Tag: change

Preparations

Preparations

When this subject first came to my mind I didn’t feel I could blog about it because in the Christian calendar, we often associate preparation with the end of the world and Jesus coming back again, not Christmas. But with major Christmas adverts already on the TV, light switch ons taking place around the country, Christmas food in the shops, Christmas songs starting to squeeze onto the radio, we cannot deny that Christmas is on the way and with it, all the busyness and preparations it brings.

In my household, Christmas food, music, decorations and movies (other than the cheesy Hallmark movies on TV on a lazy Saturday evening), aren’t allowed until 1st December. That doesn’t mean there is nothing Christmassy going on behind the scenes though throughout these weeks leading up to then. My family are preparing the mixture for the Christmas cake, looking at where to get our Christmas tree, organising which local events to attend, budgeting for presents, designing cards and working out when we can visit family.

Besides Christmas, I am in a time of preparation right now in my personal life and with regards to YouBelong. At the end of this month, I leave my office job to focus on YouBelong and improving my health. It’s exciting but there’s so much I want and need to do that it has become a bit overwhelming.

I mentioned at the start then when I think of preparation from a Christian perspective, my brain automatically goes to Jesus second coming. But Lent is also a time of preparation. Traditionally, Christians use up perishables such as eggs, milk and butter, ready to fast for 40 days. Fasting is used by many Christians, and people of other religions too, as a way to focus on God in the days, weeks or months leading up to a big event or moment so as we can pray to Him about a particular thing with an element of sacrifice and without distraction.

After all that has happened in 2019, all the encouragement, affirmations and prayer, I feel more strongly than ever that I am making the right choices around leaving work and using my time to do YouBelong, despite it not being a financially secure, simple option. But as I head into this time of preparation, God feels far away and silent. This brings doubt to my mind. Am I doing the thing God wants me to do or is it what I want to do? Is that why God isn’t talking to me? If God isn’t making it very clear that He is with me in this, is it right to be plowing ahead?

For a long time, this has concerned me but someone very important spent 40 days in the desert, the same person who we fast for, and it was in this time that God was silent. Jesus was alone. He was challenged and faced conflict, doubt and extreme hunger and thirst but still God didn’t show up. But at the last moment, when Jesus pointed to God the Father saying, ” Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. ” At that point, God sent His angels to tend to Jesus and after that, He came back into the towns and villages and the miracles and wonders of Jesus started flowing bountifully!

My plans haven’t worked out, but God’s have. When I sit down to take steps forward, doing careful planning and trying to do the right thing, I don’t get anywhere. But when I sit back, and allow God to take control, He brings the right people to me at just the right time and shows me where to go next and gives me glimpses of what the future will be.

Sitting back and doing nothing over the Christmas period might mean we go without Christmas dinner, our family don’t get presents and the house doesn’t get decorated but in our lives, preparation can be just as, if not more, successful, when we sit back and wait on God to do His thing. If you are heading into a busy time in your life, or perhaps you feel like God is far away, maybe He is preparing you right now for something big and you need to take some time out to be with Him in the silence. Maybe try fasting – it doesn’t have to be food. Giving something up like watching TV in the evening, going on social media etc. are all things we can give up and that when we think of them, we can instead pray to God and listen for His direction without distraction.

There is more to think about, and some action points from Joyce Meyer here if you want to dig deeper into this topic. And if you are going through a time of preparation, I would love to hear from you so we can travel down this road together.

Transitions (life update!)

Transitions (life update!)

I am going to start this post with a personal life update and the reason for the topic this week. Almost 2 weeks ago, I handed in my notice at work, the place I spend 2 days a week and where I get my income from. There are multiple reasons for doing this but the main reasons are my continual struggle with balancing work with pain and fatigue and the desire to put more time and effort into YouBelong to give it the chance to grow in a new way and hopefully, help people.

As of the new year, YouBelong will be the main focus of my week days and I could not be more excited! However, it is a big change and with change comes a dose of fear. Transitions, particularly ones that result in a less sure income, change in routine and people you see day to day, are often scary. Although I am so ready to get stuck in and see what happens, I also have, what I am going to call, the transition terrors.

Arguably, one of the most famous transitions in the bible is the Israelites journey from slaves to free, but more than that, from being fed and sheltered (even if only basically), to finding themselves out in the desert without protection from the elements and with no food or water easily available.

We can’t deny that God was involved in making this happen – He parted the Red Sea so they could cross safely and then closed it down on top of the Egyptians so they couldn’t catch up to and harm the Israelites. You might be wondering why God, who loved His people and freed them from slavery, would leave them in a desert place. Well, the Israelites did too and they brought that up to Moses who told them they just need to trust God and His plans for them. As you may know, they didn’t listen. They got angry at God, even after He sent them manna – food from Heaven! A few years on though, we can retrospectively, that God was working in that time and that the transition, although difficult, was worth it.

This gives me a new level of confidence in God and peace in my situation as although there are a lot of uncertainties and aspects where I feel like I will be worse off leaving work, I feel this is where God is leading me. I will likely come across moments where I feel like I am walking the deserts alone and struggling to find food and water (metaphorically speaking only I hope!), but if God is in the plan, He has a purpose and will provide.

Autumn is a key time of change in the year so being in that time as I go through transitions in my own life makes it easier to remember that though the leaves change colour, when they do so, they are beautiful! Then, they die and fall off BUT they grow back again. The tree doesn’t die, it just changes and adapts to what is going on around it and that is exactly what we have to do, with God guiding us every step of the way.

Are you in a place of change and transition right now? If so, we’d love to hear all about it and walk the journey together. If you feel comfortable doing so, email us at info@youbelong.org.uk or message us on Twitter or Facebook.

The Master Weaver

The Master Weaver

Before you get confused thinking you have clicked on the wrong blog post somehow, let me promise you that this is not a craft blog but indeed a post about God as the master weaver.

Many of us who were once healthy and became unwell and never recovered will likely have had dreams and plans for our future. We might have studied for a career, saved money for a holiday, dated to find a future spouse etc., but when we got sick, these dreams may well have gone down the drain as they were no longer feasible options for us.

In 2015, I had recovered from a surgery to open my oesophagus which enabled me to eat again and I was ready to start studying theology, ministry and mission at degree level at university. When I left for my first term, I still had some weakness, pain and fatigue that had remained after my surgery but felt it would only be a matter of time before that went away. 2 years into the course, it hadn’t gone away. Instead, it got worse and I had to drop the practical elements of my degree and carefully plan my weeks to enable me to attend lectures and do my assignments whilst ensuring I got enough rest in too.

I was struggling and realised that although I might be able to get through the degree if I really pushed myself, the chances of me being able to practically use my degree at the end of it were slim, so what was the point of finishing?! I am a stubborn, or tenacious (a more positive version of the same word) person, so decided if I could, I would complete the course anyway. Around this time, I was introduced to the world of online forums and pages for people like me to chat about our illnesses and discuss the parts of our every day lives that our other friends and family couldn’t understand or relate to. I also found out about some online ministries and even, online churches and figured that although this wasn’t what I had intended to do when I left uni, it was a possible avenue to explore.

You might be familiar with the story of Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob, who was favoured by his Father. This made his older brothers jealous and they decided to sell him as a slave and told their Father he had died in order to get rid of him. Later on in Joseph’s life, after many more obstacles, he finds himself with power and comes face to face with his brothers again. When they finally find out who he is (a few years and cultures apart made him look very different to how they remembered him), they asked him for forgiveness as they feared for their well-being and Joseph said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

There are some things that happen in our lives that don’t turn out the way we want or hope them to, but sometimes the way we plan for things to happen isn’t the way that God has written the story. As much as we can have plans and dreams, our final story will be decided by God and more often than not, His way is so much better when we reflect on the options afterwards. He is the master weaver – reweaving the strands of our lives in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined and making it more beautiful than ever before!

Although I had hopes and plans to be a youth worker, that wasn’t in God’s plan. Instead, He is using me to bring together others like me online, to learn more about God, worship Him, tell others about Him and teach the Church that just because we might have a disability or chronic illness, we are not lesser than everyone else. We have lots to give, and God is using us too.

If it hadn’t have been for my chronic illness, and for completing my degree, YouBelong would not have existed, so although some days are hard, I am thankful for this opportunity and excited to see what happens in the next 12 months!

Can you think of a moment in your life that seemed to go wrong or turn out differently to how you planned or anticipated but that ultimately, was used for good? Share your stories with us at http://www.twitter.com/youbelong_2019 or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/youbelong2019