At low points in my life I have wondered – how would things have looked if circumstances had been kinder? Would I have turned out more educated, more wealthy, more socially accepted? Would I have become famous?
But then I remember… “This is what the LORD says, he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid.” (Isaiah 44:2)
God doesn’t need wealth or things to make us into the people we are. He uses his creative heart. He moulded our bodies and he moulds our hearts. We don’t have to be afraid that we have missed out in life. With God we are enough.
We spent this Easter walking the Yorkshire Dales and everywhere we looked, we saw sheep. But while the ewes walked sensibly from place to place, the lambs leapt about like crazy jumping beans. And those lambs kept losing their mothers, baaing with agony as they tried to reconnect.
I laughed at their antics, but then a verse came to mind: “We all, like sheep have gone astray, and each of us has turned to our own way…” (Isaiah 53:6) How often I forget about Jesus in the excitement of life, and gambol into lostness.
Jesus understands. He goes into the fields. “He calls his own sheep and leads them out.” (John 10:3) We might lose Jesus, but he always calls us back.
People often ask me, “Where is home for you? Is there a place you feel like you belong?”
“Home isn’t a place for me,” I say. “I grew up with refugee parents who could never settle. Derek and I have moved a number of times. Home is about the people I love, where I am loved. It’s about where I feel safe.”
Yet, loved ones move on and my ‘home’ dwindles away. Suddenly I feel unsafe. But God steps in. The Bible says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
When I was a teenager, I planned to be a doctor. At the age of twenty I changed my mind and hoped to become a paramedic. I ended up as a missionary.
When I was twenty-five I said I would be happy to marry anyone from any nationality. But there was one exception – NO ENGLISHMEN! They were proper and polite, and I felt I wouldn’t fit in. At thirty, I married an Englishman!
We all have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, but God has a different way. “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11) Even when we think we are in control, God is unfolding his good plans in us.
In January I gave a talk on hope. I struggled in the preparation and went to Derek for help. He asked me one question: “What is the opposite of hope?”
“It’s hopelessness,” I said, and suddenly I identified. I understood. Hopelessness is a deep dejection that nothing will improve, a choking fear that it will always be the same, a desperate feeling of no remedy or cure…
I am still thinking about hope, telling others, and applying it to my life. I trust this ‘Hope Hand’ blesses you as it has blessed me.
On January 1st I always pray for a theme I can carry with me throughout the year. Most times I get a Bible verse, but three days ago a word came to mind: Magnanimous. I had a vague idea what it meant and I did a bit of research. The Latin root: “Great + Soul.” The definition: “Generous and forgiving of an insult or injury.”
I gulped, wondering what injuries I would endure… Then today (January 3!) I set up a Whatsapp and sent a friend two kisses, “xx.” But I got the wrong number and sent it to someone else! Oh, the agony! I felt SO EMBARRASSED!!
Sometimes our magnanimity (do try to pronounce it) must extend to ourselves. And if we can laugh at ourselves, we can laugh with others.
So often the Bible tells me the opposite of what I want to hear. When our house got trashed by renters, steam shot out of my ears. But then Derek drew me aside and we read the Bible. It said, “Rejoice!” God was in control. He had things in hand.
Or there was the time when someone made a decision that caused me a lot of pain. I stomped and cried in the private of my room. But the same thing happened again. Derek drew me aside. We prayed. A verse. Yes, it was, “Rejoice!”
Just today I was reading where Jesus healed the sick. “And people brought to him all who were ill… those suffering severe pain… and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:24)
Sometimes, those of us who are hurt can’t seem to get to Jesus by ourselves. We need others to bring us close. And then we can hear that wonderful word. “Rejoice!” God is in control. He has things in hand.
There is an influence that can sometimes be forgotten about war.
My dad as a teenager freeing a wagon outside a refugee camp. WWII
Even in peacetime, former refugees can still pass on the effects of war to their children. These parents experienced terrible things. It traumatized them, harmed them, and moulded them.
And, even though their post-war children were born into apparent peace, these children too became survivors of war. For decades they may have had to deal with the consequences of their parents’ broken hearts and minds. But thankfully, this isn’t the end of the story.
Ordinary people in ordinary walks of life have dared to step up and embrace those refugees and children. They have dared to get involved. So I celebrate an even greater army of selfless heroes, those who one hug after another, reverse the effects of war.
Last night we took my eldest son to the airport. He has a one-way ticket to the States, to follow his dream of writing music for film. Before he left he played the piano in our house and I accompanied him on the violin. I was so rubbish, yet he played with me for quite a while, and one song in particular.
“You raise me up so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.”
I have always prayed that song as a thanks to God, for taking me from being a broken young woman with no hope or future, to someone I never expected possible. Then I thought of my son. He has done the same, always pushing me to go deeper, think deeper, grow in ways I would never have grown. And yesterday he did it again just by playing with me.