Tag Archives: courage

Why You Keep Lying On Facebook

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In my Sunday School class, the question was once asked:

 If a man held a gun to your head and asked you if you were a Christian, what would you say?

 Now, of course the “right” answer was to scream “I LOVE YOU JESUS” and suffer the unspeakable consequences but over a decade has passed and I’m still yet to decide what I’d do simply because I never really show up in moments of panic, I freeze and scream internally until the moment of panic passes. Also, I believe that hypothetical responses are rarely indicative of what one will do when faced with the situation. This question came to mind this morning and although I still do not have an answer, it always causes me to think more deeply about life, what I am willing to die for and more importantly, what I am living for.

“They say ‘you only live once’ but what are you living for?”

I let my Mum use my Facebook yesterday and it was fascinating watching her read through my newsfeed; she could not understand why the people I knew felt comfortable sharing such intimate moments of their lives online. When she asked me why, the cynic within me arose:

“Mum, people want to show other people how happy and content they are, even if that means giving 500+ people access to the most sacred moments life offers.”

As I was saying this, I realised that most of us are living for the applause. We are living for the ‘likes’, the moments where others validate our actions. We carefully choose what we will reveal online in order to create what we feel will be the perfect image. Underneath the façade lies the real; the real moments of pain, confusion, frustration, anger, happiness and joy.

Although we cannot pick and choose the moments that God sees, we act as though He isn’t watching 24/7. We spend more time choosing filters on Instagram than filtering out the negative parts of lives and we spend more time controlling the way others view us than we do allowing God to take control and fix the broken parts of our lives – the parts that aren’t picturesque enough for the online world.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Hebrews 4:13

One of things I enjoy most about being a Christian is the fact that I am forced to have honest conversations with God. I can’t lie and I can’t pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t. He sees right through the façade because He sees all. When I have no words to say, He still hears the pain I feel or the joy I don’t know how to express.

God sees.

My challenge to you today is to live each moment in light of the fact that God sees. I don’t want you to think of Him as a judgemental, domineering presence which seeks to dictate your every action and can’t wait to punish you, but as a loving Father (Isaiah 64:8), who is interested, concerned (Luke 12:7) and full of love for you (1 John 3:1).

Lots of my love & Happy Wednesday!!

Joy xxxxxx

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

That Time I Was Recruited Into The Sex Industry

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I wish the title of this article were merely a ploy to get you to click the link and read our precious blog. Alas, it isn’t. I, Joy Johnson (that’s not really my surname) was approached and recruited into the sex industry.

My fear of strangers is a very recent phobia that can be dated back to 2013. I started watching a show called the Following, a show that follows masses of people who kill, well, for no reason at all. They walk up to passers-by, people in cafés, in homes, in CHURCHES and stab them through the chest with absolutely no remorse. As I watched this show, I realised that I wasn’t safe and I began to question my innate trust of human beings. How did I know who was a killer and who wasn’t? What stopped you, yes YOU, from stabbing me through the heart on any given day? Absolutely nothing.

My trust in humans was restored in March when I lost my ipad and a woman who I had never met stayed with me, reassured me, sought help on my behalf and hugged me when I found it. I realised that not all strangers were evil serial killers and perhaps Hebrews 13:2 could be something to live by:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

Since then I begun to open my heart to strangers but this newly found trust was almost ruined last Wednesday. I was sitting down, waiting for a friend when a man walked past me. He paused and then turned around to speak to me. I was literally thinking ew, rolls eyes but then I remembered my new mantra:

LOVING JESUS MEANS LOVING PEOPLE.

He said I was beautiful. I thanked him and looked away because compliments are pretty awkward things to receive from anyone, particularly strangers. He then asked me where I was from and I responded that I was from Nigeria and he looked shocked; he had just flown in from Nigeria THAT morning. He asked if he could sit down and of course, I obliged. He introduced himself as Michael; he owned various hotels in Lagos which meant he travelled there quite frequently. This knowledge made me happy to engage with him. Does that make me a goldigger? Let me be clear – he wasn’t hot, he was older than me (by about 40 years), I was just genuinely interested in this Caucasian man who was doing the most, talking about palm oil this and  plantain that. I was impressed. He said he also owned businesses in LDN and although today was his birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL, I said), he was on his way to a meeting.

Sidebar: I know I am giving you a lot of details here but I want you to know that although I am naïve, his story was (kinda) plausible at the time. I didn’t just get up and follow a stranger. Well, I did actually.

The famous Michael (apparently that was his nickname) asked if I was available to join him for coffee. I was once again obliged; it was his birthday after all and my friend was nowhere to be seen. He told me he was turning 42 and small alarm bells started ringing (I know, I know, why did they take so long to go off?) because he looked just a few days older than 62. We went into the McDs across the road, we sat down and he asked what I did. I told him I was looking for a new job; his eyes lit up and he began to explain what his employees did. ‘His’ women gave massages and facials to supermodels in order to firm up their bodies (particularly their breasts), in preparation for any upcoming photo shoots.

Yikes. Ok. Another alarm bell. I didn’t ever want to touch anyone else’s breasts but my own.

But still I engaged with the famous Michael. He told me to take his number and as I was taking it, his phone rang again, and he said it was an Igbo woman called Titi.

RING RING RING RING RING. The alarm bells went crazy in my naive little mind.

I’m Igbo and have enough Nigerian friends to know that Titi is actually a Yoruba name. It took this subtle mistake for me to freak out internally and realise that this man was actually a psycho. But what could I do? He was about to give me his number; we were in the middle of Mcds and running away felt a little drastic. I told myself I had to get away. I painted my im-so-interested-i-care-what-you-think face on, nodded and took his number. Then he asked me to call him so he could have mine and my heart sank. I wanted to say no but of course, you guessed it, I obliged.

He asked me to work for him; training would be free because it was his birthday and I was Nigerian and he just loved my energy. You know what training included? A full body massage from him, which would require me to be naked. YAY. He told me I would enjoy it and if I worked for him, I could make up to £500 a day. Eventually he had to go to his ‘meeting’ and we parted ways.

(I blocked his number as I walked away and prayed I never saw him again)

Why am I telling you this story? It only shows how naïve and trusting I am, to so stupidly follow a stranger. But would I do it again? Perhaps. Let me tell you why:

1)The importance of evangelism

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

Yes, those Christians who shout on the high street can be a little extreme but I think they have got it right in some ways. Jesus’ last instructions on earth were basically RUN AND TELL THAT but how many of us are ashamed of our belief in Jesus or afraid that people will mock us if we speak of him? When was the last time you shared something about him on your Facebook/Twitter page or to a friend who you know does not believe? Jesus can’t just be Lord of our rooms when we pray daily, he should be Lord of our lives and that includes declaration of his great works. If we are truly following Jesus, speaking about him at every given opportunity is part of it.

2) It’s nice to be nice

It always amuses me when I see  Christians who read their bibles on the tube but simultaneously give passers-by the dirtiest looks if they accidentally step on their feet. How do we treat the people we don’t know? I for one, don’t even like sitting next to people on public transport. Do you know how much that conflicts with the Jesus in me that sought out the marginalised, the dirty, the infected, the broken and befriended them? Meanwhile we won’t even make eye contact with people on the tube and if someone pushes past us and we are ready to attack. It’s either we are like Jesus, or we are not.

3)Letting God interrupt my day

The main reason I spoke to Michael is because I decided a month ago that I wanted to let God interrupt my day. Even though I make daily plans, I want to be available and I want to used by him. I spend my day looking and waiting for ways to help people I don’t know. Let me be clear, it’s not because I’m a nice person, it’s because I want to look like Christ. I don’t think we should have to tell people we are Christians, they should feel his light from us radiating as soon as they interact with us.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Hebrews 6:10

One my best friends threatened to lock me up after I told her this story, but I would do it all again. I will keep talking to strangers and I will do my very best to be open because I want to look Jesus, my best friend, the one that saved me. If that means talking to the Michaels of this world, then so be it.

Now run and tell that!

All my love,

Joyyy xxxxxx

Ps: by the way, I realised Michael is probably a pimp and may report him to the police.

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

What I Learnt: Hallowed Be Thy Names

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Why I chose this book

I was quite excited to read this book because I hoped that it would positively impact my prayer life. There are times where I just want to praise God for who he is and remind him of all his amazing attributes and…well, I can’t, simply because I don’t know enough of them. Does anyone else ever run out of things to say?

I also think it is important to remind God of who he is (not because he forgets) but because it increases our faith and belief, especially in times of great difficulty.

5 things I learnt 

1. Know God

We can know someone’s name and have very little knowledge about who they are. Some of us claim to be Christians but know God on a very basic level and are yet to explore what the Bible says about his nature, his characteristics and his personality. I think a lack of understanding concerning the character of God can have harmful consequences such as stunted growth and limited expectations of him.

If we do not know that God is Jehovah Jireh, our provider, what will we do when we are in times of financial difficulty? Will we call upon God and remind of who he is or will we crumble under the financial weight? If we do not know that God is El Shaddai (all-sufficient), how we will ever shift our focus from our own weakness, powerlessness and failures, to his ability to keep us, teach us and make a way for us in the wilderness?

I think this book once again highlighted the necessity of reading the Bible every single day and being in relentless pursuit of God. At the beginning of my relationship with God, a prayer a day was absolutely fine but that is no longer sufficient given the time that has passed. If you are still where you were when you first started your journey with God, I think it is perhaps time to reflect on what you actually desire from your relationship with him and what he desires from you. Every day is an opportunity for growth and we shouldn’t let these opportunities pass us by.

2. Problems can be good for you

It is only in the past year that I have come to appreciate the problems and trials that I face. Being a Christian doesn’t excuse me from life’s pains but it does give me access to an amazing pain-reliever. When we look back on our lives in years to come, our most remembered moments will be the ones of pain, the moments where we felt like we had nothing more to give but managed to somehow survive. Hallowed Be Thy Names continuously reminds the reader that it is in the most difficult and trying times of our lives that God gives us a revelation about who he is and a fresh view of his character and power towards us. In order to overcome the challenges we face in our lives, we have to have a deep-rooted belief that our steps are ordered, leaving no room for accidents, good/bad luck and coincidences; everything happens for a reason and ultimately for our good.

3. Are you angry with God?

Some of you are angry with God in this very moment and this anger is linked to moment in your past where you feel God failed you.

God, you said you were going to help me but all I felt was loneliness

God, you said you keep my loved ones safe, but the person I loved the most died

God, you said no weapon formed against me would prosper and yet every single day I wake up sick

You wanted God to come through for you but he didn’t. He let those bad things happen to you and knowledge of this constantly overrides your love for him and your desire to seek him. Whenever you begin to get comfortable with God you remind yourself of that intense pain he failed to shield you from, retract and question his existence all over again. All you can think is “well you let THIS happen” and “where were YOU when I felt like this”.

It wasn’t until I read this that I realised that I also had some issues with God. I had to admit those issues God and ask him where he had been during some of the hardest times in my life. I can’t tell you where He was during your storm but as I looked back on those hard and dark years, I realised that God was there. Even though I felt isolated and alone during those years, the fact that I am still standing today, free from the issues that once held me captive, is evidence of God’s love and presence. He didn’t leave then and come back a few years later; he was always there.

4. It is not enough to just acknowledge your sins

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23

I sin. You sin. We sin.

But are we still moved by our sins? Have we become desensitised to the magnitude of our actions? Yes, we cry out to God and repent but the very next day, we are back to the very thing we asked God to save us from. How genuine is our cry of repentance if we return to the sin? The more we engage with the sin, the less convicted we will feel and eventually it will feel as though the sin isn’t even ‘that bad’. If we hold onto our sin we will eventually forsake God and be given over to our lusts. God will send warnings but eventually we will move so far away that we will no longer be able to hear his voice. We need to daily cut sin away from our lives and fight the desire to do that which we know is wrong.

5. Grace over wrath

The wrath of God isn’t as fun to talk about as the love of God, is it? As Christians, when we fail to speak about the wrath of God, it’s like giving the listener the best ice cream in the world but not warning them about brain freeze. We want to sell them his love but not warn them of his wrath; in doing so we fail to fully encapsulate the nature of God.

God is merciful, kind, patient, compassionate, full of love and grace

BUT

God is also holy, just, pure, severe, unchangeable, a despiser of sin and no respecter of persons.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them

Romans 1:18-19

 

Would I read the book again?

To be honest, I wouldn’t. I do love how much I am learning as Dani and I go through books and write about them and I am finding that each book has something to offer. This book I felt had too much opinion and I found the author quite conservative.  Despite this, it increased my desire to learn more about the nature of God and I will be reading more about this subject in the weeks ahead.

Lots of loving,

J xxxx

 

The Lie Drake Told Me

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Although women generally speak candidly about their trust issues due to their interactions with our beloved male species, all my heartache (okay, most) have come in form of women I once called friends. As time goes on I will fully divulge all the…interesting friendships I have had -the ones I broke and the ones that broke me. To be quite honest, I think I’m the problem. Once I have decided that you and I are on the same team and once the walls I built come tumbling down, I am prone to riding for you, kicking down trees and people for you, praying for you, calling you (everyone that read the call anxiety post knows that this is a big deal) and ultimately trying to make sure that you are living the best life possible.

I am intense (can you tell?) which means until I (recently) learnt how to control the intensity of my friendships a lot of them weren’t very healthy. Over time, I had to learn that if a friendship wasn’t healthy it was okay to walk away;  I had to stop giving myself to people who would never truly appreciate what I was giving them. Walking away doesn’t mean that there has to be an intense burning of the bridge we once walked together, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other anymore, it just means that the nature of the relationship adjusts in accordance with the new expectations both parties have.

So what does Drake have to do with all this?

In 2011 Drake taught me that because of the sheer fact that I would only ever live once, I should do whatever I pleased (I think YOLO is the ghetto version of carpe diem). Since then I have listened avidly to all new Drake songs hoping for a new life lesson.

I was in my room on January 1st 2014, spring-cleaning and suddenly Drake’s ‘No New Friends’ came on. It dawned on me how profound the statement was; Drake had done it again, he had managed to encapsulate a phenomenon in a catchy and sexy way, which would once again tell the masses how to think, how to feel and how to treat people.

 

….Okay, let me be honest…

 

I didn’t clean my room on January 1st and I think I only heard this Drake song in passing coz my sisters are way cooler than me and keep me in the loop.

 

Although Drake’s involvement in my decision-making wasn’t as high as the title suggests, this year I did decide that it was time to pick a team carefully which would involve NO new additions. I looked across all my social ties and picked a few people who had shown themselves to be supportive and reliable for a substantial amount of time, and were therefore less likely to let me down. For these chosen ones, I would give my time, my resources and my heart. Everyone else? Well, if we crossed paths, we could cook it up and chill, but really, it wasn’t going to go any deeper than that anymore.

I was done, bruised in many ways and screaming NO NEW FRIENDS, NO NEW FRIENDS, NO NEW FRIENDS NO, NO, NO.

It went well at first. I was supported, loved, no longer giving myself to people who could potentially hurt me and I had successfully decreased the probability of being wounded. To be quite honest, I was loving life. (I’m not sure if I was actually. Let’s just say I was.) Due to the horrifically beautiful 2013, I was prepared for 2014’s first major hurdle. What I wasn’t prepared for was the team I had so carefully chosen at the start of the year having their own life hurdles to contend with while I was struggling to jump over mine. Where there were once uplifting conversations and text messages telling me that everything was going to be okay, there was only silence. In the silence, I found myself trying to find the balance between understanding the hurdles they were facing and feeling indignant that no one was around to help me get over mine.

SO in this season of self-absorption, anger, hurt and fear I learnt a couple of lessons which I’ll share now, and a few more I’ll share after the smoke clears and I’m running the home stretch.

 

1) Choose your number One

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 20:7

Could you do something for me?

Exchange the words ‘chariots’ and ‘horses’ with the names of your two closest friends.

Now read the Psalm again.

Yes, to some degree you can trust in these people to pull you through your storms but at the end of the day, the only friend who will die for you is Jesus. It is that real. We can’t place mere mortals on pedestals and expect them to be there all the time – it is not their job to tend to our needs and ultimately, humans are concerned primarily with their own self-preservation. We are all battling our demons and it is unfair for us to have irrational expectations of those who love us the most and expect them to drop their own issues and come running just because we’ve slightly bruised our knees.

Thankfully, God can handle the weight of our expectations and will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Who do regard as your team? It’s okay to have a team, just as long as God is the most important person on it – everyone else will eventually let you down.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

 

2) God will bring new friends – whether you like it or not

You can scream ‘no new friends’ as much as you like, God is going to bring new people into your life that you are required to change through your perspectives and your love. I know you have trust issues, I know people have hurt you in the past – they’ve hurt me too – but in hiding from new people, we do ourselves a disservice.

Look at all the beautiful friends you have –they were once ‘new friends’. We are changed most by people, the experiences we share with them and the worlds they birth within us, to shield ourselves from these  new friendships is to live a life that is lesser than the one God intended for us to live.

 

3) What about your old(er) friends?

I sat with a friend this week. Although time and distance had passed between us, I thought everything was fine. They weren’t. Her words broke my heart and I sat in the middle of the shopping centre with tears streaming down my face as she revealed to me the depths of her current situation. In that moment, I realised that I had missed the point (once again). You may not need any more new friends but there are people out there that still need you. Your job is to give yourself to old and new friends believing that God is able to fill you up again if you are left empty and heal the parts of you that may be broken during the giving process.


 

I could have written this post about how sad I was that my team had let me down but I think we need to shift our focus from viewing people as sources to viewing ourselves as resources that can be drawn from in times of need. We should seek to lay the trust issues we have accumulated over time aside if we want to become the light that shines for those in the darkness.

 

Lots of light on this dreary day,

Joy

(Can we all take a moment today to pray that it will stop raining? Many thanks.)

xxxxxx

 

 

 

Why You’ll Never Have The Perfect Body

foetal

Summer is fast approaching which means summer bodies are on the horizon, y’aaaall. It’s soon about to be that time of the year where everyone can shamelessly unveil all the hours they have been putting in the gym since January (OH, is it just me planning to do this??). I am the queen of fitness regimes, the starting them- not necessarily the completion of them. I regularly ask my little sister to take ‘before’ pictures of me but because I never actually complete the fitness regime, I can never take an ‘after’ picture to post on Instagram which means no one can ‘like’ my progress and validate my weight loss (I joke, I joke) (okay, I’m not really joking, I have hundreds of ‘before’ pictures). I have bought Davina’s fitness DVD, Coleen Rooney’s fitness DVD, I even tried ‘Insanity’ with the almighty Shaun T. At the moment I’m trying out different gym classes. I kinda die every session, my screams are often drowned out by the blaring techno music and I usually spend most of my sessions wondering why I came, telling God that I am going to die and him responding that I’m not going to die just yet; I think it’s become our thing.

I used to run. I used to jog twice a week, every single week, one mile there, one mile back, in the rain (yes, some black women are unafraid to get their hair wet..…okay, it was a weave) in the wind, and even in the dark. I was simultaneously losing weight and self-medicating. Feeling both stressed and powerless, running allowed me to establish a sense of control; I could control my speed, my route and my level of determination. Outside of those minutes spent running, my life was out of my control as my health continued to spiral downward with no medical explanation. After a while, I could barely walk to the bus stop and running soon became a thing of the past, a favourite thing and a thing that I sorely missed. As soon as I felt well enough, I went back out there and I began to run again. After about the third run, I realised something:

 

I hated running.

 

Not a cute hate i.e. I hated the thought of running but as soon as I was out there, I loved every moment. No, I hated the thought of running AND the moments I spent outside. I hated pounding my heavy feet against the unforgiving pavement, I hated the way my calves felt like they were going to expand and split in two, I hated the taste of blood in my mouth and the stares I received from strange men who looked like they were imagining I was running towards them…

 

I hated running.

 

So why did I keep running after I realised I loathed it? My rocky weight loss path is a blog post in itself, which I hope to share one day but in short, I wasn’t enough. Every time I became satisfied with one aspect of my body, another flaw would rear its ugly head, my low self-esteem would magnify it and off I would go trying to change myself in order to become the perfect version of myself I so desperately longed to be. Before you start feeling sorry for me and  (virtually) begin to pat my arm, let’s be clear – this isn’t a sob story. I am pretty sure every single one of us has had a moment where we’ve looked in the mirror and thought ‘ugh, what is that?!’ It’s weird how hard we workout in the gym and push our bodies to the limit in order to achieve an unattainable standard of beauty.

Whether we actively jog or not,  we all spend a lot of our time running. We devote the majority of our lives to running from our fears and chasing the things we hope will fill the voids in our lives. We chase degrees because we hope that they will, in some way, validate our intelligence. We chase the opposite sex because we believe in them we will achieve the completion our souls were built to crave. We chase particular jobs because we crave status and we are tired of sitting on the floor whilst watching our counterparts rise to the top.

I quit jogging months ago but I’m still running. This week I asked myself when I would stop running. I asked myself when I would take a minute, look around and realise that God had given me everything I needed to survive? I asked myself if what I had would ever be enough or whether I would spend the rest of my life desiring and wishing for more. You see the pursuit of the above isn’t futile or negative but these things will never truly satisfy us. That body you crave? Yeah, you’ll find a fault with it. That job you so desperately desire? Your boss will probably end up being a sadistic dictator. That person you feel will complete you? Yeah, love is beautiful but love also hurts and no amount of love can heal you if you don’t take the time to nurse your own wounds.

So why do we keep running? What are we running towards? Is it Him or the earthly treasures that are so easily destroyed (Matthew 6:19)? I think we need to get to a place where we can say God, if you are all I ever have, you are enough. The car, the dream house, that amazing job and even that marriage and kids thing, those are all luxuries when compared to the joy and fulfilment I have in you. If my life consisted of you and I on a desert island, that’s cool coz you are everything I’ll ever need; you are all I need to get by. You are it for me and I will run towards you only, remembering Matthew 6:33:

 

 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

 

 

All my love and have a beautiful weekend,

Joy xxxx

My Battle With Phone Anxiety Disorder

phone

Signs that you may have Phone Anxiety Disorder (PAD)

Before and after calls do you…

  • feel extremely anxious when making or receiving calls?
  • delay making phone calls due to anxiety?
  • worry about bothering the other person?
  • worry about what you will say?
  • worry about embarrassing yourself?
  • avoid making calls or have others call for you?
  • obsess what was said after calls?

Do you want to know something almost-but-not-actually-funny? I thought I was being witty by creating the term ‘Phone Anxiety Disorder’ until I googled it and it came up and I could relate to ALL the symptoms! I’m sure if my Mother reads this she will roll her eyes, laugh and ask me ‘is there anything you are not afraid of?’ Truth be told, I had always been a bit nervous when making calls, even when I was much younger. I don’t know what it was about speaking to people over the phone that filled me with dread. Face-to-face interactions were a piece of cake but even having to telephone a doctor to book an appointment could easily cause me to break into a hot sweat. My heart would beat faster, I would stutter and I would feel embarrassed without (in hindsight) any real cause.

A few weeks ago I shared about what I learnt after I got my heartbroken and I mentioned that the first time I got my heart broken, I was 17. During that dark time, I stopped speaking to a lot of people – I had two friends who I spoke to every day and everyone else was unintentionally demoted to associate status. As aforementioned, I had always been uncomfortable on the phone but now there was a dark cloud lingering above me which made sure that all phone conversations were avoided. I could text you, that was fine! But a call? No, that was out of the question. I watched my phone ring day after day until eventually people stopped calling – which was a blessing. No longer did I have to dodge calls; it was as though there was an unspoken agreement between my friends and I that I just wasn’t a ‘phone person’ anymore. Yes, it caused problems with one of my two friends (lol) but it was something I was adamant about: I didn’t want to be called unless there was an emergency. Even when making new friends, I would let them know that calls would probably never be feature of our friendship, this was merely one of my quirks and that they needed to accept it if we were to function.

Calls made me fearful. Calls made me nervous. Calls made me uncomfortable and to be quite frank, I just wanted to be left alone. 

I want to say that as soon as the heartache season passed, I suddenly became phone-friendly and confident, able to speak on the phone at will. Unfortunately, even though my depression passed, the fear of calls stayed. Obviously as the years passed, it was more of a preference than a fear but it was still a niggling obstacle that needed to be conquered. Thankfully, life managed to forced me out of my comfort zone and even though I still roll my eyes at calls, I am no longer filled with fear, only curiosity. If I don’t pick up, it’s because I genuinely have no desire to speak to you.

Earlier this week I received a call from a number that wasn’t stored on my phone and in times past, I would have intentionally missed the call because of my PAD. This time, I picked up and engaged with the person (WIN, WIN, WIN). After the call, I began to think about the way that God calls us and how these are the most important calls we will ever receive. It doesn’t just come once, it comes over and over again until we sit and listen; he calls until we pick up. That’s what I love about God, he’s not a whoops-soz-you- missed-the-call-therefore-you-missed-me-and-your-blessing- kinda-God, he is an I-love-you-so-much-I-am-going-to-keep calling-you and keep putting you in situations where you have to do that Thing you do so effortlessly until you realise that this is your gift to your world.

I know it’s not cool to say God ‘calls’ us in the day and age. It’s totally cool and quirky to believe in a ‘higher power’, ‘the universe’ and different types of ‘energy’, but belief that there is a God that can call each and every one of us is often met with raised eyebrows and suggestions of a psychiatrist. But I do believe that God has tasks for each of us to complete during our time on earth which he makes known to us through various moments which are all linked to an overarching purpose that he has for our lives.

Before your insecurities and disbelief (boredom?) make you click the X on the top right hand corner, let me give you some truths:

You are important. You are significant. You matter.  No, you weren’t an accident. You make up piece of the puzzle that has been in the works since the beginning of time. Life can make us feel like we don’t have a place, like we don’t fit but that couldn’t be further from the truth. People will also attempt to diminish our bright light that shines from within – don’t let them. You have an incredible part to play. You can be used. And I know being used has negative connotations in our world, but what an honour it is to be used by the Most High God. When I am used by God to do his work, I am never cast aside or left empty and broken because he has taken everything and left me to recover on my own. Instead of the brokenness that is often felt after humans have used me, there is an overwhelming sense of peace and purpose as I begin to see more and more the power that lies within me to achieve greatness.

Unlike some of my fellow Christians, I do not think there will always be disastrous consequences when we miss a call from God. It’s like if we missed the call of friend who had a spare ticket to the Beyonce concert (God forbid I ever miss such a call). It could have been amazing; we could have met her, sang into her microphone and sat up in V.I.P drinking that sweet juice all night but what ‘could have been’ will always be a mystery. I think it’s a bit like that with God. He wants to use you; he is always calling you to do great and marvellous things but if you don’t pick and respond, he’s not going to make a car hit you on your way home from the place you chose to go to instead. You just won’t have experienced one of the amazing moments God has for you. Yes, there will be others. But that one? That moment with Beyonce on stage? Yeah, it’s gone.

I want to experience every single moment God has for me. The Bible says that we can taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). I want to taste! I want to see the goodness of the Lord while I am alive (Psalm 27:13). So often it gets hard seeing other people walk in their calling while we are barely managing to stand in ours but God could be calling you in this very moment:

Calling you to begin a relationship with him

Calling you to recommit

Calling you to give him more of your time

Calling you to forgive someone

Calling you to write, to sing, to help, to serve, to lead

The call may seem bigger than you and anything you could ever accomplish on your own but that’s okay – it isn’t bigger than God. You have to pick up. Don’t be crazy like me and ignore calls because you are full of anxiety and don’t cover your light with that blanket called Fear. Step up to the call and be bold knowing that God will only call you to a place where he already is.

I still don’t like calls. I don’t like texts and these days I even forget that I have Whatsapp but I’ve stopped ignoring God’s calls. Those are calls I cannot afford to miss.

Ephesians 4:1

Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously extended to you.

Love,

Joy xxx

Boy Meets Girl: Ruth 2

 

boaz

 

 

 

I think it’s true when they say that our generation like things to be handed to us. We have this sense of entitlement, believing that we should all be millionaires and yet some of us aren’t willing to sit down and create ideas worth buying.

Ruth 2:2

One day Ruth the foreign woman who returned with Naomi from Moab approached Naomi with a request. Ruth: Let me go out into the field and pick up whatever grain is left behind the harvesters. Maybe someone will be merciful to me. Naomi: Go ahead, my daughter.

It’s crazy the amount of times I have sat down and thought “Joy, WHY didn’t you think of YouTube? Why didn’t you create Facebook? What have you been doing?!” In truth, there is no shortage of ideas but I have to ask myself if I am willing  to pour myself into a new project.  I ask myself how prepared I am to take the steps after the idea has been birthed and how faithful I will be when following through.

The answers to these questions usually stop me from thinking up the next social networking site. What I love about this passage is that it shows us what we should do when we have new ideas. Ruth didn’t wait for someone to have mercy on her and hand her success (or food lol),  she had an idea, followed through and positioned herself for the next phase of her life. Ruth took initiative and worked hard, bringing what was just an idea into being.

 

Let me go out into field and pick up whatever grain is left behind by the harvesters.

 

How humble of Ruthie, taking the ‘leftovers’. How many of us would be willing for others to know when we  desperately need help? How many of us would even be willing to toil in the fields?  We are so concerned by the opinions of others that we could be starving and yet still refuse to place ourselves appropriately in the field to receive the help we need. People can only help us if we show them that we need help. I used to get so angry because I would give so much time and advice to others, but find myself alone when I was battling an issue, because I just expected those around me to just know that I was going through a rough patch. I’ve learnt that after kneeling before God in times of trouble, we must dust off our knees and seek help from those that God has placed around us. This might mean going out into the field and hoping someone leaves the scraps behind or it might mean telling a trusted friend that we need to borrow some money because we cannot afford food that week.  As my sister often says, there is no dignity in poverty – we have to reach out!

 

Ruth 2:7

She came and asked my permission to pick up the grain our harvesters leave behind and gather it all into sheaves for herself. Except for one small break she has been here all day, working in the field from the morning until now.

 

Good old Ruthie, once again showing us there is a better way to live. I love that Ruth was hardworking. She only took a small break and worked from the morning until whenever Boaz made his grand entrance.

How many of us take pre-breaks? Oh, you’ve never heard of a pre-break? During my lazier years I would take a break BEFORE the work had even started just to prepare myself mentally for the work that was ahead. Of course, I know now that a pre-break is simply procrastination – which is a “thief of time and a killer of destiny”. I honestly just hated doing any form of work during those years. The question is how much more would we all achieve in our day-to-day lives if we pushed ourselves to the limit and stopped taking excessive food/toilet breaks that when tallied up probably last longer than the time we’ve spent working?

Ruth was in a desperate place – if she had not worked, she would not have eaten and at this point in their lives there was no one else to ensure that this happened. Some of you reading this feel just as desperate as Ruth did and are still not working as hard you should be. Listen, faith without works is DEAD (James 2:17). You can pray as much as you want but if you don’t set that alarm, wake up on time and send out those job applications, you’re still gonna be praying for a job 5 years from now. We have got to work hard – we have to be great! I am so passionate about being excellent in every aspect of my life and doing everything with my heart turned towards Christ, knowing that I should only offer my best because ultimately I work for Christ, not myself or anyone else (Colossians 3:23-24). Work hard, work tirelessly, work relentlessly and work with everything within you. Yes, take small breaks but then go again, harder than you did before.

 

Ruth 2:9 Watch the harvesters, and see which field they are working in. Follow along behind these servants of mine. I have warned the young men not to touch you. If you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars my young men have filled for the harvesters. 

 

Now onto Mr. Boaz, our knight in shining…sandals?  I know some women are praying for their Boaz to arrive and until reading this I didn’t really understand why.  Oh, but now I see! Boaz was great. Boaz was rich. Boaz was perceptive and intuitive. Boaz was a believer. Boaz was respectful. Boaz found a way to both protect and provide for Ruth in their first interaction. What a GUY! I can definitely see why some women are asking God to send a Boaz their way.

 

Ruth 2:11 Boaz: I have heard your story. I know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your own husband died. I know you left your own mother and father, your home and your country, and you have come to live in a culture that must seem strange to you. 

 

The reason I loved Boaz was because he saw Ruth’s heart before anything else. He was drawn to her heart before he was drawn to her body, beauty or intelligence. Some of us women are building our lives around a man we haven’t even met yet by doing thisnot doing that or by trying to attain attributes we believe he will desire in us. I feel it is important to note that Boaz helped Ruth because of what Ruth did long before they met, not because she manipulated or changed herself to suit his (potential) needs prior to their meeting.

Oh. I am giving you all kinds of truths in this post!

ANOTHER key point: Ruth’s reputation went before her; Boaz had heard her story before they met. Listen! I am not here to tell you how to carry yourself as a man or woman but I will say that people will always talk and your actions, good and bad, will often determine what is said about you when you are not around. That may not necessarily be a reason to act differently but it is certainly something to think about.

And I’m DONE.

LOTS OF LOVE JOY.

Drop The Weight

fatty

2 Corinthians 5:17

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I wish the transformation process were as simple and clear-cut as the scripture above. You decide to give your life to Christ and now there is a light that dwells within you; your old life has gone! Boom, bang, bang!

Well, not really.

On day one, you probably still have most of the issues that you had before you gave your life back to God and you don’t really know what it means to walk with him. I believe unless we work hard (daily!) to move away from the old lives we used to lead, we will inevitably fall back into our old routines. Instead of a new book for our new lives, we will find ourselves rereading our old books, hoping that the words will suddenly change.

I think it is so easy to bring old habits into our new lives and I think this explains why we live in a world with insecure Christians, mean Christians, Christians with anger problems, Christians who look down on other people – the list goes on. I don’t believe some of these traits can co-exist with the Jesus that wants to dwell in our hearts. Please feel free to correct me, I’m no theologian, I’m just trying to go somewhere with this.

Example: you sing on Sunday morning about how much God loves you and you nod along as the Pastor tells the congregation that they are all fearfully and wonderfully made. That VERY evening, you look in the mirror and tell yourself how ugly you are. You tell yourself that you’ll never find anyone to love you and that you aren’t worth anything. I know many people who sing about God’s love for them in one moment but use the same mouth to speak hatefully about themselves in the next. They’re not alone; I’ve been there too and I literally have to work daily to make sure I don’t fall back into that old, vicious cycle.

Sidebar: I have this new rule: If I wouldn’t say it to another person, I cannot say it to myself. It’s easy to be mean to yourself. You do something wrong, you hit your head and say ‘YOU’RE SO DUMB’. What? Sorry? No. You’re not dumb. You are an intelligent individual who made small error. Be kinder to yourself!

Look at all the baggage you’re carrying. Certain habits can’t come on this walk, you know! You gotta drop the negativity out because it’s weighty and it will eventually overshadow the hope, love and compassion God has for you; you’ll simply stop believing all the good that he sees in you.

Have you ever seen ‘The Biggest Loser?’ The contestants are forced to do crazy exercise tasks and they’re struggling because of the weight they’ve acquired over time. That is exactly what you’re doing; you’re struggling, out of breath and overwhelmed by the task. You’ve got to get rid of the weight. I don’t mean a diet until next month with a few biscuits here and there; no, I’m talking for the rest of your life, no more carbs, (OBVIOUSLY THIS IS AN ANALOGY WE LOVE CARBS) and never returning to the things that made it difficult for you to run through life unafraid and unashamed.  No, we leave those things behind and eventually we stop running and we start soaring.

Your new life has begun. You are different. You are new. You are no longer the person you were before you encountered Christ. You don’t have to keep reading the chapters of pain and brokenness, make a daily decision to leave those moments behind and drop the weight.

Joyyyyy xxx