On my birthday Elikem asked me what three things am I thankful for in my life. I thought about this, as he cooked me dinner, and I decided on these three things: 1) the experience of my experiences, 2) love passion and hope, and 3) daring to dream. I spent the rest of dinner unpacking my thoughts and thankfulness with Elikem and have since written it all down. I have enjoyed thinking about this, reflecting on it, and have added some of my photos, and even some music links into this post 🙂 So here are my thoughts of thankfulness at 32!
1) The experience of experiences
In the three decades I have been on planet earth I have experienced a wealth of experiences, from the every day to the out of the ordinary.
I have travelled to over 50 countries over 6 continents. I have met people from a myriad of backgrounds, beliefs, races, and lifestyles. I have watched countless sunsets and sunrises and loved every one. This picture is one I love: it is a photograph I took at a beach festival in Southern India of a man and his daughter enjoying the sunset together. I love special moments like this: both in my life and the lives of others.
I have spent a number years here in Liverpool, gaining experience as I trained to be a nurse, and then in working as one for many years that followed. I have seen life as raw as it gets in hospital wards, both here and overseas. I have been at the bedside of those in pain, those going through trauma, those who feel hopeless, and of those whose lives were slipping away. These experiences have taught me more than I could ever have learned in a classroom, they have given me the insight and compassion, opened my eyes and given me a backbone. I am so thankful for these years.
I’ve experienced the joys of many friendships, near and far, and live with cherished memories of laughter and silliness, fun and closeness.
I have experienced the love and treasured the closeness of being part of my ever expanding family and the delight that blossoms with every new member! And more recently I have known the great privilege of being part of my husband’s family, and experienced the warmth of being welcomed in as their own.
I have experienced the support and belonging of being part of my local church, and the richness it has brought to my life. In my life I have experienced pain and difficulty, sadness and loss. In those times my experiences brought me understanding and wisdom, more compassion and deeper faith. I have experienced a God who loves me and continue to experience the just how unfathomable that love really is.
And I have had the immense joy and privilege of experiencing a great marriage, one I feel was heaven sent. I know I am incredibly blessed.
In all these experiences and so many more I have found life runs a little deeper and richer inside me, and I am thankful for that.
2) A Great Love, Great Passions and A Great Hope
I heard this phase recently: “To be truly happy a human just needs to have someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.” I wasn’t sure if I agreed at first, but it played on my mind as I thought about it. I found there was a lot of truth in it. I feel this phase is good, but I would make alterations to it – I would say every human needs: “a great love, great passions and a great hope”.
A Great Love: I think a ‘great love’ is someone you love, who loves you with a love that brings you radiantly alive, enables you to be your very best, and who completely and totally meets the deep need for love inside you.
I have experienced so much incredible love in my life – generous love, sacrificial love, unconditional love, joy filled love, crazy love, tough love, and broken love. Love is what this life is all about.
Because we are all human I believe the fullest love we can experience is the love of God. Although I love my husband immensely, and know his love for me is immeasurable, I know there is a need inside me no human can ever meet fully. It is too much to ask one human to meet the greatest need of another. Only God can meet our need for being loved with a love deeper than anything we can find in our broken world. His love is vast and wide, steadfast and constant, deep and unwavering. Another reason I truly believe this is because as I know this love is within the reach of every human on the planet, whether single, widowed, divorced or alone. I have found this to be true in my darkest moments, and know the times I have been most fulfilled in life are when I have looked to my heavenly father to fulfil this need in me. I have found over my few years on this earth that the times I flourished most were in the times I looked to God with my whole heart and loved him the most. When I gave my love to Him were the times I felt most secure, steadfast and when I could experience his love for me the most. So I am thankful I have found my ‘great love’, and strive to continue to pursue this love for the rest of my life.
I love the song “One Thing Remains”, and it highlights the greatness of God’s love. Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KXsMCJgBQ
Great Passions: The next part: ‘something to do’ resounded with me as I love to be busy doing many things and live a full life. But to me I feel it is more than just having something to do: I believe we all need something to be passionate about doing! I’ve heard my mum say before: “love Jesus and do what you love”. I saw another quote which read “spend more time doing what your soul loves”. I echo these thoughts as I really feel life is too short to not do what you are passionate about.
I am speaking to myself here, as I would love to do more of the things I love. I am so thankful to have travelled so much, as it is a great love of mine. I am so glad to have written a thankfulness photography blog last year, as I loved doing that. I am thankful I have climbed mountains, jumped out of an aeroplane, listened to people’s hearts, taken risks, pursued my faith, chased freedom, explored my creativity, and danced like there’s nobody watching! So as I move forwards I would like to do more of what I am passionate about in small ways every day, like drawing a picture more often, getting out in nature and fresh air, playing with a child, laughing more, doing something about the things in the world that make me cry, writing, dancing, travelling (even if it is just an exploration of my own garden), connecting with others or sitting quietly in God’s presence. I am thankful that the past three decades have been filled with many of my passions, and I plan to fill the next few decades with many more of my great passions!
I LOVE watching the passion of others. This clip of Rodrigo y Gabriela playing their guitars at Glastonbury Festival. There is some passion right there!! It shows just how electrifying being part of someone’s passion can be (skip to 1 minute 10 seconds into the vid to get the best bits): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFabNGzmk0M
A Great Hope: The final part of the phrase I read was about hope. Hope in an inbuilt desire in all of us. It is something to live for, something to get out of bed in the morning for, and something to keep us going when the life is hard to take.
In 2009 I was in Uganda with my dad, and I was asked to preach at a church in a remote village. I decided to speak about hope. I spoke of hope being like eggs, and the thing you put your hope in being like the basket you put your eggs in. The old saying goes “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. In other words, don’t hope in one thing too much, as it will most likely fail you, disappoint you, and leave you hopeless.
One thing I have noticed is that the fear of having ones hopes dashed causes people to live safely, not taking risks. I have seen people stop hoping, dreaming or aspiring for too much. I have watched them avert the very real risks of being disappointed, let down, rejected or disheartened.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13 verse 12
Under the shade of a wooden roof in Uganda, with a Lugandan translator next to me I spoke to the rural congregation that morning about choosing a basket wisely to put your eggs in. And of daring to put your eggs, your hope, in that basket. I spoke of the things that so easily disappoint us, like money, circumstance, and even the people we love. I spoke of loss and sadness and how life can feel bleak at times. And then I spoke of a hope I believed in. I spoke of a hope that was constant, ever present and would never leave. I spoke of putting your hope in Jesus. I spoke of Him being the strongest basket you could ever imagine, one that would never break. He is worth putting all your eggs into. I spoke of a time when I felt everything around me was falling apart, knowing God’s love was constant is the very thing that gave me the hope I needed.
“but there’s one other thing i remember,
and remembering, i keep a grip on hope:
god’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
they’re created new every morning.
how great your faithfulness!” – Lamentations 3 verses 21-23
The bible says: put your heart (your hopes, your trust, your all) in God, because that is where your treasure will be also. God promises that he is a strong basket, sturdy and thief proof – your hopes, your trust, all that you are, is safe in Him.
As I write this I remember the words to the old hymn ‘My hope is built on nothing less’, written in 1834 by Edward Mote:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
You can listen to a modern version of this song called ‘Cornerstone’, by Hillsong at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvLxZEU02uI
Although countless things bring me happiness, like comfort, possessions or precious relationships, I realise more and more not to hope in them with everything I have, as we live in an imperfect and broken world. Real life is not a fairy tale. We are all subject to the disappointments, pain and heartaches of the world. So as I write this I am speaking to myself as I am reminded that there is no stronger basket to put my eggs in than hoping in the love of God and in trusting His ways. Through it all, I truly believe “that in all things God works for good” (Romans 8 verse 28), and even if I don’t understand life sometimes, I know looking back at my life so far that this has been the best thing I have put my hope in. I gain another perspective when I lift up my eyes and hope in something above myself and the world around me. In this way when the trials and disappointments of life come, I know I will always have a hope that remains.
3) Daring to Dream
Not every dream comes true. In fact, I’m sure most don’t. Many of my dreams have been shattered as I have navigated through life. But regardless I have always believed this:
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.” Psalm 37:4-5
I’ve always known that ‘hearts desires’ does not mean a nice car or a walk in wardrobe filled with designer clothes. But that it means something much deeper – that it means the real deep down desires of your heart. It also isn’t a stand alone comment, it says ‘take delight in the Lord AND he will give you your hearts desires. SO I realised from a young age that taking delight in the Lord might be a good way forward.
There is one dream I have held in my heart for many many years, since I was a child. This is to live my life in Africa. I have held this desire in my heart for over 20 years, and over the past 10 years I have been trying to figure out ways to make it happen, none of which worked out. And so now at 32, I am standing in a fair amount of awe that I am about to move to Ghana, West Africa. The most awe inspiring part for me is that I haven’t made any of this happen myself – I feel God intervened in 2012 and the rest has flourished from there.
So, I am almost holding my breath as I feel my dream of moving to Africa is about to come true. I know things won’t be easy, but I am ready to jump. As I embark on the journey of stepping into my dream, I continue to carry those verses in my heart, knowing that God does not place selfish dreams in our hearts, but ones that will bless others and bring glory to Him. I am so thankful I dared to dream, and I will continue to dare dreaming for so many other things in my life. As I go I go with open hands, continuing to hold my dreams up to Him, surrendering them to Him and trusting him for each step.
So to conclude my “thoughts at 32”, I am thankful for my experiences so far, thankful for my great love, passions, and hope, and thankful for the dreams I still pursue. I am excited as I walk forward into the next season of my life, with a thankful heart and hands held open.
I will finish with the words of the song, ‘10,000 Reasons’, by Matt Redman:
“Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes. Bless the Lord oh my soul.”
Listen to the rest of the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E