Every year my husband; an ex Serviceman and Firefighter lays a wreath in our village on behalf of the Fire Service.  This year I decided to go with him (I usually go to our home church).

After the formality of the service the veterans and uniformed services parade through the village towards the memorial square.  I was unexpectedly invited to walk alongside my husband in this parade.  With no time to discreetly slip away, I awkwardly took my place in the procession; very aware of the many onlookers who lined the street and wondering if they would ‘spot the fraud’!

I  felt, and was, very undeserving of my place alongside those who proudly bore their medals.   And it was as I walked that my heart remembered Paul’s words to the Corinthians;

But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. 2 Cor 2:14

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean that every day I can walk, with gratitude and wonder,  because of  His Grace and Power.  I’ve done nothing to earn my place and I can’t work to attain it.  He himself has called me to walk in HIS Triumphal Procession….my part; to step in, obediently follow, and keep my eyes fixed on Him.

A huge thank you to the Meadows Community Church, Wigston for allowing me to have a ‘stand’ at their Women’s Conference (Jewel) on Saturday 22nd September.

How incredible that the title of the day was ‘chosen’; a topic that we feature in Esther #lifting off the labels in ‘Session 2’.

Girls and boys today need to hear and know that God has made His decision…they have been CHOSEN!

Parent 1:  Esther has been great for the girls; they have not only shared treats but have deepened their relationships with each other and God and our daughter has become more confident.  It has made her appreciate her own self-image and how others see her . This has been a really beneficial course.  Thank you.

 

Parent 2:  I think the course raises some interesting and relevant issues.  Allowing a time and place for teenage girls to talk about these in a confidential and safe place is most beneficial.

 

Parent 3:  Such a huge area, so important, and something that needs re-visiting regularly. In an ideal world, it would be good to have this as an on-going thing.

Q3: What is the truth you now believe about yourself?  And about God?

Girls responses:

‘God does things for a reason and I now believe that God made us all for a purpose and we are born as beautiful children of God.  I know that I don’t need to be like others because God loves me for who I am.’

‘That God is our saviour and He is our Father who protects.’

‘That I can be who I am.’

‘I am strong in Him.’

‘That I have a purpose.’

Q2: How have you been inspired through Esther to live your life?

Girls responses:

‘That we don’t need to listen to the trends and what happens on social media – we are unique and we can all live our lives differently.  There is no need to follow others with the latest looks and styles.’

‘The positive things and to throw away those negative things.  Stand up for what you believe in.’

‘Made me think more about myself.’

‘To be courageous.’

‘Love myself more.’

Q1: How would you promote Esther to your friends?

Girls responses:

‘Fun and Friendly.   Great way to get closer to God and to learn more about the Book of Esther.   Great environment full of chatter and fun activities.  Makes you feel very welcomed.’

‘A book from the bible that shows people and girls how much God loves you and how to express your identity and lift off those negative things and learn the positive things.’

‘Easy to learn.’

‘An amazing course to help you grow in’.

How timely is today!…For our final Esther session we joined the church family first to celebrate ‘Mothering Sunday’.  I feel such a mix of emotions; sad that the course is coming to an end, but excited as I believe that God has amazing plans to grow and bless others with ‘Esther’.    Defining  ‘love’ was a real challenge for the girls.. which caused me to wonder more deeply at how young people navigate their way through the mixed messages they hear in the world….

Our ‘film strip’ proved, yet again, to be so helpful in prompting the girls to remember the story for the final time.

Looking forward to the next time we meet; I’ve added an additional session so that I can gather some in depth reflections on the whole course from the girls.  I’m also going to ask parents to comment too!!

What a word of encouragement I received during the week; someone just happened to  drop into a casual conversation that the Jews had celebrated ‘Purim’ on the 28th Feb – 1st Mar (unbeknown to me),  wow; I received it as an affirmation from the Lord of ‘Esther’; we certainly do have purpose and His timing is perfect!

Really funny… the first activity which was a bag of items the girls had to feel and guess what they were and their purpose…

I obviously didn’t explain the activity fully as two of the girls promptly started to get the items out of the bag..!

Another 2 hour session, which surprised me as the content lessens each week; I think it’s because the girls are becoming more comfortable and engaging with us as leaders and one another.  Sadly, the reflective and journaling time was squeezed out; definitely need to re-think this part.

I took some time at the start to remember the ‘Am I’s…Secure? Chosen? Courageous? And the power of the tongue; that as the Proverb (18:21) says, is life and death!   Spent a lot of time in our first activity on the things/people/characteristics we value..it felt right to stay with that and hear each girl share openly and confidently what’s important to them; relationships/family/faith.

The film strip continues to work really well as we build the story; lots of laughter is caused around trying to work out what some of the drawings are and what they mean!  Loving the ‘reverses’ we see in Esther; we remembered the Kings Edict in chapter 1:22, compared with how Haman is now listening to the advice of his wife and friends to build a ridiculously high gallows for Mordecai.  It was good to use that example to think about who and what we listen to,  and consider how we measure those words before they become labels and beliefs.  Again another 2 hour jam packed session; had to miss out the part at the end on how we can build up one another in and out of church.  I’m also finding that time is being squeezed at the end for journal-ing and reflection; be interesting to hear what the girls think about that too.

Such a thrill to welcome the girls early into the room, and not only hear, but be invited into their chatter; there is such an emerging sense of ‘growing and being in this space together’.

The opening activity, which was matching up the phobias helped to introduce  the session and appeared to work well as the girls paired up and tried really hard to fathom out the strangely named phobias that exist out there!  I also felt it was also important  to add and think about the other aspect of fear that can also ‘energise’ us to keep us safe and out of danger.

Stepping into the story of Esther I was astounded at the detail the girls had remembered …my concern that I had talked way too much last week and caused them to switch off was actually unfounded.  The film strips (which we have stuck to the wall are growing nicely, with some interesting pictures to prompt and remind us of what’s happened).

We spent a lot of time with the different scenarios (activity); thinking about ways we can be courageous in everyday situations at home and school…and found ourselves going deeper and off track a little, but I counted each conversation as valuable; as I was able to hear all the more, the thoughts and heart of each of the girls.

Oh, there was such a lovely reaction of ‘wow’ by the girls as we watched ‘Ruthies story’; CEO and founder of Because Justice Matters in San Francisco; she is such an inspiration… and a true woman of courage.

I struggled to find a song about ‘courage’ that was slower in tempo to quiet our hearts at the end of a full on session… so asked the Lord and felt it was right to focus on Jesus, which is always a good thing to do!!  I played the You Tube clip which takes segments of ‘the Passion’ of Christ to the song ‘You raise me up’.

Thank you Jesus; You are courage; and our courage.  Because of you, we can be courageous too.  What a Saviour!