me. He knows that at times I will feel that he has hidden his face from me. I will wrestle with my thought as my mind races with fears and anxiety and my heart is filled with sorrow. But because I bring all of that to him, I can say with David:
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. (v5-6)
Who knows the first line of Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’?
“I wandered lonely as a cloud.” (Even if you didn’t know that, if you mention Wordsworth or daffodils in a group of people, someone will say it.)
Who knows the second line?
Not so many people.*
This makes sense, of course. Some lines are memorable and we can’t know everything. I was reminded of this today when reading Psalm 139. There are some pretty famous bits in that one, and without conducting any research I’d have thought the most famous bit is this:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (v13-14)
I for one am glad these verses are in our Bible. So clear for those who think the unborn child has no value. So helpful for those desperate to measure up to a false standard of ‘perfection’ that they see on their phones every day.
Do you know the next bit? I actually do because we put it in our Order of Service 17 years ago when we got married. But today I was struck by the verse after that: the verse after the bit that I know really well:
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! v15-17
This verse (17) jumped out at me today. In light of the fact that God made me, cell by cell, and knows the end from the beginning, my heart should praise God for his thoughts and his wisdom – his unfathomable wisdom, which I can never, never ever get my head around.
It reminded me of another passage in Isaiah 55:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” v8-9
In other words, I could say to myself: Hey you, God’s wisdom is infinitely greater than yours. You think you know what should be happening right now. But you don’t. So here’s what to do:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Maybe this is what you need to remember today, too. Maybe you’ve been asking, seeking, knocking and not seeing the answers you’d hoped for. Maybe you’re sick or your to-do list has been interrupted. Maybe your dishwasher is broken and it’s a luxury you’ve come to rely on. Maybe you missed an appointment. Maybe something you’d been hoping and praying for looked really promising and then fell through. Maybe you feel you’re the one who’s let everyone down.
Just between you and me, that’s what my week’s been like. So I’m really grateful today that the Lord has answered my cries for help with a reminder that he is the one with the wisdom. I’m the one who needs to trust him. I’ve been getting that the wrong way round.
More from me tomorrow. I know! Nothing for months and then a windfall.
*I’m pretty sure it’s ‘That floats on high o’er vales and hills.’ But I did study English at university so I don’t really count.
Hey lovely people. This week my husband and I make an appearance with the wonderful Adam Curtis and Leah Sax on their fantastic Delight Podcast and you can now listen to it either through their website, on Spotify or via your podcast app. It’s Episode 12. Please do listen! You’ll get to hear how we sound! More importantly(!) I trust it will be an encouragement. Well done Leah for her amazing editing skills!
We chatted about how we came to know Jesus, what it means to worship God every day of the week – and what to do when we don’t feel like worshipping him.
I also wrote a blog post to accompany our episode and it can be found on the Delight Podcast Blog. I hope this, too, encourages you to delight in the Lord above all else, in all of life. Amen!
P.S. If my previous blog post about Mrs Beaver got you thinking, the Delight podcast did a brilliant episode on hospitality recently too. It’s Episode 10.
…her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:10
“Be warned, they’ve changed it a bit.” That’s what a friend said to me before I took my family to see the National Theatre’s production of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the West End back in August. This made me a little nervous. Had they removed Aslan? Did he not bother dying for Edmund? Would The White Witch Jadis turn out to be just misunderstood?
I was pleasantly surprised. It was really good! There was a strange line at the end about Lucy which muddied the otherwise-quite-clear message, but that’s not what I’m here to write to you about today. True to form, I’ve got thoughts about Mrs Beaver.
To me, there are very few more cosy and festive things to do than to read aloud together The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. And one of my favourite parts is when the children, cold, tired, hungry and afraid, arrive at the Beavers’ dam. (I love beavers anyway, they’re amazing! But that’s not the point.) They’re so welcoming and hospitable, feeding them a good hot meal, serving them tea and telling them about Aslan. It’s warming in all the ways.
Just as the frying pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr. Beaver came in with the fish which Mr. Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mrs. Beaver said, “Now we’re nearly ready.”
CS Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Chapter VII, A Day with the Beavers
This simple, satisfying meal offered by disciples of Aslan is the antithesis of the Witch’s Turkish Delight which left Edmund feeling sick and wanting more. The meal with the Beavers is a picture of living in the Kingdom of God. It’s not nothing! (Even Spark Notes agrees with me, if you think I’ve gone mad.)
In the book, Mr Beaver and Peter go out and hunt the fish while Mrs Beaver and the girls prepare the meal and lay the table. In the National Theatre production, Mrs Beaver is out in the woods as a secret agent, utterly capable, while Mr Beaver is back in the dam, cooking the meal: a vegan hotpot. He’s also repeatedly foolish and incompetent and the butt of several jokes.
Why do this? Is it just a joke? I feel like the vegan hotpot touch probably is. But is our culture now afraid of presenting a female character as hospitable? Is it an insult to women to have them ‘just’ cooking a meal and ‘relegated’ to the role of hospitality? And what does it say about men? The strong, brave Mr Beaver was emasculated. These things seem subtle, harmless and even amusing. But they’re a rejection of what God has made. Husbands are usually physically stronger and thus able to go out and provide for their family. Wives are usually able to be mothers: to nurture, to make a house a home and to provide a safe place for weary wanderers. A culture which rejects God rejects this. CS Lewis did not, and neither should we.
Of course, women can work outside of the home and men can cook. Plus, being a vegan is not wrong! But in a culture that’s deconstructed both femininity and masculinity and doesn’t know how to rebuild them, I think we really need to embrace what God has said about the roles of men and women and not to be ashamed.
We all want to be welcomed into the dam. We all love it when Harry Potter gets to stay with the Weasleys, with Mrs Weasley laying out their clean robes on their beds and whizzing up lashings of mashed potato for dinner. So I ask you, do any of us want to be the Mrs Weasleys of the world?
I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. (For non UK readers, these are semi-autobiographical stories of life as a rural vet in Yorkshire.) The house they all live in is off-the-charts beautiful. There’s always a hot meal, a newly mopped floor and a warming fire. Who doesn’t love it when Mrs Hall, the housekeeper, provides yet another warming fry-up for the vets after a long night out on the hills? We all want the good roast dinner, the nice cup of tea and the clean clothes, neatly folded. Don’t we see the value of it?
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
But are we willing to be the Mrs Beaver, the Molly, the Mrs H? I hope so. Don’t despise it. There’s such power in it. The world calls it needless drudgery, good for nothing. But it’s a lie. Hospitality is mighty, and Satan knows it. Why else would he attack it? So I say to you, Go Forth and Welcome. Who knows how God will use it for his glory?
And when they had finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle on to the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.
Last week I posted a tip for helping your child settle into secondary school. After all, I think we need all the help we can get. Here I’d like to recommend some resources which I think are a great help, too. These will also be helpful if your child is educated at home.
First a little Health and Safety Warning: Once your children start secondary school their routine at home will change. You might need to find a different time to read the Bible with them. They need God’s living and active word more than anything.
Chris Morphew books: These are written in a very readable, quite light-hearted way by an Australian author who writes books for youth and children. We’d previously really enjoyed his book on Mark’s gospel, The Best News Ever, and we’re enjoying this new series.
The books tackle questions that young people might be asking, especially as they navigate secondary school and adolescence. My daughter and I are reading through ‘Who am I and why do I matter?’ This is surely a question that is more pertinent now for adolescents than ever before. If our kids know the fundamental truths about who they are and how valuable they are, then they just might save themselves a lot of trouble.
The ‘Is Christianity really true?’ is a question my children have grappled with already as they attend/attended a richly diverse community school, surrounded by people of other faiths. My son gobbled this book down in about half an hour and really enjoyed it. Rest assured it would take most people longer than that, especially if you’re reading it out loud! But it is nice and easy to read, which is a real win for tweens (and busy parents).
I think with books like these, it’s good to get ahead of the curve with your kids if you can. By this I mean that it’s good to read a book about identity issues before they even realise they might be faced with that problem. So when you’re reading the books, don’t be discouraged if they don’t say, “This is answering all of my current questions, praise the Lord!” Prevention is better than a cure.
I’ve mentioned the Faith in Kids podcast before, but it’s worth mentioning again as there are some excellent episodes about adolescence. Episode 88, Hope-Filled Teens, very much encouraged me the other day. Going back further, there’s Episode 67: Parenting 11-14s, and Episode 14 (or 13b), Lovewise Part 2 which is specifically about guiding children through puberty. Really helpful! Also, I urge you to listen to Episode 80, Navigating Gender and Sexuality with Ed Shaw. This is very reassuring and also a bit of a wake-up call. As you may know, I do think Ed Shaw’s book should be on life’s compulsory reading list, anyway! So do have a listen to these podcasts. They’ll make you laugh and maybe cry but they’re so down-to-earth and practical. They surprise me every time with how helpful and joyous they are.
If you haven’t talked to your child yet about puberty, I recommend the books ‘Growing up God’s way for Boys/Girls.’ We’ve used them to have frank conversations about how our bodies change and why it’s a good thing (really!).
How about you? Any suggestions? I’m a novice!
If you’ve got Netflix, I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma with your child. It’s a sobering and honest documentary about how social media is designed and why it works so well. They interview many, many people who’ve been instrumental in designing social media (for example, the man who co-invented the Facebook ‘Like’ button) and who’ve now left for ethical reasons. You don’t feel lectured and they’re not scare-mongering. But it’s certainly good to know how we’re being manipulated! I’d even suggest getting Netflix for a month just to watch it – we might do that with our son.
Finally, and perhaps controversially, I wanted to share a video with you about the adolescent brain. This is by Dr Dan Siegel who’s a clinical professor of psychiatry. There are some really helpful things to learn from educational psychologists and from psychiatrists about the adolescent brain. But we need to look at them through gospel lenses. We believe in sin and grace and a good Creator who is working in us by his Spirit. However, it is really cool to learn how the brain changes in adolescence. I think it gives us hope that adolescence is an exciting time for our children!
Please comment below with any other tips! I’m sure people would really appreciate it. (And by people I mean me, first and foremost.)
You know how yesterday I was hanging nappies out to dry?
My son starts secondary school in September. Eek! As with most surreal notions, I think I live mostly in denial about this fact until it suddenly dawns on me at unexpected moments and I find myself welling up or wanting to give him an embarrassingly big squeeze.
It’s not that starting secondary school is a bad thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what God’s got in store for him in this new chapter. I’m hopeful that he’ll really enjoy meeting new people and learning new things.
But it does feel big, and my husband and I want to help him to be as ready as he can be. We also want to support him through what will sometimes be an overwhelming time. I know it’s only May, but the summer is usually so mad that I thought I’d share some ideas about this now, rather than leaving it until January when it might feel a bit tardy.
My daughter started secondary school last September, so although I’m not a seasoned expert in parenting secondary school kids, it is fresh in my mind. First and foremost, we need to be praying with our children, praying for them and teaching them God’s word. As well as this, a top priority for us is to keep our children talking to us. We can’t protect them from everything that might happen at school, but we can listen to them and try to teach them that it’s always safe to talk to us. We can help them to process their experiences and keep taking them to God’s word for wisdom.
I try to take my daughter out once a fortnight, ask her how things are going and pray for her. We tend to go to a wonderful and ludicrously expensive gelato shop, but the McDonald’s drive-through would work just as well and would have the benefit of us not having to make eye contact. A park bench would also do the job, especially with a flask of hot chocolate or a bag of crisps. We’ve been known to just crouch on a pavement with an ice cream, now I think about it.
There may be times when we do things like this with our children and it feels a bit pointless (if all they talk about is, say, their favourite condiments), but we can trust that over time it will help them. It also gives them the opportunity to talk to us about bigger things as and when they want to.
As my daughter started her new school, I bought her a little prayer diary as a way to show her that she could talk to me about everything that was on her mind and that we’d bring it all to the Lord together. This also helps us to focus the conversation a bit (“What are you thankful for? What shall we pray about? How is that thing going?”) and then we can see how the Lord has been answering our prayers as we look back at previous pages. Don’t be discouraged if your child finds this hard. Hopefully it’ll help to open up conversations. We bought this prayer diary but a plain notebook would do nicely – that’s probably what we’ll use for our son.
I’ve gone on long enough already, so I’ll post some more tips in a few days’ time. Meanwhile, if you need me you might find me weeping into a Leavers’ hoodie.
Yesterday my morning ricocheted between grappling with Romans 6 (Slaves to sin/slaves to Christ), hunting unfruitfully for brand new PE tops (WHERE did they go?), discussing the lyrics of Andrew Peterson’s ‘Lay me down to die’ with an emotional pre-adolescent and dealing with Monday morning tears. Is this normal?
Last week as the children rummaged for shoes and fumbled with velcro, I was asked which tribe of Israel we’re in and ended up discussing the fact that we’re children of Abraham by faith in the Lord Jesus, grafted in by faith. Hallelujah! “So we’re children of Abraham AND children of God, mummy?” “Er… yes.”
I suppose that’s what is meant by, “Talk about [these commandments] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road.”(Deut. 6) It just feels chaotic. It feels like I’m in a Christian episode of ‘Outnumbered.’ It’s less funny being a character in this little sitcom than it would be to watch it.
And as I go about my day the questions linger on:
“Was the Miss Hannigan/Mr Warbucks illustration of slavery to sin and Christ heretical?”
“Did I dismiss my son’s questions about death?”
“Does my 5 yr old understand the different between God and Abraham?”
“Did my outburst about PE tops undermine what I’d been saying about living for Jesus?”
All this talk is hard! But life needs to have space in it for these kinds of conversations.
Of course, some people are quieter than others. My family has zero quiet people in it, but I’ve met plenty of other people who don’t feel the need to fill every second with talk! But even the quiet ones need to communicate.
As Christian families, we should be talking to one another. We have such good news to share. If our lives are too scheduled or too full of tech to allow space and time for meandering conversations, then we’ve got something wrong.
Do you watch films together? Perhaps you could talk about what you liked/didn’t like, favourite characters, unexpected plot twists. This is a great habit to get into. For more on this, I’ve enjoyed the Popcorn Parenting podcast with James Cary and Nate Morgan-Locke.
Do you read stories or listen to audiobooks? It’s a great way to fuel the imagination and get them thinking about big, God-centred themes.
Talking with your kids doesn’t sound like an impressive thing to do. It doesn’t give them a measurable skill that will win them a medal. But this is how we share the gospel with each other, encouraging each other and being open and honest about how we think or feel about things.
I have struggled for almost 12 years to have peaceful mealtimes at home, which are conducive to meaningful conversations. I’ve contemplated tattooing the words ‘sit on your seat and use your cutlery’ onto my forehead (or at least carving them into the table). I still struggle with it – massively. But I am gradually starting to see that my children are learning to talk to people.
Recently a visitor came for dinner, during which my younger son almost laughed himself off his seat whilst telling him a story. Later on the visitor casually mentioned something like, “They’re good a talking to people. That must be because you’ve practised with them.” Well, I didn’t know whether to cry, burst into song or throw my arms around him. Obviously I just smiled and nodded.
Don’t grow weary, friends. It’s often in the chaotic, not-exactly-ideal moments that you’re able to share glorious truths with your kids. And by God’s grace you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.
“Hospitality seeks to turn strangers into friends.” (p.59.)
The latest Covid jargon in the UK is the ‘roadmap to recovery.’ This means that after a year (on-and-off) of not being allowed to see our friends or family, especially not indoors, we are relearning how to talk to people and make them cups of tea. I had a friend over last week to sit in the garden and neither of us could remember how to string a sentence together. So let’s just say we might be rusty, but it’s also an optimistic time as we begin to make tentative plans.
Wherever you are in the world, as things begin to open up again I wonder if you feel excited, nervous or a bit reluctant. There’s a whole spectrum of people in this world and I don’t assume that everyone is purely delighted by the prospect of filling up the calendar again with social engagements, big or small.
But this past year God has given us a chance to reflect on what we miss and what we don’t miss; what we want to reintroduce and what we’re happy to ditch. Perhaps we’ve realised that our lives were full of after-school clubs or that we watched too much TV. Maybe we’ve realised we were filling up our time with too much socialising and not allowing enough time to pray, reflect and daydream.
I feel like this could be a turning point. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to reassess our priorities. One thing we really should do as we fill up our (real or mental) diaries again (it’s going to happen, friends) is to think about God’s priorities for us. And for that, we need to look at what his word tells us. One thing we are commanded to be, as God’s children, is hospitable.
If you’re thinking that hospitality is for some people and not others, I’m here to break it to you that we’re commanded to show hospitality repeatedly in the New Testament and God doesn’t give any exceptions (see below for a few examples*). But this is a good thing! Just think how hospitable God has been to us. And now we get to follow Christ’s example and find out what real life is in store for us when we do.
You might be wondering how Christ has shown hospitality. Didn’t he usually go to other people’s houses for dinner? He didn’t even have his own house! That’s where we need to learn what hospitality really is. I’ve just read a book all about it and I’d love to recommend it to you. It’s called “Extraordinary Hospitality (for ordinary people)” by Carolyn Lacey. In the book she outlines seven characteristics of hospitality: generosity, compassion, humility, persistence, awareness (of people’s needs), inclusivity and sacrifice. When you look at these, it’s clear to see that our Lord Jesus has shown us hospitality in spades.
There are all kinds of pressures on our time, so that if we want to prioritise the right things, we will have to make a conscious effort. If we just ‘go with the flow,’ we’ll find our days full before we’ve had chance to do any sort of discernment. The people who have blessed me most in my life with their hospitality are people who make conscious choices to do less structured things and allow more time for humble cups of tea and spontaneous dinner guests. It didn’t happen by default: they made it happen.
This is not a book (just) for people who can cook or who have their own home or a big table or who have the gift of hospitality. Although it would be a blessing to those people too. It’s not intimidating, judgemental or burdensome. It’s short, gentle and practical. And she includes some great stories.**
We’ve all (I hope) been on the receiving end of hospitality. The welcome as you walk into a gathering, the meal dropped off when you’ve just had a baby, the invite for a coffee and a chat. I remember visiting the homes of hospitable women decades later, long after they’ve forgotten I was ever there. Hospitality is powerful. I’d love to learn how to be more like Jesus in this way.
A wise friend of mine gave a talk for the women at at our church about hospitality and she described hospitality as ‘moving towards people.’ As social distancing eases, do you think you can move towards people, for Jesus’ sake? I hope so.
“As we sacrifice our time, energy, resources and comfort in order to welcome other, we can be confident that Jesus will reward us abundantly.”p. 121.
(P.S. At no point in this book does Carolyn Lacey tell you to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Just saying. But if that’s your thing, please carry on and God bless you!)
*Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13); Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2); Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)
**I’m not paid for this (or any other blog post I ever write) but I was sent a review copy of this book. I only recommend books I really like.
I don’t know about you, but this year (during lockdown and then amid all the other bitty restrictions) I’ve found the lack of structure one of the hardest things to cope with. It’s like I’ve got nothing to peg anything onto. I look back over a month and have no idea what I’ve done or how long it’s been since I… anything.
In December the magazines, newspapers and bloggers will be looking back over 2020 and, well, there’ll be quite a lot to say. And in some ways, not much at all. Everything was cancelled but, then again, Historical Things took place. No Events and yet extremely eventful. It’s been a year of emptiness and a year of chaos.
So how can I reflect on all of this and try to process it?
This is my diary. Each day I write a few lines about what’s happened that day. The following year I do the same again, which means I can easily see what we were doing this time last year. These diaries are not expensive, but worth their weight in gold.
Here are 3 things I’ve learnt from keeping this diary this year.
The mundane, done for God, is glorious. God’s word is full of people living mundane lives. Shepherds, farmers, builders, mothers. Sometimes something exciting happened to them, but most of the time they were doing ordinary things. I’m prone to forget that God doesn’t need me to do exciting or even interesting things. He wants me to be faithful to him. Writing this diary helps me to process the day and go to sleep. However, much of the time I feel like I have nothing to write. I feel I haven’t really done anything. However, when months later I look back on these days, even I can see that I have been doing stuff! And while not exciting, this stuff is important for keeping certain people alive. I shall try to illustrate: April 26, 2019: Popped to Catherine’s with travel cot. Bible study on Luke 1. Lunch. Cleaning. Beth and William for tea. Nice to chat to their mum. Deutschland ’86 in the evening. At the time I probably felt like all I’d done was shoddy housework (which is important!) and crowd control. But looking back I see that I’d helped a friend, been encouraged by my sisters at church, shown hospitality and spent time with my husband. Objectively I know that these things are pleasing to God, when done with a cheerful heart. And anyway, why am I so proud that I think my life should be action-packed? So if it feels like you haven’t really made any progress with anything this year, try not to be discouraged. If you’re serving him, repenting of your sin and still trusting Him this year, that is glorious. In fact, it’s quite miraculous!
For everything there is a season. Once you’re in the second year of writing this, you can look back to what you were doing this time last year. What I often find is that there’s a connection between last year and this year. There’s something reassuring about this! It reminds me that life has a rhythm, which is the way God created this world to function. It also shows me that I shouldn’t be surprised by things as much as I am. I recently felt very run-down and unwell during my half-term break and wondered what on earth was wrong with me. Then I read last year’s half-term entry and, sure enough, I had written ‘felt ill, bed at 7pm.’ So maybe next October I’ll prepare myself by not making any plans and by (less likely) trying to get more rest beforehand! This all reminds me that I’m a human being, dependent on God, and not a machine or a Kryptonian.
God is sovereign. As I look at the lines I’ve written in and the blank sections below, I’m reminded that to God this book is already filled in. He’s completed it. He knows what will happen on every single day of my life and he knows what I will write down about these days. My future may feel uncertain and unclear to me but it is secure in him. He not only knows it but has planned it all for my ultimate good. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 So as 2020 has not been the year we expected and we don’t know what Christmas will look like, I’m encouraged when I consider that God knew all of this would happen and he can work it all for the good of those who love him.
Yep, I said three but as I was writing this I realised I’d missed perhaps the most important one. There is so much to thank God for. I’m likely to forget all of the wonderful ways the Lord has provided for me and blessed me in abundance. But when I read over this diary I’m reminded to give him thanks, for sustaining me through difficult times and blessing me in a myriad of ways which I really, really don’t deserve.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
I’ll be posting some Christmas present ideas next week – watch this space!
Psst! If you like my blog (which I know at least some of you do), please could you let just one friend know about it today? That way more people can be encouraged, as I don’t advertise this blog in any other way. Thank you so much!