The Notebook Project

Notes from my life

Learning to breathe

Breathing…it’s as simple as taking air in and releasing it again. So simple in fact that our bodies do it automatically without us ever thinking about it.

But have you ever been without breath?

Those moments that you find yourself gasping for air, and no matter how wide you open your mouth or will your lungs to work, you simply can’t get the oxygen in.

Sometimes there are things in life that simply knock the breath out of us, and I am not talking in the romantic sweep you off your feet kind of way…

Those things that while you may be able to keep doing the day to day things in life, you’re not truly living…you’re looking for a fresh beginning, looking for fresh air…

One of my absolute favourite songs in the world is by Switchfoot called “Learning to Breathe”. It’s my go-to song whenever the world tries to steal my breath, that song that never fails to help put my world back on its axis again.

May this song and it’s words inspire you today if you find yourself short of breath, and may you find renewed hope and faith in the God who breathes life into all things.

“Learning To Breathe” – Switchfoot

Hello, good morning, how you do?

What makes your rising sun so new?

I could use a fresh beginning too

All of my regrets are nothing new

So this is the way that I say I need You

This is the way that I’m

[Chorus:]

Learning to breathe

I’m learning to crawl

I’m finding that You and You alone can break my fall

I’m living again, awake and alive

I’m dying to breathe in these abundant skies

Hello, good morning, how you been?

Yesterday left my head kicked in

I never, never thought that

I would fall like that

Never knew that I could hurt this bad

[Chorus]

So this is the way I say I need You

This is the way that I say I love You

This is the way that I say I’m Yours

This is the way, this is the way

[Chorus]

Hello good morning how you do?

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A new normal

So…where to begin. I know it’s been awhile, over a year in fact. When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself that I would keep it active and I would make an effort to post something, even just once a month…

Well I suppose there is no point in crying over spoilt milk (or unwritten posts), the fact of the matter is I am back and I intend to keep on writing. Whether you all out there intend to keep on reading is another story 😉

Part of the reason for my return is the fact that I need to start getting back on track with a lot of things in my life. I feel like I have fallen off the wagon so to speak and my blog was one of the ways I used to help myself on track. I never started writing it for anyone else than me and I humbled that anyone would take the time to read what I have written.

Things sort of fell apart on May 10th (yes, I can even tell you the date) when the first “warning shot” about the impending attack on my personal life was fired. I rushed my mom to hospital under the suspicion of her experiencing a mild heart attack. After two days in the ICU and one in a general ward, she was discharged and returned home, with the outlook that there were larger issues at play and this heart problem was not going to go away.

Then came May 14th and the war began. There was no calm before the storm, no silent opportunity to gather ourselves, the storm hit and it hit fast, hard and unrelenting – my mom had a stroke. Words cannot describe what it is like to see someone who is so strong, so independent and your own pillar of strength cut down like that. We thankfully were able to get her to the hospital in time to give her the necessary stroke medication (you only have a 4 hour window period after someone has a stroke), thanks to the fact that she herself managed to drag herself to the phone and call me at work.

And so began the long journey of my mom’s recovery. As an only child, everything now fell to me, keeping the household running, sorting out bills, you know the drill. In between all this was visits to the hospital and later her rehab facility, dealing with physios and OTs who were trying to help her get her movement back as she had lost all control of the left side of her body, and, and, and…

In amongst all of this, I had to find and move into a house (a long story in and of itself).

And yet by the grace of God, we got it done. I moved, mom recovered to the point where she was able to be moved to a different care facility where they were going to focus on getting to walk again so she could come home on a permanent basis. Things were looking up…

When I spoke to her on the morning of August 18th, she told me she wasn’t feeling well and was finding it a bit hard to breathe. I encouraged to take it easy and to perhaps have a nap and see how she felt after. She agreed, we ended our call with our usual “love you. love you too” greeting and those were the last words I ever spoke to her.

About an hour and half later, I received a call that no one ever wants to get…she was gone.

There is no point in lying, the last month since her passing hasn’t been easy, I celebrated what would’ve been her 73rd birthday without her, the first of many occasions that she will no longer physically be part of. She told our minister that her goal was to be walking and home by her birthday, and through the grace of God, she accomplished just that, no matter that it was not her earthly home.

So why share all this? Well it’s part of falling off the wagon.

Throughout her whole ordeal never once did my mom’s faith falter, she continued to pray fervently, loved visits from our minister and friends from church, and encouraged me to keep relying on God that He would see us through. All this from a woman who up until eight years ago did not go into a church unless it was Christmas or Easter.

As for me, I stopped going to church and my bible study. I took a leave of absence from leading worship and being an active member of session. I got angry, I lost faith…this from a woman who was studying for the ministry. I just lost track…I just got lost…

And things haven’t just miraculously done and about turn this Sunday that I am sharing this with you and life is suddenly A-OK – I am slowly going through a process.

But I know I am not alone and I know that I am going through the right process. I remember at the end of one of his songs TobyMac once said that in order to get back to God if you have wandered off, you don’t need to trudge through all that you’ve gone through; you just need to stop, turn around and that’s where you will find Him.

God has placed the most amazing people in my life, new and old friends who each are impacting my life without them even knowing. One who started sending me daily scripture messages not knowing my faith circumstance. Another who out of the blue at dinner one night started a faith conversation that changed my perspective, and who constantly encourages me because he tells me I am a woman of strong faith and I need to start seeing that in myself. A third, who through her simple tweet on Friday about one of my previous blog posts got me thinking about starting to write again. People who are praying for me, when I find it difficult to find the words for myself.

As what happened after my dad’s passing eight years ago, I find myself experiencing a new normal. Some things remain the same, but I am not. This is a whole new journey, a new chapter in my life.

It’s not about starting over, it’s simply about starting again…one step at a time…

My mom loved my writing and would always ask what I was thinking about posting next. So here’s to you mom for continuously encouraging me to go in the direction of my faith and my dreams would follow, here’s to new normals, here’s to amazing people who won’t let you give up, here’s to a God who never lets go!

I have no idea what my next post will be like, but I do know that I intend to remain faithful to the writing and the process. So stick with me on this one and the next and the next; I have a feeling it is certainly going to be worth your while!

Be blessed friends!

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The Houseplant Song

Was driving along in my car today and suddenly a blast from my past started playing “The Houseplant Song” by Audio Adrenaline.

It reminds me of so many great nights spent at youth, on youth camps and generally hanging around with some amazing friends.

If you’ve heard it before, then you HAVE to watch the video below, trust me it’ll make your night 🙂 make sure you “crank it to 11”

“The Houseplant Song”

Once I read a book
And this is what it said
If your music has a beat
Then you’re gonna wind up dead
It doesn’t really matter if it’s Christian or not
If it’s syncopated rhythm then your soul is gonna rot
And this book was called “Ha! Your Gonna Burn”
And in the second chapter I went on to learn

[CHORUS:]
Take two houseplants
And put them to the test
Set them both in front of speakers
And let the music do the rest
The first one you play Mozart
Or something lovely like that
The second one you play that Petra Or that MegaDeth.
Doesn’t really matter what kind of rock it is.

So I took my two houseplants
And I put them to the test
Set them both in front of speakers
To let the music do the rest
I powered up my Pioneers
To let the music roar
But twenty minutes later
Someone’s knocking at my door
I opened up my door
And there my neighbor stood
He said, “Man I’d like to get some sleep
If you think I could”
I said, “Man, can’t you see here
I’ve got this moral dilemma that I got to get clear.”
He said, ” What kind of moral dilemma
Could you have at this time of night
That could make me so angry
That I just want to fight!?”
So I pointed to the page in that open book
That had a picture of a potted plant
And I said, “Go have a look.”
And he read

[CHORUS]

First of all he said,
“That’s Wagner that you’re playing
I’ve never heard of Petra
And isn’t MegaDeth all dead.”
And secondly, emphatically, He asked me,
“What’s the sense of hanging out with houseplants
when, hey,
I live right across the fence.”
And I thought to myself
You know, that’s a good point
So I took my two houseplants, and
I put them both back outside
And me and my neighbor
Well, we went out for a drive
We talked about all the things
That really matter most
Like life and love and happiness
And then the Holy Ghost
And now my two houseplants
They sit out in the sun
As for me and my neighbor
Well our friendship has become
A meaningful relationship
That’s headed straight to heaven
But as for now
We like to sit around and listen to Audio Adrenaline
Cranked to eleven!

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Fruit

Now I enjoy eating fruit as much as the next person but don’t ask me about growing my own fruit. Fruit is not something that can be thrown in the ground and harvested the next day. It involves a process that cannot be allocated down to a day, a week or even sometimes a month.

And it certainly involves more than just throwing some seeds in the ground; you need to prepare the soil before you think of planting. Then once you’ve planted the seeds, you need to watch over them and water them. Then you have to wait. There is nothing you can do to speed up the process if you want to grow good fruit. Once your fruit is ready, you then need to harvest it; it doesn’t just fall off tress you know. Many farmers take years learning to cultivate the best crops.

We need to remember that what is important to God isn’t how the world measures our harvest. He doesn’t do so by what we achieve, how many people vote us as class president, our talents, our opportunities, our opinions, our intentions or our accomplishments.

In Matthew 7:16 Jesus says “You will know them by their FRUITS”

So my question to you is how is the cultivation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control going in your life?

Are you intent on producing good fruit for God or simple good deeds for the world?

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No Other Name

Came across this awesome video from Hillsong conference the other day and it just blew me away. I used it for my devotional with our holiday club leaders on Friday, shared it with friends and colleagues and now I’m sharing it with you.

May this video touch you as much as it touched me.

NO OTHER NAME

History’s bowels have coughed up multitudes of names chained to fame; the tenacious, the notorious, the religious and the sacrilegious.

What images flit across the window of your mind when you hear names such as Socrates and Churchhill, Mussolini, Mandela and Einsten?

Do you recoil when you hear Hitler?
Does inspiration hit you between the eyes when you hear Armstrong?
Do you yawn and roll those same eyes when you think of Shakespeare?
Names are pregnant with purpose. That’s ‘what’s in a name’.
And friends if I may inquire, what stirs within the recesses of your soul when you hear Jesus’ name?

An enigma personified, wholly man, wholly divine.
Took on the lowest names, so slaves could reign as kings.
Deity who chose to endure mortality so we could enjoy … (pause) eternity.

Why does NO OTHER NAME affect the sceptic, the heretic and the majestic, the homicidal, suicidal and the matinee idol?

NO OTHER NAME changed nature, mind-sets and matter, opened blind eyes, deaf ears and healed cancer.

NO OTHER NAME came with this mandate: Heaven’s Kingdom expressed on Earth.

But if His miracles are just ‘fairy tales’, then why do millions gather putting their lives on the line for HIS name?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, THERE IS NO OTHER NAME!

And whether in twos, threes or millions, we gather under

NO. OTHER. NAME.

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Anniversaries

Anniversaries are great reminders of things we’ve been through. Some are good, like a friend of mine who celebrated 9 happy years yesterday with the love of her life. We celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, when we started at our dream jobs, overcoming obstacles…the list goes on.

Some anniversaries are bittersweet, because the date is no longer the celebration of something but merely the reminder of something or someone. And that’s what today is for me…a bittersweet anniversary.

Throughout the week I’ve found great comfort in the song By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North. Take a look at the video and hear for yourself…

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Selah

If you listen to the Hillsong United album, All of the Above, you would have noticed that two of songs Draw me closer and For all who are to come have the word Selah following their title.

Now granted if you are listening to the album these Selahs seem to follow seamlessly on from the previous two songs, just at a slower pace which got me thinking about the word Selah and if it was some musical term which I didn’t know of.

What I found was certainly interesting. The word Selah is found quite frequently throughout the book of Psalms and twice in Habakkuk 3 in verse 9 and 13. It’s used about seventy four times in all in Scripture. Its meaning is a point to be discussed; some believe it meant silence or pause and others an intensification of instruments or voices specifically in worship.

Yet for me either definition begs the question, when last did you have a Selah moment in your life, whether it was in terms of taking a pause or perhaps a moment of intense voice? When last did you take a breath and paused? When last did you lift your voice intensely for all the right reasons?

We can have both kinds of Selah moments, the important thing is that we realise when to pause and when to intensify. I pray that you may find the right Selah moment for your life today and take the opportunity to experience it in all its fullness.

Selah…

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Patience – it’s an understated gift

Patience…it’s an understated gift in the world today. We live at such a fast pace that we often forget the concept of patience. The world tells us that we can have everything we want now, that if there is something we want we should just go out and take it. And if we aren’t quick enough, someone else will take our opportunity…our future…our…our…our whatever.

And so we become impatient with friends, family, the traffic, work, children, and life in general. Sometimes we go as far as getting impatient with God. We think that because the world offers instant gratification that we should come to expect the same from our God because that’s the box we want to put Him into. God cannot be put into any box!

We want God to work on microwave time because that’s how the world expects us to operate when the truth is that God works on oven time. We think that all we need to do is ask and we get whatever we ask for, in microwave time.

But if we go back to Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells us “Ask, and you shall receive.” It’s not a case of ask, receive. The fact that there are the words “and you shall” indicate that there is something between the asking and receiving.

So next time you are praying for something instantaneously remember that God has heard your prayers and ask for patience that you may see your request through to completion in His time.

Patience – it’s an understated gift.

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God’s Plan

2013-01-09 Planner Inside

Some things are beyond planning.
And life doesn’t always turn out as planned.
You don’t plan for a broken heart.
You don’t plan for a failed business venture.
You don’t plan for an adulterous husband
Or a wife who wants you out of her life.
You don’t plan for an autistic child.
You don’t plan for spinsterhood.
You don’t plan for a lump in your breast.

You plan to be young forever.
You plan to climb the corporate ladder.
You plan to be rich and powerful.
You plan to be acclaimed and successful.
You plan to conquer the universe.
You plan to fall in love – and be loved forever.

You don’t plan to be sad. You don’t plan to be hurt.
You don’t plan to be broke. You don’t plan to be betrayed.
You don’t plan to be alone in this world.
You plan to be happy. You don’t plan to be shattered.
Sometimes if you work hard enough, you can get what you want.

But MOST times, what you want and what you get are two different things.

We, mortals, plan. But so does God in the heavens.
Sometimes, it is difficult to understand God’s plans especially
When His plans are not in consonance with ours.

Often, when God sends us crisis, we turn to Him in anger.
True, we cannot choose the cross that God wishes us to carry,
But we can carry that cross with courage knowing that God will
Never abandon us nor send something we cannot cope with.

Sometimes, God breaks our spirit to save our soul.
Sometimes, He breaks our heart to make us whole.
Sometimes, God allows pain so we can be stronger.
Sometimes, God sends us failure so we can be humble.
Sometimes, God allows illness so we can take better care of ourselves.
Sometimes, God takes everything away from us
So we can learn the value of everything He gave us.

Make plans, but understand that we live by God’s grace.

~Author Unknown~

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Making space at the table

I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice-oceans of it. I want fairness-rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want. (Amos 5:21-24 MSG)

He has told you what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

I don’t know where the observation originated from but many have noted that although Micah calls upon us to do justice and love kindness, we often rather focus on doing kindness and “love” justice as an idea or principle rather than something we do. Which got me thinking why this is?

Maybe it’s because justice is complicated, demanding and scary, and we know somewhere deep down that justice work will unsettle and disturb us. Justice work does provide us with meaning as it fosters our own humanity but it costs us our comfort which is often a price we are not willing to pay. Kindness is important and it demands something of us too, yet kindness is, for most of us, easier than justice. For example cooking a meal for the homeless is much easier than confronting the root cause of homelessness.

Amos challenged Israel for neglecting justice and for thinking that they could cover up their own injustice by being religious. I found a quote that offers a similar challenge to our modern ears:

“charity is commendable, everyone should be charitable. But justice aims to create a social order which if individuals choose not to be charitable, people still don’t go hungry, unschooled or sick without care. Charity often depends on whim and personal wealth, justice depends on commitment instead of circumstance. Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table, faith-based justice offers a place at the table.”

So my question to you is: are you offering crumbs when you could be offering a place at the table? And what we can possible do, to make more space at the table?

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