Restraining Grace, how sweet the sound


I suppose I knew what it was, but I’d never heard the phrase before… restraining grace.

It was in the context of a sermon. I’m paraphrasing here, but our pastor mentioned that though some testimonies of salvation are more dramatic and colourful than others, they are all the same. There is the same joy in heaven over every sinner who repents. He said that some people have a quieter, less eventful path to following Christ; the presence of a ‘restraining grace’.

2995807604_219f46cbf9Not for the first time, I wished I’d had that type of experience. Something that stopped me (or others) making mistakes that affected me negatively. Everyone has the same level of need of God, I believe; but my path left me with baggage and ‘stuff’ to deal with. I have memories I don’t want and experiences that I wish I’d missed.

The phrase has been rolling around in my head since then; restraining grace.

I’ve spent (wasted?) an awful lot of time asking God ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ over the years. I haven’t received many answers, and I probably won’t when I meet God face to face.

16261496311_f193b90ef1_mThen yesterday I shared something in a meeting. I told the story of how, as a teen, I was quite into tarot cards and ouija boards etc. I was already prone to nightmares, but during that season they were particularly bad. When I became a Christian, they were worse than ever. At that time, someone shared these verses with me from Philippians chapter 4, and encouraged me to put them into practise.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Instead of trying to stay awake as long as I could, so as to avoid nightmares, I made lists of things to think about. Noble things, admirable things, pure things. Eventually I was able to sleep. Over time the nightmares came less and less, and these days they are rare. Although I had one last night, interestingly…

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Peace

 

Yesterday I was able to share how I put verses into practise and  I testified to God’s promise that His peace would be with me, when I fixed my thoughts on what He said to.

So… I dipped my feet into the edges of the occult. I wish I hadn’t; but it led to me being able to share God’s faithfulness to His own words – a different kind of grace I think. I’m sure I’ve experienced a lot of restraining grace and just don’t realise it. Thankfully, His grace comes in many forms.

photo credits:
1. Stop via photopin (license)
2. Tarot cards, Oracle Cards, Runes, Crystal Healing, Divination Techniques via photopin (license)
3. I took this on hols. Kerry I think… peaceful :)

What’s love got to do with it?


Yesterday I was at a thanksgiving service for the life of a truly lovely lady.

372846331_e0b4166757_nIt was the first funeral I’ve been to since my Dad died in last March, so it caught me by surprise. I was sad to be saying goodbye to a woman who I was delighted to have as an aunty when I got married.  But I was not upset. She had a sure and certain hope of eternity with God, and we gathered to thank God for her life; rejoicing in hope that we would one day see her again.

What got me though – what caught me so that, for a just a few seconds, I could not get air in my lungs – was the open grave.

I’ve been to many funerals in my life, but the site of an open grave did not give me real pain, until my mother’s body was committed to the ground 10 years ago. And just last year when my dad was buried, I felt that same sharp pain of seeing the coffin lowered. It’s not easy to watch.

Different from my usual ‘Irish’ experience of funerals, my aunty was buried first. Then we went to the church for a service and some food. I liked it that way around, we did the hardest bit first.

3343669051_09d15d75df_nThe sight of an open grave though… the idea of putting someone you love in there… it made me think of when Jesus’ friends had to ask permission to take his body down. Then they placed Him in the borrowed tomb; someone else’s grave. No polished coffin with a brass name plate. No flowers, or photos of him. John 19 tells us that  His body was treated with spices and wrapped in cloths… by his own friends.

I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been.

A bit dismal for Valentine’s Day?

4744229511_c88aaa2d22_nWell, yesterday, people paid tribute to a woman who loved her family and loved her God. A woman who was loved by her God. We could place her body in that ugly open grave, comforted by resurrection truth.

It was all for love; God so LOVED THE WORLD that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

So no matter who responds, no matter who believes – we are ALL loved.   xx <3

 

photo credit: Six Feet Under via photopin (license)
photo credit; Garden Tomb 07 via photopin(license)
photo credit: Like This, I Love You, as You Smile so Light as the Water of the Spring…. via photopin (license)

Moving to the UK – it’s further than you think


small__8645846222The title of this blogpost will surely, one day, be the title of a book. I will write of how I took the 300 (ish) mile journey from Kildare, Ireland to Newport, South Wales – only to find that I might as well have come from the centre of a densely populated (but only by trees and macaws) jungle.

We have been here over a month and we are still filling out forms. Long forms, with tiny boxes, wanting nitty, not forgetting that gritty, information about who we are, where we have been and what emissions we are emitting into beautiful Welsh air; from our car, you understand.

We’ve gone through the job seekers allowance application twice since we got here (that must be some kind of record). We made the mistake of leaving the country for a few days, so had to close down the claim and reopen it. Having lived in the UK before, I have a UK National Insurance Number already. A huge relief, as I’m not sure there’s enough ink in my pen to fill in that form.

Job hunting has begun in earnest and there’s one application and impending interview that I’m very excited about. If you’re of the praying persuasion, do please pray for God’s will in that one.

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A selection of said forms…

I get that there have to be checks to make sure people are who they say they are. I’m happy to wait my turn in the dole office and actually BE a jobseeker to get Job Seekers Allowance. Having been an NHS patient before, I am REALLY grateful for the health service. It’s not perfect, and many may think it’s a shambles. In Ireland, you PAY for the shambles, so I’m happy to wait my turn in a doctor’s surgery here too… That reminds me; I must register with a doctor. (Note to self, buy another pen!)

I will make one complaint, that is the process of reregistering the car from Irish reg to UK reg. That is still not done, as the hurdles we have to jump would challenge Red Rum on his best day. As well as it being complicated, it has turned out to be very, VERY expensive. So if you’re considering importing your car from Ireland to the UK, my advice is… don’t. I’m not kidding; had I known, I’d have sold mine and taken the loss on the chin.

Having said all that we’re very happy to be here. Enjoying being back in Malpas Road Evangelical Church, and hopeful for the future.

My heart is in Ireland, always will be. Difference this time is, it’s not broken to be away from Ireland. Thanks God for that.

photo credit: amandabhslater via photopin cc

Starting the New Year with reasonable demands


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I can still say that can’t I? I’m never sure when it’s too late to wish someone a happy new year… I’ve probably come back just in time.

Speaking of my absence… I’m delighted to see that even though it’s a month since I’ve written here, you’ve still been checking in and having a read. Thanks for that. As always, it’s much appreciated.

In case you missed it though, I’m now living in South Wales; the homeland of my husband. I’ve lived here before, so it kinda feels like home anyway. We moved back just before Christmas, so the last few weeks has been a haze of boxes – thankfully some of them were covered in Christmas paper.

This week we’ve spent a lot of our time filling in forms and taking or sending those forms to the relevant office to be processed. Bank accounts, registering the car, applying for job seekers allowance, applying for jobs. I’ve written my new mobile phone number so many times, I nearly remember it. (I’m not great memorising numbers – so this is a bigger feat than you realise.) I confess, a lot of it has been tiresome, answering the same questions repeatedly, trying to ‘prove’ who we are and where we live. Times like these can make me want to keep my head down. “Just leave me to do what I need to do, I’ll pay attention to that other thing when I’m done.”

Since I’ve written here last, Glasgow has had its 2nd tragic event in 2 years, another plane somehow fell out of the sky in Asia, and it seems the whole of Paris is on a lock-down as they try to track the terrorists who shot 12 people.

I don’t want to look up.

small__320922694I want to stay buried in the humdrum of bureaucracy. I can feel the call to look up, to look around and take in what is happening; I’m resisting it. The form filling is boring, and safe. And now that I’m nearly done with it, I wish I wasn’t!

I’m not sure what it is God wants me to understand or learn. I don’t know what it means and I’m not sure how to respond; but He is demanding my attention.

 

photo credit: runnx via photopin cc

Someone’s on the naughty list…


I have broken my very own rule of not leaving my blog idle for weeks on end. As a reader of blogs, I really don’t like to visit one, only to find it dusty and in need of a fresh post. And here I am, rocking up for the first time since Halloween!

Naughty Amo!

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The Poolbeg Lighthouse & the east coast of Ireland

I do have reasons (excuses) for my absence though. It’s a frantic time for me at the moment. I’m 5 days away from relocating to the UK. If you missed that bit of news, you can catch up here.  I’m trying to pack my life into boxes, say goodbye to people, clear the decks as it were, and… AND I’m battling one of my winter lurgies. *cough *splutter

Yeah, yeah, I know, poor me, boo hoo… :)
I would be a firm proponent of the ‘let nothing stop you from writing’ ethos, but I have indeed let things stop me. Busyness, tiredness, coughing, crying, more crying, packing, and a heart bursting with emotion at the thought of leaving my homeland.

I hate goodbyes and because my days are full of them, I don’t want to write them. And it’s not just goodbye to Ireland, and my family & friends. It’s goodbye to an era, as we experience the first Christmas without my dad in the world. He WAS Christmas to us, and to think we’ll never gather in our family home on Christmas morning again is hard. Very very hard.

So I have allowed the pen to dry up a bit as I pack stuff, hug people and eat chocolate.

HEY! people keep buying it for me, what am I supposed to do…?

Not sure if I’ll be back here before 2015, So I want to thank you all for reading, and the support you’ve given me during the year as I’ve wrestled with loss, and rambled on about it here.

Here’s to another year of words. There might even be a few good ones.

I’m thankful to each and every one of you who has liked, followed, commented or just popped in for a quick read. Have a great Christmas all.

auntyamo x

photo credit: Corey Leopold via photopin cc

Having a Hopeful Halloween


I read the article written by J John about Halloween and I did agree with most things he said.  As a Christian who believes in the spiritual realm and its power, there is no denying that this particular holiday has a gruesome side to it, which has increased over the years.

I remember as a child, it was a very innocent holiday.  It was fun,  it was safe and we went around each other’s houses bringing home a ton of goodies similar to what our parents had spent the evening giving away to others. Being from Tallaght, I was aware that there was some strange goings-on up at the Hell Fire Club. I’d heard the folklore of the footprint of the devil himself in the foundations of the building. But all that was far removed from the fun I was having on Halloween Night.

medium_2992510617I get J John’s point about child safety, how it’s not ok for kids to wander aimlessly knocking on stranger’s doors any other day of the year, and that all our teaching of right and wrong to young people is, if not thrown away then put to one side for this particular night. 31st of October comes along and young people are encouraged to dress up as the most convincing axe murderers or witches. And let’s not even go there with the delightful horror movies.

These days, special effects don’t solely belong to the film makers. I’ve seen some very convincing photos of deformities, demons and more than a few pre-pubescent Draculas. I’m not saying, it’s nothing. I agree it’s all gotten darker – so has the world, but that’s another post… What I am saying is that the roof is not on fire just yet.

A lot of people will knock on a lot of doors tonight. In a time when the ‘open door’ culture has passed, here is one evening when a community literally opens up. Of course we need to protect our children and keep them as safe as we can. But I don’t think the ‘Christian’ answer is to keep our doors closed and keep our children inside them. On this one night, the whole community will be wandering around. It just feels wrong to shun it because there is a dark side to it; which by the way, is not the focus for majority of people. To most it’s about having fun.

If we’re going to talk about ‘evils’, are they lesser when it comes to the mass consumerism of Christmas (a holiday I defend far more vigorously!)? And what about the TV we watch the other 364 days of the year?

I just think J John missed an opportunity to offer some alternatives. ( In fairness his article may have been edited, but his own blog post on the subject says much the same.) And I think he omitted one very important point – the Light of Christ is brighter than any darkness. Many people don’t really believe in the significance of spiritual light and darkness. Those who believe in the Light of Christ know that the darkness is powerful, not as powerful as God though. I don’t like the idea of trivialising evil, but I also don’t think it’s a reason to close ranks and dismiss the whole thing with disapproval.

My hope is that families will have fun, communities will connect, and the Light of Christ will shine in the darkness. Tonight, and every night :)

photo credit: FGPhotography2008 via photopin cc

She’s Leaving Home


Well hello there :)

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The Road to Autumn (and to our church in Brannockstown)

Yes it’s a while since I’ve been here. My little summer break turned into a longer one because I knew when I came back to the blog I’d be writing this post.

It’s a strange thing to finally have an answer after a couple of years of searching for one. Stranger still when it’s something that at one stage I didn’t want; and now… well it’s right.

I worry about myself sometimes; that I’m fickle and moody and have used up my quota of the women’s prerogative to change my mind. All those things are probably true of me… but! I also believe in seasons. Seasons that God has something for you and then something else. Ways in which He brings you around to His way of thinking.


I mean let’s face it, if I’m praying “Thy will be done”,
I suppose 
I have to be willing to say,
“and kick my plans to the kerb if you need to Lord”.

So I’m moving. Back to the Land of our Fathers. Well the land of his fathers to be precise. I say ‘his’, not ‘His’. I’m talking about him, the husband; not Him, God. Although some Welsh folk would say both is true.

I left Wales in 2007, eager to be in Ireland with my family. I was constantly homesick, and was not able to rise above the sadness of no children, the death of my mother and what felt like an ever-increasing distance between me and my homeland. I have family and friends aplenty in Wales, but I never stopped pining for home.

I look back and I know I was immature; maybe had I been a stronger Christian I would have been able to learn ‘contentment in all situations’. I’m not beating myself up, just wondering if that’s the case.

Either way, it was with no small amount of joy that I returned to Ireland in 2007.

The Road to Wales

And now what? Well more than 7 years later I have joy at the thought of returning. I’ve had a rough year, but I’m not returning out of grief. I’m involved in lots of writing and radio; things that will not be easy to leave behind, so I’m not going out of boredom or lack of fulfilment. Things have not turned out for us work & ministry-wise the way we thought, but we’re not returning out of failure.

We’re returning because God has called us.
He has made it clear that is where he wants us. Clear as a bell, to both of us, separately, and together; with joy and peace about it. Even though I hate saying good-bye and love being near my family and involved in all the great groups I’m involved with, I still know this is the right thing for us.

So in mid December we will head back across the Irish Sea to live in Wales again.

One of my favourite verses comes to mind. I use it about my writing, but it’s about my whole life Lord unless you build this house, I am building it in vain.  (Psalm 127:1)