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?

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Life Laundry

I feel I should apologise for my blogging or rather lack of consistency but I don't think I shall.

The good thing about being not well is that you have a great excuse for finding out what really is important in life.It's as though everything is given a priority and you have limited energy to do a certain amount of things.  There's a great article written called The Spoon Theory which describes what it's like to live with chronic illness or disease and not to have the energy that you need.

I've been changing the way I think and seeing that:

  • My life will not be ruined if nobody reads my blog because I blog infrequently or blog about things they aren't interested in.
  • My life will not be over if my reputation is trashed and people think badly of me.
  • I will still get up every morning and love God even if my toilet may not get cleaned or I do nothing creative at all.
  • I may not contact my friends but my life will still be richer if I pause and hug the kids or take photos of them when they do funny things, if I pause to enjoy sunshine or delicious smells.
  • I may offend people unintentionally but I know who God is making me into and I can see good things growing in me.
  • I no longer want to spend time on fear or worry clogging up my peace.
Recently I heard of three people who lost people close to them, their situations were appalling to say the least. I realized we collect unnessary things - not just material things, but unnessary things that we we spend our time on, unnecessary worrying or thoughts, unhealthy behaviour etc. When someone loses a person or becomes ill, they realize that there are a number of things they simply cannot do or no longer want to spend their energy on.

It's been life laundry of sorts, a healthy sorting out of what is important and what is not and a realigning of perspectives.

These last few weeks I have been overwhelmed with gratitude to God for the tiny little things. 

Three weeks ago I couldn't walk to the bathroom without feeling dizzy, I couldn't sit for very long in a chair and I certainly couldn't do the washing up or drive anywhere. 

I feel so grateful for the girls being old enough to get themselves dressed and ready for school. I feel completely spoilt that they make their own lunchboxes. I am thrilled to be able to have a shower without having to steady myself by holding onto the wall and to be able to go shopping without having to sit down all the time feeling sick.

I remember the struggle it was to get my drivers licence 10 years ago and I drive feeling so thankful that I am no longer a nervous driver.  I look at Lillipilli's xrays from her broken arm 2 years ago and my arms that no longer are covered by bruises from all the blood tests and I am in awe of how God has created our bodies to repair themselves.

I hear of these three people's terrible situations and I am overwhelmed with gratefulness that I have the privilege of having Jesus be with me in my difficult situations. I am honoured that we get to take the hope of Jesus to those who have lost all hope. There's absolutely nothing better than seeing someone's heart transformed and them going from despair to hope.

What's been cluttering up your life or conversely, been making you grateful recently? Have you had a life laundry and a rearranging of perspectives?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Getting rid of the 'How'

I read an interesting article this week in Inc Magazine called 6 Tips to Hatch Incredibly Good Ideas which grabbed me with its first point: come up with a good idea without worrying how you'll make it work. Their point is that you need to come up with your idea and then work backwards from that.

I just realized that it dovetails nicely with something else I've been mulling over which is:
worrying about the 'how' sucks the life out of any faith project because when we can't imagine how God would do something, we stop believing he can or will do it.

I have some giant (for me) faith dreams going on at the moment and the hurdle that is blocking me at every pass is how will God do this. For some reason, I want to know the how.

I believe he can do them, I believe he is willing, I believe he is merciful and compassionate and won't delay longer than is absolutely necessary. I believe that my faith needs only to be the size of a mustard seed (and often it feels about that size). But how will it happen? How will he arrange it?

Does my faith in God depend on me knowing how he will do it? Why can't I be content with the mystery and trust that whatever it looks like, it will happen?

It's a bit like the confidence inventors have that somehow they will find a way to make their inventions work. Most people would resign themselves to the possibility that it just won't happen or that they will not be able to find the solution but not inventors. No, the inventor is confident that sooner or later they will find the solution and all they need to do is keep on trying different things.

Dare I say it?  Many Christians consign their faith dreams to the bin as impossible or that they will just not receive what they ask from God in their lifetime because they want to know the how and it destroys their faith that God can and will do it. Sometimes we just need to know that however impossible it looks, however limited our imagination, we will see those dreams graciously brought to reality by God.

Now, how to get over the how?
Do you struggle to have faith for what looks impossible? Do you get stuck on the how?

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Hospital Bed Revelations: #7: Fullness of Christ

This post is part of a series written during a recent hospital stay for an episode of ulcerative colitis. You can read part 1part 2part 3part 4, part 5 and part 6 by clicking the links. I'd love to hear your thoughts on healing, faith, long term illnesses, miracles etc so please leave a comment in the section below.

Sometimes a phrase or thought pops into my mind and as I mull it over something else joins it and makes something beautiful.

A few weeks ago, the phrase 'the fullness of Christ' came to mind. I didn't know what verse it was from but in my head at the time it was associated with people who believe having the fullness of Christ living in them.  I looked up that phrase just now and it turns out it was from Ephesians 4:13

...that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

As I thought of that phrase I thought about the Louis Giglio's presentation we saw in April this year on his video Indescribable that talks about the vastness and the magnitude of the universe and the incredible limitless power of God. I thought about how that raw power, the Holy Spirit, now comes to live in those who believe and put their trust in Jesus.  Louis Giglio talks about creation in terms of when God spoke the words 'let their be light' at the beginning of the world, searing heat and light rushed out of his mouth at the speed of light and created planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies and on and on and on.

The fullness of Christ.
The raw limitless power of the creative Holy Spirit which is the fullness of Christ now fills our cells and every space between each cell.

 People often want to explain God away, I often want to know how God works and explain him away but I can't. There are some mysteries that will remain mysteries because God is mysterious and how he does things don't always make sense to us.

In having Jesus live in our hearts, he not only comes and transforms our hearts, our attitudes, our thought life but I believe he actually transforms our bodies at a cellular level because somehow mysteriously and miraculously he also inhabits our cells and every space in our cells. In him we live and have our being. (Acts 17:28) He is before all things and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17). Without him nothing is made that has been made (John 1:3).

As I lay in bed, quite unable to even muster one single faith filled thought, I realized that very often we don't need to do anything at all. God doesn't require us to do or say anything. 

In fact, when the Israelites were running around in a panic at the edge of the sea with the Egyptians hounding them, God told them put a sock in it and just keep quiet. 

We could be in a coma or unable to communicate at all but because Jesus lives in us as much physically as spiritually, we carry his presence into situations and people are affected his fullness living in us without either them or us realizing it. Simply our physical presence is enough to bring Jesus into a situation and transform it. Isn't that amazing? It takes all the pressure off! Maybe that's why he said Be still and know that I am God (Ps 46:10).

If you're struggling with chronic illness this is a message of hope and transformation. If incredible power of God lives in every cell of your body and in the space inbetween them, that same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your body and mine. (Rom 8:11). 

The proof of the pudding is that on Sunday I met a lady who had suffered from osteo-arthritis for 30 years and particularly excruciatingly the last three years to the point where she would be in terrible pain just getting out of a chair and standing or doing the grocery shop and would need to lie down for an hour afterwards to let the pain subside. Two weeks ago she was healed in an instant from something that the doctors said there was no cure for and would only progressively get worse. She hasn't had to take one painkiller since her healing.

God heals.
He is willing.
He is merciful and doesn't hang around waiting for the right time.
He lives in our bodies at a cellular level when we invite him to.
There is nothing he can do despite what everyone around you will tell you is or isn't possible.
He loves you and has good plans for you, plans to bless you and not to harm you. His good thoughts towards you are more than all the grains of sand on our planet.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Hospital Bed Revelations: # 6: Fear, the Fortress and the Slayer

 This post is part of a series written during a recent hospital stay for an episode of ulcerative colitis. You can read part 1part 2part 3part 4 and part 5 by clicking the links. I'd love to hear your thoughts on healing, faith, long term illnesses, miracles etc so please leave a comment in the section below.

I had an interesting experience while I was in hospital but I don't know how to write about so here it is plain and simple, unadorned.

I read Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust" and it came at a moment when I was tempted to panic.

It seemed to me as though my hospital room was a fortress which was empty of everything that could clutter it up except a strong sense of peace. I took refuge in God, he became my fortress and in my mind's eye it was one of those medieval castles with thick stone walls, high walls and a big solid wooden door. At first I didn't know what I was taking refuge from but every so often it was as though a large scaly scratching hand of fear would try to push open the door.

It appeared when
... they took me off the drip and I panicked because I didn't know what would happen to my body if I didn't have those lifegiving fluids going into me
...a kind pathology nurse said 'I hope it's nothing serious'. I burst into tears after she left because my fear was that it would be serious.
...a nurse told me that her husband had gone in for a minor op and it had turned out to cost them thousands of dollars. I started to wonder what the consequences of a week long stay would be.
...I had an infusion and they monitored me closely for adverse reactions such as chest pain, palpitations, difficulty breathing. As the juice flowed in my BP rose and my heart pounded in anticipation of what never eventuated.

Each time and on many more occasions than these fear scratched and scrabbled at my heart and the only way I could keep my peace was to chop it off and chuck it out the fortress window. As I lay there feeling incredibly physically weak and completely not able to fight fear myself, it seemed to me that God promises to do battle on our behalf.  In a huge number of stories of battles in the Old Testament, the Israelites did absolutely nothing at all and the battle was completey fought and won by God himself. The beautiful revelation for me is that God wants to fight my battles for me but I have to let him do that, I have to hide myself in him, trust him and get rid of any fear in my heart.

Here are my conclusions about this experience and picture.

  • Fear is a beastly scratchy dragon whose one aim is to devour us alive.
  • God is our fortress of peace.
  • He promises to slay the beast on our behalf if we will let him.
  • We need to cut off fear from our hearts the minute it appears or it will force itself in, take up residence and terrorize us.

Prov 4:23 Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.

Since coming home I'm so aware that my mind gets cluttered with the everyday worries and concerns of life and yet so many of them are unnecessary. Personally I want more of that peace and calm faith-filled mindset, I want to be more aware of when the scratchy dragon comes to call and to be less tolerant of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hospital Bed Revelations: #5: Crochet Like a Catholic

This post is part of a series written during a recent hospital stay for an episode of ulcerative colitis. You can read part 1part 2part 3 and part 4 by clicking the links. I'd love to hear your thoughts on healing, faith, long term illnesses, miracles etc so please leave a comment in the section below.

One of the first things I asked for was my crochet. If there was going to be a lot of sitting around waiting, I might as well have something to do. It's quite a conversation starter as people comment on how it's a skill that not many people take the time to do any more or how they always wished they were crafty or wondered how to do the stitches.

Picking it up one afternoon and wondered what it would be like to say one thing good about God, one thing about his promises every time I crocheted a stitch. A picture of the Catholic rosary came to mind. They use it for meditating on the mysteries but what if it was used to declare who God is? I had to pause to think about what I would start with, what I would commence my declaration with.

treble stitch
The Lord is good

I paused and looked out the window. Yes, he is good. No matter what my circumstances are he is good, he has not changed since yesterday and tomorrow he will still be good. What else?

treble stitch
He is faithful

treble stitch
He says he will never leave me or forsake me

Yes. He is faithful. He keeps his word, he is a promise keeper and he has said that he won't leave me alone. I can believe him. I choose to believe him because I know he does what he says he does.

treble stitch
I will live and not die

In the scariness of the unknown, of diagnoses with awful prognoses where everyone says you will die and not live or your life will be of poor quality or reliant on medicine for the rest of your life, yes, I will live and not die. My quality of life will be good and not awful. Somehow. Who knows how but God does.

treble stitch
I will declare the glory of the Lord

treble stitch
He sets a table before me

treble stitch
In the presence of my enemies

treble stitch
surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life....

I stitched for several hours like I have never done before. When I ran out of the promises I could remember, I got out the Bible app on my phone and stitched whispering each phrase of a psalm stitch by stitch, sometimes pausing to think about each statement, sometimes rattling through them.

I can't say that I've ever crocheted like that before and perhaps it will be a one-off. There's an Exchange that takes place however which makes me sit up and take notice. Instead of simply acknowledging the truth of God's word, something mysterious happens and you begin instead to live it, the truth of it enters your heart deeper than before and when you wake in the night you are less vulnerable to fears.

The truth of it is the Lord inhabits the praises of his people.  Where we praise him, there he is. His presence is real, tangible, mysteriously transforming. So why don't we praise him more? What is it to praise someone?

If I think about what it means to praise my child or my husband, it seems to be simply to declare all the good qualities we can about them to them, to ourselves, to others. We can't say enough good things about them, we rave about them, we talk about them all the time.

To tell the truth, I'm half afraid to post this post. It was such a special moment for me that my fear from way back in childhood of being labelled a holy joe comes back to haunt me. To experience a deep mystery of God and then to be misunderstood is difficult but then the truth of Ps 27 comes the Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid? Literally. Of whom should we be afraid? What are their names? Who are they compared to God and what can they do?

So here I am, posting, confessing, that I now crochet like a Catholic.