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. 

#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.

This is Living Now

What are you passionate about? What can you invest more of your life in today? Let’s try and do away with the irrelevant, the worry, the time wasting, and the mundane and invest our love and time in the things that matter most.

There’s this lovely little elderly lady who I see almost every day getting on and off my bus.  She looks so sweet; in a pale pink coat down to her knees.  Soft grey-blonde hair perfectly pinned up.  A typical sweet old lady you may think.  Yet her shoulders are so completely hunched so that she literally faces down to the floor.

I watch her and think.  I wonder about the kind of life she used to lead.  Perhaps long ago she was a dancer or athlete.  Maybe an artist, a mother, a teacher, who knows? Perhaps on the inside she is still bubbling with life and vitality, but restricted now by her earthly body.  And I wonder some more.  How does she pin her hair so perfectly each day?  Does she have family or people who care for her?

And then I wonder further.  Am I really living now?  Me, sat on this bus, listening to music or trying to put on my mascara without jabbing myself in the eye.  Am I making the most of every breath, of every moment, of every day that I have in my currently rather strong and healthy body?  Am I grateful enough that I can walk upright and see life in all its beauty?

Now, I do struggle with my health, and with my body.  Sometimes I could scream with frustration as my desire to do all that God has called me to do and my heart and passion for life has a full on, out right battle with my body, just wanting to lie down and rest.

And I wonder is this how people feel as they get older and their body starts to fail them?  Do they still feel like a child or teen trapped in the body of an older lady or man? Now please don’t get me wrong; I know that elderly people can be living life to the full.  I know an 83 year old lady who when it snowed over Christmas jumped right on to a sledge.

But there is just so much isn’t there that can stop us ‘living now’!?  Debt, worry, age, infirmity, business, work, travel, kids, cleaning, admin, life, life, life.  Sometimes life itself and the daily grind can limit the way we truly live.

And what is ‘living now’.  Is it travelling around the world, bungee jumping, perfecting our studies, marital bliss, earning millions, finding the perfect job, being the perfect person, fame, power, or more? How do we know when we are truly ‘living now’?

My friend showed me a video yesterday that is really powerful.

It got me thinking once again about the rapidity and fragility of life.

“How much time have you spent worrying instead of doing what you love? What if you only had one more day? What are you going to do today?”

From when I was young and my half-brother committed suicide, I felt like I understood the delicacy of life as well as most people.  I had times, when life was certainly fragile, certainly on a thread.  When I was in a serious car accident a few years ago I thought of nothing but death for days (morbid but honest).

Until I became a Christian and felt safe in eternity (and even sometimes afterwards) the thought of death used to terrify me.  Only the other night I lay awake thinking of the forever nothing, the darkness, the ‘no more’ and had to remind myself of the eternity, the light, the Lord, the forever worship.

Yet even with an eternal future secured, surely we must be living now.  Today.

John 10:10 Amplified Bible says:

10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

The Message Bible describes it as “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

What does this real, full, overflowing, life of yours that you dream of look like?

I know as well as anyone that life isn’t all you always hope or dream it will be.  But our lives are intended for His glory.

Yesterday I attended a vision day for an amazing online community of people striving for Jesus (dltcommunity.com/).  My friend Luke spoke about Ephesians 1 and highlighted v11-12 (emphasis mine):

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.  
Luke spoke of how society calls us to be popular, rich, have as many followers as possible, the ‘perfect life’.  But Ephesians tells us that it is in Christ alone that we find out who we are, and what we are living for so we can be living now.  So we can have glorious living.

What are you living for?  What defines you currently?  This very day what do you get out of bed for? What are you putting your time, energy, money, heart and life into? What are you living now for?

There is an amazing ‘Mumford and Sons song lyric’ – “Where you invest your love, you invest your life”.

Where do you invest your love?

The busier I get, when I’ve been feeling really unwell and lay in bed all day watching Netflix, and as I get older I find I am challenged by this more and more.  Where am I investing my precious time and love and life?

I would say I have a few main passions.

-I am passionate about justice.  I long to see the slaves of today set free, the hungry fed, the captives in every sense of the word released, the vulnerable protected and cared for, lives saved, equality for all, and a better world (quite a big ask).

-I am passionate about family.  I am passionate about my family but also the church and beyond embracing loving fellowship.  And above all, those without family; orphans, widows, those in the care system, the lonely or the lost, set in families.

Psalm 68:6 NLT- God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.

– I am passionate about seeing broken shattered hearts and lives fully and completely restored by Jesus.

-I am passionate about Jesus and seeing more people saved by his unending grace and love.  I believe in a God who can see my passions fulfilled because my heart breaks for what breaks His.

What are you passionate about?  What can you invest more of your life in today?  Let’s try and do away with the irrelevant, the worry, the time wasting, and the mundane and invest our love and time in the things that matter most.

You lead the way, God You’re right beside me
In Your love I’m complete
There’s nothing like living with You
This life You created I choose
See the sun now bursting through the clouds
Black and white turn to colour all around
All is new, in the Saviour I am found
This is living now

‘This is Living Now’ Hillsong Young and Free

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

My Heart…

Hello all,

I just wanted to post a quick update on some really exciting recent developments.

As many of you will hopefully know, I am very passionate about seeing an end to human trafficking of any kind, and I have spoken about this in many blog posts including ‘Fighting for Something‘ and my ‘Stop the Traffik’ posts!  After a trip Sabine took to Bulgaria with the A21 Campaign, and God placing this passion on our hearts in a number of ways; my amazing friend Sabine and I decided to start an abolition group to raise funds and awareness for the A21 Campaign.

You can read all about how this developed in our blog posts on our website http://www.restoredfor.org.uk/

We also have a facebook page and a twitter account- @Restoredfor

So far it has been a really exciting time of developing the website with help from amazing friends, doing all the photos and content, getting informed, sharing what we know, and preparing for fundraising events we would love to do.

 

 

Here is a taster from the latest blog post about how we got started…

“I have always been an empathetic person, and a compassionate one.  Some things break my heart- Poverty, Injustice, Violence, the Vulnerable or Oppressed.  But I don’t think anything has ever broken my heart quite like the issue of Human Trafficking.  I don’t know if it’s just because it is so horrific, the way people can hurt other people like that just for profit, or if it is the way it views people as commodities, and uses them until they can be used no more; but from the moment my eyes were opened to this injustice, my heart was in pieces, my mind couldn’t comprehend it, and it made me sick to my stomach.

I had often heard about issues of prostitution, people being kidnapped, even sex trafficking rings but I never really understood what any of this meant.  When people talked of children being stolen for prostitution rings, I genuinely, naively thought that someone would just hold onto them until they were an adult.  I don’t think my mind could comprehend the horrors.  That was until one day last year when Christine Caine the founder of The A21 Campaign spoke at our Church about Human Trafficking, and told us 1st hand accounts of the reality of modern day slavery.  She showed the ‘Natalia’s Story’ video and I just could not believe it!  I couldn’t believe that things like that really happen.  Nor could I believe that there are 80,000 more stories just like hers in Europe alone.

At first I was really overwhelmed.  My heart hurt and I didn’t know what to do.  But then I was reminded in the same talk by Christine that there are 1 BILLION Christians on the planet, who if mobilised properly would be a powerful force to fight against these injustices. I was reminded that crying isn’t compassion, but that compassion is being moved to do something.  In Luke 30v34 the Samaritan has compassion so he goes to the man and puts him on his own donkey.  He may have been busy, but he was willing to be inconvenienced and interrupted to do something to help another.  In the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus has compassion on the crowd so he fed them!  From hurt and compassion I believe should come passion and action.  And this is where my heart for ‘Restored’ came from, and thankfully Sabine’s heart was in the same place after her trip.

God isn’t looking for super heroes or for us to necessarily be on the ‘front line’ of the battle.  But he is looking for prayer warriors, fundraisers, awareness spreaders and for people to do what they can with what they have.

Almost immediately I set out on a mission to get informed, and I try to do so every day.  Every time I open my heart and my mind to something it is easy to get numb or complacent, so I look further and try to do more.

Sabine and I read the A21 Campaign website information repeatedly and looked for ways to get involved.  As she said the ’21 ways to help’ was extremely informative.  http://www.thea21campaign.org/21-ways-to-help.php

We decided that on top of praying, and sharing everything we had found or learnt through social media (Facebook, Twitter, our blogs) that another thing we could do was share face to face with people who we knew could make a change also.  Our hearts overflowing, we shared with our Church Connect Group about all that we knew and felt about trafficking.  We used resources including videos and prayer points from the A21 Campaign website, and Sabine shared all about her trip to Bulgaria.  Our hearts, and our pain came across and our passion was shared.  We then did the same at our workplace where there are lots of amazing Christians, as again we wanted to empower and equip even more people to get involved.

One thing we were really keen on, with both of these groups of people, as well as raising awareness and praying, was to do something practical so people could take action right away.  Again A21 had the perfect suggestion, so we decided to write cards of encouragement and send gifts to the beautiful survivors at the shelters.  All the details of how you can do this are on the website.

It felt so good to do something active to help in what can sometimes feel like a hopeless and dark situation.  But as you can see from the pictures and the responses it made a difference!

A few weeks later Sabine and I were then privileged to share the same presentation and our heart with a group of ladies from our Church who along with neighbours and friends had committed at a women’s conference to raising £500 for the A21 Campaign.   It was an amazing afternoon, and with the clothes swap that they did, they raised £160!  Since then they have raised even more from other events.  Again this showed us what a group of passionate people can do, and added to the spark that was growing for our abolition group.

We have aimed every day to get more involved with this fight.  We have volunteered, been on training, had many discussions, watched films such as ‘Nefarious’, ‘Human Trafficking’ and ‘Trade’ (which I will share more about soon), followed closely news and events, and of course prayed to God for wisdom, to show us what action to take, and to see an end to this injustice.

We have met many amazing people fanatical about seeing an end to human trafficking.  We could see there is a massive problem, yet that we can be part of the solution.  From all of this; ‘Restored: for such a time as this’ was born.

We would love you to join us in this venture.  Please keep an eye on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook and the website, so that we can equip and encourage each other, and of course so that we can share with you more ways you can get involved, and help raise funds and awareness for the A21 Campaign.”

 

xxx

Stop the Traffik ‘Gift Box’ Campaign…

From the 4th until the 7th August, Sabine and I had the absolute pleasure of volunteering for the ‘Gift Box’ Campaign.  As you will hopefully have read in my last 2 posts, we had received training for this and I had been to the launch day, and the excitement had been building up and up.  I whole heartedly believe that if you are passionate about seeing change in an area then it is good to get involved in any way that you can.  I knew that this would be an amazing opportunity to share my passionate with others, and to have a direct effect on the public’s perception and understanding, whilst gaining important research.

“Justice is truth in action.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

This amazing initiative had already been going since the beginning of the Olympics, and even before that we had felt the buzz of anticipation for what was a clever, well planned, and innovative campaign with ‘Stop the Traffik’ and the UN.GIFT – (Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking).

Here are their stories…

http://www.ungift.org/knowledgehub/stories/july2012/gift-boxes-aim-to-raise-awareness-during-olympic-games-about-human-trafficking.html

http://stopthetraffik.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/competing-for-your-attention-during-the-olympics/

http://stopthetraffik.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/going-for-gold-in-the-fight-against-trafficking/

31.07.12  GIFT box vital statistics so far:

GIFT box locations: 5
Volunteers: 200
Members of the public who have entered a GIFT box: 2,500
People engaging with GIFT box on Facebook: 16,000
Members of the public who have signed up to support UN GIFT and STOP THE TRAFFIK: 1,750

You can read the lovely Sabine’s account of events here.

On the 1st day, a bright Saturday morning I got up early, ready and excited for a slightly unknown but amazing day ahead.  With my facts researched, the role play’s we had done at the training whirring round my head, my phone full of the info we had been sent, and hashtags for twitter at the ready, I felt prepared but anxious.  As much as our training had been incredible, we didn’t really know what would happen, and a lot would be dependent on locations and the people we met.  However our purpose was clear- Raise awareness about Human Trafficking and help empower people to take action by giving them ways to get involved either through Stop the Traffik or by signing the petition to show their support.  We would also be collecting research information on the types of people we met and positive responses to the campaign.

You can still sign the pledge here.

We headed into London on the train, and ventured towards the location of our box.  As we got closer you could feel the Olympic excitement in the air!

When we approached Southwark Cathedral, right next to Borough Market, our home for the next 4 days, we could see the Gift Box and it all became very real.  We met our team leader for the day (Sabine was also one of the leaders for that day).  We put on our t-shirts that read ‘Things are not always what they seem’ – the message of the box, and the deception of human trafficking.  Our venue, Southwark Cathedral is absolutely beautiful, and from the moment we arrived it was clear that the staff there were so helpful, and that it would be a fantastic location with lots of people passing through.  Our box, was the ‘Forced begging and street crime’ box.  One of the many facets on human trafficking.

There were of course other boxes at other locations such as St Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey, which reflected other forms of trafficking like Sexual Exploitation, and  Domestic Servitude.

Human Trafficking is to be deceived or taken against your will, bought or sold and transported into exploitation. 

Our 1st day was long but amazing.  It took a while to get into a rhythm, as there were a few things that you could do throughout the day.  We took it in turns to direct the many passing people to the Gift Box from the top of the stairs, to chat with people outside the box about what the whole campaign is about, to assist them in signing the pledges, and in recording visitors throughout the day.  We had a really wonderful and enthusiastic team who all discovered where they were best places.  My favorite thing to do was talk to people about the campaign as I was so passionate about it, and to tell people about the realities of trafficking.  As I was feeling confident though, I also did a lot of directing people, and encouraged them to go into the box where they could read the real case studies about people brought to England and forced to beg.    Sabine had a brilliant conversation with a staff member from ‘Starwood Hotel’ where the whole staff had just been engaged in training on human trafficking, which is so vital in the hospitality industries.

To be honest, we really did have a varied mix of responses.  Some people were just in a rush to get to an event, or to the market.  Others heard what we were talking about, and weren’t too keen to stop.  Some were very happy to sign the pledge as they care about the issue, but did not want to take any further action.  Some people were clearly just intrigued, whilst others who maybe already had an understanding were outraged at the issue and wanted to get more involved.  It was actually really great to see such a range of responses, as I think it is really reflective of society as a whole.  There are the apathetic, the ignorant, the naive and the action takers.  Each reaction made me even more passionate about fighting this injustice, as no matter where people were on the scale, there is always more that can be done, more we can be educated about, and more ways we can be empowered.  It got me even more fired up to change this horrific injustice.

I think for me, it has always been the apathy that hurts me the most!  I could completely understand those who were in a rush, or those who find it an uncomfortable subject when they are trying to have a fun day out at the Olympics.  But there was one response from a lady that shocked me and the team to the core…

“OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND”

I fekt like screaming at the woman- ‘it is not out of sight!!’  We are stood right here showing you, and telling you.  We have case studies from within your city, your nation, you home.  How can you be so oblivious.  It breaks my heart, because of the nature of human trafficking, it can and does affect anyone.  It could well be that ladies daughter, sister, or friend who is trafficked, and then it would not be out of sight for her.  As I’ve said before, I think there is a notion in our country that  trafficking only affects the poor, the stupid, or people who are ‘asking for it’ rather than anyone, anywhere.  And yet the reality is that we endure the consequences, the products and effects everyday.

Trafficking affects every continent and every country; whether it’s an origin country where people are trafficked from; a transit country where people are trafficked through; or a destination country where people are trafficked to. 

I love this quote from William Wilberforce…

‘You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know’

I guess this is the main reason I love campaigns like this.  Because it means that people will no longer be able to say that they did not know or understand if we tell them the truth and explain it.

As I quoted in my last post, I think this is the key…

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” –Benjamin Franklin

Thankfully of the people we met, even on the 1st day, there are many who are outraged.  We met games-makers, police, staff, games-pastors, and many every day members of public who were happy to engage in conversation with us, and make a stand.

People signing the pledge.
Games Makers getting involved
The Pledge and Info
Our Leaflet

Day 2 the 5th August was equally inspiring for us.  Sabine and I were team leaders for the day, so opened up the box and did the briefings.  Again the team were really excited to have more conversations and engage with people.  We had a tiny bit of rain that day (it is England) but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits as we set out again to share the truth about trafficking with people.  It was so encouraging to see people from all nations reading the case studies, signing the pledge and getting involved.  The team were so passionate about the campaign, and it was so inspiring.  We even had conversations throughout the day with a homeless man who had actually been trafficked himself.  We had seen him sleeping on the steps the day before, and were able to offer him contact numbers for people who could help him such as the Salvation Army.  I think again it just re-enforced for us all why we were doing what we were doing- standing outside all day long come rain or shine, because we want to help stop stories like that, and help see change for innocent people.

The rain didn’t even dampen our fight for justice
Lovely English Weather
Our amazing team for day 1 and 2

Day 3 was unfortunately very rainy, but we got a whole new team, and Sabine and I were buzzing from the days before so our spirits were still really high and we were so excited to see further change.

We used the rain on day 3 as an opportunity to talk to the lovely people and staff inside Borough Market, who were lovely.  Sabine had been getting our Coffee for the past couple of days from ‘Flat Cap Coffee’  @FlatCapBorough in the market (a recommendation on day 1 from Laura).  They were really supportive of what we were doing.  They recognised our t-shirts each day, came and had a look at the box, signed the pledge, put some of our leaflets on their stand, and even blessed us with coffee!!  Again it was so encouraging to see people supporting a movement for change in a practical way.  It was brilliant!!

So great to get support from all around!

Another thing we really loved seeing, which we saw a lot on the last couple of days, was the reaction from parents with kids.  Understandably some of them were cautious about the content of what we were talking about.  But the great thing about the ‘Gift Box was that it caught everyone’s attention, especially kids who loved it!!  Many kids walking past would ask their parents, ‘what is that’ and it was fantastic to see parents explain the issue of human trafficking to their children in a sensitive way.  As someone who is passionate about kids ministry, it was really exciting to see even the youngest generation being taught about those who suffer injustice, and to know there are people who are helping.

Inspiring the next generations
Our awesome team day 3 and 4
Amazing volunteers with a heart for justice!

Overall, the whole experience of volunteering with the Gift Box was amazing.  The majority of people we spoke to were supportive and hopefully inspired themselves.  We heard so many stories during our time there and on social media of the other locations having the same experiences, and it was so so exciting to think of the amount of people we must have interacted with and shared the truth with, and hopefully empowered to make a change.  I was so grateful for the staff at Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, the Games makers, Game Pastors, Police, volunteers and so many amazing members of the public who signed the petition!!

As Stop the Traffik tweeted-

#2012 more inspiring conversations around #GIFTbox generating a global, community driven response to #humantrafficking

For stories and more experiences about the Gift Boxes visit the Gift Box website – http://ungiftbox.org/

I can’t wait to hear more of the stories and stats that come back from this campaign across the Olympics and Paralympics.  I hope my  experience has encouraged you to make a stand against trafficking!

And just to show taking a stand can be fun…

‘Gift Box’ Launch Day & Seminars…

On July 7th 2012, I went to the launch day for the ‘Gift Box’ Campaign at the Oasis Centre with ‘Stop the Traffik’.  It was a really exciting day full of special guests and seminars, where again we were equipped to fight against Human Trafficking.  I want to share a few stories, facts and words of encouragement from the day, tell you all about the Gift Box Campaign, and share some more lessons I learnt about being equipped.

Now for me, this has always been an important quote…

 

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” –Benjamin Franklin

 

I realise that although I may not be directly affected by trafficking (although it is on my doorstep, and affects many products I buy, and many of the girls could be my sister, my mother or my friend), I should be as outraged and as passionate for change as those who are.  Especially as those who are suffering this great injustice are often not able to speak out or defend themselves.

 

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Martin Luther King Jr

 

For these reasons I am always so passionate about getting involved in any campaign, action, petition, prayer or otherwise to fight trafficking.  And as I said in my last post I think it is so important to equip yourself for the fight.

The ‘Gift Box Campign’ was an amazing joint initiative between Stop the Traffik and the UN.GIFT – Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.  Visit the website for the campaign here.

The Campaign had 4 types of art exhibitions based on 4 types of human trafficking- Sexual Exploitation, Forced Labour, Domestic Servitude and Forced Begging.  Each exhibit looked like a giant present, which on the outside had some of the lies or promises made to people to deceive them into being trafficked, and on the inside real case studies of trafficking within the UK.  It was a creative and excellent idea to share the shocking reality about trafficking and ask people to sign a petition to present to the UN which you can do online here.

As I said the launch day was full of amazing guests and speakers.  First the Ambassador of Qatar, who will be hosting the Gift Boxes during the World Cup, and who are doing a national strategic review on trafficking, shared the fact that this is a human cause that effects everyone everywhere.

Steve Chalke – Special Advisor against human trafficking to the UN, and founder of Stop the Traffik shared that our aim should be to make the risks higher and the rewards lower for traffickers so they will have less incentive to make money from trafficking.

Ilias Chatzis from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime also spoke about the fact that trafficking is not just on the margins of society or in the darkest places, but that it is everywhere.

We heard from the Mexican President of Special Commissioning against Human Trafficking, who encouraged us that whilst it took Wilberforce 18 years to pass his law, in Mexico it took only 3 to pass a law to stop all chains of exploitation, and they are seeing major breakthrough.

Kevin Hyland Detective Inspector of SCD9 who are setting the example against human trafficking shared that the ‘Gift Boxes’ are symbolic of what we are trying to achieve as a whole- to get the message out to as many people as possible.  If only 1 person is rescued from human trafficking then it will be a success.  It has to be a local, national and global fight!

The Gift Boxes were not in the stadiums, but where all the tourists and visitors would be.  In St Paul’s Cathedral, West Minster Abbey, Southwark Cathedral/ Borough Market, and many other key locations.  20 Million People  will see the St Paul’s Box alone.  The Gift Boxes will also be rolled out over the next 10 years at future global sporting events.

We even had a video message from Major of London Boris Johnson showing his support against trafficking!

 

 

The ‘Gift Box’ being officially unveiled in typical British weather…

The Gift Box proto-type…

To read the Stop the Traffik blog on the day click here.

 

After the launch we had the great pleasure of attending 2 seminars put on by the Stop the Traffik team.  The first was about Influence, by Simon Chorley UK Co-ordinator.

They talked all about the different spheres of influence we can reach from our local schools and government, police forces, and media, to national and international government and agencies.  It’s really important to find out what department trafficking lies within for your local police force.  It’s also great to engage with your neighborhood schemes.  Partnering and making connections within your communities is vital to see change happen.

I also went to the seminar on Media, as I am a firm believer that media, in particular Social Media can be a powerful tool for spreading the message about the reality of human trafficking, and how to fight against it…

 

 

There are so many ways to get informed, then so many ways to get your message out- YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Google+, Radio, Local/national press, Blogs (WordPress/Tumblr), Stunts/events, Posters/flyers/leaflets, Contacting key local stakeholders i.e. schools/MPs, Local events, Fundraisers etc.

There are some challenges such as apathy or ignorance, but I believe if you are genuine, transparent and persistent with your message, and speak to the right people, that you can make a profound difference even through media.  It is all about dialogue not a monologue however, so don’t just bombard people with a message.  That’s why the Gift Box is such a great campaign as it opens up conversations.  There are lots of resources available on the Stop the Traffik website.

Here is a powerful Youtube video from Stop the Traffik that I love…

 

 

Stop the Traffik also have a chocolate campaign at the moment. Cote d’Ivoire is a country in the west of Africa which produces more than 35% of the world’s cocoa crop.  1.8 million children work in the cocoa sector in Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana.  Hundreds of thousands of these children are trafficked and kept as slaves on cocoa farms.  To sign their petition click here

 

“Make no mistake about it, trafficking is torture.  It must not be allowed to continue…” Emma Thompson

“Criminals take advantage of the fact that human beings are the world’s most precious ‘commodity’.  Let’s finish what Wilberforce stared.  We can stop the traffik.  And we MUST.”  Daniel Beddingfield.

 

Again I will ask- what can you do to get informed, equipped and empowered to stop human trafficking.  Can you fund-raise? Petition? Spread the message? Use social media?  Whatever it is…do it!

I will share more in my next post about how me and the lovely Sabine got on during our 4 days volunteering for the Gift Box Campaign.

And I will leave you with this quote…

 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”. – Edmund Burke

Getting Equipped to Stop The Traffik …

On the 30th June 2012 the lovely Sabine and I went to the Oasis Centre in London for a training day from ‘Stop the Traffik’ ahead of us volunteering for the ‘Gift Box’ Campaign which I will share more about soon.   I just wanted to share with you all a few lessons I learned, and how you too can get equipped in the fight against Human Trafficking.

Stop The Traffik are an amazing charity that have been going in the UK since 2007.  Read their story here  Visit their website and sign up to their blog using the links on the right on this page.

I was full of anticipation heading to this training because as massive as my heart is to stop trafficking, I know that in order to make my contribution I need to be resourced, equipped and empowered.  And thankfully that what Stop The Traffik do.

We learnt about some of the tactics that traffickers use to deceive people into being trafficked.  I think we can have this naive view that trafficking is only about prostitution, or that people must be stolen like in ‘Taken’ or just be stupid.  Sadly in reality there is often very clever deception that takes place.  For example a job advert for a well know building company to work in Spain, with training provided- when in reality an 18 year old from Russia ended up locked into a building site with no safety equipment, no money, and had to eventually walk to Germany to escape.  Or an advert for a summer job abroad with a family business selling ice cream in Europe- to which a girl in Latvia applied, took a plane to Heathrow, met someone in Costa Coffee, had her documents taken, and was then sold in that Costa for £4,000 to work in a brothel in the North of England.

These aren’t just stories.  These are realities!!

Human trafficking is to be deceived or taken against your will, bought or sold and transport into exploitation; whether forced labour or sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, forced begging or for the removal of organs.

1.2 million children are trafficked every year — Estimate by UNICEF

There are even reports that some trafficking groups are switching their cargo from drugs to human beings, in a search  of high profits at lower risk — The UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Approx 4 x the profit can be made from a person than drugs.  The person can be willingly brought into the country whereas drugs would be illegally hidden.  A person can be re-used again and again.

Trafficking affects every continent and every country; whether it’s an origin country where people are trafficked from; a transit country where people are trafficked through; or a destination country where people are trafficked to. 

On average, one person is is trafficked within and between countries every 30 seconds

Stop the Traffik recognised the fact that the Olympics provided a unique opportunity to reach a huge number of people from all over the world with the truth about human trafficking.  There was some speculation that trafficking could increase during the Olympics, but the reality is it happens every day! Our aim was to raise awareness and also do research about trafficking during this time, whilst the world was in and around London.  They recognised that power doesn’t just come in sharing a statistic, but engaging in conversation, and empowering people to make a change themselves.

Stop the Traffik and the Police…

As part of our training we were privileged to be spoken to by one of the Inspectors for ‘SCD9’ a special unit of the Met Police who are focusing on trafficking, and have a great relationship with ‘Stop the Traffik’.  He told us that they have 35 trained detectives, and , police trained on human trafficking, which is amazing!  There are no boundaries to trafficking and therefore it can happen anywhere.  Citizens really need to be able to notice the signs and report their suspicions.  How this information is reported has been developed.

You can report any suspicions you have on the Stop the Traffik website ‘Report Incident‘ tab.

Or call the Police Trafficking Helpline: 08007832589  For advice/ info: UK Human Trafficking Centre 08447782406.  For victim support: The Salvation Army 03003038151

Trafficked people often lack movement, language, documents and information on their area.  therefore the police are being trained to ask the right questions, eg where is your passport? When did you last leave your house?  It is so important for the police to see them as victims not suspects, and massive progression has happened in this area.  Victims are now often sent to victim centres rather than police stations, and are given 45 for their case to be studied rather than an immediate deportation.

1 trafficker in England made £2.2 Million from 1 Croatian person.

A trafficker in London made £40,000 from 1 sex trafficked victim in one year.

There are currently 46 live cases being investigated.  It is an appealing crime that must be stopped.

It has been important for people to know the difference between trafficking and smuggling.  Or from a person trafficked into sexual servitude, and someone working as a prostitute.  Victims of human trafficking don’t “self identify”- they often don’t realise that they have been ‘Trafficked’ therefore it is up to us and the police and NGO’s to help them.  They are often given a ‘legend’ or intricate back story, and told to abscond to a certain place.  All kinds of threats and tactics are used.

However, there has been break-though and convictions.  Recently a trafficker received 20 years for trafficking 2 Nigerian women.  And the case of the ‘Romanian Cinderella‘ received 40 years total convictions

ACT Groups:

Stop the Traffik have 50 ‘Act Groups’ (Active Communities against Trafficking) nationally.  These groups educate people on trafficking and campaign.

‘Human Trafficking’ The Movie:

When Sabine and I got home, after being equipped and excited about the difference we can make, we decided to watch ‘Human Trafficking‘ (2005).  I would say if you haven’t watch it please do!!  Although fictional, it covers really well 3 different types of human trafficking that can take place.  I couldn’t believe that what was a prominent enough issue to be made into a film in 2005, could be something that I, and the world are only just opening up their eyes to!

“We must face the fact that none of this horror would be possible, if our culture didn’t create a demand for it.  We need to realise that modern day slavery is only occurring because we choose to ignore it”  

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

 – William Wilberforce

Think about how you can get equipped and empowered to fight trafficking yourself…