Monday, 30 March 2015

Dressing for the weather {putting on spiritual clothing}

It's spring.

The clocks have changed, and the nights are getting lighter.  Beautiful bulbs and blossoms are flowering.  Birds are building nests.

Oh, and it's perishing cold.

Yup.  It's "spring" in the UK.  Unpredictable, often wet, windy, and yet, sometimes warm and bright. The joys of a temperate climate.

Totally unpredictable.

I don't know about anyone else, but I have to check the weather before deciding what I will wear.  If I wear socks and it gets warmer, I hate it.  If I DON'T wear socks, and it's cold, I equally hate it.  Hoodie, or no hoodie? Long-sleeved top, or short? all these questions.  All just to dress right.  Working out what I need to put on.

This morning I was reading in Galatians.

"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Galatians 3:27  

It was a lovely reminder of the significance of baptism. Our baptism is a sign of "putting on" Christ.  We have accepted the robes of HIS righteous, and are clothed by Him.  It's a precious consideration - a reminder that our sins are covered by the shedding of His blood, and we then want to show others of our change within.

At the dawning of  new week, my mind was drawn to a different "put on".  It was one that is a challenge to my day to day life.  It's a putting on - a clothing of myself, in a figurative sense - of something vital.

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
Colossians 3:12-15

As a mother, and as a wife, I am challenged each day by situations various and many.  They challenge my sanctification, and I need to make sure that I am suitably clothed to deal with them.  This passage sums up a great little "wardrobe" that will "cover" all situations.

We need to clothe ourselves in mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering  (patience), forbearance (putting up with people), forgiveness, and love.

Well now, if I ever wanted to "look my best" spiritually, and be dressed for the day ahead, this is the "wardrobe" I need! That list just about sums up the daily challenges I face. It sums up the buttons my children push, that make parenting less than a bed of roses.  Unless you mean roses with thorns. It's just not a walk in the park.


Parenting is HARD!

And, of course, children aren't the only people in my life.  There are others. All challenge my sanctification at various points, as I am certain I challenge THEIRS!

If I get dressed with all of these qualities, life will be easier.

Also fact.

The truth is, if we are intentional about having a life filled with these attributes, by "putting them on" each day, we will be able to handle those tricky situations that life throws up. We'll be dressed for the right "weather", because we've put on the right thing in the morning.

And, of course, if you know the weather is going to get pretty wild, you put on as many layers as you can.  You don't want to just put on one thing, you want to get entirely kitted out to deal with the crazy. Hat, gloves, scarf, jumper, coat, thermals - you get the drift.  That's what we need every morning. Putting on the layers that our spiritual wardrobe provides us with - ready for anything.

Are you dealing with children who err and sin, or who do the same things over and over?  If you are clothed with mercy, you'll deal with things in a more gracious way.

Do you have people who tend to be unkind?  If you are dressed with kindness, you can show them the best way to deal with others, even when they don't deserve it.

Sometimes we don't get things right. We don't handle situations in the best way, or we do or say things in a less than ideal manner.  Are we adorned with humility, ready to say "I was wrong", and smooth over problems, or avoid them altogether?

Certain situations make me prone to losing my temper.  Sad, but true.  If I am dressed in meekness I will, instead, show gentleness, when I am tempted to be less than gentle in my spirit.

Patience.  Now, there's a doozy. If anyone can test our patience, it's our children.  Putting on longsuffering, at the start of each new day - gracious, each HOUR - we will become more patient with those around us.

Forbearance is another challenging one.  That's all about putting up with people. As I have herd others say "I love my children, but I don't always like them". That applies to ANYONE we know, who is close to us.  We don't always LIKE the behaviour we see in them, although we love them unconditionally.  That's when we need that forbearance.  We need to put up with others, DESPITE their failings.

Being able to forgive others is another biggie.  It can be our husband, our children, or many others we know and love. We mustn't allow things to get in the way of our relationships.  We need to be big enough to say "I forgive you", and move on.  Putting forgiveness on, at the start of each new day, will help us in the right direction.

The last one basically sums it all up.

Above all else, we need to put on love.

The particular "brand" of love, here, is "agape".  It's that love shown by affection, and benevolence. It's literally a "love feast".  Showering others in love, so that they can soak it up and take their fill.  It's love in a close, and tender way.  Love that SHOWS.

When we go out on a rainy, spring day, we first get dressed in the basics, but then we need to put a coat on that covers up as much as we can, to keep it dry and protected.  Love is like that raincoat.  It goes right over the top of everything else, and protects it all.  Love. Always the most important thing.

How do we DO all this, though?  How do we keep "covered up", day, after day, after day?

Verse 10 tells  us

"put on the new man"

It's that life we have, because of Christ.  His blood has cleansed us from all sin, and the Holy Spirit reigns within  our hearts.  That new man is what we need to put on EVERY day.  Putting off the old man of sin, and being covered afresh by Christ's righteousness, which is sufficient.

"for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness"
Isaiah 61:10

THAT'S the ultimate clothing, that we need to be thankful for EVERY day.  His salvation.  His righteousness.  When we remember how Christ has forgiven us, we are clothed, ready to deal with anything that comes our way.

Go on - stretch into your spiritual closet, and get dressed, ready for whatever challenges come your way.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Marriage {an overarching principle}

"An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning on each other, become a strength."
Leonardo Da Vinci

I just HAD to deviate from my normal Wednesday post, when I read this with the children in their school reading, for Tapestry of Grace, this week.  I read it, and something IMMEDIATELY jumped out at me.

This quote, of course, is the definition of an arch, from a scientific and engineering perspective.  The laws of science, worked out by a great mind like Da Vinci.

But, do you know what struck me? Right, smack dab between the eyes? THIS is a picture of MARRIAGE!!!

As individuals we are weak.  We have weaknesses in so many different ways, and invariably our weaknesses are not the same.  Our strengths and weaknesses lie in different places.  Without doubt, however, there ARE weaknesses.  Not one single person is always strong, always perfect, always right.  So, in a marriage that equals two weaknesses.

But look.


When those two weaknesses lean on each other, they become a strength.

What a beautiful, and wonderful image!

When we lean on each other - when we rely upon each other - we hold each other up and WE ARE STRONG!  It's no good just trying to "go it alone" in a marriage.  When you are united in matrimony, you become one unit.  It's about DEPENDENCE, not INDEPENDENCE!  It's not a sign of weakness to rely on each other for support  - it's a strength to do that.

Ecclesiastes tells us about the benefits of more than one.

"Two are better than one.."

It carries on to give situations where it's a benefit to have someone to help you in life.  No lesser so than in a marriage! It's the perfect picture of partnership being important.  Not being in conflict, but working side by side.

There's more though...

In the whole construction of an arch, there is a crucial, crucial part.

The keystone.

"A wedge-shaped keystone would then hold the arch in place, forming a strong support for spanning a wide expanse."

Well now, if that isn't just GOD right there!? It's HIM who then holds our marriage in place - it's HIM who is a strong support for a wide expanse of life and circumstances.  It's God alone that gives us the strong support that our marriages need.  If he isn't there, the marriage will fall apart, just as when the keystone is not there, the arch will not hold up. He needs to be central in all that we do.  He needs to be that topmost stone, to keep us united and strong. Holding us together and keeping our marriage strong.

Ecclesiastes carries on to say this

"a threefold cord is not quickly broken"

In a marriage we need that "threefold cord".  Two individuals with Christ gives great strength, and the marriage is not easily broken.

How's your "arch"? Are you trying to work on your own in your marriage, or are you two weaknesses, leaning on each other to be strong, with Christ at the centre? I know which I want to be, and am I ever thankful that my weakness can be strength when I lean on my husband and have Christ at the centre.

Monday, 23 March 2015

A little bit of faith (and a step in the right direction}

At the moment, I am going through a season which is requiring me to rethink things that we do, and work out if  they are, in fact, the best way for us.   I'm trying to plan more, and think "outside the box".

However, this is a challenge for me.  Deep down inside, and right near the surface, I like things to be familiar.  Change slightly freaks me out.  The "norm" suits me just fine, but it doesn't always work out for the best.

Sometimes, we need change.



I think that my mind struggles with change for a few reasons. For a start, I take a lot of time to make choices in the first place.  I have to know that something is right, in order to do it.  Change somehow implies that I have maybe failed in my original plan. I kind of beat myself up, with thoughts of "well, if you had done better with the first plan, change wouldn't be needed".

That's just my sinful pride, though.

Change isn't always to do with me.  In fact, with eight children, and two adults, in a home, it's pretty much likely to be the result of another.  More specifically, trying to better meet the needs of others. Change is really, then, about improvement.  Betterment.  Not failure.  Pushing yourself to do better, think better, be better organised. Saying that something doesn't work isn't failure!

The next reason struck me full in the face in my devotions this morning.  I'm still reading through Hebrews, and I came to chapter 11 today.



It's a chapter that never ceases to bring me fresh challenges.   This morning, it hit me in a "you're the Mummy" kind of way.

With so many changes and adaptations to make all the time, life can feel a bit daunting.  The whole "Am I doing the right thing, here?" mentality, can creep in. "Am I REALLY doing a good job?"  "Will I ever able able to achieve this?"

The Mummy mentality.  It's true.  We all ask ourselves questions like that! Don't we?.... (At least, I THINK it's not just me!)

Question after question can assault my mind. Regularly.

Ladies... Mummies... Wives....

Here's the thing.

Listen to this list of accomplishments from Hebrews 11.

(Ok, read it.)

"subdued kingdoms, 
wrought righteousness, 
obtained promises, 
stopped the mouths of lions, 
Quenched the violence of fire, 
escaped the edge of the sword, 
out of weakness were made strong, 
waxed valiant in fight, 
turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 
Women received their dead raised to life again: 
and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; 
that they might obtain a better resurrection: 
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 
They were stoned, 
they were sawn asunder, 
were tempted, 
were slain with the sword: 
they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; 
being destitute, 
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) 
they wandered in deserts, 
and in mountains, 
and in dens and caves of the earth."
Hebrews 11:34-38

Read it again.

REALLY read it.  Soak it in.  Think about your life, and see if something in that list feels familiar.  I almost guarantee it will! 

Now, here's the punch.  I missed the first bit out.  It's only a few words, but it's the key.

"Who through faith"


That's it.  We don't even need an ocean filled with faith.  Not even a bucket full, or a teaspoonful.   Faith, as a grain of mustard seed. Teeeeeeeny, tiny faith.  But, we NEED faith. We won't please God without it.

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Hebrews 11:6

Our faith is rewarded by God's promises - by His presence, His peace, His strength, His wisdom. 

IF we diligently seek Him.  

IF we follow after Him.  

IF we DO!

That's the other thing.  I am never going to accomplish ANYTHING if I don't step out in faith, and attempt it.  I need to do my part, and follow diligently after God, and His ways, by DOING what He has led me to do.  A little bit of faith, and a step in the right direction - that's all it takes to accomplish great things for God.

That list - look at it again, just one more time.

It starts with subduing kingdoms.  Who am *I* to subdue a kingdom? Well now, I just happen to have my own little kingdom RIGHT HERE! My family, my home, my homeschool.  Right here, right now, I have a kingdom - we all do! Wherever God has placed you, is YOUR kingdom.  It's a BIBLICAL pattern to "subdue" your home, as a wife and mother.  Look at Proverbs 31! Right there, you have it.  Raising our children, too.  It's all about being in charge, and taking control.  It's what we should be doing, but we need FAITH, too.  

It's a two-fold thing.  Faith, plus works.  If you read through Hebrews 11, there is a verb attached to every "by faith".  (verb - that's the "doing" word - grammar lesson for the day, over!)  By FAITH - believing that God would lead, guide, and help them - they all DID something.  Go through and highlight them, if you do highlighting.  Underline.  Jot them down.  Whatever you do, do it.  Remind yourself that we can accomplish much by faith, but we still need to go out there and DO something. You don't read, in that whole list "By faith, Abraham sat back in his tent, with his feet kicked up, and watched while God just did everything for him".  No siree.  By faith, Abraham did something incredible.  He went on a long journey, faaaar, far from home.  He headed for a promised land, and trusted God for a promised future.  He was promised a family more numerous than the stars - he and Sarah had ONE son. One.  (And, we all know, when he ditched the faith part, and went in his own strength on the whole family part, it didn't work out too well.  Nope. Not one bit.)  We have to do, but we mustn't lose the faith part, either.  

We need to step out this week. Step out in faith, even just a teeny, tiny baby step.  But, step out, we must.  Trusting in our all-sufficient and all-powerful God, who is able to do ANYTHING.  Stepping out to please HIM, by demonstrating our faith and trust in His leading and guiding. 

The other little phrase, before I finish (because I could just go on and on, with this one - I'm finding it so inspiring!), look at the other phrase, in that list.

"out of weakness were made strong,"


Weak??? You betcha.  Weak as dishwater.  (Don't ask - it's a British phrase, when referring to a naff cuppa!)  I feel weak, REGULARLY.

Well, there's news.  These people, "who through faith", stepped out for God, were made strong out of their weakness.  Strong.  Proper STRONG strong.   God's kind of strong.  The only strong we need.

With a little bit of faith, and a step in the right direction, we will have weakness made strong, and then, OH, what we can achieve for God! 

Let's go forward in faith this week.  Whatever God has led you to be doing, faith, and action, will get you to amazing places!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Friendship {Love with hands and feet}

I need to just share something.

God has blessed me INCREDIBLY, with wonderful friends.

It's one of the reasons why I wanted to share some truths about friendship - it's something I wanted to acknowledge that I have been blessed with, and to help others see - and myself - how to be a better friend to others.  As good as the friends *I* have.

The last few weeks has seen me pondering it in particular, because my friends have been an especial blessing.  Many things have got me thinking, and that's where the posts have sprung from.  
So, here I am saying, for all the world to hear - MY FRIENDS ARE THE BEST!

They all encourage me in so many ways, and these next few posts will have me looking at specific ways that we can be good friends to others, inspired by MY friends!

Today springs entirely from a very practical aspect.  

Good friends DO.

In life, it's all very well to "talk the talk" of being friends with someone, without "walking the walk".  As I have mentioned before, my friends have done many things for me - from cleaning toilets, to baking and cooking.  Looking after children.  Sending me random gifts.  Providing for our needs financially and physically.  Loads of ways.

This week, one particular friend has shown her friendship in a "doing" way.  Now, let me clarify, lest other friends feel neglected - MANY of my friends have done things for me, in the past, all of which are massively appreciated.  This week is just right there in my mind, and I am using it as a lesson for ME, as much as anyone else.

Our friends have been to visit, and with that comes work.  Work, which I add, I am so thrilled to do.  My lovely friend, however, very willingly got to work herself, in my home, and did some of my jobs for me! She cleaned my kitchen floor.  She did my ironing today (which I didn't get done last week, as my back was sore, and today I have been feeling ill - so she did it!). Two things, but they meant SO much! My floor was, quite frankly, a sticky mess. Children, helping themselves to drinks, and spilling them - it makes for mankiness.  So, whilst I was doing something else, she cleaned my floor.

Now, before I get onto anything else, it raises an important issue about friendship.  You cannot a) feel proud, or b) feel judged. These are two really crucial elements in the Christian life, but also in friendship.  If you have a job that needs to be done, be willing to accept the help.  Say thank-you, and let them get on with it, if they offer.  Don't start thinking that they must consider you to be an awful housekeeper, if they offer to do something for you. Trust me, I have been there. You need to be willing to say "yes", and just appreciate their genuine offer, without analysing WHY they have offered! Just take it that they are being helpful, and accept it as such, and leave their motive for offering with the Lord, and presume it to be good and honourable! 

I was so grateful that she was willing to do that for me.  To get on her hands and knees (her preferred method of doing it), and clean my sticky floor.

I have had others clean my toilets.  My TOILETS.  Simply because they knew it would help me.

Others, like my friend today, have done my ironing, when they knew it had got behind.  Today, I both felt ill myself, and had clingy little ones, also feeling unwell.  To know, now, that my ironing is done, is such a relief.  One less job to do, when I now know I have children who need me to simply sit and cuddle.

I am reminded of the important aspect of friendship - it's showing love in a practical way.  Being love with hand and legs.  DOING.

This verse in Galatians sums it up.

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

Galatians 6:2 

Bearing each other's burdens.

Yes, that can mean in a spiritual, or emotional way.  But, what better way to do that, than PRACTICALLY?! If you see your friend with a "burden" - their load - the responsibilities they "carry" - then help bear it!  Take that weight off, by removing the burden, in whatever way you can.  Different friends will have different burdens.  You may need to be creative, but there could be a way of helping.  

One of the other ways, that I have massively appreciated "burden bearing", is when I have had meals provided after a baby.  Things in the UK are nothing like the USA, but I have had the odd person helping like that.  It's SUCH a help! IT doesn't have to be after a baby - illness, busyness, trying circumstances - all these things can mean it's hard just to do the everyday task of cooking. Having a meal just there, can be such a help.

Lots of things you can do, in ways that will help your friends, in particular.

Hebrews also talks on this practical subject.

"But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
Hebrews 13:16 

The first part is fairly self explanatory.  Doing good.  Find good things, and do them.  Whatever you know is good for your friend, do it! It means knowing them well enough to understand what would BE a good thing, of course! 

Then, the next instruction is to "communicate".  In a modern context, we think of that as simply talking, or being in contact by some other means.  However, having a look at old "Strongs", expands on it.

communicate = partnership, that is, (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction: - (to) communicate (-ation), communion, (contri-), distribution, fellowship.

It's to do with partnership.  Working together.  Being a benefactor - giving to others. Fellowship.

Friendship should have a practical application, because it is well pleasing to God.  Can you see, too, that it's a SACRIFICE? It means giving up of self, and giving to others. Giving of our time and effort, and not just our things or our finances.  Giving, by doing.  I am pretty sure that many of the things done for me, by my friends, were a sacrifice.  I mean, who LIKES cleaning toilets, or floors? OK, some may do, but most don't! 
But, before I finish,  what's the "law of Christ" that the verse in Galatians speaks of?

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

Matthew 7:12  

It really challenged my heart and mind today.

We need to do to others, what we would have them do to us.

Did I appreciate, love, and enjoy my friends showing me practical demonstrations of kindness and friendship??


Then, what's the law and the prophets?  If I would have them do it for me, I need to do it for THEM.

Another "summing up the laws and prophets" is the WHY we should do it!

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 
This is the first and great commandment. 
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:37-40

We are demonstrating our love, by loving them as much as we love ourselves.

We then SHOW that love, by DOING.

Am I a "doing" friend for others? I really don't think I am as faithful a friend, as my friends are to me. I need to work at finding things to do for my friends, to bless them as much as they bless me!

How can you bless your friends in a practical way?  Do they need meals?  Help with children? Help around their home, for whatever reason? Help with transport?

Go on - show your love to your friends with hands and feet.


Monday, 16 March 2015

Taking time to see God's Greatness {stepping out of the boat}

This morning, something amazing happened.

I woke up EARLIER than the alarm, and I didn't feel tired!

Yes. You read correctly.

I am equally bowled over.  Maybe it's not a "thing" for you, and you regularly waken early, refreshed and full of vim and vigour.

How nice for you.

For me, it was incredible, and a perfect start to my "working" week.  I was able to get up, and spend loads of lovely time with just me, a large mug of coffee, and God - soaking up His Word, and learning precious truths.

On top of that, I even had time to read some more of Sally Clarkson's new book - Own Your Life.  I must admit, I had been struggling to find time for reading in peace and quiet.  Umpteen Sunday afternoons, I had attempted to read, only to have invading marauders. Yes, I have hit the stage of being unable to read fully without peace and quiet.  *groans inwardly at galloping aging process*
This morning, I had peace.  I had previously been reading it on my Kindle app, on the iPad, but I now have a "hard" copy, and hightlighter in hand, I got back to reading.

I have reached Chapter 6 - Resting in the Transcendence of God - Owning the Mystery of His Supremacy.

Oh, how this comes at the perfect time for me.

It's all about stepping away from the hectic madness of life, and seeing the wonder of who God is, as a little child.

My life has been super busy.  Crazy busy.  I had recently become overwhelmed with so many things I had to do.  Choices to make.  Direction to give.  Planning to do.  Schooling to oversee. Housework to fit in.  Discipline to administer.

I was tired.  I was worn down.

I hit a wall, and had to just step away from things, to get my head in the right place.  I am so thankful that I was able to come to my husband, pour out my heart (which had been burying things, thinking it would all just resolve by prayer alone.... alas, faith without works is dead! Action is always required!), and have him help me to find direction.

One of the biggest helps he was to me, was to see that I needed to slow down and remove a lot of unnecessary pressure from myself.  To take my eyes off perceived expectations from others (including what I THOUGHT was what HE wanted, which I was SO wrong about!), and to just focus on what was right for our family.

I cannot express to you, in words, how much of a load has been lifted from me since then.

I had more to learn, though.

As I mentioned, at the end of last week, I also realised that my focus was on doing, instead of BEING.  Being with my family, fully engaged.  Not rushing about from one job to the next.  Not focussed on academics and neglecting their tender hearts and personalities.  I needed to stop, take stock, and readjust my goals and priorities.

Imagine then, how perfect it was, to then read what I did this morning.  Sally giving wise counsel to my soul, about stopping and seeing how great God is.

She told the story of a night when she had opportunity to view the night sky through a telescope. Her daughter was enthralled, as they gazed at the sky was filled with incredible, twinkling stars.  A breath-taking sight.  Her mind was drawn to Job, and God's question to him.

"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding....When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
Job 38: 4, 7

We are so small.  God is so great.

We need to become like a little child, awed by the things we so easily miss, because we are simply too busy DOING.  I have been rush, rush, rushing through life, trying to cram so much in, all the while missing so much.  I am realising, all the more, that time is precious, and every little moment I can spend with my family, when they need me, is so important.  Every moment I can spend soaking up God, and His Word, is crucial to my growth and peace.  Taking a break from busyness, and just enjoying life, is something I need to MAKE time for.

Sally also relates how she spoke, in a blog post, about taking time with her daughter, amidst the busyness of one day, to have afternoon tea. Tea, scones and candles.  Celebrating life in the busyness of deadlines.  One commenter on the blog chastised her for not understanding the busyness in the life of Mums. This poor, harassed woman suggested Sally was setting unrealistic goals for women who are pushed for time, as it is.

Poor Sally!  Poor LADY!

I can understand the lady's life - whiny children, time your enemy as you battle to get things done.

TOTALLY.  I get it.

What I was reminded of this morning, is the very thing that I so often forget.

It's up to us to FORGE that time out of our day.  To take a step back, and think about what REALLY matters, eternally speaking.  All of the pressures and duties will still be there, after taking time out for a breather. Without a doubt.  But the refreshment your soul receives, from stopping, and resting, and being with JESUS, will be a boost to your day.

No living thing can operate without fuel.  We take time to stop and have nourishment for our bodies.  Stopping, and having a break from the duties of life, is refreshment to our MIND and our SOUL.  They equally need nourishment, and I shouldn't feel guilty for seeing to those needs, too.  That's where I have been going so wrong! We have a responsibility to care for not just our bodies, but our mind and our soul, to God's glory.

If I am having a crazy, stress-filled day, I just need to stop, and soak up God's greatness and glory. To become like a little child, and dwell upon the big things of God, instead of the fleeting, burden filled things of life. Take the time to get my perspective upon heavenly things, and not earthly.

Sally wrote of the disciple, Peter, and how he walked on the water.  How easily, in life, we try to row our way, in our own strength, through trials.  We won't get anywhere in a hurry, if we are going in our own strength.  Peter had to get out of the  boat, take a step of faith, and then keep His eyes on Jesus.  The moment he looked around at the waves, he sank.

That's me.  Rowing, as hard as I can, in the direction I THINK I should be going.  Busy, busy, trying my best to keep afloat.  All I need to do is stop, and get out of the boat.  Step away from the "boat" of life, that's being tossed around by the winds of  circumstances, and step towards the Saviour.  We are able to do great things, if we step out in faith, and keeps our eyes upon God.  I need to "think big", and realise that God is able to do great things in my life, if I just trust Him.  Step away from the storm, and towards the one who CONTROLS the storm.

Humility - bowing our lives before God - was the other area that challenged me today, from my reading in the book.

As mothers, I think there's an incredible pressure placed upon us to "get it all done".  We end up steaming on in our own strength, and forget that our strength is nothing.  We are like tiny specks, next to the greatness of God.  I need to come, with  heart bowed in humility, and see God in His greatness and His control over my life.  I need to remove my focus from the details of life, and remember that *I* am not in control - God is.  He knows the way that I take - He planned it. He, in His greatness and goodness, has planned that my life should be EXACTLY the way it is - it's my cup.

I am nothing, and He has it all in His great plan.

We are having a "week off school".  What a perfect way to launch into it.  Remembering God is great.  Remembering I am nothing.  Focussing on my mighty, awesome God.  Enjoying the moments, instead of being on the go, ALL the time.

Are you living a busy life, and forgetting to stop and enjoy the moment?  Like me, are you so busy doing, that you are not being? Not treasuring the detail that God has blessed us with in life, or the lives that God has surrounded us with?

I trust you will seek to see our great God, as I am, and take time to enjoy the moments we can plan into our busy lives, to enjoy God and His goodness.

Friday, 13 March 2015

How dying can bring time {Mundane Faithfulness}

"Today I'm fading, I can see it in the tears in his eyes. There is going to be grace for this. Even if it costed 20 minutes to write. May we continue to enjoy each moment. Will you do the same?"

Kara Tippetts

I have been following, for only a short time, this amazing woman.

Kara Tippetts is dying.

She has cancer, and it's taking over her body, and her life is coming to an end.

She's soon leaving this earth - her hospice nurse has told them her time is short.  

Every time I read a post, something amazing happens.  God speaks to me.  Shall I tell you why?

It's this simple.

She LIVES this verse.

"For to me to live is CHRIST, and to die is gain".

This lady desires to live out each remaining moment for her Saviour.  She does this by sharing her journey with others, and challenging them to think and ask questions about their lives, every time she writes to us.

Undoubtedly, this is a heartbreaking journey.  God has created us all to be part of family and community.  It's all we know, here on this earth - bound by time, and not understanding eternity.  Family and friendship is a gift from our Creator.  These things are PRECIOUS.  

What she does is to remind people to take every moment and savour it.  To live it fully.  To cherish those we care about. 

Kara has givven me perspective.  She has made me slow down.  To stop, in fact.  Stop trying to DO, and to instead BE.  Be in the moment.  Be in the place where we enjoy, apprecite and soak up the beauty, joy and precious moments that God has GIFTED to us.  We aren't entitled to any of it, and in a moment - as swiftly as a beautiful dandelion clock can be lifted off in the wind and sail away - our life can end, or those we hold dear can be gone.

I don't want to live a life of regrets.  I don't want a life that, when it comes to its end, I say "If only I...."

I doubt I will ever regret hugging my children whenever I can.

I doubt I will ever regret making fun moments instead of drudgery and conflict.

I doubt I will ever regret stopping the mundane and eternally insignificant, to create character building and relationship strengthening moments with my children.

I doubt I will ever regret putting down the job I am doing and giving my husband a hug.

I doubt I will ever regret pausing a blog posts to hug my two-year-old-who-gets-more-grown-up-by-the-minute, and read him a story.

So many things that can easily be left, because you think there's something more important to do.  

So many chances to live life fully, instead.

I think of the phrase "Redeeming the time".

We don't want to waste time, when we could be using it more wisely.  

Most importantly, sharing the gospel with those we know - telling them they are sinners who need to be saved, and that Christ is ready, willing and able to save if they but confess their sin and seek Him as Saviour.  

Then, we must cherish the moments with our family.  Taking every opportunity to love, teach, encourage and bless those we walk through life alongside.  

Above all else, honouring God, in all we think, say and do.  Every fibre of our being seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. 

I see Kara, living out her final moments, and that is what she is doing.  Reaching out and touching the lives of others, and loving those closest to her, with every fibre of her being.

Oh, how I want to experience the closeness of Christ, as she does.  His presence is so very real to her, and her faith so clear and strong.  I am SO thankful that God brought her into my life, so I could be challenged to love better and live more faithfully.

Please pray for this sweet lady, and her family, as she gets ever nearer to being pain-free and in the presence of her precious Saviour.

"Maybe I’m on a journey, and the journey is more beautiful than any of us can comprehend. And if we did understand, we would hold very loosely to one another because I’m going to be with Jesus. There is grace that will seep into all the cracks and pained places when we don’t understand. In the places we don’t understand we get to seek. And how lovely is one seeking truth. Stunning."

Kara Tippetts

I pray the Lord will grant me many truth-seeking moments, so that I can be stunned by God's greatness, as she has.

Follow Kara over at her blog - Mundane Faithfulness -  or on Facebook.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Women of the Word {the gracious woman}

Now, this week my thoughts have gone towards the book of Proverbs, to think more about Women of the Word.  This book is PACKED with crucial things for us womenfolk to learn!  So many truths, vital to Christian living.

The first one I looked at is one that I fear is much lacking in many in this day and age, and in my own heart, too...

"A gracious woman retaineth honour:"
Proverbs 11:16

Showing grace.

Being gracious.

It's a response that should be the first one upon our hearts and lives, but far too often I see a LACK of grace shown by women all around me.  Especially on the Internet.

Commenters on blogs and websites.



Text messages.

There just seems to be more judgement and criticism, and less grace.

What does this verse tell us about a gracious woman? She retains honour, or respect.  The Hebrew word actually implies "weight", or influence.  If you are gracious, you will be respected by others, and what you say will have influence over others. They will listen to you, if you are gracious.

What is the conclusion you can draw from someone who DOESN'T show grace in her speech and behaviour? She loses honour.  She loses the respect of those around her. She won't have a godly and positive influence over others, and people won't listen to her.

So, how are we to BE that gracious woman? What does the Bible teach us about being gracious?

Before anything else,  I think it's important to understand grace, and being gracious.

There are two definitions in the online dictionary.

"courteous, kind, and pleasant,"


"showing divine grace"

The first is being gracious in a general sense.  It's the behaviour we are to exhibit when being gracious towards others.

The second is to do with how God deals with us, and how we can then reflect His person in our OWN behaviour.  It's to do with mercy.  Forgiveness.  Compassion.  It's how God deals with us, despite our sin.  He is able to extend grace because He is love and kindness personified. Even though we sin, and err, He is gracious, merciful and forgiving.

If God shows such graciousness towards us, we ought to show it towards others around us.  Simple as that.

So, what Bible verses point us toward HOW we extend grace to others?

Needless to say, Proverbs has a few lessons for us.  Right back in chapter one, we have our first instruction.

"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 

For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck."
Proverbs 1:8-9 

Solomon, of course, was instructing his son, in this book.  He is giving wise counsel, in order to guide him towards a wise life.  He teaches him, here, to have a TEACHABLE SPIRIT.  That's what we need first, ladies.  The humility to learn, be taught, and to accept we may be wrong on issues.  Taught, firstly, by God's Word.  Open to His word speaking into our heart and life.  Listening for instruction that our soul needs to hear.  Willing to listen, learn and CHANGE.  Those are all qualities that are an "ornament of grace".  It will display grace in our heart and life, if we are willing to listen and learn.  We can only BE gracious, if we have been adorned with that ornament of grace in our lives, first of all.

The polar opposite, and the thing that grates on my ear, are those who are Pharisaical and judgemental.  Thinking they are right, and everyone else is wrong.  Sitting in judgement over those who don't agree, and saying they are sinners if they disagree.  It's just not right.  It's proud, and arrogant, to think you have an opinion that is more valuable than others' - to think you have a monopoly on the truth. Again, having an opinion is fine.  As my hubby once said to me, after someone else said I WAS opinionated, there's nothing wrong with being opinionated! Having an opinion is good, and right.  It's making sure you show grace when you EXPRESS the opinion.  

Another way that people can tend to lack grace is in how they RESPOND to the opinions of others.  I have seen it, countless times - folks taking things too personally.  Say someone says they choose to breastfeed.  Someone who couldn't, or just didn't, breastfeed, can then get defensive about their choice NOT to.  We can't go about being that sensitive, and then being ungracious in how we respond to the other person.  Being constantly on the defensive can incline you towards a lack of grace in how you respond.  It's something I know I need to guard my heart over.  

On a similar vein, there can be a tendency of some to read into the words of others, instead of just READING the words of others.  I have experienced, far too many times, those who get offended, and then respond ungraciously, because they have taken another's words and opinions the wrong way. Many times, I have had to remind myself, and others, to take the BEST meaning and tone in whatever you read.  If you take it critically and negatively, you will struggle to show grace to the person who has spoken or written. 

Proverbs 3 tells us that seeking after wisdom and knowledge 

"shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck."
Proverbs 3:22

Once more, we are decorated by grace and a gracious spirit, if we SEARCH for wisdom and knowledge.  Working at becoming more Christ-like.

Not only to search, like a one-off treasure hunt.  We need to GROW in grace, too.

"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
2 Peter 3:18  

It's something we need to diligently WORK at.  Not to be content with the measure of grace we display, but to desire to grow, more and more, in the graciousness we show toward others. You see, too, what we need to be doing to GROW in that grace? We need to get to know our Lord.  The more we understand our Saviour, and HIS grace, love and goodness, the more we will become like Him - a reflection of HIS grace.

The next verse that I thought of was regarding our speech.

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
Ephesians 4:29  

Let me just paraphrase it and put it into a modern context for you.

"Let no rotten and worthless communication proceed out of your fingertips, but that which is good to build up and encourage, that it many minister grace to the readers".

As I already mentioned, I have witnessed some downright nasty, mean and vitriolic "speech" being used on the Internet, in various settings.  As daughters of the King, professing faith in Christ, we must be SO careful - whether in ACTUAL speech, or VIRTUAL speech - to only use words, and use them in such a way, that will bring grace to the recipient.  Building each other up.  Encouraging.  I'm not saying you have to agree with everything that you read or hear.  More that we need to express our point of view with grace.  Gentleness.  Love.  It can be SO hard, if you feel passionate about something, and you DO disagree quite strongly, but it can be done.  "Speaking the truth in love" is the watchword.  Sometimes that may actually mean saying NOTHING, but that's a slight deviation.  We can be a gracious woman in our speech.

I really don't want to be a woman who is despised and ignored, because I don't display grace in my life.  I want grace to be an ornament to my character, and by GOD'S grace toward me, I trust it shall be.

Monday, 9 March 2015

How to have a cheerful week {believe God's promises}

My daily readings brought me to the end of Acts, today. I must confess, I can't read chapter 27 without having flashbacks to my hubby's days in Bible College.  As they had such a busy schedule, with classes and work (as in, work to earn money!), sermons were often preached more than once.  Needless to say, the fellow college students, and any wives accompanying them on deputation meetings, got to the stage where THEY could have preached the sermons themselves! On the whole, it was a good thing - especially when it was a particularly noteworthy sermon.

The verse that struck me today was one that was the basis for such a sermon.

It's a verse of encouragement - of hope - of courage - of CHEER!

"be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."
Acts 27:25

This narrative in scripture is one of the most detailed there is, regarding a journey.  We have a blow by blow account (no pun intended....) of the stormy journey that Paul undertook, to get to Rome.  He was on his way to speak to Caesar, which was his right as a Roman citizen, after being arrested in Jerusalem.  The journey didn't go quite how the crew expected.  They tried to judge the best time to sail on their journey, and Paul even gave them warning about setting sail.  However, sail they did, and shipwreck ensued.  

Before they got to the point of shipwreck, we read the verse I have shared.  It follows a message from Paul, speaking of an angel of God who had come to Paul, telling him that he WOULD go to Rome, and the entire populous of the ship would be saved, alive.  

The ship was literally being torn apart, and they were chucking things over the side as fast as they possibly could, in attempts to save the ship from going down. A storm so bad, that the experienced crew had given up all hope that they would be saved.

But God, Himself came to Paul. Paul, when retelling the visit, says "Whose I am, and whom I serve" That is GOD.  No other! In the midst of the storm, He gave Him a promise.  They would be saved.

He had been given a promise.

He believed the promise.

He claimed the promise as his own.

He knew it was true.  It gave him peace, confidence, and CHEER, in the midst of a STORM!

Now, do you see?... God didn't say "I am going to the the storm away".

No.  That was not the promise.

The promise was that he would get THROUGH the storm.

In fact, the storm gathered momentum, and continued for days more, with more drama and attempts to lighten the ship. The sailors had got to the point of fasting, and Paul urged them to eat, assuring them they WOULD be saved! Not only that, but he continues to keep his eyes firmly upon honouring God, and being a faithful witness, by breaking bread with them, and giving thanks to God for the food, before them all. The next day, they find a creek to ground their ship in, and they all jump ship -   and, as God promised Paul, they all survived the ordeal!

As you head into a new week, there may be storms in your life.  There may be struggles and difficulties, that make you feel surrounded by darkness, like Paul had been in (Acts 27:20). Dark, hard days, can make us feel overwhelmed and weak.  But, you, too can have cheer.

We have the SAME God that Paul loved and served, as our Saviour.  He has given us many precious promises in His Word, and we need only to meet with Him to receive fresh joy, hope and cheer.

It may be a verses simply recalled from memory, in a time of need.  THAT is God giving you cheer.

It may be a verse you see on a wall, in a book, or on the Internet.  Perfect timing, and cheer in the storm.

The best source, of course, is the regular reading of His precious Word - His balm to our soul, His comfort to our heart, and His courage in our trials.  His voice - His Word - His promises - all ready to bring us cheer.

Some of my favourites are the "fear not" verses. These verses whisper "Peace, be still" to my soul.  They don't always cause the storm to cease, and like Paul, they may just need to be ridden out.  But peace in the heart brings calm to the situation.  Knowing that I don't have to fear the storm, brings great cheer.

"So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
Hebrews 13:6 

You see that?  We can even be BOLD in our trials. Not just get through them, but being BOLD! WOW!   Knowing that God is our helper takes away any fear  - especially the fear that can come because of other people, and the way they treat us.  

 "For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."
Isaiah 41:13 

Such a precious verse.  Just as we mothers will hold our child's hand, to give them a sense of safety and security, so God "holds our hand", and takes our fear away.  WE can have cheer, because God is holding our hand, through the trials.

"But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 
Fear not: for I am with thee:"
Isaiah 43:1-2, 5

Precious, precious thought.

God.  The one who created us, and formed us in our mother's womb.  God, who has redeemed us from sin, and the punishment of death.  The one who has called us by name.  The one who OWNS us - who we belong to.

We, who are HIS.

We don't need to fear when we pass through waters.  He will be with us.

We don't need to fear, because He is with us through the deep rivers.  They won't overflow us.

We don't need to fear, because He is with us when we walk through the fire.  It won't burn us.

"Don't be afraid - I am with you"

My sweet friends, you can have cheer today! God has promised us SO much, in His Word.  His promises are faithful and true.  They are dependable.  We can place our hope and trust in God.  He WILL fulfil His promises.

 It doesn't matter what storms you are going through -  be of good cheer - God keeps His promises.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Friendship {Part 2 - How to make, and keep, friends}

Having established the definition of a friend, in the first part to of this series, I was pondering about where to go with this next. There is just so much, but the natural place to start is, well, the start!

How do you make friends, in order to BE a good friend?

Well, I can tell you, I have heard, so MANY times, from people, how they struggle to have friendships.  They "don't have close friends", or "they can't make friends with people".

The Bible has a solid answer for that, and it's where every good friendship must begin, and where it must continue.

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24  

If you want friends, you need to put the effort in, first of all, to be FRIENDLY!  It might seem obvious, but it's the main issue with most people who lack true, and close, friends. 

There are many ways you can be UN-friendly, of course. 

If you are prickly, and grumpy, you'll not make friends easily. Plus, the ones you DO make, will more than likely be just as prickly and grumpy as you, and that will end in disaster! You'll either spend the whole time being miserable together, or making trouble by being miserable towards others! Neither is a good combo.  Check your heart and attitudes, and make sure that you re a gentle and sweet person, who others will WANT to befriend!  It may not even be these particular struggles, but there re many things that will put people off making friendships. Have a "good health check" - the spiritual kind - and make sure you are behaving in a Christ-honouring way, in your words and actions, to make sure you are "good friend material"!

How about if you are shy? This is a hard one, as some people, either naturally, or through circumstances which have hurt them, are just plain shy. However, like any part of our nature, we can't always "blame" it for our situation in life.  God has enabled us, by His grace, strength, and power, to do "all things". That includes getting over shyness, and speaking to others. It's not easy, but it's possible.  Pray, and ask God to give you the courage to speak to others, even if it's just a few, gentle and genuine, words, and show yourself friendly.  It's the first step you need to take.  I must say, it's why the Internet is both a blessing, and a curse.  Shy people CAN more easily make connections with others, or have more boldness in what they say, on the Internet.  Where they may not have easily made friends in person, they can build friendships online.  However, it can also become a hiding place - an easy place to prevent having to face ACTUAL people! Folks can become too cosy in the easy life of Internet friendships, which subsequently makes it harder, and less appealing, to put the effort into real life friendships.  Really, there is NOTHING that can replace a true friendship in real life.  People who you can connect with, speak to in person, and share things with over cake and coffee (or tea and biscuits - whatever you preference is!), are just the BEST! God has blessed us with the ability to make and have friends.  Don't let your shyness prevent you from experiencing the blessing it can be.

What about if you lack confidence? You can chat fine, but going outside your comfort zone into new things is something you struggle with.  "Normal life" suits you better than pushing boundaries.  Believe it or not, this is ME! Some of you may be utterly amazed, as I am well able to talk to people.  I do find it incredibly easy, however, to stick with the status quo, and not get out and meet new people.  I have some VERY good friends already (I'll get to that in later posts), but it doesn't mean I can't meet new people, and make new friends.  Friends are who God has given us to support, encourage and advise us, as I will explain in later posts. It's good to be surrounded by GOOD friends, who will be al of that to us.  Pray,  and ask God for the opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone, and connect with those who will build you up spiritually, and encourage you practically.

If you have a busy life, it can also be hard to "show yourself friendly".  Children.  Family. School.  Work.  Church.  All these things, and more, can make it hard to actually fit in the TIME to make new friends.  However, I do think it's an important thing to plan into your time.  If you never have a connection with others, in a real, tangible way, you can end up burning out.  Making that time is a break for our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  It's a time of refreshing.  It doesn't even need to be long.  It can be once  month, for an hour or so.  Just taking a little time, to engage with others, is a good thing to do. 

Health struggles can be  barrier to making friendships, as can having children.  Maybe you make connections on the Internet because the practicalities of meeting up with others are just hard to co-ordinate?  How about opening up your home for others to come to YOU!? I can't think of a friendlier way of reaching out, than to show hospitality like that! Work WITH your restrictions, instead of allowing them to work AGAINST you! 

Don't let "things" stop you from being friendly.

What about the friends you already have?  It's also important to put the effort in to be friendly towards them.  Making time for them.  Chatting to them, whether it's on the phone, by letter, email, or Skype, Whataspp and Facetime (hey, things have moved on!)  Connecting.  That's what showing yourself friendly is all about. Not losing touch, but making sure YOU are being a friendly friend!  People can get very saddened and discouraged, if someone they consider as a friend NEVER makes the effort to keep in touch. Yes, life can be busy, but the odd short message, or a few lines in a letter, are all it takes.  I know that lack of contact doesn't mean your friendship is gone - friendships can change, and through circumstances the contact is less.  I have friends I never see any more, and speak to less than I'd like, but we can pick up the friendship like we left off the last time.  ONLY because we built the friendship when we WERE together, though.  Strong friendships have to be built, before you can allow long "silent" periods.  That said, I KNOW I need to make more effort to keep in touch with some of long-time friends.  I consider myself rebuked! 

Then, just as importantly, how do you SHOW yourself as friendly?

I will look at them briefly, then look at them more deeply in posts of their own.

What you say.

Make sure that you say things that engage with others.  Just being a question answerer, and never the asker, isn't very friendly, really.  More importantly, make sure you show you are interested in others - ask them about themselves - who they are, what they do, what they love.  Engage, and put in the effort to really get to know others.  On the flip side, don't talk too much - or, at least, don't dominate the conversation.  Ashamedly, this can be me.  I can talk.  BOY, I can talk.  One of my closest friends and I were chatting, a year or so into our friendship. We were talking about how our friendship had developed, and she mentioned about the first time I visited her - she had hardly talked.  "Funny", says I, "I am sure you did".  


Apparently she didn't say much at all.  I did most of the talking.  I felt SO bad.  BUT, she was thankful for it.  She is quite shy when she first meets people, and it meant she didn't have to say so much.  Really, she REALLY didn't. Oops.  However, I am glad to say, she now can talk quite readily and freely, and that initial shyness has WELL gone.  

All that said, I still need to be careful not to talk too much, and to make sure I LISTEN, too.  It shows you care about the person you are talking to, if you listen, and take in what they are saying.  You are well on the road to building a friendship, if you can be careful about what you say.  

On a side note, I AM very glad I can chat easily.  It's a great blessing to be able to make conversation without too much trouble.  It's just a case of me having self  control! 

How you say it.

If you want to have friends, you also need to be careful about HOW you say things.  This applies to all of life, of course, but is important if you want to make friends at all! If we are unfriendly in our manner, it will put people off even trying to get to know us.  We need to be warm, gentle and, well, FRIENDLY!  A smiling face.  A positive outlook.  Encouraging attitude.  All these things count towards being a friendly friend.

What you do.

The saying goes "actions speak louder than words".  Friendship is no exception.  "Doing" doesn't mean "spending". It can, of course, include buying things for a friend.  Knowing someone well enough to be able to get little things for them, can be a great blessing, and a true mark of friendship.  The best friends I have had, over the years, have got me little things, out of the blue, that have brought tears to my eyes.  It really showed the measure of our friendship, and the kindness in their hearts.  SHOWING themselves friendly.   Of course, it doesn't have to be things you buy.  It can be the willingness to lend things out or give things away.  A generous spirit.  It can also be your time. Willing to give up your time to be with friends, just to plain spend time with them, or to demonstrate another "doing" - help.  I can honestly say that the things my friends have done to HELP me, when I have really, really needed it, are the things that have marked the best friends. Not even big things.  Just the little things matter. I've had toilets cleaned, cupboards wiped out, ironing done, rooms tidied, beds stripped, laundry folded.  All these things SHOW my friends FRIENDLY! They often put me to shame, the way they so willingly do things for me.  Above all else, make sure you are equally a giver as a receiver.  Again, I speak to my own heart first.  Get to know your friends, and find out even the little things that will show YOU as a friendly friend. 

Do you see the end of the verse?  A friendly friend can become someone closer than family.  Think no further than our Ultimate Friend. Jesus, Himself. No closer than that can you get - Jesus, friend of sinners. We, too, can have a special bond with true friends - if you are a friendly friend, you will be one who sticks closer than a brother. 

Don't be someone who doesn't have friends, simply because you aren't actually FRIENDLY!  Above all else, make sure you don't lose friends by the same route. 

Go on - show yourself friendly.