Category Archives: hard times

Facing Failure

We are leaving for New Zealand in a week. Part of my preparation has been to think about which clothes to take and whether anything needs replacing. I bought a green jacket at the beginning of winter which was very convenient when we went camping as it has pockets and a hood and is shower-proof. It has never looked smart, however. It just didn’t hang right. I decided to look at it carefully and see why. It seemed that the lining had shrunk or was never the right size for the outer shell. Surely if I separated the lining from the shell and just neatened it off, it would improve the hang? Maybe I used the wrong material to edge off the lining but, suffice it to say, I gave away the jacket and bought another one.

On Tuesday afternoon my daughter came to show me how my granddaughter’s ballet character skirt had become too loose for her. She needed it fixed for her ballet exam. Safety pins in the waistband would not cut it. She asked if I could fix it by Thursday, which was the last practice. It seemed a simple job – unpick the elasticised waist band and put in new elastic. Easy! I even found a suitable piece of elastic in my sewing box.

Image adapted from Image by Fiona from Pixabay

After twenty five minutes of trying to unpick black thread from black fabric and making only 1cm progress on one of three rows of stitching on the elasticised band, I came up with another plan – cut off the waist band and make another one. It was after 9.30pm before I could get hold of my daughter to OK the plan (especially as the fabric I had was not a perfect match colourwise.)

The Bible says, “The heart of man plans his way; but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16: 9)

My plan started well but by Wednesday night, once I had finished sewing the three rows to keep the elastic from twisting, the stretch no longer seemed enough. Maybe it was old elastic I had found.

Suddenly, on my worktable, was not only the new band I had made, but also another one which was much stretchier. I couldn’t understand it. The one I had cut off the skirt was in the dustbin, and yet here was just exactly what I needed. And the material was a perfect match. I had prayed about this project that the Lord would help me make a success of it. Surely this was His provision! We were looking after the grandchildren on Wednesday night so it was easy to get my granddaughter to try on the new waistband. It was quite a bit too tight but if I attached a piece from the one in the dustbin it could work.

It was in attaching the skirt to the waistband that the wheels really came off. You know it’s time for bed when you have sewed the entire waistband and a big chunk of fabric hangs down, un-incorporated.

By Thursday morning I was a soggy mess of stress. I had managed to unpick a lot of the stitching but not all. I couldn’t stop crying. My husband tried to cheer me up by saying that we could buy a new skirt if necessary. That didn’t help because it would be another failure. I had undertaken to do something and I had failed.

I knew the Lord had brought this upon me for a purpose. The extra waistband had apparently been from when my older granddaughter had had a similar issue with her character skirt just before an exam, only hers had been too tight and I had cut it off and made another one. Only I had forgotten. And exactly how it had landed on my work table I still don’t know. God’s handiwork was obvious. Surely He isn’t trying to tell me that there is a time to give up!

After a lot of thought, I think He wants me to learn to cope with failure. Looking back on my life, I have not failed often. Perhaps I have become too proud and independent. I have prided myself on being able to deliver on my promises, on being capable.

I had so wanted to be Super Granny!

My Prayer

Lord, I am not quite sure what You are doing with me at the moment and I don’t like it. Forgive me for relying on my own gifts and talents rather than on You. If You are teaching me something, may I learn quickly so I may be at peace. Amen.

Growing Pains

A friend of ours is a proud Granny of three. She recently sent a video of her youngest grandson who is just learning to crawl. His mother was encouraging him with her voice and holding out a red fluffy lobster towards him. He started on a quilt and was making quite good progress but once he moved off it the surface didn’t offer any handholds and his hands kept slipping. He was going red in the face with the exertion and I could see he was getting frustrated with his slow progress. At one stage it looked like he was about to give up and settle for his white bunny which was close to him instead of the lobster but his mother encouraged him again and he made the last effort to win his prize.

Image by heymattallen from Pixabay

Growing and developing is sometimes a struggle. In the physical realm, we have all been through it. We might not remember it but, at some stage, we had to learn to crawl and then to walk. It didn’t just happen. It was one step and then sit down, two steps and a bump down again. How did we learn to duck when walking under a low table except by bumping our heads and feeling pain.

Spiritual growth is no easier. We all want to grow spiritually but we might not want to go through the process. Quite often it takes pain and struggle to grow us. C.S Lewis recognised this. He wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…”

James 1 :2-4 says, “Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.” (Amplified Bible)

If growing requires pain and effort, what keeps us from giving up and settling for second best? The baby in the first paragraph was motivated by love for his mother, her encouragement, and the prize to be obtained.

We are motivated by love for our Heavenly Father, trust that He knows what He is doing and what we are going through, encouragement which comes from His Word and from other Christians, and the prize we are striving for.

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14 NLT)

My Prayer

Father, I know You love me more than I could ever love my children or grandchildren. You never promised that life would be easy but that You would never forsake me. In this time of trial and stretching, may I know Your presence with me, encouraging me and keeping me from despondency. Thank You. Amen.

World Conqueror

How can we overcome the world?

I am not talking about military force.

Image by Thanasis Papazacharias from Pixabay

The Apostle John, in his first letter, explains it to us.

“…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5 NIV)

From my Anglican upbringing I remember we have to renounce the world, the flesh and the devil. We mostly understand the flesh and the devil, but where does the world fit in?

We live in a fallen world, ruled by Satan, and it is easy to be conquered by it. When we succumb to the world’s way of thinking and doing things, we are overcome by the world. When we lose our temper and swear at the computer, or kick the dog because everything went wrong in our day, or succumb to despondency or anger because we have had a run of bad luck, the world has the upper hand. When we repay evil for evil, the world has conquered us.

When I was still working, I had the use of a slow, problematic computer. I am also not the best computer operator. I used to play a game with myself. If the computer changed my mood or caused me to be grumpy, it was one point to the computer. If I was able to maintain my calm despite its best efforts to frustrate me, it was one point to me. I didn’t always win.

John’s letter gives us hope. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God and we are born again, we should be able to see the world from a different perspective, from God’s perspective. It isn’t necessarily easy, but Christ has overcome the world and He is in us. He told us plainly, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

John says earlier in his letter, “You, dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (! John 4:4)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I confess that I often succumb to the world. I don’t avail myself of the victory You won for me and I forget that I am the daughter of the King. Please forgive me and empower me to face the world in Your strength. Amen.

Anticipation and Reality

When we look forward to something like a holiday, we somehow think that, because we have spent or budgeted a lot of money for it and expended a great deal of time planning it, success is guaranteed. In our mind we imagine a care-free time in perfect weather where we have enough money to do everything we want to.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

This is not a realistic expectation, nor does it line up with our past experience. I have had holidays where:- I caught the wrong bus and by the time I got to my youth hostel, it was locked for the night; I was in so much back pain that I had to consult a physiotherapist in a foreign country; I fell off my bike and spent the night trying to stop bleeding; we got back to our tent site to find our gazebo had been trashed by the wind; one of the children was so sick on the journey we decided to abandon our booked caravan site and go for a bungalow at three times the price. I could go on and on but I am sure everyone has had similar experiences they can recount. Yet we continue to look forward to holidays with excitement and anticipation and are shocked when things go wrong.

The same is true of Christian life. We have some rosy expectation that now that we are Christians, we are immune from everyday frustrations, disappointments and disasters. Yet we are never promised a trouble-free life in this fallen world. All we are promised is that God will be with us in the trouble.

Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you might have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

He also warned his disciples about things to come. There will be wars, famines and earthquakes. Christians will be hated, persecuted and put to death. Lawlessness will increase and false prophets will arise. That doesn’t leave much room for rosy expectations that things will get better.

Fortunately we do know the end of the story. We know that when Christ comes again, everything will be made right. We know we will be with Him forever, regardless of the troubles we go through in this life. We know that God is in control, no matter what. We can only trust Him and know that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

My Prayer

Lord, I have no idea what my future holds. I trust you with whatever will come my way. I know You are always with me. May I sense Your presence and rest in Your love. Amen.

The God Who Sees Me

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Like 19:1-6 NIV)

When I was still working, I could stand on the corridor outside the science lab, which was on the second floor, and see what was happening below as learners changed classes. One Valentine’s day I saw a boy give red balloons to a girl.

Image by yousafbhutta from Pixabay

It was a touching scene. There is a certain anonymity about seeing but not being seen. Most people do not look up much. I think that is what Zacchaeus was counting on.

When Hagar ran away from Sarai, the angel of the Lord found her and told her to go back to her mistress because she was pregnant. “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'” (Gen 16:7 NIV)

Jesus knew Zacchaeus was in the tree. He called him by name. The One Who Sees, El Roi, had seen him and he was never the same again. Jesus did not just see and note, he saw and engaged.

We cannot hide from God, no matter how many fig leaves we put between us. Whether we are running away, like Hagar, or in an unusual situation like Zacchaeus, Jesus sees us and longs to engage with us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, You see me and You know me. You know exactly what I need in any given situation. Thank You that I can trust You even when I feel overawed by You. Amen.

Sandpaper

“God always puts us around someone who is like sandpaper to smooth off our rough edges…a testing that takes place before we get promoted. If you want to lead, you must first serve in circumstances that may not be ideal and learn to behave wisely. This prepares us to be greatly used by God.” Joyce Meyer.

When I am at the beach, I enjoy collecting little pieces of driftwood, especially if they have some resemblance to an animal or a bird. This one reminded me of a crested bird.

I dried it out and used sandpaper to smooth it. That just brought out the beauty of the wood.

My Prayer

Lord God, You know exactly where my character needs work. Please help me to work with You and not against you when You use sandpaper to smooth me. Amen.

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.

The Prayer Chair

On our last day at Glenschillen in Nottingham Road, we rambled into the wooded area behind the dam. We had seen a map of the walks in the area and decided to find the “Prayer Chair.”

At first we took a wrong path and came to a log cabin that looked newly constructed. There was no path after that.

We retraced our steps and found a lower path. At one stage the path was blocked by a branch. We managed to carefully step over it. At a fork in the path there was a printed sign and an arrow showing the right path. We came to a pine glade where the pine needles were so thick on the ground that they covered a knee-high log that we thought might be the prayer chair but then we found it, not five metres away!

The Prayer Chair

We sat down and prayed because that is what it was there for. There was a beautiful view over the dam and the deck although they seemed so far away.

Life is a lot like a journey. The scenery keeps changing. Sometimes the ground is treacherous underfoot, like pine needles obscuring hazards. Sometimes we take a wrong path, but even that can bring new discoveries. God knows how to use a wrong path for our good. Sometimes obstacles block our way and we have to make our way over them with care. We need to look out for signs and directions, even if we think we know the map. If we look around and are alert, we might find a prayer chair, a place to be still for a while and survey where we used to be.

The best thing to have on a hike is a guide, somebody who has followed the trail before. Psalm 23 tells us that the Lord will lead us in the paths of righteousness.

The Bible says, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
{Psalms 37:24 – 25 NIV}

My Prayer

Thank You Lord that You lead me in this journey of life. Please open my eyes to the Prayer Chairs You have scattered along the way where I can rest and regain my perspective. Amen.

Quiet and Peace

We are now in Nottingham Rd in a caravan park called Glenschillen. It is an oasis of tranquility. We have a site overlooking the dam.

   The Bible says, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.“‘ (Isaiah 31:15 NIV)

On Wednesday, soon after we arrived, we wandered down to the common area, where there are tables and chairs, a pool table and various other amenities for general use. We came across three elderly gentlemen who were having their weekly Bible study and discussion. My husband mentioned that we are members of the Gideons.

Yesterday the oldest of the three, David, who happens to be a co-owner of this place, sought us out. We had a long chat with him. He told us of some miracles in his life and how God has always been faithful, even though he’s had many struggles in his life, including the death of his first wife after three months of marriage.

David is ninety-five and he ended our chat with these words, “The waters are calm, my compass is true. I trust my Captain and I know where my ship is heading.”

I believe the Lord arranged this meeting to bless us and as an illustration a life based on quietness and trust.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord for this place of quiet and rest. Being here is almost like a retreat. Thank you for enabling us to meet Your servant, David. Please continue to bless him and his family.

Bearing One Another’s Burdens.

We went for tea with fellow members of the Motorhome Club who also happen to be camping at Scottburgh. They have sold their house and are living in their imported RV. They were telling us of many problems they have had involving failed vehicle repairs, occasions when they had nowhere to live because their bus was in for repair and similar problems. What got them through, they said, was friends. Friends offered accommodation and other practical help.

It made me think of something we saw on Saturday as we walked home from the flea market. A rubbish truck had broken down and we watched the struggle to load it onto a flatbed truck.

To me this was a visual picture of Galations 6:2. “Bear one another’s Burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV)

Bearing burdens costs. The helper truck used up energy and time to load the broken vehicle and transport it to a workshop. Likewise it costs us when we help others. We are glad to pay the cost, though, because we know that is what our Lord requires. The parable of the good Samaritan tells us that.

Sometimes there is nothing practical that we can do to help. Sometimes just being available to listen can help bear a burden. Sometimes all we can do is pray and that, too, can help ease a burden because we know God always hears our prayers.

My Prayer

Lord, please raise my eyes from my own concerns so I can notice the burdens others are carrying. Show me ways that I can help. Thank You that when I am too weak, You carry me. Amen.

If It’s not Messy, It’s not Real

When one is on a camping holiday, one gets to observe birds up close. I saw sparrows having dust baths right outside our tent. I googled it and discovered that indeed it is a way they clean themselves. They work the dust into their feathers then flap their wings and give them a good shake and the dust cleans them from mites and grease. A messy way to get clean!

A sparrow having a dust bath

When I was in grade two, my teacher told us that, when Jesus was a boy, He crafted sparrows out of wet clay and they flew away. I never heard that story again. Today’s chapter from John Stott’s book deals with sparrows. For the first time since 1958 I read that story again. John Stott writes, “The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas preserves a rather charming story (though almost certainly not authentic) of Jesus as a boy of five. He and other children were playing together beside a stream, and Jesus fashioned twelve sparrows out of soft clay. When his father Joseph asked him why he was breaking the law on the Sabbath day, ‘Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them ” Go!”, and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping.'”

My Bible reading today was from John 9 and deals with the story of Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’” (John 9:6-7a NIV)

We all know what happened. But have we ever thought how messy it was? Jesus was standing with His hands covered in mud. The blind man was (presumably) led away to the pool with his face slathered with brown mud.

Fairy tales are neat and sanitised. “…and they all lived happily ever after.” Real life is messy. The Christmas card showing the immaculately clean baby in the arms of a serene mother, is not the reality. Giving birth is messy. It involves pain and blood. Lots of blood. Mary would have been exhausted, possibly tear-stained. Somehow we get it into our heads that when we become Christians, all our problems will disappear. That’s the fairy tale. The reality is that life is messy. It involves broken bones, times of struggle, hard work, disappointments and loss. Jesus never promised a problem-free life, only that He would be with us in the messiness. Jesus did not come to make life easy but to make men great. (I can’t remember who said that.)

So if life seems messy at the moment, don’t despair. Invite Jesus into the mess. He doesn’t mind getting His hands full of mud. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I have preconceived stereotyped ideas about You. Please help me to come to grips with reality. You are much bigger than I can ever imagine. Help me to trust You implicitly , even in the mess. Amen.