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!

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Australia – the prep, travel and first days.

I started writing this in the middle of the night as jet lag had attacked big time. I went a full 48 hours with about 48 minutes sleep. I’m finishing this post today and its been over a week since I left home, which is just crazy!

This post will contain some of my preparation and last few days in the UK, flight info and some of my first few days in Australia.

 

So I did quite a few things to get me ready for my time in Australia, including:

– sharing my shower with a little spider for the last four months – in preparation for the big spiders.

– switched to using Aussie brand shampoo and conditioner.

– prepared myself for having a roommate by sharing my living space for the last month with Walter the inflatable  kangaroo. This also prepared me for living with kangaroos.

– didn’t plan this one but I spent the last week in isolation from my family as some of them had the sickness bug, so we practiced chatting through iMessage and FaceTime.

In all honesty though I didn’t know how to prepare myself because I couldn’t imagine totally where I was going and what to expect.

 

My last few days home were amazing, I honestly felt so loved and so blessed. You guys truly gave me an amazing send off. I enjoyed my celebrations at the church, thank you everyone who contributed, thank you to my family, my friends, my church people – I love you all so much.

So things had been running pretty smoothly, then I weighed my suitcase – oh no I was going to have to leave my notebooks behind – the situation got so desperate that I literally had the kitchen weighing scales out and weighing items and grouping them into different piles, measuring things against things to see which I wanted more. Lets just say I didn’t get much sleep my last night in my lovely bed (which when lying on my current bed I regret greatly) however by the morning I was packed.

The morning of my flight went pretty smooth, I woke up checked my weights one last time and then zipped and locked my suitcases for the last time. Woke my parents up for the last time, then walked my dog for the last time. Then I went to get dressed – uh oh – thats when I realised that yes I had laid out the perfect flying outfit, but no I hadn’t remembered to keep out any underwear, cue manic rummaging through the airing cupboard and then I hate to say it rummaging through my bin for discarded underwear that wasn’t fit for Australia. However thankfully that was the only prep crisis.

Have to thank my wonderful parents for driving me off to the airport, and calming me as I stressed about the weight of my luggage – I couldn’t of got much closer, my suitcase was 29.7 kg (30kg allowance) and my hand luggage was 6.8 kg (7kg allowance), however that didn’t include the extra bag I added after I checked my bags – a girl needs her notebooks.

The flight: 34 hours of travel, 2 planes, 4 bag searches, 4 different airports, about 5 hours sleep, 2 sick bags, 6 anti-sickness tablets, 1 hole in the floor toilet situation that just wasn’t going to happen, 1 massive sign of release when I discovered Australian toilets were very much normal. It was sooooo long.

Arrival: after a four hour wait in the airport, the college shuttle picked us up and we were on the way. As I dragged my one suitcase to the bus, I glanced around at the American/Canadian’s and envied there crazy luggage allowance – one girls seriously had 5 suitcases – and then started to question what I had obviously forgotten to pack in my one suitcase.  First thing I noticed was the heat, next thing I was asleep. I woke up as I pulled into the church carpark – wow is it massive. And Hot! As we wheeled our suitcases across the car park and then down two flights of steps my envy for the American/Canadian luggage allowance faded away as I watched them try to pull 3-5 suitcases each, as said suitcases rolled away across the car park.

Enter welcome lounge – free WIFI and EXTREME uno (they take there uno very seriously in Australia apparently). Here I checked in at home, signed up for accommodation and got some shopping, then was driven back to my new house.

So my new house is beautiful NOW – however when I moved in it was a little, well a lot dirty. Also due to some miscommunication I was the only one living p1020081there for the first night – thankfully I was so tired otherwise this would of started panic attack number one – on the very massive plus side as the first house mate to arrive I had first pick for bedroom, which meant HELLO SINGLE ROOM! Then my bed was delivered flat pack – 95 minutes later I have a bed – must say that was probably one of my proudest moments.
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So my first night went surprisingly well considering I was in a new country, with no housemates, no phone and no internet, no contacts, no map, no sense of direction and no idea where the church was.

Early next morning I set off on my trek to Hillsong College, with vague directions and lots of help from kind Australians, after about 30 minutes I made it to the land of Hillsong and the free WIFI. This day is now a bit of a blur, thankfully I met a housemate, opened a bank account, got a bus card (yes I can now take the bus) I went on a shopping trip and bought some random things – I remembered hangers thankfully and a towel. So I’m at college with all my bags, not overly confident with my bus card yet so my only option is to walk home. What I haven’t mentioned is that the temperature today was 42 degrees, and Hillsong is called HILLsong because its in the Hills District – in all honesty I don’t know how I made it home, it was long, I ran out of water, the bags were heavy, it was 42 degrees – I literally made it through the front door, and didn’t care how bug infested the floor was, I lay down on the carpet in a hot mess.

The next few days was spent cleaning, shopping and attempting to function normal in this crazy heat. We had lots of fun filling a taxi with flat pack furniture, pushing trolleys all over shopping centres (you can actually take trolleys out of shops and into other shops it’s rather strange) and then trying to build furniture with no tools and in the heat! Thankfully house to slowly starting to look and feel more homely!

As I write this I currently have 3 housemates, but by Friday there will be 7 of us at number 39 – can’t quite imagine it yet!

Church – experienced church for the first time on Sunday, it was really good! Robert Fergusson spoke – so it felt more like home as he is originally a Brit! Loads more info on church to come!

Bugs – so I have only seen one spider and that was no where near my house. However I have seen loads and loads and loads of cockroaches. I think we co-inhabit with a minimum of 6 at one time – however strangely they don’t bother me!

 

Our funniest moment in the house so far – me and Danni (my first housemate) were eating in the living room after a mega cleaning/furniture building sesh. We heard  a bang, bus as we were getting used to the strange noises we both just ignored it, then there was another one, and then another – time to investigate. As we entered the kitchen we established that the noise was coming from outside the kitchen window and also discovered our kitchen window to be wide open (thank goodness for fly screen) as we neared the window to close it there was another bang – we jumped back, quite freaked out now. I decided to be brave and creeped up to the window – which was when as another bang happened that I discovered the true super frightening source of our disruptance ….. earlier in the day we had cleaned out our freezer and there was loads of ice cube trays, so we had put them in the sink upside down before we ate, they had slowly been melting and subsequently dropping into the metal sink = our super frightening noise! We felt rather silly however as that has been our only freaked out moment we think we are doing pretty good.

So that’s it for my first post from Australia – we plan to visit Sydney tomorrow and do a bit of sightseeing so I will post about that soon! Thank you again for all the kind gifts of money, my bedroom is coming together and so I will post some pics of that soon!

With Love from sunny Australia xxx

 

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.

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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.

Love is an Open Door

The theme at church last Sunday morning and subsequently for this weeks life group was ‘open doors’ – this week I have had a lot of conversations about open doors. I’ve also had ‘love is an open door’ from frozen in my head way to often.

An open door is a move – a calling – a step out of your comfort zone, a move to do something or go somewhere different. A chance for a new beginning, a new opportunity. An open door is both exciting and scary.

To go through an open door we have to leave a room, and maybe close a door. We have to stop doing something, we have to change, we have to move, we have to have a last…

There are different sized lasts, every day lasts and monumental life changing lasts. This week children and teachers all had a last day of school. For some this was a small last – a last day in school but with the comfort that next year will begin and all your friends will still be there, just in a different classroom. For others, this was a bigger last, the last day of primary school, a complete new start, a new school facing them at the end of summer. For me it was a big last – my last day in the autistic unit that I have worked in for a year and a half.

 

I loved my class, the children and co-teachers. I was comfortable. I was content. I was going to work every day and doing life with some amazing women, we each had roles to play, we had a routine. We had days full of laughter and days full of tears. And as challenging as a day could be, I felt like I was making at least a small difference.

Jesus loved people. He spent three years doing life with his disciples, building relationships, building friendships. I imagine he had routines, I imagine each disciple having a role, a part to play every day. I imagine them cooking around a campfire having some deep conversations and sharing times full of laughter, and tears. And they definitely made a massive difference in people’s lives everyday.

 

But then comes the last…

God has a massive Australia sized door for me, but I didn’t know that before I go there he’s placed another open door for me to go through – a new job, a new class, new relationships to form. It was a last that I knew would be coming but came suddenly, unexpectedly, sooner than I had planned. My last day was a time of celebration, celebrating a great school year with bouncy castles and ice cream. It was also a sad time, as I moved through my last day, we shared memories and I shed several tears. But as I said my goodbyes I held onto Gods plan.

God had a massive door for Jesus to walk through, a cross sized door only for him. Before he walked through that door he had a last of his own to face – the last supper with his disciples. A meal he eagerly anticipated and yet I imagine there were withheld tears as he broke the bread and shared the wine, as he revealed Gods plan to his disciples, his friends. But Jesus held onto the plan as he said his goodbyes.

 

I have free will – I could have chosen to run, to ignore the open door. I wanted to, I even planned to, I wasn’t ready to close the door and run through this one. There was sadness and tears, and I may have slammed the door in mis-understanding, in fear, and pleaded with God to change his mind, but I know God has a plan, even if I don’t know what it is yet, and in his strength I can walk through any door.   I can choose to walk through this door, however intimidating, and celebrate new opportunities, and as someone said this week in life group ‘when you step through the door the landscape changes’ – who knows what this opportunity will lead to, become. I can choose to celebrate the new door that God is opening in my last.

Jesus had free will – he could have run from his open door, but he knew the plan. And on the way, in the garden, he wept and he pleaded, but still held onto Gods plan – ‘not my will but your will be done’.   Jesus walked through his door, he picked up his cross. His body was beaten, pierced and broken for our sins, our mistakes. He loves us so much that he walked through the biggest open door you could imagine, he went to the cross. Jesus gave his life for his friends, his people, Jesus freely died for us when we weren’t worth dying for.

 

I imagine a lot of us have thought and prayed this week about the open doors God has placed in front of us. Now I ask is there a room that you need to leave to step into his plan, a last you need to walk through and choose to celebrate no matter how hard. The door you may need to close could be a distraction, a habit, an unhealthy friendship – it could mean saying no to a commitment, to free up time – it could be a little last or it could be a monumental last.

The cross was Jesus’ open door, the cross was the biggest act of sacrificial love you could imagine, the cross equals love, therefore love (the cross) really is an open door. We can accept the cross, receive this free act of love, and walk into a new life, walk into a life of sacrificial love for others, walk into his plan.

Is there something you need to place at the foot of the cross before you live this life, before you step out, close one door, to follow Gods plan through a door he’s opened for you.

The last you are facing might feel massive, insurmountable even, but the cross is big enough. What Jesus did for us is sufficient, you just need to hold onto that truth and remember God always has a plan.

 

(This is a message I spoke at the Bridge Church on the 24th July, my first time leading communion. I like to post messages I speak because I feel like at the moment I write better than I speak – I’m still working on my nerves but know that with practice, persistence and Gods help I will overcome them.)

Hillsong International Leadership College

Two years ago today God planted a dream in my heart of attending Hillsong International Leadership College  in Australia, next year that dream will become a reality.

Here’s the story so far:

I always knew that a secular uni/college wasn’t for me, and I always dreamed of attending bible college, but I didn’t feel smart enough or brave enough, and I also couldn’t find one that seemed like the right fit for me.

Then two years ago today I was at Colour Conference in London and attended a session on their leadership college. I went and chatted to a college rep who told me all about the pastoral leadership stream and the kids work at Hillsong Church, it just sounded amazing! I was immediately excited and yet also thought ‘leadership college, me, yeah right, like that would ever happen!’

At a similar time me and mum started attending the Bridge Church, where I started helping out in the children’s work department, I love it! then just before last summer I was asked to take over as children’s leader, wait me a leader?

As I’ve previously blogged after saying yes the nerves kicked in and yet the call on my life seemed to be getting stronger. Then after a leadership seminar at Soul Survivor I prayed ‘God if its what you want me to do, give me opportunities and I promise to say yes! Next thing you know I’m saying yes to speaking at our church ladies event, I’m saying yes to being vice president of our local sunday school union – and as I say yes, yes, yes, I start feeling braver, start feeling like I can do it, start believing I can be a leader, I am a leader!

Two months ago after lots of prayer and talking to my pastor and other trusted Christians in my life everything seemed to be coming together and pointing towards Hillsong College, so I applied!

During the application process I kept being drawn to Psalm 37:4-5 ‘Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him’. Whilst waiting to hear from the college I was getting nervous, and dare I say a little impatient. Then one night as I was re-reading Psalm 37 (for the first time in the NLT) verse 7 suddenly stood out to me for the first time. ‘Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act’ – WOW! So that night I asked God to forgive my impatience, I committed to waiting patiently and put all my trust in Him, and that if he wanted me to get in I would be happy, but that if it wasn’t his plan please would he guide me to what he wanted me to do and I would say yes. That night I slept really peacefully, until 4am when I awoke to an email ding into my inbox – ‘congratulations we would like to offer you a place’ – thank-you God, you are amazing!

So there we go, what was planted as a dream in my heart two years ago today, is going to be a reality next January – how CRAZY AMAZING! 265 days to go!

I plan to blog more over the next 265 days about my journey to College, prayer requests and fun facts about Australia (though I am refusing to think about the spiders), and then of course I hope to continue my blog whilst out in Australia to keep you up to date with what’s going on, I believe it is going to be epic and as Brian Houston would say ‘the best is yet to come’

 

 

Simply be …

*this is a message I spoke at the monthly women’s meeting at my church (simply be). I’ve decided to post it for a couple of reasons, first it was one of the reasons I decided to start this blog in the first place, and second a lot of it is my testimony, its whats on my heart, and I feel that if I’m actually going to start blogging here more regularly you need to know a bit about me.

Simply Be …

These are some lessons I’ve learnt in my Christian walk so far, and without completely realising at first God gave me a series of ‘Be’ statements.

Be Brave

My life verse – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13. All the things I am going to share I couldn’t have done without the strength of Christ. I know I can choose to be brave, and that my God is always supporting me. And walking in that truth has allowed me to overcome so many things that I could never face in my own strength: the dentist, my driving test, travel, volunteering, a new job, little and big things, God is always there supporting me.

Sometimes being brave feels like the hardest thing to do, to take a risk, to go for it, to step out – but living brave is amazing, we can change the world by being brave, and by taking those little and big steps when God calls us.

Be Yourself

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. God created you uniquely to be you. For years I wanted to be a youth worker. I looked into courses, I chatted with youth workers to find out their secrets, and do you know what I learned, I am definitely not a youth worker. I’m not into music and TV programs, phones and video games. I just don’t know what to say to them and do you know what, half the time I don’t know what they are saying to me, plus youth are scary. However youth workers are cool and I wanted to finally be cool. But I was trying to fit into someone else’s mould, someone else’s role.

So I spent ages with God, pleading with Him to show me my calling, show me what he wanted me to do. But I ended up just waiting. Putting my life on hold until I knew the plan, until it all felt perfect and right. It wasn’t until I stepped out and acted that he started to reveal my calling to me, and he did so through my experiences.

In 2012 I stepped out and did a summer step program with Latin Link. Now this step I took I believed was God’s plan for my life starting. I had dreams of mission bible college and then of leaving to distant lands to be a full time missionary. I thought my calling was finally taking shape. It was but in a completely different way. After signing up for one project the whole thing got cancelled and we all had to choose whether we wanted our money back or whether we wanted to wait for the organisation to find a new placement. God was changing MY path already, and placing me onto HIS path. I went with it, and I spent three of the most incredible weeks of my life so far volunteering in a children’s home in Guatemala.

It was during this time I fell in love with Gods small children, especially one 3 year old boy, Antony, leaving him was heart-breaking, but I knew he was somewhere where he was loved and cared for completely. It was through this heartbreak that God asked me to love on his children, that was it, the start of my calling – to love on his little children. That’s what He created me for, he moulded me into the perfect vessel for Him to work through to spread His love to His children, my characteristics, every life experience, was all to make me ME. It’s a role only I can fill, and God has a role for all of us.

In embracing being myself my life has changed completely. I’ve gone from lost wanderer, waiting for my life to begin, to living an amazing life completely for Him. And no that wasn’t the specific calling I was expecting, I still don’t know where I will be next year, but in living my life as myself, my calling is slowly being unravelled, and I’m living my dreams and Gods plans. Don’t wait for God to tell you your calling, Go out, live your life, be yourself and he will reveal it to you.

Be There

Your time to live is now. I waited for years to stumble across my calling, to find the perfect life I was supposed to live. I was waiting for everything to be perfect before I started living. I spent days preparing to live my life, planning, dreaming, sorting, getting ready – making sure I’d done everything I needed to get out the way before my perfect life started, before I became the person I wanted to be. Days passed by, months, years, and what was passing – my life, right in front of my eyes, while planning to live my life perfect, my life was already happening, disappearing. Don’t wait for life to be perfect, live life now! Don’t wait to do all those things you want to do, try something new, go for it! This time is all we have, embrace it, be all there in the now!

The second part of being all there is leaving the past behind. I know its painful, I know we all have regrets, hurts and feelings of failure.

My school experience was definitely a negative one. In year ten I was diagnosed with school phobia, the whole comp experience was completely overwhelming. My friends were super smart and I just couldn’t keep up, I didn’t feel good enough, so I stopped going. I was so scared that I would climb into the loft and hide out. During this period I managed to erase every positive memory I had ever had in school, I could only recall mistakes I felt I had made, fall outs with friends, embarrassing moments, sad moments … I didn’t have one positive school memory. In year eleven I attended a pupil referral unit in the mornings and managed to get basic GCSE’s, my times there could have been counted as happy memories, unfortunately during the summer holidays following my GCSE’s a friend from the unit committed suicide because of bullying she had received at her school. Grief took away my last positive school memory, and filled that place with pain.

I’d had it with school and would have been happy to never step foot in one again, but God wasn’t happy with that. He wants to mend our broken places, to heal us and allow us to move forward. I now work in a primary school. This wasn’t a planned step, it was a God step. And it wasn’t an easy step, it was hard walking through those school doors. But God is working in me, he’s helped me use my negative experiences to mould me into a better teaching assistant. I now have a better understanding and sensitivity to be on guard for those children who are struggling and need support, and he’s put me in a position where I can make a difference. I could have easily ran away again, but then I would have been missing out on living in this part of Gods plan for my life. The best thing we can do is shut ourselves away with God, talk it out, cry it out, let it out, let Him in, and allow Him to start the healing process with you.

The last part of being there is forgetting failure. Failure does not exist. Every so called failure we have in life is an opportunity to learn and grow.

In 2013 I travelled back to Guatemala for my second mission trip. Before I’d even left home I felt like it was a mistake, but I went. The week I spent there was one of the longest weeks of my life. I let fear completely take over, I felt stressed, alone and unsupported. Eventually I decided to leave my team and travel home. I was broken, I felt like I’d let God, my team, my family and my church down. To get home I had to face my first  plane journey alone, including a transfer in America. As I started out I didn’t think I would make it out, but during my day of travel God turned my experience around completely. My first plane was delayed so I arrived in America with hardly any time to make my transfer and I was in an airport I had never been in before. Whilst in a non-moving queue I could have let my circumstances and negative feelings overwhelm me, but instead I pleaded to God, I needed my family and I needed to be home, please help me! Seconds later a new desk opened up and I am second in line, a process that took hours on the way  took minutes, thank you God. After running like I had never run before I made it onto the plane, the previously sunny weather had turned into an amazing lightning storm, the lightning was so close, it actually struck the plane making the flight attendant jump, you could feel the plane vibrating. I could have been petrified but God comforted me, and allowed me to comfort a young boy who was travelling alone, further confirming my calling to children’s work.

God speaks to us through our so called failures and mistakes. During the flight home I was just overwhelmed with the vastness, the amazingness of God’s creation. Looking down from that little plane window I felt so small and insignificant, but the God who created all that created me. He heard my cries and made that queue move for me, even though I felt like I had let him down he is there for me. Watching over me. I could choose to let that negative experience define my life, or I could learn from it and move on. And so with God, and support from my family and church I learnt from it and let it go. Lets choose to take those negative experiences, learn from them and leave them behind.

Be Loved

I remember the first time I felt completely overwhelmed by Gods love. I was in my room, sitting on the floor, watching a teen mania event on God TV. They were acting out a drama and towards the end one scene was set to the song ‘He loves us’, tears streamed down my face, he loves us, he loves me. He has always loved me and will always love me. What an amazing truth.

The second time was when I was in Guatemala where I got to be a vessel to share His love with other people. The fact that he managed to get me across the other side of the world to love a small group of his children is just mind blowing.

Gods love transforms, it strengthens, it moulds, it forms, it heals, His love is just amazing. And we get to be carriers of His love into the world, what an honour!

Be Beautiful

because you are. You are a unique individual, created in Gods image to be exactly who God wants you to be. Its time we stop obsessing over looks, over clothes, over ourselves and embrace the beautiful women we were created to be. Women who love, women who believe in themselves, women who are happy and secure in all God created us to be. So that we can go our and love our families, and our friends, so that we can go out and share his beauty.

I spent too many years worrying about outward beauty. I never felt beautiful, I hated my wonky teeth, my scars and my birthmarks, I felt fat and unlovable. I spent loads of money buying lovely clothes, sorting them into outfits I would wear when I lost 3 more pounds, outfits I’d wear when I finally felt beautiful, outfits that sat in drawers until they went out of style. But God made ME, he designed me, he knew what I would look like, he planned me. And he planned you. He knew what you would look like, what you would like. And we were all created in  His image – so how can we not be beautiful.

Lets be women who focus on our inner beauty, lets stand on the truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Lets not worry about how we dress but as Gods chosen women lets dress in the wardrobe he picked out for us, wearing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness and patience, and regardless of what else we put on lets Wear Love, our basic al-purpose garment (colossians 3:12-14)

Be Family

I feel so blessed to be part of the Simply Be (Bridge Church) family. To have a group of women living life with me, blessed to have a place where we can all be ourselves, where we can share dreams, where we can share our insecurities, where we can build each other up and support each other when we don’t feel strong enough. A place from where we can send people out into the world to serve, to live, to love, knowing that they have this incredible group of women (people) behind them, praying for them, encouraging them, supporting them. Lets not forget each other, lets remember each other as we walk through our everydays, lets pray for each other, lets encourage each other through hugs, through lunch dates, through phone calls and messages. Who can you encourage today?

So…

as we say our goodnights (or close down our web browsers), as we go out whether it is to another part of the country, whether its out into the workplace or whether its home to our families, may we all remember to simply …

Be Brave – you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, stop letting fear hold you back.

Be Yourself – God created you uniquely you, to be you, to live your life as yourself for Him.

Be There – don’t wait. Don’t let hurts and failures hold you back, the past is in the past, life is happening now don’t miss it.

Be Loved – let his love  fill your life and let’s go out and share that love.

Be Beautiful – God created you beautiful, lets be women happy and secure in the identity that God gave us  and lets wear his love, and take it out into the world.

Be Family – lets do life together, lets hold each others hands through the ups and downs, lets simply be family.