“Great weather for maple syrup!”

The battle is won.

You may have thought it was won on Golgotha. It wasn’t.
You may have thought the sign of victory is the empty tomb. It isn’t.
The final battle was won in Gethsemane. And the sign of conquest is Jesus at peace in the Olive trees. For it was in Gethsemane that he made his decision.

HE’D RATHER GO TO HELL FOR YOU, THAN GO TO HEAVEN WITHOUT YOU.
Those same hands that crafted the universe will wipe your cheek. The same hands that clenched as a Roman spike smashed through them, will wipe your face, and brush away your tears – FOREVER.

– Max Lucado

It’s Good Friday… I am so thankful for my Saviour. I am so thankful that He endured the cross for me despite my sinfulness, brokenness and all my failures. I am so thankful that he rose again to bring me new and eternal life. I am so thankful that I am living a life of fullness just like he promised. I am so thankful that he has given me the privilege of serving Him.

What a whirlwind my life has been since I touched down in Canada! If I’m being honest I’m still processing a lot of things…I still cannot put pen to paper and journal everything that has been happening but I trust in good time the Lord will enable me to do so. However, it is so wonderful to finally be where I know God has called me to be. I have experienced the reality of Philippians 4:7 on a whole new level; ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Never once have I felt alone, overwhelmed or doubted my calling and I give God all the praise for that. I truly am at home here and I’m so excited to start living my Canadian life. 

It’s been fun getting used to a new culture and some of their practices:

  • When you go to someones house the first thing you do is take off your shoes! I actually like this because it means you can decorate your toenails nice and pretty. But if you were to do that in Northern Ireland people would start to panic and think you were staying all day!
  • When you walk into a shop within 10 seconds some super smiley staff member comes up and asks “Hey, how are you today?” – When you grow up in NI this is so counter cultural… shop staff being nice?! What?! and they actually stand there until you tell them how you are. Not gonna lie, it’s a little awkward but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
  • Instead of Northern Irish neighbours passing comments about the weather being ‘great for the ducks’, Canadian neighbours chat about the weather being ‘great for maple syrup!’
  • We got new curtains for the house and I said we’d need to iron them before putting them up; I was met with the response “You’re so Northern Irish, everything has to be prim and proper. Canadians don’t iron!” Needless to say, I ironed the curtains haha.
  • I keep forgetting when I speak that I have an accent, which means the people I am are talking to usually don’t listen to what I’m saying because they are too enthralled by the accent and those in the surrounding area stare, a lot.

However somethings remain the same:

  • I got asked if I was over 15 yesterday!
  • I still find my jokes funnier than anyone else
  • Singing Frozen songs is always acceptable no matter what the situation

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I moved to my new house in Napanee on Saturday, spent the weekend getting settled in and then the work started on Monday. We had a kids club Monday night, youth group on Tuesday night and another kids club on Wednesday night. I love that you can go from one country to another yet the kids and young people are somewhat still the same- they are longing to find the meaning of life, they want acceptance and ultimately they need forgiveness of their sin and to meet the living Saviour, Jesus! The method may be different in certain areas but the message is still the same. God answered so many of our prayers this week. He truly is the big God who rules over all things and people, and at the same time he is a personal God who cares about the little details in our lives.

I appreciate this blog isn’t very detailed but I am sending email prayer updates which will be more detailed so let me know if you wish to receive them. I am so thankful for you all,  for your love and support – I continue to pray for you. I take great comfort in knowing that the God who holds me in the palm of His hand also holds you too!

Oh, I forgot to mention my most exciting news since moving… Yesterday I got myself a wee hamster called Norman! He is my new favourite thing!

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Why I’m moving to Canada

“Laura, why are you moving to Canada?”

“Because God told me to.”

“How?”

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The summer after my first year at university I went to visit my brother who had recently moved to Canada. I’d been before as a kid but could not remember anything about it! (Much to my parent’s delight after spending a fortune to bring us out there!) I spent the 5 weeks there just holidaying, visiting family and seeing around the place. It was beautiful. During my 5 weeks I attended a church in the local area. One Sunday morning an older lady came up to me and we started chatting. I remember her getting really excited and saying “You’re Irish so you must know about the Faith Mission? They’ve a camp around here would you like to go visit it?”

Okay. Disclaimer- yes I did know of the Faith Mission but I didn’t know much about the Faith Mission. So we went up to Campbellville to visit the camp- I’d never been to a camp before so this blew my mind. We drove up the driveway and there were kids running around on the grass outside, swinging off trees, sitting at the picnic tables chatting. It was the classic ‘kids camp’ experience. I got to meet some of the staff, sit in on the chapel time and see the general happenings of camp life. In that moment, I was converted. I knew I wanted to be part of this at some point. Before I left I chatted with the boss and I remember him clearly saying in a jokey way “Sure, who knew you’d be popping up to Campbellville when you came over for a holiday!” and the lady that took me replied “The Lord did.” 

That was the start of my Faith Mission in Canada story. One meeting, one evening, one simple conversation, one stirred heart.

As we drove away I prayed “Lord, I’d really like to serve here one summer.” My heart had fallen in love with Canada.

My brother took me to the airport and as I was at the check-in counter he asked; “You looking forward to going home?” I started to cry and said; “No, I’m dreading going home, I love it here!” This was so out of character for me. I was a home-bird. I loved Northern Ireland. I wasn’t a fan of travelling. I knew then that God was starting a work in my heart.

I got home to not-so-sunny Northern Ireland, went straight back into my second year of university, youth work and life. But I kept daydreaming about Canada. I just knew I was supposed to go and serve at camp so I booked my flights for the following summer and served for 4 weeks there. This was the game-changer for me. God really started revealing the possibility of me moving to Canada at some point in my life. But when? God knew I had another year of university, he knew I was thinking about marriage and the future, he knew I really wanted to be a youth worker, he knew how much I loved all my family and friends.

Before I flew home that summer I prayer “Lord, I would really love to come and serve here again next summer. If it’s Your will please work it all out.” 

And so began my final year at university- you know that year. Where you’ve to start looking towards the future, applying for jobs, figuring out where you’re going to be or what you’re going to do because let’s face it, you can’t be a student the rest of your life! I had some pretty tough decisions to make. Each year I would go to a national youth worker conference in Eastbourne in November but the run up to leaving that year had just been crazy- I was so confused about God’s plan for my life, there were almost too many options. So before I set of for that conference I said “God I’m giving you this whole weekend to speak to me. I won’t be distracted or rushing around. I am willing to obey whatever you ask me to do.” (You ever prayed those prayers? They are scary- you have just made a promise to God, like…He won’t forget!!!) I got to the conference and on the Saturday afternoon I went to the prayer room and sat before the Lord. He lead me to

Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

I knew God was calling me to share the Gospel with people but I just didn’t know where, when or how. So I asked him.

Then I heard him ask me in my heart;Laura, do you trust me?” 

“God you know I trust you!”

“Laura, do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord I trust you.”

“Do you trust me with your life?”

“Of course I do. I gave my life to you and trust you completely!”

“Do you believe that my plans for you are better than your plans for you?”

“Yes, Lord, I know you’re plans are better than my plans.” 

Then came the sledge hammer in my heart

“I want you to be ready to go where I call you to go.” He then proceeded to ask me to give up the most important thing in my life at that time.

It’s easy to say yes to God when it works within our own timescale, our own plans, our own situations. It is so much more harder to say yes to God when it causes us great sacrifice. I don’t write this half-heartedly, I write this from the memory of the tears, of the sleepless nights, of the questioning, of the doubting, of the heartbreak. But I also write this from the deepest place of knowing God’s love, his faithfulness, his care, his provision, his answers. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us, he gave up his life so that we may have life in and through him. Who am I to say no to some form of sacrifice?

I pressed on with uni and ministry, I applied for job after job with rejection letter and after rejection letter. I was losing hope, and losing it quickly! “God what are you doing?! You called me to study youth ministry, you know that’s where my heart is at! Why can’t I get a job?” In the midst of all this I received an email from Faith Mission asking me to come and serve with them that summer (2013) Needless to say I jumped up and down when I got that email because God had been answering prayers I wasn’t aware I was praying…but I now realise he was answering the prayers of other people who were praying!

Throughout my whole uni course I met with my Pastor regularly and within the last few months of my placement with my church I couldn’t help but notice the random (well, what I thought at the time were random) statements he would make mid-conversations.

“You know no matter where you go Towerview will always be your home church, right?”

“See if you ever send prayer letters out to people, make sure you include us in the mailing list.”

And then one day after we’d finished praying he said; “I don’t know if this means anything to you but while we were praying the Lord showed me a picture of you as a missionary and then he gave me the verse Mark 16:15 ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel'”

I remember getting quite frustrated and thinking ‘I’ve told you so many times I want to stay in Northern Ireland and do youth ministry… I don’t get why you’re saying things like that!’ (I’ve since repented!)

It was nearing the end of June, I had no job prospects for when I return from Canada in late August and I knew I was doing everyone’s head in because I had no life plan. I finished packing my case, got on my knees and prayed; “Lord, I am giving you this summer. Show me what you want me to do with my life, I will go wherever you want and I will do whatever you ask. Just please make it clear.” 

And oh boy, did the Lord make it clear.

As I stepped through the departure gates in Dublin airport I got the overwhelming feeling that the next time I do this it will be with a one way ticket and it will be to Canada. How on earth do you process that when you’re heading over for what you assume is just the summer?! And as soon as the plane touched down my heart pipes up “aww I’m home!”

I spent a few days at my brothers and then headed to go and do VBS and camps. I had only walked in through the door when one of the girls I’d met the previous year asked; “How’s things? So are you thinking about joining the mission?” I was like “emm… no, the Lord knows that my hearts in youth ministry so I don’t think the mission is for me.” Looking back she must have thought I was awful rude. But she just smiled as if to say “We’ll see”

As the days went on and the more I prayed God began to awaken my heart to the realisation that there was a reason I had to sacrifice things in my life, there was a reason why I didn’t get any of the jobs I applied for, there was a reason I had no idea what I was going to do in September. The reason was, he wanted me to join the Faith Mission in Canada! He showed me that just because he had given me a passion for youth ministry didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy and be passionate about other forms of ministry too.

It was Canada Day weekend and we were hanging out at one the worker’s houses, the room went quiet and she just asked…“Well?” and I knew exactly what she asking about, I replied; “I have too much peace about it for it not to be from God. I have to apply to join the mission.”

When I told my church family about it the common response was; “We all knew you were going to Canada to join The Faith Mission. We were just waiting for you to realise it.”

The Lord keeps asking me on a daily basis; “Laura, do you trust me?” and in light of how far he’s brought me and how good I know he is, my heart rejoices to say; “Yes Lord, I trust you and I will keep on trusting you!”

And that my friends, is how I ended up moving to Canada.

[There were also other stories, scripture and people that God used to lead me but I’d be writing all day if I included those!]

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Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

To find out about more about Faith Mission (in Canada) head over to www.faithmissioncanada.org

Are you called to be a missionary?

It’s Sunday Morning, the Pastor gets up and introduces a missionary couple who are taking the service today. You’re excited, you love hearing stories about God moving in all different parts of the world!

The couple get up to introduce themselves- you notice they’re in the same style clothes as you, they speak exactly the same and you are convinced you recognise them. They start to explain where they are serving the Lord, you nod your head because you feel like you know the place they are talking about, in fact, you feel like you’ve been to the place they are talking about. They flick on the first slide of their PowerPoint and you look at it bewildered. The missionary couple are here to share about how they are serving the Lord in your hometown, their hometown?!

Has this ever happened in your church before? I’d confidentally say it hasn’t (and if it has I want to meet and thank your Pastor for being awesome!)

When you hear the word missionary what do you think of? For me I think of people off in a distant land who live in extreme poverty and share the Gospel with poor, sick, hungry people. In my head they’re usually carrying a cute little african baby or holding the hand of an elderly person. They are the heroes of the faith. They are the ones we base our kids stories on or whose lives we do a Bible study on. We love hearing their stories but deep down we’re kind of glad God hasn’t called us to such extreme levels of faith, sacrifice and surrender.

Oh, this is a little awkward. We appear to have ripped a few pages out of our Bible if this is our viewpoint. We’ve bought into the lie that missionaries are ‘special’ types of Christians, they are more holier and better equipped to share Jesus than the rest of us. However, the truth is when we become Christians, we become missionaries. All of us. Every single person.

Mark 16:15 Jesus tells believers to: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” It is important we realise this is a command, not a suggestion.

We are all called to Go– Go out your front door, meet the people in your area, in your school, at work, on the bus, shopping at Tescos, walking their dog on the beach…[the list is endless] and we are all called to preach the good news– tell people about what Jesus has done in your life, why he came to die, why you are following him, why they should follow him. You can do this in all kinds of ways- you don’t need to stand at a street corner and preach at people (however, God may ask you to do that!) Can we also note that Jesus doesn’t add a little * at the end of this saying; “As long as you have went to Bible College, never messed up, know every scripture of by heart and are a super Christian.”

I know too many Christians who see themselves as second class citizens in the church because they haven’t went down the stereotypical Christian route in life of attending Bible College, leading a ministry, speaking from the front of church. They don’t see themselves as qualified enough to tell people about Jesus. Emm… were the disciples qualified? Don’t believe the lie that you cannot make an impact for the Kingdom. God has made each of us different and given each of us different giftings and abilities to use for his glory. Every Christian is called to be a missionary.

God may not have called you to Africa but he has called you to your local world – the area you live, the people you know, the places you go, the people you walk by daily; it is not a coincidence you are there. God has placed you there as a missionary. He wants you to live your daily life as a signpost to Jesus.

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Will this be easy? No. Will it involve faith, sacrifice and surrender? Yes. Remember what Jesus said about anyone wanting to become a disciple? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25 It’s not always popular or accepted to be a follower of Jesus, it can be easy to hide our faith in our daily life and only reveal it when we are amongst other Christians or in a safe environment but Jesus died for more than that!

Our hearts should long to see people coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ and… guess what? God is sending us into the world to share that very message with all people; ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ -Romans 10:14-15

How do we do this? We become everyday missionaries (people who love Jesus and want to share him with others) and we see everywhere as our mission field:

  • At the supermarkets and shops
  • In the doctors, dentists, hospitals
  • On the sports field
  • At the school gate
  • In the classroom
  • Online
  • In the coffee shop
  • In the entertainment industry, the art world and theatres
  • On the buses, boats, planes and trains
  • In the pubs and clubs
  • On the streets
  • This list could go on forever…

This calling may seem terrifying and out of our comfort zone, but the greatest thing is, we are not called to do this on our own. Jesus promises to be with us; “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20.

What a beautiful privilege it is to share about the One who has saved us from our sin and transformed our life. All believers have a story, a story that needs to be heard by others.

We are everyday missionaries.

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Where is your mission field? How many people could you reach with the Good News of Jesus if you actively lived out your missionary calling?

Is it time to give up?

There was finally silence after a whole week of the camp centre being filled with teenagers. All the counsellors had collapsed on the sofa. We chatted for a wee while then it went quiet so… me being the youth worker I am asked; “If you could go for coffee with anyone in the whole world dead or alive, who would it be?”

The room went silent for a moment while people thought and then came the answers;

C.S. Lewis…Charles Spurgeon [guess who said that]… Some quirky artists… Dead relatives.

But then my friend gave the most incredible answer: “I’d love to meet the people who prayed for me and my family to get saved.”

And in unison the rest of us went “Aww… that’s such a good one!”

When I think about the first person who ever prayed for me to meet Jesus I get really emotional. I have no idea who that person was but I am eternally grateful for their dedication to prayer and love for me to be redeemed that kept them praying.

Here I now am echoing the actions and prayers of that amazing person/people. I love that a section of my prayer time is spent pleading with God to save people, people that He has broken my heart for.

Maybe you, like me, have a list either on the inside of your bible or engraved in your heart of people you are praying for to trust in Jesus. Maybe you’ve been praying for them every day for weeks, months, even years. Maybe you’ve seen them take one step forward in faith and two steps back. Maybe you’ve had your heart broken by the decisions they’ve made.

I sat in on a class at Faith Mission Bible College a month back and we were looking at evangelism. The lecturer asked (in order to start a discussion); “When is it time to give up on someone?”

Have you ever felt like that? You just don’t see any change, fruit for your labour or them even desiring to know more about God. I’m sure as you are reading this there are people coming to your mind.

I want to ask you this question; “Is it time to give up on that person?”

Do you believe in a God that gives up on people?

I really hope you can join with me saying; “No I am not giving up on them because they matter to God, I will happiliy sacrifice my time to pray for them, love them and share Jesus with them!”

Who knows how long people were praying for you before you got saved?!!! We may never see the results of our prayers but this I am sure of, you do not pray for anyone out of your own flesh; The Holy Spirit is prompting you to pray for that person so be obedient and believe that God will answer your prayers in His own time.

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May this post be a source of encouragement to you. May it help you realise that the people in your life are placed there for a reason and that praying for them is a privilege. Our God is ready and willing to save people. He is good, He is loving, He is everything.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

 

Are you a wannabe fixer up-er or a constant lifter up-er?

What do you do when someone comes to you with a problem? A struggle? A hurt?

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I want to help, I want to fix it, I want make everything okay. If only a hug could cure all the problems people face or a kind word could transform a situation. Of course these things help but they in no way address the issue, overcome the hurdle or mend the broken heart and that makes me sad.
I don’t know about you but I’m a wannabe fixer up-er! I want to fix whatever it is that needs fixing. The only problem is… I am not the one who can. Too often we expect to be the heroes in people’s story. We want to come up with all the right solutions, help them achieve the breakthrough they need or say the words that heal their pain. Our role in the story is not to be the hero but to lead people to the hero… Jesus.
Let’s move from being fixer up-ers to lifter up-ers. How often do we get texts, Facebook messages, calls from friends asking for prayer, needing advice or just pouring their hearts out to us? How often do we stand together with them as brothers and sisters in Christ and fight their corner in prayer? I’m not talking about a ‘Lord help them’ prayer but prayer that allows us to feel their pain and plead with God to break into their situation. We are their family and family lives out of love. If there’s a problem in the family where do you go? The head of the family and as Christians that is God.
We need to be constantly lifting them up before the Father. Praying for them as if we were going through that very situation with them. Helping them see Jesus amidst it all. Walking them through scripture. Encouraging them to keep running the race because its worth it, He’s worth it. (Acts 14:22)
We are called to ‘carry each other’s burdens…’ (Galatians 6:2)                              ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ (Romans 12:15) ‘…be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’ (Ephesians 6:18b)

Lets be available to the people God has placed in our lives, let us be willing to sacrifice for one another and let us pray like never before to the One who can move mountains… Because when the mountains move we can only fall down and worship!

What God taught you in 2013 He wants you to remember in 2014.

So it’s 2014…wow. How quickly did that come round?

I don’t know what this year brings for you; if my Facebook news feed is anything to go by 2014 is bringing a lot of weddings, university, travelling, new jobs etc. Maybe you don’t know either and that’s leaving you scared, nervous, confused,excited…and more.

I do know one thing about this year though. God is already there. He is ready and willing to be involved in your life this year.

At the start of this week I reflected on the past year and everything God did for me.
365 days of pure faithfulness.

Every time I fell – He picked me up.
Every tear I cried – He wiped away and comforted me.
Every prayer I prayed – He heard and responded in accordance to His will not mine (which I am super thankful for).
Every conversation I had – He witnessed. He lead my words, gave me wisdom and made me apologise when needed.
Every battle I faced – He fought with and for me.
Every bit of good news or achievement I got – He celebrated with me.
Every sin I committed – He lovingly lead me to repentance and readily forgave me.
Every desire and need I had – He met and fulfilled.

What about you? How many things can you reflect on from 2013 and see God’s goodness in it all?

When we know what our God’s brought us through, what He’s revealed to us about Himself and what He’s done through us then no matter what 2014 brings we can face it together with Him.

Let’s be excited, filled with love and driven with passion for the Gospel this coming year.

‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.’ – Psalm 107:1