Counting the Cost of Obedience

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to visit Montenegro as part of a short-term mission team. My local church in Scotland was partnered with a church in the Montenegrin capital city, Podgorica, but our work was primarily with three Balkan refugee camps in the eastern town of Berane. The first team that went out in 2010 were involved in installing a toilet block in the camp which we affectionately called “The Container Camp” because the families there lived in metal shipping containers.

Upon their return, the team gave a presentation to the church about all that they had done on their trip. On that particular night, I happened to be staffing the information desk at the back of the church. And on that particular night, I carried in my hands extra information about our Montenegro partnership, including a sign-up sheet for people interested in participating in the next trip.

As the team shared their experience, they explained the different initiatives they had been involved with in the camp, including work with the children and maintenance work to improve the basic facilities that were available. They told stories of a head lice infestation amongst the young ones and shared photos of team members knee-deep in sewage. Then they called for volunteers to be part of the next team that would visit a few months later.

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly “high maintenance” kinda gal, but I do appreciate my home comforts like my hair straighteners. Somehow, I didn’t think this was the kind of trip that had time (or need) for hair straighteners, so I was ready to politely decline the team’s request. But God had other ideas . . .

Nothing in me wanted to join that next team, yet something in me knew I had to. My mind began to race, my heartbeat quickened and everything around me swirled in slow motion. I was terrified to volunteer, but it was an excited, expectant kind of fear. It was like my hand had a mind of its own, and before the team’s presentation had even ended, the sign-up sheet lying on the desk in front of me already had my name scribbled at the top.

For the next three years I participated in the annual aid trips to those Montenegrin refugee camps. I fell in love with the people and longed to make more of a difference in their lives. I delighted in building relationships with the individuals, especially the children, in each camp, and endeavoured to learn just a few words of their language so that we could communicate and play games together.

But that third return trip very nearly did not happen. You see, my personal finances were a struggle that year and common sense told me I could not afford to go. I had already agreed to co-lead the team, however, so the question was not if I was going, but how. I had little more than the amount required for the first instalment, but I was worried about clearing out my bank account, leaving me broke for the remainder of the month. Not to mention my concern over where the rest of the fees would come from when the second instalment was due.

I pondered my predicament over lunch with a friend one day and explained the situation. I did not want to miss out on being part of the trip, but my circumstances had me feeling defeated. Yet we have learnt that God is not defeated by circumstantial evidence. If he wants something to happen, it will happen.

As the deadline for the first payment drew ever closer, I continued to pray and consider the best way to move forward. Somewhat reluctantly, I decided to take a risk. I recall journaling about it and stating, almost in diva-like fashion, that God would just have to come through for me. He had put me in this predicament, and therefore he would just have to get me out! So, only a day ahead of the deadline, I cleared out my bank account and paid the first instalment.

And then the miracles began to tally.

The very next day, I received a cheque in the mail from the friend I had previously had lunch with. She had spoken with her husband after we had met, and they had felt compelled to give me a financial gift. The amount matched the first instalment I had paid not twenty-four hours before.

A week or two later, I was approached at the end of the church service by a member of the church finance team. This was nothing particularly unusual, as his work would sometimes overlap with mine, but our conversation that day was not about business.

“Someone would like to give towards your Montenegro trip,” he told me. “For the next three months, they will contribute towards the remainder of your fees.”

And they did just that. To this day, I have no idea who that anonymous supporter was, but I am incredibly grateful for their generous contribution which provided for me in ways beyond just financial. I couldn’t believe it; my entire trip fees had been covered, and God had proved himself faithful once again. But he was not done yet.

Around that same time, I came home one day to find an envelope had been slid under the front door of my apartment. It had clearly been personally delivered, and only had my name scribbled on the front, with no indication of who or where it had come from. And inside was a small sum of cash. The mystery of that gift was never solved either.

Then shortly before we left the country, I received a final financial gift. This gift covered the cost of my spending money and the petrol I needed to drive the 500 kilometre round trip to the airport. By the time I boarded the plane, I was better off than the day I had taken a risk and paid that first instalment. God had not only provided, but he had made available his abundant provision. Those months and that experience completely transformed my understanding of God’s generous spirit and the ways in which he works. It challenged me to be more generous and to be more readily available to walk in obedience to him, trusting him to provide all that I need along the way.

I personally experienced God come through for me in just a small way, but the lesson and impact on my life was huge. Even now, years later, I often recall that testimony when I am faced with financial challenges. I am reminded that when we walk in obedience and take a risk for God, he blesses us with far more than we ever sacrificed for him. We cannot anticipate or understand the ways through which he works, but we can be sure that he will surprise us.

That first risk, that first step of obedience to pay the first instalment, demonstrated that I was willing to pay the price to follow God’s call. That action became the catalyst for God’s blessing. All too often we do not take that first step because we fear it will cost us too much, but when we give our all to God, he always returns with more. Our obedience brings breakthrough and leads to blessing.

An excerpt taken from Adventure Awaits: Harnessing Today’s Potential for God’s Greater Purpose (pg. 151-154).

Beyond Breaking Point

Stress; it’s a word that we are all only too familiar with. We associate it with work, with certain people, with responsibility, with busyness. But I’m beginning to believe it’s much more than just the extreme emotions we identify as “stress”. What if it’s even more acute than that? What if, rather than reaching the heightened level we call ‘stress’, it is, in fact, anything other than living in the restful state we were created for?

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

In physics, stress is a quantity that describes the distribution of internal forces within a body or object in response to an external force.

Imagine you are a student in my class at school. You’ve been sitting with your hand in the air for a few minutes, trying to attract my attention, but I’m busy working with another student and haven’t yet noticed your request for help. You decide it could be a few minutes more before I turn towards you so you begin to fiddle with your plastic ruler. You tap it on the desk, you spin it between your fingers, then you hold it with a hand on either end and begin to flex it in the middle; first, extending your elbows wide, bending the ends upwards toward one another to create a satisfying ‘U’ shape, then, pulling your elbows tightly to your sides, doing the same in a downwards direction.

“This is fun,” you think, with a smirk. So you do it again, this time a little farther, just to see how far it will bend… SNAP! Your hands drop to the desk, a shattered half in either hand, grimacing weakly at your peers who have turned to identify the source of the sudden noise.

Maybe this is not an example you can immediately identify with, but I see this scenario all the time at school. So stay with me…

In your boredom and impatience, you had put the ruler under stress. The external forces that you applied with your hands to bend it – first, small forces, slowly increasing as you sought to find the (literal) breaking point – caused unseen, internal stress forces as the ruler sought to counteract the external forces being applied and to remain in a state of equilibrium. As you bent the ends of the ruler upwards, compressive (negative) stress forces were acting on the topside of the ruler, while tensile (positive) stress forces were acting on the stretched underside of the ruler. When you bent the ends of the ruler downwards, the object experienced the opposite stress forces. At first, switching these forces around a couple of times had no lasting effect on your ruler: when you stopped applying external forces, the ruler bounced back to it’s original, straight state of rest. This flexibility – when stress and strain occurs in an object but can return easily to its original state when the force is removed – is called the ‘elastic region’. In the elastic region, any damage done can be rectified when the external force is removed.

“Cool!” you thought. “I can push and pull and bend and twist this ruler and nothing bad happens!” So you pushed a little harder next time, applying a greater force – so far there had been no lasting consequences, maybe a little more force would do no harm either… Wrong. The greater applied force caused greater stress and strain forces, and resulted in deformation of your ruler. Once stress and strain experienced by the object exceeds the elastic region, deformation occurs and this cannot be reversed, even if the forces acting on the object are removed.

Now ruler companies know that children (and sometimes teachers, too) like to test the flexibility of a ruler once in a while, therefore they employ people to calculate the stress of the various manufacturing materials to predict when the ruler will fail; physics tells us that failure occurs when the stress within the object is greater than the strength of the material.

So why am I giving you a physics lesson about a plastic ruler? Well, because I’ve been acting like that student of late. Except I’ve not been simply playing with a ruler, but pushing and pulling and bending and twisting myself, my health, me. I’ve been doing so for a long time without any lasting consequences – I’ve always bounced back – so why should it be any different now? But recently, without realising it, I pushed too far.

“Failure occurs when the stress within is greater than the strength of the material…”

At the beginning of the year I visited the doctor for a routine check-up and was quickly informed that my blood pressure was too high. We talked about some of the causes and implications of that and I proceeded to make some diet changes to help lower that number. By my follow-up appointment a few weeks later, however, my blood pressure reading was even higher than the first, and I was immediately put on medication to bring it back down.

In the weeks that followed, I paid even closer attention to my diet, stringently weighing up every choice I made; I underwent multiple blood tests in a specialist clinic to help identify the root cause of my high blood pressure, I even wore a large and awkward device for 24 hours to track my blood pressure at 15 minute intervals to see if a pattern related to my daily routine emerged.

But as I waited for the results of each of these tests, I suddenly and unexpectedly got sick and was out of work for more than two weeks. My energy levels were very low, I was sleeping for 12-14 hours each night, and my pulse was racing even when I was (physically) resting. For the first week, I didn’t have the emotional capacity to even look at my phone or talk to anyone; it all felt too much. I couldn’t make decisions, I couldn’t leave a short audio message for a friend without feeling breathless. What was going on? I returned to the doctor and underwent further tests.

Upon my recovery, I followed up with the doctor to discuss in detail the results of the plethora of tests I had undergone. The conclusion? Stress. Every single test conducted came back clear and showed no underlying issues whatsoever. I was even told to stop taking my new blood pressure medication because the 24-hour test had indicated that, while on the medication, my blood pressure actually dropped dangerously low while I slept. The only culprit that could be identified was stress.

The insights of those first medical appointments were indications that I was allowing myself to be bent and twisted in ways beyond what my body or mind was comfortable with, but the pressures I was feeling at that time were still in the ‘elastic region’; I would experience stress and strain, but my body (and mind) would always bounce back and no permanent damage was done. But as the weeks went by, and the external forces mounted – uncertainty about my health (ironically!), future decisions to be made, adopting a new role and responsibilities in church, relationships that needed some TLC, and so much more – I reached breaking point. All of a sudden, the stress that I had accepted as ‘normal’ had pushed me beyond the ‘elastic region’ and deformation occurred: I broke. The pressure I had allowed in my life had put me under stress and strain, and it had finally reached a point where it could no longer be reversed without inflicting permanent damage.

So why had I not noticed the stress sooner? Well, honestly? Because it didn’t overwhelm me. I had accepted that it was OK to live in the ‘elastic region’ and had allowed it to become my ‘normal’. On reflection now, I am ashamed to say that I don’t think I’ve come close to equilibrium – true rest – in a long, long time.

I have had to take a serious look at my responsibilities, my boundaries, my priorities in recent weeks. This experience – though (sadly) not entirely a new one – has, for the first time, been supported with substantial medical evidence and I can ignore it no longer. It has been a wake-up call of gargantuan proportions. Stress is no joke; it is no small thing that is part of a ‘normal’ life (at least, it shouldn’t be!) It is not something that we just have to suffer through. There is, believe it or not, another way.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will give rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

The Bible talks extensively about rest, yet we, as Christians, rarely do. And I don’t just mean don’t-go-to-work-but-spend-all-day-doing-chores-instead kinda rest, which is what I have, until very recently, understood Sabbath rest to be. Instead, Sabbath rest is to be dedicated to God (Exodus 20:10). It is time that we can set aside all of our burdens, our worries, our responsibilities; a day that we can turn off our phones, close our full inbox, and ignore our to-do list. Instead, it is a day to be enjoyed with the Lord; a day to physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually rest; a day to invest in relationships and to be filled up and recharged, ready for the week ahead.

The world does not sit on our shoulders – as I have so unwittingly yet arrogantly believed of late – and Sabbath rest (when we do it right) reminds us of this. At rest, we surrender our power, our strength, our control, and trust God to carry all of our concerns for us. Why on earth would we seek to carry the weight of the world ourselves? Because we get caught up in the swirl of activity happening around us and inevitably get sucked in if we are not alert to it. But Psalm 127 reminds us that all of our activity is in vain, if not in partnership and agreement with the Lord.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

Psalm 127:1-2

I used to think that stress and rest were dependent on circumstances, but I have learned afresh this year that they are, in fact, dependent on our faith. Do we trust God to carry our worries for us? Do we trust that He holds all things in place? Do we trust His timing and that no good thing will pass us by, even if we stop for a day and rest? Do we depend on His strength and not our own?

Since those weeks of sickness last month, I have worked hard at identifying stressors and then at setting new boundaries to relieve some of the pressure. I have sought to reassess priorities, and to cut out unnecessary strain in my week. But have I reached the root of the problem yet? No, not really. These are good changes – and necessary – but the stress is still present. At least it was, until I eventually stopped all ‘activity’ this week and finally started surrendering.


God, forgive me for thinking that everything depends on me. You are God, not I. You are in control, not I. If you chose to rest after you created the world, how much more should I choose it too. Forgive me for allowing busyness and responsibility – even ministry – to come between us. Thank you that you love me for me, and not for what I do for you. I surrender all my worries to you again today, God, knowing that you do not ask or expect me to carry them alone. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.

A Dream Come True

On 15th June 2020 I witnessed a dream become reality; I held my first published book, Adventure Awaits, in my hands and awed at the journey that had led me to that moment. Yes, my life journey – all the experiences, lessons, hurts, and breakthroughs – had paved the way for the content of the book, but the publication journey – all three years of it – had also reminded me of God’s faithfulness and His ability to do the impossible with a surrendered heart.

For years I had quietly held the dream of writing a book. It was a dream that was rarely voiced, rather simply penciled silently in my journal, weaved amongst my thoughts and reflections. Though I never believed it to be an impossible dream, I always assumed it might be realised much later in life; once I had lived a few more decades and my fiery red hair had long-since faded. In 2014, when I spent time in New York City working with under-privileged children in the projects of The Bronx, I began sharing my experiences via my blog. I used it as an easy and efficient way to communicate with friends back home, but as the weeks went on, the reach and response to my writing grew. And my dream swelled in my heart.

Then in spring 2017, just weeks after moving to Germany, God used two friends to confirm what He had already been saying to me: now was the time to write a book. He was right (I mean, He always is, but even I could see it now); in this season, as I spent my mornings in language school learning German, and with few other established commitments in my new home country, I had the gift of time.

But how does one go about writing a book? I had no idea. I knew no-one in the publishing industry, yet my conviction was clear. So I asked God to be my teacher. I asked Him how to write a book; what initial steps I should take, what I needed to consider, what themes I should write about. And just like He does in every other area of our lives, God led me every step of the way. He even drew my attention to a specific Christian publisher whom, at that time, had just published the first book of someone I greatly admire.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably already know what happened next: I ran out of money. Yep, having moved my life to Germany, my funds dried up and I began to look for a job to supplement my living expenses while I was learning the German language. But the thing was, God told me not to. “Em, what?” I hear you ask. Believe me, I know. I asked that too. But God repeatedly said no. Except… I had no money. So, I did it anyway…

I’m gonna skip the gnarly details of that particularly challenging few weeks as I wrestled with God over financial provision in my life, but you can read about them here, if you wish: Um, Where’s my Miracle?, Um, Where’s my Miracle? (Part 2): The Overflow, and Facing the Flame.

And so I had finally found a German-competency-appropriate job for myself, to then be told six weeks later that there was a problem with my insurance documents and I wasn’t permitted to work until that issue was resolved. For about a month I stressed over it and tried everything I could to get myself back to work, until I eventually stopped and asked myself, “what was the last thing God told me to do?” Write. Right?

So, after weeks of working and/ or frantically pushing papers around, I returned to what God had asked me to do (long before He had told me not to look for a job). And you know what happened? That week, that first week back to writing – back doing what God had asked me to do – having stepped back into obedience, God provided me with more than the equivalent of two months wages, in just one week!

Well, let me tell you, that was one of the biggest lessons of my adult life right there: be obedient. No matter what He asks you to do (or not do), no matter whether it makes sense to you or not (I mean, how was I supposed to earn money by writing on my laptop from home?), no matter how challenging or seemingly impossible the circumstances look around you, be obedient to what God asks you to do.

From that moment on, I knew God really was behind this book, so I pressed forwards. I finished the first draft in December 2017 and proceeded to submit it to six or seven publishers, including the one that God had drawn my attention to months earlier. But one by one, they all said no. Then a couple months later, I began working full-time at an international school and my manuscript was pushed aside.

After a while, I began to think that maybe the drafting of my first manuscript had just been a practice-run for future books. I knew I had been obedient to God, but perhaps the end result wouldn’t look the way I had expected it to. Quite honestly, I was glad that it had not been made public because I held much fear of being so vulnerable. Yet God kept prodding at my heart and challenging my fear. Then, in spring 2019, God spoke to me as I drove home from work one day, and He said very clearly that my fear – that is, my fear to publish – was stealing the breakthrough that He wanted to bring about in others through my writing. The problem was, I could not overcome my fear myself.

God’s words danced around my mind in the days that followed, but it was easier to ignore them than to begin to deal with the fear that was holding me back. About six weeks later, I found myself in my car with two friends. During a lapse in conversation, one asked, “Jane, are you writing a book?” Stunned silence followed. How did he know? I hadn’t told him. He questioned why I had not published yet and repeated word-for-word that which God had spoken to me less than two months earlier: your fear is stealing the breakthrough from others. I knew, then, that it was time to resurrect my draft and pursue publishing once again.

I spent that summer re-reading, editing, updating and re-writing my manuscript. Meanwhile, God worked on my heart. Only then, with an updated manuscript and a healed heart, was I ready to publish. And at the end of that busy summer period, I submitted my book to just one publisher – that which God had drawn my attention to at the beginning of this journey. That submission took an entire Saturday to prepare – about 6 hours – so I prayed and told God that preparing and submitting numerous book proposals was not realistic while working full-time as a teacher and continuing to serve in leadership in church. I asked Him to make my efforts fruitful. And did He? Well, of course He did!

Though that one publisher rejected my manuscript a second time, their reply directed me towards a smaller publishing house, about whom they had heard positive reviews. That small publishing house was Sacristy Press, and they said yes to publishing my manuscript. Three years, several detours, and multiple lessons later, I held the reality of my dream in my hand, and I watched God demonstrate His faithfulness every step of the way.

My book, Adventure Awaits, is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophesy, in that it seeks to encourage and inspire the reader to recall those once-longed-for, long-since-dismissed dreams and to believe for them again. It describes a faith adventure that is readily available to all those who surrender their lives to God’s will and act in obedience to His word, being sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This life of ours is not just about enjoying ourselves or ‘finding’ ourselves. This life of ours is a gift, and is to be treated so; it is an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with our Creator, and permit Him to be known and glorified through our lives (2 Thessalonians 1). God gifts us life, with all its ups and downs, to teach us, to purify us, to mould us into a better likeness of Christ (Romans 8). The extent to which God can do that is up to us and how much permission we give Him to do that in our lives. But if we are willing – if we truly allow Him to weed out the ugly parts of us and shape us into earthly reflections of heaven – He promises to take us on a wild ride, beyond anything we could fathom ourselves (Ephesians 3:20). Are you ready? Because adventure awaits.


Ready to order your copy of Adventure Awaits? Find out more here.

A Hero for Our Time

I love to watch movies. Depending on my mood, I will watch a range of genres, including comedy, romance, science fiction and action. However, some of my favourite movies, like ‘The Blind Side’, ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘Apollo 13’, are those based on true stories. I sit, mesmerized, watching dramatizations of real-life heroes who have taken great risks, faced adversity and tremendous challenges, but, against all the odds, have overcome. The heart of humanity loves to hear tales of victory and survival; why else would these stories be considered enthralling enough for Hollywood to come a-knocking? Because they instil hope. Hope that if they can do it, so can we. Hope that, no matter what difficulties we face, we can overcome.

Yet, I think that in amongst the hope that arises within us following the retelling of survival tales, fear also flickers through. We ask ourselves, what would I do if I were in their situation? Could I really do what they did? Do I have what it takes? And doubt begins to cloud our vision. But is it not about time we stopped watching everyone else’s adventures and started living our own?

– Adventure Awaits

2020 has been quite the year already. We’re barely halfway through and already we’ve battled a global pandemic and appear to be on the brink of a new civil rights movement. Not to mention the horrors surrounding Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, the raging forest fires in Australia, and the passing of the controversial new security law between China and Hong Kong.

Yet, though these singular events have shone a media spotlight on the injustice, pain and challenges that many are currently facing, the underlying issues are not new. Disease, poverty, violence, discrimination, destruction and oppression have been present problems since humanity’s poor choice in the Garden of Eden.

But also at work since that fateful day is God; calling, positioning and empowering ordinary men and women to step into an extraordinary purpose and to face these common issues head-on. We read in Exodus of how Moses led the Israelite nation out of slavery in Egypt. The book of Acts depicts how the early church shared their belongings to help combat poverty. Dr David Livingstone fought physical and spiritual disease as a missionary to Africa in the late nineteenth century. Christian minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr faced arrest and assault, yet became the symbolic leader of American blacks in their fight for equality. Australian evangelist and author Christine Caine, along with her husband, founded The A21 Campaign a little over a decade ago to help tackle global human trafficking. I could go on.

And yet there’s still so much need. So what are we going to do about it? What difference can we really make? The truth is, not much. Not alone, anyway. But God doesn’t ask us to do it alone. If we allow him, he’ll do it through us. He asks us to simply be a vehicle through which he can work. The potential to reform these global crises resides within us. But our choices determine how much of that potential becomes reality. Will it be tough? Yes. Will you want to quit? No doubt. But will you live to see God’s power manifested in you and through you? Most definitely.

Whose name will appear in the history books still to be written? Whose face will feature in future based-on-a-true-story Hollywood blockbusters? Could it be yours? Then it begins today. It can start now. Step out of your comfort zone and take a stand. God has already given you a sphere of influence so ask him how he wants to use you within it. When you surrender to him, he’ll open up doors you never imagined walking through and equip you to do that which would be impossible without him.

God has a unique role for you to play in the salvation of mankind. He has a wild adventure of faith already scripted and he invites you to play the main character. He promises to fund you, train you, prompt you, and direct you, and those who bear witness to his work in your life will recognize that only the One who holds all things could possibly orchestrate such an incredible adventure.

Read more in my book, Adventure Awaits.

Defying the Facts

October was an interesting month.

I knew breakthrough was coming; I was anticipating it, I was ready for it, I was looking for it. I’d been declaring it for months, and inviting others into my journey of faith.

Then a series of breakthroughs came! … And looked nothing like I’d expected them to…

Instead of bringing me closer to the promises that God has been speaking over me this year, circumstances appeared to broaden the chasm between where I am, and where I believe God is leading me. And when I asked God about it? Well, His answer was simple and sincere: with me, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

You might argue, because I didn’t see the fulfilment of any one of the promises that I am waiting for, that I didn’t really receive breakthrough. But there was a noticeable spiritual shift; a re-focus; progress, regardless of my circumstances. My focus had been on taking ‘two steps forward’, toward these promises, but I felt God nearer to me still, having seemingly taken ‘three steps back’.

Much of the time that has lapsed since then has been spent in prayer, as I determine to focus on the Truth of what God has promised, rather than the truth of current circumstances around me.

There’s no denying the facts that I have been confronted with in recent weeks; my surprise was not based on doubt, or questions, or perceptions, they were based on hard facts: truth.

‘Why hold on, when things look so hopeless?’, you may ask.

Because truth is no object for the Truth of God’s Word to contend with. Because circumstances mean nothing to the God who created all things and orchestrates them around us. Because the peace and joy in my heart encourages me to hold on to faith.

Faith can defy facts.

As I’ve battled with God in prayer and worship, He asks me to remain on this path. He reassures me that I am being obedient. He reiterates these promises, reminding me that they are not lost. There are way too many ‘coincidences’ to make me think this is anything but an act of God.

Common sense makes me want to self-protect; to run away; to analyse my circumstances; to justify my thoughts or actions; to compare my situation to others’. But God is saying something different.

“Invite people in,” He says. “Invite people into your testimony. It is a miracle in motion. It may not yet look the way You want or expect it to, but that is when I do My best work. Invite them to be a part of this ‘meantime’ season. Gather a crowd of witnesses around you so that, when My fire falls, they all may know that I am God (1 Kings 18:36-39).”

So here’s the thing: I’ve written a book. Some of you already know that, but for most this is probably a new insight. It’s been a dream of mine for many years to write, and on arriving in Germany, I felt God prompt me to begin the journey towards my first book. Having no idea what to write about, or how to begin such an abstract process, I depended on God to guide me step by step. And He did.

By December 2017, my first manuscript was complete, and I began to submit it to publishers. But rejection after rejection came, and I soon ran out of options. So I laid it aside, and got on with life.

Then in the early part of this year, God began to draw my attention to my forgotten script, saved in the archives of my computer. The truth was, I was afraid to pursue publication any further; I was afraid of more rejection.

“Jane,” He said, “your fear is stealing breakthrough from others.”

My fear of rejection; of being so vulnerable in sharing my tear-stained words with the world; of worrying what others might say or think of me; of daring to believe an impossible dream, was stealing the opportunity for God’s Word and testimony to bring freedom and peace in the lives of many others?! Well, not for much longer!

I didn’t have much left in me to fight for myself, but this Word had lit a fire under me that propelled me back into the ring, to fight for the sake of others. (I documented this particular breakthrough in an earlier post, Humility: Redefined).

I spent my six-week summer break re-reading, editing, and adding to my manuscript, completing my review just days before I returned to school in August. Then I, once again, began the long, time-consuming process of identifying and submitting to publishers.

My progress to date? More rejections.

My attitude, this time round? Determination. Hope. Perseverance.

I no longer take the rejections personally, for my fight is for a greater promise; a greater crowd of witnesses. But it doesn’t always soothe the niggle of doubt or make this journey of ups and downs any easier, I simply have to be obedient and continue to trust God’s leading.

The publication of my book is just one of the many promises I am waiting for and trusting God with.

So I hereby invite you into my inexplicable, don’t-know-what-comes-next, seemingly impossible, confusing meantime moment. I am opening the door to my heart and giving you the opportunity to witness my current, rejection-weary reality, believing that all the promises that God has spoken over me will be fulfilled at His appointed time. I am asking you to look beyond the truth that is before me, and instead focus on the Truth of His promises.

A bank balance may state that you have no money, but God promises to provide for all of your needs (Philippians 4:19).

A medical diagnosis may condemn you, but no sickness is too advanced to stop God from healing you and restoring you (Jeremiah 30:17).

A rejection may discourage you, but God uses all things to protect us and to lead us into His best (Romans 8:28).

The manifestation of His promises are coming. They are coming.

Join me, as I (continue to) watch this space.

Holding on to Hope

For months now, I’ve held a strong sense of anticipation that God is up to something big. Between the far-reaching promises He declared over me in January, the ever-growing wisdom and influence He has gifted me with, and the significant open-heart surgery He has been conducting in the secret place, my anticipation of a new season and new opportunities has gently but exponentially grown since April.

However, anticipation, or hope, often comes with it a fear that what we want or expect to happen, will not happen. There is a constant tension between the anticipation of what we believe God has spoken and the fear of hearing Him or understanding Him incorrectly.

In this battle, we must be diligent in the focus of our hope. Are we placing our hope in a particular outcome, or are we hoping in the One who holds all outcomes in His hands, and promises to be faithful?

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5

In this holding-pattern of hope, I’ve been pondering the testimony of Naaman (2 Kings 5). He was a commander in the king’s army; well-respected and powerful. However, Naaman had leprosy.

His young Israelite servant girl suggested that he travel to her homeland, believing that the God of Israel would heal her master. Naaman dared to hope; he began his journey, believing that it would end in his healing.

The commander first visited the king of Israel, laden with great riches and a letter from his own king demanding healing from his leprosy, but the king of Israel was angry and distraught, concluding that the Syrian king was simply picking a fight with him by making such a ridiculous request.

No doubt, as Naaman left the presence of the king – the most powerful man in the land – his hope dwindled.

But the prophet Elisha heard of what was going on in the king’s palace and invited Naaman to visit him at his home. Once again, the army commander arrived with his great caravan of pomp and riches in tow, with his own expectations of how his meeting with the prophet might go down. But Elisha was absent, sending a messenger instead.

Now faced with a servant, instead of a prophet or king, Naaman’s anticipation ebbed further.

“Wash in the river Jordan seven times and you will be healed,” the messenger told Naaman.

Eh, what?

The little expectation that remained in Naaman’s heart vanished. This was not at all what he had imagined when he had left his home, holding on to hope and expecting a miracle.

Naaman had expected healing. He was willing to hope for it. But when faced with the circumstances that would eventually lead him to it, he wasn’t so sure…

“Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.”

2 Kings 5:11-12

He had expected a king to help him. He had hoped that the prophet would make a great spectacle as he called upon God for healing. And, as none of these expectations were met, Naaman reasoned that, at the very least, he could choose a cleaner river than the Jordan to bathe in.

But that was not where healing was to be found. Naaman had allowed his own expectations to distract him, even blind him, to the work that God was seeking to do; to the journey that God was leading him on. For this journey was not just about physical healing, but included lessons in humility and obedience too. There was far more in play than just Naaman’s own desired end product.

We, as Christians, are called to hope (Ephesians 1). It is good to anticipate and believe for all that we believe God has spoken over us. But that does not guarantee us the easy or most straight-forward route there. Are we willing to trust Him anyway? Are we willing to be patient? Are we willing to lay aside our pride? Are we ready to be obedient, even when it feels foolish? Are we going to dare to keep hoping, keep believing, keep anticipating, even when the journey looks nothing like we expect it to?

Eventually, Naaman discarded his pride and obeyed the messenger’s instructions to dip in the Jordan river seven times, receiving the longed-for healing and complete restoration of his skin. He saw the manifestation of his anticipation, but not before God had drawn Naaman’s eyes to see the true Provider, and prepared his heart to receive it.

I expected to see the manifestation of my anticipation in July, however two months later I am still waiting, still journeying, still trusting that I will see it one day soon. Though the timing, the pace, the route are not what I expected, still my anticipation remains. I see the lessons I have continued to learn in the time since. I see the careful placement and positioning of people and circumstances that God lovingly orchestrates for my good. I endeavour to repeatedly re-focus my eyes on the Provider, trusting His timing and His process. I see progress, even when it has been a struggle, at times, to keep hoping.

But Naaman’s journey, the pilgrimage of the Israelites to the Promised Land, Joseph’s story from dreamer to diplomat, and so many other Biblical examples all illustrate the same message: a detour or a delay does not mean denial.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:23

Dare to keep trusting, keep hoping, keep anticipating. Breakthrough is coming.

Look What You Have Done!

“Look what you have done!”

Perhaps you heard this often as a child, having made a mistake or acted clumsily or not thought through the consequences of your actions. Or maybe you are a parent who has used this statement all too frequently.

Well, I’ve been saying this a lot recently. Admittedly, I am a school teacher, and I do work with young children. But in this instance, my exclamations have not been directed at them.

As the days have grown longer and the temperature has creeped upwards, my mind has been regularly transported back to summer last year when I had newly acquired my job in an International School. I was still squatting in the living room of an acquaintance in Darmstadt, months longer than I had expected to live there. My finances were low. My friends were few. My language skills were frustratingly inadequate. My church-involvement was minimal. My next steps were unclear.

Now, here I am, 12 months later, having acquired a comfortable apartment and a new car. Frankfurt is now home. My financial situation is the best it has been since the day I moved to Germany. I have a vast network of friends and a solid core whom I consider family. Though still a way to go, my German is at an adequate level that I now have the ability to build friendships and minister in my second language. The home I have found in New Life Church Germany and the opportunities I have now to serve there is beyond anything I could have dreamed of last year. And as for my next steps… God is busy preparing me and guiding me into the most exciting and overwhelming future that He has planned for me.

“Look what You have done!” is my daily heavenward declaration. Just look what God has done.

When I packed up seven boxes, two suitcases and a backpack, and boarded my one-way flight to Germany on 3rd April 2017, I had no idea what to expect. But to see God’s faithfulness outworked in my life one day at a time; to see His careful care for me and His generous provision; to experience His gentle shaping and stretching; to hear His quiet whisper to hold on just a little longer… I could never have imagined this. Just look what He has done.

Those first 15 months in Germany were tough. Every day was a fight of the faith, but one that I was willing to enter into, for I knew victory was already mine. I’ve said often in the last two years that “my worst day in Germany was still better than my best day in Scotland”; not because of my circumstances – they were pretty dire at times – but because of the joy and peace in my heart. This joy and peace was far beyond anything I had ever experienced before; it was a peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:7). I knew I had been obedient in following God to Germany. I knew I was exactly where He wanted me to be. I knew He would finish what He had started.

Since August 2018, my circumstances have begun to catch up with my heart and life has looked pretty rosy at times, there’s no denying that. But just because my circumstances have changed, I dare not lose that raw and vulnerable dependence on God. I do not, for one minute, want to lose sight of Who brought me this far; of Who met every need; of Who led me into a life that I could only dream of living.

Look what God has done.

It is not just my external that has changed, either. A far greater work has been done in my heart. My faith is stronger, my insecurities are diminished. My vision has grown, my dependence has shifted. My anticipation is fuelled, my expectation is magnified. My fear is bridled, my hope is lifted. That insecure, timid girl that once sought control as a safety mechanism around her heart has been stripped away to reveal the fierce, determined, courageous woman that God always intended me to be.

Friends, family, acquaintances, readers: look at my life, hear my testimonies, read my words, and recognise that the Lord God has done all of this, not me.

It was like a dream come true
when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion!
We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness.
We were left shouting for joy and singing your praise.
All the nations saw it and joined in, saying,
“The Lord has done great miracles for them!”
Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed!
Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory!
May streams of your refreshing flow over us
until our dry hearts are drenched again.
Those who sow their tears as seeds
will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee.
They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow,
but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness
as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!
(Psalm 126 TPT)

A Tale of Two Tests

As I reflected over the Easter period, I was struck by two different perspectives of the well-known Easter narrative. Each describe a test of faith, and each have relevance in our own faith journeys two millennia later.

The first, is that of Jesus Christ, Himself. A.W. Tozer said, “True obedience is the refusal to compromise in any regard our relationship with God, regardless of the consequences.”

When I think of the cross, I think of Jesus’ determined obedience to His Father. He knew what was ahead; He knew what God was asking of Him; He knew the pain and suffering He would have to endure. He fully understood the consequences of His obedience. But He did it anyway.

He did it because He loved the Father, and because He loved us, but ultimately He did it because of His obedience. Just before He was arrested, He uttered this prayer, “Abba, my Father, all things are possible for you. Please – don’t allow me to drink this cup of suffering! Yet what I want is not important, for I only desire to fulfill your plan for me.” {Mark 14:36 TPT}

I find this incredibly humbling, for I know that there have been many times (I don’t need to think too far back) when I have either hesitated in my obedience, or flat-out disobeyed the prompt of the Holy Spirit because I have been afraid of the possible consequences of my obedience; whether it be awkwardness, rejection, or something worse (and let’s face it, in the western world, we are rarely faced with much worse).

Often there will be pain, or discomfort, or rejection, as a result of our obedience. Jesus experienced that too (on a much greater scale). But this momentary suffering led to something exponentially greater, with eternal consequences.

When commanded by God, we must seek to look beyond our own discomfort and fear, and trust His bigger plan; His sovereign perspective. If Christ had thought only of His own impending suffering, He could have chosen to save Himself from His agonising crucifixion. But He trusted God’s greater plan. He recognised that God was outworking something far greater than just His own destiny. His obedience made way for the redemption of mankind!

Just as I shared in a previous post, Humility: Redefined, we need to resist being distracted by our own interests, and instead consider the impact of our obedience on others. Don’t allow your fear to steal breakthrough for someone else.

The second perspective I have been pondering on is that of Jesus’ followers, specifically in the hours after his death. They had spent three years listening to the teachings of Christ and witnessing His miracles. They had hoped that He was the much-anticipated Messiah, but it now appeared that their hopes had died with Him.

As He breathed His last, they wept; they mourned; they felt broken, empty, disorientated. They were not only faced with the emotional grief of losing a loved one, but also with the devastation of lost hope.

Slowly, one by one, they turned their faces away from the cross and began to imagine a life without their friend, their teacher, their Saviour.

The disciples had held a vision of what the manifestation of God’s Messiah might be like, but when their current circumstances didn’t match their expectations, all hope was seemingly lost.

They had never anticipated Christ’s resurrection. And yet, Christ had spoken of it (Matthew 27:63). His disciples, too, would have known the writings of Isaiah and the other prophets, and the promises that God had made to the Israelite nation. God’s Promises had not been broken, they had simply been received through the microscope of human understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that we cannot depend on our own understanding. We cannot depend on what we think the end product of God’s guidance is going to look like. Rather, we need to depend on what God says and then simply trust Him.

Despite the panic, despite the confusion, despite the fear, despite the tears amongst the believers at the foot of the cross, God knew what He was doing. No moment or outcome was a surprise to Him. Everything played out the way He wanted and expected it to. And the greatest sadness unfolded into victory!

God had a perfect plan to redeem us through His Son, Jesus Christ. His love and foresight aligned everything up perfectly so that, at just the right time, Christ went to the cross and paid the price for the sin of the world; our sin. His blood bought our freedom; freedom from punishment and death, freedom from fear, freedom from isolation and loneliness apart from Him. Christ became the bridge that connected us directly to God, and made a way for us to be in relationship with Him again.

How do we respond when the expectations that we have seem to die before us? Do we lose hope? Do we allow panic, confusion, and fear to consume us? Do we turn our faces away from Jesus, concluding that our hope, our anticipation, our trust was in vain?

When we look back on the Easter story, perhaps we know that the disciples only had to wait until the third day to see the glorious end to their perceived tragedy. But when you are still waiting – when you are in the midst of hopelessness – it can feel like the consuming darkness is endless.

Here’s the simple, yet challenging truth: It is not our responsibility (or even a possibility) to dictate the outcome of our current circumstances. It is our job, however, to trust God in those silent moments and not to allow confusion or doubt to fuel those fears that threaten us.

One of the most freeing lessons I’ve learnt in the last 12 months is to resist spiralling into doubt and depression in the dark hours that follow an unexpected turn of events. In an effort to self-protect, I would have always sought to think through every possible outcome and begin actioning thoughts or plans in an effort to protect my heart from further disappointment. Then God began to reveal to me a pattern of behaviour in myself that actually made the experience for me worse, not better. The enemy played on my vulnerability and fed my fears with lies and gleefully watched me spiral into misery. But as I learned to identify those lies, I began to resist them rather than partnering with them, and rather chose to hope. I chose to trust. I chose to wait with expectation to see what God would do next. He held the final word. I only needed to patiently and courageously (and it does take courageous) walk it out, one hour, one day at a time.

What I found was that God would often reveal Truth within 24 hours of my disappointment. Now, this is not a hard and fast rule, I don’t believe, and not every experience fits this timeline, but these experiences taught me to always wait a little longer, hope a little longer, trust a little longer, and allow God time to outwork what He had planned and purposed for me in a particular trial. And let me tell you, I saved myself a whole lot of tears in the process!

The grace that God offers us is sufficient for every challenge that we face (2 Corinthians 12:9). In difficult times, His peace buoys us up in the midst of the waves. We may try to jump to conclusions or guess what will happen next in an effort to self-protect, but God does not ask that of us. He asks us to trust Him.

There will be many times in our lives when it appears that hope or promises are lost, and yet God has the ability to raise them back to life. He will finish what He starts; He will bring His work to completion, but He determines what that completed work looks like, not us.

The recount of Christ’s death and resurrection reminds us that no matter how bleak our circumstances look, God has a bigger plan. We may not recognise it immediately. We may need to blindly trust Him in some of our darkest moments. But we can trust Him to allow His plan to unfold in the way it should – no delays, no absences, no detours – simply the best way.

The Worst Kept Secret

A few months ago I celebrated my 32nd birthday.  My parents made their first trip to visit me in Germany and we enjoyed traditional German food and plenty of sight-seeing around the province of Hessen.

As messages of congratulations flew in from friends all over the world, I noted the occasional hint of awkwardness or pity surrounding my ever-increasing years on earth. “The thirties aren’t so bad,” some would say.  “Twenty-eight again, then?” mused a colleague.  And I wondered, why do we do that? Why do we insist on marking another birthday with commiseration instead of celebration?

All too often age becomes a defining factor in our culture, and it even infiltrates our churches: the events we are allowed to attend, the ministries we have the opportunity to lead, the friendship group we are expected to be a part of. But that is not God’s design.

At aged 16 years, Timothy believed under the teaching of the Apostle Paul and went on to spend his twenties accompanying Paul on his second missionary journey.

Moses was 80 years old when God spoke to him through the Burning Bush, calling him to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

As a teenager, Esther was summoned before King Xerxes and became his new Queen. Through her courage and obedience, the Jewish nation was saved from a plot to destroy them.

Abraham and Sarah birthed a nation at a combined age of nearly 200 years, despite Sarah having already journeyed through menopause. Her body was incapable of conceiving, yet God’s plans and purposes could not be thwarted by her physical state.

The prophet, Samuel, was just a boy when he entered the service of God in the temple.  He would later anoint David to be king of Israel in his latter years on earth.

The Bible assures us that there is no ‘prime’ age in God’s Kingdom. Each season acts as preparation for the next, and God decides when we are ready and to where He will lead us.

God does not consider our age when He calls us, we do that. We use it as an excuse or a barrier or a (dis)qualifying factor, not Him. Our age never hinders us from what God has prepared for us. His timing is perfect; He is never in a hurry, but He is never late.

Our worth & relevance is based on so much more than just the number of candles on our birthday cake. Each generation has something to learn, each generation has something to teach (Psalm 78). Our age should be a celebration of sustained life, in all it’s fullness; every stage, every season.

I would not be where I am now if it were not for the many years, the many mistakes, the many lessons, the many experiences, the many opportunities that have come before. As I reflect, I am confident that I could not have faced this season any sooner, I simply wasn’t ready. I have lived through seasons that others my age only dream about, but, equally, there are experiences and opportunities that my peers have faced or enjoyed that I have not yet had the chance to sample.

However, life is not a competition, or a race; it is not to be compared or envied, it is to be enjoyed. You only get one chance at it, so don’t waste it. Savour it. Be present. And celebrate the journey that God has led you on.

We can do nothing to change our date of birth, but we can be intentional about pursuing God’s heart; about studying God’s Word and exercising our faith; about making ourselves available to serve and lead as God directs us. Our age is rarely an accurate reflection of our maturity, our faith, or our capacity. Resist allowing yourself to be defined by such – by yourself or by others.

I’m not too young to outwork what God has poured into me. I’m not too old to receive God’s best, either. He had purpose in choosing the day he called me out of my mother’s womb, and he continues to prepare me, position me, and propel me forward, for such a time as this.

For, maybe, the first time ever, I proudly announced my 32 years on all my social media accounts.  I wanted to celebrate my ageing, not cringe at it.  I chose to share my gratitude for the wisdom, growth, experience and life that each birthday represents.  I do not long for former days, because each one taught me something new and brought me a step closer to where I am now. I love where I am now.  But I also hold great anticipation for all that is still to come. God’s only just getting started…