Our God really does care about the little things.
And our God really does use the little things to break the ice.
Here is a short, and quite amusing, story that happened to my family a few weeks back:
After weeks of praying and searching God’s heart, we decided it was time to buy a new car. Our old car was started to be a bit dodgy and we had a feeling that sooner or later it would cost us a LOT of money to fix. So we wanted to trade it in before that happened! We went out one weekend to look at cars and came back having made a decision that we wanted to test drive and buy a new(ish!) Vauxhall Vafira. You know, one of those big boxy family type cars with extra seats in the back in case you accidentally have two more children than planned….
The next weekend we booked in three test drives of three similar cars and prayed for the best (I really wasn’t looking forward to a whole saturday being wiped out spending it in cars and car showrooms). So off we all drove to the first car showroom excited to start the day and find a new car. It was all going well until Rob went off to get the car seats out of our old car so we could put them in the one we wanted to test drive. 10 minutes later he still hadn’t returned – that couldn’t be good….
When we all went out to check (me, sam, reuben in his car seat and the sales lady), Rob was wrestling with Sam’s car seat – it was stuck. Our old car had this annoying feature that if you stopped pulling it out, it had to go all the way back in again to come out again. And when undoing the seatbelt, it had gone in too far and got wrapped around the arm of the car seat. There were only two options here – cut the seat belt of the car we were hoping to sell with the sales lady stood right in front of us, or destroy the car seat in some way. We went for the second option, and Rob sawed off the arm of the car seat with his pen knife.
It made for an interesting ice breaker with the car sales lady, who we entertained around Chesterfield on our test drive. When we got back to the showroom we got such a deal from her that we couldn’t refuse, and we bought the car there and then. It was lovely though to be able to spend time talking to her and getting to know about her. She obviously felt valued in speaking to us, as she then sent extra goodies for Sam when Rob picked up the car, a handwritten thank you card for buying the car from her and then a parcel of goodies for Sam’s birthday also turned up in the post a week later!
It all seemed to turn out ok (and we had managed to time our test drive perfectly to fit in with their company’s promotion of offering a free night away in a hotel when you test drive a used car!), but my heart was heavy that my son was sitting in a car seat that could possibly be dangerous. I mean, it was still strapped in with the seat belt but having a sawed off arm couldn’t be great, could it?! I hadn’t prayed about, but God knew it was weighing heavy on my heart. Then a couple of days later I got an email from Argos. The car seat was being recalled due to faulty plastic used in it. We could have a complete refund of £50, no questions asked, it we took it back!
I sometimes stand in awe and wonder at how amazing our Father God is and in his timing. We bought that car seat over 9 months ago and yet the timing in the recall fitted perfectly with when we truly needed it.
So many positive things came out of this experience for me – getting to speak light and truth to the lady at the garage, getting a new car seat for free (when it all seemed to have gone wrong), getting a free night away in a hotel and finally my son being blessed with presents as well. God uses every little experience in our life for His glory and that really and truly excites me. I hope it excites you too.
So we are now over a week into the 40 acts lent generosity challenge, and I am loving it! It is so exciting to be bringing Sam along for the ride with me this year and to be taking on the family version as well the normal version. We already have so many great stories to share (which I will in a minute!) but I wanted to start off by sharing this song. I have been reminded today that generosity is a big choice – it makes you wrestle with your selfish inner self, but everytime I let generosity win I am always amazed at the outcome!
Love is something if you give it away
So many time in life we have the choice to hold everything tight to ourselves – love, money, time, objects. We end up just having lots of stuff but being lonely and excluding others. When we open our arms and our hearts we all benefit and we end up having more.
So this last week I have completed the following individual challenges:
— Rachel Ridler (@ace_rach) February 16, 2016v
-Circles – thought about who I connect with who might benefit from my generosity
-Roots – connecting with my local community, I signed up to be a friend of a new library starting up nearby
-Cupboard love – cleared out my cupboards and there is now a big pile ready to go to the charity shop!
We didn’t make it, but here is sam’s generosity box for day 3 of #40acts @40acts – raising money 4 @TeenageCancer pic.twitter.com/vtwFNFNoDu
— Rachel Ridler (@ace_rach) February 12, 2016
With Sam I have also completed most of the family challenges:
-Made a generosity kit to take around with us
-Left cake for friends to enjoy
-Sellotaped a chocolate bar to the letterbox for the postman
-made a grateful list
It has been amazing seeing Sam get excited about doing generous things – his face when we got home from nursery to see the postman had collected his chocolate bar was worth every penny! And today I ran into the postman to find out that normally there are two of them on our round, but that day there was only him so it had been a great boost for him.
Today I even got my own little generous gift in the post – a fabulous box of thorntons chocolates from a mysterious sender (big thanks to whoever it was!). I was on my way to a Baby Fun group with Reuben and had a big internal fight – should I take them in and share with the other mums who I know will appreciate them too, or should I save them to scoff all by myself on the sofa later. Luckily, my generous side won out and we ll had a great time at baby fun chatting and eating chocolates. As I said before, everytime I let my generous side win I am always amazed at the result. So why not join in and take part in 40 act….
What are you doing for Lent this year? Will you do anything at all? Will you give something up, fast or take something up? What does it actually mean to you? Anything??? Or is it just another date/commitment to have to endure?
Well me and my family will be going on a Godventure this lent by taking part in 40acts together with our very own sticker book too. Will you join us?
Jesus did the ultimate act of generosity when He gave up His own life for us on the cross, and I want to catch more of His heart for people this year, as well as helping my beautiful boys catch that too. I have taken part in 40acts on my own for a couple of years, and every year have grown in my love of being generous to others, that I want to share that with my family too.
It won’t always be easy, and I know some days the tasks might be too hard or scary, but what is the point in spending lent doing something easy?! Why not dedicate it to the Lord this year and see what amazing stories and testimonies He can do through you and your family.
p.s. Here are the links to sign up and where to get your very own sticker book. Why not comment below if you are planning to take part – Lent starts on the 10th Feb!
So yesterday was an interesting kind of day, but one that God used immeasurably more than what I could imagine in the morning.
My plan for the day: Take kids to play centre so that husband can have some peace and quiet to work at home. Spend as little money as possible and sit in a corner with Reuben whilst Sam plays and then come home later to do the food shopping.
God’s plan for the day: Take kids to the RIGHT play centre where Rachel will meet other mums to encourage and chat to the member of staff there about church (this could be a pivotal point in her journey back to relationship with me)
What actually happened: Arrived at planned play centre with free entry voucher in hand. Play centre would not accept it as it was Christmas party so could only go in if I paid £8 party ticket fee. Feeling like a cheap skate decided to leave as was annoyed we couldn’t get in for free. Cue toddler tantrum in middle of car park with son lying on the floor and limbs flailing wildly! Had to quickly calm him down whilst deciding on the cheapest alternative play centre that was close by.
Arrive at next play centre to be greeted by a really friendly staff member. She could see I was struggling so let us in and let me feed crying Reuben before we even actually paid entry! As the place was deserted we had a lovely conversation about the kids and then later in the day she asked where daddy was. Sam said he was at home so I was able to tell her that he is studying for a theology degree and works part time in our church. This opened the door to talk about church with her. The centre then got busier but I was able to write her a nice thank you note and left it with a #lovegives card from our church.
On the way out she also told me an app we can download to get free entry next time! What a blessing she was to us on what seemed to start out as a rubbish day. I pray that God will be moving in her life to rethink what church is and what it means to her. Once again God is able to use my everyday activities as a mum to reach into others lives. Feel amazingly privileged to be a part of it!
As a mum on a mission, it is often a delicate balance to fit in missional activities in my local community with my daily commitments to my home and family -I’m sure you feel that too! And after having a bit of a rollercoaster of a day yesterday I thought I would share with you a day in my life. Enjoy!
8am – the chaos of the morning has just died down as daddy and Sam head out the door to nursery/work. Today is a special day as Reuben has been asked to play baby Jesus in an interactive nativity experience on of our church’s extension sites is putting on for a local primary school. So we quickly get dressed and sorted and head out the door.
9am – arrive at Thurcroft building and feed Reuben whilst everyone else gets ready for the nativity. Baby’s routine can’t go out of the window even when there is outreach to be done! My priority is as a mum and I made sure Reuben was happy and fed before handing him over to “Mary” for the morning!
12noon – the kids loved the nativity! And it was the icing on the cake for them all that it was a real baby. Made it all worth it to see the faces filled with awe as they came into the stable and saw baby Jesus/Reuben. Now to head off to pick up big brother Sam from nursery – can’t forget about him!
1pm – arrive home after picking a tearful boy up from nursery. They couldn’t find the second sticky picture he had made and mummy hadn’t come to pick him up with his trike in tow, so it was a disaster. This was followed by several hours of whining when we got home and copious amounts of cbeebies to try and cheer him up and occupy him whilst Reuben slept. It did not go well….
3pm – after feeding Reuben and getting very annoyed with Sam who kept trying to sit on Reuben’s head whilst I fed him, enough was enough and decided we all needed to get out of the house for some fresh air. Usual battle of getting ready commenced and all three of us ended up in tears. But it’s worth the battle to get out and deliver Christmas cards to the neighbours. We might not know everyone on our estate, but just this little token of Christmas cheer might open up more doors and cement some relationships.
I am sure deep down inside all of us is a desire to be generous and to love others. After all, we are made in the image of our Father God, who is the most loving and generous God that he sent his son to die on the cross for us. But truthfully, every day life and requirements cloud this desire from coming to fruition.
There are many things that stop us from following our generous hearts (here are just a few which you might relate to):
- money – it is expensive to be generous! We have all heard amazing stories of people paying others bills in supermarkets, petrol stations, coffee shops, etc. Or of people buying loads of chocolate bars or baking lots of cake. But in all honesty, you have to have some disposable income to throw at it in order to be generous in this way, and sometimes we just don’t!
- time – putting in the preparation for being generous sometimes gets in the way of actually just doing it. Having to think about what you are going to do, go out and buy it or prepare it. Its all a bit too much sometimes when the kids are screaming and the dinner needs cooking.
- courage – It is scary sometimes to put our hearts on the line and offer something to someone else, especially if it is someone we don’t know.
For me it is all of these things. I yearn to be more generous and yet lack the money, time and courage to follow through. But I am determined to do something nice in my neighbourhood to show the love of God to the estate. Here is my plan! I have invested this year in a “purple voucher book”, a local resource that has hundreds of vouchers, like 2 for 1 in restaurants, theme parks etc. The book itself cost £20, but as I will be using some of the vouchers myself to treat my family to days out I figured it was a worthwhile investment. There are quite a few vouchers that I know I won’t personally be able to use so I am going to post them through the doors of houses on our estate with one of our church’s #lovegives cards so they know that there is a connection to church, and hopefully they will look it up online to see where the voucher has come from.
So there you have it – a simple, cheap, no prep required and reasonably low amount of courage needed to be generous idea. Coupons are for caring just as much as cash or presents, so why not leave vouchers or coupons where people can find them? What are your ways and tips for being generous on a budget? Share them below!
Recently I have joined a new mummy online social website in a bid to try to widen my circle locally. The website provides a place where you can meet mums in your area and invite them to socials events or just for a cuppa. So I jumped straight in and put up an event – a teddy bear’s picnic for those in my closest areas where mums and kids could come and meet each other.
There were probably about 10-15 mums invited but only 3 responded – 1 to say she could come (internal jump of happiness!), 1 to say she couldn’t but would love to meet up another time (again a positive response) and 1 to say she might be able to but if not perhaps could do something another time (its still a response so my heart was singing!). I also pushed some invitations through doors on my estate of people who I knew had kids. I even invited a mum who I saw walking past our house with a pushchair the other day when I was feeling brave!!
The day of the picnic came and I prayed faithfully that God would make it a success in His eyes and that the right people would turn up. I got everything set up looking beautiful, I had baked cakes the night before and got colouring sheets and other activities ready. Some might say that at 8 months pregnant I put a little too much effort into it, but I wanted to make sure that if people did come they felt welcome and their kids had plenty to do.
Four per cent. That sounds like nothing. And as we near that figure for how many out of 5000 we have fed in our house, it sounds minuscule, it sounds small, it sounds insignificant. But in fact it is almost 200 different people. 200 different lives, 200 different stories, 200 different beings all loved by God and hopefully shown that love through us.
When the little boy came to Jesus with his five loaves and two fishes, Jesus didn’t say it was too small or insignificant. He thanked God, blessed the food and passed it out. Today I come to God with all those 200 people who have passed through our door over the past 6 1/2 years and thank him for every single one and ask him to bless them.
You see at the heart of my family’s desire to feed 5000 people in our home over our lifetime was not the numbers really (sometimes you just have to pick a target out of thin air!!) but was the people that we would get to impact. You see hospitality can be a very powerful thing. It can be the door to new friendships, perhaps providing a way to start conversations when it is difficult in other places. It can provide a breathing space for problems to be aired and discussed. It can be an encouragement both physically and spiritually for those who are tired and weary. It can be a great social time with many people! It can be a source of comfort when times are difficult and a respite from the pain. Let us not forget how important hospitality is in our everyday lives, by instead try to keep that invite into our homes at the tip of our tongue for everyone we meet.
I have this verse in my kitchen as a reminder to do that:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it”. Hebrews 13:2
Have you ever found a tiny note left in your bag that has just meant the whole world to you? Or received an encouraging text message that has changed your mood for the whole day? Has anyone ever offered to have coffee with you and you’ve felt that little bit more loved and cared for?
Well this weekend I was reminded of how much the little things really do matter and what a big difference they can make. Along with my husband I got the privilege of serving on one of the many Spree summer camps taking place across the UK organised by Urban Saints. We were tasked with preparing the ministry sessions for the service crew, a group of 30 16-20 year olds who came on camp mainly to do the dogs body jobs (manning the bouncy castles, stewarding, litter picking, etc). But this year we also got the amazing opportunity to connect with them before, during and after the event and to really mentor and encourage them.
Through the course of numerous text messages pre-event and a Facebook group mainly dominated by comments from myself, we were able to get to know some of the group a little before the weekend came. Then throughout the weekend we were freed up with no other tasks to do so that we could just spend time chatting to them and getting to know their hearts. It is amazing how much you can learn about someone’s hopes, dreams, fears, disappointments and successes in a 5 minute conversation. Taking that time to really listen paid off.
We were able to spend the last morning of the weekend preparing commissioning gifts for all the young people – special notebooks containing a handwritten and personal message for each of them along with a bible verse to encourage them in the “real world”. Already many of the group have contacted us to say how touched they were by the message they received, and hopefully that will help them to know how loved and cared for they are.
Our final little thing to make sure that the impact of this weekend is lasting was to get the service crew to write a letter to themselves for a few months time. I will post these out later in the year and hopefully it will be a nice surprise and reminder of what they learnt and how they felt. I may even pop an extra surprise in the envelopes of those who have left them unsealed!!
It may not sound like much, but a text message, a 5 minute conversation, the time it takes to write some personal instead of generic and the effort and small cost it will take to post a letter I believe will make a difference. I have maybe invested 1 hour into each of those young people’s lives, but that 1 hour could mean more than anything.
I am not trying to boast, as I by no means think I have done more than what the youth leaders have been investing into these young people for years and years, but I just want to prompt us all to think about what little thing we could do to impact another. You might not think it will make a difference, but believe me that it can.
Do you ever look back at a period in your life with sadness, or wish you were still there?
This week I have been contemplating the different seasons that God takes us through and how to make the most of the one that I am in. I wouldn’t change where I am for a second, and an unexpected child free evening told me that as I didn’t really want to do anything and felt bereft without my monitor close to me so I could hear every sleepy murmur and shuffle! But I do look back sometimes on my uni years and the boldness with which I shared the gospel and miss that buzz and thrill.
You see, now I am in a season where friendships take longer to build than just being put in the room next door to someone. I am in a season where religion and politics isn’t first off everyone’s tongue, but how long your child has slept through the night and whether they are potty trained. Evangelism is a slow process and if I were to speak with the boldness that I did at uni I probably wouldn’t have many friends left!
Does this make me feel sad? Yes a little. But I am choosing to see it as a new and exciting challenge. No longer can I offer someone a free sandwich and they be putty in my hands, I have to actually work at this to earn the right to share my true love, Jesus, with them. I have to put in the time and connect. And to be honest that is going to be much more rewarding. Yes I won’t see fast results like I did at uni. I won’t be able to count every week how many of my friends came to church or a lunchbar, but eventually I will see God start to move in their hearts. And that is more real and more exciting in my book.
So whatever season you are in, embrace it with all you have and let God show you the unique opportunities you have in it.