I recently had the privilege of speaking at my Auntie & Uncle's church in Wavertree (the child I attended until I was 4 years old), and I received some lovely compliments about what I had to say. So I thought I would share (a slightly edited version of) it on here for those of you who may be interested :)

Do you know how a Blacksmith makes a horseshoe? How a piece of iron is put into a fire and hammered? How this process is repeated numerous times? But can you see what happens? A piece of worthless metal eventually finds its life as a precious horseshoe.

Now replace Blacksmith with God, and change piece of iron to you or I. God uses the highs and lows of life to mould us into who we are meant to be; he moulds us to be more like Jesus Christ. He makes us more like Jesus every time we're thrown into the fire. And I bet that can feel like it happens a lot.

We read in James chapter 1 verse 2-4 (NIV) "consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so then you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’.

Our hard times forge that perseverance. But what does perseverance mean? When I asked Google to define 'perseverance', it said that it meant to have persistence in completing something with difficulty. Would you agree? We can gain a better understanding of the meaning of the word in the Greek language, when it translates as 'cheerful', 'hopeful', 'endurance'. For us to keep going is good, but to do so cheerfully is simply beautiful.

I lost my father when I was just 18 years old. It was an incredibly difficult time - I was going through my A-Levels when he fell ill, and got engaged just 2 weeks before he passed. But before he died, he said to me 'your life must continue, you must live your life to its fullness. It’s what God & I both want for you'. It was agonising. But I did it. And so many of my friends couldn't understand how I could find Joy when I had just lost my father. And that's because those who don't know God, don't know how you can feel joy even in your hardest of times. Joy & happiness, to me, are two very different things. You CAN feel joy when you're hurting - the joy of the Lord IS your strength... it causes that cheerful persistence.

Phillipians chapter 1 verse 6 (NIV) reads "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

So how do we find that immense joy? That's simple. Spending time in God's presence. Truly and wholly letting everything go to spend time with him. How does a marriage succeed? When you have time for each other. It's the same with our relationship with God. There can be a lot that competes for our attention in life - I have a husband, daughter, dog, house, volunteer work, family, church commitments... lack of time in our busy schedules, the impact of social media, negativity in the latest headlines... it can all cloud our vision and connections with God. It causes us to have a hunger for more of that Pure Joy. We're losing touch with the one who can grant us that pure and beautiful joy.

Recently, Phil bought a new car. His dream car... well 2nd on the list... and from the day we visited the showroom to the day we collected it, and further on, he was so giddy and happy. He knew he'd achieved something great in life - and, I feel, that is how God reacts when we take that time to spend time in his presence. Our heavenly father is the only one who can grant us pure joy. He is the only one who can satisfy and fill us!

Phillipians chapter 4 verse 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”.

Acts chapter 2 verse 28: "You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence".

But do you know who you are? Do you know why and how you are destined for this incredible joy?

Have you ever seen The Princess Diaries movie? My favourite film as a teen! It's about an awkward teenage girl, who can't get anything right, doesn't fit in, doesn't have the latest anything. Until her grandmother arrives and reveals to her that she is in fact a royal - a princess. And so the makeover process begins - the hair, nails, eyebrows, sent to etiquette lessons. She learns how to live the life of a princess. Yet, it isn't how she looks or presents herself that makes her a princess - it is in fact her blood.

In the same way — We are royalty. We are chosen.

My fathers favourite scripture is 1 Peter chapter 2, verses 2 to 10. They read: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy".

How incredible is that?! You are chosen by God, hand picked, a Child of the Living King. AMEN!

You can rejoice in the fact that you are his own creation! Who we are in Christ, whole heartedly knowing who we are in the Lord should spark that amazing and beautiful pure joy from the bottom of our souls! He delights in us!

Hold onto who you are in Christ; find that time to rest in God's presence. I promise you it will be so much more worth while that anything else you could be doing. Just 5 minutes a day. In the shower. In the car. Walking the dog. Talk to him, pray to him, listen for what calling he has over you…

When you are quiet, you'll see he has been waiting for you. Be ready to listen to what he has to say. Allow him to fill up your Joy Cup to overflow - you can't pour out that joy when your cup is empty. Allow your joy to overflow onto others!

Romans chapter 12 verse 12: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”