But even if He does not…

Today in church we lifted our voices to join prayers declared across the country as part of Open Doors’ worldwide Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians. We learned more about the challenges faced by believers in Afghanistan, the world’s #1 country for persecution against Christians, and we interceded on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the faith. It was a powerful moment to remember how easy many of us have it in the western world, choosing to follow Jesus without facing fear of disownment, imprisonment, torture or death.

But shortly afterwards I headed back to my comfortable apartment where I cooked dinner while listening to worship music and watched a sermon online while I ate in the peace and privacy of my own home. I had already forgotten – nay, taken for granted – what a privilege it is to have the freedom to worship God as I please.

This evening, however, I opened my Bible to Daniel chapter 3 and was struck again at the radical faith – not only expressed, but demonstrated – by three believers faced with persecution.

These men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, lived as captives in Babylon during the time of the Israelite Exile. The king at that time, King Nebuchadnezzar, had a golden statue built and he commanded every individual who lived within his kingdom to bow down and worship the idol. As followers of the one true God, however, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship any god but the God in heaven. Because of their refusal to adhere to the law of the king, the men were captured and sentenced to immediate death by being thrown into a furnace of fire.

I have heard this story multiple times since childhood, so I already know there’s a happy ending. Knowing what is yet to come, however, sometimes causes us to miss the middle; that deciding-moment where the real heart of the story is. In the intervening moments, between action and consequence, there is a powerful exchange that took place between the king and these three faith-filled men.

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? …if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?’

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’

Daniel 3:15-18 (NIV)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were confident that God could save them. They didn’t, however, assume He would. They – like so many Christian believers around the world today – were faced with the choice of renouncing their faith or facing death, and they chose to be faithful to their faithful God. They didn’t know for sure that God would step in and save them in a miraculous way, but their obedience and devotion to God was more important to them than life itself.

I’m challenged today to ask myself, could I face death and say the same thing? Gosh, I hope so. But even if I never have to make that choice, I am still confronted with this question every single day: will I stand firm in my faith and devotion to God, no matter what trials I face?

Many of us face far lesser hardships, and yet the challenge remains the same. Can we truthfully declare:

But even if he does not…

… heal my friend’s cancer

… save my favourite aunt

… gift me my heart’s desire

… stop the peer pressure I am experiencing at work

… <fill in the blank>

I will choose to worship Him because He is God, and worthy to be praised.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Acts 17:24-25 (NIV)

I would encourage you to read Daniel 3 for yourself and see what God wants to draw your attention to. Is there an area of your life where you allow outside pressures to compromise your devotion to God? Or is there breakthrough that God wants to gift you so that you can be a light for Him amongst a particular group of people?

If you read to the end of the chapter, you will discover that the three men were thrown into the furnace of fire, just as the king had warned them. But God saved them from the furnace without a singe or scratch, and, as a result of their devotion and the consequent miracle, the king himself declared, “there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” (Daniel 3:29) I pray that eyes all over the world would be opened to see the one true God as a result of our obedience and devotion to Him.

PRAY: Father, we thank you that we can worship you freely without fear of imprisonment or death. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith in other lands around the world; we ask that You would be near to them, that You would give them courage and strength in their afflictions, and may You continue to protect and save Your children just as You did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God, I ask that You would help every one of us to be courageous in the face of challenges and to be representatives for You in whatever situations we find ourselves in. What the enemy intends for evil, may You turn it around for good. In Jesus’ name, amen.


For useful resources on learning more about persecuted Christians around the world and how to pray for them, visit Open Doors website.

Healed After 11 years!

There’s no need to sugar-coat or add glitter to this headline – it speaks for itself! Eleven years after my PCOS diagnosis in 2011, I am HEALED! But first, let me give you a little bit of background…

PCOS is a condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women. You can read more about the condition here, if you wish, but the short version is that it is a condition that causes an imbalance of hormones in women and has cascading effects to varying degrees within their bodies. Challenges include insulin resistance leading to diabetes, obesity, infertility and more.

Despite the sheer number of women with the condition, however, there is a significant lack of support to manage the symptoms. Today, there are multiple blogs, social media accounts and dietary programs that seek to support sufferers but back when I was first diagnosed I was simply put on birth-control pills to manage some of the more dangerous symptoms. This, of course, only added to the chaos of hormones in my body at the time and resulted in a 20lb-gain in under a year.

Over the years, I have done significant research into the condition and sought to support my body as best I could, including reducing my exposure to toxins, cutting out all milk products, gluten, caffeine, and soya, and significantly reducing carbs and sugar from my diet. I switched up my workouts and had to carefully manage my stress levels to reduce the risk of my cortisol levels spiking. The hormone imbalances affected my mood, my sleep, and my appetite. All in all, every day was a tedious and exhausting balancing act. And despite all my efforts, I experienced very little relief in my symptoms.

Anyway, you get the picture. Now let me share the HOPE amidst the hopelessness.

Earlier in the month I visited the UK for a couple of weeks, to spend time with family and friends. I spent 10 days in Scotland followed by a weekend in London, enjoying the wider range of everything-free food products available in the UK compared to Germany. On my train ride south, however, I was (painfully) reminded once again how important it was to be stringent in my analysis of what I put in my body, having selected a wheat-free (but evidently not gluten-free) sandwich for lunch, only to endure severe bloating and cramps during the remainder of the four hour journey. Just another frustration of living with PCOS.

While I was in London I stayed with one of my dearest friends and her family, and had an interesting – albeit stretching – conversation with her husband about healing. You have to understand, I come from a conservative church background and, though I’ve grown considerably in my faith over the years and even experienced firsthand testimonies of healing, I still wrestle with a lot of doubt and questions (or, perhaps, just my own misunderstandings).

Though I did not necessarily agree with everything we talked about in our conversation, I took what he had said and prayed it through with God shortly afterwards. I journaled my reflections and made a decision to begin to pursue healing for my PCOS. Despite my remaining uncertainty, I chose to engage a little more faith, a little less doubt. It is not that I have never prayed for healing before, but somehow, in my mind, I always felt like PCOS was too small an issue to ask for God’s intervention. He was, after all, preoccupied with more significant, life-threatening illnesses like cancer, was He not?

The following day I visited HTB church‘s 17:00 service with a heart full of expectation. I sensed a miracle in the offing, though admittedly the miracle I was hoping for had nothing to do with my physical health. Nonetheless, I engaged in worship with anticipation in my spirit; raising my hands in worship, whispered prayers on my lips.

As the sermon drew to a close, I mouthed, “God, I believe You have a miracle for me, tonight,” and moments later an invitation for prayer was made to all present who needed healing.

“Oh, that’s me!”

Remember, I have sat through countless alter calls for healing in my lifetime of attending church services, but I had always believed the lie that my ailment was not important enough to bother God with. On this occasion, however, I was ready. God had already laid the foundation; He’d been preparing my heart all weekend! I was not going to miss my opportunity.

I walked to the front of the church and permitted an unknown woman to pray for me. I don’t remember what she prayed and, to be honest, I felt no warmth, no tingly sensation within me as she prayed. There was no clear confirmation that God had heard my prayer. I wondered if it was just a vain attempt; a hopeful gesture that would change nothing.

“I receive it. I receive it, Lord. I receive Your healing.”

Over and over, I muttered these words. Hoping. Praying. Mustering up as much belief as I could. “By His wounds we are healed,” I recalled (Isaiah 53:5). By His wounds I am healed. Jesus has already won the victory on my behalf. Death, sin, sickness is defeated. It is done. It is finished.

“I receive it. I receive it, Lord. I receive Your healing.”

Later that evening, I shared with my friend what I had been considering and praying about and choosing to believe for since I had had that conversation with her husband not 24 hours earlier. She encouraged me and believed with me, and showed me a video testimony of healing that only increased my faith more. There and then, I chose to believe I had been healed; I chose to walk in healing.

As our conversation ended and I prepared for bed, I caught the first glimpse of healing; after 3 months of nothing, my period came.

Returning to Frankfurt the next day, I went grocery shopping and chose to continue to walk in healing. I, therefore, bought real cheese and real milk – I hadn’t eaten cheese or drunk cows milk since 2015. That week I consumed various milk products on multiple occasions and experienced no side effects whatsoever. My faith continued to swell.

The real test, however, would be gluten. Gluten was what caused the quickest and greatest discomfort and pain to me when I ate it, with some effects lasting hours or even days (I had been reminded of that on my train ride to London just days earlier). However, I was choosing to walk in healing and to believe that by His wounds I am healed.

Therefore, on Monday (my day-off, therefore providing me with respite should the worse happen) I intentionally made pancakes with plain white flour (the only gluten product I had in my apartment) and tentatively ate a mouthful. Chewing slowly, I paid attention for any flutter or pang in my abdomen. Nothing. I took another mouthful. And another. Soon one pancake was gone. At any sign of the remotest discomfort in my belly, I rebuked it in Jesus’ name and kept eating. Before long, I had demolished three gluten-filled pancakes and relished them.

As the minutes ticked by, my gratitude only grew. And as minutes turned to hours without any discomfort or pain, I burst into praise and thanksgiving for my healing! I have since eaten a slice of bread, a homemade muffin, a pizza, and two wraps this week and I haven’t experienced any side effects at all. Praise God!

I am walking in healing. I am moving forward, faith increasing with every step, that all my PCOS symptoms are behind me, even if it will take some time for each to prove themselves. But I, who once felt so helpless and hopeless with a diagnosis that simply wore me down, day-in day-out, now experience a freedom I have not known since my teens (or at the very least, never fully appreciated). I marvel at the generous gift that God has given me – so easily, so graciously – and I seek, now, to steward my gift well.

Healing is a gift, and one that can only be given by God, the gift-giver. But gifts can only be received with open hands, and for over a decade I had never thought to unravel my tight fists. I watched others receive gifts but never felt like I needed or wanted the gift. How proud I was to think I should or could manage alone, when – all that time – it was never necessary for me to manage it at all.

Thank you, God, for Your grace and goodness to me.

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:1-5 (ESV)

Five Short Years – A Celebration of God’s Faithfulness

On Monday 3rd April 2017, I boarded a plane with two suitcases and a one-way ticket to Frankfurt am Main, Germany. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what life would look like on the other side, I just knew in my spirit that that was the next step God had asked me to take. For years, God had been preparing to take me overseas, and for months He had been stirring my heart for church-planting in Germany. This conclusion came as much as a surprise to me as it did to others at the time, yet I was determined to be obedient.

That first year was lonely. It was full of fearful moments due to insufficient finances and a lack of direction (I recall sharing some of those moments in previous blogposts, Um, Where’s my Miracle? and Um, Where’s my Miracle? (Part 2): The Overflow). It was a year that deepened my relationship with and dependence on the Holy Spirit, trusting Him to guide me and comfort me; I learned to lean on Him in a way I had never even come close to before. As I focused on learning the language, that year also gave me the gift of time, one I used to write Adventure Awaits. And yet, amidst all the uncertainty and daily challenges, the peace and pure joy within me urged me forwards; it was truly a peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

As the second year began, I entered a full-time job in a local international school, providing me with a little more stability and direction for the coming season. I knew from the beginning that it was to be a short-term appointment (that was, of course, not why God had taken me to Germany) but with the new job came a new apartment, and consequently led me to New Life Church; a church with a heart for planting and multiplication.

As I celebrated my third anniversary in Germany, I was settled in a job I enjoyed, progressing steadily in the language, and had found family within New Life Church. There, too, doors of opportunity began to open, with invitations to participate in church services, to be a fly-on-the-wall in Pastor meetings, and to join the small leadership team within the Frankfurt Campus. Finally, after three years, I began to see the first glimpses of what God had called me to Germany for.

By the time I celebrated four years in Germany, I was honoured to have been invited onto the Pastoral team in Frankfurt and reduced my hours at school to make further room for the calling on my life. Those lessons of dependence on the Holy Spirit that I had learnt in the first year buoyed me up and urged me forward as I took more steps of faith, but this time with a more confident stride. I had seen God do it before; wouldn’t He do it again?

In the months since then, I have stepped out of my school job altogether and live in faith, depending on God to meet my needs (and He does; every single time). I co-lead the Frankfurt Campus with the Campus Pastor and we plan – God-willing – to plant a Cafe Church in Frankfurt in the next 1-2 years. I am also embarking on theological study at the German Bible School I stayed at during my very first visit to Germany in July 2016. Little did I know that God was already laying the foundation in my heart for something unexpected much further down the road.

On Sunday 3rd April 2022 I will celebrate five years since I moved to Germany; five years of God’s faithfulness, fulfilling exactly what He said He would. For so many months, back in those first years, I felt utterly lost in Germany. Why was I here? How could I – a woman, a foreigner, a non-German speaker, someone with exceptionally little church-planting experience, and no formal theological training – possibly do what God had called me here to do? What would the path look like? How would I get there? I had no clue where to even begin!

I couldn’t see in that first year that God had a work to do in me before He was ready to do a work through me.

I didn’t understand in that second year that God wanted me to simply enjoy the friends, the job, the church He had provided for me as I grew in confidence in speaking and ministering in the German language.

I couldn’t have dreamed of the opportunities that began to open up for me in that third year, when I still felt so useless, inexperienced, and my language lacked fluency. But God called me forward once again, despite my inadequacies.

I marvelled at the acceleration of my language ability in that fourth year – one that could only have been gifted to me. But time after time, as I stepped out in courage and faith, I saw God multiply the loaves and fish I humbly offered Him.

I celebrate what God has done these last twelve months in me and through me. I celebrate the journey He has taken me on; His faithfulness in guiding me step by step, knowing exactly what He was doing. He never forgot about me, or missed a step, or messed up the plan, or unintentionally delayed me, or failed to equip me for what He had asked me to do. He was there. He was faithful. He saw the bigger picture.

I can’t quite believe I have called this place home for the past five years. I am astounded at what God has done in that time and how He has led me forward, one step at a time. At countless points along the journey, I couldn’t see the progress; I often failed to see (or believe!) the bigger picture. But I reflect back on these fives years and see threads of His guidance, His provision, His grace everywhere. These five years do not represent one big step; these fives years were countless small, consecutive steps of obedience, of courage, of faith.

What step of obedience can you take today? You never know where it might lead.

Thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness! Thank you, that You see the bigger picture when we so often barely even see the step ahead of us. Help us to see with eyes of faith, not fear. Help us to trust You when nothing makes sense. Help us to be obedient when fear tells us to turn away. We believe that with You nothing is impossible; I pray that we would not only know that in our hearts, but believe it, too, in our hearts. Amen.

Read more here about how you can partner with the work I am involved with in Germany.

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).

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 Catalyst for Answered Prayer

I returned from New York City in December 2014, just days before Christmas, having completed a four-month internship programme with Metro World Child.  I arrived back in my home city with little idea of what would happen next; having felt that the season I was in was not yet over.

Having been asked to be bridesmaid for my friend in the following March, I decided that remaining in Scotland until then seemed sensible, so I turned down an opportunity to return immediately to New York and instead accepted a ministry job at home on one condition: that it was understood that I was only committing to stay for six months.  After all, I still felt I had unfinished business with the States and, therefore, expected to return later that year.

But months ticked by and I was no closer to returning Stateside.  I kept a keen eye out for different opportunities and made several inquiries into different ministries but every door shut before me.

Meanwhile, doors for ministry and work were opening effortlessly for me in Scotland.  In my fourth month, I felt a burden to begin a childrens’ ministry in the local community where I was working.  I did not want to begin something if I was only going to be present for a couple more months so I committed to a further year in employment; the duration of the next full academic year.

Throughout that year I lived with a short-term mentality.  Every commitment I made had the disclaimer, “if I’m still here, then I will….” or, “if I’m not gone by then, perhaps…”  I sought not to distance myself from everyone and everything so much as I did not want to commit to anything I would not see through until the end.  But by the following Spring, having faced challenges and frustrations both professionally and personally, I decided that living with this short-term mentality was unhelpful for both myself and my colleagues.  I stopped using disclaimers and decided to be fully present in the season that God had placed me in.

“Ok, God,” I reasoned, “if this is where You have me for now, I will be all here.  I will stop living in limbo; neither fully in the present, nor fully in the next season.  I will resist trying to make the next step happen, so it is up to You to act when that right time comes.  I’m committing to ‘here’ until You move me ‘there’.”

I began putting down roots again and, most significantly, decided to put my apartment up for sale.  If I was to remain in my home city for the foreseeable future, then I would invest in a larger place that I could be comfortable in.

But time passed and my apartment attracted very little interest.  A number of people viewed it, there were even some promising conversations about follow-up actions and further negotiation, but my apartment didn’t move.  However, God did…

It was only once my attitude had changed and I had surrendered my desires, my expectations, and my timing to God, that He began to act.  My recent actions had reflected my changed focus and I no longer sought to second-guess God’s timetable, but, instead, to fully embrace my present circumstances.  I realised that God had not forgotten me or overlooked me; He had placed me there for that time and with purpose, therefore I should make best use of the time with those people, in that job, living in that city.  My change in attitude changed my whole demeanour, and my remaining months there became far more pleasant and enjoyable.

Then, on the last day of that academic year, I flew to Germany to visit a friend for a much-needed weekend break.  It was my first time stepping foot on German soil (admittedly, a country well down my travel bucket-list) but it was a cheap weekend break and a greatly anticipated reunion with my friend.  There was nothing special about the particular weekend that I had chosen, other than that it being the most convenient for each of our schedules, but I also don’t believe that it is any coincidence that it coincided with the last day of the school year.  It was there that God began to nudge me forward once again.

My change in attitude had been the catalyst for God to move in me once again.  I changed my priorities and how I spent my time; I chose to invest in myself instead of wasting time daydreaming about what I wanted and sulking because I didn’t have it yet.  I became intentional about my own spiritual growth.  I fasted TV and movies that summer (a time-consuming hobby of mine) so that I could better invest that time.  I dived into God’s Word, I read faith-inspired books packed full of wisdom and personal testimonies.  I told God everything that I had been feeling: my hopes, my dreams, my doubts, my disappointments, my failures, and my regrets.  God reminded me of the purposes He had created me for but I knew that I was not yet ready to enter into them.  So becoming ready became my new goal.

Without rushing ahead or trying to second guess or take control, I simply began asking God, “what next?” And in the meantime, I continued to serve in my existing situation as best as I could.

In the months that followed, God actually used the non-sale of my apartment to direct me further and to finally confirm that a new season was imminent.  Though I had initially envisioned this ‘meantime’ season would only last 6 months, it did, in fact, last a little over two years.  Neither, of course, did it lead me back to America, but overseas to mainland Europe.  The growth and preparation I experienced in that time was absolutely essential in allowing me to step into all that God had prepared for me in Germany.  I am unspeakably grateful for that meantime.

In times of waiting, it can be easy to slip into a dreamlike state where your body is firmly in the present, but your mind and heart have gone ahead and are endeavouring to live prematurely in your Promised Land.  But we must guard our minds and not allow ourselves to drift too far into the future, that we miss out on the present.

God is less worried about our circumstances and more interested in the state of our heart.  Are we making demands of God for the things that we want, or do we trust Him to lead us into His best?  Do we throw a tantrum if our expectations aren’t met, or do we surrender our own ideals and ask Him to act as He chooses, when He chooses?  I believe that our attitude is very often the gateway to seeing our prayers become a reality.

Until we truly know God and trust His heart towards us, we will be fearful or resentful of His instructions.  But as we prioritise knowing Him, rather than simply seeking His ways, trusting Him will become easier, and following His path for our lives will become a delight.

Even while we wait for God’s promises, there is a life to be fully embraced and lived out every single day.  Be fully present wherever you are right now.  It may not be where you want to be, or what you would like to be doing, but when we walk in obedience to where God has placed us at this moment instead of always wishing each day away, we learn to see God in the mundane and life becomes an adventure!

A Crisis of Faith

I have always believed in the existence of God and His role in the creation of humanity; it was what I was taught as a young child, having attended Sunday school each week, and it is what I read for myself in the Bible as I grew up and explored the ideas for myself.

However that does not mean that I do not have questions or ‘gaps of knowledge’ that I cannot account for. I wonder about the marriage between historical records, Biblical accounts, and scientific discoveries. I consider the tragedy in our world and ask why an Almighty Being would allow such things to happen. I ponder the existence of other religions, and question why I choose my beliefs over so many others. But this does not make me naive or ignorant, it simply means I place faith in the stop-gap.

Because what I can account for is this:

The crippling fear and insecurities that I carried for decades have been eradicated as I have personally seen God work miracles of healing and provision and timing in my own life.

I can testify to the healing in my heart of great pain and distress that I have experienced in my short life thus far.

I am grateful for the protection I have received; whether emotionally, while faced with hurtful relationships; or physically, when encountering violence while working on the streets of Brooklyn, New York.

I could share with you the countless moments of comfort I have felt through song, or a beautiful sunset, or a bright blue sky, or a right-place, right-time encounter with someone, as God lovingly makes Himself known to me in a variety of forms.

And as time has gone on, that belief that I loosely held as a child, I now own passionately and resolutely, because I have seen the goodness of God in my life. I have experienced the love that He has for me. I have received His blessing in so, so many ways.

As I reflect back on 2018, I wonder at the journey of faith I have traveled this year. I thank God for many, many answered prayers; for guidance, for financial provision, for provision of friends, for the health of my family, for provision of work, for a new home, for a new church, for opportunities, for emotional healing, for peace, and for rest. He has exceeded every expectation.

My favourite Bible verse, John 10:10, says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Fear seeks to steal our hope, kill our dreams, and destroy the good that we hold on to, but Jesus was born as a baby so that there could be a way for us to know God that was tangible and relatable. Jesus Christ came to unite us with God so that we could have the full and abundant life that we were created for; one free from shame, fear, and isolation. That is why I celebrate Christmas. That is why I celebrate the baby born in a stable in Bethlehem, two thousand years ago.

Today, my relationship with- and understanding of God is not one that can be explained, or justified, or measured, rather it is evidenced by the joy on my face, and the peace in my heart.

Do It Anyway

A few weeks ago I was asked to share a testimony at church.  The opportunity thrilled me and I was grateful to have the chance to share a little of my heart with my new church family.  But then I hesitated, as I carefully typed my reply to my pastor… “Sure. In English or German?”

Hmm… My initial excitement faded a little at the thought of this forgotten obstacle.  I waited anxiously for his reply.

“Both is fine.  If you do it in English, I will translate.”

English it is, then!

It was the option that came most naturally, and posed the least challenge.  Sharing in English would require minimal preparation and would permit me to speak eloquently and passionately.  “Piece of cake!” I concluded.

But the following day my conscience stirred as I remembered the reason why God had called me to Germany in the first place… What if I was to testify in German?

My range of vocabulary would be significantly reduced.

Do it anyway.

It would require far greater preparation time.

Do it anyway.

My nerves will likely cloud my thinking and I will have to depend on written notes.

Do it anyway.

I would be greatly restricted in how I could adequately express my heart.

Do it anyway.

My perfectionism and pride threatened to dissuade me, but I knew that God was calling me to step out of the boat once again.  It is in our weakness that His power is most evident (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It is only when we step out of our comfort zone that we see our trust exercised and our faith grow.

2 Kings 5 tells the story of a man called Naaman.  Being an army commander, he was used to an audience with men in high places, including the king.  He was well thought of in the land, was a great warrior, and a man of significant wealth. However, he suffered with leprosy.

Concerned for her master’s health, Naaman’s young slave girl suggested that he present himself to the prophet Elisha to receive healing.  So the soldier embarked upon a journey to Israel to meet the prophet of God and seek His intervention.  Upon reaching the prophet’s home, however, Naaman is met by a lowly servant with a simple message for Naaman: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:10)

Appalled at the prophet’s lack of decorum, Naaman left in a huff.  He couldn’t believe that he had travelled all this way and the man of God had not even had the decency to meet him person!  And as for his instruction; dip in the River Jordan seven times and be healed of this skin disease? Pah! Who had ever heard of such a thing!

But Naaman’s officers cautiously approached their superior…

“If the prophet had asked you to do something brave and difficult, wouldn’t you have responded differently?” they asked. “Instead he asks of you but a simple request…”

Do it anyway.

Naaman’s issue was not his leprosy – not really – his issue was pride. His healing was not dependent on some great victory in battle (which came somewhat easily to him) or a feat of strength, but it relied solely on his ability to humble himself and be obedient to God’s instruction.

I had sought to share my testimony in a language that I was comfortable communicating in and therefore assumed to depend on my own abilities.  But as I humbled myself before God, before the people in my church, and attempted to express my heart in simple, broken German, God did a work that He could not have otherwise done.  He softened my heart, and He used not only the testimony that I communicated but also the added testimony that was being outworked in those moments by operating in a foreign tongue.

The courage I demonstrated that day, by letting go of my pride and allowing God to speak through me, brought breakthrough in my on-going effort to master the German language.  My courage and daring has grown, permitting me to take more risks when engaged in conversation.  My vocabulary has broadened and my ear has better attuned to the distinct accents.  My mind comprehends better the intricacies of the German grammar, causing sentences to flow more freely from my lips.

I am reminded again how pride can become an obstacle in our race of faith.  The life we lead, the call we answer, is not one that we can do alone.  The purpose for which we were created is impossible to achieve in our own abilities.  If we truly commit to walking our unrivaled road, then it is absolutely necessary that we lay aside our pride and allow God to operate through our weaknesses. When God prompts us to act; when He calls us to obey Him, even at the expense of our prestige, let’s do it anyway.

Building Momentum

I recently read a social media post from Paul Scanlon that resonated with me as I reflected back on my time in Germany so far.  It read:

“Q) How do you attract divine guidance? A) Movement.

The biggest thing I’ve learned about divine guidance in over 45 years of walking with God is that: GOD IS DRAWN TO MOVEMENT.

That movement doesn’t have to be well planned or even accurate it just needs to be intentional and from a good heart.

Point your life in the general non-specific direction of service to others and HE WILL DIRECT YOUR STEPS.” – Paul Scanlon

Once upon a time I wouldn’t have dreamt about moving to a new country without a carefully constructed plan of where I would live, how I would fund myself, where I would work, which church I would attend, how I might serve, and so on.  But when I responded in obedience to the first step, God graciously showed me the second, then the third, and the fourth…

God uses His Word to speak to us and guide us through this life, but in order to speak into the specifics of our world, He often needs us to present Him with possible options.  How will we be sure of the right door if we have not pushed at a few wrong doors first?  God gently steers us through life using the path of least (spiritual) resistance.  That’s not to say that we won’t face challenges along the way, but as we attempt to move in different directions, God can use firmly closed doors to keep us from wandering off our own unrivaled road.

These doors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: opportunities, conversations, invitations, circumstances outwith our control. Our attitude and perspective then determines our response when faced with these different doors.

“Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.”

(Proverbs 3:5-7 (TPT))

At the beginning of the summer, when I was searching for a new apartment closer to my workplace, I enquired about over fifty different apartments online.  From those fifty, I received only a handful of responses and was consequently invited to viewings.

Apartment hunting in the Frankfurt area is no joke.  The apartments that I was fortunate enough to be invited to view often had at least one hundred other interested parties; the competition is fierce.  A friend recently shared with me that she was the successful one out of 600 applicants for her apartment in central Frankfurt!  While I was not too picky when sending out emails of interest, I prayed that God would use circumstances and opportunities to whittle out the wheat from the chaff and lead me to an affordable, safe, convenient apartment.

Consequently, after three months of searching, scores of emails exchanged, hours spent travelling back-and-forth on public transport, several viewings, and a few unsuccessful applications, God led me to the right apartment and allowed me to (literally) enter.  (Interestingly, the apartment did not, in the online advertisement, meet my defined search criteria, so how it landed on my results page I’ll never know.  God clearly knew what He was doing.)

In order to find the right apartment, I had to be active.  I had to search online, and enquire, and send emails, and view them, and have conversations in broken German, and run credit checks, and submit applications.  It was time consuming, and frustrating, and sometimes felt never-ending.  But with every ‘wrong’ apartment, I drew a little closer to the right one; I learnt to know what to look for, I discovered what was important to me in selecting an apartment suitable for my needs and desires, I explored different areas and got a feel for the my new surroundings.  At the time, it maybe felt like I was making no progress, but these closed doors were all steering me towards the right one.

Now I’m not suggesting that we need to over-spiritualise every little decision and movement that we make; as we draw close to God and speak to Him regularly in prayer we will receive the wisdom and discernment to make good decisions.  Our desire to follow Him and serve Him will grow, and He will gently steer us towards His best: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But do you think that God can steer us if we are sitting comfortably in our armchair at home, waiting for Him to drop a Billy-Graham-revival-sized idea into our hearts?  Well, He might.  But it is far more likely that the road to such an incredible privilege is paved with hundreds, nay thousands, of tiny steps forward, seeking simply to honour God with our life.

Consider this: if God were to call you to a Billy-Graham-revival-sized idea tomorrow, would you be ready?  Would you have the faith, the courage, the experience to see it through?  Not many of us would.  But the beauty of the journey – all those incremental steps that lead us there – is the preparation we experience along the way.

And as we become more confident and practiced in stepping forward in faith, the more familiar His voice becomes.

Could I have moved to Germany if I hadn’t previously gone in faith to NYC for four months? No.

Could I have worked in Tillydrone, at the Lighthouse Support Centre, if I had not gathered skills and experience from my time working with Metro World Child and King’s Community Church? No.

Could I have pioneered the role of Administration Manager at King’s Community Church if I had not previously volunteered with Souled Out? No.

Could I have been successful in the role as Event Manager at Souled Out events if I had not previously volunteered in the stewarding team? No.

Could I have co-led short-term mission trips to Montenegro if I had not previously participated in GLO Teams in Italy? No.

We take one shaky step forward, not knowing what to expect or what God might do, but He shows up, takes our hand, and our faith grows… So we take another step forward – a little easier this time, having seen His faithfulness in our first step – and God nudges us to the left a little cus He has something better for us than what we anticipated for ourselves…

Now we’re on a journey – we don’t want to go back to where we were – so we look around, considering our options, and walk in the direction that seems to align with the peace that the Spirit gives us, and God continues to use opportunities and circumstances and timing to bring us further down His path…

And we walk.  And momentum builds.  And we become more confident living in a way that contradicts society and culture, but a way that brings us joy, and peace, and life.