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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Amsterdam Ministry: What do you have to offer?

Mark 12v42 ‘But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.’

The widow’s offering is a story that is familiar, one that I often glaze over. Commending the woman but not thinking about any applications for my own life. Other than I should probably learn to give more.

As I read it this time, I began to reflect on the woman herself and how it must have felt to be her. She gave everything to God. She offered all she had at that moment and her faith was noticed. Not by the people around her but by the most important person in that room, Jesus. V43-44 ‘Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything- all she had to live on”‘

I began to think, how sometimes in our lives we can be like the widow with what we have to offer. We wake up feeling broken or unworthy or we have very little to give. When we think about even having any sort of quiet time or prayer that day, we feel that we can barely lift anything before God.

I was taught something valuable through the widow’s story; give to God all that you have, even on your hardest day to surrender the little that you have. To be able to come before God and to surrender even the emotions that have been overwhelming you that day, allows you to begin to know some release and hope. Knowing that those emotions do not have to overwhelm you. Small offerings include reading your bible even when you feel that nothing makes sense. Praying when life feels so jumbled and messy. Praising God, even when you feel so far away. Surrendering some of your time, even when you feel you have no hours left in the day.

It matters where our heart is when we come before God. It does not matter how big the offering. For everything already belongs to God. It matters more where our trust is placed. I have been learning even on the days where eveything feels so distant and bad. That God is still God, he is still good. To simply lay my life before him, saying, “Today Lord, this is all I have but I offer it to you.”

I am learning to be thankful that God takes me as I am. That when I give him my day, he has a wonderful way of working it for his good. Even if I do not see it at the time. I have seen how God has used the time that I have offered to him, to go on and bless people. Not by my own will but by his. In seeing how God shows up in incredible ways, reminds me to be at peace. That I do not have to do big and extravagant acts for God. For eveything is already under his control. It is about learning to come before him and walk faithfully with him throughout the day. I am not left alone to figure out everything. God has an incredible way of working, that enables me to see him in the people I interact with or even in the creative activities I do. I am truly learning to see how awesome God is. That it is not about me! That my life finds it fulfilment when I surrender all to him. Sometimes that offering of surrender may feel so small but he is a gracious God who knows where my heart is. It is not about comparing my life to those around me! I need to learn to be honest before God, to surrender and find my hope in him.

Hebrews 4v16 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may recieve mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Let us offer up what we have with hearts of thankfulness. Not worrying about the quantity but the quality, especially where our heart is in the offering. The woman with the two small coins is an account that shows a beautiful act of faith and surrender.

We cannot be ignorant of the other people in the account, the ones who gave out of their wealth. They gave a portion but knew that they still had security in their money. V41′ Many rich people threw in large amounts. ‘ What they were doing was not necessarily wrong but it mattered more where their heart was. Sometimes we may need to reflect on our own lives. I know I fall short of this. That I give a lot of my time to serve people and do acts for God. Sometimes, my heart can be far from him. Instead of giving my all for God, I work out of my own strength and security. I want to trust in myself just in case. It is such a reckless way to live. God is so much greater than even my greatest successes and my life should be used to give him glory and honour. I need to learn to surrender all that I have to God, it is in him that I find fullness of life. Nothing or no one else can give me that security. That is something I need to learn to live out each day.

It is possible we can identify with both sides or one of the sides. God is gracious towards us, he will lead us and guide us in the way we should go. Let us come to him with a thankful heart and begin there. No matter how big or small, God will lead us forward.

Psalm 100v4-5 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

May you have a blessed week. Remember that you are loved and cherished. God bless, Victoria. Xx

Amsterdam Ministry: The faithfulness of God.

Amsterdam has been an incredible journey, so far. It has been a real place of growth, not only for me as a person but most importantly for my faith. It has been hard but encouraging to learn what it means to put my trust fully in the Lord. To have to learn that I cannot do it in my own strength because I easily become drained and pessimistic. It has been about me learning that God is still faithful in the hard times even when I do not feel it and have no idea how to move forward. That God’s character and his promises remain steadfast. It is just me, that is being so easily swayed by circumstances.

Hebrews 6v18 ‘So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.

I have had to learn the importance of laying the day before God. I have mentioned in previous blogs how each shift at the shelter begins with prayer, for which I am always thankful. Especially in the ministry with our cleaners which is something I have stepped into over the past month. It is this wonderful opportunity to work alongside the cleaning team and to share the gospel with them in morning devotions.

It is a wonderful ministry but it is something that is challenging too. There were quite a few days where I would be planning out the work and would see there was not enough cleaners for all the work to be done. Normally, my first instinct is to panic but I have been learning that peace meets me within those situations. It enables me to have a calmer mind and to pray over the day. Learning to trust God, that even in our limits he still has a wonderful way of providing. Countless times, God has shown up in incredible ways. Whether it being the motivaton and determination to be able to get the work done, providing people, or the work not being as bad as first perceived. It has been wonderful to see how in God showing up, it encourages my faith and enables me to share God’s goodness and faithfulness with the cleaning team.

Sharing devotions has been a way to see how faithful God has been. The way that God speaks through the devotions, even when I feel like my words have failed me. I am thankful that in faith we do nothing on our own. We actively step out but the Lord is leading the way.

Proverbs 16v9 ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’

A valuable lesson I have been learning is not to speak death into every new and good thing in my life. When I am offered a new opportunity the first thing that goes through my mind is all the reasons that I cannot do what has been offered me. When I focus on all the negatives, I see how that does not glorify God. Instead, I am abiding in my weaknesses and disregarding the goodness that God can pour into that situation. Even the Bible highlights how perfection is not attainable. However, in our weaknesses that God is still working. 1 Corinthians 12v9 ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ Honestly, it is refreshing to reflect back on a day and see how much God showed up. Whether it is in people, conversation or simply in a few minutes of peace offered throughout the day. To be able to thank God and praise him, for being the faithful and gracious God he is. Even when my mind wants to do doubt it, his truth continously prevails. In learning not to speak death and negativity into every new thing; has taught me to surrender it to God through prayer. To recognise my weakness but to know that he is God. What God has led me to, God has an incredible way of leading me through. I can speak hope and life into new things. To see the joy in it and be thankful to God, who keeps me moving forward.

My prayer for you reading this is that you will be encouraged. A lot of the time we can allow our feelings to lead our faith. What happens when we don’t feel anything? Then we quickly become dismayed and we lose our hope. Instead we need to learn and to trust in the character and promises of God, not based on our feelings but because they are truth. They are unchanging and they stand the test of time. Like myself, you may be easily controlled by the situations you are in. However, God does not change. He is still as faithful to us in the bad times as he was in the good. We need to learn to trust, to step out and to abide in his presence. To learn to be thankful even in the mess of things; because God’s grace has a wonderful way of turning that mess into a something beautiful for his glory.

I finish with saying how thankful I am that God continues to show up so faithfully. Each day my faith is being challenged in some sort of way. However, God shows me how his mercies are new every morning. How he never stops being God and how he has eveything under control. Even when I struggle to see it.

I pray that you will have a blessed week. That you remember you are loved and cherished. Lastly, God never stops being God. God bless and with love, Victoria. Xx

Reflections on Psalm 52. (Perspective matters)

‘I will hope in your name, for your name is good.’

I have been reading the Psalms over the past week. I wanted to write a small reflection on one of them. I am learning a lot from reading the Psalms this time around, epescially how important perspective is. In many of these Psalms, David is being hotly pursued for his life. While he does not disregard the situation he is in, for in the Psalms we see how he lays it before the Lord. He keeps his eyes fixed on the steadfast love of God and the truth of his promises. It has been something that has challenged me, in my day to day living. Am I more focused on the issues in front of me or I am able to lay them before God and keep my focus on his truth.

Psalm 52 comes from the events which unfold in 1 Samuel 21-22. We see David seeking help from Ahimelek the priest, who gives David and his servants the consecrated bread to eat. Also, the sword of Goliath. Among those servants is Doeg who goes on to betray the whereabouts of David to Saul. Who is in pursuit of David at that time. 22v9 ‘But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, said, “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelek inquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”‘ Saul gathers the Priest and his family together and inquires of the events, only for Ahimelek to act none the wiser to the whole affair. Which leads to his death and also the death of eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. All at the hand of Doeg, who was the only one willing to kill the priests of the Lord.

The only one who escapes is Abiathar the son of Ahimelek, who was able to join David. David after hearing of the events responds. V22v23 ‘Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”‘

Entering into the Psalm, we see throughout the Psalm how David questions why Doeg puts so much hope in himself. Why he delights in evil and in making others suffer. V1′ Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace to God? For Doeg his success is in his own strength and victory. That is the way that he has meaning and purpose.

For David, he rejoices that it is God who will have the final say over Doeg’s life. While Doeg may think he is succeeding now, his time will come to an end. V6-7 ‘The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying, “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others.”‘ David has heard of the malice and hate that pours out of Doeg. Has seen the impact it has had on peoples lives. The lack of mercy that Doeg has. For David to be able to proclaim that his end will come, that all his successes now will come to nothing. Reminds himself and the reader, how mighty God is. It can so hard to see God when terrible things unfold before us. Like David, we need to remember to speak God’s truth and victory over the situation. David’s trust stayed firmly in the Lord through it all. This is what allowed him to have a positive outlook on his own life, even when he was surrounded by danger and turmoil.

V8-9 ‘But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.’ This is what struck me the most in the Psalm. Through all of the turmoil, David’s perspective was on something greater. Allowing his mind to rest on the presence of God, he was able to thrive even in all his adversities. He was able to keep the praise of God in his mouth and to trust in his unfailing love. His hope rested in God, even in his toughest times.

I find this Psalm encouraging because David was able to see the goodness of God even in his greatest sufferings. He kept his hope in him. I know, personally, that when I go through hardships I can find it hard to see God in it. I think being able to learn from David, especially from his perspective. That no matter what circumstance we go through, that God’s love and promises do not fail. That I can put my hope fully in him and trust that in all things, God can still use it for his good. To find rest in his presence, through all my storms.

My blogs have been a little delayed since coming to Amsterdam. I hope you will not mind. I pray that this will encourage you to read the Psalm yourself or to read others.

May you have a blessed week. Remember you are loved and cherished. God bless, Victoria.

(2 Corinthians)- Rebuke, hope, restoration.

I finished 2 Corinthians last week and wanted share some truths from the letter. There are many themes and questions that run throughout. The three I want to focus on is rebuke, hope and restoration.

This was Paul’s second letter of correction to the Corinthians. These were people that he loved. He wanted them to live in the truth. Even though he was having to rebuke them, he was not doing it to tear them down. He was doing it so that they could build themselves up again with the foundation of truth and come into restoration again. Even as I read 2 Corinthians, I was challenged by some of the questions that Paul was asking them. Rebuke is applicable to all our lives. Rebuke done in love, helps us to see the errors of our way. It gives us hope that we can move forward and be restored. That restoration can only come through Jesus. We can have incredible preachers, teachers and influencers. We have to make that commitment to surrender and live our lives to pursue Jesus.

Rebuke

Like any of us, the Corinthians were not perfect. Paul was not asking them to be prefect but he was challenging their behaviour and way of living. A few include their hardness of heart. Paul mentions throughout the letter how he loves them and how he is encouraged by them. 2 Cor 3v2-3 ‘You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, know and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of humans hearts.’ An incredible testimony. He later goes on to challenge them on their love. Paul has wrote about his hardship and then goes on to say. 6v11-13 ‘We have spoken freely to you, Corthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange- I speak as to my children- open wide your hearts also.’ Even in this rebuke, he does it in a tender way but he wants them to realise from his side there has only ever been love. It is their choice if they want to recieve it and give it back.

Paul also warns them against idolatry, they cannot be yoked with unbelievers. There is a complete distinction between what they believe. He also uses the time to remind them who they belong to. 6v16 ‘For what agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will live with them and among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ To be with an unbeliever would ultimately mean sacrificing who they have been called to be.

Continuing on with the idolatry they are also rebuked for how easily they can be deceived. They are reminded that even though they live in the world, they are called to live differently. This verse is applicable to each believer today. 11v20 ‘In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. ‘ All of us can fall short here, when we take our eyes off of Jesus. We are constantly looking for other things/people to fulfil us. We often don’t care what they are taking from us, we care more about living for that high or that moment of pleasure. We can so easily lose a lot of who we are. We all need to reflect and make wise decisions, surrendered decisions on who we are living our lives for.

Paul also challenges them on living out their faith. One of those means is by giving. He uses the example of the Macedonian churches. Even when they were suffering great trails and poverty. They gave so much, more than they could because they wanted to be a part of the service of the Lord’s people. Paul writes to the Corinthians 8v14-15 ‘At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written; “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little”. That is in reference to Exodus 16v18. It is a real call for them to look beyond themselves. To not let their security and faith be in their riches but to extend outwards. To support their brothers and sisters. Being the body of Christ. It is something all believers can reflect on even today. To look at where their security and trust is lying. Possibly to realise how small their perspective on life has been and how much need there is to be supported.

There are a lot of rebukes within this letter. I would recommend reading it through for yourself. Maybe something will challenge you or develop your understanding further. Here was a glimpse, now let us move on to hope.

Hope

7v8-9 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while – yet know I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way. Rebuke is painful but in the case of the Corinthians it is beginning to bring beauty and life. For the rebuke did not cause them to despair and lose hope. Instead, it led them back to God. They repented and there was such fruit from that repentance.

V11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. Rebuke was good for them, even in the mistakes they were making, Paul had hope for them. He loved them, he cared for them and he nourished them with God’s word. He spoke truth over them.

Paul talks about suffering and persecution. Even in the hardship of that, that they need to hold onto hope. 4v17-18 ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ Paul was a man who knew suffering, he also knew where his hope was found. It is was in no earthly thing or person. Even through the hardship, he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus. He kept his eyes fixed on the purpose of his ministry. Through that he shared the gospel by all means possible. When he encourages the Corinthians, he does it knowing the hardship that comes from being a Christ follower. Also the joy and life that it gives too. We can all be encouraged and challenged by Paul’s ministry and devotion.

Paul pours so much time and care int the the people of Corinth. Paul does have his doubts but he also has hope for them. The hope and restoration he he has for them is beautifully put in the concluding words of the letter.

Restoration

V11-14 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

There was a call for unity, peace, love and life. Paul wanted them to be one, to support one another. To not allow the worldly ways to divide them. All that he asks of them is achievable but not in their own strength. Each day they need the strength and love of God through the spirit. They need grace to meet them and they need to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. There is such a love and care for these people. A lot of hope.

I have come to love this letter due to the grace and hope that flows through it. To see rebuke in a positive light, helps each and everyone of us in our faith. We do need our decisions and motives to be challenged, when they are not in line with who we are called to be. We need to be aware of where we are putting our hope, time and energy. We need to be realigned with the truth. To make sure we are standing on the sure foundation of truth. Rebuke is never easy but may we be able to see it as something that leads to hope and restoration.

As always read the text for yourself. Allow God to speak to you through it. Even if you want to add something, leave it in the comments.

Proverbs 1v23-24 Listen when I reprimand you; I will give you good advice and share my knowledge with you. I have been calling you, inviting you to come, but you would not listen. You paid no attention.

May we never miss the call of Godly wisdom over our lives.

Remember you are loved and cherished. May you continue to grow in wisdom and grace. God bless, Victoria. Xx

P. S This week will be a two blog week, because I did not manage my time too well last week. Xx

Amsterdam Ministry. (The beginning)

This is a new series that I will be doing, while I am in Amsterdam. It will be full of scriptural encouragement, lessons I am learning and life in general. I hope you will enjoy it!

I want to begin with a Psalm that I was given the night before I jouryned to Amsterdam.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains-Where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Writing it out in its fullness, has made me realise how much this Psalm was needed for this next step in my life. From the first day I got here there has been a lot going on and a lot to learn. It can be so easy to be overwhelmed but how gracious God has been. In all I have been learning, I have had a incredible sense of peace and have enjoyed the many aspects I have already encountered. To be able to talk freely about Jesus and faith with so many different people has already began to further my faith perspective. Everything we do in the ministry at the shelter is supported by prayer and Scripture. That has enabled me to see how much it is needed. For it is by the strength of God, that such work and care can be accomplished. Although the past few days has been a transition period there is so much truth and love that I have already encountered.

I have been challenged this week by what I was allowing to dominate my mind. If you know Amsterdam, then you know it is famous for many things, especially cycling. Cycling is not something I have done in years so I was overwhelmed when I was required to do it. Let’s just say my first time cycling led to many lampposts and even a door being hit into. At that moment, I decided to allow fear to control me. I was trusting in my own strength and ability and it was not working. My mind quickly became swamped with fear and anxiety over the next time I would have to cycle. Even in my quiet time and prayer life my mind was focused on the insecurity of not being able to cycle well. In a night of worship, when my mind was reeling I heard words that convicted me. ‘You are allowing your fears to become your gods.’ It was true, I was allowing all my thoughts and words to become about this fear. I was losing sight of what was around me because I was letting fear control me. The next day I prayed with someone over it. From that I ended up taking my bike out on my own and cycling from A to B. Was it a perfect ride, nope. Did I find freedom from that fear, yes. There are many valuable lessons I am learning from this lesson. Firstly, sometimes the best action after prayer is to put it into action. Don’t keep dwelling on it but actively trust God and go out and do it. Secondly, keep trying. There is so much more to be gained when we fail and then pick ourselves up and try again. For it is not by our strength but by God’s. Thirdly, have a faithful heart. Don’t allow your focus to come off of God and all that he promises and continues to do. ‘The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.’ Nothing that we do on earth is greater or mightier than who God is. Sometimes, we can not always be good at everything. That does not determine our worth in the eyes of God. Trust in who God says you are, not in what man calls you.

I pray for any of you that are going into new jobs, university or any new places in life. That you would trust in the words of Psalm 121. Allow them to become your prayer as you step into this next area of your life. Wherever we go in life, we are promised that God will never leave us or forsake us. Even in the struggle of the day, may we learn to praise God for that.

May you all have a wonderful week. I pray that you will know that you are loved and cherished. God bless, Victoria. Xx

Lessons I am learning from: God’s grace, healing and restoration.

I write this letter to my 21 year old self as a reminder of all that God has done in my life. My life looked a mess two years ago, I was absolutely broken inside. Slowly and beautifully God removed the broken parts and restored all that I needed to be. I struggled with trusting but God never stopped moving. I thank God for all I am today, for making me in his image and restoring all that was broken. I thank God for restoring my worth and for walking through life with me.

Proverbs 16v9 ‘The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.’

To 21 year old Tori,

You have finished university and your internship has fallen to pieces. You mind is still trying to catch up with the past three years. I know you are continuously questioning yourself and doubting that you have made the right decisions in life. These next two years will feel really useless to you. However, they are the making of you. You will have massive slumps, will make bad decisions and generally struggle. Looking back on these two years, you will see how much of it was about stripping off the old to be made new. Through it all, Jesus is holding you and walking with you. You will find that it is in your faith, that you will be transformed and renewed. That those relationships that look broken, will be restored. Your body changes but you learn to put your value in something greater than your weight. You learn to thrive, to stand up for yourself, to love deeper and to let go of hurt.

Don’t disregard the next two years, they may look dull in perspective to the lives around you. Reagradless, every step forward is progress. Unfortunately, you will allow your emotions to guide you. They will tear you apart because they are not truth. Your spirit will feel crushed, due to what you dreamed of crashing down in less than a month. I can assure you, if you had gone into any sort of ministry your heart nor your mind would have been ready. Be thankful, that in the next two years you will devour God’s word. You will read many books on how to live out God’s word and how to serve. You will have many opportunities to learn and grow in ministry. At the moment, you are not ready . You have a lot of healing to go through. Even at 23, you still have a lot to learn but you are in a far better place than you are right now. Lean in and trust God, his way is not easy but it is far better than trying to do it on your own. Do not be discouraged, even when you mess up do not believe God has turned his back on you. Turn your face back to him and recieve the grace that he gives. It is overflowing. Jesus’ blood covers you, none of your mistakes are beyond God’s redemption. Don’t let the past hold you and destroy all that is good in front of you.

As you heal and grow, your life will be used to minister to those around you. In greater ways than you could ever know. Even in retail work, by being yourself, you love and serve people well. Never feel like an opportunity is wasted, place it into God’s hands and he can turn it round for his good.

You will struggle with doing retail but it will only make you stronger. It is being used as preparation for your next step in life. You learn to serve people with all different manners; you will find that the ‘rude’ customers are some of the nicest people you will ever know. You will be glad to get out of retail but your time there was worthwhile, keep working hard. You will meet amazing people along the way. Choose to see the situation in a better light, it will help you on some of your hardest days.

Coming back home does not mean you have failed. Your parents will love and support you as you get back on your feet. They will help you not to make decisions based on your emotions. You make amazing memories with your youngest sister. Going to some incredible concerts and amusements. You look after each other and laugh too much even on the hardest days. You make stronger relationships with all your siblings. With age comes wisdom and healing. You see friends you have not seen in years, you help and support each other. Even though you do not love your town, you allow yourself to favour coffee shops and food places. A little warning, you spend too much time and money in Waterstones. You grow and you thrive. Your church family care and support you through these years. They speak truth over you to allow you to grow in areas of ministry. God uses these wonderful people to speak truth over your life.

Throughout the two years you will apply for various other jobs, none of them will be successful. I would admit starting an email to a candle shop stating ‘I love candles’ is neither professional or smart. (Thankfully your sister read through that email.) Honestly, you will be just about to give up when God opens the next door for you. Restoring your dream of going into ministry work, to care for and love people. God’s timing is perfect. You are thankful none of those other job opportunities were successful, for you would not be able to do what you are doing now. Even though this move is to a new country, you know that the Good Shepherd is guiding you all the way through.

From your 23 year old self, I cannot assure you anymore by saying. ‘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).

I pray that this reflection over my life will reassure, encourage and help you. There will be many people who want to guide us; I found my life when I trusted God with it.

You are loved and cherished. Have a blessed week. God bless, Victoria.