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.

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“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.

“That’s” What Makes You Beautiful

What is beauty? What is “that thing” that makes someone beautiful? Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? Does a beautiful heart make a beautiful person?

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.
– Audrey Hepburn

 

Something that’s been on my mind lately, as well as all the other random thoughts whizzing around my head, is what makes someone ‘beautiful’?  I love the above quote, and in theory try and think of beauty as far beyond skin deep.  Yet in an often superficial and shallow world, beauty as defined by the ‘perfect face’ or ‘perfect body’ can be rammed down our throats.  It’s a subject that women especially have approached again and again, and for Christian women it can be a cause of real conflict- the battle between knowing that God looks at our heart, and that ‘beauty soon fades’ but living in a society where surface beauty is all too glorified, and that God has made us in His image, just as we are.

I’m going to try and be real, and this is more a collection of thoughts than a defined stance.  I would love your thoughts, feedback and conversation on this.  What is beauty? What is “that thing” that makes someone beautiful?  Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder?  Does a beautiful heart make a beautiful person?

The UK beauty industry is worth over £17 billion.  ‘Zoella’ a British beauty blogger has 7,611,899 subscribed to her YouTube channel.  Bethany Mota her US counterpart has 8,414,326.  Now whilst both do admittedly talk about lots of subjects and tackle anxiety, bullying and many issues young women value advice on, the main focus of both vlogs are beauty and lifestyle.

What is it about outward beauty that causes millions to follow these girls for tips?  Is it more about them being approachable and relatable and the insight into their lives than the beauty tips they offer?  I don’t know? I do know that women often love fashion, beauty and magazines and especially things that give you practical advice on ‘how to look and feel great’.  I know I am drawn to beautiful things, beautiful people, have boards on Pinterest solely of lovely faces, manicures, clothing and accessories.  Yet isn’t beauty so much more than that?

So, the honest part…  For many years I really struggled with my body and really who I was.  My birth mother had anorexia for a lot of my life, and without really knowing it I think her relationship with food caused me to have issues myself.  When I was fostered age 15 it took a while to not only get out of bad habits of just being ‘fussy’ with food, but to also recognise the value in it, and really enjoy it.  The consequence being I put on quite a bit of weight, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I remember vividly in the very early days before we were about to go on a holiday to Wales, my mum knew I needed some new clothes including more summer appropriate outfits.  She took me to a shop, convincing me to try on a knee length denim skirt.  And I cried…

I cried not because I was a ‘prude’ offended by showing skin, or that I didn’t like it, but more that I was so confused and angered with my own body, that the sight of parts normally kept covered caused me distress.  I eventually got the skirt as well as 2 tops the same style one in blue and one pink, because again knowing the joy or pleasure in clothing beyond practicality was something alien to me.  For years I had slicked back my curly hair, having no clue how to tame it; now encouraged to let it fall free.  For years I had been embarrassed by my milk white skin; now showing it a little more.  For years I had hated my ski slope nose and the moles above my mouth; now a little more at ease with them.

Every woman and man I’m sure knows that feeling.  Each of us have parts of our body that are not our friends, which we sometimes even hate.  For me; my teeth, my chin, my thighs and tummy that bear stretch marks from sudden weight gain, and my old nemesis cellulite.  Oh and body hair in general.   Sometimes our discomfort makes sense, sometimes it’s totally illogical.

 

“Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.”

-J.K Rowling

I know women who have young babies, for whom being clean and clothed is important, but little beyond that.  Are they not radiant?  Yet sometimes the media shoves images in our face of pregnant women in 6 inch heels, mum’s who’ve immediately lost all the ‘baby weight’, or women stepping out with their babies with the perfect outfit, perfect manicure, and perfect blow dried hair.

I know women who are battling physical and mental health problems who do well to be up and dressed, all the while bombarded with these images of ‘regular’ women strutting around like catwalk models.  Is beauty not so much more than that?

In recent years most of the time I don’t have the energy or the money to look or feel my best.  I often struggle just to get out of my pj’s and out the house, so ‘looking great’ isn’t top priority.  Yet it’s always in the back of my mind; if I could just do this, if I just changed that.

I am at my worst before social gatherings.  I recently spent hours before a friend’s wedding freaking out about my hair, makeup and clothing because I knew photos would be taken and many people would be there.  My absolute worst often comes before Church.  Hours are spent fixing my hair, applying makeup when most ‘work days’ I don’t bother, and changing several times to find the right outfit.  Why?  If I’m honest with myself the presence of guys is always a factor, but also other beautiful, confident, preened and ‘perfect’ women can be a bigger battle to face.  I find it so sad that in Church, in the company of friends or before some of my most exciting outings is when I feel most unhappy, most fat, and most ugly.  That isn’t right.

Isn’t beauty just being the best possible version of yourself?  The one who makes their world more beautiful?  The one who loves and gives, is kind and generous?  Am I not beautiful enough ‘as I am’ because of my soul, my spirit, my heart?

Now don’t get me wrong- I think we all want to look and feel our best.  It’s great if we want to live healthier, be cleanly and groomed.  But it can often spiral so far beyond this can’t it?  When does wanting to look good turn into a soul shredding obsession with ‘fixing’ all our flaws?

“Perfection is the disease of a nation, it’s the soul that needs the surgery” – Beyonce, Pretty Hurts

 

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. – Song of Songs 4:7

 

 

The Bible is full of amazing truth as to the true value of a person.  The ‘woman of noble character’ in Proverbs 31 is not talked about in terms of her appearance and beauty, but her character, work, wisdom and compassion for the poor.  And above all her love for God.

30: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

1 Peter 3 (MSG)

What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewellery you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.

4-6 Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way

This is such a hard lesson to really live.  As I said earlier, I think there is a war waging amongst Christian women especially between the truth we are told from our loving Father; that he loves us just as we are and that he looks to our heart, our character and our love, and between what the world and sometimes even the Church perpetuates that we are loved based on our beauty, our brains or our skills.  How can we be our best, love our bodies, have confidence in ourselves and everything physical God has given us, yet not get swept into a frenzy of idolising beauty, sexy, fashion, clothing, makeup, and appearance.  It is a lesson I think we learn again new each day, and one that we may never perfect, but I for one want to strive for it.

I want to celebrate beauty and brains, smart and sexy, confidence and success but also celebrate love and compassion, generosity and kindness, introverts and hard workers, people with physical or mental disabilities being their best, innovation and change, fortitude and favour.

I want to celebrate and shine a light on those whose beauty comes from overcoming, from struggles and falling down but managing to get back up.  Those whose beauty comes from strength in times of terrible adversity, from healing scars, and pushing through.  Those whose beauty comes from their fighting for freedom, for justice, for love and equality.  Those whose beauty comes from living through the daily grind and being the best they can be.  Those whose beauty comes from putting others before themselves and using their life to help others.

I know and see so many BEAUTIFUL men and women.  You are unlikely to see their faces plastered across magazines or on TV, and you won’t see them walking the catwalks.  But their legacies will live on, their words will be passed down generations and the effects of their beautiful lives will live on long after those magazine images have faded.

Why not comment or share with someone today who is truly beautiful.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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