Sunday, 18 December 2016

Confidence in the Father...


It happened again yesterday — a daddy moment. I decided to ride my bike with Jason after many long days of sitting in front of my laptop writing endless assignments. I explained to Jason as we left our house that I still didn't fully understand the gears on my bike so we started off slowly. I only felt comfortable riding on the paths. Jason yelled from in front of me, “Come on the road. You can’t ride on the paths!” I yelled back, “I am not roadworthy! I don’t know how to ride on the road. Last time I went on the road I was twelve on my bike test!” and the conservation continued between us both until I eventually tentatively followed him on to the road.  As we reached the cycling track Jason turned around and grinned at me. “See I told you you could do it!”
When we got home, cheeks bright red and fingers numb, I felt reflective on what we had just done. As we sat down, catching our breath, we started to have what I like to call a grace conversation. I started to tell Jason how I wasn’t necessary confident about doing physical activities. I know that some of it comes from being ill at fourteen where I stopped doing a lot of physical activities but there was something more that I felt was being revealed in this conversation of grace, something new that I had not known before, something that was about more than just physical activities.

As I was talking it started to become very clear to me that this confidence had always been lacking. I grew in the love of my mother which was strong and nurturing but there was something missing. Teachers had sometimes seen it in me but had always mistaken it for something else. Even my driving test instructor could not quite put his finger on what it was that I was lacking. I started to relate to Jason how I had struggled when growing up with stepping out and doing something. I never learnt how to go underwater, I only just started to ride a bike before my bike test when I was twelve, I never went ice-skating and the older I got the narrower my life became until God stepped in. Then He very carefully and gently began to lead me away from all that I was. He came when I was fatherless. Yet I still did not realise what was missing.
I started to say to Jason, “The father is the one who is meant to show you this confidence to do things. My mother shown me so much love but the father shows you the adventure of life. He is the one who is behind you shouting “Go on you can do it”. Your mother will love you when you fall down and your father will tell you to get back up. I would fall down and stay down. I would stop trying. I needed the father”. I had been speaking about my own father but I knew in that moment that I was also meaning Father God.

Then when I went to bed last night God spoke to me again. I was scrolling through my messages on my phone when I suddenly felt compelled to open my Dad’s messages. I saw the last message he sent me in reply to me saying that I had been struggling with driving on my own. I had said, “Struggling a bit but I’ll keep going!” He had replied, “That’s the spirit!” Suddenly it hit me and I sat up in bed. He does care. Somehow I had come to the conclusion that my father didn’t care when I was struggling. Whenever I would tell my father my difficulty he would say something positive in response like, “You will find it easier next time”. I was often confused by his response because I thought he was brushing off my struggle but God spoke to me in this moment and said, “The father does care. He calls you to take your eyes off the struggle and look at Him and then you will realise how small it is. He is bigger than the struggle. Just like when a child falls off her bike, the father shows empathy but he also shows her that she can get back on, that she can overcome the struggle. The father shows you who you can be”. I was wrecked. This is what it is to have confidence in the Father. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Learning through failure...

This week I probably had one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Since moving into our new home I have already experienced so much change. Incredible things have been happening. There was some stuff in my life that seemed to be stuck. I had a dim awareness that there were things within me that really needed to be sifted out but I just remained asleep to it all.

Yet as we moved into our house I started having a few difficulties. I seemed to hit an emotional wall and I found myself unable to get past it. I wanted to avoid it but there was no way around it. I left a lot of things behind in my old house but I could not leave behind those issues that were still wrapped around my heart. Namely one of the biggest ones was fear.

I have seen over time how God works through me in processes and again this became like a process. I found myself being stripped back bare and it was uncomfortable and painful. God wanted to remove the thing I had been carrying but it was like a rotten stinking tooth and the only way to get rid of it was to pull it out.

With all the amazing things that was happening in between the painful moments I decided to start writing down what God was saying on sticky notes. My conservatory door became the place for these sticky notes (which are orange by the way!) I needed these notes in my line of view of every day. A realisation had started to dawn on me that I had not been living the life that God wanted for me. I had still been on the sidelines, a spectator. One day last week I wrote on a sticky note, "I've missed opportunities yesterday but today I will not miss any more opportunities!" As a fresh awareness that I had too often given away opportunities because of fear was awakening in me.

Little did I know that this very sticky note would end up being lived out this week. I had my second driving test on Monday. Learning to drive has not been an easy journey for me. It wasn't so much the learning to drive I have had to battle but my own self and the way I think about things. The journey has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Its been a real journey of self learning. As my test was getting nearer I was struggling to keep in the right frame of mind. The pressure was on - I really wanted to pass my driving test before I started my second year of University. Yet I knew that somewhere deep down inside of me I still was wrestling with doubt and even whether I was worthy to be a driver.

On the day of the test I was nervous and my lesson with my driving instructor was pretty tough before the test. I made a ton of mistakes and he kept taking me back to basics again. By the time I got to my test I was not in the most joyful moods but after a shaky start I began to wake up and my driving started to become smooth and confident. When I really needed it an inner grit started to come out. As I pulled into the test centre I was yet to do my manoeuvre. Relief at arriving back safely at the test centre had started to flood me and I was feeling the effects of weariness. He asked me to do a reverse park in a bay. I had just done a perfect one when we arrived at the test centre so all I needed to do was to repeat that. It was busy in the car park so I rushed getting my starting position. I used my driving instructor's technique but something didn't feel right. I asked if I could open the car door to look at the lines. Then I pulled forward and tried to readjust my car. I thought you could only do that once so when the driving test instructor asked me twice, "Are you sure you are happy with that?" I said yes and switched off the engine. I was exhausted.

He then got out and looked around the car but I seemed to be in a daydream. I thought I was at least in the lines a bit so his next words completely shocked me. He got back in the car and I watched as he filled in my sheet and it said seven minors but he ticked fail. My heart sunk. He said "Why didn't you try to straighten up again? Why didn't you pull forward once again? If one of your tyres had been touching the lines I could have given you a driving fault". I was shocked at how frustrated he was. He was almost despairing. I then looked at him and said, "I'm sorry" and he said, "Not as sorry as I am". As my driving instructor came over and I got out I saw that not one tyre was in. Still though I had not grasped what I had happened until my driving instructor said, "That's the only reason you failed. You would have passed if you had straightened up". Then the realisation hit me. I had given up way too soon. In one moment, I gave up and I then forfeited passing the test. I was choked. I barely made it through the front door before I burst into tears. I cried for so long after the test. I hadn't been that upset in ages but the sticky note had come bursting into my mind - I had missed an opportunity. Now I understood the sticky note because I had just experienced that.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

New Home...

On Tuesday 6th September we moved into our first home together. We could not have asked for a smoother transition between houses. We collected the key to our one bedroom house in Duston at noon and drove straight to our little house! The most exciting moment was when we got to the front door with key in hand ready to step through a new door in our lives.

When we entered the house we were in awe of how much larger it looked than we first had thought. On the day we had viewed the house it had seemed so much smaller. However, we had only been in the house less than ten minutes and it was over 2 months ago since we had seen it. We spent the first few minutes running around looking at everything! We had been worried about storage and we found loads of little in built storage spaces. The colours I  had chosen for the house are red and orange and upon entering the house we saw that the kitchen tiles are red and orange! We are also blessed as the landlord left a cooker, dishwasher, freezer and washing machine for us to use.


Another thing that attracted us to this house is the beautiful conservatory which adds extra space. It is so wonderful to have a room that is full of light and so bright and airy. Its like a breath of fresh air walking in there. We have managed to fit both Jason's desk and the dining room table in there. Our lovely orange sofa was delivered on Friday (which also fitted perfectly in the living room!) And another thing I was so excited about was my bookcase! I have never had a bookcase before so this was extra exciting! When I was packing my book collection fitted in about ten boxes so I knew that I really needed a bookcase. Its so nice to see them all in one place together, although I could not quite fit all of my books on there so Jason has said I need to buy a second bookcase!!!


Even though we have only been here four days we have practically finished sorting everything. The past few days have been tiring but as I sit here now looking at our house I just feel so thankful. It feels like home already and I think this new space is really going to give Jason and I room to grow in our marriage and our relationship with God. So a BIG thank you to my family for helping us move and for sharing our lives for these past few years and here's to a new beginning for us all!



Saturday, 6 August 2016

Moving out...

A lot of things have been happening since we got back from Africa from getting baptized, getting my first car and starting writing again. But one very exciting thing that is happening for us both is that we are finally moving out of my mum's house after three years of being there!

It has been wonderful living with my mum these past three years and has given us a great start for our married life. I know many would possibly think that it must have been a nightmare living with the parents for the first three years of our marriage but actually it became a very positive thing for us both. Back in 2013 neither of us were in a great place financially, emotionally or physically. We were still in a transitioning stage in our lives. At that time we needed a support network around us and that is exactly what was provided for us.

Now we have so many things to look forward to! We will be moving into our house this time next month and it could not be more well timed. We will get to spend our birthdays, Christmas and our fourth wedding anniversary together in our own place! We also move in just before I start my second year at University in October. I just feel so blessed for this opportunity and I know it is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives!





Thursday, 28 July 2016

Life after Africa...

Since arriving home from Africa it has been a whirlwind of activities that have radically changed the outlook for the next few months! We have been so blessed since returning! Only a few days after we got back I was baptized at Kingdom Life Church! The experience was incredible and a real symbol of leaving behind my old life and entering the new one with Jesus...


I had no idea that my baptism would be on the week of my return! Funnily enough, I didn't actually personally want to get baptized. It wasn't something I was thinking about or something I felt called to do. It was actually something that terrified me! I had already been baptized as a baby so it never once crossed my mind that I needed to do it again.

On 17th May I was praying to God and on this particular day I was feeling extremely frustrated about myself. I'm not exactly the most patient person in the world and I found myself anaylsing my progress this year. I think it is so easy to get caught up in what you haven't become yet and my perspective was consumed by this on that day. So I was praying and Jesus spoke to me, this was what our conversation looked like:

Jesus said, "I want you to get baptized, make it a public declaration, share it with your church and celebrate! You have been hiding yourself away in Church. I have to ask you, are you willing to let go of yourself and take hold of me?" His words burned through me. I could feel the power in those words of truth. Yet this was my answer:

"But Lord I am afraid of going underwater!" You see I have always had a fear since I was a child of going underwater. Whenever I would go swimming, I would strain and    to keep my head above the water. I would flinch if water was splashed in my direction. I would stare at other kids who dive into the water without any fear. I was afraid and I had never got over it. So Jesus said to me:

"Well thats a good place to start! Will you obey me?" Now this was not said in a commanding, 'You have to do this' way. His words were quiet, gentle but solid. My mind is usually running at a hundred miles an hour but when He speaks there is such a silence. I can only hear His voice, it radiates peace, it radiates safety. So I knew what my answer was going to be. I said "Yes", but it didn't mean that the fear went away, the fear remained but now I had the choice to overcome it.

The day of my baptism came, 3rd July 2016. As we pulled up outside the church I saw a lot of cars and thought, "Yay"... This was definitely going to be a public declaration. I had written down what I wanted to say as I didn't feel I could say something spontaneously. I sat at the very back of the church, holding my piece paper tightly in my hand and struggling to focus on my surroundings. Three other people were also getting baptized.

When I got up to speak, my hands were shaking and I could not look anyone in the eye. My voice sounded strange as it came out of the microphone. So I focused on what I was saying and as I began to speak courage started to rise in me. This was what I wrote:

Jesus came into my life at a time when I had no hope…a time where sickness, fear, darkness and death prevailed. In the short time that I have known Him, he has picked me up from the mess I was in and stood me on my feet. He has declared restoration in my life and healing even stretching back over generations. How can I even begin to share all that He has done for me? I once was sick, fatherless and afraid. I am now healed, I have two fathers in my life and have been shown fear for what it really is! He has done all this for me and more but more importantly He has shown me love and forgiveness

He has asked me to get baptized and so I am here! He is asking me to go deeper and fully let go. I’ve been hanging on, there was so much mess in my life and He has cleaned it up and now He wants my full surrender. His words were, “Are you willing to let go of yourself and take hold of me?” But you will laugh because I have a fear of going underwater!!! I said but Lord I am afraid of going underwater and he said, "Well that's a good place to start!" He said, "Will you obey me?" and I said YES (even though I am really afraid!!) but I trust Him. 


After an incredible piece of scripture from Frances about my writing I went up to the baptismal pool. Even though I felt so uncomfortable and afraid I couldn't help smiling. Diane, who I had chosen, was in the pool with me and Rob who was going to baptize me. The main thing I was worried about was whether I would stop them from baptizing me. My whole life I have never let anyone put me underwater, not even Jason! I've always delayed it and then stopped. As I stood between Rob and Diane though I felt a heavenly peace, a peace that pressed down on me. So that when they gently tilted me back into the water I felt no strength inside me to struggle...I let go... As the water came around time felt like it slowed down and I felt like I was under the water for ages. I then realized that I had been so focused on getting under the water that I forgot to hold my breath. I felt bubbles rising to the surface from my mouth and then as I came up I couldn't breathe. I starting choking uncontrollably. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath. It was as though He took my breath away!! Yet I never felt afraid of that and after I recovered my breathing I felt such a joy! As though a heavy weight had been lifted from me. I think the picture below radiates that joy. I laughed about me choking and forgetting to breathe and just felt so much freedom... 





Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Africa 14th June- 28th June 2016

After spending the past few days getting used to being back in the hustle and bustle of western culture I have finally had time to sit down and reflect on all that has just passed. Africa was not at all what we expected. I don't think anyone could have fully prepared us for the culture shock that took place not long after we arrived in Mombasa. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the poverty, the feeling of isolation realising that you have now become a minority, the roads, the heat and the overwhelming sense of being so far away from anything I knew. I was basically completely out of my comfort zone.



On the first day we arrived it was ridiculously hot. We were both exhausted from the long journey. When we arrived at the action centre where we would be staying I could feel myself becoming choked with emotions. Thoughts like, "How am I going to do this?" "It's so far from anything I have ever done before". I was in an emotional meltdown. Jason and I were shown to our room and the sight of the mosquito nets and the African appearance of the room sent me into emotional turmoil. I sat on the cold hard floor surrounded by our unopened luggage and tears just started flowing. I couldn't stop them. I had never felt like this before. After a time, as the tears began to letup, I looked up and realised that Jason was in the exact same state as me. I had been so overwhelmed that I had not noticed that Jason had sat on the floor in front of me and was also wrecked with tears. We didn't need to speak to one another, I looked in his eyes and he looked in mine and we both knew exactly what each other was feeling. It was as though I was looking in a mirror of myself. 


Time passed and eventually we spoke giving voice to all that had been choked by emotions. I felt isolated like I had been dumped on a desert island. The yearning for home was overwhelming. I almost felt the physical sickness of being homesick. I also felt disorientated, like I was out of touch with reality. The feelings were so strong and I couldn't help but say what was continuously going round and round in my head, "I want to go home". Jason immediately agreed with me. I had never seen him look so uneasy. We were called for dinner but neither us felt like we could eat or move. We were both paralysed and stuck. Our leader Kheelie (who is also a Christian) came in as she felt prompted to pray for us. That prayer was such a blessing. We needed a lifeboat to cling on to as we felt like we had been stranded at sea and was drowning. The prayer started to draw my attention back from the towering fear that loomed over me and I was able to eat the dinner that had been made for us.


The feelings still raged within though and as the evening drew on another wave of homesickness hit. This time though it hit Jason really bad. Now one thing I should mention here is that before we flew out to Africa Jason had an extremely difficult experience. On the day we were flying we had to take our first dose of malaria tablets. I found this a hard thing to do as I don’t like having to take medication. I was the one who felt anxious about it. We decided to take the malaria tablets at lunchtime with some food. I took mine first shortly followed by Jason. Jason was standing up when he took them and seconds after he swallowed he said, “I feel dizzy” and then fell on the floor. I was in complete shock. I rang an ambulance but then he started to come round so there was no need of an ambulance. About 10 minutes later he was walking around but he still didn’t feel great. We rang for advice and was told to go to Accident and Emergency at the hospital. By now we were both totally convinced that it was the malaria tablets that had caused this reaction. My mum drove us to the hospital and all thoughts of Africa had gone out the window. I had never seen Jason in such a state. There was a long wait at the hospital and Jason’s mum came which I was so grateful for. I was then able to go back home and try to get ready for Africa even though I still didn’t know what was wrong with him. By about 3pm he text me saying that the doctors said it was anxiety. I was shocked again. I was the one who had been suffering with anxiety, who had panic attacks and had to walk out of certain situations. When he got home it was nearly 4pm and we needed to be at the airport by 6pm at the latest. Now we had another new challenge to face, were we going to make our flights?


We did make our flights with plenty of time. I have no idea how we made it but we did! So the challenges we had faced before we even got to Africa were numerous. That first night Jason was feeling anxiety once again and was struggling to know how to deal with it. In many situations where I have suffered I have never told anyone about it. In other places we probably would have kept the struggle we were having to ourselves and then it would have continued growing and eventually we would have given up and gone home. So I said to Jason, “I’m going to go and tell the others that we are struggling, it might make us feel better”. So I went to Kheelie and told her everything. Kheelie, Rachael, Anna, Jason and I all sat together that night and shared it all. So much of God’s grace was there that night. So I thank these people for just walking alongside us and loving us. As we went to bed that night Jason said to me, “I never really understood your anxiety but I get it now and its horrible”. I had never felt closer to him than I did that night.


Beginnings are always hard, so much harder than endings and the beginning of our journey was testing. We slept soundly though on that first night and woke up much more refreshed the next day. With every passing day we began to get more and more used to the living conditions in Africa. I stopped bothering trying to clean my feet every five minutes, I got used to the cold water in the showers, I got used to doing a bug check every night inside my mosquito net tent, I got used to always having sweaty hands and I didn’t bother wearing make-up. I got used to walking through the village shouting Jambo to everyone and I got used to the crazy traffic in Mombasa and travelling by Tuk Tuk or Matatu. We also started to acclimatise to the heat and was blessed with some rainy days which cooled it down a bit. However the hardest part, in terms of living conditions, was the stomach issues. As the days went on the stomach problems began to get a lot worse. The biggest problem was that we didn’t know exactly what was causing it as it could have been a number of things. The malaria tablets we take have a very common side effect of diarrhoea. However also the food we were eating was a lot of beans etc which also could have affected us and of course there is traveller’s diarrhoea too. There were a couple of days where I felt too weak to go out and was struggling in the heat to cope with it. Since I have come home I have still had the same thing so we think it is the malaria tablets but I am glad to say we finish them today!


Even though adjusting to the living conditions in Africa was hard, the experiences we had were so worth it all! If I had to narrow it down to which three experiences were my favourite it would have to be the feeding program, teaching at Noah’s Ark school and bonding with the children from Casuarina House. The children at Casuarina House are so special, it was such a blessing to individually get to know each child and see the beautiful variety of personalities. Even though each child had such a bad start to their lives, you can see how they have transformed from orphan to daughter or son, of knowing that they are loved for who they are. It was wonderful to give to them the books which we had brought with us and see them get excited but what was even more extraordinary to me was how they opened their hearts to us. On the final night of being with them, they just covered us in love in their own way and it made me realise that this whole trip had been worth it just for that moment. I will never ever forget it.


Teaching at Noah’s Ark was also incredible and once again my heart just melted under the love that each person had. I particularly enjoyed the second visit we made to Noah’s Ark as the children recognised us then and were glad to see us come back. We taught some of the older children that day and after doing reading with them I tried a different activity. I drew my face on the board and wrote my name underneath and said, “Can you draw your own face and write your name underneath?” Even though these children could speak and understand English very well it took a long time to communicate what I was asking them to do. Many children got confused and copied my face. So I ended up drawing a mouth, a face, a nose and eyes on the board and said, “These are all parts of your face, can you use those parts to draw your own face?” Some children eventually understood and got creative drawing their own face but others still couldn’t grasp it. I said to Jason afterwards that it was sad that the children aren’t really encouraged in that side of learning, of being creative. It was just an observation we made while we were there. Education is so important there that I think it can often be seen as a means to an end which we can understand as it is so necessary to improve your life.


The feeding program was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. We had the opportunity to do it twice on both Saturdays we were there. To serve these children by giving them their food was so rewarding. Each child who came up would look at you and you could almost see exactly how they were feeling in their eyes. Some look tired and care-worn, others hasty, some looked grateful and others even managed to smile and look joyful. The smaller children would come in holding the hand of their sibling and would lift up their bowl that was so large in their tiny hands. They would gaze up at you in a kind of awe. Even now when I look back on it, I wish I had cuddled them more and been more open with my love. It felt harder to show these children love because a part of me felt paralyzed by their need of food. Yet I realised afterwards that they need love just as much. I learnt a valuable lesson there.



By the end of the two weeks in Africa, Jason and I had got very comfortable with the African way of living. We missed home, family and some home comforts but there was something that had grabbed our hearts in Africa. As we sat in Mombasa airport waiting for our flight to be called I once again had the same feeling I had on my first day in Africa. I looked at Jason and said, “I’m going to miss Kenya” and he said, “Me too…Uh oh we are getting homesick for Kenya!” A huge part of me didn’t want to return to western culture. I had felt so close to God during the whole trip and my heart was cracked open…

Monday, 13 June 2016

Africa...

Oh how I have missed blogging!! Its been three months since I wrote my last blog and it has just been incredible how much has occurred since then! However I write this blog today, the day before we fly out to Africa! For Jason and I this is such a humongous thing! For a start we have never been abroad before, we have only experienced an hour flight to Inverness and with all the issues of anxiety that surfaced for me last year I never dreamed in a million years I would be stepping out on such a life changing trip tomorrow.


Our flights are at eight pm tomorrow so we will be doing most of the flying through the night and then we arrive at Ethiopia around five am. We then have to wait at Ethiopia airport for five or six hours before we board the last flight to Mombasa airport in Kenya. We should arrive in Kenya around one pm ish and then we will be making our journey towards the village of Utange. Utange (according to Google maps) is about 50 minutes from the airport.


We will be spending two weeks in Kenya, staying in an action centre which will have basic facilities. Our main job will be in helping the local community by teaching or assisting at the local school, helping with the Feed500 programme, farming the land etc. Also, however, the money raised will be going towards building a high school as education tends to finish after primary school. Jason and I have collected together lots of books ranging from children's books to young adult. I also added a few classic books by authors such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen (I couldn't help myself hehe!) I feel so blessed to be able to give these, from someone who is a book lover and English student, it feels amazing to provide others with something we really take for granted in this country!

Most importantly though, I have been really challenged this year to think about the way my life is but also how I yearn for it to be. I know that this trip will really further challenge what God has began in me. We live in a culture that focuses on me, myself and I quite a lot and it can be a struggle at times to not be influenced or shaped by that. Yet in going to Africa, a place where people struggle for the simple things such as water or food, will humble my heart and humble my eyes and I know Jason feels the same way which is why we both made the decision to go on this trip. We want our lives to be changed radically by Jesus and our hearts are open to that!

We were really blessed last night at Revolution by the prayers from our Church and we are so thankful to have such an amazing Church. So please keep us in your prayers over the next two weeks while we take such a huge step of faith!