The Heavy Weight of Expectation 

I’ve been thinking lately about the burden and joy of expectation. This is just my thoughts as they come, so take them as you will. 😊 Feel free to comment. 

I said to my friend on the way to a fun event in London recently that I think I sometimes ruin things by setting my expectations too high. Like we are going to a gig, or it’s nearly my birthday, or I have a trip home of a holiday coming up and I get so excited and look forward to it and romanticise it so much that sometimes the real thing is a bit of a let down. I normally still enjoy the thing, but I have this thought in the back of my head that I imagined it better.  Or I am dreading it being over. 

Christmas is a classic example of this. Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE Christmas mostly because I have 2 whole weeks with my amazing family. But the build up is so long; shops have the decor in already and it’s only October, I feel like I should have got gifts already, tickets need to be booked and my the time it comes around I’m already getting sad it’s nearly over and I have to wait again. And if the food isn’t perfect, people don’t love my gifts or I’m too tired or full of cold to enjoy it as much then I feel sad. 
We have this running comment when I visit home – my mum says “You’re always going and never coming”. And I feel like it’s true. I get home and I’m counting down the days until I have to leave because the time is so precious. We’ve been looking forward to it for so long even at Christmas it doesn’t seem like long enough. Life goes so quickly and we are bombarded with things to do, things we should be doing, fun things others are doing and it’s so hard to live in the present, enjoy the moment and not get too caught up in expectation. 

I think media (social and otherwise) has a huge share in the blame for unrealistic expectations. I’ve seen a bunch of articles lately about how because of unrealistic portrayal of women in media, cyber bullying etc girls as young as 7 are feeling inadequate about how they look and feel more judged and stressed than ever before. I’m sure it’s true for guys too. It’s been said before, but social media shows the ‘highlight reel’ of someone’s life instead of the ‘behind the scenes’ and we try and aspire to that even though it’s impossible. Beauty and life bloggers 24hour stream their lives and it seems perfect and amazing and we forget it’s heavily edited, hugely subsidised by ads and only a fraction of their lives. And we get depressed because our lives seem messy and broken and flawed in comparison. 

But comparison is the thief of joy. And expectation that is unrealistic will cripple us. 

Expectation can kill relationships. Friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, new aquantances, family and even with God. When I’m getting to know someone (especially of the opposite gender) and I like them, it’s so hard not to expect too much too quickly. I can see all my own flaws, everything that’s wrong with me, all the ways in which my life in complex. But with them I want them to be perfect. I want them to never let me down, never hurt me, never mock me, never doubt me, never dislike me. I want them to never show they are “too perfect” as I feel rubbish in comparison. But I don’t want them to be judgemental, mean or odd or stupid or anything I don’t like, even though I can be all those things. I imagine it to be perfect like a Jane Austin novel ending and then I do something foolish or they say something harsh and I am crushed. I don’t want to do anything to ruin my expectation and I certainly don’t want to let down theirs so I try and do everything I can to be my best. Or better than my best. But it’s not always realistic. 

I’d rather have a beautifully flawed relationship than a flawed ‘beautiful’ one. 

Elizabeth Bennet had it right;

I guess the ‘world’ wants us to be perfect right away, to always get it right, look amazing, be hilarious, be skinny, be well educated, be a high achiever, be fearless, be flawless. And I am sure we all agree that that expectation is exhausting and it’s not achievable for anyone. 

I read the other day about a new club in LA that will only let “attractive people” in and my heart broke. So many people have so much more to offer than how they look. Or even how smart they are, how much they can do, how many achievements they have.  For me; how kind they are, how compassionate, how genuine and generous they are is far more important. 

God is perfect. He will never do the wrong thing, his grace is for all and his love never ends. But even of God we expect too much. We think that means will never allow us suffer (even though his disciples did duh). We think he will give us everything we desire even if it’s not best for us. We get disappointed in Him and start not to trust Him. But that’s the real test of our expectation. Do we trust God? Do we trust in His grace and mercy despite the pain and suffering we see or endure. Do we believe in his unending love? Or do choose sin instead of grace and wallow in the sadness? This is a question for myself and a challenge for myself too!! How much do I expect of God. I can expect Him to always love me, always forgive me and for mercies new each day. But that doesn’t mean I can expect life to be always be rosy. I can’t expect to do whatever I want with no consequence. I can’t expect to live in a fallen world and not see the suffering of humankind hating and hurting itself. 

I have been doing the 1,000 gifts since I read the book and currently on about 1700. It’s so great to remind myself to be thankful for the really small things because it helps to put things in perspective and thank God for even the things I don’t feel like being thankful for. It reminds me to be grateful in all circumstances, which helps keep my expectations slightly more real. It’s so hard though. 

I want to have realistic expectations of myself. I pray for that today. To see myself as God does but not as the picture perfect world expects me to be. 

I want to have realistic expectations of my day to day and life. I pray for that today. To know it can be beautiful and blessed and amazing but also can be tricky and hard and messy. 

I want to have realistic expectations of my family, friends and people I’m getting to know. I pray for that today. To know that people can be amazing, they can love me, surprise me, do wonderful things, but also they can make mistakes, let me down and be human. 

I want to have realistic expectations of God. I pray for that today. To know he is perfect, always good, always loving and gives grace and mercy. But that He is also Just, omniscient and omnipotent. That if life doesn’t go as planned or I feel let down by God its that my expectations were unrealistic and the world is fallen, not that God has let me down. 

I pray those things for you too today. I pray we are thankful for all the good things we have, all the love God and others have given us, and that we level our expectations but also allow ourselves to be surprised if they are exceeded. 

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#goals Speak Life Over Me; Revival

Even if my 2015 and all the years before were terrible and full of mistakes, I am still enough. I am still loved. I am still precious. I need to do away with the lies that tell me otherwise. I need to let go of fears that are holding me back. Funnily enough these are some of my ‘resolutions’ or #goals for 2016.

 

 Old, Alone, Fat, Ugly, Loser, Failure, Hopeless, Under-achiever, Broke, Un-Sexy, Talentless

Not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not Christian enough, not fit enough, not impacting enough, not whole enough, not worth enough.  Not enough.  Not enough.  Not enough

 

The world is quick to bombard us with messages that we need to ‘do better’ ‘look better’ and ‘be better’.

#squadgoals #lifegoals #relationshipgoals #eyebrowgoals #baegoals #hairgoals #goals #goals #goals

 

Each and every January gyms, dating websites, slimming worlds and travel agents, beauticians, clothes shops, language DVDs, and book sellers all cash in on this idea that we need to improve, to do better and to be better, each new year.

This notion in itself is not terrible and one I strive for when making my ‘resolutions’ each year.  I like the challenge and accountability of having things to strive for.  There’s something really great about wanting to better ourselves and push ourselves, but I just think that it shouldn’t be at the cost of dismissing all we have done before, or trashing ourselves for what we have not (or worse cannot) be or achieve.

I can never be someone I am not.  There are some things I am not capable of or called to do.  And that’s ok!

 

Even if my 2015 and all the years before were terrible and full of mistakes, I am still enough.  I am still loved.  I am still precious.  I need to do away with the lies that tell me otherwise.  I need to let go of fears that are holding me back.  Funnily enough these are some of my ‘resolutions’ or #goals for 2016.

 

I have this amazing 2016 planner by Horacio Printing and it begins with a ‘Bucket List’ (Dream, Listen, Plan, Pray).  Mine looks something like this:

  • REVIVAL; Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Financial. Healthy and debt free. 

Whilst the last couple of years I believe God has spoken to me about Hope and Fortitude (overcoming) this year I really believe He is speaking life over me- Revival.  And I need to speak life over myself, not letting the ‘not good enough’ in. 

  • Rely more on Him, less on me. (Perhaps you can relate?  Can I get an Amen!)
  • Seeing the gifts in everything.
  • Develop my creativity and broaden my reading and mind.
  • Step further into my calling.
  • Travel
  • Invest in relationships!
  • Ethical purchasing.
  • Pray for world issues.
  • Love more freely. Forgive more often.
  • Seek freedom from the past.
  • Commit to a local Church
  • Blog and share my voice.
  • Journal and pray.

 

This amazing planner goes further than just a bucket list however, in setting goals, but also big dreams and refocusing for 2016.  Not just setting resolutions, but asking what are my passions and focuses, and what distractions are getting in the way?  This has been a game changer for me.

2015-12-16 23.06.33-1

 

It asks what do I need to let go of, who do I need to forgive and what fears are holding me back, at the start of each season.

What would you answer?  I found it liberating.

 

Rather than just a bucket list, goals, or resolutions on a tick list; what matters to you?  What do you want to see God change in your life?  What are you making more time for and what can you leave behind?  What word are you speaking over your life? Are you putting on pressure to live up to standards, or are you stepping into amazing plans and purposes?

 

I read a blog at the New Year from one of my favourite authors and activists Jamie Tworkowski who founded TWLOHA.  It is amazing and you should read it all but here’s a snippet (emphasis in bold mine)…

If you’re reading this, if there’s air in your lungs, then you’re alive today tonight right now.
And who can know how long we have here…
And is it a gift? Was it ever a gift? Did that ever feel true or could that one day feel true?
Are there things to fight to live for?
Moments and people. Weddings and children and all your different dreams.
Love.
Is your life more than just your own?
And are there broken things you were made to fight to fix?
Broken families, broken friends… Injustice.
Will you move for things that matter?

Wouldn’t it be nice if change took just a moment?
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?
Midnight and we’re new. Midnight and the past erased. Midnight and we’re free.

 

 

Isn’t that beautiful?!  It had a # on Twitter #welcometomidnight and people shared what they were leaving behind in 2015 and hoped to find in 2016.

 

Reading the # made me weep as it was so uplifting.  ‘Midnight and we’re new’…

 

I want to leave behind fear, guilt and doubt.  I want to fight for justice and ‘move for the things that matter’.  That’s what it’s all about.

 

Now 2015 was filled with some incredible times, precious moments with family and friends, trips, amazing events, great books, milestones at work, crafts, fun.  But as with every year there was some heartbreak, some tough times, some lessons learnt, some days not to be repeated and some struggles to overcome.  But I want to leave some of those things in 2015, leave behind the lie I am not enough and let God speak life over me; revival.

#justicegoals #lovegoals #givinggoals #gratitudegoals #mercygoals #revivalgoals #Godgoals

Smile…

I don’t think I am getting my point across too well. But I saw the sticker and it frustrated me. I know today is World Mental Health Day yet I’m not sure how much that will be spoken of in churches tomorrow. I know that there are 27 million plus people trapped in modern day slavery, yet so many don’t know. I know the world is in turmoil, and we grapple for solutions. I know millions live in abject poverty, whilst I live a life of comfort. I know there are thousands in children in the UK in the care system without a family, and so many homes closed to them. I know there is darkness and despair. So I just think that ’Smile Jesus loves you’ doesn’t always cut in.

A few (quite rushed) thoughts on World Mental Health Day…

So yesterday I noticed in our offices a yellow ‘Smile, Jesus loves you’ sticker.  I was reminded that I used to have that as a pencil sharpener in 6th form.  Along with my pencils, pens, notebooks, badges and anything else I could get covered in Bible verses or Christian mottos, I thought it was the best thing and of course the best form of evangelism.  Little did I know that it wasn’t the sharpener, the pen or even the ‘Mix CD’ I made for my RE teacher of 2003’s Christian hits (I know!) that would really show Jesus’ love, but my actions and my story.  I learned over the years that the fact I was smiling; the fact that I have joy in my heart despite all I had been through, that I was so full of God’s grace and forgiveness that it spread across my face- that was the true evangelism.

Don’t get me wrong, those things or similar can be a really great conversation starter and they were for me in 6th form.  In my RE class especially there was a girl who was Jehovah Witness and sometimes witch and a guy who was atheist but also dabbled in dark things and my teacher who used to be a Christian, had clearly been damaged by fundamentalism, yet cried when he recounted the story of him and a friend finding a dead lamb beside the road and being overwhelmed by Jesus’ sacrifice.  The pens and bracelets and mottos helped start dialogue that continued into class and we often had huge clashes, particularly myself and the atheist as he claimed I was ‘burning through him’ with my eyes when I looked at him, and he once stared he would ‘kill me and chop me up’.  Clearly a spiritual battle was taking place.  I was a brand new Christian, likely overzealous, but utterly convicted by the transformation that had taken place in my life.  I really believed I should smile because I knew for the first time that Jesus loved me!  I thought it was a great thing to have on my pencil sharpener!

I even managed to get ‘thrown out’ of my History class for smiling too much.  I was asked why I was grinning, to which I responded that I wasn’t grinning just smiling because I was happy, and like to smile.  My teacher told me to stop, which of course meant I couldn’t and when he thought I was making fun of him asked me to leave the class.  This was rather awkward to later explain to the head of 6th form when I was sat in the common room enjoying a cup of tea instead of enjoying my History lesson.  My RE teacher a while later said that he often ‘debated’ with my history teacher about the things I said about faith.  I to this day don’t know why he took my side, as he certainly didn’t agree with me about Jesus, but it seems he agreed enough to defend me against the History teacher.  Again- a spiritual battle.

This was at a time when I still didn’t fully realise what a spiritual battle was.  I didn’t know that Satan had been trying to claim me from the moment I was born, and often so nearly did.  I didn’t know that so much of the darkness that had surrounded my life and those closest to me; anxiety, poverty, depression, feelings of worthlessness, pain, addiction, self-injury, hopelessness, and fear were all things that should not surround you- part of the backdrop of the ultimate battle of good vs evil, life vs death, eternity vs darkness.  I had now claimed life and light but that didn’t mean that the darkness did not still try to overcome.

When I was younger, I forget how old perhaps around 13 or 14, one of my favourite songs was ‘smile’ by Michael Jackson.  I used to hear the lyrics and tears would float down my cheeks.  I know it’s pretty melancholy and perhaps dramatic to say but I used to think the song was actually speaking to me; I used to think each word was telling the story of my life and that it really would one day get better somehow even though I didn’t know how.

Songs like this, the pink blossom tree that sat in the garden on our estate and the love for my siblings willed me to push against the darkness. To not give up with life.

Smile, though your heart is aching

Smile, even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky

You’ll get by… 

If you smile

With your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just…

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just…

Smile, though your heart is aching

Smile, even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky

You’ll get by…

If you smile

Through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile…

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile

I found hope, as I have said before, when I was 15 and my life changed.  I entered into a new phase, with a new family and new revelation.  I was told again and again that I was loved, valued, precious and forgiven.  Not just through words, but more often in the way I was treated.  I (like the pens and sharpeners said) was told ‘Jesus loves me’, but more importantly I was shown it in small acts of love, in edification, in forgiveness when I didn’t deserve it and in being cared for and respected.

I was learning that I didn’t need to be afraid of death, which I had so feared so deeply from a young age when my half-brother had taken his own life and I cried myself to sleep thinking of the void.  I was learning that I shouldn’t have thoughts of throwing myself from a high window or into traffic to escape the numbing pain.  I was learning that I should give my body all that it needs and deserves.  I was learning that I had something unique and beautiful to offer the world. I was learning that I had a voice.  I was learning that it shouldn’t be so hard.  I was learning that community and time with people and opening yourself up is important.  I was learning that self-destruction won’t solve anything.  I was learning how to smile, and finding so many reasons to do so!

I wish however that someone had told me more clearly, that when you become a Christian, when you know outstanding grace, love acceptance and forgiveness, that the darkness does not disappear.  I mean, I do know this.  My life had seen the darkness that the world can offer and I knew that even though I had God’s love and protection, that the darkness was still there.  I was still in the battle.  But I think that’s why I kind of hate those pencil sharpeners, bumper stickers and bracelets sometimes.  They over simplify things.  Of course Jesus loves me and of course I should smile, but, because Jesus loves me doesn’t mean I will always be smiling.  Life is more complex than that.  In my opinion it doesn’t give enough gravity to the darkness that is real.

I kind of like Job for his honesty…

Job 9:

27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
    I will change my expression, and smile,’
28 I still dread all my sufferings,
    for I know you will not hold me innocent.
29 Since I am already found guilty,
    why should I struggle in vain?
30 Even if I washed myself with soap
    and my hands with cleansing powder,
31 you would plunge me into a slime pit
    so that even my clothes would detest me.

In the novel ‘The Fault in our Stars’ which grapples with teenage cancer, the male teen’s parents have a house full of ‘encouragements’.  Little notes and pillows and signs.  Things like ‘in the darkest days the Lord put the best people in your life’.  Whilst these things are true and in the novel encouraging to his parents, it doesn’t change the fact he has cancer.  Part of me feels like those kind of encouragements sometimes take away from acknowledging the reality and the pain.  It’s a fine balance of course as we don’t want to give into the darkness or allow it to swallow us (which I naturally sometimes do), but little cute words don’t always cut it.  In the novel, *spoiler alert!* the boy dies.  His girlfriend delivers a heart-breaking eulogy in a ‘pre funeral’ for him, but when it comes to the actual funeral she says an ‘encouragement’- something twee about laughter or rainbows.  She says that funerals are not for the dead but those left behind.  I think sometimes these stickers, pencil sharpeners or notes are more encouraging to Christians than they are to everyone else.  As I said I know its true Jesus loves me and I should smile, but this is not necessarily the message the world needs to hear.  It’s not always even the message the church needs to hear.  We need the ‘pre- funeral eulogy’.  The words that speak of hurt but also hope.

Christians suffer unthinkable tragedy; death, miscarriage, loss, and pain.  Christians suffer from mental illness.  Christians go through divorce.  Christians are broken and hurt and torn apart.  We don’t need cute messages or to be told to cheer up.  We shouldn’t have to expect to smile all the time.  We do need the truth and the miracle of the Gospel.  We do need powerful prayers and Bible verses spoken over us.  And we do have access to a peace that can pass understanding and a joy that can remain in the midst of unspeakable pain.

I don’t think I am getting my point across too well.  But I saw the sticker and it frustrated me.  I know today is World Mental Health Day yet I’m not sure how much that will be spoken of in churches tomorrow.  I know that there are 27 million plus people trapped in modern day slavery, yet so many don’t know.  I know the world is in turmoil, and we grapple for solutions.  I know millions live in abject poverty, whilst I live a life of comfort. I know there are thousands in children in the UK in the care system without a family, and so many homes closed to them.  I know there is darkness and despair.  So I just think that ’Smile Jesus loves you’ doesn’t always cut in.

We have a hope, a joy, and promises of new and better tomorrows.  We have so many reasons to smile, but that needs to come from a place of people being told the truth.  Not just to smile because you’re a Christian so you should be happy.  Not just to tell someone who doesn’t know Jesus that it will all be ok of they just follow him.  Not just to tell the world that Jesus and the Church have an answer to the suffering, but to actually live it.  We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We need to give people a reason to smile.  We need to feed the poor, give homes to the orphans, set people free from slavery and do all we can to spread hope.

We need to tell people why we can still find joy and are able to smile even in the depth of suffering because of the hope we have found.  I need to tell people how I have learnt to smile rather than put it on a sticker.

I am thankful now that my story and my smile can bring hope to others.  I want people to know that God is good even when life isn’t.  I want them to see that it can get better, that life can turn around.  I want them to believe that people can be forces of good and miracles can happen.  I believe my life is a miracle.  I believe there are so many reasons to face tomorrow with a smile.  I know it can be hard and seem hopeless and hurt.  I know that having Jesus in your life doesn’t magically change that.  But salvation is, being delivered from dire situations or harm.  I know now this doesn’t mean we won’t get hurt.  I know it doesn’t mean we won’t face terrible situations and see unthinkable things.  But it does mean that we will survive them, we will get through, and we have hope and a future.  In the end of the story Jesus wins.  Love wins.  Hope wins.  That gives me reason to smile.  I hope it does you too.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing'” -Mother Theresa

If you are suffering or struggling there is hope and there are places you can get help and people who can help you.  you are not alone…

I Hope We All Make It.

I hope we all thrive in a way where we remember our humanity, our connectedness; that we are all 99.9% the same DNA; that we are family, a body each with unique parts to play. That despite what someone may have done, where they live, how poor they are, what race, religion, gender or sexual orientation they are; that we are all worth loving, we all deserve hope, we all deserve life.

We all deserve to make it.

“I am not interested in competing with anyone.  I hope we all make it.”

I saw this quote a while ago and it resonated with me.  Every day I want to believe it.  Every day I struggle to put it into practice.

Life feels like one giant competition sometimes. Even in the beginning there is almost a competition for a life to begin.  In the womb we compete against many elements to survive.  We compete in school for grades or in sports- against others or our own expectations.  We compete for jobs against more or less experienced and talented people. We compete in relationships; for someone’s heart, to be loved.  Women and some religions or races compete for equality – equal pay or equal treatment.

In the very end, or at some point along the way, we compete to stay alive.  To exist.  To be.  To make it.

Yet somehow despite the strength of our own fight; the fight for acceptance, for love, to win, to accomplish, or to be the best leads to us dragging others down in the process.  Instead of relying on one another and working together, so often our instincts or our selfish nature kicks in and we are right back to Eden; it is all about ourselves, our own survival and the competition takes over.

But I hope we all make it.

We live in a society where if someone is doing well- they will be torn down.  My sisters and I often speak about Taylor Swift for example.  Of course she like anyone is flawed.  She’s dated a bit; some think she isn’t the best role model.  Some adore her.  Yet so many tear her apart.  She is shamed and slated and called out for every mistake that she makes.  People can’t seem to embrace or support others (especially women) when they do well.  Taylor for example gives away $10000 to schools and fans, she is honest and kind. She doesn’t just sing about sex (which many with very young fans may do).  Yet all people seem to talk about is her dating life or her outfits.  Even though she has had so much criticism and grown up from 15 in the public eye, she remains poised. She has lots of brilliant female friends including some from school and she is fiercely loyal. Yet, as she says “Haters gonna hate…”

We live in a world full of cyber bullying as well as face to face bullying.  And subtle, yet often public shaming.  Fat shaming, slut shaming, skinny shaming; on and on.  Women tearing each other apart.  For what? Because we don’t think they represent us as females well?  Because we are jealous?  Because they provide unrealistic expectations? Because they are all that we are not, or they are who fear we will become?


Comparison is the thief of joy.

Taylor Swift said (in this beautiful and inspiring speech she made when I saw her in Hyde Park in June) something that I know to be true but so often forget.  When we see someone else’s life, or life on social media, we are seeing a “highlight reel”.  We see our own “behind the scenes” every day.  We see our own mess, our own frustrations and failings.  We see our ‘no makeup’ selfies and our bloopers.  So how can we possibly compare that to someone else’s highlights?  We so often never see their behind the scenes.  If we did- the comparisons may not be that harsh.

Is this what makes us compete?  Because we are so often comparing our messy lives to someone else’s best bits instead of just trying to be our best?

“You are not the opinion of someone who doesn’t know you.  You are your own definition of beautiful and worthwhile.”  – Taylor Swift

Nobody gets more Grace from God than me.  Nobody deserves more love.  Nobody is entitled to more eternity than me.  Jesus died for me as much as he did anyone else.  So why all the comparisons?

I mean I get it!  It’s hard not to.  I do it all day every day.  She has the perfect (fill in the blank_) husband, body, job, face, health, family…..
But, really my only comparison should be to my best self shouldn’t it?  The best version of the person God has called me to be.  And perhaps, if anyone, to the man who walked with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and thieves.  The man who loved, poured out miracles, and forgave them when they spat on him, took his clothes and hung him on a tree.

Even then; even in the midst of all of his pain and rejection, Jesus hoped we would all make it.

He died so we would all make it.

I hope and pray we all make it.


The world can be so terrifying in the way people will destroy others for so many reasons, and because of so many theologies or mind-sets.  You only have to watch the news for 5 minutes to despair of human kind.  War.  Rape.  Torture.  Murder.  Slavery.  Mankind pitted against mankind.

ISIS ravaging humanity in Iraq and Syria.  A ‘theology of rape’ being promoted with girls as young as 12 being raped; bookmarked with ‘prayer’ and religious practice.

‘Black Lives Matter’ being screamed at the top of heartbroken lungs.  Whilst others profess ‘All Lives Matter’ in some ways undermining the outcry of injustice at all the ways black men and women have been robbed of their lives, their humanity.

We shouldn’t have to say ‘All Lives Matter’.  We shouldn’t have to cry ‘Black Lives Matter’.  We shouldn’t have to remind each other of our inherent value and worth.  We should all hope that we all make it.

The Nazi regime and the atrocities carried out is perhaps one of the most memorable and heart-breaking examples of some lives being deemed less important than others.  Jew.  Black.  Old.  Disabled.  Not worthy even of life.

Yet today it is still the case daily- woman, black, gay, other religion, other nationality, other caste, less intelligent, criminal; seen as less human, less worthy, less important, less worth making it.

Surely there is enough pain in the world with natural disaster and disease without us adding to it with our pain, anger, jealousy and hatred?  I know so much of this come from despair, desperation, or hopelessness.  Perhaps you call it sin?

But what if we stopped competing? Stopped seeing others as less than ourselves even in our small spheres of influence?


Somehow despite all the horror and despite all the loss I still hope.  I am not interested in comparisons or competitions.  I really do hope we all make it.

Those who have treated me badly- I hope you make it.

Those that let me down, didn’t protect me, or caused me harm- I hope you make it.

Those that I damaged, lied to, hurt or broke along my way- I hope you make it.

Those whom I’ve compared myself to, been jealous of- I hope you make it.

Those who have done unspeakable wrong- I hope you make it.

Those who scream silence, in pain or fear- I hope you make it.

Those who are totally alone- I hope you make it.

Those for whom there seems no way out- I hope you make it.

More than that- I hope you don’t just make it.  I hope you don’t just survive.  I hope and pray we all thrive.

I hope we all thrive in a way that doesn’t mean stepping on another to get where we want to be.  I hope we all thrive in a way that builds others up with us as we go along.  I hope we all thrive in a way that we don’t have to put someone down, in order to go up.  I hope we all thrive in a way that we will stop and cry out when we see others’ not making it.

I hope we all thrive by stepping out and helping, rescuing, carrying, petitioning and advocating for all those around us who are not making it.

I hope we all thrive in a way where we remember our humanity, our connectedness; that we are all 99.9% the same DNA; that we are family, a body each with unique parts to play. That despite what someone may have done, where they live, how poor they are, what race, religion, gender or sexual orientation they are; that we are all worth loving, we all deserve hope, we all deserve life.

We all deserve to make it. 

I am not interested in competing.  I hope we all make it.  I must keep reminding myself of this and live it out in my life today even in the smallest ways.

Every Day is a Blessing

“Happy moments – those moments when you feel fully alive – certainly exist.  They swim by us every day like shining silver fish waiting to be caught”.  – Alice Steinback

So, it’s 2015 already which I find a little terrifying.  I haven’t posted a blog for well over a year for many reasons, but the New Year seems a good day to check in and reflect on all that’s been happening.

As always, a little naively perhaps I enter into the New Year with a new sense of optimism and gratitude for all that has happened.

I love sharing the highlights of the year gone by, sharing my ‘Resolutions’ and goals for 2015, and as always hope that this year I will blog a little more.

So here are some of the highlights from 2014.  Whilst in some ways it has been a difficult year health, finance wise or sometimes personally, I yet again still find I have so so much to be thankful for!!!

  • Continuing to manage my health and work situation. I’m so blessed to have a job I really love.
  • This year I have read lots more than I have for a few years. I’ve also been practicing my Ukulele.
  • I kept a journal all 2014, which was really rewarding and a discipline.
  • My family life continues to grow and amaze me and I am so thankful to have such an incredible and loving family.
  • Things with ‘Restored for such a time as this’ continue to develop and I am excited for what the future holds with it. http://www.restoredfor.org.uk/
  • I am so thankful for every day small blessings. Those lovely ‘silver fish’.
  • My small involvement in the ‘Home for Good’ campaign especially at the beginning of the year in admin/ social media was a real blessing to me and it’s amazing to see it become a charity and watch God working through them.
  • Feb 9th– Seeing Taylor Swift at the O2 with my bestie was awesome.
  • My 27th Birthday celebrations were really fun with friends and games at home.
  • 18th March- My trip home to see my amazing family was brilliant including seeing my family grow and celebrating a birthday.
  • Doing the ‘100 Happy Days’ challenge on Instagram even when I wasn’t having the best day really helped me to focus on the good.
  • 12th April- A trip to Chester to see some incredible friends and their amazing babies was so awesome!
  • 14th April was another amazing time at home with tons of fun including baby Ducks!
  • 1st-3rd May Getting to go to Colour Conference after being blessed with a ticket and train fair was incredible! I had the best time and really learnt lots and grew close to God.
  • 23-25th may ‘Glamping’ at Big Church Weekend was amazing. We experienced worship, sunshine, rain, and fellowship.
  • Starting my Pilates class was fab and a great way to help with a former ‘resolution’ of trying to get more fit.
  • My holiday home in June was brilliant especially seeing my family’s business grow.
  • Giving away my ‘Giving Key’ and all that it involved including seeing it passed on to someone at IJM was really amazing!  http://www.thegivingkeys.com/blogs/news/15666580-fuel-others-faith
  • Quality time with amazing friends.
  • Watching Hillsong Conference online and the preach at G-Live ❤
  • Watching lots of brilliant TV.
  • My lovely friends Hen Party and their incredible wedding which was such a joy.
  • A trip home in August which involved games, an ice cream parlour, a new baby donkey, shopping and lots of fun.
  • Sept 6th a lovely 3 course meal and entertainment at a hotel with my bestie.
  • Reading loads of amazing books including ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ The Hunger Games series again and more.
  • In October winning tickets to a pre-release fan screening of the new Nicholas Sparks film. We got goodies and James Marsden showed up which was cool.
  • Sharing about Restored at the A21 A-Teams gathering was a real blessing in October.
  • Celebrating Compassion UK’s 15 year anniversary, seeing us reach 95,000 children sponsored, our ‘Vision Day’ and the work Christmas party were all highlights.
  • Taking part on the A21 Campaign ‘Walk for Freedom’ across London was amazing!!
  • Another trip home in November was great!
  • 4th December collecting 6 bags full of toiletries for A21 girls and UK shelters, praying and writing Christmas cards was a special day for me.
  • Christmas at home 2014, with parties, food, games, church, family, friends, animals, snow, mince pies and an amazing NYE Tudor Mystery party was an incredible time!!

 

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” -G.K Chesterton.

 

2015-01-04 17.52.13

 

I have always many ‘Resolutions’ for the New Year.  So many of them I don’t come close to achieving, but I like to set the goals anyway and see how far I’ve come.  These are some of my hopes for 2015:

  • To love my body and help it heal and be healthy.  (I am starting a new Pilates class closer to home which may help).
  • To read even more including all of the Jane Austin novels and the Bible in a year.
  • To be grateful and try and cherish every moment, even the hard ones and they make me thankful for the good.
  • To try and be more creative, practice my Ukulele more and develop my creativity.
  • To work hard and dedicate myself to my calling at my workplace.
  • To manage my finances better.
  • To invest more in my relationships including giving more time, more of myself, and visiting friends more.
  • To be more ethical in my purchases and lifestyle where possible. Continue to expand Fair Trade purchases.
  • To be more aware in current affairs and world issues and more active in praying/ helping.
  • To focus on a develop my passions and callings.
  • Learn more.
  • Love more!

I think it’s so easy to feel like we are never doing enough or being the best that we can be.  I certainly feel that daily.  But I am so grateful for all that I have, the opportunities and spheres of influence, the passions and talents I have, and above all the amazing God I love and serve who has given me a heart for justice.

I aim to make 2015 count.  To be thankful.  To be loving.  To fight for justice.  Or if nothing else to fail trying to make the world a better place for 2016.

An Attitude of Gratitude…

“Write your sad times in sand; Write your good times in stone.”  – George Bernard Shaw

So first of all I have to massively apologise for not having blogged in so long (Since October 2012!!)  EPIC FAIL.  Blogging more was on my ‘New Years’ resolutions, but as with many of them I have failed miserably.  I also haven’t done so well at reading my Bible, or many other things.

But as the above quote so beautifully says, today I am going to focus on the positives.  My key desire is to love God, know Him more and live justly for Him.  Whilst I may feel like I’m failing day to day at many of the things I want to do, I feel comforted at least that I am still striving for this.

2012 was a year of massive highs and lows for me.  I had goals to get more involved in Church; I ended up starting serving on kids team then stopped, and hardly make it to small group.  I wanted to ‘get fit’: I ended up finally being diagnosed with CFS/ ME and slowly have been coming to terms with that.  I wanted to spend more time with my friends doing fun things; I ended up spending more alone time than ever and bailing on a lot of events I was longing to go to, but also spending some incredible quality time with amazing friends.  I wanted to blog more and read my Bible in a year; I ended up blogging quite a lot in 2012 and through it finding release for some of the things going on in my head.  The Bible reading however I struggled with, partly due to tiredness, mostly I think due to frustration with life.  I wanted to develop in my work and glorify God more in it; I ended up changing my contract to a lower role and less days due to my health.  I wanted to gain financial stability; I ended up worse off than ever due to less work.

I wanted to know the plans God has for me; I am currently more confused than ever about what my future holds.

I wanted to know God more… To rely on Him more… A risky prayer if ever there was one.

Yet as I said- this is about the positives.  In 2012 I opened my life up to God in ways I hadn’t before.  I shared my story and life with people in ways I didn’t think I ever would, because I’ve come so far.  I had a real revelation of who God is to me and all He has brought me from and in to.

https://ariannewinslow.wordpress.com/2012/04/

I had some incredible experiences with ‘Stop the Traffik’  (https://ariannewinslow.wordpress.com/2012/09/) and the beginning of ‘Restored for such a time as this’ (www.restoredfor.org.uk) and I really believe God showed me clearly His heart for compassion, for the vulnerable, the lowest and the least, like never before in my life.

2013-05-08 14.45.29

I began 2013 with a fair amount of disappointment from the year before, and needing a new revelation of God’s grace.  I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life in so many ways, yet perhaps exactly where God needed me to be.  Again this year I have committed to drawing closer to God, whatever the cost.  I am seeking healing and the ability to forgive myself when I feel I’ve let myself down.

“Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy.  Their faces will never be covered with shame” Psalm 34:5.

This is my prayer for 2013.  Perhaps not as last year, that like the Proverbs 31 woman ‘I will laugh without fear of the future’, but more so that even in my sad times I will let them wash away, cling to the good, and look to Him for help so rather than just happiness I will experience true JOY!

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted” Ps 34:18.  “He rescues those whose spirits are crushed” Ill, downtrodden, disappointed, low… “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time” v 19.

I have also decided rather that bashing myself all the time about where God wants to take me, and what I’m supposed to be doing, as so many people my age do (quarter life crisis much) to try more to simply focus on my passions; to help the broken, lost, and most vulnerable.

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”  Luke 4:18-19

If I focus on this I don’t think I can go too far wrong.  God has already opened up so many doors with Restored and my heart against human trafficking, and with my own story and heart for children, more of which I will share soon.

Some of my ‘resolutions’ for this year have been fairly easy so far.  I decided after reading so much about the coco industry and the effects of child labour that this year I would buy only Fair Trade chocolate.  I am loving eating chocolate with no guilt (except perhaps for my waist line). Here are a couple of articles to encourage you too…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15681986

http://stopthetraffik.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/1-the-argument-for-ethical-consumption/

Chocolate
Chocolate

I also have one ‘resolution’ which has really impacted me and the way I view things.  During Advent I saw a challenge from my home Church to find 2 things each day to be grateful for.  1 ‘spiritual’ 1 more ‘natural’.  Some days this was incredibly easy, others much harder.  I know I have so much to be thankful for, but remembering those things, sometimes on bad day was quite hard.  I posted these things each day on my Facebook and Twitter to encourage those in my life, and was surprised at how much I encouraged myself.  During the Christmas holidays (a time I had a lot to be thankful for) I then saw on ‘Pinterest’ the ‘Gratitude Jar’.  Again a similar concept.  Start in the New Year, fill the jar with notes of things you are thankful for, and read them at the end of the year to remember all the awesome things.  I loved this idea, and decided as well as social media, this is a great way to ‘write my good times on stone’.

Gratitude Jar
Gratitude Jar

It has been so great, especially in the very small and sometimes insignificant things, to remember to be thankful for all I have!!

grateful

shoes

mum

Here are a few examples of things I’m grateful for from the year so far…

  • The official launch of ‘Restored for such a time as this’. Jan 18th
  • A really encouraging conversation with the ME specialist.  May 1st
  • Meeting my lovely friends Alex and Claire in London for the day. March 16th
  • A birthday surprise to see ‘Wicked’ with my girls.  March 5th
  • Getting our heating fixed after a week broken, during a snowy week!  Jan
  • Grateful for my incredible Church ‘Hillsong Surrey’ March 10th
  • My laptop and ‘Love Film’.
  • My mum, Granny and sisters came to stay & day trip into London. Jan 2nd-5th
  • An awesome service at G-Live where I got a free ticket to Colour conference 2014. April 28th
  • My birthday pj chill out day.  March 2nd
  • One Direction concert with Shauna.  April 2nd
  • A day shopping, seeing Les Mis & a haircut.  February 27th
  • The launch of ‘Home for Good’ (www.homeforgood.org.uk) March 7th
  • My amazing friend Hayley came for the weekend & we went to the London Eye.  February 23rd
  • An awesome time at the Rend Collective Campfire gig where over 50 Compassion kids were sponsored.  May 9th
  • 25-29th May a lovely trip to Chester to see friends.  Then a trip home.
  • 12th June- Ben Howard gig with Jude.
  • June 29th Afternoon Tea Fundraiser for A21.
  • July 19th – A lovely trip home with family. Then Claire’s baby shower.
  • 10th August- #27for 27 raising awareness for A21.
  • August 24th- Velocity Weekend.
  • Friends having beautiful babies!!!
  • Sept- Baby Shower for Giulia.
  • 16th Sept- A voicemail from the cutest little girl on the planet!
  • Sept 20th- An incredibly special trip home to see family  ❤  T
  • 10th October – New housemate ❤
  • Oct 23rd – Mum’s 50th and an amazing time at home  ❤

 

Speaking of being thankful for all we have.  Here is a powerful video to end from Compassion with some staggering statistics:

I hope you’ve been encouraged.
Love as ever  xxx

‘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.

 

This Is My House, This Is My Home Part 1

This Is My House, This Is My Home

Part 1- What is ‘Home’?

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. ”  Mother Theresa

At the moment, my housemates & I are in the process of looking for a new house to rent. We have found a new house nearby, and are just in the referencing stage.   It’s an exciting time in some ways as it offers new opportunities, and a fresh start.  But it can also be really stressful because it requires you to re-define what “home” is, and to create a new home in an unknown place.

This move, along with a wonderful blog from my friend Sabine  (http://sabineamy.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/home-is-where-the-heart-is/), and the ‘Vision’ put forward by my Church (Hillsong) recently, got me thinking again about what home is?

In the last 6 years I have moved house 9 times!!  That’s more than once a year.  I have lived with family, with friends, in little rooms, in big rooms, in Derbyshire, in Cheshire, in London, and in Surrey.  I don’t mind moving house, but it does up-root you in a way little else does.  I have moved because I needed to and because I wanted to.  I have moved for convenience, for clarity, for necessity and for opportunity.

Recently I watched an episode of one of my favourite programmes One Tree Hill.  In it the characters discuss their home- Tree Hill, and what makes it so wonderful.  They reminisce on all that has happened there, how they grew up, fell in love, got jobs, and had families all within the context of this magical place they call home.  For them, no matter where else they go; Tree Hill will always be their home.

When you ‘Google’ home you get a lot of images of houses, but are they really homes?  Or does home conjure up more of an image of family, sanctuary, or something very different for you?

Now, for me, to be honest, ‘Home’ is a very interesting subject…

When I was 7 my half brother committed suicide and even at that age it changed me forever. My parents divorced and ‘home’ changed completely.

At one stage I was in emergency foster care then went to stay with a friend from school and had a new ‘home’ for a week.

Age 13 in my 2nd year of high school ‘home’ became a women’s refuge, for over a year, which seemed lifetimes away from where I grew up.

‘Home’ was next a council estate which has the least ‘homely’ place I ever knew.  It was a place, and situations that filled me with darkness and dread.  My only joy- a little cherry blossom tree outside.

One day in the summer when I was 15, home changed in a way I could never have anticipated.  I was put into foster care.  I was given a few moments to pack up my thing then taken to a new family, a new house, a new home. A strange family, a strange house, a strange home.   I didn’t know how long I would be there for or how life would change.

I say all this not to be dramatic, but to paint a picture.  For some people the concept of home is reasonable straight forward.  A house, a family, security, comfort.  For others it is a very different thing.  And for many, it is often changing as life progresses.

Over time, my idea of home changed irrevocably.  As I experienced the love of my new family, including boundaries, discipline, grace, and forgiveness, my understanding changed.  As I began to learn about Jesus, how he is my saviour, friend, father, comforter, protector, and family, my understanding of family and home again was dramatically re-defined.  I don’t think I could begin to even describe the process, or how my mind was blown by the understanding of God’s love and grace, and how that was put into action by my foster family.  And I definitely cannot explain, through all the changes and complexities, how a group of people, from such different backgrounds, understandings, and lives, were drawn together to become a family!

But that is what is so amazing about Jesus.  And that is what is so amazing about ‘Church’.  That a group of lonely, broken, incomplete people can become a whole, strong, loving, inseparable family.

And that is what my family have become to me.  That is what ‘home’ is now to me.  It has become a place of safety, comfort, love, security, hope, care, acceptance, forgiveness, freedom, and belonging.  And all because my foster parents, and sisters decided to lay down their lives for others, to give of themselves, to overflow with grace, and to be every single day, in every practical way, ‘Home’ and family to others.

And trust me, it was a challenge on all parts, but a challenge worth fighting for.

Home is a total sanctuary for me because of the love that pours out from my family  ❤

I will say, as a side note, that if you are a Christian, and you have never considered fostering or adopting, please do.  I know that it is not for everyone, and it is a challenge.  But if you have the love of Jesus in your hearts, and you want a practical, real, every day way of showing that love; you could literally transform a child’s life, and show them Jesus, by bringing them into your home.  There are thousands of children in the UK who have no idea of what ‘Home’ is, and what it means to be in a family.  You could show them.  I believe that it is an incredible evangelism, and God has put it on my heart, that as I was saved by my foster family in so many ways, how incredible would it be for me to do the same for other children who don’t yet know him…

Psalm 68:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Just a Minute…

Recently we received a book at work written by the amazing CEO of Compassion International Wes Stafford called ‘ Just a Minute’.  It speaks wonderfully of how in one moment you can change a child’s life forever.  I know this to be the case in my own life and thought I would share about how my life was changed in a minute…

Just a Minute…

Moments can impact for a lifetime.  One second, one minute, one hour.   Sadly my childhood was filled with few good moments, and many heart breaking ones.  In one hour, when I was 15 years old, I was asked to pack up all my belongings, as I would be going to live with a foster family.  In one moment, my world changed.  I wasn’t sure how long we would be there- at first we were told days.  My life changed in each of those passing minutes.  Minutes turned to hours, to days, to weeks, to months and years, and in each minute my foster family lavished upon me grace, mercy and LOVE.  The type of un-selfish, un-ending, un-reciprocated love that softened my heart and showed me who Jesus is.  It wasn’t just the first minute they decided to take us in, or the many minutes they forgave my offenses, or the minutes they comforted me as I cried looking at myself in the changing room mirror- but every minute after for all these years that they have given me a home, a family, a new start, and in the most practical and sacrificial ways shown me who God is. 

Because I have experienced this; others stepping into my life, it has meant I now have the pleasure of impacting the lives of the children I encounter in the most positive way.  Whether it has been in kids clubs I have run, discipleship groups I’ve lead (where I could tell the kids based on my experience that despite any circumstance God loves them so much), or in writing to my sponsored children and showing them through Compassion how valued they are; I love the idea that I could change a child’s life forever through small simple moments.

It got me thinking about a poem I love by Rob Lacey written a few years ago about what can happen in just One Hour in the UK …

In an hour we make a fifth of a double decker bus, and the tax man takes four million from us.

In an hour 1 million goes to charity, and double that to VAT,

In an hour we’re all another hour old, and the OAP’s are feeling the cold,

In an hour a hundred tonnes of chocolate sold, and the zit attack is taking hold,

In an hour there are 3 accused of rape, We spend a hundred grand trying to get in shape,

We spend the same amount on changing our hair, and over a million on what to wear,

In an hour we smoke 12 million fags, spend 700 grand on books and mags,

Save 600 grand for a rainy day, and much the same amount is gambled away,

Five million people talking on the phone, but no official figures for those without a home,

A hundred people join the dole, we buy 200 grands worth of toilet roll

Seventeen marriages join them down the pan, man blames woman, woman blames man,

That’s 34 people now divorcee, a third on the grounds of adultery,

500 ‘Mayfairs’ leave the shelf, Thirty-One abortions on the National Health,

Two more people amputees, and 100 unwanted pregnancies,

In an hour seventy three meet their final hour

seventy three meet their final hour

seventy three meet their final hour

And here we are

With God’s great power,

Living in

An Ivory Tower. 

I never want to live in an ivory tower.  If all of that can happen in just one hour, imagine the impact all the Christians in the UK could make in that time.  But even if we spare just one minute, just one moment of our time to speak into someones life, we could change the course of their life forever!

What could you do in just one minute, or one hour this week to impact someones life for the better and use your God- given power, influence and love?

xxx

Fighting For Something…

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”

As a Christian, I am so often challenged to stand for something, to fight against an injustice, to help something; someone.  Sometimes it feels like there are so many injustices to fight against I don’t know where to begin.

One thing I love about God is that He is so good at giving me direction and purpose.  I know I can’t do everything, yet He still challenges me to do something.

I love my job with a passion.  I love the privilege of working for Compassion UK, and knowing that I am contributing in some way to help fight against poverty and injustice, one child, one life at a time.  I love the fact I am able to reach into the life of a child and help them in a simple small way.   I love sponsoring Julio in Peru, and Prity in Bangladesh.  I love knowing that I am fighting in a small yet profound way for their precious lives.

Yet there is still so much more to do.  Recently I watched the film 58 which highlights the injustices in life, yet the amazing power of the Church to overcome.  You can follow them on twitter http://twitter.com/#!/live58now or visit their website http://www.live58.co.uk/ to find out more.  It got me thinking about all the issues, and all the ways I could help.

Then in Church last week I heard an amazing talk by Christine Caine (http://twitter.com/#!/ChristineCaine) all about A21 and the work they are doing to fight against human trafficking.  This is something God has really been speaking to me about recently.  So many people think that slavery or the trafficking of people is an archaic practice that was overcome by those such as Martin Luther King Jr.  Yet today there are 27 MILLION modern-day slaves.   That is staggering.  This number floors me because I cannot comprehend how in a world like ours today, that this can be true. And those are just the ones we know about.

Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that 80,000 of these are in Europe!  This is something the Church cannot be silent about.  This is something I cannot be silent about!   I hear statistics like this, teamed with those such as the fact there are 21 Million orphans in Africa alone, and it breaks my heart,  I do not know what to do.

Yet I am also reminded that there are 1 BILLION Christians on the planet, who if mobilised properly would be a powerful force to fight against these injustices.  So, is the Church fighting?   Am I fighting?  Or am I staying silent, like the Church by en large stayed silent during the Holocaust, during wars, during travesties.

In Luke 10v30 the priest and the Levite walked past the hurting man.  Most likely not because they didn’t care, but because they were ‘too busy’ in their own ministries to stop and help.  But like the Good Samaritan, I never want to be too busy.  I want to be moved, interrupted and inconvenienced if it means I make a difference.   Helping that man took the Samaritan’s time, money and resources.  But it was worth it.

Crying and getting emotional about these issues is not Compassion.  Compassion is being moved to do something.   In Luke 30v34 the Samaritan had compassion SO he went to him.  He set him on his own animal.

I watched these videos and I was moved to do something more than just cry over this horrific injustice.  Because this is something that affects everyone; it could be our sisters, our cousins, our daughters, our friends.

 

 

 

 

Like Moses, we can say so often say “But God…” …I am only a woman, I am only young, I am single, it is too hard.  As if God doesn’t know exactly who we are, how old we are, how capable we are.  I know that my greatest gifts God has given me will never be ‘enough’ to do all He has called me to do.  But He is not looking for super heroes.  He is looking for willing hearts who will let God’s supernatural power flow and work through our natural bodies.

So…what can I do?  What can you do to fight this horrific crime that is often happening right under our noses?

On the A21 website they have a brilliant article about 21 Ways To Help    http://www.thea21campaign.org/21-ways-to-help.php

This can be anything from powerful prayer, speaking out, fasting, buying fair trade products to reduce the demand for products made by slaves (http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/), or supporting financially.  Even this Christmas you could help by buying gifts from somewhere like ‘Heaven’s Attic’ ( http://www.heavensattic.co.uk/)  a store that give 12% of sales to anti trafficking movements such as A21 and http://www.stopthetraffik.org/ 

One way to help I am passionate about is sponsoring those at risk.  Because poverty is a major contributor that can lead to human trafficking, sponsoring a child or woman in poverty-stricken areas that are also ranked as high origin countries for trafficking can help make a difference. Check out www.compassionuk.org, to see how you can start sponsoring someone in need today!

Please don’t say, I didn’t know, or I don’t know what to do.  Even if it something small or simple there is so much we can do to stand with these women and children trapped in this terrible injustice.   I aim to challenge myself daily too.  To do something, to stand for something, or if not I might as well fall for anything.     x