Category Archives: Endurance

Beggars can choose.

Sky

Anguished tears in the car. I am silent in response. I’ve run out of ideas.

“The thing is, son, at some point you’re going to have to choose the life God has brought you.”

Hard truth when you’re eleven and you miss everything you loved so much.

My two children and I have recently moved from California to the UK (a return home for me, a new home for my American kids) and really nothing is similar. The milkshakes don’t taste the same, the language is different, the climate sucks, their own accent is the anomaly.

When I moved to the States 25 years ago, I remember thinking it would have been easier if I’d moved to Asia. Then I’d have expected everything to be different. Obviously I’d have to start over with the banking system, the postal service, the social cues.

But moving to the States I thought both nations were basically the same. So wrong! America and Britain are slightly different in every possible way. Which means one is constantly caught out and exhausted by the difference.

Now moving in reverse, my children are discovering the same. And they hate it. Everything here is not there and vice versa. I know the different-ness is not going to change so our attitude toward it must, but they don’t.

Grief is a process and I must not get in the way of theirs. There is denial, anger, bargaining and depression for all of us before acceptance.

And it’s tougher for my kids. I chose this trans-global move (albeit under duress) because I could see God’s hand in it. My children on the other hand have to take my word for it. I cannot urge acceptance or lose my temper. I have to trust new experiences to speak to them for themselves. I only increase resistance if I “Ooh, look! We couldn’t have done this in California!” about it all myself. Their BS antenna for my “bracing enthusiasm” is forensic anyway.

This season is what it is, and it’s tough.

They’ll get it eventually. They’ll stop not choosing this new life when the weight of good outweighs the weight of loss. In the meantime, without comment, I turn our attention to newness.

We weren’t in California today, but we did go to a lovely local farm for lunch.

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We didn’t go to the beach with our dogs but we did take them to a bluebell wood by a lake (an adventure enhanced enormously by my falling in).

Falling in

We didn’t see sand crabs underwater, but we did see newly hatched toads.

Toads

I remind the kids that we are not victims of this new reality. The externals won’t change, but our response to them will always be our choice. With due process, beggars can absolutely be choosers after all.

And I tell them this.  The guts they both show in the meantime by just showing up,

Guy

continues to take my breath away.

jsg/march 17

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Marching.

Do you feel like me?

God has brought you out of a difficult situation only to deliver you into another which is far from easy?  In some ways really hard?  And the not easy/really hard just seems to go on and on and on and on and on?

It has made me question the nature of my faith.  I seem constantly to be asking the Lord to “come through” for me.  To resolve situations, remove circumstances, bring in easier times, make life work within the framework of what I can see and hope for.

Is this what the life 0f faith is about?  This constant hoping for a period – even the balance of one’s years – when seas are calm and skies are blue and all temptation, hardship and challenge is taken away?

Because – if this is what I am subconsciously always waiting, hoping and praying for – what book am I reading?

I need to change my paradigm to recognise that struggle is my life.  And that’s not a bad thing. Struggle is what the Lord uses to change me, to move me forward, to peel away the layers of my selfishness and egotism to reveal a life far reacher for being lived for the sake of Him for others rather than for myself.

How I rail against this and beseech God to give me a frickin’ break!                                               But perhaps it is in His kindness that He does not.

Because I have not stopped growing.  My circumstances have not allowed me to become complacent and ready to stay put. I am not satisfied, my life has driven me forward to find more of Christ. To test Him and find that He’s true over and over again.  My life continues to be uncomfortable, challenging, heartbreaking. It constantly forces me to challenge my faith and find God here with me right where I am. Not where I wish I could be, but right here where I am.

I say I want to be in a life condition of floating-on-a-floaty-in-a-pool-under-a-cloudless-sky, but God and I both know I’d become bored almost immediately. (Almost immediately. I’m not nuts.)

I say I want the Promised Land and I want it now, but when I look at scripture the Promised Land didn’t provide floaties either.

I think of the Israelite army marching around the walls of Jericho.  Can you imagine?  They’re IN the Promised Land … and now this? They have to take this Promised Land, it’s not just given to them. (Josie? Are you listening?)

The Israelites have to walk around the city wall once a day for six days.  Can you imagine the conversations on about Day 3?  Day 5??

“We’re sure, right? We’re really, really, really sure this is what God wants us to do? My feet hurt, we look ridiculous.”

Just keep going, marching, marching, marching.

Then on Day 7, they have to march around the city wall SEVEN times.  “What if nothing happens?  What are we going to do then?”

Just keep going, marching, muttering, marching, muttering, muttering, marching.

Then at the long blast of the horn, SHOUT!

And the walls did come down and the Lord gave them the city.  The walls did come down just as God promised they would.  And the only way for the Israelites to find out what God was doing and what God had in store for them was to KEEP GOING.  To keep doing exactly what God had told them to do until the time was fulfilled when God would act.

Not stop half way.

Not lose heart.

Not quit.

Marching gives you a lot of time to think.  And to become aware.  And to be changed.

I think I’m on Day 3 of marching. So there’s a lot more marching to come.  Not a whole lot of change-up in the routine at the moment.  And I’m holding the story of Jericho to my heart. I’m plastering the Israelites faithfulness onto mine and I’m claiming the signs God has given me that He is right here and purposing all that the children and I are going through, just as He did for Israel.  I’m doing what God told me to do, I’ve gone where God told me to go, I’m trying to live the life God calls me to live.

At times I feel exhausted and despairing. I have my marching orders, feelings only discourage me from following them. So feelings, get down!  This is a battle for my mind.

God has promised there is land for me. I’m marching on.

And I’m turning my praise music up LOUD. You?

jsg/feb 17

Dreadful Moments, Sweet Memories.

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There are times in one’s life when it’s really better to shut up. Sometimes it is other people you wish would shut up, but I’m talking about those moments when it is far better to just shut up yourself.

Because there’s nothing to say. Life is what it is. What’s happening is happening. There’s no explaining it and there’s really nothing more to be said.

If God is over it, then He has allowed it. So just shut up.

He’s good.

He’s faithful.

He’s true.

He wills my good.

He denies me nothing that is good.

And I could wax on about him testing me, transforming me into his likeness, refining me, burning off the dross, carving away whatever is not intended to be of me, working all things together for my good. His kindness. I could. But I’m not going to.

Because I don’t have to defend him to myself. I don’t have to explain him to myself. I’m OK. I know him.

I know his faithfulness.

I know his kindness.

I know his mystery.

It feels to me right now that there is so much coming against me that I should just try and stay as quiet and still as possible, keep my eyes open and hope that nothing hits me right in the face.

There’s no point trying to keep all the balls in the air, there are too many balls. So I’m just going to lie down in the ball pit, keep my face visible so I can breathe and wait for the next thing to happen. This thought is a huge relief.

Of course maybe it’ll be another ball. But maybe it’ll be a hand helping me out of the pit.

And while I’m in the pit, how can I know what else I am being protected from?

So, Josie. Just shut up and wait. Wait for hope to appear.

 

Jsg/feb 16

 

CONTEXT.

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I have rarely raised my voice in a public place (being British, obv) but I did a couple of weeks ago, at a computer store. “You’ve gone on to ANOTHER PERSON?? YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD HAVE THIS DONE FOR ME IN FIVE MINUTES!!! THAT’S WHY I LEFT!!

I feel sorry for the guy now, but on this particular day I had my very unwell daughter with me in the car. I had a major voiceover audition 40 minutes away from our house, but it was also almost round the corner from a computer store that I’d been trying to get my computer to for months.

My daughter was on her third day of a foul stomach bug so I couldn’t leave her, but I couldn’t afford to miss the audition either.  And I was right there!  And I desperately needed my computer fixed. So after the audition, I quickly nipped over to the computer place and dashed in lugging my weighty iMac.

This was where I was coming from when the nice (and very young) man in the computer store (when I explained I had a sick child in the car and needed to be quick) kindly suggested I should go for five minutes and they would enter my computer into the system.

But I misunderstood what he meant. He meant “Go and check on your sick child, and I’ll set you up when you get back.” Not (as I thought) “and when you get back it will all have been done for you.”

So when I came back five minutes later and they not only had not touched my computer but had moved onto another customer in what had now become a long line??? I was furious!  Couldn’t these people see that I-wasn’t-coming-back-any-time-soon??! That I couldn’t stay any longer because-my-child-was-sitting-outside-in-a-hot-car-on-her-third-day-of-VOMITING??!! 

Well of course they couldn’t, they weren’t mind readers.  And I was just a sweaty, panicked, red-faced angry lady.

I apologized when I realized my mistake, meekly waited while they entered my info, walked back to my sick child in the car, promptly burst into tears and drove home.

Sigh. Context mixed with stress, heat and hormones was not my friend that day.

Life is all about context, isn’t it? Nothing in one’s everyday life ever happens in a vacuum.

I’m a Christian so I believe my life happens in the hands of a loving God whom I have entrusted to be in control of it. All of it. And whose daily grace I embrace radically – especially on days like the computer store.

Two or three hard things have happened to me in quick succession recently: BHAM!; BHAM!; and BHAMM! If the context of my life were different, why might I not respond with fear, rage, panic, or despair? “Oh the injustice and randomness of it all!”

BUT. My context is that none of it is random or unseen.  I live in the fortress of someone who is stronger than me, wiser than me and in charge.  I can see ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ but I am not their pawn. I am safe, no matter what.  And I never have to go out there and face it all on my own.

So right now I am standing perplexed about the present, but not in despair about the bigger picture. I am calm, I am enduring. I’m not enjoying, but I’m enduring. Because the owner of my fortress lives and – even as I write – is at work to redeem all of it.  Even as I wait and watch.

Every last bit. Computer stores included.

Jsg/Aug15

Survival is Victory.

Otter - surviving

An older friend was involved in a collision on the Freeway yesterday. Miraculously she and the motorcyclist both walked away but, when I called to check on her this morning, she had gone in to work.

Wait, what? If you escape physical injury, praise God. But there is still injury!

In crisis, why do we set the bar so high for ourselves?

As I prepare to turn my half-century, I can see on how many occasions I have done this in my own life. When no one else would have expected miracles from me, I have expected them from myself.  Why?

Our lives are wonderful, and difficult. Sometimes it feels like we’re flying, sometimes Life has the unmistakable appearance of being unendurable.

Yet we do. Endure. Why do we expect so much more of ourselves than that?

“Well, I survived the terrifying accident unscathed, praise God. Off to work I go.”

“Well, they didn’t die, so what have I got to complain about?”

“This isn’t going to kill me so, for the love of Pete, suck.it.up.”

I’m obviously talking about the larger things in life here. Things which are difficult to overcome. So why when the playing field is no longer even reasonably level, is it then that we expect so much more of ourselves? As if we are saying to our circumstances, “Oh YEAH?? Bring it on! It’ll take more than this to bring me down.”

Isn’t there strength to be found in calling something difficult what it is?

As Christians, we cling to the verse in Romans 8: ‘In all these things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us.’ Yet the longer I walk with Christ, the more I have been caused to reevaluate what conquering – victory – may look like.

Because it won’t necessarily be me standing on top of a hill waving a flag with a huge smile on my face. It might be much less than that though victory nonetheless.

What if sometimes victory is as simple as being able to say, “I’m still here. I’m still standing on the truth. I’m still listening. My head is still UP”?

What if victory is oftentimes simply survival?

In this period of my life, there are so many things I wish I were doing better. I wish I were stronger, wiser, more mature, more calm. If I measure myself against a bar higher than survival, I am clearly failing this season altogether.

But grace shows me that, in reality, I’m not failing.

I’m still loving my kids (imperfectly).

I’m still showing up.

I’m still feeding us.

I’m still moving forward. Painfully slowly or not, I am still moving.

And I still know my foundation:

I am still standing on a rock that no wave can sweep me off.

Am I enjoying it? No. Am I thrilling to the “adventure”? No. Can I find positive things to say about it everyday? No.

But am I surviving it? Yes.

And for this reason alone I want to shout at my inner critic, YES I AM, YOU BIG BULLY!!”

Because I am victorious, even now. And so – I bet – are you.

jsg/mar15