We had a wonderful idea. We thought of lanterns lighting the night sky. We thought of Gods word permeating through the darkness, reaching the stars and settling in their glow. A group of lanterns, I thought. Who could miss them? We carried them with us. We reached a hill in a public park that I could not decipher. Each lantern carried a verse. As the fire holding it adrift faded, I dreamt of each verse falling into the arms of one of Gods children, sparking a similar fire in the hearts of it’s new companion. We lit the first lantern. My sisters and I, that is. It spiralled into the sky. The wind had it’s way with the flame and it burst to life. We watched that little lantern, our practise run, soar so beautifully. Then its direction shifted, heading straight for a tree. Holding my breath as I watched it settle snuggly on a branch. The fire caught snuggly too. It spread. Fast. A whole tree alight with Gods fire. A fire engine paved the way for the police. The police then paved a way for the angry locals. The angry locals lighting a way for the nearest news channel to broadcast our faces to the world. We had created a fire in a public place with a recklessly wonderful idea that got out of hand. They made a mockery of our high hopes – our holy goal for the lanterns. The cameras surveyed the remaining lanterns, just sitting there, waiting for a flight that was not to be. Carrying verses that would never reach the sky, or the people I thought destined to find them. “How silly do you feel right now?,” the news reporter asks. I hate that the questions directed at me. My sisters squirm in the background, puzzled as to how God could let the night end up this way. My parents were probably watching. Old school friends recalling how we, the Holy Joes of the school year past, could be the only ones to pull a stunt like this. My cheeks flare up red. Everyone watching and judging and I know it. Then I realise Gods plan was blossoming before an entire nation, all thanks to a little lantern who dared to stray from the path we created and form a treacherous and radical route of it’s own. A route that caught the world’s attention and successfully broadcast our inky, handwritten verses to the thousands of people tuning in. They didn’t even have to leave the ground – to sit there and face inspection from angry authorities and gossip hungry reporters was all they had to endure to mean something. 5 grounded lanterns and one little tear away paving the way for my sisters and I to understand what God dreams for us. To dare to venture paths untraveled. To believe in the steadfast tree that anchors us and brings our dreams to life, immersing us in a faith so fiery, it’s seen from miles around.
These things did not really happen. The little lanterns journey reached completion in the depths of my imagination.
Will you be that tree for me, Lord?
Can I be that little lantern for you?
I’ve been finding it really hard to write recently. Well, more specifically, I’ve been having difficulty motivating myself to blog. I’ve been reading through the blogs I’ve posted over the last year and I find it hard to believe I wrote them. I’m still journaling in my quiet times and enjoying spending time with God. For once, my laziness doesn’t feel like something faith related though. Its intimidating reading some of my old stuff and thinking, “Wow, I was inspired. Why can’t I feel like that now?” But I am inspired! It’s the transition between feeling this inspiration, scribbling it down and then converting that into something bloggable (not a real word, but we’ll roll with it) that I struggle with.
I think I’m spreading myself way too thin. I have so many journals that I need to devote time too. I have my “rambling” journal which has been with me throughout the entire year of my renewed dedication to God. When it’s filled (and it’s nearly there), it will be nearly 400 days of my life recorded on paper. I’ve never hit that sort of landmark where writings concerned. It marks all the highs and lows off the past year, of which there have been many. It’s the journal I feel like I need to consult daily or I’ll miss out on valuable detail. On top of that, I have my “One thought” journal. I fill in a page each day on one specific thought. It can be something silly- like a fight I had with a friend. I focus on one thing that’s on my mind and write it down which has proved pretty therapeutic. But still, it’s one more journal to write in. I haven’t even mentioned my ingenious “Pathway to Purpose” idea. I bought a book in a Faith Mission months ago that helps Christians reflect on their past, present and future in ways that are healthy and stress relieving! Once I started writing in it, I wanted to make it a daily thing. Because I’m OCD like that and have way too many assignments set for myself! I love all my journals and the thoughts they seem to get out of me but I love blogging too. And it’s taken a backseat to all these things. So I guess now I’m making this post to get myself back into the game!
I’ve decided that writing in my journals is something I have to do in the moment! They get my initial reactions and capture the mood of the moment. Blogging is something that I want to use in the aftermath of such things. I’m going to use it as an opportunity to reflect on situations and try to provide an educated response on things I’m studying in my quiet times or just happen to have on my mind. It shouldn’t be a chore, and I write better when I’m not under pressure. At the end of the day, this blog could get deleted in a second and all my posts will be gone. My journals can be kept forever, providing I keep them safe.
All in all, blogging is important to me! Admittedly, I enjoy messing around with themes and fonts. I enjoy knowing that anyone in the world can see and respond to what I have to say, and having the opportunity to pass on a little encouragement here and there.
Some things can be taken from the confines of a notebook and worked into something that can inspire others – I just need to channel my energy into reflecting on things after I spend time noting them down.
Pray for Moldova.
A few months ago those words wouldn’t have meant much to me either. It’s a country whose name I vaguely recognised. A country that, up until January, I had no idea existed! Yet there’s a very real spiritual struggle underway in Moldova. A struggle perpetuated by a blatant disregard for the widespread poverty in one of the poorest countries in Europe. A country that should have some kind of support yet has been left to flounder and sink alone.
I set out with 11 other people to help ease the burden placed on two churches in two different locations to cater for the youth in their villages. It was explained that Pastors in the Orthodox churches felt discouraged by the lack of numbers and vision for young people in Moldova. Many young adults are forced to work abroad to support families, and so churches lack experience in youth ministry because well, there’s a lack of youth. For anyone who doesn’t know the difference between Orthodox and Unorthodox churches - Orthodox churches believe in a personal relationship with God, rather than the rules and regulations associated with strict religion. Orthodox churches love sharing the gospel with young people and encourage the expression of God’s love in a range of ways!
Our main task was to help with practical work throughout the communities and organise kids clubs every day. I think one of the most eye opening things about the trip was the Moldovans ability to live simply by faith, and not by sight. This is a hard mindset for people like me to adapt because we have so much stuff! There’s very little that we can hope for when we have everything we need. We’d cram into a bus each afternoon and literally have no idea where we were going and what we’d be expected to do. It wasn’t that we weren’t being told half the time – it was because the people bringing us to these places knew as little as we did at times.
I could write forever about the poverty we witnessed and the effect it had on us but honestly, it’s not even something I can put into words. It’s something that needs to be felt and seen with your own eyes. I struggle to forget a lot of the kids though.
Most notably, the burst of enthusiasm as soon a camera pointed in their direction. The smiley faces beaming back at us, thrilled to feel important. It’s something so basic that could spark such an excited reaction from these kids. As awesome as this was to see, it filled me with incredible sadness. I loved capturing memories of the kids and making them feel special. But I don’t know how to get these photos back to them. They’ll never have anything to show for it. They’re just happy to know that somewhere in the world; some northern Irish teen has a photo of them.
I compiled a load of the photos into one big journal and try to honour the kids with prayer. I know Gods watching over them. As hopeless as their circumstances may seem at times, they draw joy from anything and everything. If my generation back home could do this, we’d have so much more to offer this world. I think that’s the saddest thing of all. These kids have attitudes that could help this world to thrive and they’ll never know it.
It’s difficult to not feel angry, returning home to all this luxury while those kids remain in such awful conditions. But God didn’t send us to Moldova to come home feeling high and mighty. He sent us to come home feeling truly blessed and to love others in a way we couldn’t beforehand, as an expression of that. I see the problems in this world so much more clearly, and I have a desire to see them fixed. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to bring those kids a little happiness for two weeks. I pray that more teams head out to carry on such good work!
Now I’m home and I have to draw upon the experiences I had out there as much as I can. I have to persevere through the discouragement that comes from feeling like the little things are overlooked. I have to bite my tongue when I see people becoming ensnared by the useless things young people devote time too and I have to work on myself. I have to devote my life to God and allow him to work on me from within, shaping me to be the kind of woman who could revisit those kids someday and make a difference. Or maybe he plans for me to make a difference over here. Either way, it would be nice if a difference could be made, wouldn’t it?
So please, pray for Moldova. When we can’t fly somewhere, the best we can do as Christians is place the country in God’s hands. If he hears his people uniting in a true desire to see that country’s circumstances changed, I have no doubt he’ll do wonderful things.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. — 1 Cor Ch15 v 58
I’ve always really struggled to share my testimoney because up until the last year, I didn’t really feel like my story was extraordinary or exciting enough to tell. I’ve been a Christian for so long that I can’t even pinpoint the exact age that I gave my life to God. All I know is that I was pretty young. Not just in age though. The state of my faith remained young well into my teenage years. I can only really describe my faith up until the age of 17 as a series of spiritual peaks that were continually blighted and outnumbered by abizmal spiritual lows.
My faith was incredibly bipolar. One minute, I’d be on fire for God, blazing a trail for all to follow. The next, I’d be in a spiritual slump, broken, riddled with self doubt and contemplating whether it was really worth all the stress. There was never any real cause. I just became so discouraged by the fear of failure I’d formed, that I wasn’t progressing and because I didn’t feel anything happening, I gave up. I tried not to think about it. Yet, God persisted with me. It’s funny how when you’d rather not be reminded off something, it starts turning up everywhere. In my dreams. My thoughts. In other friends. but I was just so tired!
I lied to all my christian friends and acted like my faith was growing. I was pretty convincing at this too! I could give my christian friends advice because I had all the words - just no motivation to put them into practise in my own life. Looking back, it fills me with sadness to know that I could talk with such passion and yet, feel so dead inside. God was still with me though. I knew this even at the time. He prevaded my conscience and crept into my dreams. I felt him urging me to give it one last push, but I was so ashamed that I couldn’t open up my bible or pray with real meaning anymore. The christians thriving around me were a daily reminder that I COULD have that. Nothing was really stopping me, except my inability to just let go! If only I’d just give myself to God and become limitless, instead of limiting myself purposely to soften the blow of yet more failure that seemed to follow me everywhere I went. It was the smallest thing at times. Talking about someone who didn’t deserve it. Acting in a way that didn’t reflect well on God around a non christian friend. Basic things that by not doing them, should set us apart from non christians.
Last august, around the time that I started this blog, I finally had my turning point. The moment of clarity that I’d heard about in so many other testimonies yet secretly mocked in my head because truthfully, I didn’t believe it existed. I had been telling a friend just how bad things had gotten, when it just hit me. Literally, like a light being switched on. I was blaming the very thing that Christ had freed me from for holding me back. How ironic, right? That I’d ask to be forgiven for my sins so that I could embark on an amazing journey with my Creator, in the full knowledge that I’d continue to sin, and use that very sin as my excuse for not trying? I didn’t understand the sinful nature that I’d been saved from.
The reality that God forgives constantly, completely and unconditionally never really sank in and so, the chains really hadn’t been lifted. Sure, my heart had been purified. But my mind was dirty and stained and damaged and ruled me. I placed the things that I thought only I could comprehend before my Saviour. Did I not think God loved me? Or that he understood how I felt? I didn’t know a God that I was so sure I loved. Just as some couples can be in a relationship and claim to love each other, yet not really KNOW each other which ultimately, leads to their demise. God wasn’t going to let that happen to us though. At the grand age of 17, having been a christian for 10 years or so, I finally accepted that I was accepted. That my mistakes would not hinder me from serving God and impacting this world. Since this revelation, I’ve been in a much better place spiritually. I make a real effort to grow in my faith and although I still get things wrong, I use it as my motivation. My friends often shared similar feelings with me back in the darker days of my faith but I wish someone had laid bare their spiritual struggles in a way that was hard hitting and entirely honest - a way that didn’t make me feel so alone in my struggles. I try to be that person for others now, using my mistakes as a tool to inspire someone else into taking action rather than submitting to the fear that consumed me. Now, I’d much rather fail knowing I’d tried because God sees the effort we make before the end result. He foresaw the stumble. He cushioned the blow. And he’s propelling us forward. What we percieve to be failure may just be a kink in our journey, designed to push us in a direction that God has planned.
A lyric from the new song by Josh Osho called “Giants” stands out to me as I type all this. It says, “We all want to be giants, but our heads are too heavy from the mess that we’re in.” I wanted to be a spiritual giant, but had to learn that we can only achieve greatness when we trust God to do great things through us. I wanted to do the impossible without making the effort to make it possible. We’re not running this race alone and the things that we do get right are not our own achievements to claim. Everything that I’ve straightened out in my life is Gods doing because as this entire testimonies already established, when I live life without God in the equation, I tend to mess up. a lot.
One last word. You may not feel like your story has much to say but I can assure you that a simplistic, relateable story can speak just as loudly as any. I understand how having what feels like a tame and introverted story, can make someone feel like it really isn’t worth telling. I’d like to encourage you to tell it. To yourself in the mirror. On a piece of paper. To the friend who stuck with you while that story formed…
… and most importantly, to the God who ensured your story would continue.
He takes our grains of sand and fashions a pearl. He takes our caterpillar and transforms it into a butterfly. He takes our lump of clay and molds it into a vessel of honour, fit for the use of a King.
Knowing that I’ve been placed on this earth for a purpose is what fulfils me in life. Living each day in the knowledge that an All powerful Saviour has marked out each step of my life with perfect precision allows me to feel content that whatever I’m facing, I’ll face upheld in God’s grace and strength, which to this very day, have never failed me.
I know that by grasping each day I’m bringing further into motion what’s already underway. I pay attention to the purpose Gods planned for me by consulting him as much as I can. I take risks that teach me to rely on God when I feel a sudden lack of control. Letting him take control is the absolute key. Even when I mess that up, I know I haven’t compromised that purpose in the slightest because God said it himself – he doesn’t start anything in anyone that he won’t bring through to completion.
My life, ultimately, rests in your hands Lord. So here I am. Do with me what you will.
I cannot physically see the Lord, but I can see clearly all he’s done for me.