When Faith and Hope run out

I have a friend my age that has a chronic illness. I have a friend who is in her late thirties and longs to find a life companion. I know someone who suffers through the heartbreaking disappointments of wanting to fall pregnant. I know others who struggle through the dark complexity of mental health issues. As a “person of faith” aka a Jesus-lover, sometimes I have great faith. Faith so strong that I know in my very soul that something good is going to happen; be it a physical healing, a new job or a mended relationship. Other times, I have hope. Hope in people, hope for a fresh start, or hope that this time I’ll see my prayers answered. And then, and then my dear friends… there are times when my faith and hope have depleted and it’s too painful to even dare to pick them up. I feel faithless and hopeless, with no answers and no end in sight. My heart is downcast.

There are some incredible commentaries on 1 Corinthians 13, but recently I have been thinking about verse 13 in particular:

 Three things will last forever
— faith, hope, and love —
and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

Three things will last forever – it’s an interesting notion, especially when at times it feels like those exact three things have faded from my heart. However, if they do in fact last forever like the verse says, then they must be intricately linked. Therefore, if the greatest one is said to be love, surely it’s something I should take note of and turn to in a personal crisis. Personally, when I spend time receiving love from God, I’m surprised by the way hope finds its way back into my heart. Then, after a little while (and even more love), hope builds and eventually produces embers that ignite into faith.

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Many of you know my journey with pregnancy and some of you don’t. In a nutshell it took 3 and a half years, one miscarriage, many, many blood tests and doctors visits to see our first child into the world. During this journey, some months I would be full of faith. I would believe with all my heart that this time was ‘the month’ so much so that I would go out and buy nappies as a ‘step of faith’. Some months I would have hope, hope that held onto promises in God’s word and prophecies that people had given me. Other months, I had nothing except my knowledge that God loved me and that He was holding me through my pain. I didn’t have faith and I couldn’t find hope, so I would just tell God that I had nothing that month and knew that others around me would have to do it on my behalf.

If you don’t have faith for a personal miracle and can’t find hope that your situation will ever change, let me encourage you to let go of everything else and just let yourself be loved. As Christians often say ‘camp out in love’. This means that you don’t have to force your faith or hope. Just close your eyes and ask Father God to show you His love. Remember, don’t force yourself to feel something you don’t, simply ask to see His heart, then, ask again the next day and the next day and the next day. You’ll never be disappointed focusing on that – camping there. You can always find rest by being loved by the best Father that ever was. I can promise you, that as you get a greater revelation of His indescribable love, hope will inevitably come and eventually, so will faith.

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Allow me to interrupt this nice warm fuzzy moment… couldn’t that be overly simplifying things? What about people in deep depression who can’t feel any love? What about people who don’t see a physically healing and no longer have faith for one? Ok, let’s go deeper…

I’ve have already alluded to it, but let me give you my thoughts about how this can work. When you can’t feel love, experience hope and find faith, in steps what the bible calls “The Bride of Christ” – which basically means other Jesus followers. When I’m authentic with other Jesus-lovers about what’s in my heart, they can help me out when I lack something. No love? Boom, they can pray about the barriers that are keeping me from feeling love. No hope? They can have hope on my behalf that things will be brighter and can encourage me on the journey. And lastly, if I’m lacking faith, I can lean on theirs. Of course it works both ways – even if you don’t have faith, hope and love in your own life and circumstances, it’s surprising how sometimes you find it for someone else.

I see this constantly in my own life, not only with my husband, but also in my relationships with others like my sister; always patient, always kind, not jealous or rude or proud. They love me in all my seasons, inspire hope when things feel hopeless and stir up faith. Deeply trusting and authentic relationships built on unconditional love are a beautiful gift. Plus, these are earthly relationships with limits on the amount of time and energy we can offer each other. This leads me to ponder how much more does God want to give us? We may not see answers to every prayer, but I believe we can always experience love. If I am lacking faith, hope or love, I can allow my life-affirming friends to intercede on my behalf to a willing God. I believe God is a good God, so breakthrough will inevitably come and love will be released.

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God’s love never fails and I know this to be true. How do I know this? Because I have spent a lot of time being loved by Him when my hope and faith had faded. So, I say it again, if all else fails, camp out in love; it really is the greatest.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 (NLT)

 Love Jess xxoo

The Dark Secrets Hidden in your Tea: A Twinings Investigation

Although I’m usually a coffee person, I have recently increased my tea intake and trying new blends. As with most thing, this led me on an ethical journey to discover the story behind the brands I’m drinking. This is what I found out about one popular company Twinings & Co.

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The good ol’ Twinings & Co company sells Twinings of London, a large range of delicious teas for around $2.70 AUS in a pack of 10. Every now and then they have a special of $0.99 AUS and we all rejoice… but my friends there is a reason why you can buy tea for this price. The reports from 2015 and 2016 are not good:

  • 2015, BBC investigation found workers were paid so little they lived in horrible conditions, suffering from malnutrition and illness. Workers were also exposed to chemicals with no health and safety standards. On some estates, it was found that child labour was being used.
  • 2015, Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare scored Twinings a tier 6 on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. Tier 6 is the worst score a company can receive.
  • 2016, Newsweek Green Ranking of 34.2 out of 100 when measured against 8 indicators: energy, greenhouse gas, water, waste, fines and penalties, relating executive pay to sustainability targets, board oversight of environmental issues and external audits.
  • 2016, Rank a Brand (for use of cotton) scored Twinings 2 out of 19.5, making it one of the lowest performing companies assessed.
  • 2016, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard ranked this company equal last on their agriculture sourcing policies with a score of 36%
  • 2016, given an ethical rating of F from Shop Ethical (the lowest possible score)

However, don’t throw out your tea bags yet, there are some great alternatives out there. Yes, they are more expensive, but the thought that my tea is keeping someone else’s child in forced labour horrifies me. I will not support modern-day slavery once I’m aware of what’s happening.

Let me offer three alternatives:

Peppermint Tea: English Tea Shop

  • 100% Fair-trade certified – sometimes Brands use a percentage of fair-trade products so they can put the logo on their packaging, this one is 100% fair-trade
  • NON GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) project verified nongmoproject.org
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.

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Camomile and mint: Planet Organic

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Camomile and Apple alternative: Pukka Planet

  • 100% Fair-trade certified
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.
  • Environmentally friendly packaging including envelopes.

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I hope this blog has opened your eyes a little to how YOU can fight against modern slavery and help change the environment. Another popular brand to stay well away from is Tetley as it also ranks an ‘F’ on the Shop Ethical website. Bushells, Liptons and T2 all receive a ‘C ‘rating, so they pass, but it’s up to you to decide what you believe is acceptable.

I personally don’t want to be so removed from the production of the what I eat and drink (and wear) that I embrace a consumerist attitude towards my planet’s resources that keeps other in bondage and negatively impacts on future generations. The good news is that with tea, there are a number of positive brands including: Lotus Peak, Nature’s Cuppa, Madura, Dilmah and Nerada. So, the power is in your wallet and in your cup.
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Yes, the issue of ethical consumption can be a bit of a rabbit warren, but if you are interested in it, start somewhere. Why not start with your tea and help someone feed their family?

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Love Jess xxoo

PS – I wrote this while drinking my English Tea Shop peppermint tea and it was delicious!

References:

The Bitter Story behind the UK’s national Drink

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare – 2015 Report

Newsweek Green Ratings – 2016

Rank a Brand – Top brands failing on Cotton Sustainability

Oxfam, Behind the Brands April 2016 Company Scorecard

The last few days – Unsurprisingly by Jess

 

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The last few days have been filled with some hilarious and horrendous moments. I thought I’d share some of the funnier ones and yes, some things are funnier once everyone is in bed and finally asleep.

Saturday 27th June

During a rather one-sided conversation about a certain little girl going for a ride on a unicorn, I realised that I hadn’t actually explained to Amy that those fabled creatures aren’t real. She was pretty devastated for about a minute and then went on to talk about pink and purple horses. One thing at a time.

Monday 29th June

Today I was Amy free, which was a blessing, but also made me miss her. After picking her up, we drove home:

A: Mum, do you have a lollipop?

J: No I don’t

A: No, you do

J: No Amy, I really don’t

A: Noooooo, you do

J: I can promise you Amy, I don’t have a lollipop

A: You do (getting seriously annoyed)

J: I don’t (getting seriously annoyed back)

Slight pause

A: Mum, do you have a pizza?

J thinking: I’m just going to pretend she’s not there.

Wednesday 1st July

Number 1. This morning while hanging out in Bella’s room, Amy was looking at the painting Tim did for Bella:

A: Daddy’s going to paint one for Shadow (our cat) with red and pink and yellow, like horses running and a unicorns with a black tail.

J thinking: Sounds awful, but fifty years from now it could be worth a fortune

Number 2. After struggling for an hour and a half to get Bella to go to and actually stay asleep, Amy came to tell me the good news:

A: Bella’s asleep

J: Oh YAY!

A: You did it Mum!

J thinking: I can’t feel my arms! How will I drink coffee?

Number 3. Just before bath time:

A: I’m pretty tired Mummy. I have eyes in my soap.

J thinking: I know the feeling

The last few days have been tough, the kind of tough that makes you want to go for a long, long drive to nowhere in particular with just you and your favourite music. This afternoon, as I sat feeding Bella for the forth time in so many hours, I thought about the pains and struggles in my own life and the lives of others around me. I know this is part of the adventure, it is all part of our story, but man it’s exhausting.

b623e07f5bda4b73b774f9a60283a5b4As I sit here, I look forward to tomorrow. What hilarious thing will Amy say? Which little smile will Bella give me? Who will Whatsapp me telling me that they are feeling better? Tomorrow fills me with hope. So, if you’re having a tough one, don’t worry, you are not alone. You made it through today and I am so proud of you! Chin-up, we can do this.

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Love Jess xxoo

Living simply this Christmas by Jess

Last year Australian’s spent 43 billion on Christmas. This included 17 billion on food and 2.4 billion in tax-deductible giving.

“If Australians gave even just one dollar out of every hundred spent this
Christmas to someone living in poverty that would raise $400 million.”
– TEAR Australia

I actually love Christmas and buying presents for people, but because of a tight budget and broader global perspective, we are trying to approach Christmas simply. Christmas doesn’t have to be ridiculously excessive or too commercial, it can be wonderfully simple.

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This year our Christmas present list is very small, consisting of Amy, her cousins, our neighbour, a donation to the UN and getting on board with the Random Acts of Christmas initiative. When thinking about what type of presents to buy for Amy’s older cousins, I didn’t want to get them another thing. They already have so much and in recent years, we have tried to give people experiences and memories over things.

With this in mind, Amy’s 6 and 4 year-old cousins will be getting a cooking experience to share with their mum (inspired by this list of non-toy gifts.) In cahoots with my brother and his fiancé, we have put together the ingredience for some chocolate chip cookies along with some accessories they can use again. Simplifying life doesn’t mean boring, it means being creative in the small things as well as the big. What’s one thing you can do this Christmas to simplify?

The recipe we’re using is from the Sweetest Menu, because I know the author and have experienced how yummy these cookies are.

“Live simply so others can simply live.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Love Jess xxoo

PS – If you know Amy’s older cousins, don’t tell them what their present is… haha.

One for Tim by Jess

He is strong and lifts other people up…

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He adventures on (our) uncharted waters with a smile and great courage…

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He cares for me and sends me things like this…

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He is genuinely interested in and cares for others…

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He cares for this little monkey…

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Sometimes he drives me crazy… (no one should see this pic any bigger than it is)

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He helps me find a way when I’m not sure what’s ahead…

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He thinks it’s perfectly logical to order a meal like this (don’t worry, he was sharing it)…

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He’s happy to share something he’s learned and help you understand it…

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He can take these panoramic pictures…

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He carries a lot and makes it look easy…

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I love him…

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Love Jess xxoo

Half a Loaf by Jess

Luke 9:12-17

Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”

But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” For there were about 5,000 men there.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” So the people all sat down.  

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!

A few observations

  • Jesus asked them to do something they really couldn’t do. The need was far too great for the resources they had.
  • They gave him what they had even while they questioned his logic. Did He really just ask them to feed 5,000 men (plus women and children)?
  • Jesus’ answer was not the same as theirs. They thought they were going to buy bread, but what happened was for more amazing.
  • When Jesus took what they had and multiplied it, He not only met the need, but went beyond that so there was essentially a basket left over for each disciple.

Most of the time, I feel like those loaves and fish, not enough to meet the need. Honestly, sometimes all I have is half a loaf without the fish. When I read this story, I feel like it reaches out of the depths of time and meets me where I’m at.

There are many days when all I have for my daughter, my marriage or for other people is half a loaf. I feel exhausted, wishing I were more. I wish I were like other people who seem to have endless energy and mental capacity; that folks, is not who I am. Most of the time, I’m actually pretty ok with being me. Nevertheless, I have my days when I don’t have a whole lot and I wonder if I’m a disappointment.

What fills me with hope from this testimony in Luke is that there is so much left over from the little that they had in the beginning. Not only does God multiply what we offer Him, He provides more. He doesn’t leave us high and dry with nothing left. He doesn’t take every scrap and leave us starving… I think we often do that to ourselves.

I recently penned these words while discussing this very problem with God…

“I may feel like I don’t have much, but I’ll give you what I have. Ha, ha… you’ll seriously have to do the rest.”

So chin-up, He does a heck of a lot with a little.

Love Jess

A Major Update: Trust without borders

Since January 2014 until now, we have slept in 24 locations and had 14 flights (not including domestic transfers). Our family has travelled through five countries and stayed in 20 different cities/towns. During this time we’ve met many people who have inspired us and seen sights that have amazed us. Our experiences have changed us greatly and it certainly has been an adventure!

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Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Lyrics from Oceans, Hillsong

Well… It’s time to update you all on what’s been going on behind the scenes over the last two months and let you know what’s in store for the Greenwood clan.

Firstly, from us to you, THANKS. Thank to all the people who have prayed for us, followed our journey, given money, sent us emails and FaceBook messages and encouraged us when we needed it. Some of you are from Aus, some the USA, some Brazil and the list is growing. Without you, this journey would have been a lot harder. We honour you for taking time out of your busy lives and in-putting into ours.

Now for the update, we originally planned on spending a year in Thailand in Chiang Mai with a group called Destiny Rescue. However because of some visa complications and changes this is no longer possible at this time, there may be other options in the future. In knowing this we’ve been waiting to see what doors God would open.

So the Greenwoods flew into Thailand uncertain of what we would be doing in two weeks but feeling peaceful without knowing the next step. After a few days in Bangkok (spent mostly in hospital with Influenza A), we headed to Patong, Phuket for a missions conference. The conference was not only inspiring, but also provided us with connections all over Asia.

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A few things have helped us decide what the next step is:

1. Re-reading the ‘about us’ section of our blog and coming back to what we felt God was calling us to do.

2. The realisation that once we fall pregnant again, we’ll need to ‘settle’ somewhere and will probably be unable to move around as much. This is a unique season.

3. Going back over a few prophetic words that emphasise the importance of timing and that there was something we were meant to do for a specific time.

4. Our interest in human trafficking/prostitution and therefore community transformation.

With all this in mind… we have (scarily) decided that perhaps our travels aren’t over yet. We feel that we’re meant to continue to travel to a few more groups around Asia to serve and observe what they are doing. It’s all about following God’s direction for where to go and how long to stay.

The complexities of constant travel are not unfamiliar to us. There are the cultural changes, language barriers, unfamiliar environments and looking into visas and flights which is never easy. However, when we talk about this idea, we’re filled with excitement and peace. We can set our own pace and we know what our family can and can not handle more these days.

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There is an organisation called Doctors without Borders. DWB are doctors who provide medical care to people regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation, because they believe that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries. We believe that God is asking us to trust him without borders. That no matter where He opens doors (regardless of gender, race, religion, creed of political affliction), we trust God and are called to serve people no matter what country they are in. We trust God without limitations, without borders.

So what have you been doing the last few weeks, I hear you ask? Great question. After Phuket we headed up to Chiang Mai with The River team where our friends, Rudy and Lara are based. We’ve been able to see a lot of what they do here, as well as rest, reflect and recover from various illnesses.

What’s next? On Monday we’ll catch a bus for 3 hours and have four days with Destiny Rescue in Chiang Rai before we head over to Vietnam to visit two groups there. After that, we honestly have no idea at this point. One step at a time.

So watch this space, the grand adventure continues. Perhaps we’ll be back in Australia in two months, or not until the end of next year. Only God knows. We will keep you up to date as best as we can. We’re taking a walk on the water with Jesus (Picture below by Dana Jensen) and that is pretty exciting!

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To live IS an awfully big adventure.

Love Tim, Jess & Amy xxoo

4 songs for the season by Jess

Dear friends, I just thought I’d share four songs that have meant a lot to me during the last few months. These songs have been a source comfort, strength and encouragement in moments when I have felt both very weak and very strong.  I’ve pulled out just a line or two that have really spoken to me, I hope they speak to you as well.

Click on each title to access the song.

We Dance – Bethel Music, You make me Brave
I’ve been told, to pick up my sword and fight for love
Little did I know that love had won for me P1030104

(Figure 8 Island, Willmington, North Carolina)

Carry On – Heartland, Alive in You
Because when I’m weak you make me strong
You make me strong enough to carry on P1020768

(Redwood National Park, California)

Hoist Your Sail – Archaeologist, Before the Start
Darling lift your eyes, can you see that sunrise
Think of what this brings, a new day that begs to be explored

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(View from our apartment in Rio de Janeiro)

Give me Jesus – Bethel Music, Tides
The original hymn is an old African-American spiritual written during the time of slavery in the Untied States.

You can have all this world, give me Jesus P1030556 copy

(Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro)

Love Jess xxoo

Some happy snaps by Tim

Redding – A beautiful farm, wonderful animals and some good relaxation P1020687

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“Hello Horsey!” (Pony) was Amy’s adventure every morning, she was in heaven with so many animals to see!

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Coffee, coffee, coffee at Brew!

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Combined Churches Good Friday service in Redding. AMAZING!

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This crazy man is Chad. He’s a world changer and fire master! He and his wife Julia always encourage and inspire us. It was so great to see them.

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This little kid melts our hearts everyday. It’s been such an blessing creating some incredibly family memories together.

Redwoods – One of the most amazing places we’ve ever experienced. Momentous and spiritually inspiring!

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These trees are hundreds (some over a thousand) of years old and have been growing in secret beyond our reach. But God knew them all, even before they were giants, He saw them grow.

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Wilmington, North Carolina – Love this place! (Jess has declared she’s moving here :-P)

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Our good friends Mike and Karen – We met these guys at a conference in Pennsylvania when we came to the US in 2011. It was a quick but divine connection. We spent 5 days with them in Wilmington and had a blast.

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Wilmington… where Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, Iron Man 3 and half of Nicholas Sparks movies were shot.

P1020930 P1020959Amy loved ‘Uncle’ Mike

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Bottles and bottles!

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Watching Little League. A truly American past time and so much fun!

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P1030029“GO Nationals!”

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Amy’s first time on a boat, lucky she had her turtle life jacket.

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Brave, ready to take on the world.

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My girls – Dancing free!

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BFFs – Even after a month of travelling 😉

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Lunch on the boat after exploring Figure 8 Island. We shared our vegemite sandwiches!

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Thank you Wilmington… Until we meet again.

Sweet Confessions by Jess

Confession time, I really love hymns. I know, it’s not exactly eyebrow raising stuff, but stay with me. Sometimes when my emotions are going all over the place, I stop, put on some hymns and all is well… queue singing ‘It is well’. There is a particular version of ‘Tis so sweet by Leah Mari that I love and yes, I sing it a lot at the moment.

Louisa M. R. Stead penned the lyrics to this powerful song and although not much is known about her, it is believed she wrote these words after seeing her husband drown and then endured extreme poverty with her daughter. Wow, what a heart in love with Jesus.

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

For me, sometimes trusting God can be difficult, so I sing these words to remind myself of all He is to me and all he has done for me. As I think about various parts of our little trip – well lets face it, it’s really almost every part – nothing has been finalised and that can be unnerving at times. Nevertheless, I will not let fear take a hold as I look to the future with my unanswered questions.

I would hate people to read this and think that singing a song is all I need to get me through or (on the other hand) that I am doubting what God is saying to us. The reality is that I do not like being uncertain and I would much prefer to feel safe and secure. However, by saying yes to God, I am saying that I am safe and secure in Him, not in my own strength, abilities or plans. We can make plans, but He is Lord (Proverbs 16:9).

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Many times I find it easy to trust Him, but other times it is a choice. Right now, I sing this song and I choose to trust Him and of course I pray for grace to trust Him more. So I guess my confession is that I don’t like the unknown, but I know someone who knows it all and I’m continually learning to trust Him more. In my books, that’s pretty sweet.

Love Jess xxoo

P.S – I’m not actually sure who reads these little posts apart from our mums, but if you’re not a hymn lover or even a Christian you can listen to Leah’s version of the whole song here.