25 February, 2015

Just Write - Winter Nights

The other day I was browsing, and I came across this: Just Write. The main idea, unfathomably enough, is to just write. And write whatever enters your head, however it comes out - it's about being real and mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary. It's an exercise in free writing basically. I thought it was a great idea, and so... I did it. I just wrote it out in one sitting, letting the words follow each other - almost mindlessly, not trying to write it right. Anyway, here's what came out: 

You know sometimes there are nights that feel distinctly wintery? With a howling wind bringing cold weather from the east, and sneaking draughts through cracks in the doors? And then there are summer nights. What's the difference? I'm not sure, but I do know that tonight is a summers night. The wind is blowing in gusts, making the trees and cornstalks quiver and me wonder “Is that rain?”. But, contrary to those wintery nights when all you want to do is snuggle down under soft blankets and enjoy the feeling of being safe and cozy while the world outside battles, the air is warm and the darkness feels eerie. It seems to have a sense of foreboding, like something could happen – something unpleasant. The mirrors on the mobile hanging in front of the window rattle softly, then for just a moment the world is still, before the corn leaves rustle again. I went out in it – I know what it's like. The air is kind of thick – not smokey, not dusty; thick. Indescribable; it's a summers night.

But let me imagine, for just a moment, a winter's night. The wind is still present, but it's slightly stronger. The air is bitingly cold, and the wind whips the chilliness into me. The trees make their chorus, only this time the possibility of rain is reality, and soon it comes in little drops falling on the roof, like a lullaby. It's sort of wild out there, but it somehow brings up an instinct to snuggle with a cup of hot something, and good old book, and bury deep down under a blanket from a dear friend. Winter nights are made for fluffy new socks – thick full cushioned ones, and big woollen jumpers – like the one from my grandpa that clearly would've fitted him better than me. Winter nights are full of possibilities and magic. Anything's possible – your wildest dreams and greatest fantasies. The best winter nights are during winter, when the evenings are long and the firelight dwindles, and it's still four hours until midnight. But the strangest thing is this: winter nights can happen in summer, and summer nights can happen in winter. It's a feeling. It's an ambience. It's an aura. Perhaps, it's an attitude.

Oh, and winter nights were made for stargazing. The stars seem to shine brighter and more clearly. That's where the magic comes in, and heaven descends, and the infinite seems possible. It's when time slows, and darkness deepens, and stars illuminate. It's when we realize, we are so small. We are but tiny specks in tiny corners of this wide wide world. We are nothing, we cannot be measured. Our lives, so important to us; our problems, so huge to us; our knowledge, so infallible to us – it is but the minutest part of the expansive universe God created. And back of all the stars, above the endless heavens, is God himself. And here is where it becomes amazing: God has us in His heart. There is no moment He is not thinking of us; there is no second when He's not looking out for our safety and well-being. There is no time when He is not sending His blessings, down through the stars, past the howling winds, through our tightly wrapped blankets, and into our undeserving hearts. Somehow, on winter nights, God feels closer.

It was kind of freeing to just write, and not be writing for a specific purpose, or trying to make everything proper. I really enjoyed it, I'm hoping to do it again, often, and I'd encourage you to try it for yourself. Seriously, just write! (I'd love to read what you've written too. :)

Oh, and I'm linking up to the latest 'Just Write' post over on the extraordinary ordinary too. :) 

11 February, 2015

To my wonderful blog readers,

WE DID IT! :) (Excuse the overreaction.)

Thanks so much to each and every one of you for reading this blog these last two years, and continuing to read it even when I do crazy things like posting everyday. Thanks for all your encouraging comments too. (They're the best. :)

I also want to remind all of you: Never ever forget that you are a precious and amazing child of God, and He loves you more than you'll ever be able to imagine. He's got great things in store for you, and He'll always be there for you. “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope. When you call out to me, I'll hear you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.'” (Jeremiah 29:11 ISV)

So thanks again (so much), and I'll be back soon. (Don't worry, not tomorrow, I promise.)

Jessica xxx :)

10 February, 2015

Day Seven - Counting Gifts

Here's some gifts from God I noticed this morning: (The numbers are because I started at one a few weeks ago, and this is just where I'm up to. :)

51. Bike rides with siblings
52. The sound of bark crunching beneath bike tires
53. Cool air on hot skin, as we raced down the hill
54. An abundance of nectarines to bottle
55. Siblings to talk to about everything, and at all hours
56. Rice bubbles :)

57. Excitement in the knitting machine world for Mum
 58. Tea from a friend – I can smell it every morning :)
59. Letters in the mail again
60. A new toothbrush – I'd forgotten how good that is
61. Denim bunting on fuzzy wool

62. An amazing local library
63. Another year's scholarship – it's a gift
64. This blogging-every-day experience. It's almost over!
65. A kookaburra's laugh
66. My pinboard
67. Books just waiting to be read

As it says in Psalm 68:19, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah."

How has God been loading your life with benefits lately? 

09 February, 2015

Day Six - Shy Boy: The Horse That Came In From The Wild - Book Review

Are you sick of me yet? Well, tonight my sister has written a guest post for you - on one of her current favourite books. Apparently, in the world of horse lovers, Monty Roberts is a big name, and I must confess, Rachel has made this book sound so interesting, I just may read it...
Thanks so much, Chook - enjoy everyone!
Jessica xxx :)

Shy Boy is the story of how Monty Roberts, the man who listened to horses, got to live his dream, and prove that a wild horse can be broken in while still in the wild, using natural methods, instead of fear.

As a young fellow, Monty saw how his dad mistreated horses and he knew there would be a better way. Between 13-17 he had the chance of spending time with mustangs (wild horses in America), rounding them up for an annual Rodeo event. He learned how to communicate with horses from seeing them communicate with each other. Then a few times he tried it out himself. And he got to “join up” with a mustang in the wild! Joining up is basically when a horse accepts you as its leader. He told the other cowboys, but they just laughed. Then one year he 'joined up' with a mustang, and rode it back to the base. But still nobody believed him; they said he had either taken it with him, or got one that had previously been broken in.

But then many years later, he got the chance to show everyone that 'joining up' with a horse in the wild, without the help of yards or ropes, is do-able. He really had some miracles along the way, for example, he had to 'adopt' a mustang to be able to work with it. (Because of restrictions later imposed, he couldn't do it with a horse in the wild, so he had to 'adopt' a mustang that had previously been captured to be sold.) The 'adoption program' was the next day. Only a certain number of people are drawn, and get to 'adopt' mustangs. As the list drew to the end, and Monty's name still hadn't been called, he began to give up hope. But... the last name out of the hat was: Monty Roberts. He went to the pen and chose the horses he wanted (he wanted the mustang to work with as well as 2 backups) but being the last he thought he probably wouldn't get them. But he did. They were moved to a ranch that had its own private herd and put out with them, to remain wild until Monty was ready to work with them, particularly one, who was later christened Shy Boy. Monty didn't want them to have seen him, so another lady keep watch on them.

Finally, Monty was ready to go out to the property and find the herd. With the help of a few other fellows and their horses, he cut Shy Boy from the herd, and the others pushed the herd away. Shy Boy went into flight mode and Monty followed him on horseback for the rest of the day, night and some of the next day. He spent around twenty four hours in the saddle only changing horses a few times. Shy Boy soon started to slow a bit. Monty began to be able to work with him, stop him and get closer to him. After a little more work, he called Caleb Twissleman, who had helped him at the start, to come and work with him. Soon Monty could reach down and stroke Shy Boy on the neck – the very first time he had been touched by a human. Eventually, Shy Boy experienced his first lead rope, learned to walk beside Monty's horse, and wore a girth for the first time. That night, Monty and Shy Boy tried to get some rest. The next day, Monty worked Shy boy from the ground, and formed a stronger bond. The following day, Shy Boy accepted his first saddle. It took some time to be accepted, but because Shy Boy trusted Monty, it went well. Then it was time to introduce Shy Boy to the first person to ride him: Scott Sivera. After Shy Boy got to know Scott, he easily accepted being ridden. Monty said “He didn't put a foot wrong.” Caleb Twissleman, Scott Sivera and Monty Roberts along with Shy Boy, and the other horses went back to the ranch. Monty had proved – even in front video cameras – that he could 'join up' with a horse in the wild, and have it rideable within four days, by 'communicating' with the horse, instead of using fear as motivation. 

The book goes on to talk about a tour Monty did and one of the most difficult horses he has worked with. But everyone was asking: if Shy Boy was released back to his herd, would he return to Monty, or stay? About a year after Shy Boy came in from the wild, there was a round up at the ranch. Caleb rode Shy Boy, and he and Monty worked together at pushing the cattle back to the yards. It was Shy Boy's first round up, and he was doing well. They took the cattle back to the yards, and selected the cows they wanted to take back the ranch. That evening Shy Boy's herd came close and Shy Boy saw them. Monty said to Caleb “This is what we are here for; it's time to see what happens.” Straight away Shy Boy galloped toward the herd. Would he come back?

Monty didn't sleep that night. In the morning when still no Shy Boy came, Caleb and Monty were both discouraged. They prepared to leave, as slowly as possible. But... “Then I heard Caleb's little sister, Tara, call out, “Hey, look there; it's Shy Boy. He's come back. ….” Everyone in the camp was silent.” He looked at the herd a couple of times hesitatingly, and started to walk toward the camp. Then:“Shy Boy was running at a full gallop straight towards us. He gave a loud, clear whinny.” Shy Boy came back!

What makes this book even more amazing is this is what God wants to do with us. He wants to 'join up' with us. Just as Shy Boy had to accept Monty's leadership, so we have to accept and trust God. Shy Boy also chose for a time to go back to his herd and old ways. Sometimes we leave God's side.
But when Shy Boy returned, he wasn't turned away, but accepted with rejoicing. It is the same when we return to God; all heaven rejoiceth!

08 February, 2015

Day Five - The Hard Times

 Life isn't easy for everyone. And even those who seem to have it easy, still have hard times. Like, they happened to everyone. Here's a few paragraphs out of One Thousand Gifts, that made me think about those hard times in a different way. I'd never thought about it like this before...

“Trauma's storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie.
I draw all the hurting voices close and I tough their scars with a whisper: sometimes we don't fully see that in Christ, because  of Christ, through Christ, He does give us all things good -  until we have the perspective of years.
In time, years, dust settles.
In memory, ages, God emerges.
Then when we look back, we see God's back.
Wasn't that too His way with Moses? “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back” (Exodus 33:22-23 NIV).
Is that it? When it gets dark, it's only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with his hand? In the pitch, I feel like I'm falling , sense the bridge giving way, God long absent. In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams. But maybe this is the true reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't  see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterely alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look.
Then we look back and see His back.
I look in my rearview mirror. The bridge I cross on the way to the chapel has fallen behind the hills. I can still see, in memory, the river's winding light, mirror on moving water.
God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors.
And I've an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God's back in the rearview mirror.
Maybe sometimes about as far as heaven – that kind of distance.
Then to turn, and see His face.” One Thousand Gifts p 156,157

I like that – God is passing in the dark places. This too reminds me of the song, “He Hideth my Soul”

“He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry thirsty land;
He hideth my soul in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand.”

Here's what I wrote about this song almost three years ago: “I never used to like this song, to me it seemed long, boring and meaningless. But that changed when I heard someone else's thoughts about it. If God is covering us with His hand, everything that comes to us: sorrow, suffering, trial - is sifted through His fingers first! God only allows things to happen to us when they've passed by, through Him! “And covers me there with his hand.” Now this song has a special meaning.”And to be honest, I've liked it ever since.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this - how you 'deal' with trials? Where do you think God is in the darkness? 
Jessica xxx :)