Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Invisible building blocks

The door is closing on 2014. I can feel it creaking shut and it's a strange feeling.  I don't usually feel this way about a year ending but this year, usually one blurs into the other and the new year is just a continuation of the old year. This year though, it feels like one thing is finishing and another new thing is starting.

Is it because one child is starting high school and the last child is starting primary school? Perhaps, but it feels like more than that.

I wonder what 2015 holds.
My hope is that I will finish 2014 well, finish it strong.

I've been thinking about invisible building blocks recently. Our human reasoning tends to think that everything tangible is made up from other things that also have physical, tangible properties. Cake is made from flour, eggs, sugar etc...buildings are made up of concrete, timber, steel and bricks but God actually uses words as invisible building blocks.  In Hebrews 11:3 it says: By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

This says that what we see and touch around us actually was made from words, invisible building blocks.

Here are some thoughts:
  1. Whatever we speak by faith now is what becomes our reality tomorrow.
  2. God has put thousands of blessings in the Bible for us but if we don't believe they are for us, if we don't speak them over our lives and ignore what our circumstances may be telling us, we will never see them come to be realities in our lives. 
  3. What we are currently praying for and believing God for with our words is being physically made as we speak it.
What we speak in prayer in 2014 is what becomes a reality in 2015.

We know this is true because we can see it in children, in people around us. If you speak constant negativity to someone they will eventually have that low self-esteem and meet your negative expectations. Conversely if you speak positively to someone constantly they will begin to change and be the person you expect them to be.

In all of this I am realizing the power of purposefully blessing someone or some situation, of anointing them or anointing a situation. It used to happen a lot in the old Testament and I wondered how on earth the dying parent could possibly think up some words for each child and pronounce it over them as something special. What could words possibly mean?

I'm realizing though that there is something mysterious about deliberately declaring God's promises over a person to be able to change their situation - or even declaring it over our own situations.

Do you deliberately bless?
Are you aware of creating a reality from your words?
What is it you long for in 2015? How will you speak into that?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Decemberitis: A Challenge to make Christmas more inclusive

I just realized today that Decemberitis has set in. I don't know how on earth I forget every year because it comes as regular as clockwork at the end of November/beginning of December.

Decemberitis usually starts with seeing people's Facebook statuses but sometimes it also just starts because the standard conversation fillers start to include 'so what are you doing for the holidays?'  and you realize that everybody has pretty much got plans with family or extended family and/or plans for going away on holiday somewhere with them.. And you don't. And your family live tens of thousands of miles away.

Having lived away from our extended family for a decade we've toughened up a little bit and made a determined effort to make our own traditions but while we can focus on our kids, there are an awful lot of people who don't have immediate family at all or have lost parents or grandparents this year, the people who drive traditions.

Decemberitis hits in a different form on other occasions as well. Australia Day, Grandparents Day, even at school pickup times when many grandparents are helping parents out.

If you're one of our real life friends, please don't feel sorry for us, Decemberitis only lasts a week and then we start making plans that are fun and will bring that joy.

I would challenge anyone reading this though to look around them and spot people who might be lonely around Christmas, particularly on Christmas Day and ask yourself if there's any way you can include someone in your festivities? We can't make everybody happy and sometimes making room at the family table is a little bit difficult but there are always ways of doing something little to tell someone who finds Christmas Day lonely that you care about them.

Being on 'our own' in the past we have often invited another overseas family or older lady over to join us for our Christmas meal. What could you do to make Christmas more inclusive?

Friday, December 5, 2014

What it's like to have ulcerative colitis?

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time because until I had it, I couldn't possibly have told you what ulcerative colitis is like.  I haven't written it before this because:

  1. I didn't want to moan
  2. I didn't want to bore people
  3. I didn't want people to feel sorry for me
I think though that it's important to write this post for anyone who is newly diagnosed or anyone who is supporting someone who is newly diagnosed.

If you're squeemish or prudish please don't read any further. 

First things first though. I'm unapologetically a Christian. I believe in supernatural healing and while I have UC, I'm absolutely believing that one day I'll be freed completely from it and will hear my doctor tell me I don't need to take any more medication.  In the meantime I'm keeping doing what the doctor says and speaking God's word over my body. I also believe that when I'm healed there will be no doubt about where my healing comes from.

When I first was diagnosed two and a half years ago, I thought UC was a tummy bug which you took a month's worth of pills and that would be it, it would be sorted. When I asked my doctor how long I needed to take the medication for I misheard him and thought he said 15 years. What he actually said was 50 years, the rest of my life.

I walked out of that consultation and (presumptuously) told God that was most certainly not going to happen. 

Ulcerative Colitis is an auto-immune disease which produces too much of the immune system 'attack' cells in the lining of your gut. When you're sick, your body sends attack cells to get rid of the sickness but in UC, too many are produced and the attack cells start attacking your normal cells when you're healthy too.  Experts are not sure what exactly causes it... it could be genetic (which seems to be my case) or sometimes caused by stress.  It often appears in your late 30s and early 40s but can appear at any time.  Specialists believe that it is life-long and cannot be cured but needs constant medication which induces sometimes long periods of remission.

For me I didn't realize it but I had a small episode 10+ years ago, the doctors didn't know what it was and it went away by itself. I had another one about 5 or 6 years ago. Both of these were shown by blood when I passed stool. After a month or so the episodes stopped.

It wasn't until two and a half years ago that I had a five week period of bleeding and riotous diahoerrea. I couldn't go out of the house without needing to go to the toilet three or four times. Even having just gone, I would get to the door and need to go again. Then I'd get to the car and have to rush inside to the loo again.  I'd finally get in the car and get to the shops and have to go to the loo again.  I might get half way round a shop and have to rush out to the loo again.  

At first I thought it was just a tummy bug provoked by a bad curry, then I thought that it was like the first two episodes and would go away by itself. And as a Christian who believes in healing, I just kept praying and believing for healing.  

I finally went to the GP who was appalled I had waited so long before coming to see her and recommended a gastroenterologist.  I had to wait another two months to see him during which time it just got worse and worse. By the time I saw him and had a colonoscopy I had had three months of feeling completely drained, weak and extremely tired. I was in bed most of the time that I didn't have to do something else and dragging myself from place to place.

My gastroenterologist (GE) is very direct. There's no sugar coating things with him so I won't bore you with all the little gems he's shared with me but needless to say they're not faith-building.  Still, I believe God ordains doctors and nurses to be used by him and bring healing so I did what I was told to do... mostly.

Occasionally I forgot to take my medication and falling into the trap of feeling better plus hanging out for healing, thought it didn't matter.  

All my relapses have been due to accidentally missing medication and each relapse has been worse than the last and needed stronger medication than the last.  I'm still believing for complete supernatural healing but I'm much more careful too to do what the doctor's say as well.

My last relapse happened this September/October when I ended up in hospital for a week on IV fluids, potassium and steriods plus some stronger IV and oral meds.  It happened during a changeover of medication and the new ones didn't work.  

After a month I got so dehydrated from going to the toilet about 14 times a day and my potassium levels got so low that after a week of IV fluids and oral medication, I staggered home thinking I'd be ok.  I had lost 4kg and I couldn't really afford to.  Just walking to the car was exhausting. I had to walk 5 minutes to the pharmacy to pick up some meds and it was the most I could do to concentrate on staying upright and not falling over.

It took me two weeks after being released from hospital to get back to feeling remotely normal: to be able to sit at the table and have dinner with the family, to not hold on to the shower wall without feeling dizzy, to be able to walk 4 year old Little Bun to pre-school next door without feeling like I was going to keel over.

Even 7 weeks after being released from the hospital now, I can go out with the family to the shops for about 4 hours and then suddenly I'll have to sit down or go home quickly because I've just run out of energy. I never thought it would take me so long to recover.  We take the levels of potassium in our bodies so much for granted and it's used for doing what you would never imagine you needed energy to do.

Now I'm able to go back to work, although I'm more tired at the end of the day than I used to be, and to do most normal things but I'm still not right. I'm seeing a dietician and am on a low FODMAP diet which cuts out things that are harder to digest (lactose, fructose, gluten etc) and that helps too.

What does it feel like physically?
Perhaps it's different for each person but this is what it feel like for me.
  • My legs ache terribly during an episode
  • I feel very weak, lacking in energy and conserve the energy that I do have for the absolute basics
  • In a bad bout, you get extremely dehydrated and your core levels get so low that you shake when expending the smallest amount of energy
  • You long just to lie in bed and do nothing but if you have children or a spouse you have to keep getting up and doing things anyway.
  • Your stomach feels constantly uneasy and unpredictable.
  • It's a vicious circle because going to the toilet causes anxiety and stress which in turn results in you going to the toilet.
What's it like mentally?
  • It's frightening to see bleeding when you know it's not normal. 
  • There's a helplessness, you will your body to respond but it won't and you dread a bleed because you never know whether the medication will be strong enough or not, there's no way of knowing what's a normal recovery time for you.
  • You dread going to the toilet
  • You dread going out because you have to plan your trips around locations where there's a toilet.
  • You wish you could just be normal and you envy people who have energy to do things like going for a bush walk with their family or being creative because while you'd like to do that you are just concentrating on surviving and getting to the toilet in time.
  • You are hearing all kinds of terrible things from medical professionals, scary things and yet you somehow have to believe that at some point in the future this will all be a distant memory.
  • Not wanting to be a hypochondriac it's difficult to know when you need professional help and when you just need to wait it out.

If you have just been diagnosed with UC here's my advice/experience
  1. No matter how you feel physically, take all your medication until your Dr tells you to stop. Skipping some intentionally or unintentionally can lead to an episode. I now set an alarm on my phone to remind me.
  2. Believe for complete healing but do what your doctor says. You are on God's careplan, he absolutely has healing for you and he sometimes uses doctors, nurses and dieticians to do it.
  3. Eat bananas and keep your potassium levels up. The longer you have diahoerrea the more your system gets depleted and your base levels are used for even the most minor of physical actions.
  4. Be aware that UC is progressive so the longer an episode goes unchecked the worse it gets. 
  5. See a dietician, Forewarned is forearmed and if you have an episode there are things you can do to make it easier on your gut and give your system the best possible chance of a fast recovery.
If you know someone with UC, here's how you can help
I have some incredible friends who were just beautiful in my hardest moments: friends who turned up with flowers, friends who travelled an hour just to see me and pray with me, friends who picked up kids, friends who cooked dinners, friends who brought round chick flicks for me to watch while I was recovering, friends who brought round groceries when I couldn't crawl to the shops. They may not tell you when they're having a UC attack but you'll know if they are visiting the toilet excessively and looking weak and tired.
  1. Give them time and space to rest as much as they need. They may not be able to remember your birthday present or be there for you but allow them to come back to you when they can.  They are conserving their energy for the absolute essentials and just surviving.
  2. Offer help babysitting or picking up kids but if they say they're fine, just allow them to choose the help they need and trust that when they need help they'll take you up on it.
  3. Just show up. People can often manage but if you just show up with groceries when they are finding it hard to face a supermarket trip, they will absolutely be very welcome.
  4. Cooking and delivering a dinner is an absolute boon for someone with UC who has to still look after their family while they are having a severe attack.
  5. Send them a message to let them know you're thinking of them. Having an episode of UC is a big deal and people who are healthy sometimes don't realize what it means to have it.  Little messages of love and support to let them know you care about them, that you notice what's going on in their life is really precious.
  6. If you're a Christian, speak faith over your friend. Believe for their healing. If you're not a Christian then speak positive words over them and encourage them, they're probably hearing all kinds of scary and unpleasant things and need as much positive thinking as they can get.
I've had all of these and counted them as such a blessing so I hope it helps someone else who is supporting someone with UC to know what to do.

If you have UC or know someone with it and found this helpful, I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The one where I swallow my pride and eat my hat

I counted up the times that people told me to see a nutritionist, dietician or try going gluten free and came up with the number 6.

I gulped because after the dietician told me off (very nicely) and told me how many times a day I was eating something with gluten in it, I thought I really should try it at least.

I gulped because even though I was very resistant and obstinately not wanting to do it, I know that when God speaks he normally says it in 7 or 8 different ways but I did think I had got better at listening and better responding quickly to his voice.

I gulped because this last week I went gluten free for the first time in my life and within 24 hours I felt a vast improvement in how comfortable my stomach felt after a meal. Instead of feeling like all my food was sitting on the outside of my stomach like a giant uneasy unpredicatable blob strapped to me, I felt normal again.

I didn't want it to be gluten. I didn't see why God would have put me in this time and this place and not enabled me to eat everything he had provided for me. I didn't want to jump on the food intolerance band wagon or see things where they weren't. I tried cutting out everything else that the dietician recommended but gluten was too hard, it's in everything.

I like my dietician though. She thinks of it like resting your foot when it's broken, only it's your gut we're talking about here. It's injured and it needs a rest and some foods make it work harder than it can.  She talks about how this is only temporary and foods will be reintroduced later once the gut has recovered. I like her because she too didn't want her personal experience to have to go gluten free for a period but when she tried it she found it made a huge difference. It's a bit like having alcohol she told me, you can have it but you know you'll have a hangover the next morning. You can eat anything you want but you know it'll have an effect on you the next day. I like that she has experienced it physically and can testify that it works. It's not theory to her, it's experience.

What has shocked me is how much of a difference it makes to my daily physical comfort and how just taking medication isn't enough.

So now I'm temporarily gluten free. It's a big deal for me. It's a pain in the butt and I can't wait to stop but for the minute I'm grateful to be more at ease and I feel for people who are on it permanently.

If you have someone in your world who has to be on a GF, lactose free diet or anything like it, give them an extra special hug, bake them the most delicious GF muffin you know how to make and buy them dark chocolate and delicious sorbet. It'll be your extra special way of letting them know you care.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stripping back Christmas

Perhaps this is becoming my default position each year but I keep coming back to a simpler Christmas. 

I've gone off card writing. You might be lucky to get an email or perhaps it'll just be a blog post with a family photo. 

We're planning a weekend escape before Christmas this year and I am looking forward to making myself take a social media break. I might not be commenting very much but I've been reading way too much of it.

Presents this year just won't be handmade (I don't have the energy - sorry!) and with some family members we've agreed a Present Amnesty. In any case we won't go mad on presents, it'll likely be one per child plus a modest stocking. I joked with Lillipilli as we were reading Little House on the Prairie that her stocking this year might just be a tin cup, two pieces of candy and a coin. She laughed and then blanched.

We won't be doing our annual whopper Christmas bbq for the first time in four years this year. I would love to but I know I just can't this year so I am making myself be ok with that.

Food will be lighter rather than heavier because... quite frankly, it's far too hot. Aldi is crammed full of Christmas goodies but I have no desire to spend the month of December eating them.  The year I stockpiled in advance, the chocolate melted and went off before we could get it out of the cupboard. What a waste!  

In the past I've done a lot of Christmas baking but I think this year I won't. It'll be only what we want to eat and only when we want to eat it.

Even in the Christmas tree department we've got ours up but I'm not so bothered about decorating the rest of the house. 

I almost jumped for joy at the simplicity of Little Bun (aged 4) when asked what she'd like for Christmas said:

I don't know what I want, I already have everything. Maybe a colouring book?

Don't be thinking her a saint or anything. Every time a Christmas toy ad comes on TV she wants whatever that was! For one little moment though I did think... how lovely!

One of our facebook friends is escaping for 7 weeks with their family and determinedly going offline completely - no phone, no internet, no social media, no photos even of them on holiday. It sounds like absolute bliss. I'm sorely tempted to do the same.

I'm looking forward to keeping things simple and focused. Reading the Christmas story every night after dinner and lighting Advent candles starting tonight, going to the kids Christmas production at church on the 21st and a small celebratory meal.

I don't know whether the source is lack of energy or whether it's having been ill makes you prioritize and let everything else go.

I'm realizing that so much of our Christmas traditions are just traditions... things that can be let go or changed, that making things lighter and less stressful is far more attractive and we can still remember why we are celebrating in the process of it all.

What traditions are you stripping back or changing this year? Do you go the whole hog or do you have a minimalist Christmas? Are your Christmas traditions linked to the weather - think Northern Hemisphere roasts and Southern Hemisphere BBQs and salads?

I'd love to hear how you're planning on spending December and celebrating Christmas.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Planning your Finances: Boring but Freeing

[I'm a little daunted writing this post knowing at least one of our real life friends is an excellent financial manager but here goes anyway. This is for all you ordinary joes who are learning on the hoof just like we have been.]

When I think about how we started married life 17 years ago and what our financial planning was (pretty much nil), I am amazed at the change to where we are now.

Heck, when I think of what we were doing 5 years ago, even two years ago or even last year I can't believe the change time and God has brought to our habits, to my habits, you could knock me over with a feather.

When Pikalily (our eldest) was born 12 years ago I had a mad panic about how we were going to survive on one low salary. We didn't plan our finances at all, we were pretty much living month to month, often going into our overdraft and coming out of it momentarily when we got paid only to go back in it again.

Having never really had any financial management training we've had to figure things out for ourselves the hard way and by reading books about finances and posts by bloggers like Carrie, an instinct that God doesn't want his children to be in debt and a whole lot of prayer.

Here's the shortened version of a very long journey.

  • 10 years ago we moved to New Zealand and were just about surviving financially but slowly going backwards. We prayed and asked God what to do because we knew we couldn't sustain living there even though we were living as simply as we could. After 13 months the hubster was offered a job transfer to Fiji.
  • Fiji was an absolute Godsend. We were living on an expat salary with house and bills paid for and we were able to travel to see our families. Towards the end of 20 months though we had this vague feeling that we were wasting money by not planning properly, that we were not being responsible with what God had given us and that we needed to plan better and be more intentionally.
  • We moved to Australia, to Sydney, one of the most expensive cities in the world, and suddenly our money had to go a whole lot further. It was a painful 7 years as while we waited for visas to be approved we had to pay massive school fees and every time we went to the doctor or for blood tests it meant more money we didn't have flowing out of the bank account. To make matters worse we live in area where there are a lot of wealthy people who seem to have no problems going on holiday, affording exorbitant cars/houses/boats etc or paying for extra-curricular activities for their kids.
  • Almost one year ago we prayed in faith that we would be able to see our families for the first time in 6 and a half years and incredibly it happened! 

As I thought about this last year and the events that we have gone through even since the Miracle Trip I realize that God has been teaching me several financial truths/disciplines. I would have liked him to take away a large chunk of our story but at the same time I'm so grateful that he has been teaching us good financial principles that I can see are going to change our finances in the future for the better. 

Here's what I've learned over this year:
  1. Give when you have little, give when you have plenty: I firmly believe that God intends for us to be abundantly and continually generous but that means that that you have to train yourself to be generous in the good times and the bad times. It's easy as pie to be generous to others when you have all your needs met, you have money in the bank and food in the fridge and you have that holiday already booked and paid for. It's absolute agony to give when you don't know if you can afford to go food shopping that day because maybe there was a delay in your salary coming through or the kids are asking for things and you have to say no because you need to pay a school bill instead. That kind of giving is precious to God because it is costly sacrificial giving. Remember Jesus's reaction to the widow who gave two copper coins (Mark 12:41-43)? We are called to bless others no matter what our circumstances and we are called to trust God for everything. I'm not advocating taking the food out of your children's mouths to give to others but I am talking about having a giving budget and planning what to give whether you have plenty or little. I'm talking about having people over for dinner without giving into fear of lack of finances.  This subject gets a little touchy for people so please hear me with a whole lot of grace and realize the spirit behind it is that we're called to be generous all the time, not just when we have plenty and there's a reason for that... read point number 8.
  2. Give to God first This one takes discipline training. When you've decided to give to God, I find it's best to make it a non-negotiable. When we get paid our salaries, The first payment I make is our giving to God so that there is no temptation to fudge on it or to accidentally forget. I've found God to be 110% faithful. We have been on one salary for a whole decade plus and I have only just gone back to work in the last year or so and yet God has always been faithful to us, we may have had some pretty hairy financial moments but God has come through for us every single time. When we honour him and trust him to provide for us, he honours us and provides for us. Sometimes miraculously, often with hilarious 'serendipity'.
  3. Save 10% for seed money second This is a new habit for me and one I've learned the discipline to do only in the last year or so.  It comes from a teeny tiny little book called The Richest Man in Babylon but the financial wisdom in it is very thought-provoking and profound. If you know any farmers you'll be able to tell me if this is true or not but I've heard that every farmer keeps back 10% of his seed for planting for the next year. We too need to keep back 10% of our finances to sow into investments or things that will earn money. If you read The Richest Man in Babylon or another great book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, there is this concept that even though your finances are tight, if you decide to set aside 10%, somehow strangely even though you didn't think there was any wriggle room at all, you are still able to live within your means. In fact these two books suggest that everybody, no matter what their income is able to live on 70% of their income.  Try it and see. We're not quite there yet. We put aside some money but we're working on getting it up to 10% and it's incredibly fulfulling knowing that when a good investment opportunity comes along that we are able to take advantage of it because we already have the funds set aside. It's never too late to start doing this.
  4. Save 10% for bills third The things that always surprises us is that there are the bills that we expect (see point 5) but there are always ones that catch us unawares and that could be anything from a small amount to a fairly hefty amount. Our family creates our budget but we also build in an amount each month for bills that are not predictable. This might be dental bills, unexpected school costs or ones that only come once a year like car registration. Having this money set aside in a savings account takes the stress out of nasty little surprises that the year brings. If it doesn't get used up in one month then it carries over to the next month and we usually find that sooner or later we really need to use it for something.
  5. Budget and planning may be boring but it is incredibly freeing The hubster has created the Spreadsheet to top all Spreadsheets. He set it up just before he did the CAP Money course and after the course tweaked it to take into account not just monthly expenses but ones that came up for the year.  He puts everything in there and I truely mean everything. For example, he's put in a giving budget so that when something comes up that we would like to give in to, we know that no matter how tight things might be, we can still give out of that money that has already been set aside. We used to have a clothing budget in there. I would like one day to have a travel budget. It can change and morph into whatever your current needs and priorities are but the point is that if you purposely decide what you need to pay for and what you would like to pay for, you aren't caught unawares and you aren't paying things with a knee jerk reaction.  
  6. Fight debt as hard as you can and with all that you can This is advice from the two books I mentioned earlier - they recommend putting 10% aside for your seed money and then 20% to fight your debt, leaving 70% to live on. We do things slightly differently but we do use all the resources we can to pay off our debt. I started doing it out of the food money. The hubster would allocate me a certain amount for food/school/clothes every month and I found that by squeezing a little extra every month I could put regular payments into paying off debt. It was incredibly difficult at first but I don't even think twice about it now. In fact every time I feel like God is giving me a new financial challenge I feel as though there's no way it would work but every single time it does and the money goes even further.
  7. As Carrie says Splurge a Little means that you can go the long haul This principal is invaluable for helping you to make a habit out of budgeting. If you're saving hard for something - paying off debt or to buy something specific - it can be as hard as doing a marathon so you need to reward yourself regularly. It doesn't have to be big, but something that brings you pleasure and enjoyment. If you're on basic rations, including a small food treat in there every so often can bring a great deal of feel-good factor. Perhaps planning a weekend away at a free campsite (yes they exist) might give you that extra boost of joy. Even if you have to save in order to splurge, it's worth it just for the joy and boost of keeping you going through the hard budgeting slog for the next bit. We all need a little bit of joy and play among the hard work.
  8. Believe in the law of sowing and reaping It's easy to get discouraged when you're constantly 'sowing' and never 'reaping' but just as surely as you plant seed in the ground and see a sprout come up several weeks later you know that in your giving of finances, hospitality, friendship, time, love etc, it produces a result, fruit.  And have you noticed that when you plant a seed it doesn't just come up with one sprout but many?  Jesus telling the parable of the sower points this out in Matt 13. Seed, good seed, produces 100x, 60x 30x what you sow. From a faith perspective, if you think about everything you sow and then realize that the nature of sowing means that what comes back to you is 100x, 60x, 30x what you sowed, it's incredible encouraging. The Law of Sowing and Reaping is not just a physical agricultural law like the the Law of Gravity is a law of physics and the universe, it also works on a spiritual, emotional and financial level too.  God's incredible like that. Nature has all these parallels and pictures just waiting there for us to read them and discover how he has set things up to work.
  9. Shop by necessity not as a leisure activity I'm not a shopaholic. I don't collect shoes or handbags. I wasn't really brought up to shop as a leisure activity simply because there weren't that many browsing opportunities where I grew up. Having said that I did fall into an unplanned window shopping habit where I'd go to buy one thing and then wander around looking at things that took my fancy. A classic was our trips to Ikea. We'd need something and go to buy it but come out with twice as many thing as were on our list and a whole unbudgeted for spend that we then had to pay for. Even op shopping (charity shopping) became a habit. I'd just check out what they had in there that week and then come out with a whole bunch of things that I needed. Going to the fabric store was fatal too.  Now with our budgeting overhaul I almost never go shopping at all. If you love to go shopping for leisure, why not budget in a shopping trip. Set aside some money specifically for going out, plan the time you're going to spend shopping, stick to your self-imposed limits and enjoy it knowing that it's all in the budget!
Have you got any financial/budgeting tips or tricks? Do you save or invest? Do you budget or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person? What has worked for you? What hasn't worked?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What does trust mean?

I sit here in the gloom of the storm outside, thunder rolls all around me lightening flashes great plates of light and forks that point menacingly towards the ground. The rain on the corrugated roof and dripping from the eaves reminds me comfortingly of Pakistan monsoon times.

I set off from work to pick up the kids from school just as the storm was about to burst and as I drove the increasing frequency of forked lightening around the car made me more and more nervous.

With every strike I wondered how it would feel to be struck by lightening. Where would the electricity pass through? Should I take my metal sunglasses off my head or would they attract an added bang? What would I tell the paramedics if I was hit? Where was my phone? Would they be able to call the school and let them know I had been struck by lightening and couldn't pick the kids up after all?

These are the ramblings of a mad woman who has been assured over and over again in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight... (Prov 3:5&6) 


...a thousand will fall at your your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you... (Ps 91:7)

As my nervousness increased and as I deliberately reminded myself of the verses I know by heart and I started to relax.

Recently I had an image of being a tightrope walker - not the nutter who tightrope walked between buildings the other day blindfolded and with no attachement or safety net - but one who is attached with ropes and cables and must cross a gorge.

I could see that God often asks us to do extremely scary things but he knows that even though we are freaking out, he has us securely attached and completely safe. They might be health things, they might be new jobs or new responsibilities, they might be new business ventures or new relationships. It could be anything really. We are looking at the height from which we could fall but God knows that we are 100% safely attached and although we might slip, he's keeping us from falling.

It was an incredibly reassuring image, one that made me feel emboldened to not look at circumstances but simply to know that whatever he was asking me to do I was safe to do.

I think that often we give trusting God great lip service. We might even trust him... a little bit. But what is the effect of real trust? For me I know I've entered into it when

  1. My shoulders relax (often when I didn't know they were tensed in the first place
  2. I can sleep without waking up and without disturbing anxious dreams
  3. I stop thinking obsessively about the situation
  4. My body feels relaxed, my stomach is not churning and uncomfortable
  5. I don't feel the need to plead with God but I simply know he's got my back.
  6. I don't feel I have to discuss it with people and I can talk about other things
Really truly trusting God makes a physical difference to our bodies, our attitudes, our thought life and our choices.

A very long time ago at the beginning of my journey with God I remember the thought popping into my head

Who are you going to believe? God or your circumstances? God or other people?

The best answer should have been God of course. It follows that being God he has got dibs on wisdom but I find it can often be a struggle. Other people and circumstances can sound incredibly convincing.

The other day I chose to read the first part of Deuteronomy 28 (the blessings bit) over our family. I was declaring blessing over everything and later that day I went shopping and got depressed over a situation. Hiding in the toilet I felt I just wanted to burst into tears I was so discouraged.

I realized that while just that morning I had been full of faith that God's word over our family would be the truth for our future, my subsequent 'confession' didn't match up and it should have. We can't get up in the morning and thank God for his promises for our life and then later on get depressed. Those promises are real and they are there so we can take hold of them and be encouraged when the rubber hits the road.

But it takes believing God, trusting him, inspite of our circumstances or inspite of other people's comments.

We don't have to lie about our circumstances and tell people that they're something that they're not but it does mean that we have to take God's promises seriously and believe that they are what our future is going to look like. Why would you go to fortune tellers or get tarot cards read? God's book is full of incredible life giving prophecies about your future, things that would blow your mind if you just knew it.

What does trust mean to you? Do you find it hard to trust God? Are there somethings that are easier to trust him with than others?