Lock Down

It has been many weeks since I last wrote a post. The weeks have totally run into each other, with the latest lockdown that started before Christmas. It seems so long ago already, but with most of December, all of January, February and March still to come, the world has just been at a stand still.

Working from home has gotten really old. Hours run into days, run into weeks. Each day is exactly the same as the previous one. Weekends don’t feel much different. Just existing from one day to the next.

It makes me reflect on the story of Noah. He and his family and all the animals were in the ark for 371 days! (40 days of rain, light rain of 110 days, 74 days till the water receded enough for Noah to see the tops of the mountains, 7 days later Noah sends the first dove, 7 days later another five, another 7 days later and the final dove. Then another 29 days and the ark cover was removed. And then, finally, another 57 days later Noah and his family disembarked.

If Noah can be in the ark with all the animals for 371 days, I know I can endure another month or so of this lockdown.

It will have been just over a year since the first lockdown when predictions in England say we can see some sense of normality. The seriousness of the infections are reduced by the vaccination program. And soon we are sending out our first dove by finally getting our kids back in school. It’s not quite 7 days later when shops can reopen, but I certainly am looking forward to that second dove being send out to search for dry land!

Then God told Noah, “Come out of the ark. And bring the animals with you so they can be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” So Noah and his family came out with all the animals (Genesis 8:13–19).

Noah was faithful in his obedience and devotion to God. He must have felt that God had forgotten then during those 371 days floating around. We don’t read much about those days, but if I feel cooped up after 100 days, I can certainly imagine how Noah and his family must have felt. He waited obediently till God told him to come out of the ark. It was safe for them all to start repopulating the earth.

And that’s what I’ll do. Faithfully wait till it’s declared safe to go about our business once again. Yet, through this all, I am more convinced than ever that this is My Fathers world. He has not forgotten us, He cares for us as much as He did keeping Noah safe.

With only a few weeks to go to Easter, this is a great time to reflect on that. The great sacrifice He made to be our ‘ark’, our rescue.

Speak Lord, your servant is ready to hear…..

Narnia

CS Lewis wrote the Narnia Chronicles in the 50s, having converted to Christianity in the late 20s. It is based on kids finding a mythical world in a wardrobe and overcoming their own fears in the progress of the story. It’s certainly a series worth reading. Many see the books as a Christian allegory, with Aslan as the Son of God.

Nothing actually says Christmas to me like the story of Aslan in Narnia. Aslan the lion who teaches the kids in the story about unselfish love and self sacrifice. The Lion gave up his life to save Edmund in the story, who had betrayed the Narnians and his siblings. By the death of the Lion, the boy was free to live and repent. It all ends well, the Lion is resurrected and the kids reign over Narnia which they freed from evil.

That’s the story of Christmas to me. Jesus came to this earth to teach us how to live with each other. Ultimately we betray and hurt each other, and in order to give us an opportunity to reconcile with the Father, Jesus gave up His life for us. The story starts of course with the babe Jesus, born in a manger.

Christmas is now past, but remembering Jesus is not just for Christmas. We remember his birth, but it’s worth to also look at His life and the lessons He teaches us daily. Maybe that would be a great way to start the new year 2021, which is almost here. To care for each other, to live in harmony with those around us and put our trust of these uncertain times in the life of Him who came to show us how to live.

May 2021 be the best year yet!

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

In Europe we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the same way our American neighbours do. However, that does not mean we are less thankful!! It’s actually a great opportunity to reflect on the last year and give thanks to Him who has blessed us greatly.

This year has been a hard year, with Covid being on the forefront of everyone’s mind am sure. Sickness, death, job losses, money problems, mental health issues… you name it… Life as we knew it is no more.

Still, I am thankful for all He has lead me through, good and bad.. He is still in control and still the Saviour of my life! And that makes me feel blessed!

So I am taking this moment to also thank all of you. I am grateful for the support I receive in all that I do. I hope I can be as supportive of you.

Thankful for another year, grateful for all my friends and family and blessed because He loves me and cares for me!

A Time For Reflection

Another year has passed. It’s less than 8 weeks to Christmas. The US presidential election is still undecided. And we are back in a total lockdown… events just keep unfolding, and time just keeps on flying. It certainly gives me time to reflect and think about all that is going on in this world.

As I write this, I can hear the family walking up the stairs singing. So sweet, they are bringing cards and little presents. Still I can’t shake the feeling this is just another one of those days of which many have passed already in the last 9 months. I don’t know why I struggle so much with this forced lockdown. Even though I rarely go out anyways, when someone tells you you can’t do something it feels just worse!

Since I have come back from the US I have volunteered at the One Vision (link below) where I can. Sorting food, clothes, refilling the store etc. And by doing so I am focused on others more than myself. With each foodcan I put down or plastic bag I fill I am reminded how blessed I truly am. N

I have no financial struggle, a warm house, and still the ability to enjoy another birthday! It sure puts things in prospective.

Melody and I are also about to attend our first virtual Christmas market with our handmade crochet items. You can find the (growing) collection on our Shopify page (https://tapandco.myshopify.com). This will be a totally new experience, thanks to the lockdown. A little reminder that Christmas is coming!

With that, I can truly say I am thankful. And blessed.

I would encourage you to find light in this dark tunnel. And find a listening ear if you are struggling. There are many wonderful support groups that can be reached, and many individuals who unselfishly give up their time to care for others. It provides a different prospective. And I am also very willing to be the listening ear, or be the other face on a zoom social. Just contact me and let me know.

A Time for Everything

1Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.

2He sets the time for birth and the time for death,

the time for planting and the time for pulling up,

3the time for killing and the time for healing,

the time for tearing down and the time for building.

4He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy,

the time for mourning and the time for dancing,

5the time for making love and the time for not making love,

the time for kissing and the time for not kissing.

6He sets the time for finding and the time for losing,

the time for saving and the time for throwing away,

7the time for tearing and the time for mending,

the time for silence and the time for talk.

8He sets the time for love and the time for hate,

the time for war and the time for peace.

9What do we gain from all our work? 10I know the heavy burdens that God has laid on us. 11He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does. 12So I realized that all we can do is to be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. 13All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift.

14I know that everything God does will last for ever. You can’t add anything to it or take anything away from it. And one thing God does is to make us stand in awe of him. 15Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before. God makes the same thing happen again and again.

https://www.onevisionproject.org

Mental Health Day

Yesterday was the global mental health day. The world health organisation finds mental health important enough to have a yearly day dedicated to it. It’s even more appropriate this year with so many people suffering from poor mental health, of course brought on by the Covid pandemic restrictions.

I too find myself impacted by and barely coping with all that has gone on in the world in the last 8 months. The world as we know it is no more. The outlook of it returning to something similar is slim. And I too am wondering what that means for my long term goals. The speed of change is so fast, it’s very hard to keep up. Every day something else changes from the day before.

By now I am probably Covid fatigued. I understand the need to protect, but something inside me is starting to be rebellious. The impact of the restrictions are now being felt in all layers of society. More and more people are not taking the restrictions serious, tired of being told how to live.

Geert has been furloughed since April. He is now working just 16 hours a week. For a pastor that is so hard. Just when people are looking for guidance and answers, our pastors are not able to be the spiritual leaders we want. And the uncertainty that goes with it.. will he loose his job? Even the ‘street pastor’ program in Watford town centre is on hold for fear of getting or spreading Covid. People will miss out on the opportunity to have someone pray with them.

With him there are many others in similar situations. At church we have a charity called ‘One Vision’ which is busier than ever bringing food to people who can’t go out or have no means to buy. They also launched their branch of Mental health wellbeing yesterday to coincide with World Mental Health day. You may want to check out the website or find them on Facebook.

Jesus said not to worry. He knows the little birds and cares for them as much as He knows and cares for me. Borrowing trouble from tomorrow may make us miss opportunities today. Opportunities to be grateful and do good.

Something I am trying to keep in mind and apply to my own life.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Sandy Beaches and Empty Shells

Those who know me know I love shells. I can walk along the beach for hours, looking for the perfect shells. Especially shells still connected together (but empty!). I love the turned little shells, as well as big plain ones!! I collect them, all with the promise of one day doing something with them. That has not happened so far but my season is not over yet! Each trip I come back with more.

One of the most soothing sounds walking along the beach is the sound of the crashing waves. A long slow sound when the wind is calm. A rushing crashing sound when the wind is strong. Both are calming in its own way, that is.. as long as I have my feet firmly on the sand. I do get seasick quickly, so I prefer the sound over the experience of rolling waves!

Walking along the beach is a great time of reflection. Many facets of life are resolved, when the wind blows through my hair. Even as kids my dad took us often to the beach in the weekends. In stormy weather there was usually a cup of hot chocolate at the end of the walk. Those were probably the best walks! Any lingering cobweb in my head gets blown away, and after the walk I feel light, refreshed and ready for whatever is coming my way. My pockets jingling with shells… or seaglass…

Seaglass… old bottles battered around in the sea, broken up into pieces, and then sanded by the constant motion of the water. The result is a beautiful piece of so called sea glass, coveted and treasured. I love collecting these pieces too. These tell me a great story of no matter how battered and bruised I may get, I will get polished and come out beautiful at the other end.

If anything is an example of transformation, it’s seaglass!

There is this verse in the Bible in Malachi 3:3 that speaks about purification of silver and gold. I get reminded of that when I think about seaglass. We all have to be transformed, purified by the fire, just like silver and gold. That’s where our true worth comes out.

We may get battered and bruised in the process of our lives, but we will get transformed into something very valuable and beautiful. And when we are finally going home, Jesus will be waiting for us at the sea of glass, welcoming us with open arms. That’s when the biggest transformation will take place. We will be the most beautiful and shiny, walking hand in hand with our Father, who has not ever left us in our transformation process.

I can hardly wait for that moment!

Trusting is the Hardest Thing

Don’t you have it sometimes, when all things just come together in a bad way, and you do not know if you need to turn right or left? Trusting that Someone is still in control is not so easy. You want to just do your own thing, and hope for the best, as you think that is ultimately Gods way.

God uses every decision we make, that’s very true. He will not let us fall, and He will always be there to catch us if we do. But sometimes it feels He is so far away.

I find myself caught once again, not knowing what will happen, or how things will unfold. The Covid situation has many folks spooked, including me. Masks are mandatory everywhere, so it’s very visible wherever you turn. Even if shops are mostly stocked again, the thought of the second wave is never far away. The news won’t let us forget it even if we tried! We are told to stay sensible or there will be another lock down.

The economy has a huge impact. Job losses, protection of self… similar in Europe as in America. We keep each other updated, calls, texts, Facebook. We hear from friends and co workers about those who suffer. Money is tight for many people and thank God there are charities like the One Vision in Watford who help those most afflicted!

I guess I can count myself blessed I did not loose my job like so many others.

This seems like a very somber post, but really it’s just trying to tell myself God is still in control. It’s His world, as the beautiful song says

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

The writer referenced Jacob’s exclamation “the Lord is in this place” from Genesis 28:16

Trusting Him is hard, especially when you can’t see the road, or where it’s leading to. But He is not forgotten about me or you. The Lord is in this place!

Rest

Some days are harder than other ones. Am sure we all experience it. Some days you don’t feel like getting up, or getting into your normal routine. Working from home seems to take away the boundary between your own life and your work life. So that feeling of not wanting to start a day is more profound.

Having stayed home now for 4 months, focusing on things to do at home, planning outings outside the home as swift as possible, it makes you reassess lots of things. I love being out and about, exploring, shopping, going places. But it’s not safe yet in the same way as it was last year. Hobbies at home is the thing.. I have discovered I love writing with fountain pens, I read more, and I crochet. My Netflix list is getting smaller and I rediscovered my love for history and documentaries.

In all that though, rest seems to have been given a new meaning. Previously rest was done in your house when you returned from being out. What is rest now? It’s ceasing activity, and relaxing the body. But with the always on mentality now working from home it’s so much harder to find true rest.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

That verse has gotten new meaning for me too. I am very much a worrier, which does not make things easier. But that verse in the Bible tells me to tell God about all my thoughts and worries and anxiety and in return He will give me rest. This is true rest. Rest for the soul. It’s a stop thinking of my self and start trusting He will give me peace. This is not the rest of relaxation but the rest of a soul that trusts in God.

Today is another day of Sabbath rest. Another opportunity to cease normal life and focus only on Him. And that is what I am going to try to do. To stop carrying my worries and turning it over to the One who promises me rest.

I hope you will find rest today also.

Going Home

Today I was watching some wasps building a nest inside a cupboard on the balcony. Its fascinating to watch, even if the nest is not desired. The creatures just fly off and on, doing what they do and then coming back to build some more. Its an American style wasp and nest, so I can’t really relate to what its supposed to be like when its finished. And judging by the comments from my house mates, its not something I will see being finished.

Today we had a multi WhatsApp call within the family. We discovered this new feature a few weeks ago, and its kinda cool to chat altogether.. even if my dad thinks we sound more like a bunch of chickens, talking over each other and none of it very audible

It got me thinking though, as I am far away from my own home. Home has become a different reality in these last months. The stories from my own family, cooped up at home. Stay at home orders, not able to venture out. Stores deemed non essential shut (food is apparently the only essential store we need.. kinda hard for a crafter!) Getting a coffee at a favourite coffee place not possible. Churches closed and a pick and choose online reality. Sometimes home may sound like a prison instead of a place to feel relaxed.

Jesus said He was going Home, after he had died on the cross. Many countries celebrate “ascension day”, 39 days after Easter. He had mentioned that there are many mansions in  heaven, with place for everyone (John 14:2 In my Fathers house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I got to prepare a place for you) and that He was going there to prepare a place for us. I wonder what the houses will look like. The imagery in Revelation is all very grand, with streets of gold.

Many times in my in child hood when weve traveled so far
By nightfall how weary I’d grown
Fathers arms would slip around me and gently he’d say
My child were going home

Going home, I’m going home
There is nothing to hold me here
I’ve caught a glimpse of that Heavenly land
Praise God, I’m going home

Now the twilight is fading, the day soon shall end
Lord, I get homesick, the farther I roam
But the Father has led me each step of the way
And now I’m going home

Going home, I’m going home
There is nothing to hold me here
I’ve caught a glimpse of that Heavenly land
Praise God, I’m going home

I guess right now I would be very happy with a very humble house of my own though! A place to be myself and to be with those I love. Maybe I should ask that wasp to make me one for right here 🙂

 

Freedom

Freedom comes with a price. It’s not free. Today we celebrated freedom from oppression in remembrance of the end of the Second World War. Many people lost their lives, and many fought to give us our freedom.

During this lock down we are not free. Freedom smells very good right about now. To be able to just go where we want to, do what we want to. Many have died due to this Covid 19. And many are working hard to ensure we can be free of this virus. I think in particular of all the medical staff fighting for lives.

Jesus have His life for us, so we can be free from the bondage of sin. The cost was high, and blood had to be shed. Freedom is not free.

All this requires a response from us. We are asked to remember and learn from our past. ‘Lest we forget’. If we look at the past, hopefully we will learn from it and not repeat.

We keep our distance from each other, wear masks and minimise our journeys. All to protect those that fight for us, so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Jesus also requires a response from us. He wants us to accept the gift of freedom, and transform us so we don’t stay the same.

Freedom gives us responsibility. It requires a response. To remember, to accept and to serve.

Thank you for all who fought for our freedom. And thank you to God for setting us free!