These four walls… One with the palm tree wallpaper and host to my scratch map, marking the territories I have and mostly have yet to travel. This 3 by 4 meter cell has played with creativity, held dreams, been a place for passionate song writing. It has been a retreat witnessing both beautiful and complex seasons of delight, tears and wrestling.
My bedroom is an adventurous retreat and now that my parents happen to be moving to a new place, I’m prompted to write about such a concept. What exactly is retreat? Is it really necessary? Can it ever be enjoyable or adventurous?
Inside the box?
It is worth the mention that one can spend time alone with god anywhere however for me, some of the most profound encounters with God have taken place inside my humble box bedroom. Many people often have places that help them to ‘feel’ or ‘hear’ God more clearly and for me, it has always been cross-legged on the carpet of my bedroom. Strangely, not my student room, but the northern four corners of my late teen – early twenties parental home.
Lack-lustre or exhilarating?
Retreat sounds like time spent alone. However, I have learnt the hard way that this is not always the case. We are not all built to be introverts and prolonged enforced solitude will only lead to a deep isolation. Rather, retreat is about withdrawing willingly from pressure, people, schedule and habitual activity in order to be with God. At times, we feel a pull on the strings of our hearts to withdraw and sit at Jesus’ feet. Other times, it requires chosen discipline to turn off the TV, say good night to our friends and come to listen.
But my friend, it’s always worth it.
Three elements of retreat
I’ve lately been reading a book* all about the different architectural spaces within traditional monasticism and how the principles of such spaces can be applied to our contemporary lives. Cell, the monk’s bedroom, was the place for private prayer – the place to retreat, in order to be with God. In short, the bedroom was the essential daily place to commune with God in three ways:
- To confront your inabilities and encounter a rich delightful grace in the love of Jesus
- To wrestle openly and honestly
- To silence the raging wars around you
At times, I have knelt against my bed aware of my own selfishness or pride, and most often my rash anger in haste reaction to stressful events. Sometimes, I have been less passionate and zealous, simply sipping coffee with casual thoughts such as: ‘I’m not that great;’ ‘there are other Christians out there doing a much better job than I am;’ ‘I wonder what Jesus would really say if He returned right now because I’m not exactly radically changing the world with his love this morning…’ Yet as I have retreated, sought silence or opened my bible, God has met me there. His words of love and grace are spoken. The truth of his grace sinks in: I am saved by grace, not works. Because of Jesus, I am washed clean and God is well pleased with me.
Honest wrestling seems to have been the crux of my bedroom conversations over the past couple of years. These walls have heard my questioning and frustrating pleas to God: why won’t you heal that friend? Why not restore their life? I see this big controversial question and I’m struggling to understand what your word says about it, or if you really care? You made me an extrovert so why am I stuck here for a season with no-one around to talk to? I am faced with a housing & financial decision and I have no idea what to do – Lord what should I do? I feel incredibly low, Lord would you show me your love and also show me what may be the cause that I need to pray and practically work through?
The list could go on. All of these are things I have genuinely wrestled with in various seasons. In every season, I have shut my door, scribbled the questions in a journal and prayerfully invited Jesus to start to answer. One time, God answered so profoundly and quickly that I was stumped, able to write down the answer, pray through it and be so incredibly moved by his goodness, that I worshiped zealously until all I had left was speechless stillness. That was incredible and I remember such moments vividly.
However, more often than not, I crawl under the covers of my bed, trusting that the answer will work itself out in the small sustainable everyday as I continue to read scripture, experience ordinary life and live alongside others; most often, the answer comes in hindsight later on and I come before God in thankfulness. Retreat is possible because God is a relational God. That same God knows our hearts and so honesty is warranted. He loves a curious heart and He will always give the answers. Those answers may come tomorrow, in a years time, or maybe on the other side of eternity. But in the waiting, God offers his profound peace, his love and the genuineness of his presence. Be encouraged.
Finally, in cell we escape the wars of seeing, hearing and thinking – one scholar’s take on this idea of withdrawing in solitude to be with God. The one battle that remains is the battle of the heart which we’ve discussed already (number one). Retreating with God allows us to escape the waging wars and principalities of the world that can so easily entangle us: stress, identity, broken relationships, worry…
So many things try to spiritually form us: culture, media, social norms, the latest science around health & wellbeing… The reality is that none of these will ever attain fulfilment or a happiness that lasts longer than a moment. We live in the world but are not of the world. We have a deep desire to be with our creator and as we retreat to spend time with God, we are spiritually formed by him, coming into the fullness of who we are made to be in Christ.
I recall one night, about a year ago. I had been studying hard for an assignment, whilst applying for placement opportunities, and due to the pandemic just generally found myself drowning in pressure. And so, yet again, I pressed play on a Jonathan Ogden playlist (highly recommend), pulled out the journal and invited Jesus to a two-way conversation. As I exhaled, listened, voiced my worries and opened scripture, the Holy Spirit eventually broke through in this back-and-forth rhythm of my posing a question or a worry, and him revealing a glimpse: a picture, or a word.
God completely upended my understanding: ‘you have let your reputation as a high achiever and academic define you. Let go of this and be free to fail. I define you.’ Suddenly as I escaped this identity war and allowed Jesus to form me, I was freed to enjoy creative pursuits and beautiful relationships without pressure or worry for how I may be perceived. The effect on my life was astounding – God is good and gracious and will lead us in the way everlasting.
God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and we can bring anything to him. He will speak, both through scripture, through others and also tangibly in the whispers of our thoughts. Perhaps, you’ve never encountered this? Do not be discouraged. Invite God to speak and have faith – has a thought popped into your head? Believe it and ask God to confirm if it was him. He will, and he will teach you to recognise him step by step. For me, it’s often a picture or a thought that then develops and is backed up with Scripture as I pray on it more. Regardless, Jesus will always speak love and direct us in the way we should go – the way of his inclusive, freeing and loving kingdom. If it’s not loving or encouraging, it’s probably not coming from God.
Find your adventure cabin
Retreat is wonderful and a discipline to be honed. As I write this for myself, as a prompt to continue in this as I move to prepare to move to new horizons, I encourage you to discover the act of ‘Cell.’ There is something profound about defining a cell space for your own. It does not mean that God will always speak there, nor that he won’t ordain an encounter elsewhere – He very much will! However, it helpfully creates a centre to retreat to, becoming a ‘porthole’ for you to connect with your loving creator.
Finally, retreat with God is relational quality time, where we don’t just rattle off prayer lists or follow a prayer prompt. It’s authentic, open, spontaneous and as genuine as a coffee with your best friend. Retreat can be still but it can also be exciting, full of laughter or even movement. It does not replace bible study or prayers for the world and for those around us, nor does it replace much needed time in social settings such as small groups and church. But rather, it’s an additional and essential part of spiritual life.
I have never regretted any moment of withdrawing. No time spent with God in this adventure cabin of a bedroom has ever been dull, difficult or come from a place of trying to be a good Christian. Sometimes, I’ve had to just stick on some worship music, or google, ‘prayers for when…’ That’s ok and often incredibly helpful! Every time I’ve come to sit cross legged in this small bedroom of mine, I have met with God, found his love and known that He hears me. My Creator exists, and He wants to spend time with me. So I say, better is one day in his presence than a thousand elsewhere. I will retreat, to find him, to gaze upon his wonders, to wrestle with my heart and to be moulded by the potter.
God is love, God is good and God will answer all who call on him, showing them great and mighty things that they do not yet know.
Be encouraged, retreat and keep adventuring with Jesus.
*Seven Sacred Spaces – can be found here. The chapter on ‘Cell’ expands on this theme of retreat and withdrawal with God.
Recent writings from Eleanor:
Bonfire night is approaching and I am a lover of fireworks.
Two months ago, I was out walking with my wonderful mentor and church ‘mum.’ I had just moved back to Bath after a wonderful but isolated 7 months living at home. I was thriving, back living with my best friends and being in community. Life was planned out and about to unfold.
Out on Victoria’s front door step, we began to pray. On the driveway, we surrendered all my dreams and relationships to God, open-handedly. As she prayed, she asked God to ‘take my black and white knowledge of God and transform it into a technicolour season of beholding the glory of the Lord in a new season.’
What did I imagine? Fireworks, of course!
Little did I know that this ‘technicolour season’ of fireworks would look incredibly like a bomb site for a while. Two weeks later, the guy I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with abruptly walked out of it. Suddenly my hopes and dreams for the future were shaken. I don’t need to share details other than that it was a beautiful relationship and journey I am grateful for.
Besides the grief and heartbreak, I became confused and angry. Somehow, I found the strength to pursue a good closure and to forgive. But, I didn’t understand why God would strip everything away when life had just started to be rose-tinted. It’s still painful and writing this alone requires a shear audacity, but in it, I’ve realised something.
He takes away to establish.
God will never allow any situation to compromise the prosperous plan he has for each one of us. Because he loves us.
I surrendered all to God open handed and let me tell you, that’s a dangerous prayer. Done that, got the t-shirt – without even noticing there was a t-shirt on offer.
I only see in part right now, but I choose to trust that He is good – and He is!
I’ve cried and I’ve been comforted. I have been discouraged and I’ve also been carried by my friends in the most incredible way. I’ve had to make decisions about my future during this strange time and God has placed so many great people around me to remind me of who I am; they to call out my gifts and encourage me to dream for God’s plan.
The season I had was beautiful and the season I am in is also beautiful.
My life looks completely different today. I could be angry or overwhelmed by this. I may try to fill my life up with one hundred things, complain or go about pretending that life couldn’t be better; I often build a false sense of ownership over my life. But time and time again, I have been reminded, comforted, and humbled by the fact that Jesus did not own his life – he gave it.
The Perfect Plan?
All the stuff we hold onto, is nothing but wooden furniture in the glorious throne room of the creator of the universe. What does it profit to gain the whole world but miss out on the perfectly ordained life Jesus wants to offer you? Believe me – Jesus offers hope in life eternal and fullness of life in this world for today.
Through it all, God has been my deliverer. In it all, God has been my first love and even on stubborn days, He is patient. I am believing and seeing that God’s plan is good and he is faithful.
I’m beginning to see in technicolour. You see, God will never compromise the prosperous and perfect plan that He has for you just so that you can feel comfortable in the present. Fruitful plants must be pruned before they blossom.
Over the past month, God has opened so many doors. As I’ve put my hope in God, he’s placed new and old dreams on my heart. The future-decisions I’m facing are more exciting, open and promising. New and old friendships have unfolded. Despite my circumstances, I have known unbounding joy (which does not mean I haven’t shed many tears) and Christ’s grace has been sufficient always. In it all, I’ve come back to the heart of God, knowing that I am outrageously loved and that He has so much more for me!
I have learnt that we do not get a guaranteed comfort in life, nor should we expect it. But, we do have a saviour who himself sacrificed his comfort to save us and it is a privilege to be uncomfortable yet comforted by God – to further grasp and understand Jesus in a new light.
I’m not writing this for my own comfort, or for testimony or affirmation. I’m writing it because I want you to know that God is good. I want you to realise that life with God is the best it can be! I want you to know that God loves you and has a hope and a future for you. Don’t be discouraged just because you can’t see it.
Sometimes we have to let go of our own black and white idea of ‘prosperity,’ face the uncertain or uncomfortable and step into the technicolour life God wants to lead us into.
If you’re facing a decision or a new venture that involves leaving a comfort zone, or letting go of something, be encouraged. Run to the God of all comfort. Kneel in the glorious throne room, dearly loved and wonderfully made for more. Just as Jesus openly gave his life for yours, may you trust that your open-handed surrender will be anointed by the God who can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. And may you know that in all things, it is the Lord who completely satisfies our hearts – nothing and no one else but him.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, “Ephesians 3:20
Holy Spirit, help me to trust you. Jesus, thank you that you gave everything so that I may have life and know the outrageous love that God has for me. I’m sorry for when I grip so tightly to my comfort, that I don’t step into your incredible plans. Help me to discern your plans for me and open my eyes to see in technicolour. Amen.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Hindsight teaches wonderful lessons.
I’m coming to the end of a season. As usual I find myself reflecting on the season. Hoping that it will help somebody some day, I’m sharing some raw lessons learnt.
I have come to realise that life can often exist of two elements that are in tension with one another. Thankfulness and disappointment take the form of a yoyo, fighting for attention. Similar pairs exist: contentment and desire; trust and entitlement; humility and selfishness…
My season has been filled with grace, community, laughter, provision and goodness. Yet, there has also been loneliness, disappointment and stubbornness on my part. That is normal. We are human. Life, yes, does have some sad and mundane aspects. We can’t be winning gold or climbing a mountain every day. But, what I have learned, is that if we dwell on these and remember only the bad, or only the good, we become blind sighted.
In my case, I became grumpy and cynical (more on that one here).
As I sat down tonight to ask God to reveal the fruit he has been growing in this time, I picked up my journal and found so many wonderful lessons that have been woven into this season.
1. I am NOT my season:
My season has less friends but I am not friendless.
My season may be less outwardly exciting but I am still outgoing.
My season may be quiet but I am not unfulfilled.
My season may involve future-figuring but I am not the figure of my future – God is!
My season may be in architecture but I am not wholly for architecture.
2. True Vocation and Trust
“I was made for Jesus. I was made for heaven.”
When everything is stripped away, including our vocation, we have nothing left to do but to sit and wait. This is different to our known, organised waiting that always prepares ahead of time. It involves resting and listening to God quietly and gradually, loosing our agenda completely. True trust is to wait and not plan; not chasing the next option or even knocking on a door. I have learnt that what matters is the slow private life we live when no-one or nothing grabs our attention. I am loved and my gifts were made holy by Jesus. My gifts themselves are not my purpose or holiness, but the means by which God chooses to display my holiness. Each day is God’s day and plan. I will sit at his feet and dwell with him with nothing left to give other than my heart and my soul.
15 year old me dreamed of leaving home, heading to a beach town and spending time hanging out with Jesus. This was of course envisioned as an exotic adventure. 7 years later, a pandemic forces me home. One day I stubbornly headed to the beach for a walk in boredom and started listening to the bible on a podcast. Eureka! I am literally living my dream. God has graciously and unexpectedly (North Sea wild swimming style) answered that prayer. The lesson? May I never let my future or present desires take away the gratitude for what He has already done!
I am not a failure. I am not worthless. I am the prodigal daughter deemed worthy of celebration as I stumble back into the loving arms of my heavenely Father…
In haste as the world began to go back to normal, I found myself off in pursuit of adventure, friendship and pleasure. Yet, as is normal in this life, I faced disappointments. I ventured off for wild reunions and returned exhausted, realising that the adventures I’d chased just weren’t as good or fulfilling as I had imagined or remembered.
Yes, they were still joyful! But, by taking my control and rushing off, I had left behind the restful status of being God’s child. I had gone astray, forgetting to spend time with my creator.
I choose to return and surrender. I choose to stumble back to him with my negative mindset, tiredness and imperfection. I come, accused by the enemy who tells me I’m worthless and ungrateful. From a distance, God pulls me into an embrace, places a robe on me and calls for a celebration.
A New Season Awaits
God is faithful and I know the next season will continue to be full of lessons and joys! Yet, if anything, this season has taught me that I am not entitled to constant fun, happiness or ease. One day, heaven will be like that with no pain. But until then, I must acknowledge that what I have in Jesus is enough and I must learn to desire nothing more than to know him. Every time that I have fixated on all the dreams, pleasures and adventures that I desire, I have only found myself restless, disappointed and missing something. That something, I find in Jesus when I stop to thank him in the naturally unfolding goodness and devote my heart to him.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:26
Thanks for reading, I hope it teaches you something.
What lessons have you been learning in this season?
I am done and I quit.
Things have been quiet over here lately, largely because I had no creativity left. Life has been busy and if you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I’ve been desperately getting through some books.
I lost my creativity and got busy. I also walked through a season of discouragement which took its toll.
We all find ourselves discouraged from time to time. Unfortunately, it’s normal. However, paired with a prolonged sense of circumstantial isolation, it becomes harder to intercept discouragement. One minute I was enthusiastically running towards all things social justice, faith and travel, and the next? You guessed it. I felt like my small impact just wasn’t making any change. I also found myself being confronted by heavy faith questions I didn’t have answers to.
It took me a while to recognise all of this as discouragement. In the moment, confusion wins and disguises the discouragement as something ordinary or acceptable. Yet when we label it, it becomes easier to intercept. Naming discouragement as discouragement frees us to reject it and press onwards.
Hence, I took some time to have healthy conversations with friends and mentors. I read books and found some good encouraging answers to my questions. I travelled to see some of my dearest friends who showered me with joy and strengthened me with encouragement.
Looking back, I can easily see so much good in the past season. Life has been so full! However, continuous discouragement can lead to a cycle of negative thinking and cynicism. I became so cynical.
Cynicism is the dangerous cycle of doubt and expectation of disappointment. It’s believing that everyone and everything is unfair or just out to get you.
I stopped looking forward to things. Suddenly I refused make plans and believe that restrictions would really be lifted. I became a negative thinker. Thoughts such as, ‘I don’t deserve this,’ or, ‘life wasn’t supposed to be like this,’ often revolve in a cynical thought cycle.
Cynicism, based on disillusionment, is draining and toxic. I quit.
Jennie Allen, wrote a brilliant book on interrupting various negative thinking cycles including cynicism. This is one of the books I’ve been busy reading and I recommend it to anyone looking for a practical yet biblical book on negative thought spirals! Find it here.
Cynicism causes us to look for things to complain about. “The opposite of cynicism is looking for reasons to give thanks.” (Jennie Allen)
I quit believing that I am a victim. I quit being discouraged. It’s time to believe that every circumstance contains an opportunity to experience goodness. I choose to rejoice. I choose to be encouraged.
Life is so full of blessings. Every day gives us chance to experience joy, wonder and fun. If we allow ourselves to stay curious and optimistic, we can truly make the most of our circumstances.
Choosing to think, ‘my circumstances are an opportunity to experience goodness’ in place of self-pity, positions us to be more thankful, more forgiving and ultimately joyful.
So, here I am, choosing to share some light today. Having worked through the cynicism and found myself in a joyful place once more, I encourage you all to remain thankful. I encourage you to quit discouragement by reaching out to others.
I had been believing for a long time, that everything was against me and the only way to thrive, was to forcefully survive. The truth? People, places and institutions often want to elevate, come alongside and help us!
There is however one disclaimer. Circumstances can be hard and I’m not saying that anyone in hardship is cynical or should just ‘get over it with some positive mantras.’ Nor am I saying that you have to settle with your circumstance.
If you’re having a hard time, reach out for help and do something about it whether that means seeking professional help or taking action.
However, as Jennie Allen so wonderfully puts it, ‘we don’t have to like our circumstances, but we can choose to look for the unexpected gifts they may bring.’ Reach out but also be open minded to the unexpected blessings.
For more book reviews, head to the Coffee Time tag. I’m hoping to start this back up, especially now that I’ve been reading more.
2020 was the year of ‘hesed,’ and so is 2021.
Hesed is a Hebrew word for which we have no English equivalent. Hesed is a corporate, loyal, faithful, steadfast, tender covenant love. Hesed is more than a feeling. Hesed is an active loyalty, blessing and expression God’s covenant with us. It has power and backbone.
God shows his hesed to thousands of generations. (Exodus 20:5-6)
Reflecting on 2020, I can see parallels with Ruth’s story in the bible. And I can see God’s hesed.
Flexibility in a U-turn Disaster
The story of Ruth is about a loyal foreigner who in disaster, turned to God despite it being against all common sense. In God, Ruth finds blessing, love and faithfulness.
Ruth’s husband dies and so does her father-in-law and brother-in-law. The story is set way back in history, so to lose your husband was to lose your livelihood, identity, worth and status. In such a disaster, Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to move back to her original homeland, Judah.
Ruth was from Moab and so Naomi encouraged her to stay where she was. For Ruth, the most ‘sensible’ option was to stay put, ‘deal with the disaster’ and strive to make her life better by finding a new husband. This was the easy, common sense option.
However, Ruth does not choose the easy option. She says to Namoi, ‘No, I will come with you. I will keep you company. I will live wherever you choose to live. I will stay where you stay. Your God will be my God.”
Ruth showed loyal hesed to Naomi. Moving to Judah would make Ruth a foreigner as well as a desperate widow – even worse! There was no imaginable way that moving to Judah would solve the disaster.
Ruth was flexible in the uncertainty. She was obedient and surrendered control over her disaster. Stepping into a life that may even cause more disaster, Ruth was flexible to God’s unseen plan.
Eventually, after moving and searching for employment, things get better. Spoiler alert: Ruth even finds a new husband and becomes an ancestor to Jesus! Ruth encounters God’s hesed and we can trace it back through the story.
I am inspired by Ruth and her flexibiltiy
Ruth’s willingness to obey Jesus, even when she couldn’t see the vision, led to living out God’s perfect plan for her. It led to her encountering God’s hesed. Obedience for Ruth was simple – one step at a time, going where the door opened, and ‘staying home’ when it didn’t.
‘I never want to be so in control of my life that I am inflexible to the perfect plan of God
Personally, 2020 has seen so many plans fail. I’ve had to give up all control but that has been beautiful. Looking back, I can see blessings, new relationships, memories and God’s hesed. I’ve learnt to stay put, I’ve learnt that my plan failing just means the better plan is being lived out.
2021 – Hesed
We are heading into a new year. For me, it seems trivial to do the usual setting goals, assuming that the arrival of 2021 will magically solve the world’s disasters; a bit of human common sense and willing can’t fix everything.
Of course, it’s still important to aspire to live better, but no matter what time of year, we can often expect to face the unexpected.
New year means new vision but again, if 2020 taught me anything, it was to surrender all my dreams and plans. As I look ahead, I’m about to finish a university semester, move house (currently I don’t even know where) and hopefully find a job. Yes I have dreams and thoughts about where God may be leading me, but I also have the humility to acknowledge that God’s plan may be in the unexpected. I have to be flexible to that.
Whatever your vision for 2021 is, may you know God’s continuing, everlasting hesed.
If your vision seems unpredictable or impossible, then pray for a flexible heart that’s willing to trust and rest in God’s hesed.
If you thought life was heading one way, yet suddenly are facing a U-turn or are in the middle of disaster, then may you know God’s unfailing hesed.
May you be encouraged to trust that God works all things for good. May you be flexible to surrender control and instead joyfully anticipate God’s hesed to be lavished upon you this year, just as Ruth did!
Are we raised to thrive on adventure? Are we constantly seeking an additive that adds flavour to our ordinary?
I would describe myself as passionate. I’m determined. I had big dreams as a teenager to travel the world, go on mission trips, get into a top university, be the lead in my field…
Today we teach our generation to aspire to great things. We inspire one another to dream of the impossible, whether that be the development of new technology, running a sub-2 hour marathon or moving half way across the world.
None of this is wrong.
Dreams & Wild Adventure
Dreams are in all of us. They are beautiful expressions of our identity. My dreams find their roots in my faith in God and a desire to know him more clearly.
At 17 I knew God was calling me to go overseas and at 18 headed out to Guinea where I grew in faith, served God, learned a lot. Then I moved to university and witnessed friends coming to faith. Last year God miraculously provided for a trip to Japan (read the story behind Japan here). This year I’ve lived and journeyed with amazing people and started to work in the city. Wild adventures!
Life was (and is) golden! I continuously thank God for all of these adventures. They weren’t easy but they were wild as I saw God move in each of them, I only desired more to keep being obedient and serving him.
Globally Stripped of Adventure
6 weeks ago our fast pace, free-travelling, adventuring world changed. Our adventure loving nation suddenly had all ‘adventure’ taken away. Initially, I couldn’t work from home and really thought that I should stay where I was, even as all my housemates moved back home in a matter of days. I knew God has called me to this job and that He was working in it.
I got so angry as everything was stripped away. What was the plan? What I was meant to ‘do’ in this? I was determined to stay in the adventure of where I was but then working in-office got banned. I stayed a week longer, expecting God to bring the next adventure that I still wasn’t seeing. It turned out that God was saying, ‘Eleanor it’s time to go home for a little while.’
A lot of people currently feel as though all the adventure has been stolen. Perhaps some are wondering if they will ever feel excited, or motivated or see a mountain-top moment.
Imagine you are hungry, probably bored and craving. It’s so easy to go to the store, pick up a cheap snack filled with sugar, salts and additives. We get a quick fix and a sugar rush that makes us feel good. But when the additive runs low we are hungry again.
Alternatively, you could slowly and methodically open a cupboard, take out what you already have and make something substantial. It may look less exciting and not have any additives but it can still taste good if you make it well.
My anger came because I was seeking the adventure. All my previous wild adventuring genuinely occurred naturally, as I lived to seek God and make the most of what I had in front of me.
A season for everything
Currently the whole world is pretty much on lockdown. We are going slow and unable to run towards a wild adventure of travel, day trips or socials. Our days look ordinary. But there can still be good in the ordinary. We can cultivate goodness in what we have. We can enjoy new things, share with family, spend time soaking up wisdom.
Being home has been wonderful! Doing life with mum and dad again is so special. I’ve reconnected with old friends and neighbours. I’ve had time to read books and learn new recipes.
We can live farming, building and raising family, crafting, and being faithful where we are. It’s not our job to find adventure. It’s not our purpose to constantly be the heroic, inspiring, crazy dream achiever. These dreams and passions are important, yes, but we must learn to have gratitude where we are and trust that the adventure will come in God’s timing and planning.
What are you chasing? Are you missing adventures? What small things are you grateful for?
If anyone is interested, I really recommend the book ‘Garden City.’ It’s all about the idea of Genesis and cultivating good in the things we do, and bringing God’s goodness to the every day.
‘I’m proud of you.’
We all dream dreams. Each one of us is working towards a goal or ambition. All people require boldness and courage to see various dreams come to fruition. Often, the road to these dreams is a rocky trail path. Cue curiosity.
There is this vision/picture I’ve been living by for a couple of years now. It involves a pair of trainers, some narrow woodland trails and a huge mountain climb.
In the morning (metaphorically) I get down and lace up my shoes. With purpose and ambition I set out to run the day’s race. Not knowing where the path leads, my curiosity leads me through woodlands, over rocky paths, winding through tree covered areas or passing by streams of water. In some places the road gets uneven. At other points it’s muddy or I can’t really see where it is going. But one thing I know – I have to keep running.
As the day goes on the path opens up to wide green hills and pastures. The view lengthens and I can see more clearly but the terrain also increases in elevation. Yet my heart just wants to keep running and breathing – it’s what I’m made for. Every step although difficult is freeing and I know that I am made for running. Running up mountains.
As the sun begins to set, I reach the peak of the mountain. In the golden hour of the day I am met by God himself who embraces me in a Fatherly hug. There we stand, me in his loving arms, looking back over the path I followed. From up high on this mountain I can see every part of the path and where it was leading. I trace it with my eyes, remembering how unknown and unclear it felt. I stand blessed and thankful that in each of those moments, God was in it and saw me where I was.
Finally as the sun is seconds from disappearing, we stand and I worship my God. And as soon as the sun sets, my curiosity is revived.
‘Where next?’ I ask.
‘You’ll see tomorrow Eleanor. Just stay curious.’
This dream, picture or vision (whatever you wish to call it) has always been close to my heart. It has reminded me in unclear times to trust God. During tired days I have been encouraged by such promise. In the mountain top good moments, it has led me to worship God and be curious to learn more about who God is. In the rocky ankle-twisting times it has spurred me on to keep running and trusting, being curious to see what will come on the other side when I embrace God at the end of the day – if not in the moment.
Running is my favourite thing to do. I love how God uses this to encourage and speak to me. Quite literally, I ran my first half marathon today and the whole way I found challenges staring me down. But at every little corner there were friends and family cheering me on, reminding me to keep going. As I sprint finished I was met by my earthly Father who so selflessly gave up his weekend to cheer me on, hand me a warm jumper and feed me afterwards.
There was a time when I thought I was never going to run again. Yet looking back I know that season of injury was one for realigning and realising why I run – for Jesus, not to prove myself or to maintain a physical weight or health. That season was vital and stirred by my hope in God as well as curiosity to see how God was going to move in it.
Today I didn’t just fulfil a long awaited dream. I smashed my goal. I ran with Jesus. I was blessed by so many friends who stood out in the pouring rain to cheer me on. I saw God multiply my efforts and raise an incredible amount of money for charity. God did immeasurably more than all I could ever ask or imagine!
Yet it is not all of this that really hit my heart today. As I stand on the mountain with God tonight I am struck by these 5 words:
‘I am proud of you.’
Deep and profound, these words are not often spoken.
Last week an old BMS colleague visited and spoke these words when I filled him in on the trials of last year and how this year things are so much greater. Earlier in the week a work colleague randomly blessed me with the same words. This morning my cheerleader squad of girls spurted it out in Cafe Nero and on the race course for the whole world to hear.
Looking back, clearly God has been whispering. I never really let it sink in or even realised it until this evening. As I sat in church with Dad, Tim came over to introduce himself. Tim turned around, looked at my Dad, then turned to me and simply said, ‘well done, I am so proud of you.’
It finally dropped.
I am loved. I am seen. All the running (literal and metaphorical) has purpose but even if not, I am still God’s child and He will always embrace me. God loves all of his children and is proud of each one of us, wherever we are on our journey.
And so as I sat in an ice cream parlour with Dad tonight, having a traditional ‘last night on holiday’ ice cream, I counted my blessings. But mostly, I sat thankful for the journey. I remain thankful for God who has love for all of us.
In these days our world is shaking and everything is unknown. The path is rocky and not so clear. But we run anyway. We hope in God and we trust that at the end of everyday we can return to the embrace of God. We remain curious to wonder excitedly at just what exactly God will do with today’s events.
For He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He is faithful and He has loved us with an everlasting love. All those who look to him and trust in him can run the race, confident that we will see glory.
Stay curious. Enjoy the adventure. Know that He is so proud of you.
Growing up in a family of strong church leaders, I always knew I was born for a mission. I remember being 14 and beginning to really explore faith for myself, participating in local young people’s fellowships. Those days of discipling and growing with other incredible believers became such a foundation that I will forever look back on.
I recall sunday nights worshipping together. I cherished moments sat in candlelight, praying for Gods heart to fall. I still celebrate the ways in which we equipped one another and saw God bear fruit in our lives.
At 14 I discovered that church was not a service on a sunday. My church was a group of 14-18 year olds who did life together, played music and wrote songs together, or drove the stressed GCSE kids to mcdonalds after school together…
Jesus lived in community with his disciples. He encouraged them. He sacrificed himself for them. He became family and expressed his heart for his disciples. That was his mission.
I always thank God for those sweet years of faith building. I thank God for The Apple Tree, for Amy, Jordan, Alice, Mark S, Mark T, Chloe, Ruthie, Mat, Jessie, Steve and co… God captured our hearts and revealed the mystery of his character to us. And we saw fruit.
During my later school years God started to speak. He began to call me out. He spoke words about changing the world, being a female leader in the church, bringing light to those who didnt know him. As a group collectively we had a huge heart for mission and a huge heart for worship. They went hand in hand.
That Night Under the Net
And then God eventually called me to leave this family of hearts. I found myself stepping out into the unknown. God clearly spoke and told me to go and live in Guinea. I’ve already written about that season of my life but essentially, I found myself sat in my mosquito net fully surrendering and saying, ‘God I’ve left everything. I’ve come this far. I dont want to cave now. You are calling me to lead your church and I want to have the obedience to go.’
That was a powerful night. And a huge surrender.
Ever since then I have been mistakenly convinced. I came back convinced that God was calling me to leave the UK one day. I genuinely thought that I was only studying architecture to get a Visa and head overseas…
I’m not saying that God will never lead me out of the UK again. What I am saying is that actually, your annointing is not necessarily to be a white missionary or a vicar or a nice charity worker.
There is so much more.
I’ve grown up a pastor’s kid. I’m incredibly fortunate to have seen church leadership manifest in different forms. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by people who constantly affirm me and tell me I’d be great if I followed in my Dads footsteps one day.
I left home convinced I’d one day give up my day job and go into ‘ministry.’ Yet I couldn’t desire anything worse.
This year, moving to a brand new place I’ve learnt an incredible amount. God has gradually stripped me of things. He’s revealed new desires and new passions to.
Here and Now
Just this week, I found myself giving up plans. I always thought I was heading to a life on the ‘mission field.’ But when I met with a charity network about interning (it’s been my plan since I left Guinea) I realised that my heart wasnt in it. I just wasnt made for it.
This illustrates my point. All year long I’ve been wanting more ‘ministry’ or better gifting… The only thing I have discovered is that the here and now is a mission field.
Gods kingdom is so full. Heaven will see business, finance, architecture, art, music, childcare… people will write books and invent new software. Engineers will invent infrastructure and farmers will cultivate land.
In the same way, God is needed in every field. He has opened my eyes to see just how broken the uk is. My calling to change culture and change the world applies to this nation too and I stand convicted. My heart heavily cries out for those in the every day.
I dont work for the church. I’m not in a 3rd world country. I go to uni everyday, work on projects, eat lunch with friends, go home, cook, live alongside housemates, sleep… I live a pretty basic life. But in it, there is such blessing.
In all of it I live set apart, desiring to bring kingdom culture. I desire and pray to bring light and peace to those who need it. I desire to bless in the small and lead those around me to first of all understand the mystery of love hoping that one day they will encounter Jesus and be equipped themselves to bring heaven to earth.
If you asked me a year ago what my future looked like I would have halfheartedly mumbled about becoming a missionary. Now I much more excitedly declare that I dont know – but I do know that right now I’m here where I’m supposed to be.
My vision is to go back to that 14 year old community of worship, prayer and earnest seeking. To revive those young visions to change the world. And to step into that daily, adding to numbers as we do so. The apostles in the bible did just this. There was no ‘missionary or ‘ministry career.’ Just believers living together and being set apart – and god added to their number daily.
Live out faith where you are. Bring his kingdom in the everyday. God has called you to it.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 NIV
Does anyone ever struggle to make all of their passions compatible? Perhaps, as if each of your interests or desires are buckets of water filling and about to overflow. You dash to one just in time, to pour it down the sink but suddenly realise another is about to go, reaching it just in time.
I have always had a ridiculous amount of hobbies or interests. In all of them I genuinely find happiness. I love to paint and find it a space for reflection. For hours I can sit and create a detailed portrait. Photography and blogging has a similar effect.
Running and cycling excites me. Playing my violin is a skill I’ve been honing since 7 years old. Studying architecture is enriching. Guitar sessions are a regular pass time. Languages are my forte.
An old friend once remarked about how I reminded her of Repunzel in the film Tangled. At the beginning of the film she sings, “When Will My Life Begin,” ungratefully reeling off all these activities she does, whilst feeling so disappointed and unsatisfied. I don’t really know how to react to that comment… Its was harsh – but true.
When you have such a diverse range of interests it’s incredibly difficult to juggle them. Sometimes it’s even overwhelming. As life goes on I find I have to prioritise and choose much more. I don’t really read books anymore, I haven’t spoken Spanish in two years and my violin has been in it’s case for two weeks. My heart genuinely feels a little crushed to admit that – have the 13 years of learning been a waste?
I have recently had time to get the paints out again but I know that this will have to pass soon and regardless, I don’t paint as much as I used to.
My life is literally so full. Full of friendships, hobbies, interests, travels, stresses, joys… But none of this satisfies. Every day I struggle to balance the desires of my heart with the tug of this world. I get distracted by other things or just simply don’t have time to fit everything in. And my human, crazy ‘Repunzel’ heart just keeps yearning for more temporary happiness or worth.
But that’s just it. Nothing in this world can satisfy. No amount of stuff will ever make me feel worthy. It doesn’t matter how much I do, I will never feel good enough. No matter how much I clutch onto, I will always feel wasted.
Except there is one place where I feel fulfilled. There is one thing that satisfies. There is one expression that I could pour out forever, without wishing to move or give a half-hearted attention to.
Jesus is my one true love. In Jesus I have found eternal joy, different to the quick spurts of happiness that I find in other stuff. In Jesus I can rest assured knowing that all things are an expression of praise, for He made me with all of my passions. In Jesus I know that nothing is wasted. Seasons come and go. What I did is still worthy and never wasted when I have to give it up.
In Jesus I have a hope and future. Whenever I feel like I’m being pulled out and stretched across about fifty different corners, there is an inexplainable peace. This peace reminds me that eternity is before me. It reminds me that I have all that I could ever need and that I have great significance.
Jesus will never run dry or disappoint.
Nothing lasts forever. We can’t store up earthly treasures. But we can store up treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy.
I was given two beautiful years of studying art and Spanish. I may not do either now, but it was wonderful in its time and Jesus will bring joy in other areas. Who’s to say there won’t be another season of this in the future?
When God grants time to sit and paint, I sing! And when I don’t quite manage to get out on that bike ride, I count my blessings and trust that Jesus gives only what is best – sometimes that is rest or a day in the office.
But in all things, I continue to take captive every thought and feeling that sets itself up against the true joy in Jesus, and demolish all arguments that say I am worthless or a waste or simply without. I turn to Jesus – the only one who can truly satisfy. And here I sit, filled with eternal joy.
Run to Jesus. Let him pull out each of your gifts and desires as He so chooses. Remain in him, the way, the truth and the life. He came so that we may have life and have it to the full.
We all have a purpose in life. Yes, it’s a single, clearly defined purpose fit to us as unique individuals. However, it manifests itself in different ways in each season of our lives.
For example, I would say that my one true purpose is to rejoice. I live to worship God. By this I mean to express joy in everything and in every situation allowing that joy to not only be a light to others, but a thankful expression of how amazing God is. I’d say that my purpose is to declare the unconditional, unimaginable, incredible love that I believe God has for every one of us.
This has looked so different in various seasons:
As a teenager, it looked like learning to play musical instruments, write songs and paint. Through creativity I expressed joy.
In 2017, I found that by training to run, I was honouring God for strengthening my body and committing to giving 100% effort to use that body.
Last year, rejoicing looked like dancing crazily with children who experience abuse at home or struggle to focus in school. It was watching a lady smile as she tried on her first ever pair of glasses.
Recently, expressing joy has looked like fighting battles. Sacrificing so much time to studies and persevering through moments of crippling anxiety has had such purpose because I have learnt what it is to be thankful and sing in the midst of a storm. I have spent a year prioritising community living in a wonderful flat and my purpose to express the love and light of God motivated me to cook them dinner, be radically generous, pray for them throughout the year and just spend time doing life together.
‘I don’t feel like I have a purpose’
It can be so easy to worry that our lives don’t have a purpose. Often we only see the purpose when we look back. I know I also find that I grieve the last season thinking, ‘I had so much purpose,’ or, ‘I never get chance to do that anymore.’ But I have to trust that I still have the same purpose – it just looks different!
In fact, this year the phrase, “I will put a new song in your heart” has been on my mind. It speaks hope to me and it also excites me – my life will change and look different but in it I can always find something to sing about because God is all good and all loving! Dreams keep coming true, strength increases when times are hard and I can laugh at the days to come because at the end of the day, whatever the future holds, I know that I will still be me. And me, is all that I ever have to be!
Moulded for a specific purpose
In the bible, it talks about how God is a potter. He takes a lump of clay and he moulds it into something. Some lumps he will mould into common, practical dinner plates whilst others he may mould into beautiful display vases. It also affirms that God is a completely fair God and highlights that our purpose in life is to display God’s power in us. We may be an incredible noble-peace-prize winner, or maybe we will just be the local (incredibly important) caretaker.
We all have different skills, passions, personalities… These were all predestined and created in us. These things show God’s power of creating! You are a unique, beautifully crafted person and your purpose is to express that to the full. For now, that may look like studying and training an intelligent brain. In the future perhaps it’s to travel and become so thankful for this awesome world set before us. One day it could simply just be raising a child to know that they are loved and valued, or practising a sport.
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
You are a beautiful, worthy human being and your life has so much purpose! Your mind, emotions and dreams are all so intricately detailed. Every single season of your life has a purpose.
Start believing it. Start living it.