Since we last spoke … so much has happened.

Last week I had lunch with one of my connect group leaders, also a first year, and we started talking about blogs and talking to people about all we’ve been up to when we get home, and she said something that totally summed up how I was feeling, she said ‘I just don’t know how to put it into words’. Or maybe I said that? Hmm? Anyway it sums out how we were both feeling – that so much has happened here, so many experiences, changes and growth, and yet when I go to write it down or speak it out, I don’t even know what to say. Its really strange. So yes thats why this blog post has been so long coming – I just don’t know what to tell you.

One thing I can tell you is that I’m coming home, in fact I’ll be home in less than three weeks!!! CRAZY! I spent a lot of yesterday packing (can’t believe how much stuff I have accumulated – think that could be for another post though) and yet it doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was packing on the other end of this year! Time moves so fast – this year has shown me that we really need to make the most of every moment, every opportunity, every second, because you fall asleep and you’ve missed it, the season your in can be over before you know it.

This Semester is a lot shorter than first semester because the first half of the year has Colour and Hillsong Conference which takes us out of classes. This semester is more intense class wise and it felt like I was just working on assignments all the time. The classes have been incredible, they included Christian Doctrine (Wednesday morning mind blown), New Testament (Wednesday afternoon mind blown), World religions, Church History and Spirit filled living. My brain is tired from all the information I have taken in, I think I need a year to just stop and process, especially Christian Doctrine. Wednesday was finalisation date, when everything needed to be in and marked and good news guys i’m on track to graduate 🙂 which happens two weeks tomorrow (Monday  27th – which if anyone is interested is normally shown live online, will find details of the link).

Since I last blogged I also had a few days in Melbourne which is a very artsy city, can’t say beautiful because I don’t like cities but if you like cities I guess you would count it as beautiful. I went with Rachel and Kirsty from Northern Ireland and Domi from South Africa. We spent a day and half in the City, and did the longest walking tour of the city ever, saw the longest line of beach huts ever, saw little penguins (scared little penguins – not my story to tell), ate way to much food (wore too much food Rachel?), watched the sun set and took way to many photos. Then we drove down some of the Great Ocean Road, which was AMAZING but also WET, felt like home to three of us! However we fully embraced the miserable weather and got into the Christmas spirit, playing Christmas songs in the car, then climbing into our big bed and watching a Christmas movie. God is amazing though because every time we were due to get out of the car it stopped raining, and we only actually got wet once in a search for PIZZA (I had probably the most disgusting pizza ever – it had potato on it?)! I have loads of photos (as in thousands) I will put some on Facebook when I get home, just need to sort through them all first.

So even though all my assignments are due and my last class is Wednesday the next two weeks are going to be crazy. Tomorrow (Monday) is my last day in my Core Tutorial, so we’re having a Core party at our trainers house. Its also the last FYC (first year chapel) which I imagine is going to be crazy. This week Hillsong is running its first ever three day Worship and Creative Conference, which is super exciting that I get to be a part of it. I am the student leader for Kids Welcome, which is super fun, so glad I get to finally do a conference on welcome as i’ve been involved in so much prep for welcome over the year. Then next week we have encounter or unleash week, which is two days of Chapel. I don’t know 100% what it looks like, I think it has performances, testimonies and praying over all the students that are leaving. Then we have Graduation Dinner, also known as Grad Ball, which is going to be in the City. Then my last Sunday in church, then Monday is graduation! Super Exciting Times!

And then I’m coming home, which means I can sit down next to you, with a cup of tea, and share some of my many thousands of stories I haven’t typed. Because honestly this year has been incredible, and super busy, and my stories could go for days. I have met so many incredible people that have enriched my life, I’ve had so many lectures that have introduced completely new concepts and ideas, and I’ve heard hundreds of amazing sermons that have challenged my ideas and encouraged growth, change and movement!

I can’t wait to see you all, my people, I just wish I could bring my new people home with me because I am not looking forward to these two weeks of goodbyes … love you all, see you soon xxx

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Its second semester already …

I can’t believe how quick time has gone but i’m actually now in my second semester of Hillsong College, no longer a newbie – how CRAZY!

After three weeks of conference mode I enjoyed two of the most relaxing weeks off ever, and i’ve now finished my first week of second semester intensive classes. In this post i’m going to tell you about how Hillsong Conference gave me a fresh outlook on life, how I found my happy place, and how I’m entering second semester with a completely new mindset.

Hillsong conference – so the two weeks before conference college students have to complete two weeks of conference intensives, basically getting everything ready for conference. I spent two weeks in the kids office and absolutely loved it! My main job was organising the kids groups, so making sure the groups didn’t go over numbers, were equal sizes, moving kids to be with friends if requested and keeping the leaders up to date with their groups numbers. I really enjoyed it, I know it doesn’t sound like the most exciting job, but it was great to see how much goes into conference before conference and to then see what I had been a part of come together at conference.

At conference I was on the Treasure Chest team, which meant that I was a buddy to a child/children with additional needs, supporting them and allowing them to access the full Kidsong program. The child I was connected with only came to the day program, which meant I only had the opportunity to hang out with him for three days, but those days changed my life – this little four year old, who had more fighting against him than a four year old should, had the most inspiring, enthusiastic, “I can conquer the world’ attitude to life i’ve ever encountered. This little kid believed he could do anything, and because he believed he could he did, and he dragged me along with him – one moment that highlights this is me sitting at the top of the biggest inflatable slide I can imagine, exhausted after chasing him up, him sitting on my lap excitedly screaming to slide down and me begging for a minute to compose myself wondering how I can get out of this, but because of him I did it (ignoring the fact that there was actually no other way down), I did it, and it was fun, totally scary and I sent someone else up with him the second time, but it was fun! These amazing kids make you realise how pathetic your excuses are, and that there’s actually nothing holding you back – you can do this – we can do this! That thing you’d love to try but your not quite brave enough, GO DO IT! Lets embrace this life, conquer this life, love this life!

After conference and after sleeping Saturday away, and then volunteering in church on Sunday,  I escaped to my new favourite place in Australia, my new happy place, Patonga! This little fishing village, two streets with the sea on one side and a creek on the other, one road over a mountain in and out, or a ferry – quiet, peaceful, stunningly beautiful! I was blessed to be invited to stay with the parents of the beautiful woman I serve with on a Sunday evening, and her parents welcomed me into their family with open arms, for five days I was at home in their home. I squeezed so much into those five days: I went to see the beach where they film home and away (for my sister), I went to a Country Women’s Association meeting and learned all about Hemp (the little old ladies shared some interesting stories), I went to some beautiful coffee shops, watched fishermen play darts, went to so many beaches, sat on the beach and watched the sun rise – but most importantly I spent time with God and had space to breathe, re-charge and dream!

Shirley welcomed me into her life, and blessed me more than she probably realises. Shirley has a coaching business, and for five days the conversations I had, the places she showed me, and the people she introduced me too, fuelled a dream God has given me and made me realise that that dream could actually become a reality, and because of that I have entered second semester with a new attitude, I have a purpose and I’m using this time more effectively as I work towards making that dream a reality (more details on that to come soon, but i’m so excited).

The second week of holidays was spent with my housemates and my college friends, I went to more beaches, more coffee shops, gardens, shops – It was a lovely week of just catching up with people and getting ready for second semester.

And I can’t believe that the first week of second semester is already over. This semester we have all new subjects and all new lecturers. This semesters subjects are: Christian Doctrine, Church History, Intro to Pastoral Leadership, New Testament Introduction, Personal Evangelism, Spirit-Filled Living, Teamwork and World Religions. I really feel like some of these subjects and the assignments are going to challenge me (in a good way) and strengthen me.

This week we’ve had Teamwork and Intro to Pastoral Leadership – both classes were really interesting and inspiring. The main thing I’ve taken away from this week of classes is how much of what we do, and what I’m being taught, could simply be said as ‘love people’ – in team work it was all about loving and encouraging your team/team members and Pastoral Leadership is in basic form ‘loving people’. I feel like sometimes we make things seems harder than they are and more complicated with formulas, steps and extra words – when really I feel we are simply called to Love God and Love people!

So I’m entering this semester with a new purpose and a lot of love. Although the decision has not in any way been made final yet (and I am still praying and open to staying), I really feel like this is going to be my last semester at Hillsong College – I love it here, the people, the classes and the opportunities we are given, are changing my life, I am changing and growing every day I feel – but God has given me a dream, and I enter this semester with renewed excitement, as I am given time to unpack and work towards my dream, and learn and grow into the person ready to fulfil this dream. Leaving my home in Neath has made me realise (and believe me I never thought I would say this, and still kind of don’t want to) that Neath and Wales are my home (although I am still holding on to the fact that I am english, although in college we’re taught to say Christian first). Definitely not where I wanted, or expected, to make home (a beach house in Patonga would be much more exciting) but for a reason I believe I am finally starting to see, God has placed me in Neath for a purpose……

What God taught me at the Wildlife Park

So for my 29th Birthday me and my housemates FINALLY went to see the two things that everyone comes to Australia to see – a Kangaroo and a Koala. I could so easily just upload the 737 pictures I took and walk you through the wildlife park, however instead I am going to share things that God spoke to me through the animals at the zoo (obviously the animals didn’t actually speak to me, and it wasn’t actually a zoo trip full of revelation after revelation of how amazing God is, although he totally is, its more things he’s been speaking to me recently and how the zoo reminded me).

As we waited in the queue the excitement hit (well actually I had been excited all week, hardly slept the night before, and was ready ridiculously early). And thats the first lesson I learnt at the wildlife park – excitement! To live life excited, to experience happiness, to embrace joy. I feel like sometimes I get caught up in the busyness, in the schedules, classes and assignments, serving and attendance, that I forget to feel excited. I mean I’m at Hillsong College, IN AUSTRALIA, something I’ve been working towards for so long and somedays I forget to celebrate that, I forget to feel excited for what God could do today, I forget to live every day to the fullest.

After the Wallaby enclosure we got to the Koala Enclosure – Incredible! Koala’s apparently sleep ALOT, although we were told there were seven female Koalas in this little area, we could only see three and only one was awake, and you couldn’t see her face because she was settled in a tree, surrounded by Eucalyptus leaves, munching away, perfectly content. What interested me was how precarious she looked balanced between the two branches of the tree, but how actually perfectly balanced and settled she was. And that was my next lesson – to settle. Although the normal message is to ‘not settle’, I feel like for this season God is asking me to settle – to settle in his presence, to settle in his provision, to settle in his love. And to remember that even when I feel like my life looks precarious, like I’m losing my balance, even when I feel like i’m about to fall, He has me! I’m in his plan, he’s holding me and he doesn’t want me to live with feelings of being unbalanced and about to fall, He wants me to feel settled and to relax and be able to sleep all day if I want to knowing he’s got me.

In the middle of the wildlife park was a little Farmyard, outside was a sign that introduced the animals – there was a pig, sheep, ducks, chickens – all the typical farmyard animals. So I didn’t go in, I mean outside the farmyard there was Tasmanian Devils, Wombats and Dingos, why did I need to waste my time seeing boring farmyard animals that we have in the UK. In retrospect the farmyard represents to me missed opportunities, those decisions made because they don’t seem to fit into the exciting plan God has for your life, it represents how we under appreciate the ‘regular’ and how much God actually values and uses those days where we just do the regular life things – those days spent serving when we don’t feel appreciated, those times that feel like we’re not achieving anything, those times when its hard to make the effort or where we don’t easily see the fruit from your little effort. God reminded me this week that he still uses those moments where we’re not really feeling it. Side story – part of my practicum is sending out postcards to all the new children who accessed one of the Sunday programs at Hills campus each week, and yes I agree with what there doing, its a very important part of placing value on the children and encouraging them to come back, however last week during intensives trying to squeeze time to do it in the packed schedule felt hard. Then on Friday I got forwarded an email about a little girl who received a postcard and it was the first piece of mail she’d ever received and it made her day, she even had photos with the postcard. Now her first memory of church, and therefore God, will be receiving that postcard, feeling acknowledged, noticed and loved – God doesn’t just use us when it feels exciting and important, he uses those boring everyday events. He uses us when we feel tired and even when we feel maybe a little unwilling.

My favourite animal surprisingly was the Wombat – Wombats look grumpy and are very food focused. It was about an hour after meal time and this one WomIMG_3445bat was just pacing back and forth in the corner as if he was waiting on his next meal and couldn’t relax incase he missed it. Regardless of the fact that the staff have always ensured that he was well fed and looked after, he lived in a state of alert, constant readiness,
waiting, worrying. One of the biggest challenges for college students is finance – its hard trying not to feel stressed and overwhelmed, not to pace back and forth worrying about paying your rent, buying food, paying for course fees or getting a job. But the Wombat reminded me that we’re living in Gods plan, he bought us to college, he’s ensured we’ve been provided for this far, he has a plan. And he doesn’t want us to
pace back and forth worrying and stressing, he wants us to relax and trust in his provision, his plan.

So yes I had an amazing Birthday and so much fun at the Wildlife Park. More photos to be uploaded to Facebook once I’ve gone sorted through all 700 of them.

I’m very excited about what my 29th Year will hold but thats for another blog post. Keep reading, commenting and asking questions. Love you all xxx

 

 

Hillsong College – the experience.

So I’ve just finished my second week as a Hillsong International Leadership College Student. First week was enrolement and then this last week has been Intensives week. I thought I would give you all a mini diary of my two weeks of college 🙂

 

Monday 23/01/17. Evaluation Day. First day started with free breakfast which as a student is always a good thing. Then after a brief introduction to college we got split into streams, as pastoral students don’t have evaluations we had an introduction to the different pathways we can choose (kids, youth, social justice, church ministry, pastoral care, events) – it was in this session that I decided to go for kids not social justice as I had been thinking previously. We then had our photo taken for our student ID and that was first day done.

Tuesday 24/01/17 – Enrolement day! Today involved a lot of queuing but was very relaxed! We got our children’s checks and then we officially enrolled and selected our pathway and applied for our practicum! So exciting! Love that when you queue in Australia they make sure you get chairs – it was like a giant game of musical chairs all day!

Wednesday 25/01/17 – Orientation day! We had our first chapel, we heard two great messages from Lee Burns and Catrina Henderson, we watched interviews with other new students, heard all about sisterhood, worshiped together and had free lunch!

Then that was first week done – Australia Day gave us our first holiday, four days off, got to love Australia!

Second week. Intensives week – we have two weeks of intensives each semester. This semester our intensive subjects are Church and Ministry and Communication in Ministry. We will cover the first half of these subjects this week and then the second half in intensives week in April.

Monday 30th January (first day of classes) started with a morning session entitled how to maximise your college experience, in this session we were introduced to the college vision, the rules, whats expected of us, tips on applying for a job, dealing with homesickness, college timetables and portal and loads of important contact numbers and emails. This was my favourite slide from the morning:img_1116

After lunch we had our first afternoon of intensives – three hour-long sessions on Church and Ministry. In the first two sessions we broke down the mission statement of the church and then the last session was entitled what makes church church? Very interesting sessions and not too intense!

Tuesday 31st January – can’t believe its the last day of January already! Our day started at 12 with our first ever college chapel – its crazy! The college fills the Hub Auditorium, the worship was amazing and then we had another incredible message from Catrina Henderson. After lunch we had another block of three hour-long sessions, this time on Communication in Ministry. In this session we learned all about Healthy Communication skills, the importance of written communication and creative writing, and then communication that builds culture. This was another lovely and relaxed session, with a great lecturer.

Wednesday 1st February – Our first full day (9:00-5:15). Started with a session on our Practicum and our Passport. Then we had another hour on Communication in Ministry, which was with Michelle and she talked all about Cross Cultural Communication, it was really interesting. Then before lunch we had another College Chapel, where Lee Burns preached an incredible message ‘You are Empowered’. Then after lunch we had another three hour long sessions on Church and Ministry with Duncan Corby, the sessions were The House of God, The People of God and The Body of Christ – more incredible teaching.

Thursday 2nd February – another late start. 11am we had another Church and ministry session, entitled Weekend Services that Work – all about the elements of a Hillsong service and why they do what they do. We then had a lovely relaxed lunch. Then came our last block of intensives – four hours with Robert Fergusson – this was where intensives week got intense. He spoke about 10 languages we need to understand (although we didn’t get through them all), they included the language of the heart, the language of Adam, the language of light, the language of the prophets, the language of the spirit and the language of leadership. It was incredible, it was emotional … we all went home to process, it was an intense end to intensives week.

Friday 3rd February – started with a meet the pastors breakfast, where lots of the pastors put on a breakfast for all new intake. It was lovely, relaxed – with pastries and muffins. Then we had two safe church sessions – we found out all about health and safety and child safety. Then we got in a queue to have our children’s work interviews. Remember Australians sit when they queue, this time we also watched movies – I got through High School Musical and the Lion King. Inside out was just starting when I moved to the last queue …. it was getting late and it was getting obvious that we weren’t all going to get seen. Then it happened the queue was closed and we were asked to leave 😦 only I didn’t leave, I hung around in the last little group and thank-you God I was the LAST person interviewed that day!

End of intensives week 1!

This weekend the Children’s Work moved into the epicentre (church/college moves in next weekend). And I got to serve for the first time at Hillsong. I started at 6:30am (early early start). I blew up balloons, then I crashed the Kids leaders tour of the epicentre – the rooms are beautiful, the treasure chest rooms (special needs) are amazing, the facilities are going to be such a blessing to the children – then I served on welcoming, where I signed the children into there group and then helped direct them to the right room. One good thing about the epicentre being new is that everyone is having to learn there way around not just us newbies. Then I got to serve in the All Stars group (don’t actually know how old they are), it was so much fun. I can’t wait to get my placement on Wednesday to find out where I will be serving this semester.

This Sunday I attended the end of the 11:15 service and caught another fantastic message from Robert Fergusson. Then we had Bethel leading worship at the 6pm service and Pastor Brian preached for the first time since I’ve been in Australia. It was a fantastic Sunday!

 

Today is Monday and I have another long day – a one hour meet your tutorial session at 10:30am and that is all – so now its 12:30 and I am done. This week is lecture week, so I have the first lecture in all my other subjects. Full timetable starts next week when I will have my practicum placements and lectures and tutorials. This semester my subjects are: Church and Ministry, Communication in Ministry, Mission and Culture, Old Testament Introduction, Personal Leadership, and Public Speaking and Presentation.

So yes, I still don’t know what a normal week is going to look like, should have more of an idea on Wednesday, so will fill you all in then. Thank you for reading, I hope your enjoying a little glimpse into life at Hillsong International Leadership College.

Australia – settling in and being a tourist.

So I have now been in Australia for two and a half weeks and I’m now an official Hillsong College Student.

So my first full week was spent doing lots of cleaning, shopping and full of crazy bus trips with ridiculous amounts of boxes and bags! There was a lot of time spent sitting in front of a fan contemplating how I was going to actually go to college in this crazy hot weather – all I can say is that I truly thank God for the creator of air conditioning and the beautiful air conditioning at Hillsong church and college. (As I type this up I have got up super early and am sitting at college even though I don’t have class for 3 hours – guessing by second week my energy levels may have failed a bit).

Finally finished my room – so I want to say a massive thank you again for everyone who gave me a gift, I feel truly blessed – and now have a space that feels like mine, like home, even though I’m half the world away! (See above pics)

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During the first week and a half all my beautiful housemates trickled in, filling the big empty house with love, laughter and luggage. We are an ‘older’ house, ages ranging from 22-34, and we are a true international house – two from the UK (Wales and England), New Zealand, USA/Russia, Hawaii, South Africa and Chile.

Have only known these lovely ladies for two weeks but they’ve already blessed my life more than they can realise – the last two weeks have been emotionally exhausting but these girls have helped me through, they’ve given me hugs, kind words and prayer support, they’ve kept e smiling and kept me going – so blessed to have them as my ‘Australian’ family –  love you all!

In the last two weeks I’ve also embraced being a tourist – I want to make the most of every opportunity to see Australia. On our first day trip to Sydney we didn’t really know what the plan was, on arrival we found a Starbucks and settled in (it was raining), then we walked for 40 minutes (in the wrong direction) visited some beautiful churches and some shops. Eventually after realising we were heading in the wrong direction we turned around and headed in search of food, and then the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney (thanks to my Auntie Linda’s advice). The gardens were absolutely beautiful, we literally took hundreds of photos, you wouldn’t believe you were in the centre of Sydney, I plan to spend some more time here. Then we found Sydney Opera House (a lot yellower in real life) – more photos were taken.

The 26th January is Australia Day – which means after three days of college we were off (this college thing is so hard lol). Our local family park, Bella Vista Farm, had a family fun day event, I got to see Sheep Shearing, Whip Cracking and Working Dogs. We then went into Sydney to see the Darling Harbour fireworks, I’m not going to lie I didn’t suddenly develop a love of fireworks, but from our spot on the bridge we were pretty much in the fireworks and it was beautiful.

Then 28th January was Chinese New Year – we set off into Sydney early and walked around the Chinese Garden of Friendship, it is so pretty, like a little oasis in the middle of the city. We then got to see some Chinese lion dancing – which was really interesting. Then we walked through China Town (which was full of Australian tourist shops) and headed to a massive indoor market place (also full of Australian tourist shops). After a lunch stop we walked around Circular Quay and viewed all the Lunar lanterns (which are massive animal figures, representing each of the Lunar Zodiac signs). Then we took our first boat trip back to Darling Harbour – then I realised I had had way to much sun so headed home – it was a great day.

Ok – so I’m having a problem linking photos to my laptop with the lack of wifi so these will have to do for now – plan to post more on Facebook so check out there.

Sorry if this blog posts seems really random but I’ve been writing it in shifts every time i visit the college. My next blog post will cover enrolment and first week of college. Feel free to message me any questions – love and miss you all!

Let it Go – Simply be Thanksgiving.

This weekend I have been busy packing, organising and decluttering ready for my big move to Australia. Letting things go. Many of us have been doing this as we enter the new year, attempting to simplifying our lives, letting go of the excess, letting go of the past and moving forward. Which reminded me that I hadn’t posted my message from Simply Be Thanksgiving last November. So here it is:

Different types of luggage. Losing the excess luggage.

A massive part of making the move to Australia has been organising something that I thought would be relatively simple – my luggage. Shopping to find the right suitcase, not too big, not to small, not to heavy, practical and pretty, different enough so I can recognise it on the conveyor belt full of fast moving suitcases, strong enough to handle a two day journey.

img_8275However I found it and I was ready …

I was packed!

Then came the luggage allowance, 30 kg, sounds like a lot but I’ve got to fit my whole life for two years into that suitcase, and I haven’t even had christmas yet.

So I’ve entered a season of decluttering, a season of sorting, a season of letting go. Simplifying my whole life to fit into 30kg. I’ve learned a lot reading decluttering blogs, about the freedom that comes from letting go, living a simple life. Marie Kondo has a book called the life changing magic of tidying up – I haven’t read it but the message behind it seems simple, if the item doesn’t bring you joy, let it go. Another favourite is – if it doesn’t suit the life you want to be living now, thank it for the part its played and let it go. These place a lot of importance on possessions, but it can also be transferred to our feelings, thoughts and memories – if they don’t bring us joy why are we carrying them, if there not helping us be the women we want to be, thank them for the part they played in forming us but then let them go.

So my message is all about bags that we may be carrying, and how we can lighten our load a little.

First bag – a child’s backpack. This bag contains all those comments and phrases that someone told you during your childhood and teen years. The teacher that supported and believed in you, the jokes and songs shared with friends, the parents who encouraged and constantly believed in you. It also contains all those lies you believed, those hurts you’ve clung onto that pop up every now and again bring the pain back to the surface. Those jokes someone made about you, or maybe even those jokes you said about someone else and regretted but didn’t apologise. The memories of being laughed at, left out at playtime or picked last for the team.

But we don’t need to carry this backpack – These comments, both positive and negative, shaped us into the adults we are now. The kind words encouraged us to grow and the negative words strengthened us, even if we didn’t feel like it at the time. God never meant for you to hold on to it all – he held your hand through it, even if you didn’t know he was there, he guided you, he strengthened you, encouraged you to grow and learn – but now he wants you to keep going forward, let it go and keep walking. So its time to thank God for the experiences, thank him for holding our hand throughout them, and let go of bag number one.

Bag number two – the old, much loved, well used bag. That bag thats falling apart, has a few holes, the handles nearly falling off, but you love it, it served you well, so you keep holding on, not really using it, just moving it around every now and again to get to the bag you want to use. This bag is full of memories – that job you loved that used to define you, that day out you had with family you wish you could relive, that conversation with a friend you could have over and over. Memories of last conversations with people you’ve lost, missed conversations, family dinners and family arguments. Memories of losses, illnesses, hurts and pains. Memories of laughter, family, friends and love.

This bag was a part of good and bad memories, memories that helped form who you are now. Important memories, memories we don’t necessary want to forget, but we can’t carry them around with us every day, we can’t keep living in them, its time to pack them into a photo album, store them on a shelf, throw out that shabby, worn out handbag and free up our arm to concentrate on living today, free to make new memories. Holding on to it, is holding you back.

The past helped form who you are, but it doesn’t need to be who you are going to be tomorrow, it isn’t who you are, its just where you’ve been, thank God for the memories, for the opportunity to grow, but its time to set them down, free up your hands, and continue down a new route.

Make-up bag – overflowing with concealer, foundation and mascara. Contains all the tools we need to hide who we are. This bag represents a confused sense of identity and a low self esteem. A lot of us hide who we are, we apply layers of concealer so people don’t know how much we’re hurting, we wear a foundation of lies we believe, lies that say we’re ugly, unloved, unusable, and we carry a constant supply of waterproof mascara, to hide those tears we cry when we’re alone, tears of unworthiness and shame.

God gives us a new meaning of identity – we don’t have to search for our identity in lies, magazines, our past, our feelings. In Christ we are a new creation, so its time to throw out the make up bag and make ourselves up with some of these truths – you have authority, purpose, you belong, you are loved, called, empowered, you are valuable, forgiven, wonderfully made, you are free, you are beautiful, strong, victorious, blessed, you are chosen, you are enough, known, redeemed … the list goes on and on.

Next comes a sparkly purse, also know as out party bag. This bag represents our search for pleasure, our time spent seeking pleasure in the wrong things, such as alcohol, drugs, books, romantic movies, TV, shopping etc. Time spent seeking the good life, not the God life. Yes it may seem fun at the time but eventually it only leads to hurt and pain.

The worlds version of pleasure and joy is all temporary and short lasting, meaning we have to keep searching for more and more to top us up. But we don’t need to keep searching, if we spend time with our father, get to know him, we will experience true joy, and learn to celebrate and live in it. Joy from the father isn’t a joy that depends on our mood, its deeper than that.

John Pipers definition of joy is – ‘Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.’                            

And psalm 16:11 says – you will show me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

So we need to stop searching in the wrong places, throw off our party bag and spend time in his presence and in his word, letting that reveal to us the beauty, love and joy we can find in the world as we live everyday, not dependant on mood, totally dependant on God, who’s stable and unchanging.

The Laptop bag, our work bag. This bag doesn’t symbolise the stress and worries we carry from work, although we do carry a lot of them. This bag symbolises us trying to plan our own lives, mark our own way, make our own path.

If we ask God he will show us the way, the best way, his way, he will guide us everyday. The hard part is accepting that Gods way might not be your way. We need to spend time simply being in his presence, seeking his voice, his way. We need to put down our work bag, quiet ourselves and seek his way, then ask him to show us how to walk it out everyday.

Our sixth bag is a gym bag. This bag contains our running shoes, symbolising our lack of patience, focus, stillness and quiet. It represents our busyness, running running everywhere but never getting anywhere, doing lots of things but never getting anything finished. Our children, friends or family test our patience and we snap at them, because they get in the way and we’re so busy being busy. We spend all our time focused on doing, doing, doing, not being. There’s no peace, no quiet, we find ourselves shouting all the time.

We need to take off the running shoes, drop the running bag and put on our slippers. In other words stop – Psalm 46:10 says ‘Be Still and know that I am God’. We need to take some time to quiet our lives to hear his voice.

Mother Teresa said – ‘We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.’

We need to stop running, stop completely, and spend time in his presence – to be still, to re-focus, re-prioritise, re-centre, and practice patience – this prepares us to live and love, and breathe.

Travellers Backpack. This bag is full of things we think we need for the journey. It’s full of time we spent getting ready, things we’ve gathered that we don’t really need, the extras. Things we saved just in case, skills we think we need to acquire before we are ready to do this, items we think we need to of collected before we go.

God will equip us with everything we need for the journey, we don’t need to stress about being ready before we go, we need to go and he’ll work with us in the journey. Leave the packing and preparing to him.

Looks like i’m free – but theres one last bag:

A concealed money belt. This represents that hidden sin we are living with- the lies, the unforgiveness, the jealousy. A little lie that grew out of control. A wish that you had something someone else had, which turned into feelings of hate for that person, simply because of jealousy.

Christ died to forgive us of our sin so we don’t have to carry them around with us, his blood purifies us of our sin, cleanses us, but we do have to deal with it. We need to confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and then change our behaviour. And thanks to Christ we don’t have to keep going over them, his blood wiped our slate clean, there completely forgot – so bye bye to that hidden bag!

Holding onto all this luggage, makes every day life more challenging. As we walk with our arms and backs laden down with worries, memories, thoughts and baggage, it slows us down and it holds us back. It also takes the use of our arms away, our hands – how can we live and walk effectively when we can’t use our hands properly. God has massive plans for your two hands – he wants your hands to be free to work and live today, to use to share his love, share his good news and to help build his kingdom.

But I know that as hard as it is to carry and manoeuvre through life with all these bags, theres safety and comfort to be found hiding behind our luggage. All our bags make us look busy and important, they make us feel like our life matters. But all these bags are burdens, they weigh us down and stop us from being able to fully live the journey. They distract us and delay us and stop us from being able to fully go, to go with all we’ve got.

When I was booking my flights all the plane tickets that were reasonably priced had a small catch, they didn’t include checked luggage. I class myself as someone who tries to live simply with minimal possessions, but I think living for two years with only hand luggage is pushing it.

However, the ticket to the life God has planned for us only allows for hand luggage – no checked luggage allowed. Luke 9:3, when Jesus sent his disciples out he told them ‘take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt’. God promises to supply our every need, he equips us and prepares us, he doesn’t want us to worry about packing for the journey, he wants us to leave our luggage, our baggage, at the foot of the cross, he wants us to trust him completely and GO.

So now we’ve dealt with our excess luggage our hands are free ready to go, ready to spend time in his presence, to find and fulfil our unique purpose, to stand confident in who we are and whose we are. And go out and shine Gods light in our community.

So girlies, although I did say God doesn’t want us to check any luggage, we are girls after all and we like to accessorise, so lets pack our hand luggage.

Most of us will carry handbags as an everyday extension of ourselves (which when typing this autocorrected to handguns, which I am absolutely not recommending we carry). We carry lip gloss, lipstick, make up, a mirror, numerous scraps of papers, tissues, books, scarves and gloves, keys, a diary, a kids toy – most of our handbags are kinda heavy, and kinda messy, some are even out of control.

So lets repack our hand luggage with some tools we should be packing –

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First step, a handbag – pick the right handbag, unique to you, not the one your friends got, she’s not going to carry your bag, you are, it needs to fit your purpose.

Lipstick – your words have so much power, words you say to someone can stick with them for years even if they don’t show there hurt at the time – this lipstick is a reminder to go out and be the light, to speak words that bring life to people, to speak positive words into peoples lives, a reminder to love, to go out and tell the good news of Jesus and tell people the good truths about themselves. You are the light of the world, so stick on your favourite lips, be brave and go shine!

Mirror – we don’t need to carry any negative comments or thoughts, we don’t need to compare ourselves to others – this mirror is not to look in and remember all those negative things you’ve been told – but to remind you that God gives you an identity in him – you are all beautiful women, daughters of a king, specially formed and created in his image, unique and gorgeous.

Tissues – these tissues have two purposes. First as a reminder that God is holding your hand through the hard times, and carrying you through the impossible times. He’s always with you, he knows all, cares about every little thing and loves overwhelmingly. He’s always holding some tissues. The second purpose is to comfort and support those people we are travelling with, sometimes we need to hold the tissues, bridge the gap.

Nail Kit – no matter how much time you spend cutting and shaping your nails, unexpectedly you get one caught in something and it breaks, so out comes the nail file – this nail file represents our lives with sin. The bible says in 1 John ‘If we claim to be without sin, we lie and the truth is not in us’. If your struggling with hidden sin welcome to being human, we all struggle, we are all imperfect, you are not alone. Take a deep breath, be still, listen, and ask God for wisdom to sort yourself out. Ask God what’s driving you to keep getting caught in these snags, allow him to address those dark places, work with him and watch your life be transformed one step at a time.

Wallet with a photo – a reminder to live a life full of love, a way to carry those memories but not to be consumed by the past, a prompt to pray for our family and friends, and to be thankful for everything, always.

Emergency number (church contact card) – we all need people in our lives that support us, but are able to hold us to account, people we know that love us and have our backs, and will tell us the truth. Something I am so thankful for is my church family, I know that if I was ever in need or stuck, someone in the church would come to my rescue and support me, and if I ever stepped wrong they’d help balance me back.

Diary with blank pages – blank spaces for God to utilise, if we fill our lives with work, plans, appointments, clubs etc we leave no time for God to alter our course – leave some blank pages and hand them over to God, give him your spare time and just see what he can do with it.

Slippers – yes you probably don’t need these in your handbag but they serve as a reminder to stop, and spend some time in his presence. Rest, refuel, reconnect, realign, reinvigorate – ready to go.

Pretty hair bow – first a reminder to take pleasure in the little things, but then also a reminder that when things seem to be out of control, like our hair, Gods given us everything we need to pull it back and tie it together, and yes he appreciates that we get a little joy from using a pretty little hair bow.

The Word of God – whether its on your phone or an actual bible. We need to live our life based on his word, his word is our weapon, its a source of strength and a way to focus. We need to be living life asking ourselves WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? – and the only way to know that is by looking in his word.

Don’t overstuff your handbag, even hand luggage has a weight limit – leave space to allow God to do some repacking, some rearranging, he may alter your course, but remember he always has the best plans. His plans for your life are bigger than your wildest dreams, but he will never let you go alone, he walks every day with you.

So now some questions we need to ask ourselves –

What do we have in our handbag? Do we need a good clear out? And what tools do we need to add?

And more importantly are there any bags your struggling to carry that you need to let go of today? Your in a safe place, surrounded by people who love you, set those bags down, free up your hands to love, live – get ready, be brave, board the plane and fly!

Defining a New Normal

The start of this month marked the end of the summer holidays, a restart of our everyday routine, back to work, back to school – a return to normal.

Life – it’s made up of ‘normal every days’ – we eat, work, talk, play if we have time, relax, sleep …wake up and repeat….

I like a little normal, I like a little bit of familiar, and dare I say I like a little routine, but every day? – no, I need a little bit of excitement, a little change, a little adventure.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed, or should I say underwhelmed, at a normal every day. One of those days where nothing stands out, when asked what you’ve done there’s no highlight, sometimes not even a lowlight, just a typical, normal day.

Sometimes I lay in bed and ask myself ‘what have I done today?’, ‘have I achieved anything today?’, ‘what has excited me today?’ Anything? And honestly I’m not impressed, in fact I’m a little bored.

The dictionary definition of normal is – conforming to standard, the usual, typical or expected state or condition.

Usual, typical, standard, expected – to me it sounds a little boring? Repetitive? Un-exciting even?

But our normal every days don’t have to be boring. We just have to make a decision –

Have we defined our normal correctly?

As Christians we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, and when Jesus walked he defined a new normal.

A normal day in Jesus’ life was full of adventure – as he walked a normal day Jesus said yes to distractions, he welcomed interruptions, he listened to his father and lived every day according to his fathers will. Jesus kept his purpose at the centre of his every day life. Jesus’ days were full of highlights, miracles, messages, stand out moments, history making moments. He lived a life full of every days worth writing about, a life full of days not only he could remember but other people remembered, that’s how we have the bible.

Is our current normal how we want to be defined? Are we living our days how we want to be remembered?

I want to live a life full of days I can remember, and as a bonus it would be amazing to have some days that other people remember. I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus every day.

Maybe its time to ask ourselves some new questions as we end a normal day – am I living the normal life I want to be living? am I keeping Jesus as the focus of my every days? Did I follow Jesus today? Did I listen for the spirits prompting? Was I willing to alter my course for Jesus today? Did I keep him centre?

And as we keep Jesus centre lets look out for the excitement, the unexpected, the new normal to change our every days.

Lets make a new definition of normal – exciting, adventurous, unexpected, extraordinary, fun, surprising, amazing, disciple.