Lessons from Nashville

Nashville returns to our UK screens this week – YAY!

scarlett and gunnar

 

It’s cheesy.. and predictable… and…..clichéd … and I LOVE IT. Amidst the cheese there’s some, as Rich would say, “pure gold”.

So, I for one am excited for the return of the new season.

Obviously, in preparation for the new season, I’ve been reflecting on the last one. (Yes, I’ve got to have something interesting to think about when packing boxes.) At the end of the last season, the incredibly talented singer, Scarlett, who has struggled with the effects of stardom, is about to give it all up, leave town and return back to school.

Her on/off boyfriend, Gunnar, ends up playing a song to her, in a plea to make her stay, and to persuade her not give up on her talent.

She ends up singing the song with him.

It’s a beautiful moment. Really it is. In fact here it is:

 

I love those words he sings to her:

What if you’re just a vessel

And God gave you something special

Every time you open up your mouth

Diamonds come rolling out

It ain’t yours to throw away…

You know, as followers of Jesus we’re His vessel. A vessel is a container, and as vessels of God, we simply contain Him: we carry Him.

And He’s put in each one of us beautiful talents, gifts and abilities. They’re not for our own glory, but for His. And they’re given to bless those around us.

Those gifts are not to be taken lightly. They are to be used to bless, encourage, equip, and extend the body of Christ, and the Kingdom of God.

I don’t know about you but I am quick to dismiss the gifts and talents that God has given me, assuming they are not useful enough, important enough, or significant enough. Inadvertently, I can throw them away, tossing them aside in the insignificant-pile.

But you know what – those gifts placed inside of me… they ain’t mine to throw away.

They’re not mine to bury in the ground, or throw aside, afraid that they’re not good enough.

Those gifts are to steward wisely, to invest in others. They have value. They have value because they are God-given, and they have value because when invested wisely they can reap a kingdom return.

They’re not mine to throw away.

How about you – what’s God put in you?

Are you throwing it away or investing it for God?

on “guilt-free” creativity…

This weekend my creative soul emerged from hibernation. I tinkered with my camera and took some fun shots. I enjoyed scouring though photography blogs, surfing my way through pinterest and picking up ideas. And I spent some time thinking though a few creative projects for the home.

It was a lot of fun. 

 

I felt like a small part of me was restored, and re-awakened. Amidst busy schedules, small children, visitors in and out of the home, I’d got stuck on a treadmill of monotony. Engaging in creativity, or even just admiring creativity in others, brings me alive. And I’d forgotten that.

But even more significantly there was a missing emotion for me after wiling away my hours in creativity. Guilt.  Creativity often feels like a luxury, something that could always be replaced by a more important task or relationship.

Subconsciously I’ve always seen creativity as something that replaces something else, something more important. If I’m being creative,  then I’m not spending time with God. And that’s always more important.  Seeing this written in black & white, I see both the absurdity and intensity of the lie. And though I like to think I don’t separate into “secular” and “sacred”, I clearly do to some degree.

When I look back at that weekend of creativity, as I sat in the stillness, whilst kids played happily in their rooms, I was just enjoying my own thoughts and interjections from God as he spoke to me in and through what I was doing. A life lived with Jesus doesn’t need to be about kneeling by my bed in prayer. Which is a good job as you won’t often find me there.

No wonder I’ve never fully enjoyed being creative; there’s been too much guilt entangled in it all.  I’d removed “the essence of faith from the particulars of daily human life and relocated it in special times, places, and states of mind”*

Our God is a creative God. He creates. He is the Creator. He loves creation, and I think He loves it when I’m being creative. He is with me as much in the creative and the mundane moments as He is in a “prayer meeting”.

I guess the crux of it is this: Does my whole life give glory to God? I’ve been trying to approach each day much more from this perspective, choosing to see life as a whole rather than in two camps.

Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.

Tozer, The pursuit of God

 

 

 

* Dallas Willard,  The Spirit of the Disciplines

 

 

On New Year’s Resolutions: entitlement or perseverance?

I guess loads of us will have made some New Year Resolutions in the last few days. And what many of us will lack is the perseverance to carry through on the Resolutions we’ve made.

Just yesterday I read a great blog post on Entitlement, specifically addressing this attitude in Gen Y. It’s Continue reading

8 ways to stay sane when your husband goes away and leaves you with three tinies

“So what’s your strategy with Rich going away?” a friend asked me this week.  I shrugged my shoulders and said “I’m not sure I have one.”

After a bit of reflection I realised that although I’m never going to have a 20-point plan of how to cope when Rich is away there are a few principles I’ve learnt along the way. I’ll admit I’m not the most organised person in the world so batches of pre-cooked frozen meals are never going to be my thing. But I guess over the last few years, as Rich has increasingly travelled away from home, I’ve learnt a thing or two on how to make it work with young kids. I wish there was a magic-formula which would guarantee success every time but it appears there isn’t. Whilst we can manage one trip with apparent ease we can have another one, where I appear to do all the same things, and yet it feels like we’re counting down the minutes to Rich’s return (with a week left to go!) Sometimes it’s plain sailing and sometimes it’s plain tears all the way. Kids are kids (and mums are mums) so there’ll never be a formula. But here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

skype. skype. and more skype

Oh thank the Lord for skype. Actually, when the kids were younger they found it harder to connect over skype as it just made them more aware of Rich’s absence. But as they’ve got a bit older skype means that we can sit and eat tea together or do family prayers together or Rich can consult on our lego-building technique (an important factor in the Robinson household).  But it’s not just important for the kids; it’s important for us as a couple. I’ve heard other people say that there’s a bit of a re-adjustment period when a couple return back to each other, after time away. This is definitely true for us and particularly for me as I find it easy to become overly-independent. This “re-adjustment” aka “arguing” is really minimized if we keep well-connected whilst Rich is away.  Regular skype communication keeps us feeling like we’re still journeying together even if there’s geographical distance.

Be realistic in what you can achieve.

Having a husband away is not the time to prove that you’re superwoman. Simple food, McDonalds, soft-play centres, TV, online supermarket shopping: you are all my trusty friends. And I no longer feel ashamed to call you this.

Work out which are helpful offers of help.

Lots of people offer to help when Rich is away, which is a massive blessing. But there are varying levels of helpfulness. Sometimes it feels like a bit of a discipline to allow others to help. I’m an introvert, so just getting on with looking after the kids on my own can seem like the easiest thing to do.  I try to say “yes” to the things that will either bless me or the kids.

Get people praying

Knowing that other people are praying for us makes a massive difference. I usually give  people specific things to pray for, and update them with prayer needs throughout the trip.

Help the kids become more independent

I think this is one of the major benefits of having Rich away: I’ve had to teach the kids to help around the house and help themselves to the things they need. One pair of hands to three kids is not a particularly even ratio, so the more helping hands the better. Today I came downstairs  to find my eight year old unloading the dishwasher for me #proudmummoment.  There’s a greater awareness that we need to pull together as a team to make life work.  I’ve also had to work harder at getting the kids to solve their own disputes.  I find sibling arguments the most stressful aspect of family life. So I’m increasingly putting disputes back into the kids’ hands: “I know that you two are able to solve this argument so I’m going to do the washing-up and you can come and tell me when you’ve worked out the solution” feels like a much more relaxing and effective alternative to being Robinson referee.

Look for the gain.

There’s always some kind of growth in my life or in the life of our family whilst Rich is away.  It may be spiritual, relational, physical, intellectual or financial. But I can easily miss it if I’m not consciously looking for it. It may be something as simple as remembering the kingdom advancement taking place through the work Rich is doing whilst away or what I’m doing at home. It may be seeing the kids mature a little, or some spiritual revelation that I receive from having a bit of extra time on my own with God. Or it may be just be having a bit of girly-time with one of my friends. Sometimes it’s only after Rich has returned that I’m able to see what the “gain” has been, but it’s really great if I can acknowledge it whilst he’s still away.

Lean in

A place of weakness is always an opportunity to lean into God. This is rarely a pain-free process but a new level of surrender to God brings greater freedom and greater fruitfulness. My weaknesses – my impatience, my insecurities, my inadequacies all float to the surface when Rich is away. So I can either try to stuff them back down or surrender them. Sometimes I manage this. Sometimes I don’t. 🙂

S-l-o-w down

The kids need more of me when Rich is away. I give them more time particularly at bedtime because that’s usually the time when they process how they’re really feeling. Longer snuggles, more stories, more prayer, more conversation. S-L-O-W down.

I know I’m not the only one who has a husband who travels. So how about you: what are some of your coping strategies?

where I realise that reputation is rather like soap

Trying to hold onto reputation is like holding a bar of soap.

It’s impossible.

I’ve been considering reputation a lot recently. Because how I’m perceived is important to me. Too important. I want to be someone, and to be regarded as someone, with integrity, as someone who is passionate about Jesus and tries to love others as best I can.

But trying to hold onto reputation is like holding a bar of soap.

There’s a tricky balance in this because there’s lot in the bible about being faithful representatives of Jesus (Like this for example). And trying to be faithful representatives, by God’s grace, is exactly what we should aim to be. But even with the best intentions and motives in the world – even if we did happen to be perfect – we can’t Continue reading