Category Archives: Moments That Changed Everything

Why I’ve Given Up On Religion (UPDATE!)

Photo on 08-10-2015 at 22.05 #5

I had no idea what to write about today. It just wasn’t coming together – maybe because I am so tired after the week I’ve had. I am currently leaving the house at 6.30am. Not waking up at 6.30 (which in itself is a bit mad). I am leaving the house at 6.30am and getting to work just before 8am. This is one of the drawbacks of my dream job: the early mornings. I imagine as I progress in my career, the mornings will get easier and I’ll just adjust to it (I don’t actually think this will be the case, my eyes hurt, I want to sleep and I’m not sure if I’m going to last very long). 

Last month (or maybe the month before) I wrote about giving up my religion in order to find my faith.  I ditched all my Church duties (literally) and decided that I needed to get back to the ‘why’: why I loved God, why I attended Church every week, why I involved myself in various departments, why I spent 4/7 weekdays in Church…The ‘why’ had become lost in the hustle and bustle of Church life, somewhere in the midst of the hallelujahs, amens and turn to your neighbours, I had lost myself. I think once the ‘why’ becomes unreachable one needs to take a step back. I promised you an update on how I was getting on with my search: for God, for peace of mind, for the ‘why’, for meaning, for something. Of course, true to form, I haven’t actually updated you.

Well, here it is. 

I’m about a month in and I’m failing and succeeding all at once. How can you fail and succeed at the same time, you ask? Keep reading.

I still struggle with the ‘want’. Some days, I don’t really want to read my Bible. Why am I resistant? Shrugs. I really couldn’t tell you why I’m able to run through a 500 page novel with zeal, eyes wide open but reading a chapter of the Bible, at times, feels like I’m attempting to climb the Mount Everest. I’d rather drink cocktails, eat chicken and cake, watch Grey’s Anatomy and fall asleep with tears in my eyes (happy tears, of course – Shonda hasn’t killed anyone in a while). But that’s not enough for me. I want more – so much more.  My want doesn’t always translate into action but I’m working on it. God is like this big ocean, waiting to be explored, longing to be explored, and I’m still tinkering on the shore in my too-small-bikni, trying to catch sun rays and the lifeguard’s attention. Life begins in that sea with Him, I’m sure it does; life begins when I stop being afraid of drowning in that which I do not know and trust that I’ll find myself amongst the waves, in the depths of the ocean.

I also be treating God like my therapist. I throw myself at least 6784 pity parties each day. Some of them last 30 seconds, others can last hours. Now, my pity parties arrive in the form of negative thoughts pertaining to my worth/future/whatever I’m overthinking that day. It’s only today that I realised that they were indeed pity parties and I needed to pull the plug on them. I feel a bit bad for God, I say that I’m praying but really it’s just a long lament about ….*insert sob story here*…ending with a:

“But, why me, God? Well, it would be me. These things always happen to me”

^^^ How embarrassing.

I will write more about Mental Health in the coming months but I will say that changing my faulty thought processes and trying to stop internalising every bad thing happens is probably the greatest battle of my life.

Yet:

I am reading my Bible reguarly(ish)

I’d say no day goes by without me reading a scripture. It might be a chapter, it might be 5..sometimes it’s only a verse. But it’s something. And it’s regular. And I can feel myself growing again. I am no longer stagnant, unsure and weary. I can see again.

I am listening to only sermons again 

Some are awful. Can someone recommend some good podcasts? I’d so appreciate it.

I am praying more

Lamenting, communicating, speaking, loving, adoring, being. It’s all happening.

I am trusting God 

I made decisions last year that are negatively impacting my day-to-day life. I’m not sure why things have panned out the way that they have, but I completely believe that eventually, it will all make sense. Now, when I say that I’m trusting God to work things out, it’s not some fancy idiom, a Christianese saying to appease my audience and convince them that I’m on the right track; no, it is a geninue delcation of my faith, where I admit to the listener (and to myself) that while I do not have the answers, I feel safe and secure because I am resting with the one who does.

I give God all of the credit 

I shouldn’t be where I am. When I think about it, I shouldn’t even be alive right now, typing this with red eyes (I’m tired, remember?) But I am. I’m still here. I can only attribute it to God. It’s not by chance, it’s not a coincidence…it’s purpose. Really grateful to God for keeping me and for continuing to take me into spaces I have no right being in.

Okay, enough about me now. I hope this update has been worth the read. If you have any questions or would like to recommend any podcasts (!!!!!!) comment and ting.

Lots of love,

J xxxxxxx

10 Things I Learnt This Summer

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And just like that, the summer is over! If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering how the summer (the year?!) has managed to fly by so quickly. I remember saying to myself ‘Joy, you’ve got to keep your eyes open this year; blink and you will miss it’. Although I repeated these words over and over (especially during January – you know, New Year’s resolution season) I am only realising now, on the 7th September, how true these words were. I feel like I have blinked and everything I was working towards has come.

This year, I had two goals. One was to apply to University and begin my teaching qualification and the other was to put on a play in a theatre. While the first goal was a recent development (I only decided to become a teacher last year June), the latter goal was a dream that had been laying deep within for years. I have been writing plays for the past ten years, some of which have made it to stage, but none into a theatre. I knew that this year was the year my dream was to actualise.

Well. I didn’t know for sure, sure, but there was definitely a ‘now or never’ sense about my actions, a ‘are you going to be who you said you’d be’ and ‘are you going to do what you said you’d do’.

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

I want to be clear: I am not a trained writer/director. I just have stories that come to me that I pen down. So to many directors/writers my age, perhaps this dream is the norm, not too far beyond their reach, but for me, it would mark the beginning of my journey into that world, it would validate my childhood hopes and dreams, while confirming my belief that whatever God has for you will always be yours and that His timing is perfect.

This year, my both my goals became a reality. My play, Out of the Darkness, was performed at the Questors Theatre last Saturday and I begin my teaching course next Monday. I am still humbled. Humbled and grateful. But instead of rambling about how amazing my life is and happy I am (coz ain’t nobody got time for that) I am going to share some of the gruelling lessons I’ve learnt this summer.

1) You haven’t forgiven him if you keep bringing up his wrongdoing and throwing it in his face

Number 1 is pretty self-explanatory. In life, people will hurt us. As Christians, our response should be love and forgiveness. This is not a natural response. I repeat: this is not a natural response. True forgiveness is letting it go. You cannot claim to have forgiven a person if their wrong is brought up whenever things get tough or uncomfortable. Keep praying about the situation until you have truly healed, and maybe even afterwards. You never know what bitterness, anger or resentment is festering underneath the smiles.

2) You will make time for the things and people that matter

With the production to direct, a youth choir to sing with, a drama team to lead, an event to speak at and another event to co-ordinate, I didn’t have much time to socialise this summer. I didn’t see my friends because I didn’t have time. They understood and none have held it against me, but there is a part of me that wishes that I’d picked up the phone, dropped a text and been more present for my friends and family this summer.

3) You are what you eat

Listen carefully guys: don’t bother gyming 4 times a week if you’re going to go home and eat a burger (or 3).

4) God uses who He wants

Ah, this lesson was the hardest to grasp. All the things I’ve accomplished this year and God’s decision to use to me to do various things have not been because I am perfect, or good, or amazing or anything like that. I too have my own darkness, issues that I continue to grapple with daily. You don’t have to be perfect before you are used; you just have to be available.

5) If you’re not open, no one will know how crap you feel

I faced various emotional obstacles this summer and I don’t think anyone knew because I just didn’t say anything. I have an incredible support network but no one knows how many tears I shed this summer (I’m going to get into so much trouble once they read this!!) I took my pain to God first and foremost and now I’m more than okay. But we do not exist in a social vacuum and no man is an island. God has given me the greatest friends ever; I shouldn’t have suffered in silence.

6) Just because it’s August doesn’t mean the sun will shine

We live in London. It’s high time we accept that the sun will shine in December, February and September but will disappear throughout August. My sincerest apologies to all those who planned summer weddings but experienced hail and wind instead.

7) Sharing genes does not make you family

My family is amazing and I love them dearly but through my Church, I have acquired about 20 other people who do not share my name or my genes but love me so much. I am grateful for them.

8) It will take a special kind of man to handle my crazy

Yep, I am definitely crazier than I thought. I will have to write about this in depth in the near future. I will call the post ‘I am a crazy woman – will a man ever love me?’

9) The gift is for others

God gives us multiple gifts. There are things we do effortlessly and we find ourselves in spaces and places we really have no right being in. Last Saturday, I was being referred to as a Writer and a Director, calling the shots at a Theatre in Ealing.  I think our gifts are given to us but then they are meant to be shared with others, and when we do that, we are truly using the gift as God intended.

10) Live in the moment

Don’t miss it. Don’t get so consumed with perfection that you forget to appreciate the masterpiece that is before you.

All my love and I promise I will be blogging regularly again!!

Joy xxxx

Why I’ve Given Up On Religion

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I haven’t blogged in about 3 weeks and I sincerely apologise. My hiatus has had a domino effect on the other writers on the blog and it has resulted in a lack of content. I AM SORRY. I’ve been…busy. Too busy to write, to think, to reflect, to sit down and collate my thoughts in coherent manner. It has been go, go, go for the past few weeks and this blog, my baby, has suffered as a consequence. Now, at this point last week, I was tired, burnout and ready to run away with myself to another country. I would run with bae, but if you read my last post, you’d know I’m a single pringle. What’s really funny to me is the way that so many have tried to convince me that I won’t be single forever and I will eventually get married. Hilarious. I appreciate y’all though, you believe in my buffness and character way more than I do.

Anyhow. Back to the matter. I was mash up, basically.  A mess. Stressed. Trying to do everything but feeling like a failure because I didn’t feel as though doing anything brilliantly. I am a pedant, a borderline perfectionist. I accept that nothing will ever be perfect except the God I serve, but that doesn’t stop me from beating myself black and blue trying to attain a standard for everything that I do. I’m all or nothing: in life, in love, in everything. But if you’re doing 5999588 different things, being all or nothing, you will eventually feel like you have nothing more to give; worse still, you will feel like nothing.

I came back from Uni determined to serve in my Church and to help alleviate some of the problems I had become aware of before I had left. Those problems still very much existed but my hostile, pointing-the-finger nature had changed (we thank God) and all I wanted to do was help. My heart was in the right place.  I look back and I smile at my 21-year-old self, a young woman, still very much fragile and broken yet determined to give of herself. (Lol, this is sounding like a eulogy, init?) Fast forward two years and there is no Youth department in my Church that I don’t operate in. This means that on any given event day (or weekender as the case may be) I am singing, acting, performing, hosting, organising, leading, teaching and running around trying to make sure things are running smoothly. Most summers this is okay; I always feel slightly stressed but I love it. It’s addictive, really. I love being busy, having a checklist, running through it and getting the job done to that weird-almost-but-not-quite-but-as-close-as-I-can-humanly-reach-perfect-standard.

This summer has been a bit different because my Theatre Company, YiA, are putting on their first play in a Theatre. I’m not sure why I thought I could do the above, be a blogger, a friend, a sister, a daughter and a mentor, without feeling stressed and overwhelmed. But that’s how I’ve felt for a significant part of this summer. What’s worse is that I’ve found myself going through the motions of life without being fully present. My faith and my journey with Christ don’t have the same vibrancy that they once did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still praying, still reading the Bible (ishish – some days are better than others) but I’m not moved in the way that I once was. I’m not brought to my knees; I’m not blown away. I’ve been so caught up trying to do God’s work that I’ve been doing His work more than anything else – including being present with Him. My Church work has become a job, with God as the employer that I only communicate with to update or if I require assistance. As you can imagine, this is crazywrong. Church work isn’t like the work we do for The Man; it’s different from a 9-5. It is far more demanding and draining but there is a peace, a joy and a satisfaction that comes when it is completed because I know that my Father in heaven has given me way more and He deserves everything I’ve given, and then some.

I lost sight of that. I was just tired. I guess I still am.

So I’m quitting.

Well, I’m taking a break.

I’m going back to the drawing board. I intend to speak with my 21-year-old-self and ask her what she wanted when she threw herself into Church work. I need to refocus. I need to seek God. I need to meditate. I need to rest. I’ve always found it strange that people drew this fancy and arbitrary line between their relationship with God and their religion. I just thought it was their way of making their faith seem sexy and more attractive. But I think I get it now. I’m very religious. I tick the boxes that a ‘good Christian’ should – my work in Church speaks for me. But that relationship, the reason I started, the reason I do what I do…well, that’s a bit vague and foggy at the moment. Until it becomes clearer, I’ll be taking a back-seat.

Except here on the blog – I’ll be letting you all know how it’s going!

I hope you’re all good by the way, and if you’re not, drop me a message. I would love to hear from you!

Lots of love,

J xxx

The Day I Got Engaged

  From the day we are born, we are automatically enrolled into competing in a long list of races that we haven’t decided are worth winning yet. You probably don’t remember the first ones to hit you but I’m sure your parents still treasure and bring up at family soirées. There’s the race to taking your first steps, growing your first tooth, losing your milk teeth and making room for all your adult gnashers, learning to ride the bike you’ve been given for Christmas…, the list is endless. As we cross the various finish lines, most of us remain indifferent to the milestones are parents are intent on sharing with their friends, colleagues, and the rest of the family, who seem to be in some sort of mini-competition. This is all fun and games, but the stakes get so much higher for the races we begin once we’re finished with education, and suddenly, we as individuals are invested into reaching the milestone at the end of the track. We have swapped mastering our potties and being able to recite the alphabet for the races to get married, have babies, and the one to step up onto the property ladder. So many of us leave university ready to take a few strides down each of those lanes but feel incapable of making any achievement because we have not yet found ‘the one‘ (or they haven’t found us, depending on how you want to look at the dating scene). Just over a week ago, I took a huge step into a race I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to participate in.

On Sunday 19th July the one, for me, proposed under my favourite bridge and I said yes! *Squeals* I still can’t believe I’m actually getting married! I’m running towards one of the hugest milestones of my life, and a year and a half ago, I didn’t even want to speak to a single guy. Cray. Since Sunday I have been hit with a plethora of questions that have not been as easy to respond to as the one I was asked on Sunday. There’s been a mixed reaction but I figured where better place to answer everything than here?!

How can you marry someone you haven’t lived with?

I used to answer this question with the “I’m a Christian, we don’t really do co-habitation” and hoped that would suffice but this response has been met with, “but we’re in the 21st century” and “but Sally, and Jane and Jill and *insert long list of other Christian friends* live with their partners.” Then I’d have to go into a tentative, “I can’t really comment on Sally’s faith, but I don’t feel comfortable with co-habitation.” Now I save myself the trouble and give an honest answer: living with my fiancé is not conducive to the ‘no sex before marriage’ mission that I’m on. The questioner is always shocked at this point, but at least they kind of get it.

You are 22, how can you be getting married?

I can’t count the number of people that have highlighted how much you change as you grow older and questioned how wise it is to make a decision this young. I too am surprised that I’m getting married so young but that’s alongside the excitement and eagerness to cement the relationship I began just over a year ago. We will never stop evolving as we grow up, I just think it’s exciting to find someone you can’t wait to grow with.

Then the questions get a little trickier…

What do you do while you’re waiting for the one?

I think firstly I have to address my unbelief in the idea that there is one person out there that you’re supposed to be with and until you meet them there’s no-one worth speaking to. There’s a lot of prayers being said, asking for God to highlight that ‘oh-so special’ person that they’re supposed to marry, but I think a more useful prayer would be for God to show you the things about yourself that need to change in order for you to be ready to marry. If you’re a 20-something-year-old-girl, you’ve probably entered into number of conversations about the absence of males in your life, and how depressing singleness is, and what age you need to be married in order to keep to your schedule of when you want to have your first child. These conversations used to always make me anxious and my childhood fears that I would never get married would start niggling at me again. Last year, I decided to change how I thought about my single status and started praying for God to make me content with the situation. I’m clearly not anti-marriage, and the Bible does say ‘He who finds a wife, finds a good thing’ but I don’t think that means we should spend all our free time dwelling on the when and worrying over the ifs and the buts, when we consider our prospects of meeting someone. Before I met my fiancé I would pray ‘God, if I never get married that’s ok, you are enough for me,’ and I found so much peace genuinely believing that. It is lovely and life changing to meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, but in the absence of that, nothing compares to that awesome and incomparable relationship you have with Christ.

And then the questions got a bit ugly.

Why you and not me?

This question had never been phrased so harshly, but you can hear it in the undertone and selection of words in other questions like ‘but you’re x many years younger than me…*insert long silence followed by awkward half apologetic expression on my face. Or ‘You’re engaged?!… But I’ve been with my boyfriend for x amount of years…’ I never really know what to say to the why you question but I remember being a part of the clan asking it at various points in my life. When I look around and see people embarking on their grad schemes and I think back to being dropped from mine last year, there’s always a tiny voice whispering: Why you…? Or when I see people buying their dream houses and I wonder how I’m going to save for mine, I’ve thought: Why you…? Even when I see girls with thick hair that hair that has grown past their shoulders I can’t help but think, Why you…?

Well, why not me and and why not you?

We are all on our individuals paths, we can’t let the fact that we can see someone getting closer to achieve the milestone we are so focused on reaching that we get discouraged. The same person you were wishing you could swap successes with is wishing they could swap with you for something you’ve forgotten you achieved. I can’t guarantee that you’ll meet ‘the one’ this year, or buy that house you’ve seen on Zoopla in the year to come or that you’ll have the exact number of kids you’ve been dreaming of but I can confidently say that God has something great lined up for you. I wrote a post about the bitter sweet of 2014, losing a job and falling in love, who knew that I’d be engaged by 2015. We can long for someone else’s story and not realise that the very race we’re running is perfect for us.

Thank you God for allowing me to be so head over heels in love.

Thank you Jude for loving me despite my crazy.

Thank you all for for reading.

Love y’all,

Dani xxx

Are We Really Going To Burn In Hell?

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If you read the blog regularly, you’ll know that despite my faith in Jesus Christ, I still have a myriad of  questions that I need answers to. Should I list some?

Oh, okay then.

  1. Why does my hair shrink when water touches it?
  2. Why don’t Black lives matter?
  3. Are people born gay?
  4. Is Christianity meant to be inclusive?
  5. How does science fit with religion?
  6. Is yoga really that bad?
  7. Does it rain when God is angry?
  8. Are some people just destined to have awful lives while others are destined to be Beyoncé?
  9. Can mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia be solved with prayer alone?
  10. Is the use of medicine synonymous with a lack of faith?
  11. Does God frown upon condoms?

I could spend this whole blogpost listing some of the questions that run through my mind. Some are inconsequential (see number 1), while other answers have deeper ramifications for a significant strata of our society. With all these questions (and about 100 more) passing through my mind every day, it is no surprise that my faith is something that I wrestle with. When you choose to live by faith and not by sight, you also accept that you will navigate life with more questions than answers. And that’s okay (for now, anyway). Over the weekend, I witnessed God’s transformative power and I’m once again settled in the knowledge that He knows best (this feeling doesn’t last very long, unfortunately).

As a young Christian living in the Western world (where faith appears to be on the decline) it can be difficult sharing my faith. I realise how ludicrous it sounds, and while I am not ashamed of my faith, I’m not exactly singing it from the rooftops at work. If I am asked my views, however, I am more than happy to share them. One day, during a free period, (I work at a school), which I had given myself (God, forgive me), my friend (who happens to be an atheist) said to me:

Well, Joy, if you really believe that I, and all our other colleagues, who do not share your faith are going to hell, why aren’t you spreading your message more urgently?

My response was a stunned silence which felt like it lasted an eternity, and not the 3 seconds it actually took to formulate a response. I gave her an honest answer. I explained that if I spent my life using fear as a tool to convert people to Christianity and condemning the lifestyles of those I worked with and came across, I probably wouldn’t have anyone to evangelise to. I preferred to be all the things Jesus required of me (kind, patient, loving etc.) everyday and in the hopes that people would see the light of Christ within me.

A* answer. Full marks. Well done, Joy.

It was only when I got home that I realised that while my answer was true, it was also a cop out. I found sharing faith in secular environments awkward and it had become easier to pass under the radar and ‘live out the life of Jesus Christ’ because that enabled me to avoid questions about gay marriage, abortion and pre-marital sex. Despite coming to this conclusion, the question remained:

Why aren’t you more urgent, Joy?

I guess a part of me didn’t really believe that anyone was really going to burn in hell fire for all of eternity. Both heaven and hell had become distant concepts, concepts that my small mind could not fully comprehend. I could imagine a potential future with a husband, children (12, to be exact) and a career because those concepts were commonplace, but the idea of eternal joy or eternal suffering were beyond my scope.

I don’t think about hell or heaven much, if I’m honest. My Christianity doesn’t exist because I believe in a great reward or a great punishment, it exists because I love Jesus Christ and want nothing more than to talk to him and learn about him. Heaven is cool, but I love him more than the prize.  And I think that was part of the problem: I had become so used to my relationship with Jesus that I had failed to view the entire picture.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

If I knew when the world was going to come to an end, what would I do differently? Would this knowledge cause me to become more urgent with my evangelism?  Would it cause me to stand on street corners declaring the second coming of our Saviour King?

Maybe.

What’s more likely is that I’d be on my knees repenting for all known and unknown sins, pacing the rooms and fasting until I passed out. I joke. Kind of. What I’m really saying is that I had become so selfish with this precious truth that even in a hypothetical situation where the exact date and time that Jesus was returning was known to me, it probably wouldn’t impact the intensity of my evangelism.

I think a lot of us have neglected the great commission and have become afraid of sharing the truth with others because we do not want to seem intolerant, weird or fanatic. But what if their lives depended on it? If we truly believed that there was a God coming to judge all of mankind, why wouldn’t we do more? We should…or maybe we don’t really believe in it all.

Lots of love,

Joy

They Say He Will Either End Up Dead Or In Prison

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I had the perfect blogpost to write, one that would have probably gotten us more hits than usual and may have even given us the exposure I often dream of. But this song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yvo620cGMyw has moved me to the point that I can’t help but share a real moment with you, one that I experienced this week, a moment that I will never forget.

My profession isn’t the most glamorous. I am not a lawyer, an investment banker or any of those professions that cause people to raise their eyebrows and look upon you with a newfound respect. The nature of my job means that I can, at times, feel insignificant and ignored. The moments where I feel like I have a purpose in the workplace are fleeting and infrequent. Getting out of bed each morning an be difficult because I question whether my absence will have any real impact.

There was a boy who gave my Wednesdays meaning. Not just my Wednesdays, but my presence at work somehow felt validated because of the difference I knew I could make in his life. He was the reason I made the journey, the reason I didn’t quit despite feeling as though I was slowly becoming part of the wallpaper.

This week, he got expelled and the news broke me. It broke me because hearing statistics about Black males in Britain and seeing these statistics play out in real time are two completely different experiences. I see their short-sightedness, their anger at a system they don’t yet understand but they know has been designed to cripple them, their inability to articulate their experience in a way that ensures they are respected, their desire to affirm their masculinity, and how this works in tandem with their brilliance, their confidence and their charm.

It broke me because I always knew deep down where he was going to end up if he wasn’t in school. I was always afraid. Later that night, I cried out to God on his behalf for the first time. I wonder why it took me so long to pray for him despite being aware of his issues. Maybe if I had prayed earlier, things would have panned out differently.

He was there one day and gone the next.

His friends make jokes. “He will probably end up killing someone or in prison” they say and I pray that they are wrong. I pray that even though I can’t reach him, the God I serve will remember him.  I hope he remembers the times I told him that he was brilliant; I hope he recalls the times I marvelled at his mind. I hope he defies the odds and ends up in the places I know he secretly dreams he can go. I hope he remembers that he can get there.

I have to believe that God will place someone else in his life that cares enough to pray for him and to guide him away from what appears to be the inevitable. A lot of these boys don’t get out: they just become statistics. You read about them but you don’t know them.

But I knew him.

I know him.

I wonder if he knows the impact he has had on me, that I am changed because of him, that he has not only fuelled my desire to remain in this profession but has also made me realise that I can only stay in it for so long.

He probably doesn’t; he knows he is special but often underestimates how special he really is.

From the end of the earth will I call unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 16:2

Though I feel disheartened, I will continue to pray because right now, that’s all I can do.

Joy

The Mountain That Changed My Life

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Today I woke up felling a jumbled mixture of glad and sad. Glad to have made it back from Morocco in one piece, glad to see my family, glad for all the exciting prospects on the horizon… I won’t start listing the sad’s before I throw in the towel and book the first ticket back to Marrakech. It’s not even as if I had an activity filled holiday but those five days away were just what the doctor ordered. For the most part of the holiday I ate…a lot… way too much in fact… Granny even commented on my fresh-chubby appearance… someone needs to get me a gym membership for Christmas, anyway I digress, but on Monday 14th December I had one of the proudest moments I’ve had all year.

Climbing over 2000 feet of the Atlas Mountains taught me a whole lot about myself, apart from the fact that I’ve become seriously unfit (big hint in case you missed the other one that I’d really like a gym membership from Santa).

1) Nothing is impossible
There’s nothing worse than having to eat your words, and this hike had me swallowing a whole bunch of mine. As we half feared for our lives, ( driving in Morocco is not for the faint-hearted) and half admired the view, we noticed some ‘bridges’ that had been built by the inhabitants to cross the stream that ran through the mountain. One of my friends asked if I would be happy to walk along the wooden planks to get to the other side and without even thinking I said ‘hell to the never in hell’. I even laughed as I dismissed the whole idea thinking the van I was in would be taking me all the way to the top. Oh was I wrong! I was unpleasantly surprised to find out I would not only be climbing the mountain from half way up but would be climbing, even crossing the stream on even more rickety bridges. I couldn’t believe that there was no other way to the other side and that if I slipped I would be plunged into an icy bath in front of strangers. As I clutched onto Tarzan (our tour guide) and crossed to the other side, I just had to laugh at my earlier comment.

What are you laughing at the mere thought of doing? I’m so sure God listens to our exclamations and laughs. I’m always throwing ‘I’d never do’s’ about and just having to shake my head as I do that very thing. God might be giving you a task that seems way over your head (it probably is) but don’t be surprised when God makes sure you cross the rickety bridge and make it over alive (and dry).

2) Just because you can’t see a way out doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

I wish I could show you a picture of the lack-of-path we took up the mountain, but I was too busy slipping and sliding on rocks for a Kodak Moment. At each pit stop I would look up at the pile of rocks ahead and wonder just how we were going to make it past, and each time I was amazed at how Tarzan made it seem like child’s play and we followed his lead. If I stared up for too long, it all seemed a bit too impossible to bother to take the next step, but keeping my head down, just focusing on the step ahead of me, meant before I knew it I had made it a few more feet in the right direction.

When we reached the end of the climb I stood there and smiled at God. It may have taken me 4 hours on a plane ride and 2 hours up a mountain but I finally got it: As long as I can focus on the next step, the rest of the journey can worry about itself.

3) Making it to the top is worth it.

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to stop along the way. I think the only reason I kept on going was the feeling that I had conquered something and the fact that going back the way I came would be even more scary than climbing up. But when I reached the top, all the toil and the fear along the way melted away as I took in the awe inspiring view. It took my breath away, and suddenly everything seemed worth it. I know this is sounding corny but I really did nearly cry as I looked at the snow peaked surrounding mountain tops that were now at eye level.

This journey we call life is a toughie. Sometimes the going gets so tough we get tempted to stop the climb but I promise you that the view from the top is worth it. It’s easy to give up when you don’t know what you’re missing out on, but believe me when I say it’s not worth the risk. Don’t miss out on what’s at the top of the mountain you’re climbing.

I may be back in rainy England and my Palm tree studded holiday is feeling like a lifetime ago, but memories of what I learned on the Atlas Mountains will stay with me forever.

To God, who didn’t let me fall in the river, I thank you.

Love you,

Dee Cee xxxx

My Date With Death

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Death is inevitable. One can evade taxes, but one cannot evade death. It is the one moment, the one single event, that we all have in common. Our most important encounter with death is one we will have no recollection of, however, those that love us most that will be impacted and forever changed by this departure.

Although as we grow older our meetings with death become more frequent, I do not believe for a second that these encounters will ever lose their sting. No matter how many times we encounter death, we will always be brought to our knees by it: humbled and broken as we are once again awoken from our day-to-day fairy tale. Death humbles us because it thrusts us into reality; our encounters remind us that that we are mere mortals, we are finite, we are dust, we are millions of moments held together by blood, bones and skin, here one moment and gone the next.

Last week I attended the wake of a close friend’s father. Although there were moments of light, the atmosphere was laden with pain as those who loved him most and knew him best gathered together to remember him. As I journeyed home, I began to reach out to those I loved and even now, I’m not exactly sure why I did. Perhaps I wanted to make up for the numerous missed calls/whatsapps/texts. Perhaps I wanted them to know that they were loved…and remind myself that I, too, was loved.

Life has begun to move so quickly that I often forget to hold the people I love and the moments that have moved me with both hands. I am busy, so busy, with the things that ‘matter’ that the last few months have become a blur. My encounter with death this week caused me to pause.

What did I learn?

It’s time to be a better friend

I want to be present for those I love. It’s not enough to ‘be there when you need me’, that’s a cop out. I want to make more of an effort. I want to love more than I have in the past, not just loving when I feel sociable, but also being present on the days I want to crawl into my man-cave (my bed).

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

John 13:34-35

It’s time to be a better daughter

I spend so much time running about, dipping my fingers in about 4 projects at a time that I never spend my evenings at home. My Mum accuses me of treating the house like a Bed and Breakfast. Even though I laugh it off, a conversation with my friend Flo reminded me that my parents are the most important people in the world to me. I am so privileged to be at an age where I can know my parents as individuals and appreciate the sacrifices they have made for me. Yesterday I spent the evening in my Mum’s room. We didn’t actually speak that much but she kept saying “Odo, I can’t believe you are home – this is crazy.” I think our evening together made her happy (she will deny this, of course).

What we do here matters

My Mum once said ‘we live on through those we leave behind’. When you begin each day, remember this: what you say, what you do, how you treat people, what you create and what you contribute will live on long after you are gone.

Although what we do here is of great importance, I cannot end this post without reminding you that this isn’t the end – heaven is our destination, heaven is our home. Let us live each day with Jesus Christ at the forefront of our minds and keep His word in our hearts.

Love,

Joy xx

The Day I Walked Out On My Youth

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Today I turned 22. I can’t even describe how fantastically weird that feels. 22. Twenty-two. No matter how you phrase it, I can’t help but feel that something life changing happened at midnight. Some of you may be thinking that it’s just a new day, but for me it really is a new dawn. I guess it’s his dawned on me that I am really (inescapably no matter how hard I try) a fully fledged adult. You’d think I would have realised this at 18 or 21, but they were different and so was I. I still felt like I child who’d learnt to walk on their own but didn’t quite have to go anywhere by themselves yet. Although I had long let go of the apron strings, I knew they were close by in case I wanted to grab hold again. Today, on the other hand, is different. I flew the nest earlier this year, and now I’m no longer 21-young and fun, this new age brings with it a new era. I remember joking around earlier this year, laughing that our upcoming employers were actually going to give us real responsibility, as if we weren’t just children with degrees. I guess today feels different. I finally feel like the adult my birth certificate claims I am.

So what’s new at 22? Something’s got to give with this new rite of passage into adulthood.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. -1 Corinthians 13:11

Along with this new disposition is a strong sense that I should be doing something new. No more living in the moment and closing my eyes to uncertain road ahead. One thing I plan on doing is making this a year of spiritual maturity to match my newly found earthly one. I’ve learnt one big thing in the 22 years I’ve been blessed with and I hope you won’t have to learn this the hard way, like I did.

It’s now or never

Procrastination, if we let it, will kill us. If you don’t do it now, you might never get a chance. My motto for this year is to never let ‘I can’t be bothered,’ be a deterrent for anything I want to do, and that includes spending time with Jesus. We so easily undervalue our quiet time with God and then wonder why years go past and we haven’t grown spiritually. Whether we like it or not, time will pass, and we will get older, hopefully wiser, but we should definitely endeavour to mature in The Lord.

Let’s ‘put away childish things’ today and look forward to getting older in God.

Love you

Lots

Xxx

The Day I Got Stabbed

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So I was meant to write this post last week but the wound was still so fresh, I wasn’t able to sit down and write down my thoughts in a way that didn’t sound like ghu;hwgljfshldjhsljh;roh;odhowo;hf. However, this week, I feel a little stronger, I am present, I am in the room; I can tell you about the incident.

You never think you’ll get stabbed. It’s one of those things that happens to no one you know but crops up on the news  every now and again. Even when you hear of such news you almost brush it to one side, safe in the knowledge that such a calamity could never come upon you and yours.

Well, it happened to me. It wasn’t dark. It wasn’t a stranger.

I was stabbed in broad daylight.

….Okay, okay, okay.

I wasn’t literally stabbed, (…and the award goes to Dani and Joy for the most misleading blog titles). I’m glad the expression ‘stabbed in the back’ exists because in four words, it encapsulates the events of last week (okay, it doesn’t but hey, Y O L O). I wish this were the kind of blog where I could go on to detail exactly what happened. Alas, it isn’t that kind of party. I’m still trying to get to grips with this whole ‘living life online’ stuff and the sharing part still creeps me out a little bit. Plus, I love those involved too much so I’ll save the gory details for my private speak with God. What I can share on this blog are the whirlwind emotions that I felt after the incident.

(Sidenote: my nails keep breaking – this has nothing to do with the post but if you are reading and you know of anything that will stop them from falling apart, I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know)

So let’s kick off with the first emotion:

SHOCK.

Imagine walking straight into a knife. Imagine a knife being plunged into your back. Imagine being let down. Imagine whatever you want. Basically, I was shocked when everything came to light. There was disbelief before any other emotion as the bubble I was living in was violently popped.

ANGER.

Real anger. Rage. But it was momentary.

PAIN.

You know that moment where you realise that the people you love the most have the power to hurt you most?

Yeah, that.

We build high walls around our hearts and watch new people struggle to get over them as they seek to love us, know us and become close to us. We make it difficult because of the pain that has gone before; we want to make sure that if they enter the areas closest to our hearts, they will protect us instead of hurting us. Sometimes we get it right, we choose wisely and they are only a source of joy. Other times we get it wrong and all we can do is wish that we had built the walls a little higher, or held out on letting them because maybe, just maybe, time would have revealed the cracks in the foundation we were building with them.

FORGIVENESS.

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.

Luke 8:28

I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed with tears in my eyes. I prayed because it was what God wanted me to do. I could have held onto my anger but instead I chose to let it go.


There is small part of me that wishes I had stayed angry. I wanted to withhold my love and I wanted to leave because I am so very tired of being hurt by those I hold close to my heart. But God demanded more from me. To leave would have been easier, to love was is much harder. But I am thankful. Above all, I am thankful. I am grateful for the growth that I can see in myself; the Joy of yesteryear would have burnt that bridge and never looked back. I realise now that as Christians we are meant to build bridges, not burn them. I realise that when I have nothing more to give, I need to draw from God’s love and then give some more. I realise that the anger I feel is often just pain and my God is able to take away every hurt.

I know it sounds pretty rudimentary, but the sooner we let go of all that bitterness/pain, the sooner we will heal and the better we will feel. Although people will keep stabbing us throughout our lifetime, I think we decide whether we bleed out or not.

All my love,

J xxxx