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A Work in Progress: Walking with Jesus

An angel to watch over me

guardian angel

What comes to mind when you hear the word angel? Cute chubby figures with wings decorating a Christmas tree? Something akin to a fairy, but with a halo- and just as mythological? Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about angels. I’m pretty certain there’s been some concerted angel-action in my family over the last month or so, so I’ve been delving into the Bible to see what it has to say on the topic.

The very day I was beginning to ponder this, my morning Bible reading happened to be Psalm 91, which contains these verses:

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.

It always blows me away when God does that. Of all the verses in all the books in all the Bible, He directs me to just the right one…. (with apologies to Humphrey Bogart).

But let me backtrack a little and tell you why I started thinking about all this in the first place. My younger daughter is 5. A few weeks ago she was going through a spate of waking with nightmares. She was starting to get quite distressed when going to bed, as she was anxious about what the night would bring. The rest of the family prayed for her every night before she went to sleep, which seemed to settle her and allow her to drift off peacefully. We prayed that she would not be scared, that she would know that Jesus was right there with her when she slept, and was more powerful than any of the nasty, scary things she might dream about. We prayed for dreams filled with beautiful images. And we prayed that angels would watch over her as she slept.

One night a couple of weeks ago I woke to a very strange noise. I couldn’t quite place it, and was in that brain-addled state halfway between sleeping and waking when I saw a little figure standing in the doorway- again.

“Mummy,” said the figure, “Coco’s making a funny noise.”

Yes, I thought, that’s what I heard. My smaller munchkin has an interactive Chuggington train set in her bedroom, complete with talking trains. What I had heard was Coco saying “Chugger chugger, chugger chugger,” over and over again- very surreal!

I got up and took my little person’s hand and led her back into her bedroom. All was quiet again by this time. When I went to investigate, I found the offending train the right way up in the middle of the floor. It wasn’t touching anything that could have set it off. It hadn’t been played with or made any sort of sound for months.  I tucked my munchkin back in, prayed with her, and went back to bed. She went straight back to sleep.

I lay in bed, a little freaked out by these strange nocturnal toy antics. I was praying for my girl, lying in bed, worried that this was an escalation of the nightmares and that it represented some sort of spiritual attack. Then I heard God’s still, small voice whisper

“Don’t worry- it was me!”

“What do you mean?!” I replied.

And then it dawned on me that He had answered our prayers, completely and awesomely. He had sent His angel to wake up my little girl before she could suffer from another of her nightmares. Angels were watching over her, just as we’d prayed. In the morning, she didn’t even remember that she had woken up at all. And she hasn’t had a nightmare since.

The following Sunday I was praying with a member of our church ministry team for and about my girls. She told me that as she was praying, she could see both of my girls with their own angel looking out for them and protecting them. At that point I hadn’t mentioned  the episode I’ve just described.

In our cynical, all-knowing society, we don’t like things that we can’t explain. Or rather, things that do not have an empirical, rational explanation. I dare say that some people reading this post will not believe my interpretation of events, but prefer to put it down to a collection of random coincidences. They will be incredulous that someone with a scientific degree from Cambridge University would believe in God, let alone angels. But I do. And my world is richer for it. It means that I can be confident in the knowledge that the precious jewels of my life, my two daughters, are being looked out for by someone who loves them even more than I do. That’s the kind of God I believe in. One who flung stars into space, but can still take the time to reach down through time and space into a bedroom in Kent, and bring peace to a little girl’s sleep.

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Tell Your Story

Stories are important. We love to hear them. We love to listen to people who are good at telling them. A great story can teach us without us realising we’re learning; make us think more deeply about an issue we thought we had got sorted; make us laugh; make us cry. Hearing the same stories over and over again can be a favourite part of our family heritage and tradition, especially if they tell us more about the people and situations around us and help us to understand them better.

Jesus was a master storyteller. He taught profound truths about the Kingdom of God using stories set in situations very familiar to his audience, featuring characters everyone could recognise, from dishonest tax collectors and rich businessmen, to shepherds, housewives and widows. Carry on reading…

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On Eagles’ Wings

Last week, I gave a presentation. I was talking about The Princess Project, a subject dear to my heart. My talk was well received, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Nothing very remarkable there, you might think. But bear with me.

Let me take you back in time a few years. Let me introduce you to a young woman recently graduated from Cambridge University Vet School.  She has recently got married, moved to London, landed her dream job. And her confidence is at rock bottom. Carry on reading…

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Bread of Heaven

wheatfield

I’ve been thinking a lot about food this week (some might say ‘nothing particularly unusual about that’, but that wouldn’t be very charitable). First of all, I started a new diet. The weight I managed to shift a few years back has been slowly starting to creep back on, and I now have two choices- buy more clothes or try to get back to a healthy weight again.  I promised myself when I got down to within my healthy BMI for the first time in 2008 that I wouldn’t buy any new clothes in a bigger size- rash, I know, but I can be very stubborn sometimes. Not wanting to renege on that, coupled with being a cheapskate, means I’m back on the wagon again.

Secondly, I became aware of a campaign running at the moment called ‘Live Below the Line.’ This campaign challenges people to only spend £1 a day on food and drink, for 5 days, to raise awareness (as well as money) for the 1.4 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty. I haven’t been doing this challenge myself, but have been following the efforts of some who have, for example Jack Monroe. I have been really impacted and humbled by how little so many people have to live on- including here in our own country. Another prominent movement at the moment is the Enough Food IF campaign, which is trying to get the G8 leaders to tackle the issue of global hunger at the summit next month. Over 150 organisations have signed up to this campaign- Christian, Jewish and Muslim as well as non faith-based groups- all coming together to make the point that the world produces enough food to feed all its inhabitants, if it was produced and distributed fairly. Carry on reading…

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You Can’t Kid the Kids

“Mummy, why did you lie about liking Mrs Davies?”

Whoa, hang on, what?!

“Er… what do you mean? I do like Mrs Davies!”

“Then why were you talking about her with Sarah’s mummy behind her back? It didn’t sound as if you liked her.”

Oh dear. Rumbled by a 7-year-old with big ears and a highly developed sense of justice.

One thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent is that children’s noses are phenomenally good at sniffing out inconsistencies in our behaviour. They may not remember us asking them to make the bed or put their school uniform away but they will definitely remember something that you’ve said that you wish you hadn’t. They will also run this regrettable utterance through their database of our previous sayings or actions to see if they match up. And if they don’t, they will notice. We underestimate the attention they pay us- what we say, what we do- at our peril. Carry on reading…

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Fishing Expedition

 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

John 21: 4-7, NIV

I love this story about the risen Jesus and his rather confused and overwhelmed disciples. What an emotional rollercoaster they had been on over the past few days, especially Peter. They had witnessed one of their close friends, Judas, betray Jesus to the authorities. They had seen their beloved Master die a gruesome death. Despite previously claiming that he was ready to die for Jesus, when it came to the crunch Peter had denied three times even knowing him. Carry on reading…

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It’s Good to Think: being a Godly Geek

I have a confession to make- I’ve always been quite lazy when it comes to using my brain. I’m lucky in that I’ve always found it easy to learn, and when I was at school, if you were good at memorising facts and regurgitating them, you could do pretty well. (When I arrived at Cambridge University and they expected me to actually think for myself I very nearly came unstuck, but that’s a whole different blog post!)

One thing that God has been teaching me lately is that he wants to engage with all of me, brain included. I have always been quite embarrassed about being academically able (or a geek, swot, teacher’s pet, and a whole load of other less polite terms that I could mention but won’t- I’ve heard them all). For some reason intellectual prowess is definitely not as socially acceptable as excelling at sport, or music, or drama, or anything else. Recently, though, it seems as if God is releasing me from that embarrassment, and has been reassuring me that he made me this way. I can (and should) be using the gifts he has given me, unapologetically. Carry on reading…

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Culture Clash

For the last couple of days I’ve been reading about the Council at Jerusalem, in Acts 15:1-21. Paul and Barnabas had fallen out with other factions in the church who were arguing that the new Gentile converts still had to adhere to traditional Jewish practices, for example circumcision, in order to be saved. Paul believed passionately that this was contrary to the gospel of grace. In his letter to the Galatian believers he writes:

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favour with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”

(Galatians 5:2-6, NLT.)

This led me to ponder what we are tempted to add to the gospel. We too can get bogged down in our church culture. What additional demands do we make of people, that make it difficult for them to worship with us, and to become part of our church families? Carry on reading…

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In the beginning…

The first words of anything are always the hardest to write, and this blog is no exception. I know what I’d like to write in the future (and I know that I would love lots of people to want to read it!) but it didn’t feel right launching into something with no preamble, and no explanation. Why am I writing this blog? Why should people read it? Who am I, anyway?!

Put simply, I am on a journey, and I would love to share my travels with any kind and interested folk who care to read about them. Unfortunately my days of actual travelling (as in the go-to-different-(preferably sunny)-countries type) were somewhat curtailed by the expansion of our family and shrinking of our income (not that I would swap my two gorgeous girls, or the husband, for a life of jet-setting, of course… but I digress). No, the type of journey I am on is a rather more abstract one. I became a Christian at the age of 18, and have been travelling ever since. Sometimes the route has been quite smooth, like a gentle ramble through the Kent countryside on a warm day in September. Sometimes the terrain has been much less even, more like stumbling up Snowdon in the fog. Sometimes I haven’t had the faintest idea where I’ve been going at all.

The past two years have been rather different. After a good many years of what has often felt like aimless stumbling about, I finally feel like I am starting to walk the path that God has made for me (or rather, that he has made me for!). 2 years ago I took a step of faith. I acted on a passion that God had placed in my heart, that had been welling up inside me for a long time. I stepped way out of my comfort zone, and founded an organisation to come alongside and support new mothers, especially those young single mums often isolated within our communities. I was also challenged to go deeper with God, to get to know Jesus better, to spend time with him daily, be filled with the Holy Spirit, read my Bible. I have discovered (better late than never) that doing things in his strength is so much better than doing things in mine.

All this has had a profound impact on me. I honestly think that if I had looked at the future me two years ago, I would not have believed it was the same person. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul writes “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” I used to be crippled by that spirit of timidity. Now I find myself speaking up, being bold, being confident in my identity as a daughter of the Living God. I am very much a work in progress (goodness am I!!) but God is gracious, and transforms us ever so gently and gradually into the people he has designed and called us to be. I’d love it if you could join me on my travels.

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