It is now the middle of September. I’ve been meaning to take up writing again since the second week of August.
Do you remember one of my first posts where I said “I put the pro in procrastinate”? Well I’ve proven that to be true! It’s been 5 months since my last post. I always meant to take a break over the summer holidays, but I think anyone who lives or knows Northern Ireland knows that our summer doesn’t last 5 months!
I’ve had the most amazing summer that I can remember for more than a few reasons but I didn’t forget about the blog completely. As I went through some new, fresh experiences I could hear God speaking to me in some new fresh ways and I’d love to share some of these.
Let me start by giving an update on the last post I wrote.
When I reread In the Dock I was surprised at how dark and deep it was. It was written at a time when I was facing great troubles and I had no clue how God was going to sort it all out. I was feeling so out of control of my own life; and I like to be in control (in other words I am extremely bossy!)
I need to tell you, God turned my fretting into rejoicing; He turned the circumstances of my life right around; He made what could have been really detrimental to me and my family become the vehicle to lead us to one of the most enriching experiences of our lives.
To cut a very long, private story short, we ended up spending the summer in the most magical place I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. We spent 3 months in a seaside cottage overlooking the most amazing cliff side scenery that the North Coast has to offer.
During those 3 months we enjoyed the best weather I can remember in Northern Ireland for years. We spent unforgettable times with friends and family and ate endless barbeques. We made almost daily visits to the local harbour where the kids spent hours fishing, crab catching and jumping off too high rocks into too deep sea which thrilled them and horrified me!
God didn’t just provide an answer to our problems in an officious, adequate way. What I learned this summer is that my God is my Father who loves me like I love my kids. He loves to answer our prayers in a super abundant fashion.
Ephesians 3:20 in the amplified sums it up perfectly:
“…by the action of His power that is at work within us, He is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams]”
He gave me a time away from phones and wifi. He gave me quality time with my family away from the busyness of town. Best of all, He gave me marvellous views of cliffs and vast ocean, that quite literally, took my breath away. Every day as I walked along the coastal path, right outside the back door, I heard Him gently whispering, “Come away with me” (can you hear Norah Jones playing softly in the background?)
He spoke to me just like the lovers in the Song of Solomon 2:10-11:
“My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The Winter is past; the rains are over and gone.”
It felt like a fresh wind was blowing through my soul; clearing out the old musty winter in my bones and heralding a new season of spring sparkle.
I didn’t know it but, oh, how I needed to get away with Him!
Because I love reading and I have a strong affection for words, I can easily get caught up in making my relationship with Jesus all about the Bible. I am a strong advocate of the discipline of reading the Bible every day. However, I constantly need the reminder that my relationship with Jesus needs to be bedded in a fertile ground of friendship with Him.
Beside the sea I found a new fresh rhythm that refreshed and renewed my friendship with Jesus.
It was so simple, it’s almost embarrassing! As I walked along the coast, looking out at the immeasurable sea, I became aware, once again, of just how awesome He is. I became conscious of His immense power to hold everything together and I was newly sensitive to His favour towards me and His pleasure in me. I was being filled with hope in some deep recesses of my soul that hadn’t seen action for quite a while.
This summer I didn’t read my Bible every day, or at any set time (I’m a rebel without a cause!!) I just enjoyed looking at His epic creation, breathing in the smell of the salty sea and enjoying a previously uncommon intimacy with my friend, Jesus.
To begin with these coastal walks consisted of me telling Jesus what a good job He had done in making everything I could see. Eventually I think He got bored of that and asked me to press in a little further. I sensed Him tell me to “Pave the Pathway with Prayer”.
Just as the physical, actual pathway lay before me; taking me through varying terrain, sometimes wet and grassy, sometimes stony and sometimes wild with barely a track at all; I believe God was tenderly showing me that this special time was not going to last forever; that the terrain was sure to change and that although He wanted me to enjoy the soft, grassy track He also wanted me to get prepared for the rougher stony patches that lay ahead.
The preparation required was prayer.
I slowly realised that I had been approaching life in a back to front kind of way. I usually waited till a storm arose and then I would go to prayer. Although God has been graciously patient with me, He was now challenging me to be prepared in advance.
There are many things you can look ahead and begin to pray for in preparation. For example, my daughter is now 12, just starting year 8 at a new school and thinking she is surely the coolest thing on a pennyboard (a smaller version of a skate board). She is entering an emotional, hormonal time of change that requires adjustment on both sides of our relationship.
Why would I wait till we hit a bump in the road to begin to pray about it? Instead, this summer I began to pray for her to find her teenage years a wonderful time of discovery and for her to rise to the challenges that a new school would confront her with. I prayed for good friends, and inspiring teachers; I prayed that she would be a leader in noble pursuits and not a follower into questionable activities.
I am paving the pathway that my children will walk over the next few years, with prayer. I am so aware that we will walk through some unchartered territory but I am doing all I know to lay a foundation of prayer into their futures that I have no doubt will provide some safe, steady footing for our souls when the going gets tough.
Other things in life are impossible to prepare for-the unforeseen. But even these we can pave a pathway into. I’ve shared before my love of Hebrews 6:19:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”
I’m learning that the more time I spend with Jesus, the more hope I have for my future-go figure?! (I’m pretending I’m American as I say that. I think we should adopt this saying in Northern Ireland.) Yes, sadly, I am still learning some of the same lessons that I’ve been learning for years.
So, even as I pray into the unforeseen circumstances on the path ahead of me, I am reassured, that in my times of prayer now, I am paving a firm and secure foundation that will prevent me from being thrown completely off course when the winds of change blow, which they surely will.
To conclude I return to my opening thought: – it’s now September; the summer is almost over. I’ve returned to town life. A new school term has arrived, and with it, the busyness of routine. But I don’t mourn the end of that season; rather I draw strength from a unique, wonderful summer when I got to know Jesus again.
And just as He gently warned me, the terrain has changed already; new challenges have arisen, not completely unforeseen. Instead of burying my head to pray about them, hoping that it might pass me by or that I will just “cling on” through the storm; I feel armed for the battle that lies ahead.
What wonderful coincidence that our pastor is teaching a series called “Dancing in the Rain” in which he encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
I love what Joyce Meyer said recently:
“If you want to run, don’t run away from things, run towards them. God’s Word says that David ran quickly toward the battle line. He did run, but he ran in the right direction.”
So I’m taking my stand, I’m not giving into the temptation to run from my battles. I’m running into the affray, armed with the strength of the Lord. I sense the wind of change is blowing in my direction. I’m not sure exactly what path I will take, but I think I’m ready for my New Term.
Do you have any experiences of “time out” with Jesus? What did that season look like in your life? Did you feel refreshed and renewed in your spirit? Did it prepare you for something new/challenging/surprising?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…it’s good to talk!