Category Archives: Moments That Changed Everything

My Dad Was A Pastor…I Was An Atheist

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My Dad was ordained as a Pastor the year I was born so my earliest memories are of him preaching to hundreds of people about the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ. I have grown up watching him teach, preach and do his best to share the love of Jesus with everyone he comes into contact with. I could honestly write this whole post about how great my Dad is because he is my hero; he was the first person who showed me what Jesus could potentially look like and through his love and instantaneous forgiveness no matter what I did (and I’ve done some pretty bad things) I grew up having a firm understanding of the love of Jesus Christ.  Love you Dad! (He doesn’t read my blog so won’t even see this mushy introduction – awkward.)

Despite his consistency, relentless pursuit of God and being a model Christian, my questions regarding our faith in God began around the age of 13. “Daddy, how do you know Jesus is real?” “Daddy, are you sure?” were questions I would ask him regularly. I was in church every week and I was half listening to the preaching and although at times it made sense, there was one underlying obstacle that I kept encountering: How do we know that this is real? How do we know that God even exists? This could all be a lie! I would look around my church while everyone else was worshipping and often feel isolated and lost because everyone was ‘in the spirit’ but me. If I kept missing this spirit, how could it really exist?

My questions continued to grow and the fear that I was believing a really amazing fairytale became greater than my faith. I asked those around me what their thoughts were on Jesus and I got unhelpful and opaque answers:

Me: how do you know Jesus is real?

Friend: He just is!

Me: I’m sorry, what? How does that help me?

Friend: You just have to believe

Me: SORRY, CAN’T YOU HEAR ME? THAT IS THE PART I’M HAVING TROUBLE WITH

My heart grew cold, I switched off during the service and my life stopped reflecting the Christ that I once believed to be true. It was as though this belief in Christ was a club that I just couldn’t join. I wanted so desperately to believe but I couldn’t believe in something I couldn’t see so I simply stopped believing all together.

I don’t know when exactly my belief in God returned. I didn’t wake up one morning and suddenly have all the answers I had searched for during my teenage years. All I remember having were pockets of faith here and there, prayers now and again and life shaking events that brought me to my knees and caused me to run back my default setting – belief in a higher power. There was a need to believe that my pain would one day make sense and that it could not last forever; that need kept me searching. Although I actively sought all the answers to the questions I once had, one day I had to accept that I would never obtain the answers that I longed for.

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them,“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

Mark 10:15

Children aren’t cynical, they ask questions to gain knowledge and to increase their understanding, not to disprove your argument. This scripture says that we have to become like them. Children ask questions but more easily accept the response; there is no pride, just innocence and a willingness to trust that what is being said is true. When they are told that the answer may be beyond them or the answer is yet to be discovered, they accept that too. I had placed my own limitations on God – he couldn’t do the things the Bible said he had done simply because I couldn’t imagine them happening and because I could not conceive them in my own mind, they simply couldn’t be true. But to be honest there are many things I cannot imagine that happen all around the world every single day and my disbelief or ignorance doesn’t make these occurrences any less real.

The honest answer to the question “how do you know that God exists?” is that I will never truly know. I will never be 100% sure that God exists because I have never met him face-to-face in the way that I’ve met other humans. I have, however, had very real, life-changing encounters with him and I can only point you to the broken person I used to be and show you who I have become in the hope that you will see and believe in him also. People from my past don’t recognise who I am now and at times, I don’t either. I am different because of him.

To the Christian having trouble explaining to people why you believe in a God that you cannot see but can only feel, I implore you to connect people with your experiences with God, not just your faith in him. Sometimes as Christians we want to show people the finished product but we don’t want them to see  the wounds that lie underneath our clothes which speak of the battles we had to face in order to become the person the world now sees. Our scars are important and our stories make our faith make sense to someone who simply cannot fathom the depths of our belief. My story speaks of car crashes, heartbreak and hours in A&E wondering if I was going to live or die -and that’s only the last four years! You may not believe that your story is dramatic or glamorous enough, and it may not be the rags-to-riches story-stand-up-on-the pulpit-and-everyone-cries-because-you’re-such-an-overcomer type of story but it is yours. Your story is the reason you have faith so be brave enough to share it and be strong enough to keep believing despite the questions you may still have. We will always have questions but the beauty of God is that he can handle them.

Have a beautiful weekend,

Joy xxxxx

The Day I Fell Off A Cliff

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On the 13th June I took my last ever undergraduate exam and simultaneously made the transition from student to graduate. For those who can relate to the seemingly upward hill struggle that encapsulates undergoing a degree, what comes next is only comparable to free fall. It’s somewhat surreal and yet exhilarating, a rush of excitement as you realise that you never have to take an exam again and a gulp of fear at the thought of having to plan your own future and shape your own destiny. The world is (to some extent) your oyster. As I look back on uni, the highs, the lows, and the in-between series watching and procrastination I am stunned at where God has brought me, and quite frankly who I’ve become.
I’ll give you some back story. When I started Uni I was an aspiring actress with my eyes set on the prize. After years of part-time training and auditions, getting through Uni was the final hurdle that once overcome, would allow me to push for an acting career with full force. Now, as I look towards the expanse of summer months, I’m waiting with baited breath for my banking grad scheme to start in September. Daniela doing a 9-5?! Who would have thought it? Definitely not me! The girl who enrolled in LSE in October 2011 is definitely not the same girl staring back at me in the mirror. Below are the bits and bobs that clumped together and resulted in the woman that writes this post. (Yuck I just called myself a woman, since when did I stop being a little girl who thought there was nothing she couldn’t achieve?!)

I learnt sooooooo much whilst at uni: here are the 3 things my degree didn’t teach me.

1) No man is an island
If you have any preconceptions about the kind of people that go to Russell Group Universities you can rest assure that I had the same ones. I’ve never considered myself to be extremely academic, and matched with my complete disinterest with current affairs, I took it for granted that I’d actually have anything to say to my classmates. I was so wrong. I had convinced myself that I could go through the whole 3 years without making any friends but looking back I don’t know what I’d have done without them. I’m so blessed to have been surrounded with people who hungered after God also, and the bible studies we shared and prayer sessions we conducted carried me through University. I can’t tell you the benefits of being able to tell someone about your problem and their first solution is prayer, but believe me they are plentiful. So often in our walks with Christ we don’t feel like we can completely be ourselves, but having people around you to reaffirm your faith is priceless. Some people think the fact that Jesus jammed (jammed=hung out) with sinners means it’s not necessary to have  Christian friends but don’t forget that the first thing Jesus did was choose his 12 disciples. I’m not saying Christians make better friends but having Christian friends can help you to become a better Christian.

As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend

Proverbs 27:17

2) You have to lean to deal with disappointment
First year was a struggle. Most of the pain was self-induced and stemmed from my lack of motivation for the discipline I was studying, but revision season was by far the biggest mountain of the bunch. I don’t think I’ve ever revised as hard in my life as I did in those 10 weeks before exams started. ‘Night shift, day shift, and every hour under the sun shift’ is the best descriptor of my revision timetable. I sacrificed my long-time lover (sleep) in exchange for hours on end with my nose deep in a book from the never-ending reading list. All that work only to scrape a pass. I remember opening my results and being hit with an overwhelming sense of disappointment as it sunk it that I wasn’t the high achieving student I’d always been.

Too often, when things don’t go the way we planned and we’re ready to give up on God in a heartbeat. Even if God promised you the very thing you haven’t received, you have no excuse to turn your back on your Saviour. Your journey with Christ isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you’re going to give up every time things don’t go your way, you aren’t going to get very far.

3) God orders your steps
When I was 18 I decided I was going to get ‘plans are made but our steps are ordered’ tattooed on my ribcage. I’m yet to get said tattoo but I can’t profess how much truth is in the scripture that my tatt is based upon. If anyone had told me that I’d give up acting I would have told them to stop cursing me with their negativity and block out the rest of their spiel. Now when people hear that I’m going to work in a bank they think ‘typical lse-er’ or ‘you’re one of those money-hungry types’ but they couldn’t have gotten me more wrong. I’ll tell you more about giving up the dream in a future post, but what I will say now is that, unless God has said it, it isn’t certain, and even when he has spoken, he can change his mind. I’m not saying that God randomly gives us instructions then completely redirects the courses of our lives, just for fun, but that lots of things last only for a season. Don’t ever get so set on something that when God is saying something new, you don’t want to listen.

A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

Many times God won’t force his will on you, but when disobedience has landed people in the belly of whales, I think letting God lead the way seems like the wise option.


I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have made it. There were times where I thought I wasn’t capable and other times when I didn’t even want to try but God has had his way. To my everlasting father, I just want to say: thank you. You can learn a lot from your degree but nothing is worth learning without Christ.

Hugs and kisses,

Dani xxxxxxx

The Day I Accepted Death

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Given up/giving up/considering throwing the towel? I’m going to tell you about the day I gave up on life and hopefully you’ll realise that you don’t have to.

I remember this day so vividly, I’d accepted that I was going to die and I  was wholeheartedly at peace with the situation. There wasn’t a huge evaluation about  the pros and cons of my life where I’d decided that there was no point in living any longer, I just didn’t have any fight left in me and I wasn’t ashamed to hold my hands up to my fate.

So let me set the scene. I’m 8 and I’m on a trip with the Brownies…

(I’ll deal with your questions now)

“You gave up on life at 8?! Are you going to tell us a heart-wrenching story about an abuse-filled childhood that’s going to bring me to tears”.

No! you don’t have to brace yourselves for heartache

 “What’s the Brownies?

If you don’t know about the Brownies, I can confidently say: You missed out bro! (Bro in the generic non-gender specific sense of the word, because if you are a boy you missed out on Brownies by default.)  Brownies is this ultra-cool club, full of talented  young women with bright futures ahead of them who liase every week about how to craft their futures. Okay, that might be a slightly embellished description.  All you need to know is that Brownies was fun, we played games, sang campfire songs, and every so often went on field trips. On the day in question ( where I nearly let life slip through my fingers) we just happened to be on one of these field trips.

(I hear your sigh of relief) yes I have finally started telling the story.

So picture 8 year old Dani, just about to step off the coach and enter the Kids Dream (for parents who weren’t about to buy a ticket to Disneyland )AKA Guilford Spectrum. For those who haven’t just had a sudden influx of memories about their great times at Guilford Spectrum, I shall explain. Guilford Spectrum, is an all singing all dancing, land of fun where you can swim, bowl, and go ice-skating all under one roof. Today we were there to swim. Only problem was…  I couldn’t swim. Brown Owl (the big boss lady in Charge) was stood at the front of the coach and was asking for anybody who couldn’t swim to raise their hand. You can imagine my horror. So many things were running through my head.

Should I confess?

Why is she only asking this now?

I’m not about to be embarrassed in front of all my clique and admit I can’t stay afloat

Maybe if I confess, I won’t get to go in the pool

Ok, decision made, I’m staying silent.

We’re all faced with those crossroads in our lives where we have to make life-changing decisions. Little did I know that I had just come into contact with my first crossroad.

Can I just say now that I wasn’t a complete disgrace? I’d stand in shallow end and move my arms and legs in a swimming-esque fashion and so I at least looked like I was swimming. Everything was fine until I got brave. I think I was having such a good time I’d forgotten that I was living a lie, and this ability to swim was yet within my reach.

This is when disaster struck.

I was standing in the middle of the pool, not quite deep, but far enough away from the shallow end to be resting on the tip of my tip-toes. We were having a blast, the wave machine came on, and I had actually begun to fall in love with this swimming thing. I was just about keeping my head above water, when out of nowhere someone nudged me into the deep end. I didn’t quite know what was happening until the horror of not being able to touch the bottom of the pool with my toes set in. For a split second I thought ‘wow, maybe this is it, maybe I’m swimming,’ but when I looked up and realised the water was above my head, that’s when it hit me that this wasn’t swimming, I was drowning…

Of course I was practical at first. I allowed myself to sink all the way to the bottom so I could kick off with some momentum and hopefully reach the top. Plan settled and put into action. I was kicking with all the energy I could muster, only then I realised my feet could take me no further and the waves were still above my head. I tried not to panic. I thought second time lucky, and I’ll be ok. So again sunk and pushed off from the pool floor, battling to get to the top. Still no success. As I looked up at the ceiling of water that I couldn’t quite break through, and my lungs burned in my chest, in that very moment I gave up.

This is it.

Today you’re going to die, and that’s ok.

I was so at peace with everything. I had tried and failed, and just patiently waited for death, until I felt two arms envelope me and drag me out of the water. As I resurfaced spluttering and and gulping in the air I had been deprived, I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I was going to die that day, I was so close to it, and yet no, Brown Owl had come to my rescue, giving me the second chance I had completely given up upon.

So many of us can use my swimming experience as a metaphor for our lives . Let’s imagine the coach trip part symbolises the time just after we gave our lives to Christ, or even just a time where our relationships with Jesus felt amazing. Everyday feels like an opportunity to basque in his presence and the devil gets so sick of watching us enjoy, he decides to dangle a decision in our faces. I knew I couldn’t swim, I knew I had no place being in a pool but I wanted to have fun so badly, I let that cloud my better judgement. So back to us, temptation has just been dangled in our faces, but we’ve convinced ourselves that somehow we won’t be affected by the environment we’re allowing ourselves to enter. I don’t know what your vices were when you got saved but let’s imagine its getting drunk. For you, jumping in the pool would be the first time you step into a bar after you’ve made the decision that you’re not going to fall off the wave again (fall of the wave= get drunk and have to repent.) At first I was having a whale of a time, everything was going smoothly, and so are you; everyone is drinking around you, and you still have your wits about you as you’re sipping on your second drink. It wasn’t until I got nudged that my world came crashing down. For you, I guess this would be that one drink too many that sucks you from the land of sober and you arrive in the land of drunk. You might not be falling over, but you know that you have completely lost control and your heart sinks as you realised you’ve failed.

Too many of us are happily living in the moment where I settled as I patiently waited for death. You’ve tried to stop sinning, you feel like you’ve made every effort and yet you just can’t seem to break through into living righteously, so you assume God is done with you, and wait for death.  To everyone that is drowning, hear me out; it’s not over. Your purpose doesn’t end when you make a mistake, or even continue making them. The day sin stops ruling your life is the day you accept that you can’t live right without God. It’s only by his grace that righteous living becomes our day-to-day. You’re so used to living below the bar God has set for us that you’re at peace with it, but God is just waiting for you to change the attitude in your heart so he can envelope you in his love and drag you out of where you are, into where he’s called you to be.

No matter how bleak it is, until you breathe your last: it’s not over

I believe Brown Owl dragged me out because my purpose on this Earth hadn’t yet been fulfilled. Even if you feel like you’ll never be able to come out of the sins you’ve been committing, you must not give up. As long as you have a purpose, you have a reason to fight for the life God wants you to have.

Your God is faithful (1Thessalonians 5:24) and it’s not over.

Love ya

Dani xxxx

The Day I Lost My iPad

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Yesterday was a weird day. Fantastic, horrible, amazing.

I was on the train, on my way home from work (which is three hours away) and I was hungry. Not your, ‘oh, I’m slightly peckish’ type of hungry, no I’m talking ‘I feel like there is hole in my stomach which will never be filled no matter what I put in my mouth’ sorta hungry. I hadn’t eaten properly all week (long story) and that was probably the root of my frustration. I was also feeling quite nothing. Have you ever felt ‘nothing’ before? I didn’t feel like nothing (we thank God for working out my confidence levels!) but I just felt as though what I had to offer, my potential and my gifts were not being utilised. This frustration coupled with the hole in my stomach led me to wanting to smash my phone against the train window and scream.

A few months ago I learnt a lesson about gratitude, which I will carry with me forever. In the moments where I feel most frustrated, overwhelmed and powerless, I start to list the things I am most grateful for. I shift my focus from my problems to my blessings. It usually helps. I also decided to quietly sing some songs of worship which caused people to look at me but I figured it was better that they looked at me because I was singing than they looked at me because I smashed my phone against the train window.

The train finally pulled into the station and by this point I was feeling quite perky. I’d switched from my gospel to a bit of Beyonce and I was feeling myself a little. I had already planned to order pizza as soon as I got home and in my head, I was already in my room, chilling, eating and watching ‘Friends’.

I walked over to where I had left my suitcase and it had gone.

What?

Yeah, it had gone.

I started to think about what I had left in it. My iPad. My beautiful iPad, April, which held the contents of every blogpost I’d ever written, moments I had shared with Jesus, scriptures I loved and lessons that I was learning. My baby was gone. I could buy another iPad but I knew I would never get those words back.

I ran down the train aisle and pushed past everyone to see if I had left my suitcase on the other side of the train. It wasn’t there.

Fam. I was panicked. My heart was beating. A woman asked me what was wrong. I responded that my suitcase had been stolen and I didn’t know what I was going to do. It had my iPad in it. She seemed concerned and she began to ask me questions. See me, I’m not into strangers at ALL. I watch too many TV dramas about serial killers to engage with people I don’t know. Even in my anxious state, I was still aware that she was a stranger and could kill me at any moment.

I noticed that another suitcase was still there, which looked like mine but wasn’t. I realised that the person must have mistakenly taken my suitcase. I grabbed the suitcase. I still didn’t know what I was going to do. Meanwhile, the woman was still there, trying to tell the train assistants what had happened, walking with me and trying to reassure me. The assistants told me to report it to the police and walked on by. They didn’t care. I must forgive them for that.

We reached the information desk and the woman told me to open up the suitcase to see if I could glean any information about the owner of the suitcase. I opened the suitcase; I saw boxers, an asthma pump, a charger but no personal details. I zipped it back up, deflated and resigned to the fact that I would never see April again. As I picked the suitcase off the floor, I realised that there was a piece of paper in one of the pockets at the back, I pulled it out and opened it.

There it was, the name, number and address of the person that had taken my suitcase. The woman and I rejoiced for about 30 seconds. The address was in Ireland and the number was foreign. My rejoicing ceased and I began to worry again. I called the number.

“Hello?”

“HI MY NAME IS JOY AND I THINK YOU HAVE MY SUITCASE!!!”

“Sorry? Oh my gosh! Yes I do. I am so sorry! How did this happen??”

“I THINK YOU TOOK IT MISTAKENLY. WHERE ARE YOU???”

“I’m in St Pancras, I’m just about to go into my hotel”

“OH MY GOSH, I’M STIL IN THE TRAIN STATION. I’M ON THE PLATFORM”

“I’m coming back! Wow, I can’t believe this has happened. You are so smart for noticing.”

“NO YOU ARE THE GENIUS BECAUSE YOU LEFT YOUR DETAILS IN THE BACK POCKET. YOU’RE GREAT. YOU’RE THE BEST OH MY GOSH.”

“Ok, I’m on my way! I am wearing a red jacket and I have no hair.”

“I HAVE SHORT HAIR AND I LOOK WORRIED”

“Ok, see you!”

The woman and I hugged, we were so happy! We thanked God, I thanked her for staying with me and being so kind. I was a stranger but she showed me such love and kindness. As we were praising God, a bald man, in a red jacket walked towards us.

We embraced.

Yes, I hugged TWO strangers yesterday.

He apologised to me.

I thanked him. Thanked him over and over again. We exchanged suitcases and then he left.

I began to thank God. I don’t know why yesterday occurred. I do know that I was struggling to count my blessings and then God gave me something to be grateful for. He taught me how important it was to be kind to strangers and extend love to every single person I encountered. Jackie helped me so much, she was such a calming presence and I know that if she hadn’t told me to look in that suitcase I wouldn’t have done so. She gave me her time and she gave me her love. I am so grateful for her! Oh and to God, my best friend, thank you. April is safe and sound. My beautiful queen is sitting next to me as I type this. GRATEFUL!

Joy xxxxxx