Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Closing of 2017...

What a year 2017 has been and as it closes I felt the need to reflect upon it. I can talk about all those big events that have popped up, some unexpected and others come every year, but for me its been the in-between days this year that have been some of the most important. Those days where perhaps nothing special happens, or amazing, perhaps it just seems like an ordinary day. These days are often even more important and I've come to realise it really is the seemingly small things that matter most.

2017 has been a real mixed bag, there have been some incredible lows but some incredible highs and I think sometimes I have found it easier to live in either one or the other. Yet as the year is coming to an end I felt God saying the stuff in the middle matters too, the ordinary days, making time to see family, putting a smile on your face, finishing something you started. Such tiny, small and often unseen things. They matter, they really do.

Just like a tree, standing through all weathers, all days, all year but every day mattered to its growth and the main thing is to see that your tree has grown and thrived even through hardship.

Of course, I have hopes, dreams, prayers waiting to be answered for the new year. Things I feel are growing, new seeds planted, new beginnings and I hope for some old things to have passed away. But I know now that I have to have patience for things to grow and trust the One who is doing the growing. So...2018 I wait for you in joy for the good things I know I will see and have seen this year and I rejoice for my tree is growing!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

My final creative writing piece...

Hope is an Anchor

My mind cracked again, leaking like a shipwreck on the rocks. This time it was bad. I was going to have to start all over again. Somehow, I’d lost my way, lost where I was going. Too fast, everything was too fast. It was out of control. So, I hid away in the quiet, thinking I was safe in this bubble. I gave up trying, letting myself become trapped. The bubble was my enemy and all hope was gone. I was shipwrecked on a wilderness island and the question became— how did I get here? In this barren and empty place where was God? I couldn’t see Him.
Going out grew slowly harder and harder.  I had been able to hide it all before but not anymore, it was surfacing, bubbling up and bursting out. The shops had started to evolve into dark and dangerous places where it wasn’t safe anymore. The noises were so loud, the sensations twisted and exaggerated in my mind. Every noise felt like it was piercing my skull. The lights felt like hospital lights, too bright and burning my eyes.

I started to sit at the very back of the Church, still hiding away. I would watch, almost enviously, as others freely express themselves in worship and song to God. One lady would be gracefully dancing in the corner, her arms floating through the air, leaning the full weight of body back as she would outstretch her whole self to God.  Another found joy in the swishing and whooshing of a brightly coloured flag, waving the banner of the Lord. I wanted to do that. But I couldn’t. How could I dance when I felt so sad?
I remember the day that it started again back in the hot, long summer. We were going to Sainsburys. I felt the usual rush and buzz of the shop’s car park, my mind buried in a list of ‘to dos.’ I could feel the tightness running through me like sparking electricity. Shopping had never been my favourite thing to do. I had always treated it like a mission, armed with my lists, pen and the magic coin that allows you to rent your shopping tank— the trolley.
As usual, Jason, my husband trailed behind me as I regimentally marched through the sliding doors. It was busy that day, so many people everywhere. I internally groaned. My eyes struggled to focus on the blurry words of my list. The tightness clenched its crocodile jaws a little bit tighter. Sweat began to prickle my palms. The people becoming a faceless sea around me of noise. Dodging shopping trolleys, small energetic children, I raced ahead but Jason wanted to look at the technology section. I sighed following him there, temporarily distracted from ‘the mission’.
Whilst standing and waiting for Jason to look at all the latest technology, the tightness grew tighter. I tried to say as forcefully calm as I could, “Come on Jason, we need to get the shopping” but there was a razor-sharp tone in my voice. Jason was lingering and I felt the irritation grow like an itch that you really must scratch. “Come on, we haven’t got time”, my voice grew louder. Something in my tense voice caught his attention, looking up troubled he asked, “Are you alright?” “I’m fine”, I snapped sharply.
Moving up the busy aisles, we grabbed each item, never lingering but pushing forward. Sometimes Jason would come up to me with something and say, “Should we get this?” or “Do you want this?” The hesitation, the indecision grated on me even further, “It doesn’t matter, just get it” I would say and once again I was off to the next packed aisle. Pen tightly in hand I would cross each item off. The cracks in my mind were widening. The crocodile jaws tightening.
As we got to the final item on the list, which I remember was in the freezer aisle, we couldn’t find it. I was pacing up and down looking for it, like it was the end of the world if we never found it, when something started to change within me. A moment ago, I was fast, fast, fast. Hurry hurry hurry! Must keep up! When suddenly the jaws snapped one final time. It was as though I was going into rewind. Everything started to slow down around me, as I was more and more aware of my agitated body and my cracking mind. A shift had taken place, my external surroundings were fading and all I could see was me.
Every single step was starting to feel like I was walking through deep snow, heavy and slow. Jason’s faint voice tried to reach me but I was lost in a fog. I tried to control my breathing, slowing it down but it wasn’t working. My palms were covered in cold sweat and I felt a sudden rush of prickling heat that hit my face. My erratic heartbeat rocketed through my chest. The words rang in a frenzy through my head, “What is happening?” I tried to grip onto something, anything in my mind but it was all at sea. Then the worst of all— the explosion of panic.

This was new to me, I had never felt it like this before. It was as though I was sitting on a bee’s nest, trying to contain the buzz, the building hum of the bees before they exploded out of the nest. My head swam. Panic roared through my chest and up to my throat. I needed to leave right now. “Jason. Please. Give me your keys”, I held my shaking hand out in front of him. Jason was so confused, “Why? What’s wrong?” snatching the keys from his hand I turned around walking in the direction of the door.
My eyes were pricking and stinging with tears. The roar of the sea of people faded, evaporating from around me. It was just me now. I felt a calm beginning to settle upon me, like a layer of fresh snow as our car came in sight. I slumped into the seat, weighed down heavily, despair started tumbling out. I cried so hard that my throat burned. After the tsunami of tears subsided, I rested my head back on the hard headrest. All I could feel now was two things, my head thumping violently and the covering of cold that settled over me.

Then I saw Jason’s figure coming towards the car. I stung with shame. How could I speak to him like I did? How could I just walk out? By the time he got in I was like stone, cold and empty. He touched my hand which felt like fire on ice. We sat in heavy silence for a bit, as though invisible clouds hung between us, puffing and veiling the way back to each other. I felt more tears welling in my eyes and rolling down my icy cheeks.
I could barely look at him but when I did I saw the mixed pain and confusion in his eyes. “What happened?” He asked. My mouth was so dry and my throat so sore I just about managed to croak, “Anxiety”. “I know you’ve had anxiety before but I’ve never seen you like this”, his voice was cracking with unspoken emotions. I had no answers for him at this point. I had crumbled. Sunk. All the way home, I sat in silence, too exhausted to speak and too empty. Rocked by the soothing motion of the car, my sore eyes closed, and I could have escaped into sleep. I felt barren. I felt hopeless.
After that defining day, I started walking out of shops, public places and church. I gave in to fleeing. I gave in to hiding. There had been so many cyclic tears and meltdowns, where day after day merged together into one panicked blur. I lost sight of the days, the months, and all I began to know was how each moment was becoming so painful. How was I going to do it anymore?

Until one day, I was back in the bubble, sitting in the quiet. When I heard that still small voice, a whisper from Him— what am I so afraid of? He let me know that its okay and I saw then, in my heart, that I had to stop running away. His peace settled on my tired and weary heart, and the vast black sky that had stretched before me never-ending, started to light up and explode with bright stars. I had to believe then that my broken mind would be created anew. So, one shop at a time, one place at a time, I started to face it again and it became a little easier. Even though I still get scared, I keep going out and I’ll keep going one step at a time, and with every step I become new.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Hope is an Anchor

Just a little something I wrote for creative writing at University:

Hope is an Anchor

My mind cracked again leaking like a shipwreck on the rocks. This time it was bad. I was going to have to start all over again. Somehow, I’d lost my way, lost where I was going. Too fast, everything was too fast. So, I hid away in the quiet thinking I was safe in this bubble. But the bubble was my enemy.
Going out grew harder and harder.  I had been able to hide it before but not anymore, it was surfacing, bubbling up and bursting out. The shops evolved into dark and dangerous places where it wasn’t safe. The noises were so loud, the sensations twisted and exaggerated in my mind. Every noise felt like it was piercing my skull. The lights felt like hospital lights, too bright burning my eyes.
Every step felt like I was walking through deep snow, heavy and slow. My husband’s voice tried to reach me but I was lost in a fog. I tried to control my breathing, slowing it down but it wasn’t working. I tried to grip onto something, anything in my mind but it was all at sea. Then the worst of all, the explosion of panic.
This was new to me, I had never felt it like this before. It was as though I was sitting on a bee’s nest, trying to contain the buzz, the building hum of the bees before they exploded out of the nest. Panic gripped me. I had to leave.

After that day, I started walking out of shops, places, church. I gave in to fleeing. Until one day, after so many cyclic tears and meltdowns, quiet whispers from Him— what am I so afraid of? I knew I had to stop running away. So, one shop at a time, one place at a time I started to face it and it got easier. Even though I still get scared, I keep going out and I’ll keep going one step at a time.  

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Faith in University

You might think that some of the most obvious difficulties faced in University for a person who is young in faith would be something like coping with a newfound independent life, living away from home or peer pressure, but what about if one of the hardest difficulties turns out to be the course you are actually studying? I chose a degree in English, a degree which I expected to be about literature.

Yet not long after my first year began I started to discover that this degree was going to be a lot harder than I had ever anticipated. It was going to challenge my beliefs and everything that I had built upon before I made the decision to go back into education. After the first couple of months there, I really did consider quitting. I thought perhaps I had made the wrong choice, taken the wrong path.

A month before I had started the first term I had been given my reading list which I had poured over in excitement. All those books!! I could not wait to get stuck into them. Yet even that presented some conflicts. As I got further along in my reading list, I realised that some of the books I was being asked to read were uncomfortable for me and my newfound faith. Books that had issues with sex, pornography etc. One of the worst I had to read in my first year was Money by Martin Amis. I felt like I was being forcibly thrown into a world that I didn't want to immerse myself in.

Yet even this was not that bad, I did feel conflicted but I could cope with it. Until we started to be introduced to literary theory. This was a real obstacle for me. It had never occurred to me that we would be studying any sort of theory for English. I was gradually introduced to feminism, psychoanalysis, postmodernism etc. All of these theories deal with big life questions and in some ways all of them are controversial. Now we use these theories as a rubric for understanding texts. Some texts we would study from a psychoanalytical reading or others a feminist reading.

In my second year, we had a whole module dedicated to literary theory and once again I was tested to keep a clear head as I wrote assignments based on certain readings. In particular, my last assignment was a feminist reading of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, in which I needed to tear apart the institution of marriage and how it traps a woman (which I found quite funny!)

Still all these issues I began to eventually adapt to hoping that somewhere in all this was a purpose. That God was strengthening me through my weaknesses. The last unexpected part of my experience in University was the lecturers who chose to voice their opinions on God very loudly. From my first year, I have had lecturers who have mocked the Bible, who have referred to it as a 'Myth', who have referred to it as Pagan based and who have gone into long academic explanations to show that God is not real.

These moments in class kind of felt quite surreal. The first time it happened I felt a bit shocked but after that, I came to expect it. These kinds of lecturers make it really obvious that they have a problem with Christianity and the hardest thing can be watching my other classmates as I see them making faces of shock and then agreement with the lecturer.

So I decided to write this blog post as I just wanted to share some of the personal conflicts and obstacles I have had to overcome in order to do my degree, and also some unexpected parts of the experience as an English student. These experiences that I've had are really not that bad. I have heard of much worse things in other studies such as Philosophy and even in the movie, God's Not Dead which explores this experience.

I am, however glad that I have gone to University, though it has been a difficult journey. It has strengthened my faith, it has awakened me to healthily question why I believe in God and be more ready to give that answer when asked for. It has also helped me understand that people do have so many questions and lastly that God is unshakeable even when I feel shaken.

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!