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  1. Bless your baristaSince hearing Isabel Allum speaking a few weeks ago I am really trying to be more thankful - or as they said on UCB the other morning, "cultivate an attitude of gratitude"! I am trying this in various ways and I have to admit it is making me happier!

    We are about to move cities, so when I went into the city centre today it was possibly for the last time. I went into Starbucks and was delighted to see my usual barista was working. This woman is a total delight, she always smiles and is ever so helpful. From "simple things" like carrying my drink to the table for me whilst I handle the pram, to going the extra mile and taking my drink and food order but waiting until I have fed my daughter (this is back when she was still on milk) to make it. So I would order and pay, then go and sit down and feed eBear, then when I I was ready I would give her the nod and she would make up my drink and toast the fruit toast and bring it over to me, so that I could still enjoy a hot drink - not watch it go cold as I fed! Honestly, she is a real gem!

    As I drank my drink today I felt I really wanted to tell her how much she brightens up a drab day in town, but being an introvert I am not good at expressing things out loud. So after I left I headed over to the Christian book shop and picked out a thank you card with a small text written in it, not an in your face "I love your servant heart and so does Jesus" [although this is true] but more subtle, at the bottom of the page it quoted Ephesians 1:16a [NIV] "I have not stopped giving thanks for you". When we stopped to have our lunch I wrote out a message whilst eBear chomped her food. As I headed back to Starbucks I could not work out if I hoped this angel barista would still be on shift or not. I was not bothered about her knowing it was from me, I just wanted her to know someone noticed she went the extra mile and was thankful for her. When I got there, she was still working. I simply popped the card on top of the counter and said "this is for you" she picked it up beaming and said "ah, thank you! Can I open it?" I said 'sure' and as she headed out from behind the counter she asked "have you just been going around town being nice to people today?" [this was in reference to three take out teas I had ordered earlier, an act of random kindness didn't go quite so well - carrying three teas whilst pushing a pram, yeah, I didn't think it through!] I laughed and said "no, I just wanted to say thank you for always being lovely. We are moving so I may not see you again so before we go I wanted to say thank you for always being so kind to us." at which point she clutched the card to her chest and thanked me, then hugged me saying "Oh don't say that! You're one of my favourite customers, you can't be leaving! You always come in smiling and happy" she gave a sideways look before saying more quietly "not many people do you know!" then laughed and asked where we were moving to. I told her and then said I just wanted to make sure I said thank you for always brightening our day and being so kind when we came in, at which point she hugged me again saying how lovely it was to have me come in smiling and she would miss me. I left her happy and smiling, saying I had made her day and she had still not opened the card and seen her tip with the instructions "please treat yourself as a thank you for how you've treated us!"

    It has really blessed me to know I have made her day. The fact that I have found out that I have made a difference to her day when I have been in and smiled has also blessed me. I have always seen it as a one way blessing - that she has gone the extra mile as she severed me and made my day that bit easier. I have never considered my actions towards and conversations with her may have blessed her day! Anyway, if I may, I would love to encourage you to bless your barista today. It could lead to great conversations and bless you in return!

  2. Refreshing in the presence of the LordSay what you like about social media, but I think it can be used for good. Hands up, I have not always - I have moaned about it myself for years - I am still not a fan of Facebook, I think it brings out the inner stalker and tempts you into comparison, which one must remember is the thief of joy! [Or maybe it's just me, I went to school with a bunch of very attractive over achieving girls and have always been the black sheep in the stats and Facebook is just a massive reminder of this!] Either way, I am starting to learn that actually social media can be an incredibly good thing in your life and bring great blessing.

    Yesterday morning I was a wreck following a very long night and not much sleep [you know you are looking rough when your postman tells you!] I knew it was going to be a case of 'surviving' the day. I turned to my Bible for some comfort and up lifting and was very happy to read Acts 3:19&20a particularly 20a "Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." [ESV] As these verses had been highlighted to me by the She Reads Truth lenten studies I had illustrated it out in my journaling Bible, so it caught my eye as I flicked desperately through. I smiled, yes this is what I needed.

    I snapped a quick picture of the page [see above right] and posted it on my personal Instagram account with this comment: "I really need refreshing in the presence of the Lord today!! Only three hours sleep last night due to very upset eBear. (I had planned to get an early night as I've been up late all week trying to get prints ready for the @graceandsaltink shop. Ha!) I am not cut out for operating on so little sleep! So if you post anything about strength from God today please tag me, I really need as many reminders as I can get!! 🙈"

    My hope had been one or two friends would tag something - what I actually got was amazing. Throughout the day I was tagged on various posts, both things people were posting and things they saw posted and thought of me. I also had scripture and song lyrics in response. I had the most touching personal message come through direct. Prayers and love from around the global. It was fantastic! Even this morning I have had more! I have been so blessed by the response and it certainly helped me get through the day whilst I felt quite like a zombie [I do not do well on little sleep]!

    Philippians 4v13

    One friend directed me to a post of Philippians 4v13, a great truth that always energises! When I turned to it in my journaling Bible I was drawn to v19 which in the ESV says "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." This threw me into praising [🙌 Yes Lord!]!

    So, despite it's negatives - which are many - social media can be used for the good. The community I have around me through journaling Bible posts, and sewing, is brilliant. A fantastic encouragement on a daily basis and a personal cheerleading squad on days when I feel like I will never survive. If you use it as a tool to compare your life to others it will no doubt end in tears, but if you use it to spread the word and encourage one another, I believe you will be blessed, as I have!

  3. We are very pleased to announce the launch of our Creative Prayer Journals! These brightly coloured sketch books are ideal for you to create your own creative prayer journal in. The A5 size means it is not only a perfect accompaniment for your Journaling Bible, but fits neatly next to it in your bag!

    About the journals:
    * 210 x 297cm
    * 40 blank pages
    * 140gsm
    * Acid free paper
    * Suitable for writing, sketching… even watercolour painting

     Available in three styles:

    1. Hand stamped with our “Pray always” heart logo [£5.00]
    2. Hand lettered with a single word of your choosing [£5.00]
    3. Hand lettered with a short verse or phrase of your choosing, up to 10 words [£8.00]

    Available in eight colours:
    1. Kraft
    2. Tulip
    3. Sweetheart
    4. Ice blue
    5. Aqua
    6. Lemon
    7. Mid blue
    8. Mint

  4. John 20 v 22It feels good to catch up with the last few days of my reading plan, my rhythm has been a bit out of sync since Easter! I love the image created by John 20:22
    "...he breathed on them and said to them "receive the Holy Spirit." [ESV]
    The image of Jesus breathing out over his tired, scared and probably confused disciples and what this would have done for them!

    It also makes me cry out "breathe on me breathe of God!"

  5. Peter Denies Jesus"Take your head in your hands and weep when you need to, then rise in repentance and walk in a new direction" these words, from that morning's She Reads Truth devotional (in response to Peter's denial of Jesus in Mark 14:66-72) really struck a chord with me when I read them last week. I have always identified with Peter. In the film the Passion of Christ it is this part of the film that breaks me. I remember clearly being sat in the cinema with a large group of friends whilst at university people to the left and right of me (young men as well as women) crying at what they were seeing on screen and I remained in one piece - until Peter started to deny Christ, then I just broke down into a flood of tears. My housemate, a new Christian, was sat next to me and I knew (even in the dark) he was watching me cry - I think he could not understand why this part bought out such a reaction (he had also never seen me cry before!) But it always breaks me, that Jesus came to volunteer to be a living sacrifice for us, for all generations, for ME - yet not even his over zealous friend Peter could summon courage to stand with Jesus when He must have felt so alone. Jesus has done more than anyone else could possibly do for me, but still I let Him down time and time again. Yet through all that, all the mess ups, all the let downs, He still loves me! He died for me, knowing all the mess ups I would make. Just like He loved Peter and died for him, even knowing he would deny Him.

    John 13 v 19

    I was brought back to this thought yesterday by my Holy Week devotional book from John Piper (Which I would highly recommend - find it here on John's website, and seriously go check the website out, it's full of great resources, most of which are totally free! But back to my point, the book...) it's so good. Yesterday it spoke about Jesus not only fulfilling prophecy upon prophecy from the Old Testament but also how He prophesied so many things too. Thinking again about how He not only knew Peter would deny Him, He knew how many times Peter would and Jesus knew at what time that he would. Reading this I wanted to break down and weep once more at how He loves us even knowing our failings, He went to the cross knowing how and when we would all fail. There are big failings in my life, decisions I wish I had not made or made differently, better. Those are the things the enemy takes my mind to when he is trying to get me to doubt and question how God can love me. But now, I am just in awe that Jesus would go to the cross for me, knowing ahead of time that I would fail Him like I have. He knew all the mistakes and failings in my life, yet He still loved me and my life enough to give Himself up to a horrific and painful death on a cross for me. What a call to bring us into repentance and thankfulness.