It’s ok to sleep

We recently went to Darwin to visit Tim’s youngest brother and his wife (YAY). We came into this trip off the back of a number of unusually full weeks and Tim and I were both exhausted and recovering from illness.

Whilst there we had the opportunity to attend their once a month church gathering. We arrived 30 minutes early to take a look around and observe Mark and Christine in their ‘natural environment’. My darling Bella decided to throw a stellar tantrum about 3 minutes after the service officially started, complete with body thrashing, screaming and hitting. It really was rather impressive, so I’ll give her points for that. After removing ourselves from the main hall, I tried all my (patient) mum techniques and finally managed to calm her down. We rejoined the rest of humanity and I placed Tim in charge of both my little cherubs. I tried to engage in worship, but seriously, I had nothing. As I looked around the room at people’s heartfelt ‘worship’ faces, I couldn’t help but be amazed that they had any energy left to stand, let alone sing. I looked up at the lyrics of the song on the big screen and read:

“All the Sons and Daughters,

Wake up from your sleep.”

And man, all honestly, I just wanted to punch someone in the head. Wake up! You’ve got to be kidding me, I’m a working mum with small kids, I’m always awake. Goodness me, how much more am I meant to be giving? I exhaustedly told God that I didn’t want to wake up, I actually just wanted to sleep.

You know what I heard Him say?

He said, “That’s ok Babe. It’s ok to sleep, you’re exhausted.”

Phew.

When I heard Him say that, I felt so much release. He gave me permission to feel tired without guilt. I realised that He does see me in my current season and instead of being disappointed in me, He is cheering me on. I felt so much liberation that I packed up my two tired girls in the van and drove them home to sleep and rest.

It’s funny how I sometimes slip back into performance with God instead of authentic relationship. Sometimes, I still get caught up in comparison, not just with others, but also with my past seasons that I lock myself in a prison of self-criticism.

What I’m continuing to learn in this season is the fine art of balance and acceptance. Acceptance of myself and how I function as a mum, friend, employee, wife, daughter and sister. Sometimes I can’t give what I want and I have much less to offer than I have been able to in past, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. Let me repeat… it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. If my capacity is less than someone else’s, that doesn’t mean I’m not living a full life. I am not less, I am me.

And so, there may have been other mums in that church hall with screaming kids hanging off their arms, able to sing that song with all their heart and that’s great. I can cheer them on without feeling competitive or bitter and I hope that they can cheer me on, (whilst I sleep) without judgment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kid-free day, so I’m going to hang out the washing, make myself a second coffee and read my latest lighthearted acquisition “That Hathaway Girl”.

Love Jess xxoo

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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

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

A day in the prayer room by Jess

Tim recently blogged about a night on the streets and Vila Mimosa, so I thought I would give you a glimpse into what happens in the prayer room. It won’t be as shocking, but it’s the results of all that the teams are doing on the streets at night.

The prayer room runs on the fifth floor of a six-story building and is open 24 hours during the whole of the World Cup (with plans to continue beyond).  Specific groups or individuals take 2 hour shifts leading worship and prayer, each with their own approach and style. People from different churches regularly come and go, so the intercom at the gate is constantly buzzing to let people up. There are other businesses in the building running during the day and controlling the noise level can be difficult at times. Sometimes the room is full with passionate prayers while other times it is very quite and I secretly wonder if the others have fallen asleep. It is an incredible place to be in.

This particular Thursday I got the to prayer room at 11am and as usual, started telling God how awesome I think He is. I love praising God in a suburb where people praise a lot of other things. I lift up my love to Him. I proclaim that He is Lord and the King of Kings. I read my bible and journal what I’m thinking. Then, I worship Him some more.

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Every Thursday at about 2pm we host a lunch for the women of Vila Mimosa and other red-light areas that the teams have been going to. This week there were about seven women and about nine kids. Needless to say it felt like there were a lot of kids in the small lunch space… all with nothing to do. Although I couldn’t do much, I asked God to use what I had and what I had was a few pieces of paper and some felt pens. I sat on the concrete floor surrounded by beautiful little faces and taught the younger ones how to make paper boxes and pinwheels while their mums had a break. While I played colouring, the other Liberdade team had an opportunity to talk with the women without distraction.

I made friends with (or more accurately was befriended by) an amazing ten-year-old named Erick. He loved being taught how to make the paper boxes and seemed to be everywhere I went. He made me a flower and I’m telling you now, I will keep it for the rest of my life.

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Later, after playing 1-2-3-shoot, Erick and I sat on the floor talking until my Portuguese ran out. I went to get some more paper for us to draw on and grabbed my Brazilian friend Endrew (yes, with an ‘E’) to translate what he could. Erick told me about how his dog had just died, how he could draw a dragon, how he wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut and how he liked coming to the prayer room. He asked me if this place was a church. I said that we weren’t, but that we all loved Jesus. I showed him the prayer wall (I’m not sure what else to call it) and he said he wanted to write something. “What should I write?” he asked. I told him “Write whatever is in your heart”. He wrote Jesus is the best (Jesus e melhor) and you know what, Jesus really is.

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After a while a few more Brazilians started connecting with Erick and my heart was so happy even though I was completely exhausted. Erick left around 6pm and I hope to see him again in the next week and a bit.

What an amazing opportunity to speak into this young boys life! In Vila Mimosa there is a sign that says “This place is dedicated to the demon of alcohol and the black demon”. There are lots of negative things spoken over this kid and his beautiful mum, but not this particular Thursday. Not when he was with me, not in the prayer room.

Imagine if Erick had people around him that believed he was smart and could become a fireman or an astronaut. Imagine if He believed that Jesus is the best for the rest of his life. Imagine if a whole generation of prostitutes’ kids experienced the love of God and had a heavenly perspective of their value. I know that the mums and other women were impacted and continue to be impacted by the relationships they are building, but God is also doing something with the kids as well.

(Journaling with a two-year old in tow)

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If God asked Tim and I to quit our jobs and travel all the way to Brazil just so I could meet Erick and he could meet God… it would be worth it. I believe God is an extravagant God (just look at the stars) and he would ask us to spend a lot of money to reach one 10-year-old boy in the back streets of Rio. How much is one life worth to him? $10,000? $1,000,000? I know it is so much more. Obviously, I believe we are touching more than one life, but seriously, it is about each individual story and heart. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to see all the physical, emotional and spiritual needs, but I just have to stand back and watch which power overcomes. Some may call this fanciful, but I call it faith and hope.

I don’t go on the street outreach at night, because the travel home isn’t safe for me by myself, but I can pray. I can lift God’s name high. I can love a prostitute’s child and I will. The work the teams do at night and the deeper connections that happen during the day are a beautiful example of the church working together. We each have our part to play regardless of our skills, denomination or specific calling.

(The sign in sheets for the prayer room)

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Realistically my time in the prayer room isn’t always easy. Sometimes I’m the only one there. Sometimes the music is so-so or I don’t know the songs or I’m hungry or I’m tired. But I truly do love it. The more time I spend with God, the more I love Him. And the more I love Him, the more I love others. That really is what it’s all about.

Love Jess xxoo

I want a secretly incredible heart by Jess

I recently read a book called Love Does by Bob Goff. While I was a little overwhelmed by Bob’s enormous capacity, a lot of the things he shared resonated within my heart. Here are a few quotes from chapter 24, entitled Lose the Cape:

He [Jesus] healed two guys who were blind, and He gave them one admonition before moving on: “Say nothing to anyone.” In a world driven by self-promotion and spin, Jesus modelled something different for us. Jesus was saying that instead of telling people about what we’re doing all the time, there’s a better way. One that doesn’t require any capes that can get snagged on something – something like ourselves. Maybe Jesus wants us to be secretly incredible instead.

Most of the time, mission statements are just a catchy sentence or two about how noble the task is,
and maybe by implication, how noble we are.

… Don’t take the bait that if we do incredible things Jesus will dig us more. He can’t. He already digs us more.

It’s people like us who can be secretly incredible and get the most done. That’s the way Jesus’ reverse economy works.

Seriously good stuff Bob. Personally, it’s an interesting tension for me, wanting to be secretly awesome, but trying to keep people up-to-date on what we’re doing. Perhaps it all comes down to motive and only God can really tell what is going on in a person’s heart. The idea of self-promotion and spin from Christians is incredibly uncomfortable for me. However, I don’t think Bob is pointing a finger at ‘famous’ Christians either. You can be secretly awesome speaking in front of thousands of people or listening to the troubles of a stranger on the street, just like you can also be secretly prideful speaking in front of thousands of people or listening to the troubles of a stranger.

No matter what I do, I want to be secretly incredible in God’s eyes. I know I already am because of what Jesus did for me, but I want my heart to be secretly incredible as well.

Love Jess xxoo

From Point A to Point B by Jess

Remember, God takes a long time to act quickly.

I think it’s very easy to come into someone’s story mid-way and think it looks effortless, however there is always a big journey from Point A to Point B to C, D and so on.pointatob

Our journey between point A and B, was the point from knowing God was calling us on to something and finally figuring out what it was. We hope that as we post about what happens from here on, that you will be inspired and encouraged to follow the path you feel God is placing before you. However, please keep in mind that there has been about an additional 18 months that has led us to this point. 18 months full of questions and uncertainty. Months full of God changing our hearts and giving us promises and words to hold onto. It was a season of spiritual highs and lows and we have learnt a lot about what God has placed in us. I am glad for the journey between point A and point B, because otherwise I wouldn’t be ready for what’s next, but believe me… it was a daily journey of listening to Daddy God and being open to anything and everything.

So, thanks for joining us. Talk soon.

Love Jess xxoo