Let’s level with one another. We all know I’m not the most committed blogger. I love writing, but I just… maybe it’s a lack of discipline. Maybe it’s time. Who knows. But I’ve been encouraged/asked about it by a few people lately, so I thought I’d try an alternative angle. It’s pretty embarrassing. Being me, once I decided to do it, I had to do it right away, pre-shower, sans-make up, without a clue of how to operate iMovie on my macbook, so it’s hardly slick or glamorous, but you know. It’s real life. So here’s a little video, talking about what I feel God’s been saying to me lately through Philippians 4, and the connection between peace and rejoicing. Let me know what you think! Better than writing? Actually a bit dull? Anything else?! Should I try and mix up both?
There’s no easy way to begin this. I want to write about something we don’t talk about.
A few months ago, I had a miscarriage. We had chosen to tell people close to us about the pregnancy very early, and I’m so glad we did. Not only because I cannot imagine going through something like that without community, but also because as soon as the miscarriage happened, people started to share their stories. It happened to us. We lost our first. We lost our fourth. We’ve had three miscarriages and are still hoping. The pain I heard in the voices around me made me realise; we. don’t. talk. about. this. These couples had largely been carrying their heartbreak in secret. And, that may be a choice – it is, after all, an intensely personal thing. But, for some, I had the impression that they were longing to speak about their babies, without knowing how to do so.
I think one day I’ll write some more about this. It’s difficult. It’s raw. I’m not sure yet quite what I want to say. But I do want you to know this; if this is your story too, you are not alone. That feeling of, “this wasn’t meant to happen”? You’re right. It wasn’t meant to happen. I don’t know why it did, and I’m so sorry that you’re in pain. But you really are loved.
For me, the emotions come and go, like waves. Sometimes gentle kisses on the shore of my heart, sometimes overpowering breakers that threaten to drag me under, and spin me over and over til I come up gasping for air. I’m learning to push into the grief and feel the moments and choose to rejoice in knowing my life IS blessed, because God IS good, in the midst of it all.
I wrote something this morning, in one of those gasping-for-air moments. It’s not poetically very good. But, I don’t think that matters. What I’m feeling is that sometimes you just need to get it OUT, unfiltered, imperfect, real. And I hope that, for some of you, this might be the permission you need to do just that. You are so, so loved.
Today, I miss you, baby. There’s no explanation, and none needed. Some days, I say I’m fine. Others, my heart is so full, I feel I could cry At any moment. I’m not even thinking, but suddenly You’re with me, and then you’re not. I miss you, baby. Today, I miss you, baby. Missing who you would be, And how you’d smell Your little lips, and eyes, The way you’d smile at your daddy, how he’d make you laugh. I wish you were here. I miss you, baby. Today, I miss you, baby. Those short weeks I knew you, were enough For me to fall so completely in love I could feel you inside And I knew, more than ever, more than anything, I wanted you. Little you. I really miss you, baby. Today, I miss you, baby. These feelings twist in my chest, An overwhelming instinct to protect, The stabbing pain of this divide. You were worth it all, my little one, so worth it, and I know I’ll always be your mummy. But today, I miss you, baby.
My story began in 1986 in a little town called Bishop’s Stortford, where my parents pastored the church we were part of. I was so blessed to grow up in an environment where the things of God were regular conversation and encounters with him were everyday. I’ve only become aware as an adult of how privileged I am to be unable to remember a time when I didn’t hear the voice of God, or recognize his presence, or connect with him on a personal level. Growing up in a spirit-filled church was truly a gift to me. I remember around 1994 when the “Toronto Blessing” was spreading all over the world, being in kids work and just going into visions and seeing things in the spirit, being laid out by the presence of God and having to be carried back down the corridor and laid down at the side of the adult meeting, to keeping meeting with Him. So I had no awareness that anyone might not think this was normal, because this was happening with me and my friends all the time.
I started making up songs about this same time and my parents would tell you I was constantly singing, always, to the point where I would lay in bed at night worshipping and they would get the poker for the fire and bash it on the ceiling to tell me to be quiet!! I loved it when my parents had small group at their house and would lie in bed listening to the voices worshipping downstairs and talk to Jesus in my own little way. I remember just feeling incredible peace through worship. I also struggled as a child with nightmares and seeing and feeling the demonic at night. I now recognize that this was a real attack on me, in terms of my spiritual awareness and an attempt by the enemy to put fear into my heart regarding the supernatural and spiritual encounters. My parents prayed for me every day and I remember lying in bed just repeating Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I love you Jesus, I want to feel you, God, and keeping repeating this until I felt evil leave and peace come. I feel like all of these childhood experiences came together in laying a foundation in my life of expecting God to come, and expecting to meet with him, and knowing that his presence is the most powerful thing in the world.
I remember when I was about 14, standing in a meeting during worship and having a really significant encounter with God. We were singing “Holy, Holy” by Phatfish, and I remember singing the chorus, “lift up his name, with the sound of singing, lift up his name in all the earth, lift up your voice and give him glory, for he is worthy to be praised”, and just weeping as God began to speak to my heart. I remember thinking, this is it! He IS worthy to be praised, why would I NOT sing?! I had always loved singing to Jesus, and singing generally – I was in choirs from primary school age and loved harmonizing, and the feeling of creating beautiful sound. However, I did not enjoy being heard! I never sang a solo (was never asked and certainly never wanted to) and never sang in front of people even at home, except when I didn’t realize anyone was listening! I didn’t like the sound of my voice and didn’t think anyone else did particularly either. However, I was good at harmonies, so when I was asked to start singing backing in a worship band, I was excited to be part of that. I sang solely backing for 8 years. I absolutely loved being part of the team and had no aspirations beyond that particularly. However, God started to speak to me through other people, through prophetic words, about leading worship, about having a voice, about songwriting (that part I’m still working on), and even about recording an album (which I thought was absolute madness). Initially I thought they must just be wrong. Then I started to be a bit cross about it. Didn’t God know that I was happy doing backing? I had already let him know that I was not interested in any kind of leadership, thank you (being a pastor’s kid is a blessing in so many ways, but tricky in many others!) and couldn’t understand why he would keep speaking about it when he knew I had no intention of doing anything about it! Eventually I came to terms with the fact it was probably going to happen, but with something of an air of resignation, and not a lot of joy! However, the actual journey into leading worship has been anything but a chore.
When I moved to Bedford I joined a band led by Sarah Oliver, as a backing vocalist, which was the most fun. Sarah is incredible at releasing those around her to fulfill their potential and, combined with a lot of heart healing that was going on for me at that time, I started to realize I might have something to offer. I still struggle to like my voice and I know there are a lot of people who are technically better than me, and who do sound a lot nicer. But I’ve come to realize that for whatever reason, God HAS chosen me, who hates being in front of people, who can’t stand ‘performing’ and would honestly be completely fine to stay in the background for the rest of my life! He’s funny. What has been really important for me is that God has consistently spoken about his faithfulness, and the goodness in his purpose for my life.
I have never asked to lead worship. God is completely faithful and you do not have to chase your destiny. Sure, prepare for it; read as much as you can, gain as much knowledge as you can, train and technically be the best you can be, but more importantly partner with God in the refining of your character. As you choose to say yes to him in the small things, the details of life, the choices about how you spend your time, what you prioritise, where you set your heart and your affection, he will bring your destiny to you. Love him and enjoy his presence. Get to know him really well. Listen to his heart and practice expressing it through your instrument. Be available to him and serve those around you joyfully. I truly believe in his goodness! He will never let you miss out! He will always, always fulfill his purpose – you just have to say yes. No word he speaks ever returns empty, it always produces a harvest. And the fruit of walking in his presence is an abundance of joy! It is honestly so fun to do what he has purposed you to do. I thought leading would be the most stressful thing ever, but walking in your destiny is not hard work. It’s the most freeing thing in the world. If what you’re pursuing feels like hard work, talk to the Lord about whether it’s truly your destiny! That’s not to say there aren’t elements of hard work; there are. But the overflow will always be joy, peace, love, and a true awareness of God’s grace and goodness.
It feels quite indulgent to write something just about myself, and I’m not altogether comfortable doing it… but I hope that it helps you to know a little about my story, and to hear God for his destiny on your life. You have immense purpose. God is already working all things for your good. Ask him to look back with you, and show you the seeds he’s been planting and the foundations he has laid. And walk with confidence! Know who he’s made you to be. Let’s be a team who encourage one another to run into the purposes of God, and run hard into what he has for us together. He is so good!
With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? …He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
These scriptures are my ‘life verses’, and when Karen asked me to write something for this month’s worship team update, they immediately came to my mind. For me, this passage epitomises what it means to live a life of worship. It’s easy to know in our heads that worship is “more than a Sunday morning” without having really thought about what it means for our lives, our choices, our everyday. I want to take a look here at what these verses mean for me personally, and encourage you to take time to ask the Lord what he wants to show you for your own life.
1. Act justly
I’m a probation officer, and have the privilege everyday to work with offenders coming to terms with justice in the most technical sense of the word. However, I believe the concept of justice goes way beyond this specific outworking. Is your heart troubled when you hear of children being bullied, families splitting or minorities being excluded? You have justice in your veins. It’s who you are, because your dad is the Most High Judge, the creator of justice, and we were born to carry his heart. But it’s more than just feeling. The Word says ACT justly. So how can you respond? Next time the office is laughing about that person who always bears the brunt of jokes, how do you react? When you walk past a guy sitting in the street, and everyone else wanders past, how can your actions show love and demonstrate justice, and recognize him as someone precious to the Lord? This is the worship God asks for.
2. Love mercy
How often do you take the generous option? Are you someone who holds a grudge, who remembers being owed a favour? Are you quick to forgive and move on? Loving mercy, to me, means having a heart attitude that believes the best and extends grace and compassion wherever possible. I love that God puts this hand in hand with acting justly. Sometimes our society feels these things must be separate, that justice is harsh judgement where mercy lets someone off the hook – but the Lord says no, hold them together, let them both dwell in your heart and complement one another. I don’t believe mercy is a weak option. Being merciful certainly doesn’t mean being a doormat. For me, justice and mercy going very practically hand in hand means showing someone that I truly believe they were not born for life in prison; that they have a destiny and a purpose and I want to work with them to find that hope; and it truly saddens my heart that right now they are making choices which mean prison is the consequence. Ask the Lord – how does it work out for you? What does it mean to love mercy everyday, and to let mercy dwell with justice in your heart?
3. Walk humbly
Humility is another subject we hear much about in church but I feel is often badly misunderstood. Humility is not putting yourself down. Jesus was the most humble man who ever lived, but he said some pretty bold things about who he was and his purpose. I’ve heard it said that humility is knowing who you are, and knowing who you’re not, and I like that phrase. You can be real about your gifts and talents without getting arrogant. It’s a heart attitude that grows out of love. I believe humility’s opposite, pride, grows out of fear – fear that we won’t be recognized, fear that others will push ahead of us – and the Lord says that his perfect love totally drives out all fear. So when we are saturated in his love and we know who he says we are, humility will flow. We won’t fear the humble stance of asking others’ advice or admitting we don’t know the best way ahead. God says that he opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble (James 4:6). As we humbly trust him with our destiny, he will lift us up and lead us forward. All he asks is that we dwell in his love. How are you doing at this? Are you finding your significance in who God says you are, or are you searching and striving in other places?
I truly believe that these three things are what we are created for, and are the keys which will ultimately bring us deepest joy and fulfillment. As worshippers, let’s focus our hearts. If God specifically asks for this sacrifice, how are we doing at bringing it? I don’t want to sing great songs and play powerful riffs that are merely empty sound because I’m not connecting with His heart. Let’s bring hearts full of praise, that please him because he’s shown us what is good and we’re pursuing it.
Ok. So since I last wrote – big news.
WE GOT ENGAGED!!!
Super exciting, can’t-believe-it’s-happening, and with a 6 month engagement planned, go, go, GO.
So I’m afraid writing and indeed any other interests are on something of a back burner right now, and I find myself awake til the wee small hours contemplating the perfect font for invitations, endlessly googling bridesmaid dresses and praying for something to appear that’s in budget, and changing my mind a million times about colours and styles and… bla bla bla. But I thought rather than abandoning little bloggy by the wayside, maybe it should be included by way of pulling together designy ideas. So here’s a couple.
Til next time (and I’ll try and think of something deep and purposeful to write sometime…) x
Something has been dawning on me recently. A slow, uncomfortable realisation, that I’m discovering I cannot fight. It is this: at the core, I am deeply middle class.
I drink Pinot Noir and enjoy Scrabble. I’d favour a Labrador over a Staffie and a Land Rover over a Subaru. I like pashminas. I own a fitted jacket, with elbow patches, and team it with pearl earrings. My boyfriend wears tweed. I carry a vintage leather satchel and wear Hunter wellies.
I am, it seems, a cliche.
I like nice things! I do. I love interior decoration and lap up Elle Decoration and Livingetc as if they might never be published again. I ride horses, for heaven’s sake. But, I also carry a heart for the disadvantaged, a passion for justice, a calling to social reformation, and I work with prolific offenders. And it is this work which brought me to Luton.
Woooaaahh. LUTON? I hear you cry. Yes, Luton, annually voted Britain’s number one ‘crap town’ (we British do love to celebrate an underdog) and frequently the butt of local jokes. It’s something of a Nazareth.
I’ll be honest – when I first went there, I struggled. It’s very grey. Very dirty. There is a whole lot of vomit and dog poop on the pavements. (Like, everywhere. It’s downright dangerous to have a conversation and walk at the same time). There’s not much green. The buildings have seen better days. There’s an airport, but that’s really about it. The football club is sadly known more for its’ hooligans than its’ soccer. It’s not very… middle class.
But I knew for sure God moved me there, and I knew for sure he had purpose in doing that. I loved the job, but didn’t feel like I connected with the city. So a few months ago I started asking the Lord to show me his heart for Luton, and help me see the place through his eyes. Rather than noticing the things that made me uncomfortable, to start noticing things to celebrate, love and be thankful for.
It started small. And somewhat shallow.
1. It has a department store with a Benefit counter. (Guys: this is make up. Buy it for the lady in your life and score many points).
2. I like the little independent sandwich shop. The guy and his wife are super friendly, doing really good at learning English and like having conversations, and, they do jacket potatoes, with salad, for £2. WIN.
But it began to grow.
3. One of my favourite people watching observations is people from different cultural backgrounds hanging out together and having fun. In Luton I get to be part of this all the time. I see it as a little glimpse of what heaven might be like where there are no cultural barriers.
4. God’s heart is for the poor, the orphan and the widow. I get to demonstrate his heart every day. His Spirit is upon me to preach good news and bring freedom to captives. For me, part of this means people who are captive to addiction. To do that, I need to be around cultures where addiction is rife. Thank you God for positioning me in the right place!
5. It is a lot more interesting and exciting to feel a bit unsafe sometimes!
6. I am grateful that I am learning so much about the importance of hope. It is indispensable – without vision, the people perish. I know what true hope is and I get to take that into many hopeless places.
There’s so much for me to learn, and I’m challenged every day about my judgements and preconceptions. I love that. I don’t want to ever go to sleep the same as I woke up. There’s a tension between my love of the beautiful and the creative, and feeling comfortable in settings where those things are obvious, and learning to see the beautiful and the opportunities around me. Some days I look out of the window and think it all looks pretty depressing. And it sometimes does! But heaven’s perspective is so different.
So why not ask God some questions about your home town. See what he thinks. Ask how he feels about the people and the place – start to let him open your eyes to his purposes around you. And love your city.
For a while, a lot of people I know have been writing dream lists. You know, like a bucket list, things I want to do or see in my lifetime… including the impossible! I never got around to writing a list. Until tonight!
It’s eclectic; “be part of a prison revival” next door to, “jump off a really high rock into water”… or, “see someone set free from heroin addiction” along with “record my own album”. But I took about half an hour to write 50 dreams. There are more. This is just a start. And reading them back, I felt pretty emotional. The secret longings of my heart were right there on the page, from learning to surf to being a foster mum, and owning a house to having a dinner party and cooking it all myself (sounds small, but it’s a genuine fear! What if nobody comes? What if the food is rubbish? What if, heaven forbid, I make somebody sick?!) It feels super vulnerable! Suddenly the murmurings of years are looking at me, in real ink, off two 1cm lined pages.
So now what? I’m not sure! I’ve talked to God about it, and he told me he’s so excited I had the courage to get specific and go big. There are some dreams on there I daren’t even whisper, let alone blog for the world to see. Dreams that sound so totally foolish unless God works it out that I nearly didn’t even write them down. But I did. They’re out there. And now? Now I get to live the life already planned out for me, and fulfil my dreams along the way, cos my dad in heaven says he loves giving his kids the desires of our hearts! No striving, just lots of opportunity. Let’s see what happens!