decaying vegThe state of my garden often reflects my inner life, I’ve noticed.

Regardless of the season, when it is not well tended, it's generally a sign that my life is too busy. Such it is, at the moment (again!)...

Summer pots of flowers, that were a few months ago, a riot of colour, are slowly rotting as the season changes. Bushes, in need of pruning, are overgrown and the last of the home-grown vegetables are beginning to perish in situ. Weeds, encouraged by the rain, are invading the front gravel and I cannot walk to the studio without guilt at the state of the greenhouse, full of pots and tools hastily dumped after scattered summer evenings tending our little plot.

Spring bulbs bought weeks ago to plant in my favourite ceramic blue pots, as an intentional marker of hope for the spring, are still in their packets in my kitchen, waiting for a day of fine weather that coincides with a free afternoon. Yet when is there ever a “free afternoon” unless I create one?

I am aware of the analogy of the need to tend both soil and soul, yet still I do nothing.

You see, I’m great at making excuses … not so much to other people…. but to myself. You know the sort of excuse, that offers a way out of facing up to the unpalatable truth of a situation…. “It’s been such a busy time…. I will do it tomorrow…I will just take on one more project, then I will do it…I’m just too tired…It's not that bad..”

The truth is that I am too tired because I’m doing too much, and not prioritising self-care and the things that keep me well (which includes tending my garden!)

We get ourselves into unhelpful cyclical patterns, predictable in their outcomes until there comes a point, (in this case, both in tending personal life and in cultivating the garden), when we can no longer kid ourselves that things aren’t that bad.

We realise that if we don’t do something soon, then we may need to invest a great deal longer than if we just took a deep breath and got on with whatever is needed.

I am a fair-weather gardener, and the rain has been prolific, seemingly always choosing to pour at weekends but in the end, I have a choice… get wet doing the garden, to tend both soul and soil…or pay no attention to the messy work that growing involves.

dirty hands pexels kampus production 7658766Tending the garden this autumn will, I fear, mean getting my hands dirty, my boots muddy, and my body wet and cold, but in prioritising the time to garden, I will also be tending my soul.

What might you need to prioritise this week, that tends your soul?

textile art from original by Karen@ Harlequin ArtsCarry the colours of Christ

into the dark dismal places,

the uneven paths

and ordinary days,

bearing Abba’s beauty

into each everyday encounter

with humility and compassion.

Relay the reds of passion and purpose,

the Saviour’s sacrifice for all,

echoing through those who bear His Name.

Arrange an orange warmth within, to welcome each and all,

Yellows to yield light and cheer in otherwise dreary days.

With every step, gift green for growth of all that is good

and blues to bring balm and beauty from Living Water within.

Profess purples, proclaiming praise in the litany of your life

declaring Jesus Sovereign, Lord of All in every colour between.

Then into the brown burnished earth of those who touch your life,

sow seeds of sunshine to tend and toil, nourish and nurture

So they, too, may carry the colours of Christ.

In the face of a seemingly impossible work schedule, in near despair and defeat, have you ever asked yourself,

“..but how on earth, will I get it all done?”

With anxiety and overwhelm, looming large over me this August, it was an angry question that I frustratingly threw at God, early one morning during my journal writing….

Mired in the feelings that I could barely cope with all that I have taken on, I felt overwhelmed and paralysed by inaction. Moving forward and embracing change seemed quite out of reach, because it seemed as if it would take time and effort that I could ill afford with all that I needed to do.
Instead, I was spending too much energy coaxing myself into feeling that all was insurmountable..

Seemingly amused, and unusually, God answered almost immediately…

detail of Intentional Journey mixed media by Karen Herrick“One step at a time…” was the ludicrously obvious answer…

I paused, firstly stunned at the immediacy of God’s answer, and then somewhat embarrassed by the practical clarity of the solution.

So obvious… and yet, with procrastination rife, along with annoyance at allowing myself to get to this point, I had completely missed the point…

“One step at a time…” reminded me of the Chinese proverb attributed to Lao Tzu that
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

One step, one small thing never seems enough progress when we are constantly looking at the horizon instead of focusing on the one thing we can get on with now… that single step, that one (often tedious )task.
Yes, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with the mountain ahead instead, initially, of taking time to plan the route, noting the difficult paths, and allocating out rest and recovery points along the way, so that with a clear map in our hands, we may more assuredly place one step in front of the other, as we tackle the long route ahead.

“How on earth, will I get it all done?” had been my question. Yes, one step at a time, but also… not through earthly ways; not in my own strength, but by placing my hand in the hand of the Saviour, focusing on the Father and trusting him for the outcome.

“One step at a time…”

Little by little, larger things can be achieved. They may be slow in coming, but progress will be made.
Further along the way, we can take time to look back, and see how far we have come…but in the meantime our job is to show up, daily, minute by minute, hour by hour and do that one small thing we have been given to do in that moment, with whatever we have been given, to make a difference..

What one small step might you take, on a seemingly insurmountable task that fills you with overwhelming dread?
Can we take our eyes away from the perceived problem and look to our Lord to lead the way, instead?

Have you ever picked up a beautiful stone at the beach, its colour and patterns glimmering in the sunlight, only to find that once dry, it has lost its allure?DSCN1830 blog The other weekend, we walked the beach, eyes peeled for interesting stones as we enjoyed the warmth of the sun on our backs and the feel of wet sand underfoot. As usual, we chose a couple of pebbles that piqued our interest, significant in some way that connected their history with ours.

Once home, dried out from the salty sea and dulled of the summer sunlight glinting on their façade, I realised that I felt just like these stones…. parched and dry. It’s not just the relentlessness of the UK heat wave these past few weeks, but more a sense of feeling spent; lacking sparkle and colour; a dryness of spirit, as I negotiate all the “must-do’s” on my seemingly never-ending daily lists. I need refreshing so that the colour and sparkle in me returns…

I began to wonder what these little pebbles could teach me; what pertinent nuggets of wisdom they might offer the dryness in my soul…and realised several things…

Refreshing Beauty

The beauty of pebbles and stones is so much greater when wet within the water and highlighted by sunlight.

So, I wonder…

  • What might I need that refreshes my life, making it more beautiful?
  • Is my life refreshed and rejuvenated by being immersed in God’s Holy Spirit, so that my life may shine like a sea pebble in the sun?
  • How might I bathe in the light of the Son of God, so my life shines with good things?
  • What good things in my life might I want to highlight? What might I wish to release?

Each unique

IMG 0133 cropped enhanced 40 sized for blogEvery pebble is unique, with its own story to tell, beautiful in its own way, with a place where it has functioned best. Over time, those functions evolved and changed, as it navigated its often-difficult way across time, yet each bears the hand of God within its narrative.

So, I wonder…

  • What changes in my life have helped to form my unique story?
  • Can I see the hand of God in the narrative of my life?
  • What might I need to change in my life now, as my roles change and evolve?

The Power of One

On its own, you would think that a pebble has little impact, yet one small rock may contain a valuable diamond, or a newly discovered element within, with potential to transform technology. If we recall the pain of a tiny stone in our shoe or consider that we are able to fall and break a limb simply by tripping over a small stone, or that a stone propelled with force can do great damage, we will realise that every small stone has the potential to make an impact. Just think of the story of David and Goliath!

So, I wonder…

  • Partnering with God the Creator, what impact has my small life?
  • How might I hone the power to do good with my one life, rather than cause others to stumble?

A man’s steps are established by Yahweh. He delights in his way. Though he stumble, he shall not fall, for Yahweh holds him up with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

Stronger TogetherDSCN1825 blog

Together, however, stones provide great strength or majesty as they gather naturally to create swathes of long beaches, rock escarpments, or are humanly fashioned into functional and great buildings. As God’s people, together we have the potential to do so much more than we could ever achieve alone. We are “Living Stones” …

…built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

For Christ is our living Cornerstone, chosen by God but rejected by many.

So, Lord, may I embrace the role of Living Stone, submitting to the Holy Spirit’s flow in and through me, to bring refreshment to my life and others. With Christ as my light and foundation, may I shine again, offering my life to be built alongside those of your people to further and strengthen your Church. Amen

Juggling Hand pexels mochammad algi 4436470I have been struggling with the juggling of the past couple of months, trying to make the number of things that I’m working on look as elegant as watching an experienced juggler. As usual, I have failed miserably!

Juggling is fine for a short time, as the juggler skilfully manipulates the balls to great effect for an admiring audience, but it requires such concentration to keep the balls in the air! Juggling, after all, is simply a time bound performance. It may be exhilarating when we start but it is folly to think that we can maintain such an illusion for any extended length of time…

…and yet, from time to time, I still have a bad habit of taking on more than I can reasonably hold, so that instead of being a graceful vison of competence, I am left exhausted from the experience.

I wonder if you often take on more than you can manage, leaving yourself drained and depleted, unable to give of your best to anything?
For me, it’s never usually that all the things I have taken on are unmanageable or stressful. In fact, the attraction is often that the things are all really exciting. The difficulty is that I have chosen to take them on all at once.

Honouring God
Scripture explains that all we do, including our choices and work, is supposed to honour the Lord.

"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3: 17

So, when I go my own way, choosing to take on more than I can reasonably juggle, I am dishonouring the One in whom I try to trust. I am not being a faithful witness when my own choices give way to weary grumpiness. Instead, my choices in all things (including work) are meant to encourage Christ-like characteristics that embody a better way…

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Scripture explains that our work should be wholehearted.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

If I am over weary, then I can hardly give of my all. It is easy to forget that, in our work, as in all things, it is Christ we serve. Self-care that allows for sensible rest and restorative Sabbath moments throughout the rhythm of our days, actually allows us to live wholeheartedly, enabling us instead to give our all.

Easy Yoke
The Lord does not expect us to bear a load that is too heavy, nor juggle endless balls. Often, when I find myself feeling over-burdened, it is usually the times I have gone my own way, choosing busyness over doing business with God.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

The yoke that God gives each one of us, is unique to us… individually designed that we might be the people he has made us to be - so that we are able to fulfil our true potential with a greater ease, as we place our trust in Him.

Juggling Man juggler g49486a683 1920Seeking God
So how might I achieve these three things in my life, and avoid struggling with the juggling? I think that it is about not going my own way, thinking I know best but simply seeking out the whispers of God’s voice in my ordinary daily life and following the voice that leads to restoration and rest, alongside fulfilment of a unique purpose.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

It’s not an easy task… and I, for one, need the constant reminder that God has got this. Struggling with the juggling is the world’s way, and yes, I often get it wrong. Yet the Lord is the God of new beginnings, so when I get it wrong, I can return to Him, to begin again, anew, tackling only that which God has in mind for me.

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