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.

“When life gives you dirt- grow flowers”.

Those times, events or even years that were so filthy you couldn’t see beyond it. Perhaps you felt like you were being buried alive; unable to breathe as soil filled your lungs. I certainly know that feeling. Moments where you don’t think you can take another breath because the utter filth of the world, the circumstance, the person, the sin or the pain is crushing your chest cavity.

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Sometimes Often, life gives us dirt; a little pot of stinky mud, or a huge clump of soil thrown in your face.  A missed opportunity.  A crushing blow.  A devastating loss.  A life changing event.  A huge disappointment.  Pain, sickness, fear, debt, loneliness, loss, or death.

I feel like (without trying to engage in self-pity) that parts of my life have been full to the brim of dirt.  I’m certain that every single person reading this is thinking of their ‘dirt season’.

Those times, events or even years that were so filthy you couldn’t see beyond it.  Perhaps you felt like you were being buried alive; unable to breathe as soil filled your lungs.  I certainly know that feeling.  Moments where you don’t think you can take another breath because the utter filth of the world, the circumstance, the person, the sin or the pain is crushing your chest cavity.

Maybe for you it’s more just a thin layer of grime?  Something that has always, as long as you can remember just blurred your view and you have never been able to wash clean?

I can think of a lot of those moments.  Some from when I was very young, some more recent.  Times when I couldn’t seem to grasp the beauty of the world or see any good, grace, light or truth because all I could see was the dirt.  Times when people hurt me deeply, or life just let me down.  Times when death came calling; fear was overwhelming.  Times when loneliness was crippling.  More recently, times when sickness and weakness would not subside.

BUT, I adore the title quote.  I’m not sure who first said it, but I often cling to it, and hope you can too.  It’s a difficult and costly concept, but one that surely will bring joy?  When life gives you dirt- grow some flowers.

It’s a task that in some cases is far easier than others.  It’s one that in the past few months I’ve really been trying to put into practice.  Sickness has stripped me of some opportunities, and caused me to feel lacking.  So what do I do?  Do I drown in it?  Roll around in the dirt and know I can’t become clean again?  Or do I take that dirt and try and grow something beautiful in it?  I try to find seedlings to put in the dirt; more time to spend with God, more chances to take delight in much smaller joys, more time to relax and look to the future.  Of course some days I just wallow in it.  I can’t see how the dirt can possibly ever be anything other than darkness.  But occasionally, I really invest in trying to turn things around; I plant my seeds and in time I see buds, then flowers beginning to bloom.

Over the years I have seen flowers grown from what I could only before see as pure filth.  Life events that I once thought would be the end of me, particularly losses and a huge upheaval age 15, have blossomed into beautiful things.  My mess has become my message.  My tests have become my testimony.  I now can describe things that once brought me immediately to tears, with a real conviction that good has actually eventually come from it.

But what about the times you are deep in it.  What about ‘those things’ that you think could never be redeemed? …

… Grace

… Grace upon Grace


“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3

We can’t do this.  We can’t cause the seedlings in the dirt to flower.  We can’t pluck the seeds from thin air.  But with God’s grace things can be restored, renewed and re born.

I’m currently reading Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’.  It is full of life affirming truth.  She asks the questions I ask myself daily “What in a world of certain loss, is grace?”

“God is always good and I am always loved. All is grace only because all can transfigure.”

-Everything is grace because everything has the potential to be transformed.  Isn’t that amazing?

You may still not believe that any flowers can come from your dirt.  That the shame, loss, grief, or agony is just too much.  That if people really knew how bad it was they could never see flowers in it.  I know many times I’ve felt that way.  I don’t believe for one second that God gives us these things as a test of our faith, or that the darkness comes from Him.  But I do believe in beauty from ashes, in flowers from dirt.  I do believe in grace.  That He can take anything and turn it to a thing that can bring hope and redemption.

When you’re still stuck in the mud and you see no way out, I recommend 2 things from my reading and own experience.  When you’ve planted your seeds but there isn’t a flower in sight:

Gratitude and Worship

Being grateful for even the rubbish things or the tiny insignificant things, or the things that pass us by can open us up to so much joy.  I’ve blogged about this before, how simply the attitude of gratitude can change your heart.  If nothing else we can be grateful that we have been allowed to live another day!

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Worshipping God for who He is, and for all He has done in the past, and for nothing else than the assurance of your salvation, that one day there will be no more tears; in the midst of your darkest times, is an extremely powerful thing.

As Ann Voskamp says “…isn’t my internal circuitry wired to seek out something worthy of worship?  Every moment that I live, I live bowed to something.  And if I don’t see God, I’ll bow down before something else.”

Don’t bow to the dirt.

Any beauty, good, love, truth, and joy in the world is all a mere reflection of God.  When we cannot see that through the dirt, still it strengthens our hearts to worship and praise Him for it until we do.  Until the miracle comes.

“Even when it makes no sense to sing; louder then I’ll sing Your praise” (Even when it Hurts Hillsong United, Empires)

“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

You Are…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

You are Unique (Ps 139:13) – 

 

You are Unique.  Be true to who you are…

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You are important (1 Pet 2:9) – ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

Did you know… 

That you were handmade

To be just who you are

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

Every feature is gently fashioned and finished off by hand

Unique though not unequaled, essential to His plan

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

Made in God’s own Image

And loved with all His heart.

xxx