HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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You (yes you, reading this) are awesome!

One of the things that I find most difficult about being a stay-at-home parent is the lack of external affirmation. Let’s face it, even with two sweet and affectionate little dudes at home, kids don’t really think to say, “Thanks Mummy for doing my washing/ picking up my toys/ scraping sprayed food off the furniture. I really value you and appreciate all that you do in this home to prevent it from turning into total chaos.” They just don’t say it, like ever! I wish they did but they don’t and so often at the end of another day filled with washing and scraping food I find myself with my love tank feeling low and the house still in total chaos.

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I guess it says a lot about how I am wired that I frequently wake up and think, “Wow! I really need some encouragement today!” In fact, it is often a prayer that I pray as I am going about my daily life, “Lord, please show me something to encourage me today.”

I know that it is not just me that needs encouragement. I think that we all thrive under positive, heartfelt affirmation from others, just as we wither under harsh and unkind words.

Lately I have been quite challenged by this. I look around and see so many people just trying to knock one another down. It is amazing how much interaction there is, online in particular, and yet how little encouragement. Rather, competitiveness and one-upmanship seem to be the name of the game.

In our house we have a little joke, whereby if someone says something unkind, then the other one will usually say, “What kind of courager are you being?” It is always said with a smile and a wink, but it is a gentle correction and is a challenge to think, “Am I being an encourager or a discourager? Am I building up or am I tearing down?”

I know what type of courager (yes I know it’s not actually a word) I want to be. I want to be an intentionally encouraging person, someone that makes it their business to call out the gold in others. I think that intentionality is key in this as being encouraging can feel awkward and counter-cultural at the same time. I need to choose to move past that and encourage anyway, to look for and call out the gold in others.

Each of us has so much gold within us that we often don’t see. The knocks of life and hurtful things in our past can cloud our view of ourselves and we can stop seeing how amazing we are and who we have been made to be. Encouragement is a beautiful gift that we can offer one another and it is one that has the potential to set people free to be all that they were made to be.

So to each one of you reading this (and I don’t mean this for a blanket you, but each and every individual reading this), know that you are enough. Please hear the truth of that statement for yourself today. You have been made with amazing gifts and talents. You don’t need to strive to be anybody else. Be yourself. You are enough!

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Let’s be a people that look for the good and not the bad in others and actually tell one another what we see. It’s ok if that feels a little awkward and counter-cultural and it’s also ok if the person doesn’t accept the encouragement. Whether they want to hear positive things about themselves or not doesn’t really matter, they might have been so knocked down that they don’t know how to receive kindness.

Let’s embrace the awkward and do it anyway! Be kind anyway. Encourage anyway. What a beautiful gift!


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The Minionettes and the Moonwalk Marathon

Late on Saturday night, five friends and I joined 17,000 other walkers, all in fancy dress, on Clapham Common in London to walk a full marathon, through the night, to raise money for breast cancer charities.

Our team was called the Minionettes, we were dressed as minions and I, for one, was feeling really nervous. The atmosphere was buzzing, we were ready to go but we had a long wait as our group only got to set off at 11:45pm… way past my normal bedtime!

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Once we started, it was slow going. The roads weren’t closed and the pavements were very congested with walkers. But the mood was high and we cracked on! The route was great and we really did a tour of the London sights, walking past the London Eye, over Tower Bridge, past Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral and finally going round what felt like endless loops of South Kensington.

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The slow pace and congested route started to get me down a little as after 3 hours we had only walked 9 miles which was so much slower than the speed we had walked in training and by about 3am I was starting to feel tired and frustrated, and we weren’t even half way there! For me, from about the half way point completing the walk became a case of mind over matter… I know I can walk one just one more mile, and then just one more and then just one more… Oh look there’s the sunrise… Just one more mile… Until eventually…

We reached the finish line.

Nine hours later!

Hallelujah!

By this point my body was objecting strongly to both the lack of sleep (the last time I had stayed up the whole night I was 15 years old! Seriously!!), and the 9 hours of walking but it was an amazing feeling crossing that finish line.

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I didn’t expect to feel particularly emotional on this walk, particularly as my Peru trip had really felt like my comeback moment, and for the most part I really didn’t feel emotional at all. But just at that moment, crossing that finish line, I once again felt overwhelmed and so thankful and grateful to still be standing. I felt thankful to be able to challenge myself, to push harder, to be stronger, to keep going. I felt so thankful for my friends and family that joined me in this slightly bonkers challenge and for all the love and support they, and so many others, have shown me over the past three years.

No tears were shed, but my heart was full and glad.

And in spite of not being able to walk for several days thereafter I am looking forward to doing it again and have already started planning my outfit! (Next time it will definitely involve lights and way more glitter!)

Doing the Moonwalk also challenged me in other ways… It reminded me of the power of determination, and how when we fix our eyes and hearts on something we will get there. But it also reminded me of the call in Hebrews 13 to run (or in this case power walk) the race marked out for us with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

In life, as in the Moonwalk, we are called to keep going, keep moving forward with purpose, not worrying about others’ costumes or the fact that they got an earlier start time or that they didn’t have to press the green man button again because there was so much traffic that they were getting slowed down… Rather, we are called to run our own race, that has been marked out for us, whatever that looks like. We are called to keep going and to run it faithfully with our eyes looking up. And when we are done, when we have completed that last ‘just one more mile’, how sweet will that day be when we finally cross that finish line.

I don’t know about you, but despite all of the distractions, at the end of it all I want to know that  ran focussed and ran well!

Thanks Moonwalk. See you again next time! I will be coming for you armed with glitter!

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Love it!

I have been thinking a lot about love over the past few days and in particular, how we show one another love and how we receive the love that others show us. I have been blessed with lots of love in my life. I am actually overwhelmed by all the love that is around me and I feel I am the luckiest girl ever for it!!

I have also realised how deep some of the love that is in me runs. I love my husband and my son so much that it almost hurts. I would do anything for them and I feel so blessed that they have been entrusted to me and that they are in my life. I know that the feeling is mutual too! But this love is, I suppose, obvious. One is supposed to love one’s family!

The love that has caught me almost by surprise is the love that has been shown to me by my friends. In this difficult season I have been blown away by the many different ways that friends have shown us love… They truly cover the full spectrum of Gary Chapman’s five love languages… The hugs, word of affirmation and love (which I find particularly difficult – I so admire people who can tell others that they love them with ease), the countless prayers by the hundreds of prayer warriors, the time that friends have spent with us, time spent looking after little man whilst we’ve been in hospital, the meals that friends have made, the cards and gifts that we have received and the list goes on…

This love, I have learnt, is God’s church in action. We have experienced community in a way that we have never known before and it is a beautiful thing and one for which I am very thankful.

In this time of weakness I have also learnt to receive the love that friends show. In our Western culture it is often difficult to receive love as this requires us to acknowledge that we are not self-sufficient and that perhaps we need other to help us… For many of us, myself included, this can be hard… But from my experience, learning to receive love is a lesson definitely worth learning! It is such a blessing!!

For me the love that we have been shown has been, and continues to be, an out working of Jesus’ command to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35) and it has certainly inspired me to show others the same kind of love with as much joyous abandon as we have been shown it!