Get your hopes up

I don’t think I’ve ever told someone to get their hopes up. On the other hand, I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve used the opposite as a warning to others or a mantra to myself.

We seem to have this cultural fear of hoping in something that may disappoint us. It is as though the thought of disappointment weighs on us far more than the idea of living in a state of cynicism or pessimism.

I am hugely guilty of this, which is why I was so surprised when a song entitled ‘Get your hopes up,’ by Josh Baldwin came up on my Spotify playlist.

The words were so counter-intuitive that I paused to listen, and was surprised at how compelling they were. One of the key refrains of the chorus says

“Get your hopes up, our God is for us, He’s brought us back to life.”

As someone who easily lapses in to cynicism and worry, this was a good reminder to look up. As a Christian, I have every reason under heaven to get my hopes up. Not only have I been given the assurance of an eternity in heaven, by no merit of my own, but I have also been promised that God will work all things here on earth for my good and his glory.

She is no fool who has her hopes always upward in the promises of Jesus.

 

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When fear sits beside me…

I’ve always struggled with fear. In fact, every big change in my life, even those that have been the greatest blessing, has been accompanied by fear. I was afraid to start University, and afraid to launch into my teaching career. I felt fear sitting beside me as I contemplated buying my first house and I still feel it niggling in the pit of my stomach every time I travel.

I know I’m not alone. Fear is part of the human condition, but let’s not believe that it’s unconquerable.

Carrie Fisher is quoted to have said “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.”

Inspiring as I find this quote, the Bible does one better. It tells us that we do not need to be afraid.

The other night I was reading Psalm 27. This is the first section of Scripture that I ever memorised as a child, but this time it spoke to me in a new way.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

There are three clear reasons in this text that remind us why we don’t need to fear. First, the Lord is our light; he shows us the way. Second, the Lord is our stronghold; he anchors us with purpose and security. Finally, He is our salvation; the end-game is won and our eternity is sealed.

What can mortal man do to us?

What I would tell my student-teacher self

I’m working with a pre-service teacher at the moment, which has caused me to reflect on my own days as a prac student.

How far I have come!

My first teaching placement occurred in the fourth year of my degree, and I soon thought I’d made a terrible mistake. The enormity of the job overwhelmed me. I was staying at the school until after dark every night and then going home, anxious and feeling unprepared for the day to come.

I distinctly remember lying in bed one night, with thoughts and worries rushing chaotically through my head, praying for rest and sleep. I remember praying through Scripture, trying to get some rational perspective, reminding myself that the things of this world are temporary (lesson plans and unit plans would pass away!)

I didn’t sleep all night.

I feel for that young woman, all those years ago. I wish I could sit beside her on the side of the bed and tell her that I’m still in the job ten years later. That I can’t remember the last time I lost any sleep over work related issues, and that lessons flow out of me now with hardly a thought.

But I can’t tell her that. I can only remember, today, to trust Jesus better than I did back then. To take on the advice of Hudson Taylor, and, looking to the face of Jesus, determine that ‘whatever did not agitate the Saviour, or ruffle His spirit, was not to agitate mine.’

 

Why shouldn’t I, in this moment, be perfectly, blissfully happy?

It’s Saturday morning. I’ve slept in and I’m sitting in bed with my porridge and a cup of tea that is teetering on being tepid as I forgot about it while I was scrolling through Facebook. It’s still warm enough to be pleasant though, and as I raise it to my lips I look out my window to see birds fly behind barren winter tree branches. I hear them chirping and cooing and suddenly the question pops into my head: Why shouldn’t you, in this moment, be perfectly, blissfully happy?

It surprises me, because I don’t feel like that, but as I think about it, I have no reason not to. Right in this moment, I don’t need to think about the school marking I have to do, or the cleaning, or whatever pressures I may have in life. In this moment I am free to be abundantly content.

How many ‘this moments’ exist in a day? Hundreds of them; thousands even. I remember hearing once that anxiety and worry are almost always concerned with the past and the future. Rarely do we have anything to seriously concern ourselves with in this moment.

This truth can be liberating. As I drink my now-lukewarm tea, I am going to choose, for this moment to be perfectly, blissfully happy.

I’m 30, so I only do what I’m good at (or: Swing Dancing out of my comfort zone.)

jon-heder-can-still-do-the-napoleon-dynamite-danceI went to a swing dancing class.

I signed up a month ago in a moment of impulsive bravery. While learning to dance has been on my bucket list for ages, I’d never been courageous enough to take the plunge.

The night of the class crept up on me faster than I’d expected. Driving in, I could feel the nerves buzzing through my body and had to actively concentrate on calming myself.

I was surprised how scared I was. As a kid, I was the nervous type, wrapping my comfort zone around me like a fleecy blanket, but I’ve come so far since then! I’ve traveled the world and jumped out of a plane and I’m no stranger to arriving at a party by myself. And yet, here I was, ready to bail on a simple dance class.

My friend was surprised to see me so nervous, and I realized how protective we can be of ourselves as adults. I’m usually a fairly confident and self-assured person, because I usually only choose to do things that are in my comfort zone. Anything that requires coordination (or any kind of team sport) terrifies me, so for most of my adult life, I’ve avoided it. And here I was, about to clumsily step on the feet of a dozen strangers.

Turns out it was far less scary than I’d thought and I’m definitely keen to go back. I keep hearing the phrase ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ Maybe it’s time I did.

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(Apparently I’ll be like this in no time.)

 

 

I’ve got 99 problems…

IMG_603953887545918Unfortunately this meme is too often reminiscent of my life. In fact lately, I’ve come face-to-face with the fact that when my life feels like it’s spinning out of control, it’s usually mostly in my head.

Now my head is a very real and complex place, so it’s not like that realization suddenly solves all my problems, but it does help to put some things in perspective. It also helps to find my solution.

See I might have 99 problems, but I have one solution.

When I don’t understand myself or I’m anxious about other people or I can’t seem to control my circumstances, there is one place that is my quiet eye in the storm. There is one place where I’m the most real version of me; a place where the crazy woman with her 99 made up problems fades away.

When I’m alone, on my floor, with my Bible.

When I’m reading the words of my Anchor within the veil and remembering that I was not made, primarily, for here.

It’s a comforting thought to know that the wild, heady confusion has a resting place.

Your Body Can Handle More Than You Think

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I recently watched a TED talk about stress by Kelly McGonigal. (you can watch it here.)

Being a self confessed ‘stresser,’ I was fascinated by McGonigal’s premise that stress in itself is nowhere near as damaging to our health and wellbeing as we have been inclined to think. Rather, she claims, it is the mere belief that stress is harmful to our health, which causes such drastic ill effects.

As I watched the talk, I found myself reflecting on something that has always astounded me. The human body has a phenomenal capacity to endure suffering. We can handle far more than we can even imagine, it’s just that, most of the time, our body doesn’t let on to this fact. Our panic and fear-of-impending-doom responses often kick in early, as they are well designed to do, but sometimes that leaves us with the feeling that something that will cause us no harm at all, is an imminent threat.

I could immediately see connections to my faith. God has not promised us an easy ride, in fact, Christians have almost been guaranteed hardship, and yet we have also been promised that we will be able to endure. How often do we fall into harm’s way, not because we have been given more than we can bear, but because we have given into the temptation of worry and anxiety?

Perhaps taking our anxieties first to the Throne of Grace will give us greater protection from harm, than avoiding challenging situations.

How can I trust God when He gives no guarantee things will get easier?

cliff-drop-warning-sign--information_19-133742Anyone who has come face to face with the call to trust God in the midst of suffering will understand these feelings of trepidation.

The Christian, never having been promised an easy life, is still supposed to trust God, knowing that He may lead us into hardships. Sometimes it feels like you’re standing at the top of a cliff, fearfully putting your trust in someone who may well push you off, against your wishes and with no warning.

I remember wrestling with this during one of my most unwell times. ‘How can I trust someone who may allow me to go even deeper into this pit of suffering?’ It’s a very real question. If I can’t trust a God who loves me to protect me from what I fear most, then what can I trust Him for?

Sometimes I think we forget what it means to be a Christian. It means that we’ve been crucified with Christ. Crucified! We have given up all of our earthly rights in the hope that we can be restored to relationship with God; that we have a home in heaven; and that all things will, ultimately, work together for our good.

We do not chiefly trust in God to make our lives easier. We surrender our lives, to share in His sufferings, because we believe it is the greatest possible trade we could make. Our trust is in God, not for earthly pleasures, but for the glory that will one day be revealed.