You Are…

 

How many times has the world said these things to you?  How many time have you said them to yourself? How many times have you had things like this spoken over you?  How many times have you believed them to be true?  How many times have you listened to these lies of the enemy?  Like me, too many no doubt…

For us, as people, especially as women, it is so easy to believe lies about ourselves.  When all the world shouts is “You are not good enough as you are” from so many directions, from our TV screens, from the internet, from people around us, even friends and on occasion the Church.

The above images are from my favourite tv programme ‘One Tree Hill’.  I find it insane that even in a fictional scenario, a woman as beautiful as ‘Brooke’ played by Sophia Bush could feel these things about herself.  But she does, because the lies of the enemy are not restricted to you, or me, or the ‘least attractive’ or least confident, but effect almost everyone.

Anywhere, at any point in life it is so easy to look around, compare yourself to others and conclude that you are not as pretty, capable, smart, confident, talented or good as them.  But that is an utter lie!!  You are perfect just as you are!  And do you know how I know?  Because the Creator of the Universe, the God of heaven and earth, the King of Kings, and Savior of the world tells me so…

The Bible is just bursting full of the TRUTH God intends you to know and believe.  The Scriptures speak constantly against the lies of the world, and uphold the truths of how the Father sees you.

Regardless of what you have done, how you feel, how many times and in whatever ways you have messed up, how broken you feel, or how far from God you may be … the truth remains you are an adored beloved child of God.  

 

You are Beautiful (Ps 45:11) – ‘The King is enthralled by your beauty…’

You are Unique (Ps 139:13) – 

 

You are Unique.  Be true to who you are…

 

You are loved! (Jer 31:3) – “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

You are special (Eph 2:10) – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You are unique.  Created by God for His glory- to do his good works, things that only you could do.  He wants you to live entirely for Him, doing all that you were called to do, and being all that you were called to be. To show people that you were here, for His glory.

 

 

You were created for a purpose (Jer 29:11)- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

You are cared for (Eph 3:17-19) – ‘17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ 

 

You are lovely (Dan 12:3) – ‘Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. ‘

 

You are important (1 Pet 2:9) – ‘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.’

You are royalty.  Daughter of the King of Kings, a member of the Royal priesthood.  You are special.

 

You are Forgiven! (Ps 103:12) – ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’

Is 1:18 ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…’

 

 

 

You are a New Creation (2 Cor 5:17) – ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’

 

 

You are family (Eph 2:19) – ‘So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God.’

Whenever you are doubting how precious you are, it’s so important to remember not only what God says about you, but also that you are surrounded by a family, a sisterhood of women who no doubt often feel the same way that you do, and you can remind you who you are in His eyes.

 

Ultimately the key thing to remember is that you belong to Jesus.  You are His and he adores you.  Whatever you are going through or feeling, no matter what you circumstance NOTHING can take that identity from you, and NOTHING can remove you from His love.

 

Did you know… 

That you were handmade

To be just who you are

Every hair you have is counted, every tear drop, every scar

Every feature is gently fashioned and finished off by hand

Unique though not unequaled, essential to His plan

No one else can do what you do No one else can play your part

Made in God’s own Image

And loved with all His heart.

xxx

Advertisements

Music To My Ears…

As I said in my last blog post, I love music.  I don’t claim to have exceptional taste, but I get so much joy from music, and live music.  So I wanted to share a few of my favourite artists and songs at the moment…

1) Boyce Avenue.  As I shared in my last post, this is my current favourite band.  The 3 piece from Sarasota Florida, are 3 brothers who found popularity due to their inventive covers, which they have received millions of hits on YouTube for.  They also write and record all of their own original music, with their own record label, and are amazing live!!!

www.boyceavenue.com  

Here is one of my favourite original songs of theirs (On My Way) …

Their cover of Whitney Houston ‘I look to you’, and Taylor Swift’s ‘Last Kiss’ are also amongst some of my favourite covers.  Last Kiss was the song that made me really love Alejandro’s voice.  There are so many great covers and originals!

2) The Civil Wars.  I discovered this duo, fairly recently and I just love them.  I love their voices together, I love their charisma and style.  I used to listen to Joy William’s (the female half) CD all the time, which was a Christian album my mum got us, with beautiful songs.  But I love her even more with John Paul White, and think their music is stunning.  Me and Nisha are going to see them in November and I’m really excited!!

Here is one of my favourite of their songs.  Their whole album ‘Barton Hollow’ is amazing!!  Falling…

3) Ben Howard.  Again, quite a newish discovery.  Me, Nisha and Jamie went to see him a while back, and he was brilliant live.  I love his style, and his music is really original.  For someone as young as he is, I think he has so much potential.  His album ‘Every Kingdom’ is amazing!!

Here is a brilliant version of ‘Only Love’ from Radio 1 Live Lounge…

And here is a cover of Carly Rae Jepson ‘Call Me Maybe’ that I LOVE!

4) John Mayer.  I’m not a massive fan of the man himself- but his music is like chocolate and wine combined…yummy!!  I’m listening to his new album ‘Born and Raised’ at the moment and it is great, although I do prefer his older stuff especially ‘Continuum’.

Here is my favourite- ‘Free Fallin’…

5) Taylor Swift.  I know she is not to everyone’s taste, but her music makes me so happy!!  When I saw her live with my mum and sisters it was so much fun.  I love that she writes all her own music, straight from her heart.  I love that it’s the kind of music I will dance around my room too.

‘Dear John’- allegedly about John Mayer has some awesome lyrics!!  “But I took your matches, before fire could catch me, so don’t look now.  I’m shining like fireworks over your sad empty town”  ‘Hell hath no fury…’

6) Ed Sheeran.  I love Ed’s voice, and again the lyrics and musicality of his songs are brilliant.  I’m going to see him in October and really looking forward to it.  I love his whole album, especially ‘Give Me Love’ ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Kiss Me’.

Here is one of his beautiful songs, ‘Small Bump’…

7) Tyler Hilton.  Tyler is an actor and musician.  He starred in ‘One Tree Hill’ one of my favourite programmes.  He recently supported Boyce Avenue on their UK tour.  I love his husky voice.  His album ‘Forget the Storm’ is brilliant.

Here is a cover he did of Lana Del Rey ‘Video Games’ which I adore…

8) Jessie J.  Another amazing UK artist and feisty woman.  Again this is dance around your bedroom music.  She has an incredible voice!!

Here is a version of ‘Domino’ she did for Radio 1 live lounge.  Amazing…

9) The Fray.  I just love how chilled out and beautiful a lot of their music is.  I also love that their lyrics are really meaningful. I love ‘Never Say Never’, ‘You Found Me’ and ‘Look After You’.

One of my favourite songs of theirs is ‘Be Still’…

10) Hillsong Church.  I love worship music of any description.  I love singing in Church or at Christian camps of festivals.  I’m really fortunate to be part of a Church that produces really great worship music.  I used to listen to the Hillsong CD’s years ago, and they are so great.  The latest album is full of incredible songs like ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Beneath the Waters I Will Rise’.  I have posted on here before one of my favourites- ‘The Father’s Heart’.

Here is a video that was taken at one of Church’s Easter Services.  It’s not a “Worship song” but I love it all the same (the quality isn’t amazing).   ‘We All Need Saving’…

Some other artists I also love are-

Adele, Michael Buble, One Direction (happy music), Ron Pope (beautiful singer), Beyonce (her latest album 4 is brilliant- especially ‘I was here’), Jimmy Needham (a brilliant Christian singer songwriter), Benjamin Francis Leftwich (a great acoustic singer), One Republic, Justin Timberlake, Joshua Radin, The Fray and many many more…

Here are some final videos of songs I just love…

Demi Lovato ‘Skyscraper’.  Again I’m not a massive fan of hers, but this song is brilliant…

Bruno Mars ‘Today My Life Begins’…

And finally, my absolute favourite song of the moment.  Stunning music and lyrics by Jonas Myrin…a battle cry song that I have on constant repeat at the moment…

I hope you enjoyed some or all of these.  If you have any suggestions of lovely music, please do share.  I always love discovering new artists.

xoxo

The Love of Living (And Listening to Boyce Avenue)

I have to say… I LOVE life!!   Now don’t get me wrong, I have bad days, and some very bad days.  But some days I can’t believe how amazing my life is.  Some days I can’t believe how blessed I am.  Not only just to be living and breathing on this incredible planet.  Not just to be living in such a privileged country, and town.  But also because of my incredible family, friends, Church, the job I get the privilege of doing, and all the little things day by day that I cherish.

I have in recent months and years, to be honest, been a bit poorly.  Not the kind of illness that I know some people struggle with.  And most days I thank God that I am well enough.  But I do have days when I find life that little bit harder.   And it’s during those times that I appreciate all the things I have all the more.  I appreciate so much that I can receive free medical care.  I love the fact I have a warm, bright house full of all sorts of comforts.  I love that I have healthy food, incredible housemates, wonderful friends and colleagues, and an amazing family who are only a phone call or train ride away.

During times when I feel low or poorly, and on good days too, one thing that is a real source of comfort to me is music.

Growing up, I hardly ever heard music.  We didn’t have a cd or tape player.  Occasionally I would hear things at friends houses or school.  But unlike most kids today, I didn’t have an ipod (or even a walkman).

Later, in my early teens, I would lock myself in my room, and when the world around me was one reality; and saying one thing, music could speak a whole different reality to me…straight into my soul.   Until my late teens I never really explored music in all it’s glory.  But when I did… a love affair began.

Now, I don’t in any way profess to be a music connoisseur; and my taste to some people may be awful.  But I find music so emotive, so uplifting, and such a blessing.  Worship music in particular can see me transcend in a way little else can.  Again, in my late teens I was so blessed to be able to listen to music such as the Hillsong or Soul Survivor CD’s.  My mum would get me worship CD’s and I soaked them up.  Now I can’t believe that I get to be part of Hillsong Church, and experience amazing times of worship every week.

My love for live music began in Church.  It then spread to the little gigs and times of worship at summer camps and Spring Harvest.  In August 2006 I got to go and see Switchfoot (my 1st real musical love) at the Shepherd’s bush Empire.  It was my first ever gig, and a new kind of love began!  I couldn’t believe the power and presence of music in that kind of setting.  It was electric.  In March 2007 I went with my friends for my birthday to see Einadui- a classical piano player (mum would be proud).  Again it was a completely new experience for me.  When he played along with a string quartet and we sat in the balcony, I honestly thought I could be in heaven.

My gigging days took a slight sabbatical until 2011.  I then went to the Xfactor tour (don’t judge) and to see Taylor Swift with my mum and sisters; both at the M.E.N Arena.  Both so much fun!!!

Now living in Surrey, being so close to London, and having some wonderful gig loving friends, I have been able to go to so many more.  In the past year or so, I have seen Benjamin Francis Leftwich (a great acoustic singer), Ben Howard (a brillaint musician!), and I went to see One Direction (again no judgement) who were supported by my favourite band- Boyce Avenue.

That gig was really special for me.  Partly because I had missed a Boyce Avenue gig in the November because I was really poorly, that I had been really looking forward to.  So the fact that they were supporting One Direction, whose music makes me super happy, was really exciting.  It was also really exciting because after the gig, me and Nisha bumped into Boyce Avenue and got to say hello!  I honestly felt like I was being treated to make up for the fact I had missed the previous gig, I was really upset to miss.

On the 21st June 2012, I got to go and see the wonderful Boyce Avenue again.  This time at their headline gig at the Hammersmith Apollo to 5000 people!!  In the days building up I could not have been more excited.  And if you know me at all, are my facebook friend, or follow me on twitter, you probably never want to hear about them again.  But I really love their music, and both the cover songs that they do (some of which have had millions of hits on youtube) and their original music especially – I just LOVE!!  They are a really genuine humble band, who make brilliant music, all themselves and all for the love if music.

http://www.youtube.com/user/boyceavenue?feature=results_main

 

We finished work early, and me and my lovely friend Nisha went on the tube to the Apollo.  I was so super excited I could have burst.  And even whilst we queued I was so excited.    ” Beautiful people of LONDON it’s almost go time! Let’s make the Hammersmith Apollo erupt tnite”- @boyceavenue   Here is a picture of me with my ticket…

 

Whilst we queued we got our VIP lanyards (super cool I know!)  Once inside we went up to the bar to wait again for a bit.  Whilst we were waiting we could hear Tyler Hilton (one of the support acts) doing his sound check which was really cool!!   It was so fun hanging out with Nisha and I was so excited.  As part of our package we got to meet the band before the gig, which was so great.  We were ushered into this little side room, which was a bit surreal.  The band signed our lanyards and we chatted a bit about their gigs.  I even got a soggy flower given to me  😉  We took a picture with them, and got given a signed poster.  Again, it may sound silly, but I felt really blessed.  It’s not every day you get do do things like that…

 

 

We were able to go straight into the venue.  We grabbed a drink then went straight to the front row!!!  It was amazing to be that close.  And before long the place was packed out.

The first support act Alex Goot was great.  Really adorable..  The second support act I was really excited about too!  Tyler Hilton is a musician but also an actor from  my favorite program ‘One Tree Hill’.   I’d been listening to his music loads before hand and really loved it!!   He has a really husky voice.  He did a brilliant set including a great cover of a Coldplay song.  He also took a little video of the crowd and added it to the music video he made earlier.  Here it is…

 

And here is a little video I took of his performance…

 

 

After a short break, Boyce Avenue came on!!  I was so happy!!

 

 

 

Here is one of the little videos I took…

 

They did all my favourite songs.  Some brilliant covers, and all their amazing new music including ‘On My Way’, ‘Broken Angel’ and ‘Dare to Believe’ which my favourites.

 

‘On My Way’…

 

 

Here is the music video for ‘Dare to Believe’.  Whilst you’re there check out all their amazing covers and original music!!

 

 

 

 

Boyce Avenue took this picture of the crowd during their set!

 

 

I couldn’t believe how close we were and what an awesome gig it was!!  They are amazing musicians.  We had such a great time. We got a cup of tea and headed home.  My ears were ringing and heart pumping for ages!!  🙂

 

 

Boyce Avenue tweeted the next day- “Last night was huge 4 us & dedicated 2 everyone worldwide who has ever supported us. #London #weloveyouall

http://boyceavenue.com/

So blessed to have great days like that in my life, and amazing music that I can share with wonderful friends.  I will blog again soon about some of the other amazing music I am listening to at the moment, including some artists who I am going to see soon.  But for now I will say goodbye.

x0x0

‘Forever Family’s’ and Finding a Place Called Home.

On Thursday the 28th June, I ventured into London because I was really keen to get to an event.   I went to a Fostering and Adoption consultation that was put on by Krish Kandiah from the Evangelical Alliance (http://www.eauk.org/  @eauknews  @krishk) and Care For the Family     (http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/ @care4thefamily)

It was a really great informative and inspiring evening.  It was so encouraging to hear what the Church is doing in this area, and the plans to do more.  It was also brilliant to see a room full of Christians who are fostering, have adopted, or who are in the process.  It was great to learn from each other, share with each other and encourage each other.

Now I know this is a very sensitive and personal subject.  However as someone who had a really great experience of being fostered by an incredible Christian family, I feel I am in a privileged position to encourage others and share the benefits, and how it can be done so well!  But as someone who has also seen a number of times how it has not gone so well, including a short placement in emergency care which was wasn’t pleasant, and what happens when difficulties overcome potential, I also feel I know a little about how it shouldn’t be done, and what some of the obstacles are.

I was Fostered when I was 15.  My foster family in lifestyle, happiness, choices, beliefs etc could not have been more different than what I knew.  It took a long time for me to start looking after myself.  My foster family showered us with grace, love, and affirmation (I had a terrible self-image, and deep set apathy and almost hatred for life).  It took a long time to stop swearing, acting in a self-destructive way, and to accept their ways of living, and that we could be a family.

When I turned 16, the thing that showed me in the most definitive way that we were now family, is that after only a few months, my foster parents wanted me to continue to stay at home (I was offered sheltered accommodation etc), and wanted me to regain my youth.  They supported me throughout 6th form.  We went on holidays, we spent time together just playing games or watching TV.  My mum taught me how to really care for myself and love myself.  Somehow over time, we became very much a family.  My family’s decision to care for us, and step out in that way, literally radically transformed my life, my prospects and my hope and future.

 

There are 59,000 Children currently in the care system in the UK.  Currently BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering- (http://www.baaf.org.uk/) state that 6,200 children need adopting in the UK.  The Fostering Network (http://www.fostering.net/) state that 8,000 children currently need foster placements.

The Evangelical Alliance alone is in contact with 15,000 Churches.

The maths is simple.  If just one family in each if these Churches, supported by the Church as a whole took on the mission to Foster or Adopt, then the need for the whole of the UK could be covered by the Church!!

Fostering and Adoption shows with words and actions the impact God has had on our lives.  Our compassion (to co-suffer, be moved into action with empathy) on such vulnerable children (70% of whom have been abused or neglected), shows the love of Jesus in the most practical way.

I have a huge heart for Children, and can’t wait to show mine (whether fostered adopted or natural) Jesus and real love as my family did for me.  I am very passionate that anyone on Church if capable, whether they have their own Children or not, should make room in their lives for those children who need families.  I believe that it is a Biblical principle, and one of the best ways possible, to show in a practical, every day way the love of God, and to literally be able to transform someone’s life.

Krish asked us to imagine the impact on the Church if at least on family per church were looking after children.  Imagine the impact on our often “Middle Class” Churches.  Imagine children in Sunday School who would never otherwise be exposed the gospel.  Imagine the topics at weekly prayer meetings which would include all the complexities of the children’s and their natural family’s lives.  Imagine the Churches praying for the poor, not just overseas, but those in their own families and extended families.

Imagine the impact on our nation.  If the Church were not seen as homophobic, hateful, bigots, or crazy ‘Bible Bashers’.  But as those who literally open up their homes and their lives to some of the most vulnerable in our nation.  Wouldn’t this help not only the children, but our communities to see who God really is?

Ps 68:5-6 says:

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the lonely in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

Wouldn’t it be great if this is what the Church and our God was known for?  Being the defender of the poor and the protector of orphans and widows?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not in any way suggesting that every Christian should foster and adopt.  As I have said I have seen many cases, including with Christians, where the complexities of their life, their circumstances, character or callings have meant that it would not be suitable for them.  And this kind of parenting is ‘Extreme Parenting’ that includes a great number of difficulties as well as rewards.

I realise there are hindrances to people fostering or adopting, but in my experience, even within the Church this is often out of a lack of understanding, and a feeling that it is only something particular types of people are ‘called to’ not God loving, every day loving families.  I do believe that everyone in Church has a role to play in supporting the families who do this wonderful thing.  I think that there needs to be an education and new perspective within the Church that this is not only an answer to the problem of infertility (which of course it can be) but also a mission field.

Unfortunately I haven’t always seen that.  I haven’t always seen the Church supporting those who already Foster and Adopt, who have ‘difficult children’.  Nor have I always seen the Church ‘promoting’ Adoption or Fostering, as there can be much misunderstanding on what it entails, and often a desire to see healing or natural conception when infertility is the issue.

So many non-Christian families do an amazing job of Fostering and Adopting, and seeing broken children grow and be restored.  But imagine how much more Christians can do; with God, with the Holy Spirit guiding and protecting, and with the network of help and support from others in the Church.  This is what Church should look like.

As Krish said in his article:

“Collectively we can begin to discover how we can instil a mindset change in our families and churches to open our arms and hearts to the children who need temporary and permanent homes where they can be accepted and loved unconditionally.”

http://www.fiec.org.uk/news/article/finding-a-place-called-home

One reason I am passionate about Christian’s Fostering and Adopting, is that is one of the best possible ways to evangelise- how better to show a child or others that God loves them, than by showing them that you love them, in a real, every day, sacrificial way?

Another reason is that fulfils a God given mission to protect the defenceless.  One issue I have become increasingly passionate about as I learn more and more about the issues of modern day slavery (which I will share more about) is how vulnerable to children in the care system are to abuse or sex trafficking.  This makes my heart so sad.

‘Police figures show an estimated 10,000 children go missing from care every year’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18675986

“Under the current system you can have a situation where a sexual predator is sitting in a car outside a children’s home targeting the children inside that home, a home that the police don’t even know exists,”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-18425293

“One of the victims living in a privately run residential home was abused by 25 men in one night.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01j6t1t

U.S:

“Yesterday’s report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner makes for difficult reading. It highlights the risks of sexual exploitation faced by a “disproportionate” number of children in care.”

“As one tearful girl who called ChildLine said, “I just want a family. I just want to be loved”. Surely that’s not too much to ask.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tom-rahilly/we-must-do-more-to-protec_b_1645438.html

I am not saying that Christian’s are perfect, or always get things right.  And I don’t believe that they always have the ‘perfect family’.  But I find it hard to believe that within the loving context of a Christian family, surrounded by the support of the Church, that foster children would go missing, suffer from abuse or be as particularly at risk.  I believe that the Church; that Christian’s old or young, single or married, with or without their own children can be the solution to this problem.

I hope that this has been in some way encouraging or informative.  Please feel free to comment as I know this is a very complex subject, with many levels, and some challenges I haven’t covered here.

Another way that Children overseas can be protected from predators or trafficking is by the protection of education or sponsorship where they attend classes and are monitored.

Vision Rescue http://www.visionrescue.org.in/ do an amazing work protecting and educating children in India.

Stop the Traffik http://www.stopthetraffik.org/ and other anti-trafficking organisations I will talk more about do some great educational work for children.

And of course sponsoring a child through Compassion UK http://www.compassionuk.org/ can be another way to not only help a child receive food, education and spiritual development, but protect them further from trafficking.