princessemmablog

A Work in Progress: Walking with Jesus

Bee Yourself (Life Lessons from Disney Volume 2)

I was in the car today, listening to the radio, when an unwelcome voice came into my head.

“You are so old, listening to Radio 2! If people could see you they would think you are so sad…”

A trivial example, I know, but a couple of years ago I would probably have listened to that voice, and questioned my choices. (I still remember ageing about 10 years in my own eyes when I made the epic decision to switch from Radio 1 to Radio 2. It was Chris Moyles leaving that was the final straw. But I digress). In the last 2 years or so I’ve gradually started to become more comfortable in my own skin. Or, in the wise words of the fantastic Genie in Aladdin, to Bee Myself.

This is a lesson I have found particularly hard to learn. From childhood I have been taught that what people think of you really matters. That it doesn’t matter what’s going on indoors, as long as we put on a good show for those watching from the outside, and that they think well of us. “What would (insert name of easily outraged person here) think?!” I am gradually teaching myself a new answer to that question: “I really don’t care!”

Of course, we all care what people think of us to some extent, and it’s right that we consider the opinions and sensibilities of those we love and respect. But if we live our lives governed by other people’s ideas of who we should be and how we should behave, it will cripple us.

We all have different ideas about pretty much everything. What we spend our money on. What we watch on TV. How we bring up our children. We need to acknowledge those differences, but be OK with them. What’s right for one individual, one family, may well not be the right thing for another. When we are insecure about ourselves and the choices we make we often feel the need to make other people, who may do things differently, feel small. And at the end of the day that won’t make us feel any better, it’ll just make the other person feel a whole lot worse.

Jesus famously said

“Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Matthew 22:39

We tend to focus on the first part of that statement- but that is only half of the story. We need to learn to love ourselves. God loves us as we are now; he doesn’t need us to change first. And it’s his opinion that really counts. We may be a work in progress, and there will probably need to be some growing and changing that needs to happen so that we can do all we were made to do- but we don’t need a personality transplant for God to like us. He made me me, and you you; we were never meant to be the same.

So let’s cut each other, and ourselves, some slack. Let’s not worry too much about what other people think and just get on with being us- the real us, not the people we think others want us to be.

In the words of Sting, from the song ‘An Englishman in New York’:

“Be yourself, no matter what they say.”

 

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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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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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In Someone Else’s Shoes: How Falcon Camps broke my heart… and changed my life

falcon photo0001

In the summer of 1996, I spent a week at Halls Green activity centre a few miles down the road from my home in Kent that would change my outlook on life for good. I’d just finished my first year at Cambridge University, and hadn’t been a Christian very long. I had enjoyed a wonderfully sheltered, privileged childhood, and had gone straight to Cambridge from my private school. It is safe to say my experience of life was extremely limited; I didn’t know anyone whose life experiences weren’t pretty similar to my own.

As a young fresher and a new Christian I had become a member of St Andrew the Great Church (StAG to its friends!), a large thriving student church in the city centre. As the university year drew to a close, we students were encouraged to spend a week of our summer holidays serving on a summer camp. I did a bit of research and discovered Falcon Camps.  These are Christian camps for underprivileged kids who wouldn’t otherwise get a holiday. They take place in a variety of amazing locations across the country, and aim to give children and young people a fantastic break as well as to introduce them to the God who made them, and who loves them so very much. Straight away I knew that that was where I wanted to go. I applied to join the team at Halls Green Falcon Camp, was accepted, and so began a journey that would change my view of the world fundamentally. 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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Beneath your Beautiful

mannekin

This week is Holy Week. Along with Christians around the world I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ journey to the cross, beginning with the celebrations and expectation of Palm Sunday, through quiet reflection as we remember the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, leading to sombre recollection and marking of the crucifixion today on Good Friday.

The year since last Easter has been an eventful one for me, and one that has deepened my relationship with my saviour Jesus. I have spent more time with him, listened to him, learnt more about him. I’ve been privileged to see him at work in many situations, including my own life. Gently, gently he’s been stripping away layers from me that have taken years to build up, like layers of wallpaper in an ancient house. Layers of self-sufficiency. Layers of putting my trust in things other than him. Layers of identifying myself according to my profession or role, not as the precious daughter of my daddy in heaven. 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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Worth the Wait

I am not a fan of waiting. I feel myself getting irrationally impatient with the person at the front of the queue at the supermarket who seems to be taking an interminably long time to find their purse. If I post something on Facebook or twitter (or even a blog page!) I’m looking for a pretty instant reaction. As I’m watching my children take an age to put on their coats and shoes to go out I can feel my blood pressure rising. And it seems that I’m not the only one. A 2009 study conducted by TalkTalk looked at how long it took people to reach their ‘point of impatience’ in a variety of scenarios. Apparently the average UK resident loses patience with being kept on hold after 5 minutes 4 seconds (I’m sure the 4 seconds make all the difference!) We don’t like to be kept waiting by our friends for longer than 10 minutes, and  we expect our texts or voicemails to be responded to within 13 minutes and 16 seconds. Mark Schmid, communications director at TalkTalk said

“The speed of the online world is making us less prepared to wait for things to happen in the offline world, causing people to reach the ‘Point of Impatience’ earlier than ever before.”

(TalkTalk, 2009)

Since the Princess Project was born in 2011, God has been teaching me a lot about the importance of waiting. Starting the project had been a deep desire of mine for so long, that once it finally started to become reality, I felt more impatient than ever before. Carry on reading…

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Throwing off the chains

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptised. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Acts 16:25-34, New Living Translation

Reading this amazing story this morning really challenged me. Paul and Silas had been arrested, stripped, publicly humiliated, severely beaten, and thrown into prison. Unlike many of us would react, however, they were not wallowing in self-pity but praising God! Their focus was not on themselves. They were not saying “Why me?” They were not giving in to fear, misery or despair, understandable as that would have been. They are focussing on God who they know is always the same no matter what is happening on earth. Carry on reading…

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