Tag Archives: light

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.

How To Stop Being A Pushover

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If you’re anything like me, you probably struggle to keep your mouth shut.

How can you be a pushover if you’ve got a big mouth, you say? Keep reading!

I am honest to a fault; I say what I think, as I’m thinking it because I just have this deep desire to express myself. I say what’s on my mind without really considering the aftermath, which often has…unusual consequences.  Although I’m not intentionally malicious, my lack of tact means I often come across as callous (sad face) and there have been (many) times (probably still happening) where my words have been insensitive and have hurt people.

As a result of past experiences I have learnt to carefully consider my words before I say them; these days I speak so slowly you’ll sometimes catch my face and hands frozen in agony as I try to find the best way to articulate a contentious point without hurting your feelings. It is tiresome and I savour the moments I’m around people who just get me and never get offended. It has become easier to stay silent, even about the things that matter. These days, when people offend/hurt me, I tend to swallow my hurt or more recently, tell the person how I feel about the situation… in my head. I tell them how hurt and angry I am and they apologise; we have the confrontation, we fight it out and everything is okay…in my head. In real life, I never actually say how I feel.

The problem with not speaking as much/having mental confrontations is that people are always going to do things that hurt and offend us – it’s a part of life. I can mentally confront them all I want, if I do not speak out,the person will never know what they’ve done and is therefore more likely to repeat the offence. Furthermore, the longer our emotions are allowed to fester in our minds, the more dire the offence feels, increasing the likelihood that we will explode (like I did this week).

Did someone say ‘conundrum’!?!

This week, I wrote a step-by-step guide to having healthy and happy confrontations. This was written after a few (real and dreadful) arguments that took place this week due to my lack of communication and inability to articulate my feelings. After apologising to everyone I had exploded upon, I thought to myself, “enough is enough Joy, you need to find a way to confront people without being a meanie”.  So here it is!

I included some hyperlinks. Click them, they are so fun. Sorry, I’m being geeky (again)


1. Think carefully first

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

James 1:19

An old friend used to say ‘Joy, that’s how you feel but that’s not what’s real’. It used to annoy me and at the time I felt as though he was dismissing my feelings but in hindsight, his words were quite profound. You can feel deeply about something, you can be angry and upset about it, but it is just a feeling. The same thing could happen next year and because you don’t ‘feel’ the same way about it, you may not even react. (<<<My last sentence should put into perspective how transitory our emotions can be). We can’t always act on our feelings because although our feelings are valid, meaningful and in some way linked to a real incident, they are in no way objective measures and therefore cannot be relied upon fully when making decisions. Think rationally before you purse a discussion and try to separate what you know to be true from how you feel. Sleep on it, you might feel differently in the morning.

 

2. Submit the problem to God

This step is key. Sometimes we are offended because our ego has been bruised, not necessarily because we have been wronged. More often than not, we need God to settle our spirits, help us to see where we could have done things differently and give us a fresh perspective on the situation. Imagine if we are actually the ones in the wrong (which is usually the case with me) and we are going in with guns, guns, guns only to have the person take the guns we brought to the scene and shoot us? After talking to God about the problem you may not even need to move on it; that conversation may be enough as he may give you peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Sidebar: I’ve used this step in isolation quite a few times – I’ve prayed about it and ‘forgiven’ the person without actually confronting them. The first time I did it I thought I was so Christian, so cool and so saved  until the person sent me a text to find out how I was (obviously oblivious to the argument we had been having in my head) and I started remembering how grieved I was. This was not true forgiveness. Forgiveness means we no longer dwell on the wrong and it no longer has the capacity to move our emotions – it should be as though it never happened.

 

3. Pray for the person who hurt you

Yeah, I know, sounds a bit random and rather difficult given that you’re annoyed at them but I think we often avoid confronting people because we are afraid of what their reactions could be: what if they shout at us? What if they stop talking to us? What if they think we are weak?

I think we should begin to pray ahead of tough conversations and ask God to soften the recipient’s heart and make them open to our words. As we pray for them we should also pray that God would give us words that which will cause minimal damage but also allow us to honestly say how we feel.

 

4. Don’t text about it

Texts weren’t created for long and emotional conversations (which is why the creation of emojis was so revolutionary – people could ‘hear’ us better). We have no voice when texting and the person can only hear what you’re saying in the way that they believe you’re saying it, which often has disastrous consequences. For example:

I’m tired of this (angry, fed up, ready to move on)

I’m tired of this (exhausted, sad, willing to move forward)

Text distortion is real; the same words can be received very differently depending on how the recipient feels.

I have had countless (stupid) arguments over text because it was easier than calling the person and discussing how I felt. Never again. I am now in the business of building bridges, not burning them, thus emotional discussions are  given the appropriate time and setting. If you can’t meet, use Skype or FaceTime for my fellow iPhone users; if you have no Wi-Fi, just call. I know it’s easier to hide behind text and not let the other person see how hurt you are and hear your voice crack with emotion when you say certain words, but this may be the difference between moving back and moving forward.

 

5. Speak in the way you’d like to be spoken to

God knows how hypocritical I feel writing that step as I’m still practising how to implement it; I am the queen of speaking in anger and regretting it two minutes later. My childhood nickname was ‘time bomb’ coz no one knew when I’d explode. Realising that anger is usually just sadness and disappointment in disguise helps to change the way you address someone who has hurt you. Instead of speaking in rage, you can speak honestly about the hurt you’re experiencing because of what they have done. Be sure to taste your words before you say them. When I knew I couldn’t be trusted to consider another’s feelings during a confrontation I would write down my thoughts, read them over and build it into something I could say to them face-to-face. It helped massively.

 

6. Let it go

This is the hardest step. After you’ve said your piece, that’s it, it is over. Mentally replaying the conversation over and over won’t change what was said. At this point it is important ask God to heal whatever was broken during the process (from the time of offence to the end of the last conversation) and to close your wounds fully so that they can never be reopened.

It’s over. Forgive them. I repeat: this is the hardest step. Forgiveness is not lording their transgression over their head and reminding them at every opportunity that they are the reason for your pain, forgiveness is accepting an apology you may not have gotten and moving forward, with or without them.

I Repeat: Hardest Step


 

 

And there you have it, my step-by-step guide to confronting people. What do you think? Is there anything you would do differently? Let me know in the comments section!

All my love!

Joy x

Why You’ll Never Have The Perfect Body

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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

Are You As Loyal As Chris Brown?

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So I’ve been really thinking about what to share this week given that today is a really exciting time in the Christian community – it is Good Friday! The Easter period is one that really fills my soul up with glee because of the life I have because of the death Jesus Christ. He rose again and through his life and sacrifice, I now have life in abundance. So what does the crucifixion of Jesus Christ have to do with Chris Brown’s ‘Loyal’, one of the hottest songs at the moment?

 

Keep reading!

 

So in Chris Brown’s cool, edgy and derogatory song, he basically calls out all women and says that as soon as we find another man who has more money than the man we are currently with, we will leave because…well, we’re just not loyal. It doesn’t matter how much we love our current man – Brown fails to factor in contributing factors such as love, children and individual differences – as soon as we see a man with money and he wants us, we will drop everything we once held dear and be on our merry way towards millionairedome.

While this message is true for some women, it is obviously not true of all women and contradicts the other stereotype that women will stay and fund the lifestyle of a ‘broke man’.  But hey, whatever, stereotypes and generalisations will always exist and gone are the days where I shout about how wrong they are and attempt to right every wrong in the world.

Chris Brown’s song is one that speaks of loyalty. Loyalty is one of the most sought after traits in any person, irrespective of the nature of the relationship, our employees, spouses, friends and churches all want us to be loyal to them. Similarly, we all want to be surrounded by loyal people because with that trait also comes stability, consistency and the assurance that we will not deserted in our time of need.

Unfortunately, most of us have had a Chris Brown moment. Not the beat-up-your-girlfriend type of moment (sorry to bring that up again, Chris) but the realisation that despite loyalty being the cornerstone of any functioning relationship, there are a few humans who walk our earth that haven’t quite grasped the meaning of the word and how it should be played out in real life settings. This results in a world full of friends who spend every weekend together but speak viciously about each other, husbands who appear to be picture perfect but have spent their wives’ savings, women who are in love with multiple men, MPs who exploit the people who voted for them, *please feel free to insert any scandalous situation here*

So what do we do when we find out the person we loved and trusted ‘ain’t loyal’?

 

ENTER JESUS CHRIST.

 

I think it can be argued that Jesus suffered one of the greatest acts of disloyalty known to man. Jesus had twelve disciples who walked with him during his time on earth, learnt from him, who he nurtured and loved. One of these men, a man named Judas, betrayed him and this betrayal resulted in his death. Fortunately, we know that this death was not the end of his story but I don’t think Judas cared too much for the resurrection when he was selling out his best friend for thirty pieces of silver. Rather, Judas’ desire for money clouded his judgement and revealed who he really was – money and power have the capacity to do that. What amazed me when reading the account of the crucifixion in Matthew was Jesus’ treatment of Judas.

From the very beginning, even when recruiting Judas into his posse, Jesus knew that Judas would be the one to betray him yet he did not treat Judas differently to the others disciples. Jesus still washed Judas’ feet. Jesus let him sit at the table of his last supper. And even as Judas approached Jesus, kissing him in order to identify Jesus to captors, Jesus still called him ‘friend’. I was blown away by these acts of love because I know what it feels like to be betrayed. While some acts have been insignificant and were easily forgotten, other acts of betrayal cut right to my core and still continue to heal. Unfortunately, when I was betrayed, I didn’t treat those that betrayed me the way that Jesus treated Judas.

When people hurt us, we have to somehow make sense of what happened. We try and piece together the shock, the anger and the hurt we feel and in doing so we create a narrative that is quickly shared with those around us. We think on it, let the betrayal fester within us and we seek to pinpoint the moment we should have known that the said person was not who they had claimed to be. I think in these moments we have the capacity to become our worst selves as we paint our Judas in the worst possible light and speak only negatively about a person who once held a piece of our heart.

We must accept that people are going to hurt us because as Chris Brown so profoundly put it, ‘these h*es ain’t loyal’. Hurt, pain and betrayal are a part of life but if we are to live liberated lives, we cannot shield our hearts from this reality. Instead we have to continue give our hearts to people, love without restraints and in doing so, give people the opportunity to hurt us all over again. Although some of them will, we have a choice in that moment of profound hurt. How we deal with the betrayal will shape and change the way we view the act in the years that lie ahead of us. If we can rise above the act, love first and then forgive as soon as we can, I truly believe that when we look back on the betrayal, we won’t be filled with rage, hurt and bitterness. I truly believe that an act of love has the capacity to bring light and life to every broken moment we will ever experience.

On this day, I am reminded of a love that covers my shame, my brokenness and that fixed the parts of my being that I did not believe could be salvaged. A love that transformed my being, my heart, my mind and my life. I want to love like that; I want to love like Jesus did. I want to be able to love those who hurt me in the way that Jesus loved Judas. I want to be able to love people who aren’t loyal just as much as I love those that are. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

Although this day is about death, it is also about love and loyalty. Jesus could have decided not to die for us, but he did. He kept his promise just as any loyal friend would and died just so that we could live. Today I am thanking him for his loyalty and his love, because even though some people aren’t loyal, he always is.

Lots of my love on this beautiful day,

Joy

Lessons In Shouting

Shout-or-Whisper

Halt! Who goes there? No…I’m playing, but seriously hold on for a second. Yes, avert your eyes. That means stop reading this page!!Wait, my bad, carry on, you don’t know what I want you to do yet. Before you read the rest of what I have to say, please read Psalm 107. Take my word for it, it’s well worth the read, left me feeling…WOW. You know when you get that ‘I serve such a good God, and I totally don’t deserve it but I’m so grateful kind of feeling’ …yeah that.

So I hope you’ve just finished reading the chapter. God is watching…(that really shouldn’t make you feel any type of way, he’s always watching) anyhoo… back to business. I was reading this and it really got me thinking. First of all, we forget how good He is. Secondly, even when we remember we wanna be all hush hush about it.

Sidenote: Am I the only one who doesn’t have an ‘inside voice’? You know how you alter your voice depending on if you’re chatting with your friend on the sofa or screaming over the music at them in a club? Yeah…I don’t do that. Not only do I have a slight case of verbal diarrhoea, everything I say is at a (I would say slightly, some would say extremely) louder decibel than the average Joe. This means that not only do I spend a lot of time being told to be quiet I’m always forcing the people that made the decision/ mistake to become my friends to listen to everything I’ve found odd/cool that week. I guess I’m just a sharer. A sharer and a shouter. But can I honestly say I’m the same when it comes to spreading The Good News…

Walking with God isn’t like having a talent that you can just brush under the carpet because you don’t want to sound like you’re too big-headed or you think you’re too nice. That whole thinking you’re nice thing really does grind my gears because why shouldn’t you think you’re nice? How can you expect others to like you when you don’t even like yourself? You actually have to live with you!! Anyway, I digress. In case you have forgotten, we serve a great God. A God greater than the best thing we can imagine. A God that promises to do MORE than we could ever ask or think. Have you ever stopped to consider just how amazing that is? Underserved love, undeserved favour, and we just want to sit down and be shy about it.

Just yesterday, I was sitting on the bus when a man gave me a piece of paper and said ‘word from the Lord’ as he placed it in my hand. I was quite impressed when I read ‘Christ has returned !’ at the top of the page, only to read further about Adam and Eve’s apparent fornication and this couple (Father and Mother Moon) being the True Parents of all Mankind. WHAT ON EARTH?!?! I say all of this to say, people are sharing what they think is the truth. Those of us who are actually following The Way The Truth and The Life (a.k.a Jesus) have got to start telling the world about it.

People ask if you’re a Christian and you respond… ‘yeah… I believe in God.’ Why not ‘yeah he’s the best thing since sliced bread and I really think you need a relationship with him’? Maybe because that’s a little too strong and they’d walk away thinking ‘WOAH,’ but who cares?! We are so careful about not coming across as too much, that we don’t actually come across at all. I should meet you and want to meet the God you serve. Do you know how much responsibility that is? Do you care? You are God’s mouthpiece. When God said ‘enough is enough I want to reconnect with me people,’ he didn’t bellow down from heaven. He sent his Son to speak on his behalf. Just in case you hadn’t realised, Jesus isn’t here anymore. If you don’t speak who will? If it’s not your job whose is it? We don’t have a shared responsibility to speak to the world about God, we have an individual one. You speak, I speak, we speak, whether or not you speak, I still speak, and vice versa. There can never be too many words about God being spoken.

If you know you don’t want to speak about God because you’re embarrassed then that’s cool. Not cool cool, you deny him he denies you, kind of disastrous, cool. But if that’s not your reason and you’re being quiet about all the good things God has done in your life because you don’t want to offend or you don’t want to boast, please remember:

Let the redeemed of The Lord say so. Psalm 107:2.

If the answer to; are you redeemed (has God saved you from darkness and brought you into his marvellous light) is yes, then say so.

You don’t need to be loud to be proud, but if you’re so quiet that no-one can hear you, how are people supposed to want to meet the God you serve?

C’mon all together now. Let’s say so!

Love from the girl with the big mouth- a.k.a Dani X

How To Stop Feeling Lonely

loneliness

 

The saying “no man is an island” is a phrase I’ve often heard and one that is usually used to evidence our need for human interaction. As a society, we have accepted that to be alone is to be lonely, making it taboo to go the cinema alone or eat alone in a restaurant. For some, the very thought of engaging in social activities alone is enough to make them sweat, while others do it as an act of defiance, determined to prove that they cannot be moulded by society.  If you’re one of those “I can eat alone, don’t need nobody” types, that’s cool – more power to you. But if you go to a restaurant alone and speak to your friends on Whatsapp while you eat and tweet about amazing your dining experience as it is happening then….

The truth is, we like to have people around us, physically, or more recently via mediums such as BBM, Whatsapp and Twitter, which can give the illusion of company if even we are alone. We speak on the phone during short walks from the station; our eyes are glued to our iPhone screens as we cross busy roads, and we engage in frivolous conversation without realising how much time we are actually expending. It is as though our generation are unable to enjoy a moment without feeling the need to share it with people who aren’t there. Unfortunately, we spend more time trying to capture moments than we do experiencing them.

I think the problem with being constantly connected is that when there is no one around, we begin to feel lonely. Not the cute lonely like “aw, I wish Jeff was here” (there is no Jeff, just a random name I thought of lol) but a nagging, irritating, almost painful lonely which makes us uncomfortable and causes us to reach out to people unnecessarily so that they can protect us from the loneliness that we feel. As a result, we are never forced to address the underlying cause of our loneliness.

Loneliness is such a hard feeling to face. I quite like my own company, hate Whatsapp and tend to spend a lot of time alone. Usually it’s fine. Other days, the feeling of loneliness can creep in which makes me question myself. Why are moments of solitude so uncomfortable? Why aren’t they met with jubilation? Why don’t I use those moments to wrestle with the parts of my being that I know need to be fixed instead of reaching out for people who will only move my attention away from the internal work that needs to be done?

I once read that the feeling of loneliness is God trying to remind us that he’s still around; that feeling is God beckoning us to his side. That hollow feeling? That need for company? Apparently, that’s him knocking. Do I believe this to be true? To be quite honest, it sounds nice but I’m not convinced  – if it’s not literally written in scripture and is being inferred, I’m always tentative in taking it as truth. However, I do know that God is always close to us.

Acts 17: 27

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

God wants us to speak to him, he wants to be close to us and he is a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5) –  he wants to be first in our lives ALL the time. He wants to be the one we run to when we feel overwhelmed or unsafe as he longs to be the one that saves us. As Christians, we shouldn’t ever feel lonely because we have unlimited access to an unlimited God who always wants to sit with us and talk through whatever! I talk to God about my insatiable need for chicken, boy drama, whether squats will actually work (THEY DO!!), whether the dreams he has laid on my heart will ever come to pass…the list goes on because there is just SO much to say. The best part is I don’t have to hold back, I can be myself because he already knows everything about me. There is no pride, no discretion and no need to appear as though I have everything figured out.

The next time you feel lonely, maybe reach for the Bible (app) before you reach for Whatsapp. If you don’t feel like reading the bible but you want to have a conversation with someone, just speak to him; he’s always listening.

Love and all that other mushy stuff,

Joy xxx

What I Learnt After I Got My Heartbroken

Heartbreak-300x224

I think it’s strange that we only associate heartbreak with ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. I’m sure you clicked this link to read all the gory details about a relationship you probably didn’t even know I was in. The truth is heartbreak doesn’t just happen after the dissolution of a relationship. The first time I experienced heartbreak, I was 17 and I’m pretty sure I was still invisible to the male species. It was during that period of my life, which was shrouded in darkness, that I realised that heartbreak doesn’t just occur after the love of your life leaves you. It happens when your Mum dies unexpectedly. When you find out your best friend has been sleeping with your husband. When the friend you relied on for everything stops talking to you without explaining why. When your Dad leaves you and your mum and starts a new family. When Shonda Rhimes kills your favourite Grey’s Anatomy characters.

Heartbreak reminds us that we are only human. Our hearts stop being that organ keeping us alive and morphs into that pain in our chest that has the capacity to overwhelm us every time we mentally relive the moment everything changed. Our hearts suddenly have the power to cause our eyes to sting, water to fall and to make us feel as though we can’t breathe.

 

And then it passes.

 

 

Well, sometimes.

 

The pain can be momentary but during the heartbreak season, the line between psychological pain and physiological pain can become blurred as both your body and your mind fight to tell their side of the story and let you know how awful things really are. I’m talking about the depression, the anxiety attacks, the trouble sleeping, the disinterest in everything that once made you feel alive and the tears, oh the tears…the real ish we keep to ourselves because it’s not as easy to talk about our pain as it is to discuss clothes, shoes, bags and the weather.

I think it is only as I began rise out of the heartbreak season that I began to grasp the transient nature of seasons and storms; although I had fallen (hard), there would come a time when I would rise again. With every passing day I became harder, better, faster, stronger (omg, a Kanye reference on the blog, FINALLY) and my perspective on life changed forever. I realised that there would always be good in every bad situation and bad in every good situation because no season can ever be completely bad or good – just as I was able to see light on my darkest days, on the best days, the darkness could sometimes still be felt. Once I understood this truth I began to see the season differently which gave me the strength to crawl on the days where I did not feel as though I could walk. On those days I would say to myself ‘this too, shall pass’.

Since then, I have come to know that all I see around me shall pass. The places that feel like home, the people I find home in and all the things that give me that sense of belonging I can’t help but crave, shall eventually pass. New things will replace them. This has caused me to have a deeper appreciation of moments; whenever I feel happiness, joy, peace or contentment, I inhale the moment. I breathe them in. I make them last for as long as I can, knowing that as that breath passes, so will the moment. It doesn’t diminish the feelings or the moment; rather it reminds me to hold every beautiful moment as best I can because it will pass and within hours become a memory.

If you are in the storm, this post is probably as source of comfort. However, if you are enjoying your life, living well and breathing easily, reading this may be a bit depressing as you realise that this season will inevitably end because no season can ever last forever.

 2 Corinthians 4:17

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

When things are amazing I look to God. When things are bad and I feel like I can’t breathe because my problems and fears are suffocating me, I look to God. The author and finisher of my faith, the one who knew every moment I would ever hold and the one who knows which moments I will cling to until I learn how to let go. I look to the One who does not pass.

Lots of love,

Joyboy xxx

 

Ruth 1

Before we begin, here is the book that we will be reading next month if you wish to purchase it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Beautiful-Purpose-Discovering-Enjoying/dp/0764210661/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395827381&sr=8-1&keywords=your+beautiful+purpose

Mine took AGES to come, so make sure you buy ASAP in time for us to start reading together.

ANYWAY! This month, we will be studying……

ruth 1

RUTH

Since we are different people, I knew that Dani and I would pick up on different moments in the text and those moments would impact us in different ways. For this reason, we have complied both our thoughts on Ruth 1 into one LONG post. It would definitely help if you read the chapters we reference as we went along (coz that’s the whole point but whatever lol).

Dani said:

Ruth 1:16-17

But Ruth replied, “Stop urging me to abandon you! For wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will become my people, and your God will become my God. Wherever you die, I will die – and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I do not keep my promise! Only death will be able to separate me from you!” 

Imagine if we had the same attitude that Ruth had towards Naomi, towards Jesus. With Christ we have assurance of the good things he has in store for us, Jeremiah 29:11 says “For the plans I have for you are good and not evil, plans to bring you to a perfect end”. Imagine being in a place of destituteness and following someone that isn’t even promising that greater things will come. Naomi served the Most High God and Ruth wanted to be close to the person she knew could get her to him. We hear all the time that sometimes we have to take a leap of faith but what Ruth did was more like taking a step off of a multi-storey burning building whilst Orpah chose to wait until the fire brigade came.

In this chapter Ruth teaches us that rationality cannot be relied upon. Being educated to a higher level can result in us believing that we can reason with God in the same way that we reason with others, leading us to debate and sometimes even argue with him. However, you didn’t hear Jesus say ‘but realistically you can’t feed 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fishes’. You didn’t hear Abraham say ‘but isn’t a bit contradictory for you to tell me to kill the very son you prophesied that I would have’. God doesn’t care about what makes sense and neither did Ruth. It doesn’t matter what is logical in a situation;it’s about what’s Jesusical. If we want to live a life that’s spirit lead, that means seeking after the things God wants for us, and following the commands he gives us, regardless of how well they fit into the plan we have for our lives.

Finally we see Ruth shows us that ‘it’s not everyday listen to your friends’. It’s not that Orpah was doing something against God’s will for her life, it’s that God was doing something different in Ruth’s life. You can spend your whole life seeking after your friend’s miracle or your friend’s blessing and completely miss out on what God had planned for you.

He chose you, and only you, to complete the specific plan he created for you. Will you reply to his calling with the words Ruth said to Naomi?

Joy said:

Ruth 1:8, 11-13

But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” 

The first person in the story that I felt was exemplary was Naomi. Are you surprised? I was. I expected Ruth to jump out at me and captivate my heart. But what about Naomi? Naomi, a woman who lost her husband and her two sons – a woman who lost it all. Being a woman in those days wasn’t easy at all, without a man to protect you, you were vulnerable and at risk. Men were the providers and owners of all property; when the men in her life passed, Naomi was left with nothing.

Despite her bitterness she began to reason with herself. As she travelled back to her place of birth, she decided that her daughter-in-laws should not have to suffer anymore than they already had. Despite her bereaved state and desolation, she put the needs of others first. Naomi could have chosen to make those young women stay with her and alter their lives to suit her needs; both Ruth and Orpah were fiercely loyal and would have stayed if she had requested. Instead she thought of their wellbeing above her own; they say ‘misery loves company’ but Naomi life shows this isn’t necessarily true for everybody.

How do you act when you are in pain? Do you shut down? Do you shout about the place and set your environment on fire with your words? Do you become selfish, only able to see the situation from your perspective? Would you have told those around you to leave you because you knew in your heart that it would benefit them? I began to ask myself how I act when I’m pain. Do I throw my weight around? YES, I do. Not intentionally, I just make those around me uncomfortable because I don’t speak.

Awkward.

Naomi showed me once again there is a better way to live and behave even when your emotions are in turmoil. Growth. We need to grow. Even if we are hurting, that shouldn’t mean that everyone else around us should have to absorb the weight of our pain. Instead we should seek to lighten the load others are carrying, even if we are carrying a greater pain.

Ruth 1:14

And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 

When should we let go and when should we hold on?

Neither Orpah or Ruth could have known what their futures held but they were both were presented with the same choice -to stay or to go. I wrestled with this part of the text for many reasons. Orpah had NO idea what she was about to miss out on and even if she had gone with them, there was only one Boaz! She may have stayed a widow for the rest of her life – no one knows what would have happened if she went with Nai (yes I’ve given her a nickname) but God.

Instinctively, I love Orpah. Orpah followed her gut. What she did made perfect sense given the circumstances – she was a woman and she needed a husband to protect and provide for her. She had already suffered a huge loss; the best thing to do was to go home to her family and figure things out from there. 9/10 of us would have done the same. Even after reading this story, I’m sure some of us will take the path that makes sense before we walk the path that inconveniences us. We will miss out on a blessing because we cannot see the potential in an opportunity because it is dressed as a burden.

When we are unsure, we must look to God before we look within ourselves for answers. Isaiah 30:21 says “whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” We need to follow the voice of God before we follow our intuition. You see, the answers that lie within us may cause us to make the wrong choices. Although in that moment the choice could have made perfect sense, our legacy will only reflect a lack of foresight to those that walk after us.

Ruth didn’t know what lay ahead – there’s no way she could have known the blessings that would be heaped on her as a result of her decision to stay with Nai. All she knew was the love that she had for her mother-in-law and that was enough. One decision changed her life forever.

What did I learn from Naomi?

  • Regardless of how I feel, I need to always consider the feelings of others. Even if I am at my lowest point, I can’t act selfishly as this impacts those around me.
  • If someone decides to leave me, God will bring someone who will stay and carry me through the storm.
  • Continue to serve God regardless of how unbearable the situation may be.

What did I learn from Ruth?

  •  I will always have a choice; God will never force my hand.
  • Sometimes opportunities will be dressed as burdens; do not be hasty when making decisions.
  • Look ahead. Current circumstances always give way to future blessings. What I feel is my end may one day be recognised as my beginning.

What did I learn from Orpah?

  • There is a time to walk away.
  • No one knows what the future holds, be patient and prayerful.
  •  When walking away, try not to walk backwards. Move forward into a better beginning.
  • Pray before you stay, pray before you walk – pray before everything.

Along Came 2014

2014

During the latter parts of December, everyone becomes excited about the New Year. Usually, I’m the same! I promise! Despite my naturally moody disposition, I love what a new year represents; an opportunity to begin again, to live differently and to do things I was scared to do the previous year. It is as though we are reborn; we have a clean sheet, a fresh start.

It’s cliché, I know.

I am also aware that most people don’t actually utilise the year we are gifted with; people fall into old patterns– they binge eat instead attending the gym, chain smoke instead of wearing nicotine patches and sleep in on Sundays instead of making it to the 10am service. I’d say the ‘change!’ train probably dies around January 18th. My gut tells me that December 31st 2014 will roll around and people will write the same resolutions in different ways, hoping to do things differently but will still be unwilling to do what is necessary to create the change they wish to see.

Alas, despite both my sentimental and cynical nature, I used to love a New Year. But you know what, last year was different. I was apprehensive.

Wait.

I’m lying.

Let me be honest.  I was scared.

During my holiday to Cyprus, I looked back on 2013. I knew 2013 was going to be a madness, I could literally feel it within me on January 1st, but I was in no way prepared for what lay ahead of little old me. On my darkest days, I was on the battlefield fighting for my life, my health and my sanity, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – on some days, there was no light.

As I looked back, it became clear that the days of light far outnumbered the days of darkness but that only became known to me through the gift of hindsight. There were many times last year where I could only see darkness and feel pain. I know I’m not the only one; 2013 wasn’t easy for a lot of us. Despite our planning and our pronouncement that it was ‘our year’, life inevitably got in the way. We experienced problems, depression, bereavement; bouts of anxiety, abandonment and the kind of fear that stopped us from achieving the things our hearts cried for us to do. As a result, some of us are moving through 2014 scared, fearful and apprehensive, unwilling to take meaningful steps, terrified that we may fall and have to spend the better part of 2014 learning how to walk again.

The reality is that we have no idea what lies ahead; we can recount the past and observe the present but no one, with complete certainty, can predict what the future will bring. So I’ll leave with you the scriptures that help me to walk through 2014.

Do not be afraid; just believe (Mark 5: 36)

We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty (Zechariah 4:6)

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Remember there is no battle you have to fight alone now that you have Jesus in your life. Whatever life throws at you, he can handle it.

So glad you’re here and reading this!

Joy xxxxx

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