Wednesday, 30 December 2015

So long, 2015

2015 was going to be a Big Year. I planned to sort myself out, 'get my sh*t together'. I revelled in the fresh white page of a new year. I would face the monsters and overcome. 

That resolve lasted precisely 3 days before the aforementioned monsters woke up and smacked me full in the face.

I trudged through January and then February, waiting for the downpour to let up. Little hopes deflated and were washed away by the rain. 

And yet!...

[NB. This is not some Disney story with a neat ending 1 hour 30 minutes in. We're all normal broken humans with good days and bad days, areas of growth and stubborn habits we can't break. I also believe we're all in a daily process of change. So no, I'm not 'sorted' (neither are you... Even if you think you are :P) But it's encouraging to recognise progress!]

And Yet, 'OCD' is not the big label hanging over my 2015. Things got pretty bleak and it felt too hard. But it got better - as it always seems to do, despite my expectations - and there were many pleasant times. Dinners with friends, laughs with my housemate, weddings and dresses and first dates. The guys who came to hang out on Friday night even though they knew I felt sucky and would be bad company. Birthdays at the zoo (yes, the zoo), punting in Cambridge. Driving through Spanish valleys in glorious sunshine with a minibus of friends, blaring out Mumford & Sons. Actually feeling grateful for this life. 

2015 didn't go at all as I had planned. I didn't get the job I wanted; didn't maintain the relationship I started; left a hundred things undone and messages not replied to. But (and I'm not just saying this because it's the end of the blog and don't you love some sense of resolution?), it was many other things that I'd never expected. Despite the bits I just don't understand, I can see glimmers all through the year of the Father who knows me, giving me better dreams than the ones I'd set out on. No, I'm not some 'fixed' adult. But I hope I'm more real and more true: with more fight in me and a whole lot more dependence on my sustainer. Less fussed about a five-year plan and more content with being where I am right now, secure with the one who's in it for the long-haul. 

I hope this is an awesome year for you! I hope it's full of breakthrough moments and steady ascents. Be courageous to do things your own way. 
Recognise when the loudest negative voice is your own, and seek help joyfully, knowing that we were never intended for independence but for mutual support. In everything, run toward and not away from the one who created you and calls you by name. 

And if it's not such a good year for you - if you get to January 29th and you're So Over 2016 - please keep going. It can get better. Yes it's a giant cliche but maybe Florence (or whoever first said it) was actually right. It is always darkest before the dawn. I don't know what stuff you're facing in 2016, but I do know there are beautiful things to be grasped. 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Ho ho holy moly it's Christmas!

As ever, I am loving this Christmas period. I have been avoiding Mariah's All I Want For Christmas (is to cut off my ears so I never have to hear this song) wherever possible, taking advantage of my 'mince pies for breakfast' rule and am looking forward to a rest in the middle of nowhere with my family.

The unseasonal rainy weather, the striking emptiness of Shakin' Steven's terrible song and the atmosphere in the M&S food hall 48 hours before the big day, all amplify how hollow this season can become. We are expected to listen to crappy 80s Christmas tunes, drunkenly get with a lesser-known colleague and nurse a hangover through the queen's speech at an awkward family get together. 
"Because it's Christmas". 

What does that even mean?!?!

And for those who struggle, we are for some reason expected to slap on a smile and enjoy ourselves, "because it's Christmas", full in the knowledge that tomorrow it will be over and we will be faced with the brutal reality of normal life. 

So here's my take on it. We should point people to the 'real reason for Christmas'. Not because I Guess We Ought To, but because the real reason for Christmas is the only thing that stops this holiday being at best a period of anticlimactic escapism and at worst a brutal reminder of all that is lost or still to be or not quite right. 

Okay so I recognise that thus far, this is mega depressing. Apologies for that. Ho ho ho and all that. 


But, the fact is that the 'real reason for Christmas' is more beautiful, more healing, more mind-blowing that any amount of lights or presents or cheeky smooches under mistletoe. 

But, the only thing that could actually save us from such overwhelming despair came into our brokenness and flooded us with light. 

But, we have this hope that even in great darkness, death will not have the final say. 

But, even when I am forced to take down the decorations and face the bleak, Christmas-less midwinter of January, there is a hope that shines no less brightly for not being covered in tinsel. 

Happy Christmas y'all, hope it's a great one. 

And if it's not, hope you're encouraged that the light celebrated at Christmas shines into our futures and all that we face.

NB: A guy called Glen Scrivener has written on this topic an awful lot better than me. Check out his blog here.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

On suffrage and sacrifice

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Suffragette.
Watch it. No, really. I don't care if you don't approve of their militant actions. Nor if you think that feminism has 'gone too far'. Everyone should see it.

As the lights came up and I hastily sorted my smudged eyes, I realised that my limited knowledge of suffragettes had come mainly from Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins. Sure, I had heard about force-feeding and some woman stepping in front of the king's horse... but it had remained an interesting, fantastical piece of general knowledge (like most other history lessons, really).

Instead of a rambunctious upper-class lady partial to breaking into song, I was confronted with the reality of suffrage. Malnourished, shamed and homeless women, giving everything - jobs, husbands, children - for this cause they believed in. It was inspiring to see this relatively recent show of sacrifice. These women believed they were fighting for something greater than their own lives, greater than commitment to husbands or children. And this demonstration of giving up everything felt rather alien to me.

Which is ironic, I guess, given that I've been a Christian for however many years and know Jesus' teaching about "take up your cross and follow me". It's just that as a teenager, that meant putting up with being mocked at school for my faith; and as an adult, accepting that the 'pool' of prospective romantic partners becomes pretty small if you narrow the search to only Christians. Are these things sacrifice? I'm not sure. They haven't stopped me from carving out the idea of a pleasant time on earth, enjoying fullness of life through Jesus and (hopefully) having a vaguely merry time of it.

[NB. Good news: faith in Jesus doesn't mean your life will be awful - that's *not* what I'm trying to say.]

But the idea that I have something so much greater even than women's rights or social justice, to give up my life for - I guess it just hasn't really had to occur to me living in the millennial Western world.

It's never occurred to me that I might actually have to give everything for the sake of the gospel. In theory, I've known and accepted it: but the chance of having to give up home, familial relationships or life for the gospel has always (thankfully) been pretty low.

What am I saying? Not that we should give up our current lives and go live in caves, or off of wild locusts and honey. But just that when you remember the call of Christian sacrifice - being prepared to give our lives, even - and the hope set before us in Jesus, it changes your perspective on Right Now.

If the core of who I am is striving for God's glory, his kingdom, seeing his face - then the tiny sacrifices I make now will be fairly insignificant. The idea of not getting married seems rather inconsequential when I'm faced with what any sacrifice would be for: the reality of Jesus; the truth of salvation; the hope of everything we've been promised.

Monday, 3 August 2015


Gratitude for life is one of those things we don't speak of much. "I'm grateful to be alive" tends to be a phrase reserved for survivors of plane crashes, or over-enthusiastic guys in 80's movies. I'm not sure why. Maybe because of its cheesiness? Maybe because we're British?!

Despite all of this: I really am grateful to be alive right now.

And by this I mean, I am grateful to be here to experience this; I'm aware that I could not be, and happy that I am.

It means there have been times in the past year where I have really not wanted to keep Being, where life just felt like day after day of panic and grey, and I couldn't imagine that there would be sunnier days and peacefulness and contentment.

I was in no way grateful to be alive, closer to Job's cry,

“Why then did you bring me out of the womb?" (Job 10:18)

I felt bad that I wanted to stop existing, when other terminally-ill people would give anything for another year with their precious family. It seemed like such an unfair distribution of life.

And so, in the context of all of that, there are beautiful days like today when I'm so grateful something inside of me (or rather, outside of me) decided to keep living.

Moments where you think "it would have been sad to miss this". Times when life is just really sweet, even if only for an afternoon. It's at these points - the moments you'd happily bottle up and keep it for crummier days - where hope grows back, like fresh buds from a seemingly dead branch.

Suddenly, yet again, there is hope, urged into life a little more by each moment of happiness. And for every stormy day, these days keep me going, in the knowledge that if you just keep pushing through, the sunshine will, eventually, return.


**Disclaimer: I tend to be pretty blunt in these posts, but even publishing these had me feeling a bit self-conscious. I've tried wherever possible to be as non-melodramatic as possible. This is just life's beauty and pain all mixed up :)**

We're waiting on change, but I don't know if it's coming
Waiting on change, but I don't know if it's coming
Brooke Fraser, New Years Eve

So things have been brighter recently, and then today hits like a huge grey storm cloud.

Within each moment I'm caught between a tantalising hope of what life could hold - normality; happiness; relationships; positivity - and the slow-burn dread that this is, if anything, as good as it's going to get.

I go about the weekend, and tasks are punctuated, sometimes by glimmers of hopefulness that this is just a bad day and actually everything's fine; sometimes by foreboding clouds that threaten me with my darkest fears and whisper that I'm not okay.

My mood has been a lot better of late, but today I found myself wondering yet again, whether it will simply be a case of gritting my teeth and waiting till the day of peace that lies beyond this world. In its bleakest form, waiting to die.

And thankfully no, I don't spend most or even many days at the moment feeling like that. But does anyone else out there sometimes feel like we're just killing time, trying to remain stable?

I have no desire to live like that, but sometimes it feels like the best option life is presenting. I swerve between the faith I've believed and the blurred realities I'm faced with. There should be transformation; but change is painfully slow and I continue to be the same old broken me. There should be hope and yet I no longer particularly know what I can hope for, other than paradise on the other side.

Ultimately, I wish I was different. My biggest fear is that I will remain in this purgatory for the whole of my life, sometimes tasting joy and beauty but always carrying these big old chains which occasionally plunge me into darkest night. Never being truly free.

And whilst my mood is okay at the moment, I hope you can see how easy it is to long for eternal life, which I believe promises joy, consistent peace, freedom for ever with my Father.

There is so much beauty out there to grasp. I want to live to chase it, to behold and marvel in it. There is so much to be seen and done. I want to squeeze every last drop out of life whilst I have it. And yet I know that I am just a thought, a chance moment away from dark shadows which cloud out beauty and hope and joy and replace all around me with one thing: fear. Dark; murky; soulless; joyless: an abyss.

I fear that I will spend my whole life balancing on this precipice called life, trying to keep it together, grasping for beauty around me, almost falling at so many points.

I fear that I will spend my whole life in fear.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Learning to trust

I was speaking to a good friend tonight and it made me realise something. 

She was talking about her future and spoke with a great faith that God would guide, do the unlikely and work wonders in her lifetime. 

Sitting opposite her I felt a poor reflection of what I saw before me. I realised that, partly without even noticing, my trust in God had diminished.  Growing fears and repeated disappointments have shrunk my view of Gods capabilities - or the things he will choose to do in my life. 

I still believe he loves me and is sorrowful in my suffering, but maybe I'm less convinced that he will actually do much about it. My view of God has gotten smaller. More limited. I find it easier to trust that he's got me saved for eternity, (and boy is that going to be great) but in the meantime (the next 60 years or so) I seem to have become less convinced that he will work the impossible for his glory and for my good. 

Do I believe God is powerful? Do I believe he gives good gifts? Yes, but. 


Yes, but there are a whole lot of people suffering on our planet. Yes, but God's power + God's love does not always = happy times in life. Just check out the early church and Paul's life for an example. Did he regret his decision to face suffering for Christ? No, I'm so sure that he didn't. But perhaps he was far better at trusting God for a reason for his suffering, than I am. 

Maybe my expectations are wrong? That's what I've been telling myself over the last while. The reason I feel pain and disappointment in current life situations is because I was expecting for the most part to be happy and healthy; things that I don't believe God guarantees us in this life. 

So as a response to this suffering and confusion I guess I've tried to reign in my expectations. Perhaps this has been a defence mechanism; but whatever the cause I realise that in limiting my expectations I have naturally limited my faith. I've subconsciously stopped expecting him to do amazing things, work wonders and miracles, and am less convinced that he has good plans for me. 

So, it's sad, but probably good to have realised this. It means I can pray about it, asking God to give me the courage to trust him again, to know and trust him more deeply and not on some level resent him for recent struggles. 

Only thing is that I'm not sure HOW to do this, whilst still managing my expectations. It's somewhat of a cliche to talk about the 'now and not yet' of the kingdom, but in all seriousness, how do people manage to hold these two things in tension?

It has become apparent that I have focussed on the 'not yet' and have limited my faith as a response to this. But I've missed a key tenet of this concept: 'not yet' doesn't mean God is impotent, insensitive or too busy to answer me. And it doesn't mean he will answer in the same way for every other area of my life and the lives of those around me. 

It's hard to pray for the healing of others, for miracles or good weather or guidance, when you're struggling with God being far away and seemingly unresponsive to suffering. 

How do I trust God to do the supernatural, whilst accepting my current circumstances and their difficulties, WITHOUT believing untruths about my father? I guess, as my friend suggested last night, it comes from spending time with him and truly getting to know him. My prayer is that I will become more attuned to him and his heart, so that whether I am dealing with seemingly unanswered prayers, or praying for miracles, I can do both and erstwhile still praise Him. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015


I have to admit the one good thing about the sh***y times in life. They do on the whole make you savour the good times a whole lot more.

Take last night for instance. We had our collection of London friends around to eat, drink and generally celebrate both our birthdays and one year of residence here. Nothing particularly extraordinary happened - except for a gathering of people we care about in the same room.

Yet I savoured the evening, one of normal nice things, happiness and hopefulness - one to encourage me that life can still be beautiful, that there have been and are and will be good times. And in the midst of difficult times, these moments - a day or an hour - are a relief, a respite from the daily grind and struggles to face. A breather before the next wave of difficult reality crashes over us. And I'm so grateful for these times, the breathers which offer a moment to reflect on the good stuff before we must once again confront Monday morning and all it will throw at us.

Sometimes these happy times aren't how we expected them to be - sometimes people we always thought would be there are missing from the photos - but this doesn't detract from all the good and beauty of the evening.

Life is unexpected, surprising; bumpy.  But there are moments where you get washed up on the shore and have a moment to stop, reflect and enjoy the sunshine.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Why I celebrate

I officially hit a quarter of a century - 25 years on the earth - later this week.

I've always loved birthdays, my own and other people's (more on this here). Making it a special day, marking it with something different. I never understood people who said they didn't celebrate their birthdays: why wouldn't you?

And yet this year, I've anticipated my birthday with nothing close to joy or excitement. Having a birthday and - specifically - turning such an undeniably 'adult' age means I can no longer hide behind the guise of being a 'Young Person' or '21 plus a few'. My Peter Pan-like self is forced to come face-to-face with the truth that I am, to all intents and purposes, an adult.

When I was younger and I dealt with these 'worries', I always expected that it would be a passing phase, something I'd grow out of; that by the time I was 'grown up' (whatever that means) I'd be a fully-fledged, fully-functioning adult and these fears would be a distant memory of adolescence. Marking my birthday means facing the painful reality that right now I'm kind of in a place I hoped I'd never be again.

So many people must feel similarly when their day rolls around. I can see why marking 'special' days after the loss of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, or a relationship breakup is too painful to face.

And Yet. I'm still going to celebrate on that day. Not because life is perfect or particularly happy right now, not because I've achieved what I hoped to by 25 or that I'm where I hoped I'd be, but simply that I have LIFE. Joy may be somewhat eclipsed at the moment, but I still have family and friends who love me and a God who gave me life.

While I have breath in me, I have a reason to thank God for it. While I have life, there is reason to celebrate.
(Heck, there's even more reason after this life, but that's for another time).

When I'm coping okay, I can see the point of all of the above. But when I'm struggling, it feels far from what I want to do. Despite this, I choose to see my birthday as an archetype of the way I wish I lived every day. Not as a day where we pretend life isn't difficult and the world isn't broken, but a celebration of what we have, with a hope for what the future could hold.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Painfully / Honest

I sat in the bar, chatting with my sister. Being able to lay my heart and mind open without self-censorship was healing in itself. We were discussing how to go about talking honestly with people about our struggles.

My take on it is this: I have absolutely no desire to make people uncomfortable, and I know that there are appropriate and less appropriate times and ways to share stuff. But I cannot be part of communities where we are obliged to hide our brokenness. Maybe it was possible for me at other times, but it’s not right now. Pretending that everything’s fine is a lie, and one that’s too painful to carry on top of the other stuff. I would rather be without community than be part of one that is not real. 

During our conversation, we also talked about my frustrations with being ‘that person’ again, the one who’s not okay yet again, the one who’s still crying despite the fact that we prayed for her the last three weeks. 

The imposition. 

My sister said a hundred wise things that evening, and my memory is too poor to remember many of them. But one thing she said spoke to me so deeply. 

‘We are all broken. And that is okay’.

And it wasn’t said like, ‘that’s okay for now, but you should probably sort yourself out sometime soon’. It was from a place of complete acceptance and peace with all of our broken bits.

Some of you reading will, I imagine, feel mega-uncomfortable with all of this kind of talk. Emotions and vulnerability and being exposed etc.  But whether it’s a relative’s death or depression or a broken relationship or a secret regret, we all have our little broken bits.  Yes, mine are more obvious at the moment. They feel more like gaping sores than little scars. But that is okay. I’m still alive; I’m still valuable and loved. I still have worth and can still contribute, in the midst of and despite of my brokenness.

I’m not saying I want to be allowed to wail loudly during sermons. I don’t need people to ask me in-depth questions about the things I am struggling with. I’m just suggesting that there are things we can all do to make our communities places which welcome people who are not ‘sorted’, a space for people who are hurting as well as those who rejoice.  The Christian faith sums up perfectly the bittersweet paradox where sorrow and joy sit alongside one another. I would love for our communities to be the same.

With thanks to my little communities who accept me as I am :-) x

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Sitting in the ashes

So it's here again, people. Lent. A time of waiting (or is that just Advent?) Either way, a time for preparation and reflection.

These blogs are meant to be my reflections on the world (because I know people must be super-interested in what I have to say). They're generally fairly positive. But I'm not really sure why I'm writing this because (spoiler alert) I don't have many answers right now.

So here's where I'm at. Daily life feels increasingly like a complex obstacle course that I am ill-equipped to navigate. Some days are okay; some are good; some are downright horrible. I'm pretty joy-less (fear will do that to you) and aware that something needs to change. I know God is real and good and close by, but I don't really understand what's going on here, or why.

A phrase I've heard repeated several times is, "Faith is believing in the darkness what you have seen in the light". And I guess that kind of sums up where I'm at right now. I do have some hope that I can get better again; but on days when it feels like I am losing the battle I wonder how long it has to carry on being like this before I get to be 'normal'. Right now I'm in the Good Friday bit of the Easter story, and I don't know how long it will last. Or how many times I may have to revisit it.

When life is a struggle, when the joy gets sucked out of the beautiful everyday things, when I'm in 'survival' mode, I forget about hope. I'm so consumed by my not-so-pretty circumstances that my hope in what Jesus has won for me gets kind of sidelined.

I titled this post 'Waiting in the ashes' both because of last Wednesday being 'Ash Wednesday' and because it seems to express where I'm at right now. Sometimes I don't have any wisdom or answers. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be a silver lining or moral of the story. Sometimes, it's just hard, and that time is when I guess I have to sit in the ashes and wait, hoping that joy and hope will return.

"Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope.
I called on your name, Lord , from the depths of the pit.  
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.”  
You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”

Lamentations 3:29, 55-57 NIV

Monday, 19 January 2015

New Year, Old Me: a strategy for positivity

New Years Eve: so much excitement, joy, wondering about what 2015 will bring… 

Y’know what I want to say to the girl in those NYE photos?


Okay, apologies, not the most cheery way to start a blog post (and my first of 2015 at that). But it is based on these two key points:

a)      I was really excited about a new year, making the most of every day, doing a new photo challenge (oops) and finishing 2014’s photo challenge ( …oops again). This was the year everything was going to be epic, full of growth and good things 

b) It took approximately three days for the new year’s high to wear off, and to wonder when January would be over. 

Again, I know this is all very negative. I try to be a positive person. I love the idea of cherishing life and living each day to the full. But when each day seems to bite you on the bum, it gets hard, y’know?

Pretty much most of 2015 so far, I’ve not been in a great place. I kind of forgot about hope and joy and all of those things, and a grey smog came down. I don’t know why it’s been like that. I think it’s partly the weather and the come-down from Christmas, some difficult conversations and the small fact that I have an anxiety disorder… but I’m not a fan of this life-hating me. 

I’m not prepared to drag myself through each day, from one anxious episode to the next, staring at the clock and looking forward to bed time. Life is too precious for that. 

This thing I’m fighting is a monster and a lot of days it feels like it’s winning. But I’m not going down without a fight. 

(Excuse the corny action-movie rhetoric – it’s true).

There’s a lot of stuff I can’t fix on my own on a Monday night, like why I get anxious or terror threats or the fact that it’s freezing and work is stressful.

But, there are little things I can do in the fight for hope – my Strategy for Positivity. 

There’s a disclaimer before I list them. I know from my own experience that all these little frivolous things will not make you feel okay if you are in a bad place. (That’s why I haven’t been able to write this blog for the last two weeks). 

But once you surface enough to find the energy to fight, like I appear to have done this evening, then little, frivolous things can bring light where gloom has set in. 

My personal list includes (in no particular order): Clearance Christmas chocolate; nail varnish colours; watching box sets (I would highly recommend New Girl); making a list of reasons to be positive/reasons to keep fighting; central heating; trying new carb-a-licious recipes (even if they don’t turn out well). 

And as for the real, less frivolous stuff? Talk to someone. Spend some time (once you’ve got the energy to) working out a plan of action, what help you might need and how to go about getting it. Get some exercise (even if it’s only on an exercise bike in front of the TV), get some sleep. If you’re a Christian, remind yourself (or get someone else to remind you) about the unshakeable hope you have in Jesus. And if you’re not a Christian… maybe now is a pretty good time to find out about that hope.


Here’s to a Happier January.