S is for Seasons

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. 

BLOGIVERSARY!! Other Mums on a Mission – Kiri

Here is another great story from a mum on a mission.  Kiri has already posted a guest post on here which you can read here, so I hope you enjoy reading a bit more about her!

A Bit About Me: Hey everyone I am Kiri and I blog over at Wonderfully Random, I am a Household CEO and a Director of Child Development aka a stay at home mum.  You can catch my average day on my Day in the Life Post

How did you come to read the blog?: I absolutely love reading blogs and found Rachel’s blog because we are part of the same church, I hadn’t got a chance to speak to Rachel before so had a read of all her posts before I quizzed her on her life one Sunday lol. She was at a complete disadvantage but handled my randomness impressively!

What impact has the blog had on you and your mission?: This ties into what I think my mission is. Up until I had read Rachel’s blog I didn’t really see myself having a mission, don’t get me wrong I am highly organized person and I do things with intention I just never associated myself with a specific mission in mind. Rachel’s amazing blog challenges me to think differently about everyday life, what can I do to share God’s love with my neighbours, strangers or even the person I purposefully avoid. 

I often find Rachel’s posts quite challenging, there is a common theme of moving from our present circumstances to draw closer to God and bless other as we do that. It sounds so simple on paper doesn’t it?

Well 2014 I thought was going to be a really good year and it was, however a reoccurring theme that surfaced was people who I trusted hurting me, in all 3 circumstances from different people I was the one who was wronged and if you had to ask my husband, my sister and closest friends they would tell you I am stubborn and I love an apology – in all three instances I still haven’t got one. 

I have really struggled with forgiving those that hurt me and then I read Rachel’s post “Be a blessing but not just to the nice people”.   She asks us to move above ourselves and bless those who insult us. I can tell you I have 100% not wanted to bless those who have hurt me, in fact I am sure I read Rachel’s post the first time and thought I must tell her about all these who have hurt me and I am sure she would be on my side! 

Rachel’s blog speaks truth, life and hope into a situation, I may not have an apology but as Rachel said in her post by blessing and praying for those who have hurt me I am freeing myself from bitterness I could hold towards them. 

Looking forward to what your next year in blogging brings!

BLOGIVERSARY! Other Mums on a Mission – Jo

When I started this blog my heart was to share with other mums and to inspire them to go out into their own personal mission fields, to not use motherhood as an excuse to stop reaching others for Jesus, but to use it as an amazing opportunity!  So to celebrate one year of blogging here is an amazing step-mum who is doing just that:

Name: Joanna Jackson 

A bit about you: Crafting, Cooking and Christian, and I wish Environmentalist began with a C… I see myself as an encourager but always need some encouragement back – keep it up! I am a step mum, which as my lovely step son told me once “does make you a mum, if you think about it”! 

How did you come to read my blog?:As Rachel’s friend from Christian Union at Lancaster University the blog has been a great way to keep up with her and her family. 

What impact has the blog had on you and your mission?: I love the idea of blessing others by welcoming them into your home. I have posted a copy of a beautiful inspirational picture which makes me think of Rachel, by Hannah Dunnett, titled ‘Seasoned with salt’. Check out www.benandhannahdunnett.com for more of their beautiful artwork.

What was your favourite blog post?: My favourite blog post on Mum on a Mission mentioned me! Small claim to fame;-) It was titled “My Cloud of Witnesses”

Pop your bubble

Today I started reading “Unlocking the door” – one of my new Christmas books that I mentioned in my new year post.  And the introduction alone both saddened and moved me.  It said that the majority of Christians have few close friends outside of their church circles.

Let that sink in

Few close friends outside of your church circle

Does that sound like you? I know it sounds like me and I am upset that it is so true for my life.  How on earth can I possibly hope to reach non-Christians when I am not friends with any?!

We all need to pop our little Christian bubbles and step out into the real, and sometimes scary, world.  I know that through my plans to get to know the neighbours, to become a regular at mother and toddler groups, that this is starting to make a difference to how many non-christian friends I have, but is it enough? Today I am just going to mull this over and then carry on reading my book to see what ideas it sparks for changing this in my life.

Being a blessing – but not just to the nice people…..

So this post sort of follows on from my posts about love being the hardest choice, but I wanted to share some practical examples of how to do this.  Now I know there will be those people in your life who just rile you, who are rude and selfish and disrespectful to you.  But because of circumstances you just have to put up with them.  Perhaps they are your colleagues or boss at work.  Perhaps they are your neighbours.  Perhaps they are another mum at a toddler group you love.  They could be anyone.  

We often think the Christian thing to do is to hold our tongues and not say anything, and so many times we go home and grumble about it there instead, in the privacy and security of our homes behind closed doors.  We stew it in and it eats us up but we think we are doing the loving thing in not confronting people and being angry.  But the bible tells us to do something completely different – it says we should actively seek to BLESS those people who insult us.

I want to give you two examples where I have been challenged to do this (and please note – I am not telling you this because I am super proud of these times, as there have been many other chances to do this that I have ignored, but rather to encourage you to have the boldness to do it).

The first was with a family that lived behind our house.  The moved in a year after us and were your typical anti-social neighbours.  They played loud music into the early hours of the morning, the shouted and swore at each other at the tops of their voices, they let their kids run around the street doing whatever they wanted and destroying whatever they wanted and the kids even shouted abuse at us.  They threw pumpkin at our house on Halloween and just made us feel like we didn’t want to live there any more.  It all seemed like it might be fine when we decided to move house and like we could just escape them silently, but God didn’t want that.  He kept prodding me to get them a Christmas present.  I really didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to go over and give it to them.  But I sort of listened and started collecting items together to go in a hamper for them.  I wrapped it up and everything and then my nerves started to kick in – how on earth was I going to be able to give it to them??  I eventually ended up leaving it outside their front door early one Saturday morning when they were all still in bed, and then peeking to see if they had seen it!  I never knew what they thought of it or if it made a difference, but I knew I had done the right thing in blessing them.

The second was at a similar time when we had received an offer on our house.  Things started to go pear shaped and our buyers were trying to get every pound off the asking price they could. If I had seen them I very well might have hit them!!  But I just kept trusting God that it would all be fine, and in the end it was.  On the weeks leading up to moving day, God again started to prod me.  I was contemplating thoughts of not cleaning the house to get them back for all the heart ache, and God said no – you must leave the house immaculate and also put together a welcome hamper for them.  So I collected some vital new home things (soap, candles, washing up liquid etc) along with some handy things about the neighbourhood and left them in a basket on the kitchen side.  As I locked the door the leave that house for good, I felt upset about the way I felt towards them, but I knew I had done the right thing in blessing them.  Again, I will never know what they thought of that or if it was significant to them.

There are many other examples when I didn’t do this – with my boss at my previous job who bullied me is one that stays with me.  When she left I don’t think I even looked her in the eye and said good bye, and now I wonder how different it might have been if I had chosen the bless her instead.

So if you feel that annoyance rising up, the insults coming at you and the evil coming against you, I ask you to try to listen to the voice of God telling you to bless them instead.  I am not sure what this will look like in each situation, and it might just be you praying for them, but by showing them the love of Jesus and acting as he would you might just change them from insulting you to joining you in praising God. 

Beautiful Mission

Last week I heard God nudging me, telling me to step out of my comfort zone and to step up and share something at the Shine conference that is happening in December.  I did the classic thing of ignoring it – thinking it was just my paranoid subconscious and that it would be a stupid idea to even suggest it to the leader of the event.  But the voice kept coming back and nudging me, so I eventually gave in and scripted the most feeble ask in all of eternity with as many get out clauses for the leader as possible.  And low and behold she said yes!  

So here I am starting to prepare/freak out about the fact that I have offered to share some of my testimony to a room full of 100-200 young women and their leaders in only a few weeks time.  Not only that but I have chosen to speak on my decision not to wear make up and my time as a Christian throughout Secondary School, which is not something I have really spoken about before.  But you know what? God looks after me – and this morning He revealed this passage of scripture to me:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”  1 Peter 3:3-4

Me in Secondary School
Yes I really did have that fringe

One of the big reasons for Shine being born by Urban Saints was to help girls listen to the truth about what God thinks about them instead of listening to what the world says.  Even though I know this it is still really hard to accept, and looking back on my time at secondary school is not going to be easy.  I was the class swot, straight A student, and when you added known Christian into the mix it made me definitely someone to avoid.  But I like to think that it was my “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” that attracted others and meant that I didn’t go through school on my own, but had a host of friends around me.  

I have always been blessed in that God gave me friends that respected my decisions and didn’t force me or tempt me in other directions.  Yes I went to parties but I made my choice not to drink and stood by it.  Yes I wanted to follow fashion and look nice as all teenage girls did, but I didn’t want to plaster my face in make up as a mask or reveal so much of myself with my clothes that nothing was left to the imagination!  And I guess that when you are firm in your commitment to God and finding your beauty from that peace of knowing Him that it really does shine out.

Right now, my mission field is very different to that of my Secondary School, but the pressures are all still there.  The pressure to be the best dressed mum despite having to get dressed with an audience!  The pressure to have your hair perfect despite my one year old’s obsession to pull it.  The truth of God’s love for our spirit remains the same though, and that is what I cling to.  That is what attracts other mums to me at the toddler group and that is what opens doors with my neighbours on the estate.  Not my perfect hair or judgement of what they might be wearing, but a spirit that is welcoming and caring.  That is what is attractive and what prompts questions.  I am not saying we have to be scruffy and neglect our appearance, but I truly believe that God works more powerfully when we allow him to make our spirits beautiful first.  Mission can be sparked by beauty, but the beauty of our spirits not our bodies.

Social Media and Mission

Today’s topic is very personal to me as I guess I have tried to strive to use my social media presence and intertwine it with my mission here on earth.  I for one am an advocate of social media being used for mission and I will explain why later, but first I wanted to just define what I mean by the word mission:

Mission is following Christ’s calling on our lives to share the gospel with a lost world

Now I realise that everyone has their own personal mission, the group of people that they are specifically called to reach out to or a particular activity through which they reach out, but everyone who is a Christian is called and has a mission, no exceptions.  The Great Commission to go and make disciples is to all of us.

So how can we use social media to achieve that?  In one sentence – by living our Christian life online in the same way that we would live it offline.  A massive part of being a Christian is having integrity – we are honest and vulnerable and we share our failings but we also try to live a life of purity in the image of Jesus.  So when we use social media it should be a true reflection of ours lives in Christ, not a mask of what we want people to see.  I love this verse below and it has really challenged me about the things that I post on facebook and twitter:

Wherever you post something online it is going to be seen by both Christians and Non-Christians, so it is a really easy, but also dangerous, way to show them how your life has changed by having Jesus in it.  You can be a witness by the words you post as you have a captive audience of friends and followers who will be reading it.  So we need to be really careful, but also truthful, about what we post.  We need to enter into the mindset that our whole lives, both on and offline, are an act of worship and our mission field.  We may only have 50 friends on facebook (I of course have WAYYY more than that because I am the friend every wants on facebook….), but they also have 50 friends, and they have 50 friends.  Our sphere of influence is potentially massive so we need to use this for the power of the gospel.

So here are a few practical ideas that I have found useful for how we can use social media for mission:

  • Quoting bible verses in every post will not attract non-Christians!  It is awesome to be able to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ and to put up verses that have been really influential to you, but if every post you put is a quote from scripture you will bore and turn away your friends or followers who aren’t Christians.  Your life is an amazing testimony to how amazing our God is and if you show this through putting up real and honest posts then the gospel will shine through it.  Don’t try too hard and definitely don’t preach online!!!  This is not the right place for that….
  • Use your online life to enhance your offline life.  I have said before about how powerful social media can be for connecting people and building relationships, so use it as a stepping stone to developing relationships in your mission field.  Set up events and invite people, comment on your friends posts (being a good friend is about listening too and people really value comments, likes and re-tweets) and invite people to real life meet ups.  Sometimes social media can just break the ice and make it easier to invite people.  And who knows where that first step might take you…
  • Use it to find out about projects and other people who share your passion for your mission field.  Again, the internet and social media especially bring a world of possibilities closer to you.  I have had a great time finding out about projects happening in Doncaster that I never knew existed (a food bank is being set up in my town that I probably wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for twitter!).  So connect with those who share your passions (but don’t become too much of an online stalker) and find our about new passions.
  • Use it to promote  your mission and make connections in your mission field.  Social media gives you a backdoor into many organisations that would otherwise be shut. Now you can tweet to your local council, MP’s, celebrities and post items to business pages on facebook when it would have been really difficult to get through to them on the phone.  And most people/companies/organisations will sit up and listen because social media is so public that they cannot afford to have any bad press around it.  So use this to your advantage – tweet your council to champion their fostering service, lobby your MP online about human trafficking, post on the businesses facebook page to see if they can donate to the local food bank.  Social media is this generations way of communicating so get savy and use it to your advantage.
  • Show Jesus’ love through it.  I think the question “What would Jesus do?” had kind of died down in popularity in the last 10 years, but it is a valid question really.  How would Jesus have used social media?  He probably would have tried to find the person who felt left out or lonely and made them feel loved, He probably would have connected and supported the groups that look after the homeless, the ill, the desperate and re-tweeted their posts to His followers, He probably would have had a good laugh with His closest mates and shared a few in-jokes and selfies, and He probably would have set up a “Sermon on the Mount” event page and tried to invite the whole world to come along!  Whatever you think Jesus might have made of social media, he would have use it for love because that was who He was.  So lets try to do the same and perhaps we might be able to use the power of social media to spread His message of good news.

Book Review – Ordinary Mum, Extraordinary Mission

There are some books in the world that speak right in to your very heart, that echo your exact thoughts and feelings at a certain point in time and which give encouragement, advice and wisdom to your situation.  Ordinary Mum, Extraordinary Mission was that book for me a year ago.  A first time mum, struggling to even just look after and cope with a 4 month old, I stumbled across this book on Eden and just knew I had to buy it.  The tag line spoke about my quandary at that time:

“I wanted to change the world, but I couldn’t find a babysitter”

Before I get on to talking about the message of this book and why you should read it if you share my heart for being a mum on a mission, I just wanted to share a couple of things that this book started in my life.

  • On the back of reading the first chapter of this book I decided that it was too good to keep to myself so I set up a Facebook book club, inviting any and every mum I knew to join me in reading this.  This was such a fantastic couple of months of sharing stories and testimonies and I really believe that this sparked my desire to be a Catalyst and to be the person that does something rather than just thinking about it.
  • Randomly this book led me to the Activate Your Life website, which is another story altogether, but has opened my eyes to the world of friendship evangelism and the importance of living and sharing the gospel in your everyday life with the people you meet and do life with.
So what is so great about this book?  It is practical and it is real.  And when you only have a few precious minutes of nap time or quietness a day this is really important.  You don’t want to read waffle that you can’t apply and waste that time of peace that you have to read.  Instead this book gives examples, ideas and inspiration on how you can go out and live your mission as a mother.  Between each chapter there are real life stories of women who are doing amazing things whilst being a mum and there are also some great ideas on how to get your children involved!
I don’t want to give too much away but this book really has changed my outlook on my life as a mum and is probably a big part of why I started this blog.  So do yourself a favour and pick one up today – you won’t regret it!
P.S.  I think my favourite chapter is a toss up between “Help! My calling got shrunk in the wash!” and “Surrender: Wonder woman must die”

Shields on the Battlefields

So today I returned to Toddler Time in my mission to become a regular there!  I was all excited, praying as I walked up that my new friend would be there.  I was the first to arrive and sat expectantly, watching my crazy 1 year attempt to climb up the soft play steps (it really is quite a funny sight!!), but she didn’t show.

And I felt alone.  I felt isolated.  I felt confused!  Why had God answered my prayer last time but not this time?  
And then all the other mums came in in their groups of 3, 4 or 5 and sat around tables drinking tea and chatting.  They all looked so glamorous, so happy and there was no room for me in their groups.  No-one noticed me, no-one spoke to me and it was crippling.  All I want to do is to make friends and to help others, but they didn’t care.

I am sure other mums have felt the same at mother and toddler groups – they can be quite clicky.  This wasn’t the first time that I have felt like this.  I could almost physically feel the arrows of the devil being fired at me as thoughts of rejection circled around inside my head.  I was tired and weak but then I remembered about my shield of faith.  

Sometimes the spiritual battlefield creeps up on you. You are going about your everyday life and something that seems completely normal gets you down.  Have you ever thought that there might be a spiritual element to it?  In this very normal place, I could feel that spiritually satan was trying to bring me down so that I would decide not to keep going to Toddler Time.  But with the help of this verse I was able to recognise this and to fight those thoughts:
“Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” Ephesians 6:16
You see, today was not the day that I built up a friendship, today I did not win another soul for Christ – but that doesn’t mean that next week I won’t or the week after that, or next year even!  I know that God has put something in my heart to go along to Toddler Time and there is a reason for that – only God knows and the devil fears what it might be.  Satan doesn’t want me there – he wants me skulking on the sofa at home where I can’t be light to the world.  So today, despite feeling alone and rejected, I chose to reject those feelings and to instead choose to keep following God and his purposes for me at Toddler Time.  Today I won on the battlefield and I raise my shield of faith in victory!!

Keeping up with the neighbours

We are now almost 6 months in to living in our new house, and yesterday I realised how much the work we have put in to getting to know our neighbours is paying off.  When we first moved on to the estate we really wanted to make an impact and claim it for God, so we made a real effort to talk to people and to think of things that we could do to connect.  Here are some of the things that we did:

  • Welcome bags – we live on a new estate so houses are still being built.  One of the things we really wanted to do was to make up welcome bags for people when they move in as this is a really easy way to strike up conversation.  But apparently a lot of the people who have moved on are ninja’s as I haven’t seen any moving vans but all the empty houses are now filled!  I have managed to catch two new people and we now have great relationships with them.  The next batch of new houses are due to be released in November time so I will be ready with my welcome bags!!!
  • Coffee Mornings – ok so this sounds really lame, but actually just opening up our house to people was really exciting!  I printed off invitations and posted them through almost all the doors on the estate and got quite a few people come along to meet us.  I can now say hello to people and have conversations as I am walking around the estate more comfortably as I have actually met these people.  I am planning my next “invite event” for around Christmas time – I am thinking a mulled wine and mince pie style open house!!
  • Being open to talk – so many people rush from their cars into their houses, they never come out to talk and they hardly ever spend time in their gardens.  So part of us developing relationships was just being visible in the community and open to talking to our neighbours.  Saying hi to them as they pull up on their drives or chatting over the garden fence is not an excessive thing, but it has really made a difference to making those friendships.  Don’t just put your head down and ignore those around you, look up and make an effort to chat!
  • Take an interest – I don’t really care that much about what next door have done in their garden, but they really do!  So whenever I talk to them I ask them about it and I take an interest in it.  People like it when you like them, so make your interactions more about them.  Go out of your way to offer them things related to their interests or point things out.  
This has meant that we have grown those relationships and are now able to have great conversations with out neighbours and even get invited in to some of their homes.  We have a long way to go though, and as well as carrying on doing all the above things we have plans to do even more:
  • Create a community tradition – the best thing I remember about the neighbourhood I grew up in was the traditions that had emerged.  One family always did an open house on new year’s day where all the neighbours were invited.  And it was a great chance to catch up with them and see people that maybe don’t come out of their houses so oftern.  So I am planning to start a community tradition with my mulled wine and mince pie event that will hopefully be liked by those on the estate.  We shall see!
  • Use community space – Once our estate is completed there will be a park area for us all to use.  I am really excited for this as it means that we could do even more things in the community, such as picnics, BBQ’s and sports days.  The opportunities are endless.
  • Become part of the furniture – I have started introducing myself as “the crazy lady on the estate” as I kind of want to get a reputation!  I want to be a bit over the top so that everyone knows who I am and so that when people move out they know to tell the new people that I am the person to come to for anything.  I want to become part of the furniture in a way, known in the community as a helpful and friendly person.
I am sure there are many more things that we could all do to “keep up with the neighbours” and grow those important relationships, so please do post any ideas to share below.