Slowing down. (Learning to be at peace)

We all see life changing now. Places that used to be full of life, now empty and dark. The people we love kept at a distance because we want to protect them. Even the everyday rhythm of life, has halted. The rushed rhythm has now become slow and quiet. We see the news filled with new measures on how to protect us, while reminding us of the lives that have been lost to the Coronavirus. The news is a mix of greed and disappointment, dashed with the reminder of the goodness and love of people that are going the extra mile. Emotions are everywhere, as plans have quickly come to nothing. We miss connection and basic socialisation.  The messages sent to friends remind us of how loved we are but how distanced we are. We all try to find our rhythm again; try to find how we use our time. Maybe, instead of trying to fill our time with loads of activity to keep our minds off everything happening. It truly is a time to slow down.

Slowing down, is certainly something we are not very used to. Some of us may argue, I always use one day to rest. However, I am sure, like me, your mind is normally racing ahead with all the things that are to come next. Many us love to have a proactive and a productive life. We love to constantly be doing something and we want to know what is coming next. The past few days have shown us, that we do not know what will come next. Speaking from the perspective of living in the UK, everything is closing or is closed. Our government is bringing in new measures daily, to stop the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. It means that life as we know it, has come to a halt.

While we can look on this situation negatively, I do pray that we would not lose our hope. That we would be people who constantly lift each other up in prayer and surround each other in love. Even through a phone call or a message. I hope that when we see plans having to be cancelled or rearranged, that we would not be angry or frustrated for long. That we would always know, life is more than all things that we grasp at. It is about learning to be present and intentional with the day that we have. I hope you take time to slow down. To prioritise what is important and to let go of what can wait. I hope that you will do some of the things that you are passionate about, that you have left neglected as the rush of life took over. I hope that even when everything may make you anxious, that you will be encountered by peace and rest. Knowing that, there are things that you can control but most of life you cannot. That is okay, because we will all learn to walk through life one step at a time.

May we all be encouraged that the faithfulness of God is and always will be present through it all. We all know someone or an organisation that is going the extra mile, to make sure people do not go without. We can think of the men and women who work tirelessly in hospitals and medical centres, to care and help those who are suffering not only with the Coronavirus but the many other ailments of life. We think of the many scientists, etc who are working so hard to find a cure to this. Knowing it will be a long process. May we remember to lift all this in prayer, with thankfulness and gratitude for the people who work in these fields. Praying that they will be met with strength and rest as they need it. May we all pray especially for our governments, we are all so quick to criticise. May we pray that the voices of wisdom and truth would be the loudest in their hearts and minds; that they would make decisions to support and strengthen our countries even in this time and in the future. Prayer is vital.

For many of us it may and is a time to reconnect with the Lord. To spend some intentional time praying and meditating on his word. To soak and rest in his presence, to be at peace not rushing away. For many of us we quickly become depleted because we run on empty, giving out so much of ourselves to the people around us and our workplace. We do not allow ourselves to be filled with the living water that we desperately need. In Mark 6, we see the Lord caring for the disciples needs even when he could see that there was still more work that needed to be done. (6v31-32) ‘Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.’ If you continue reading the passage you do see the crowd runs ahead to meet them before they are even docked. However, Jesus does care about who we are and about our needs. He loves us and wants us to spend time with him. If you know that you have been running on empty for so long and you need to be in his presence. I pray that you would use this time for that and build it into something that is so necessary for your life. That when the rush of life starts to come again, you know to come first and foremost to the feet of Jesus. It is important as churches close now, that we allow ourselves to be ministered to. That we keep in contact with friends and church community. Making time to worship and listen to sermons. There is so much online, may we not allow our faith to grow dim.

Lastly, may you not feel guilty for resting. Catch up with the TV shows or films that you have been wanting to watch for a while. Read the books that have been getting dusty on your shelves. Make and create what you have been longing for the time to do. Eat good food and care for you needs. Keep loving those around you and allow time to not rush you anymore. Allow yourself to breathe, to be at peace. Let everything take its time.

1 Corinthians 13v13 ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’

I’m finally learning to rest my body and my mind in loving and peaceful ways. I’m learning that it matters.’ (Shauna Niequist)

May you know that you are loved and cherished and prayed for. God bless, Victoria. xx

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Journeys in the valley. (Supporting one another)

‘When Jesus saw their faith, he said. ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.”’ (Luke 5v20)

The idea for this blog came to me, as I was lying in bed last night. I was about to fall to sleep, when my mind began being filled with all these thoughts about the account of the paralysed man. I was tired, I was ready to fall asleep, but I was prompted to write down what was being put into my mind. I am thankful I did because this is truly such a beautiful and timely topic to write about. Let us focus on the account of the paralysed man and the lessons of faith that can be applied to our own lives. I feel like as the world becomes more isolated now, due to the alarming spread of coronavirus.  We need to remember to support and encourage one another. I am made more and more aware of our brothers and sisters who struggle with mental health, this is not a matter of shame or guilt. There has been a real tug on my heart, for prayer and intention in dealing with this topic because I know how deeply it affects people. Our faith is not for our own personal gain; I believe the Lord uses it to reach out and bring others to him. That is something we should focus on, reaching out to those around us.

‘Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. (v18-19)

One aspect of the story I was reminded of and it left me in awe; was how, the roof could not even stop the friends from bringing their friend to the feet of Jesus. They saw no limitations to getting their friend there, they were carrying him to the best hope that they knew at that moment.

Their friend’s life was utterly transformed. Within that situation the paralysed man was truly helpless, he allowed his friends to take hold of all that he was and guide him to a man they had placed their hope and trust in. The Lord knew their hearts, knew where their hope had been placed. It states ‘When Jesus saw their faith’, their determination and faith was acknowledged and then he says to the paralysed man that his sins are forgiven.

The paralysed man had to have some faith and trust, to get himself up and walk away from all that had happened. (v25) ‘Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.’ A story that began with this man being in such a helpless situation led to his freedom and transformation of life. He had witnessed the man who had forgiven his sins being challenged by the Pharisees and the teachers, attempting to limit his authority. In the man getting up, it was true testimony not only for his life but for the crowd who surrounded him. For the miracle led to them all praising God. (V26)‘Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” The faith of the friends led to a renewal of faith for many.

On many occasions we are called to be like the friends of the paralysed man, to carry one another through it all. For many of us we know loved ones or people we are close too, who are suffering a lot. They do feel very helpless within their situation, that there is very little they can do to help themselves. I think when we are made aware of those people in our lives, it is a call that we need to step in and support them. That does not mean that we have to fix all their problems, if you look at the friends, they brought someone they loved straight to the feet of Jesus. I cannot remember if I read this or heard it in a sermon, we must remember that we are not God we cannot fix the life of others. We can help and minister in many beautiful ways, at the end of the day it all must be surrendered to God and God will do what God does best.

One important factor is we need to remember to communicate with people. Even when people are not as willing to communicate with us, it is important that we make them feel acknowledged and seen. Regarding the paralysed man, he would have been an outcast from society. However, his friends saw his worth and life and carried him through it all. That is an important reminder for us all. In a world where we are called to look out for ourselves, we need to remember that there is so much more to our lives. When we live for our own gain, we will always miss out on opportunities to see God moving in people’s lives. Take time to love those who are suffering and be intentional, don’t do it just to feel good about yourself but do it because you believe that God is moving within that situation.

Sometimes we need to carry people. One important reminder from the account is, it was not just one man who carried his friend to the feet of Jesus. It states in the account that some men, carried him. That is beautiful how so much can be accomplished together. For one person, it would have been too much of a load to carry on their own. They were able to accomplish so much, when they saw they could not find a way in by the most convenient way; they were able to work together to lower him through the roof and right into the place he needed to be. In supporting one another through life, it needs to be a collective effort and this is emphasised throughout the New Testament letters.

1 Thessalonians 5v11 ‘Therefore encourage on another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

2 Corinthians 1v3-4 ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Sometimes we need to get down in the valley with people, just walk with them with the hope that has been renewed in us. I love these verses from Corinthians because it shows the beauty of God. On many occasions God has comforted me, and I have later been able to share that comfort with someone else that has been suffering. All the glory comes back to God. God made us and he made us capable of loving and serving one another. We learn compassion because he is the Father or compassion and comfort. There is such a beauty in the unity.

Lastly, let us not lose hope. For some people their battle in the valley will be a long one. There may be many barriers and obstacles, that they need to overcome themselves. Sometimes, we are called to be light and hope within that situation. Simply knowing that somewhere is there, is enough to allow them to keep moving forwards. Other times, we may need to carry people for a while. To be more sacrificial with our time, it may even be like the scene from Lord of the Rings when Sam carries Frodo on his back. We need to move forwards together. I truly believe that the Lord will equip us with all we need, as we support and love one another.

Let us not let the world overwhelm each other. For God is far more mightier than everything and anything we will ever face here.

John 16v33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’

May you have a blessed week. I have a new blog series beginning in April looking at living in the promises of God, which I am currently working on. We will be looking at the life of David and the promises that God makes throughout the Bible. Until then I have other blogs planned for March. I pray that you will continue to support and encourage those around you. Also, to allow yourself to be supported and encouraged. You are deeply loved and cherished.

God Bless, Victoria

 

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Wrapping up February. (The month of change)

Each year on my blog, I try to add something new. For this year, I want to start doing a wrap up of the month. (Even though I missed January). Which looks briefly at the highlights of the month, my faith journey and everything else that comes with day to day life. It is a nice way to process and reflect on how the month has gone. This month has seen me move back home from Amsterdam, I have gone into a new job, met many new people and have been continuing to do ministry work in many different ways. From flicking through my journal, I can see that I have been trying to process how quickly life has been moving on. While being reminded, how faithful and close God is through it all. Here is my wrap up of February.

Truthfully, February has been a more emotional month for me. In returning home from Amsterdam. Then going into a new job where I had to learn to do everything. A lot of the time I felt overwhelmed. However, each time I felt like this there was always someone to talk to. Whether it being going to the Lord in prayer (which I need to learn to do a little more) or a face to face conversation with someone. It is incredible to see that change because I used to bottle everything up, until it all exploded and that was never nice. Each morning, I have been reading my ‘Jesus Calling’ devotional. I am thankful for how the Lord uses those words to speak into the heart of my situation. It reminds me of how close he is and how he never calls me to anything, that he will not walk with me through. Even with my job, there are still a lot of systems,etc, I am getting used to using but the Lord has been so supportive in helping me to learn those things. Also, I am incredibly thankful for the people I get to work with. They are kind, supportive and have made me feel welcome from the very beginning. It is the first job, I have not been shy in and have been myself. I feel I have been placed so purposefully there. Although, I have felt February was overwhelming. I have found a lot to rejoice in.

In regards to specifically my faith, I feel that I have been learning to lean into the Lord and cherish my time with Lord. One of my favourite moments of the day, especially after work is to come and read my bible. This is normally after I have had some dinner and I have a coffee in hand, I escape up into my room. This month I have been able to read 1 Samuel, Romans and I finished Hebrews this morning. I have enjoyed immersing myself in the word, learning how people lived out their faith and how they were instructed to grow deeper in their faith. I have loved learning more about the character of Jesus and the faithfulness of God through the Old and the New Testament. I have rejoiced in the victories that people were able to have and the faith that carried them through their life. I have tried to stop reading the bible with the intention of gaining things for myself, instead to read it to spend time to get to know the Lord better. I was in awe of the faith that was highlighted through Hebrews 11, if you need some encouragement I would recommend to read it now. It is a huge testimony of what a life of faith looks like. Hebrews 11v39-12v1-3 ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,let us throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ May we keep trusting and walking faithfully with the Lord.

I have been working on my prayer life, journaling has helped to remind me to pray over my life. No matter how small it may be. I have been encouraged to keep praying for others, whether it be a specific message or someone’s name popping up in my head. I am trying to learn, to lift all things before the Lord. In my walking to and from work, I use that as a quiet time. I walk and process the day and thank God for all he has already done and continues to do. I do not use that time specifically to pray but I do use it as a time of peace with God. A blessing over the past few months has been the transformation of my mind, from that which was always anxious driven to that which tries to deal peacefully with situations as they come.

I am thankful for times in which I have been able to have ministry opportunities, especially being able to share about the faithfulness of God with my church family. I have been encouraged by messages from people, being able to share about our faith and being vulnerable about our highs and lows. I am thankful for friends, who are intentional within our conversations. Where we are able to support and bless each other.

In general February has been a month of transition, nothing is truly settled at the moment. That is okay. I just take each day as it comes and I am thankful for each day that I am given. I am thankful I get to be back with my family for a while. I am not the fondest of the town I live in but I have my favourite book shop and coffee shop back. I think I go to my coffee shop, at least twice if not three times a week. I have a new purpose for why I am back. I am loving being able to start new friendships and pick up old ones. I have started reading again, which I love. Even though a lot has changed this month, there is still a lot that is the same old Tori. I try to find the joy and the beauty even on the tougher days. I feel thankful that God has been so faithful, in providing everything that I need. I am intrigued to what the rest of the year will hold.

Romans 15v13 ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Tomorrow brings in March. March is a month that brings some new changes. I will turn 24 near the end of the month, which is exciting. I will, hopefully, continue to work. Spring will come in, in all its glory. That means a lot more beauty instead of the grey days that have been a constant companion to February. Cassandra Clare, releases the long awaited ‘Chain of Gold’. There will be fresh opportunities to learn and to grow.

For you who are reading this, I hope you will be able to find some blessings in the past month. If this past month has not been so great, I pray that there will be fresh opportunities in the days ahead. Where you can,  may you leave the past behind and step into the present with freedom.

You were made for this life, terrifying and beautiful as it may be. holding on in troubled times, finding light in the little things.’ Morgan Harper Nichols

May you have a blessed week. Remember you are loved and cherished. Love Victoria.

 

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We shall all blossom again.

I am someone who is easily pleased and one sight that is beautiful to the eye, is the blossom that is emerging on the trees. I am a Spring baby, it makes me excited to see that Spring is beginning to return. It means that life is returning after a cold and dark winter. The blossom reminds me of the faithfulness of God; the beauty and the life that he continues to bring to his creation. Year after year.I feel with spring, comes new opportunities and renewed hope. That the bitterness of winter can be covered with the beauty of everything coming into bloom again. I entitled this blog, ‘We shall all blossom again’ because it is my prayer for a lot of people at the moment. 

I have been having conversations with people about how life is not turning out the way that they expected. For some, they felt like they had everything together; only for it to fall through their grasp. For others, they have been going through some truly rough seasons. I am not someone who wants to disregard what people are going through. I know from my own experience, that people have walked with me through my toughest seasons. As I walked today, I was thinking about these conversations. While being distracted by the buds that were beginning to bloom in peoples gardens. Many of these buds were emerging from the decay of nature around it. I feel for some of us we do not realise the light and the beauty that is emerging from us. Instead we see the brokenness of our situation, the disappointment and the darkness. It can be truly crippling, there is no denying that. I truly believe that even in the toughest situation, hope can be found. That is due to my faith that I have in Jesus. I do not know where your hope lies, but, I pray that it will be in something steadfast and true.

Two years ago, my mindset was completely different to what it is now. It did not find a lot of beauty in life and it was completely negative. I struggled a lot with how life was going and felt like such a failure in many ways. It took a lot of time for my mind to come out of this way of being. I know there were many people who prayed over me and who walked along with me, as I tried to get to grips with everything. For sure, my life did not turn out the way I expected it too. However, I feel blessed in how it has gone so far. To let go of unrealistic expectations and to learn to breathe more. To enjoy the process, instead of always trying to reach a certain goal to be fulfilled.

Truthfully, life is uncertain. We never know what will be round the corner or who we will become. I feel we need to learn to be more gracious to ourselves. We need to learn, that it is okay not to be okay. To be honest with how life is going but we should never give up on hope. There will be occasions when we need to rethink the process. We may need to take a left instead of a right. We may even fall out of love with what we believed to be truly passionate about. That is all part of life, nothing can ever stay the same. That can be disappointing but it can be liberating. Life is not something that we can control as much as we wished we could.

One thing I am thankful for is a Saviour who knows what it truly means to be human. Who has walked through all the highs and lows of life. Who has known the greatest joys but felt the deepest pain. I believe in a Jesus who is not far from our pain, who is with us through it all. There is a song by Amanda Cook ‘ Our Breath Back’, you can find it on Youtube, that I truly love. It proclaims the life that can be found in Jesus. A God who is not fearful or ashamed of our brokenness but will hold us close through it all.

“He dignified every single human emotion. Everything that causes us to be anxious and frantic, Jesus lived it. So I just see him coming in so gently tonight and giving us the realisation of breath…. YOU ARE GIVING US OUR BREATH BACK”.

I believe in a God who can change around our situations or at least change our perspective in the situations. A God who can bring healing to us or use our situation to bring healing to others. For I have seen, how my past has been used to bring hope and encouragement to others.

You may feel disappointed with how life is going now. I pray that you would be able to find joy within the process. That you would allow what you are going through to grow you as a person and to come out of it stronger. May you be thankful for the people that will come alongside you, to support and hold you. May you not give up the hope, that you will blossom once again. It may not be in the place that you imagine but you have so much life to give. There are people who need to meet you. There are places that need to be impacted by you. There is beauty that needs to embrace you. This is not the end. It may be the closing of one chapter but there is much more to come. You are doing amazing. Stand strong and offer the world what you have to give, no matter how small it may be. Life will begin again. It is the small steps of faith, that lead to something much bigger.

If you feel like you are losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and they stand tall and wait for better days to come” – Unknown

I finish with something that has really helped me. I learned to appreciate the small things. Whether that is going for a walk, enjoying a coffee in my favourite cafe or hanging out with friends. Life is not only happening when we have our successes. It happens in all the small things around us. Last year, I kept a journal for each day to remind me of the beauty and the goodness in that day. For some days, it was tiny little things but they mattered a lot to me because it reminded me how wonderful life can be. Keep pressing forwards and learn to appreciate the small things. Before you know it, life will be moving again.

Remember you are loved and cherished. God bless, Victoria. XX

 

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How the Amsterdam Ministry transformed my faith!

The past five months have been such an incredible time of growth in relation to my faith. I used to believe my faith was a part of me, that I could pick up and use when it was convenient to me. Now, I know without my faith I cannot be the person that I was meant to be. That without my foundation being built on Jesus, everything else will just crumble. I am thankful for the joy that flowed back into my life. To learn to love God and people more deeply and intentionally. My heart has been renewed, I feel that the broken parts have all been healed. I want to share with you some of the incredible blessings I was able to encounter in my time away.

In my last blog I wrote about my struggles with prayer, as I reflected I realised the people who had came alongside me to support my prayer life. I was incredibly blessed by having a wonderful prayer “buddy” very early on in my time in Amsterdam. I appreciated how we did life together, for example eating Ramen or going shopping. There was a deep need in both of us to grow spiritually deeper, the way that we did it came naturally. Anything that we needed to pray about simply started as a conversation; we would talk about it and look at how we wanted to progress through it. We would offer it to the Lord, asking him how we can use it to grow and to come closer to him. My prayer “buddy”, she is so powerful in prayer and she encourages me a lot in my faith to step out and to trust God more. Even when I drifted a little bit with my faith, she bought me straight back to staying in the arms of Jesus. Romans 12v12 ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’.  I have so much love and respect for her. She is going to do awesome acts for the kingdom.

The prayer mentor I was paired with, encouraged me to come to know God in a way that I had never know him. As a God that I could come before, with everything and anything.  His love was not dependent on me ticking all the right boxes, for God loved me before I knew what love was. Conversation, was the main instrument in which our prayer flowed through. Being able to share what was concerning me and the atmosphere feeling so calm and relaxed, helped me to be more open. There was always laughter and that helped me to know that the joy of the Lord can flow through all situations. I learned to come to prayer just as I am. To talk to the Lord like I would anyone else, knowing that when I leave it in his hands that is the best place for it. I needed a prayer mentor who would push me to be my best, to make the most of all opportunities. She did not let me give up on myself and would check that I was meeting the targets I had set. I will miss having those conversations with her.

I have come to realise how vital prayer is. Being back at home, I prioritise prayer as being the open communication between Jesus and I. I love it.

The ministry work that I did in Amsterdam, allowed me to see how we can honour Jesus through the smallest and simplest acts. A life of living out my faith. That is not an easy act to do. I am pretty sure every time I prayed, “Help me Lord to serve people well today, in your name”. There would always be one guest, which would really test my patience. It is about learning to take all the highs and lows, to get it wrong sometimes. To apologise when you get it wrong and to know that Jesus is not going to leave because you messed up again. One of the most beautiful interactions was getting to know people. Finding out where they were from and what they had been doing on their travels. It was great to see peoples excitement as they shared. At moments there were times to come along guests who had similar struggles that I was going through; using that opportunity to share how I had found my hope in that situation. I believe in a Jesus who cares about what we have to say but who wants to give us a greater hope than we have ever known. For some of our guests that was hard to take, for others they received it with joy.

I have talked about being CS in some of my previous blogs but it is the role that helped me to fall in love with reading my bible again. I became passionate about reading it for what it was and not with all these ideas about how it should be and what I should gain from it. Reading it with the cleaners, they would ask questions that I had never thought of. It made me realise that I still have so much more to learn. That made me so excited. I was reading the Old Testament and was amazed at how it shows the character of God, There was one week we did a whistle stop tour of the book of Joshua, it was cool to see how they were interested in the battle of Jericho and in all the little details. “Why did they have to kills the donkeys?”. I became passionate about sharing it because it was sparking an interest. Especially in the New Testament, trying to figure out what it all meant. There was always something to learn. This is my encouragement to you reading this, continue sharing God’s word. It is not dead, it is very much alive. Isaiah 55v11 “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”.

My relationship with people began to change a lot when I was in Amsterdam. In learning where my identity was from and who I was becoming. Allowed me to become more comfortable with people.The friendships that have developed helped to bring a lot of healing and closure to past wounds. The past no longer has any authority, it cannot steal my joy. I love how each person within the community had their own personality and was willing to serve in a beautiful way. There was no competitiveness and everyone learned from each other. There was such a passion for each other to grow in their faith and a genuine sense of friendship and love for each other. It was truly beautiful to be a part of that.  Hebrews 10v24-25 ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.’. The community life showed how beautiful life can be when the hand of God is upon it. In all the highs and lows, God’s faithfulness would always meet us there.

Overall my faith has changed for the better. I am no longer worried or ashamed about how people will perceive me with my faith. It truly does not matter. I want to keep serving and loving people well. I want to travel more and have more opportunities to minister to people. I am excited for what God has in store for me next. I want to keep being challenged and growing. Most importantly I want to walk in a closer relationship with my Saviour. I am truly thankful I got to be planted somewhere else for a while, there I truly bloomed.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3v5-6)

May you all have such a blessed week. Take the opportunities that are presented to you. Love and serve each other well. God bless, Victoria. xx

 

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A prayerful heart. (Struggles with prayer.)

One of the hopes for this year is to begin to become more intentional in my prayer life. To make it a part of my everyday life, instead of just praying when times are hard or offering up thanksgiving when life is good. My prayer life is still a working progress because I feel like it is not something that comes naturally to me.  There is such a pressure (from myself, of course) in how I do it and what I say. There have been some steps that I have began taking to trying to have a more prayer in my life. One of the simplest steps I took was beginning with a prayer journal. Breaking it up into certain themes and having different topics underneath in which to pray for. It was a reminder for me, that even when I do not find prayer easy; that there is always something or someone who needs prayer. I am not always so good, at remembering to pray about certain places or issues but it is an aid that helps me to take my eyes off myself.

In prayer it has been good to begin with the basics, in just learning to have conversation with Jesus. Whether it is about something that is making my heart anxious or about the day in general. This has been helpful to keep my mind more focused on who is in control of my day and how I am not doing it alone.

Prayer is something we are greatly encouraged to do, for Jesus talks about it in his ministry. He even uses a parable, to show us how we should keep on praying and not give up. This is through the parable of the persistent widow who kept on going to the judge to demand justice for her adversary. Even though the man did not fear God or people, he gave the woman what she wanted because he knew that she would persist until the end. ‘And the Lord says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?’ (Luke 18v6-7). Persistent prayer is something I have struggled with. When I continuously prayed about something or for someone, my belief was that I did not have the faith that God could answer it the first time. I have learned that prayer does not work in that way, it is not a one request shot and God decides if he will answer it or not. I have been learning that prayer is a beautiful act of communication with my Saviour about the people and issues that are on my heart. In persistence it is about me continuously surrendering them to the Lord, for I know that he takes better care of them than I could ever do. The parable is true, God is not deaf to our cries to him. Sometimes we can feel like that but that is not the truth. God is a God who cares and he will always care for his people.

Prayer is not an easy act, I am thankful that even the Bible highlights this. We read in the gospels, that in the most crucial time that the disciples should have been praying they were instead asleep. The gospel does not paint this perfect picture of the disciples. Instead shows them as the humans, with all their highs and lows. (Luke 22v40) ‘On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  They had reached the garden of Gethsemane, in which Jesus was in anguish due to all the events that were about to unfold. Jesus was praying over all this, only to return to the disciples and find them not praying. (22v45-46) ‘When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted with sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The disciples at this moment paint a relatable picture for most of us. There are moments that we are so overwhelmed with all that is going on, that prayer is not that appealing. Instead we sleep or use some form of something to escape. That is not because we do not want to deal with the crisis at hand, instead,  we do not know how to deal with it. For some of us, we need a rebuke like the disciples got. To push us closer to prayer and to keep us away from the other things that we find comfort in. For sure, I  know I do. I know that many of the times I should be surrendering something to God. You would instead find me watching an episode of Gilmore girls to drown out the issue with quick wit and familiar characters. That does not help in the long run because you still have to ultimately end up dealing with the issue. I have found the longer I keep it quiet and try to deal with it on my own, it turns into a much bigger mess. 

Praying does not have to be eloquent. I am constantly reminded, even when I am praying, that God already knows my heart. I do not have to put on any sort of show for him. I come authentically as I am. I do believe that there should be respect, for I am praying to my creator, my God and my father. However, he also knows my brokenness as his child. Many of the times when I come before God, I use all these fancy ways to explain issues away. That is not what God wants, instead I need to be honest and say I messed up. For it is through God that the healing and the restoration will come. For sure, it is not always pleasant admitting something I knew was never right to do in the first place; it can be used for a beautiful opportunity of grace and growth.

There are other times I come before God and I have no idea what to say. Sometimes, it is better not to say anything. Instead, to sit in his presence. There was a time last year, where I had a cup of coffee in hand and my bedroom floor as my comfort. Truly, I had nothing to say. I thought, God I will enjoy this silence and this coffee with you. It was such a beautiful time of peace. If you ever need any encouragement in not knowing what to say Romans 8v26-28 speaks the truth. ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ We can put a lot of unnecessary stress upon ourselves to be able to do everything right. Even with our prayer life. This passage in Romans confirms, how we do not do any of our life on our own. Including prayer. That the Spirit aids and guides us and keeps us in communication with God. That is truly awesome, that we are not disconnected. All we need is a willing and faithful heart and interceding comes as part of that.

To finish I want to refer back to Luke 18 and the verse that follows from the aforementioned. 18v8 ‘I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Sometimes, we can quickly give up on prayer. We see no fruit straight away, therefore, we turn to other things to find our security and hope. I know, I have been convicted of how quickly I can give up on prayer and just hope for the best. That is not fruitful and as I said before, normally leads to a bigger mess. I truly want to learn to communicate more and more with the Lord. Whether it be on my walks to the shelter in Amsterdam or when I return home and need to trust God that I will find a job again. I want to learn to put my faith in him. To stop being so easily disappointed and to lean in and rest in his goodness. For he is a gracious and loving Saviour. Prayer is a wonderful attribute of our relationship.

Lysa TerKeurst “The reality is, my prayers do not change God. But, I am convinced that prayer changes me. Praying boldly boots me out of the stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God himself.” I definitely want more of this within my life.

I will continuously keep working on my prayer life, as I am sure many of my fellow brothers and sisters are doing. I hope this has encouraged you if you struggle with some of the issues I do or if you have any advice, always feel free to post it down below.  Prayer will change our lives, that is clear as we read about the lives found within our Bibles. May we not be discouraged or dismayed if we do struggle. Keep the faith and ask for someone to come and pray alongside you. I know that has helped me a lot in my time here in Amsterdam.

May you have a blessed week. May you remember, you are loved and cherished by the King of kings. God bless, Victoria. xx

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Blank Canvas: 2020

Happy New Year to you all!

I started my new year in Amsterdam, which was beautiful. They really love their fireworks in the Netherlands, there were marvellous colour shows of explosions all through the night. I was thankful to spend it with the community within the shelter, that was an awesome experience.

I worked on New Years Day and I shared with the cleaners, which is one of my ministries, the blog I did at the beginning of last year. In which I shared how I see each new year as a blank canvas, that is emphasised with always starting with a blank notebook/journal.

This year I wanted to focus on having some expectations and hopes. They are in no way resolutions; therefore there is no pressure to reach a certain goal. However, I did want to choose to speak life into the year. It is something I did with the cleaning team, we took some time to write down some hopes and expectations we had for the year. It was a solo activity, there was such a peace in giving people time to do it.

Sometimes we can really rush into the new year, we feel all these obligations, that we miss the beauty of the life and newness that this upcoming year brings. I do have hopes that no matter how hard the year may be, that the Lord is still faithful to his promises. One promise I truly want to hold onto is Lamentations 3v22-23 ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ The Lord has been incredibly faithful to me over the past few years. Especially seeing his goodness in my time here in Amsterdam; has been a beautiful demonstration of what a loving and caring Father that God is. I think like any Father, he is not afraid of us having expectations for our life. God wants to be a part of that. That is what is amazing about being able to have a relationship with God, through Jesus. Jesus is an incredible friend and saviour, who knows exactly what it is to be human and the expectations that they have. Who met with people who had been thrown out of community, who were rejected and alone. Who blew all their expectations by healing them and enabling them to come to know the love of God. That enabled them to be fully healed and restored. That is the life that we can all know today.

A lot of my expectations are focused in on my faith this year. Especially, to walk in a deeper and closer walk with the Lord.

I want to learn to be more intentional with my Bible reading and prayer life. To not just do it but allow it to be part of my relationship with God.

To be faithful with what God has given me. Allowing God to have control of my time. Instead of trying to have everything under my control. To not be scared to step out into unknown places.

Most importantly, to use my remaining months in Amsterdam to serve people well and love people well. To not allow opportunities to pass me by but to truly be present in the moment.

I also have to start making plans for what is next after Amsterdam. Wherever I may end up. I have expectations that it will be a place in which I can continually grow in my relationship with Jesus. Also, being able to serve and love people is the core of how I want to live my life. It is not always easy to do but there is confirmation that all things are possible through Christ.

For you reading this, take some time to reflect on this up coming year. Maybe, not a lot has changed for you. You are still in the same job, place, etc. How can you change your perspective? How can you reflect more of Christ in the places where you are? How can serve people well? You can have expectations and hopes for this year or how you would like to grow. Surrender them to God, he cares and he listens. Who knows, what this year will have in store for you. Keep the faith and hope in all things. For we serve a living God, who is constantly moving in all things.

Hebrews 10v23 ‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.’

I am excited, for what this year holds for the blog and what God will teach us all through it. I pray that you will all have a blessed year of growing deeper in your relationship with the Lord. May we encourage and support one another.

You are loved and cherished. May you have a blessed week. Love Victoria. Xx