Running the race….

This is probably a bit of re-write of things I have written about previously but I feel so passionately about this stuff that it is often on my heart. I think it is a subject we need to be thinking about more and working out how to do better.

Community. Relationships. Belonging.

Last week I ran the Sheffield 10k – to many not that bigger a distance, but for me on that particular Sunday it might as well have been a marathon. I had felt sick, with a really ropey stomach the whole of the week before, which only furthered my anxiety about the whole thing. The fact I was running for an amazing charity and had sponsorship riding it on meant I was heaping even more pressure on myself. Bless those (mainly my lovely workmates) in the week leading up to the race who had had to deal with me because I was a bit of a mess, mainly fuelled by anxiety. It was totally irrational but very real nonetheless.

I did it though, I didn’t run as fast as I normally do, as I had to keep stopping as my stomach ached, but I survived and got to the end. I know though that I probably wouldn’t have got to the end if it hadn’t been for those cheering me on. Some were people I know and love others complete strangers. At around the 3k mark were the cheering squad from the charity I was running for, and a few hundred meters on some of my church family, out on the steps of our church. As I had pushed myself up the two hills on the course and was on a downward stretch I saw a figure jumping up and down and screaming “go on Becky you can do it”, my precious colleague, Sarah, and then just round the corner another colleague, again shouting encouragements, and then further down the road old friends and neighbours all spurring me on. By the time I got to the last kilometre I was feeling pretty rough and a girl in the same t-shirt as me, so also running for the same charity, a girl I didn’t know, just looked at me and said “lets keep going, we are nearly there.” I then heard shouting saying “don’t give up, you are so nearly there” and it was one of my best friends, Rach, who is one of those crazy running types that loves it and runs like a gazelle. She had run the race and then run back along the course to find me and shout me on. Rach is one of my biggest cheerleaders in life.

I also loved watching other runners as I ran, some were physically pushing each other forward, other’s were looking back for friends to check they were ok and others putting their hands out for others to pull them on towards the end.

What an analogy of what our communities should look like.

I had literally worked myself up into such a state about this race, partly because I felt so rough, that I was dreaming about the route. Roads I know so well. Roads I have grown up with. Roads I have run lots of times before. One night a few nights before the race I believe God really spoke to me in a dream (which happens rarely for me) – I could see different parts of the routes, and it was as if God was showing me how our lives are like that route.

The bible talks about our life being like a race, that we are moving towards the finish line, that finishing line being heaven, and going home to be with out heavenly father.

Our lives are made up of a crazy mix of good times, times when we feel like we flying and all is well with the world and hideously hard times when life feels incredibly painful, confusing and a little bit, or maybe a whole lot scary. In between there are those normal, ordinary times, where we just moving forward.

Those hills on that route were tough, it was a fight to keep going and get up them, it took all my willpower not to give up, to not sit on the side of the road and say “enough”, or at one point to take a short cut which was downhill/flat, but I struggled on to the top knowing that there were gloriously flat and downhill stretches waiting at the top. I loved those downhill stretches, those brief moments of that run that I really enjoyed, where I remembered why I run. Those moments where I felt fully alive. Then there was those flat bits which felt neither awful nor amazing, there were just there, just ok.

It was as if God through that dream was reminding me that life was just like that route, of those times where it takes every ounce of strength to keep going and not to give up, of those times where you feel on top of the world, bursting with all the goodness life has to offer and those times where you are just getting on getting on. Then on the day itself God reminded me yet again of the beauty of community, of belonging and of relationships. That they are so precious and so important in running this crazy race that is life. We need to be constantly pushing each other forward. We need to be stretching our hands out for each other, to be pulling each other forward. We need to be shouting those encouragements, to be on the sidelines of each other’s lives, spurring each other on, saying:

“Come on you can do this.”

“You are doing brilliantly.”

“You are more than enough, you are good enough.”

“Don’t give up.”

“Keep going.”

“I am proud of you.”

Just before we started the race I was stood with some of the guys from church and one of them asked whether he could pray a Runner’s Creed over us. It was a really special moment and the words were so powerful. They obviously relate to physically running a race but could so easily be about the race we run in terms of our lives:

“I am a Christian Runner.

I will never quit. I will encourage those around me. I will persevere. I will pray. I will push. I will see Victory.

I will not compare myself to others. I am bettering my former self and the only opinion that matters is Christ’s.

I have good days and not-so-good days. But all my days are God-days.

I am not defined by pace or distance. I am defined by who I am.

I will be thankful for the ability to run. I will celebrate every moment, every mile, every personal record because they are blessings I refuse to take for granted.

I believe that God has equipped me for what is ahead and that no matter how or when I finish, if I run for Him, I win every time.

I will trust God to get me to the finish line… not just on race day, but on that day when my race on earth is over and I am welcomed home.

I don’t run for personal glory, recognition, medals or the calories burned. I don’t run for bragging rights or bucket list accomplishments.

I run Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone.

I am a Christian Runner.”

My race that day didn’t look particularly impressive or pretty but I don’t think that’s the point, I ran and I finished and that is all God asks of us, that we do our best and we do it together, encouraging and loving each other forward.

Thank you God for little mermaids

The other day as I was out on a run I passed two ladies arm in arm, one was younger, the other older. I presumed they were mother and daughter. They weren’t walking particularly quickly, they just seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, as they walked together through the woods. I am not sure why but watching them made me tear up. I just sensed a preciousness in that moment. Maybe for them it was a very ordinary day and maybe their conversation wasn’t anything particularly special but there felt like there was something holy about it. I had a desire to be able to hold that moment in time for them. I wondered about how they would long for those walks and those conversations when the time came, one day in the future, when they could no longer walk or talk to each other. I have a slightly morbid outlook on life at times.

It was a moment that stirred my heart to want to learn to engage with and savour those precious moments more. Time is racing by so fast I don’t want to look back and regret missing things that really mattered.

Last week at the weekly children’s swimming lesson, aka being tortured in a very hot building full of lots of small people, who are tired, hungry and pretty hideous, there was a little girl sat on a bench. I would guess she had just turned 3 and she had really round cheeks covered in freckles. On the bottom half of her body was a long tight bright green skirt in the shape of a mermaid’s tail. The sight made me happy. Again a small child in dressing up clothes is not that unusual but she made me smile so much I had to say to her mum how the sight of her had made my day. She explained it had been her birthday the day before and she refused to take her new mermaid costume off. The mum went on to unzip the top her little girl had on to reveal a little pink bikini mermaid top. The little girl then stood up to leave and I couldn’t stop myself laughing out loud because the skirt was so tight she could only move her legs in the smallest of movements. It was one of the funniest, happiest sights I had seen in a while and kept me laughing for a good few hours afterwards, to the point Lucy kept asking “you are laughing at that little mermaid aren’t you?”

I love photos. John used to ask me whether it was really necessary to have photos on the wall of every person I had ever spoken to. That’s a slight exaggeration but there are a lot of photos in our house. Something has changed this year though because the photos on my phone used to be of a whole mixture of people and things but this year there is one subject which has taken over. My little nine month old niece – I get sent photos of her on a near daily basis and I cannot get enough of them. Her little face is one of my favourite things and fills my heart. Every now and then a video gets sent and I watch it over and over, her little nonsensical sounds and her laughter are often the best noises I hear all day.

As God has been challenging me to learn to rest he has also been challenging me to see beauty in the small things, as well as in the very special people and moments I so often take for granted. I don’t want to be so busy I don’t have time to properly stop and really enjoy the things and people around me but I know I do. So often I end a conversation and I know I haven’t engaged as fully as I should because my mind is on what I have to do, or something I am worrying about.

In the summer my friend, John, told me I spent too much time on my phone. I know how much it frustrates him as I know his wife, Rach, drives him crazy for the same reason. It left me with a horrible feeling I couldn’t shake because I knew he was right. Last Friday night I had dinner with John and Rach, and as I arrived I put my phone in my bag and left it there for the evening. We had such a lovely evening, really properly talking life, love, work, children, faith – it was the sort of conversation I love – real, vulnerable and engaged.

I want to find my way to a simpler life. I want to learn how to slow down. I want to learn to put the phone down more. At the moment I feel such a longing for more vulnerability, more depth and more adventure rather than racing from one thing to the next and rarely going below the surface with people or being so busy or tired that I fail to see the amazing people and moments in front of me.

I wonder whether if by learning to see and appreciate those small moments more, like a chubby little mermaid, we will find more of a peace and a stillness. That actually if we stop racing around to get more and do more we will find more. I dare to guess that probably it is those small seemingly insignificant moments combined with those moments of real engagement with those around us, of having time to be real and available that lead to a greater connection with our maker and each other, which makes us feel more alive than any full diary, or great career, or big bank balance ever could.

Let yourself rest….

img_5176A couple of weeks ago a friend challenged me that I needed to learn to rest. Not just physically rest but to take some rest from all the stuff that fills my head, all the things and people I carry around up there and worry about. I don’t take challenge well, in fact I felt annoyed because I didn’t feel like I particularly needed to rest, and I told them so but they remained firm. This particular friend is always full of challenge, you seek wisdom and come away with a fair share of that wisdom but with more questions to work through and process than you had to begin with and that is just the way they intend it to be. Whilst sometimes I hate it I couldn’t be more thankful for that wisdom and challenge.

Ever since that discussion the challenge of rest has been going round my head. How do I rest? Do I rest enough? What should rest look like? How do you rest when you have so many things and people needing your time and care?

My child hates that I make our lives so busy, I am someone who needs people and activity to fill my life, in contrast she is more than happy to be at home, playing and just being in her own space. So about a week after said challenge/discussion/cross words (all on my part!) about learning to rest she asked me what the next few weeks looked like in terms of what we had on and the levels of busyness and as I went through what was a manic month she groaned and pleaded with me to stop filling up every spare minute of time.

As always when the same thing comes at me from different angles I know probably God is trying to say something to me.

I don’t think I am on my own either. I look at the majority of my friends and peers and see exhausted faces looking back at me, so many of the conversations we have are about how tired we all are. And so I have been wondering and reflecting on whether there are lessons I need to learn about how to rest well, and making intentional choices around rest.

Why do I find being busy so much easier than being quiet and still? Why is rest so difficult for me? I have realised I am not very good at resting and I think it for a number of reasons.

  • Years of living at break neck speed, in a culture that tells us we always need to be achieving otherwise we are showing weakness and failure have set patterns in my life that aren’t particularly healthy. In some twisted way I think I see a full and busy life as some sort of mark of success and achievement, that actually if I have a day ahead with nothing in it then there is something not quite right. I think we are told that we need to be working hard to achieve something, and in our spare time we need to be running marathons or climbing mountains, as well maintaining lovely homes and having an active and fulfilled social life, and somewhere in the midst of that you need to be parenting children well, and maintaining good relationships. I guess its no big surprise that we end up exhausted.
  • A much more personal reason for me is that actually resting and let time and space fill my head and heart is often a reminder of what and who is missing from my life. From the moment John died it has just been easier to fill life to the brim because it made missing him that bit easier but those habits have followed me into the future without him and I am not sure that they are particularly good habits.
  • And when it comes to resting in my head, that is a whole different ball game, and probably a lot more complicated. When said friend challenged me to set down the things I normally hold so tightly for just a week, to let God have them, well I realised that I hold so tightly because actually I struggle to trust God has them, that he is in control, that he loves the people I love much more than I do.

I am very good at reflecting but putting those thoughts into practice not so good at. On Wednesday night I was waiting to pick Lucy up from a group and a text arrived from a friend saying that she would be at mine in 20 minutes as we were meeting some other friends to go out for dinner. I responded with a swear word (a bad habit of mine!) saying I thought dinner was at 8pm and not 7.30pm, that I was a good 20 minutes away from home, that Lucy had not been fed or showered and that the babysitter was not turning up until 7.45pm, that she should go ahead without me and I would be there when I could. I ended up rocking up to the restaurant half an hour late, my food having been ordered for me, with a stress headache which meant I hardly said a word all evening.

I would love to say that such incidents are one offs but they aren’t.

I am realising that without proper rest I don’t enjoy life as much, I disengage, I am grumpy and irritable, I don’t listen as well and am just really tired a lot of the time.

I think God has been very clearly saying to me slow down, be intentional in how you spend your time. Only yesterday we were talking at work about living simpler lives, lives with more room for joy and laughter, lives with more room for generosity and that challenge came at me full force all over again.

I need time in my week in good solid blocks to take myself off and be with God, I need time to run and I need time to properly engage with people. I need to learn to say no. I need to learn to be happy with space and quiet time. I need to learn to make wiser choices. I need to learn to enjoy free days.

There are so many things I want to do, dreams I want to pursue, relationships I want to invest in but it has been a revelation to me that actually I am not going to be able to do any of those things well unless I rest, unless I stop. For me creativity is not going to flow out of stress and exhaustion. Being able to care well isn’t going to be within my capacity if I am not even caring for myself well. Good decisions and rational responses are not going to flow from my manic, crazy days.

So here’s to the challenge of rest, of learning to slow down, of not losing the things that really matter and bring us life in the sea of everything else, of precious friends who aren’t scared of standing up to us and to the wisdom of children.

This is the one

Hey Sweetheart

So Linz turned 40 yesterday! 40! It’s starting we are beginning to reach the middle years and you you so and so are eternally 28. I think in some perverse way there would be a big part of you that would take great delight in being the one who stays young whilst the rest of us get older, rounder, greyer and more wrinkled.

It was a brilliant party but you don’t need me to tell you that – it’s Linz you know that it would always be a big celebration. There are not many moments these days where I really miss you or really long for you, don’t get me wrong I miss you all the time, you are so much part of me and who I am, you are such an integral part of the framework of my thinking and my being – I am not very good at articulating it but you will always be in the very fabric of who I am but life has moved on, so much has changed, things are busy and so there are few moments when I am hit with a strong need for you – but last night was one of those times. Not in a sad way just in a way that you felt close. Last night I remembered again how much I liked you. I am not one of those people that senses the presence of lost loved ones but last night you felt so close.

You were in every song, I could just imagine you on that dance floor – Stone Roses, Oasis they were all there – but again you know that. These were your people and I was very definitely the odd one out in terms of music tastes. You were in the pictures all over the walls. But most importantly you were in our hearts. We remembered Linz’s 30th celebrations, I was pregnant and too sick to go and you had come in in the early hours, a little worse for wear and I had given you some earache and you asked me not to be cross because you had had such a brilliant night dancing with your best friends. One of my last memories. We talked about how you are always with us, how we think of you often, of how much we loved you, of how you were “our John”. Know how much Chris misses you – we just held each other for a long time last night no words were needed we just knew.

Last night was not only a celebration of a wonderful, beautiful, crazy girl turning 40 it was a celebration of friendship, of memories, of life – so there was laughter, so much dancing and singing and you should have been right there with us, I will always feel a bit cross about that but you were very much there in our hearts.

So this morning I am sat here with Stone Roses on full blast, pretty teary but thankful, thankful that we got to have the times we had with you, thankful for the memories, thankful that we all shared a love than means in some ways it will always hurt a little bit but which means that it was big enough to still miss. You were such a good one, Chris said to me last night that you were different, that you didn’t give a fig about money or status, you loved me and you loved other people and that was what guided you and that in that was someone so special. He was right.

Last night my heart needed to be reminded of the past, it needed to be reminded that you had loved me and of all the fun we had. So this morning is one of those mornings where I wish that heaven had visiting hours, and instead I am indulging myself in writing to you – I remember mum saying when she had stuff she really wanted to tell her Dad after he had gone she told God and asked him to tell him – so today I am asking God to tell you thank you, thank you for taking such good care of my heart, for loving it so well, and reminding me when my heart is feeling a little vulnerable and battered that you had thought it precious and always been so careful with it. Thank you too for all these years on still being able to make me smile, what I wouldn’t give for the chance to see you on that dance floor one last time.

Love you x

For you have redeemed me, you have called me by name

So its very late at night and really I should be sleeping, but my head and my heart feels so full of the last few days that I know I needed to start writing to process it all.

On Saturday a precious friend married her lovely man. It was a remarkable day in so many ways, mainly because they are a pretty remarkable couple – it was full of fun, laughter, love, lots of music and a shed load of rain. Think fields and tepees, rain, rain and more rain, and a whole lot of mud. I spent a large percentage of the day wet and cold which is not something I normally love but it didn’t matter. My heart was left overwhelmed and not just because it was a great day but because of the stories that led to that day and what that day was a culmination of.

I have known my friend for over 15 years, she is part of my “framily”, of the precious community of people who are my people. She is quirky, and all things lovely, my child like all children think she is amazing for many reasons including her creative abilities to think of the most random games which she tirelessly and patiently plays with them over and over again. Her lovely man I have known since he came into her life about 3 years ago and he has blessed our “framily” so immensely in that time.

It would have been easy to sit there on Saturday and be swept along in all the love and warm feelings of the day, to think it was all about the happiness and the joy, and that was totally what Saturday was all about, but it would have been easy to forget the paths that got these two precious people to that day, paths which have been tough and painful at so many times over the years. Theirs are stories which include loss, tragedy, waiting a flipping long time, loneliness, and dark days.

There are so many things that I could list about why Saturday was an amazing day, but the one think that stands out above it all, the thing that has blown me away and left me unable to sleep (not that it takes a lot) is what a story of redemption it is.

Now they aren’t my stories to tell in detail but I sat in that church on Saturday remembering so many tough times for my friend, so many times of waiting and wondering where God was in it all and here we were celebrating God bringing two people together, two people who could not be more suited to each other, two people who have had to overcome so much and face their fears and take big leaps of faith. They acknowledged on Saturday, all the way through the day, that it was a day of redemption, of God’s turning around of situations, of God’s second chances, of God making tough places beautiful again.

I loved looking around on Saturday and seeing such an eclectic and crazy bunch of people, people this couple have walked life with, people who stood at what was a pretty epic and amazing open mike of words, singing and laughter, telling the stories of these two from their perspective, of people testifying of the redemption they could see in their lives.

It is such a powerful story and one I am so grateful to have been able to watch.

“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43 vs.1).

I have said this before and I have no doubt I will say it again but I love the way that when God is trying to tell me something, challenge me or remind me of something he shows me in so many different ways. So last week I got the privilege of playing a tiny part in another amazing story of redemption, another story of loss and tragedy, of unresolved pain and grief, which after 30 years God is healing up, where I can see freedom, forgiveness and God’s power shining through in amazing ways. Again it blew me away because actually there is nothing more amazing than seeing God show up and turn situations around – it is an inexplicable feeling which words can’t do justice to.

Then in the last few weeks I have had to put together a piece of writing for a potential project, something which has bought all my fears and self doubt to the surface. It is a project which may come to nothing and if it doesn’t then that is fine because actually there has been real power in the preparation, in the process – as I have written the words of the last ten years of my life I can see God at work all the way through the story, I have seen come off the pages the truth and reality that although it has been so incredibly painful at times, and although it feels like God has taken so long to put me back together, with me feeling so forgotten at times, he has been there all along bringing me back to life, slowly (well at least in my timescales) but surely, small steps but in a deep way, so many lessons learnt, so many riches in the midst of it. Mine is a story of redemption, of God turning around, of rebuilding, of restoring. I asked one of my best friends to read what I had written because I needed some reassurance, a friend who has walked more closely with me than any other, and part of her response was to remind me of bits of the stories I had forgotten, to point me more clearly to the ways God has bought healing and freedom. Again I was left a little overwhelmed at his goodness.

I have been reminded again that nothing is impossible, that however hard the situation it doesn’t have to be the end of the story, that with God there is always a way out. ALWAYS. There are always second chances. ALWAYS. That beauty can always come from the pain. ALWAYS. It never normally looks like we think it should do, it is not normally in our timescales and generally it will not be all easy roads to get there but there is always hope. ALWAYS.

As I looked around on Saturday and as I have reflected since it wasn’t just the story of redemption that blew me away but it was the lessons learnt in the midst of the wait, it was the compassion birthed as a result of the pain, it was the relationships forged and deepened because of the tough times. I looked at my friends coming together, knowing that because of what bought them to that point it will shape who and what they do going forward, there is such love and compassion because of what has happened in their lives and I know that they will not allow that pain to be wasted because I know that they will invest into many people’s lives things they can only invest because of what they have had to walk.

My heart also came away full because I get to do life with people who are real and vulnerable – we have walked the hard roads together, we have held each other up, we have listened to each other, we have cried together, we know each other’s stories, we are inextricably part of each other’s stories and I love that so much. And because of that we get to celebrate the good stuff together and those celebrations are so much the sweeter because of it.

That wedding on Saturday is not the end of the story – these stories have lots more pages to be lived and redemption will be an on-going process for them and for us all, but there is nothing I would rather put my hope in that redemption and the one who gives it to us with such grace and love because hand on heart there is nothing that makes me feel more alive.

Our father in heaven……


I wonder if I say the word prayer what it means to you. Is it something you ever do or ever even think about? Is it something that simply happens when something big happens and when life feels desperate?

I may not be great at much in this Christian lark, I wrestle, I struggle, I doubt, I don’t know my bible as well as I should but the one thing I always come back to, the one thing I love and the one thing that without doubt always roots me, brings me peace and brings perspective is prayer.

I am no expert at prayer. There have been reams written on the subject over the years and I am sure there will be reams more written before the end, all by people much clever than I am. I am no great theologian in any sense of the word – I am all about the heart, all about the feelings and emotions but what I do know is that prayer links me back home and it changes situations.

I could write a very long list of all the prayers I have seen answered over the years, some small, others big and pretty amazing, and plenty in the middle. At the same time there are many prayers I haven’t seen answered. I don’t know why God answers some prayers and not others, I don’t get why sometimes it’s a yes and sometimes it feels like there is silence or a very definite NO! God is God, his ways are bigger and better than mine, sometimes my heart’s desires, the things I am praying for are clearly not in line with what God wants, sometimes they are simply not good for me or for others and sometimes there just seems to be no rhyme or reason.

What I do know is this:

  • If I go too long without hiding myself away, in my own quiet space, to talk to God, to listen to him and to just be with him I feel it. I feel the struggle getting stronger, I don’t feel quite so peaceful and I certainly get more anxious and lose perspective a lot more easily. I need to be with him. I need to give it all to him, to tell him all about it. I need to hear what his heart is saying, what he wants me to hear and to do. Sometimes I need to wrestle and cry, sometimes I need to say thank you because my heart feels full, sometimes I know I just need to tell him I have messed up and to say sorry – at other times it is a mixture of all of those things and much more.
  • I may not get the answers to my prayers I want or think I need instantly or at all but I know that prayer changes my spirit. It gives me a peace and perspective that reassures my heart again, it lifts my soul heavenwards, helps me fix my eyes on Jesus and whispers to me again that whatever is going on, whatever is happening it is going to be ok, because God knows and he has got it. It reminds me that God is bigger than it all. Like many people I woke up early on the morning after the EU Referendum and checked the news – within 15 minutes we were having a discussion on our Family WhatsApp and I felt dread fill my heart, I felt scared for the future and depressed about what was to come. It was a feeling I couldn’t shake and the more I read and watched and listened to and the more conversations I had the greater the anxiety grew. I knew I needed to just be with God, to hear what he was saying, not the world, not even the people around me who I love and trust but him. His ways are bigger than ours. He is bigger than this situation. Once I talked to him and let those truths settle in my heart I had my perspective back and knew whatever came it would be ok because he was in control.
  • Prayer changes things. One of my favourite stories of God’s faithfulness at the moment is that of one of my best friend’s. My friend and her husband have a son, who will soon be 7. An amazing, full of life and life giving little boy. But my friend’s family did not feel complete, her strongest longing was for another child but it wasn’t happening. There were miscarriages and many years of simply nothing. So many prayers were prayed, all around the world. This precious friend has only been in my life for the last few years but she is one of those rare finds of a friend that has your heart from the beginning, and from early on she shared her story with me of longing and hoping for that second child. I felt like I went into battle praying for that child and prayed many prayers in the silence of my room as well as praying over and over with my friend. I know I wasn’t alone in that battle that many others battled in prayer for them too. Trusting God, claiming that child, asking him in his goodness to provide. At the beginning of this year my friend laid down the dream of having another child and accepted she would simply only ever have one child. It was an incredibly painful process – she sold or gave away all her baby equipment and asked God to show her what he had for her instead. She had rightly let it go because she felt like she had come to the end of the line with it but something in me kept asking and kept fighting believing nothing was impossible for God. Then 2 months later in the middle of the working day I got a message from my friend which was a picture of a positive pregnancy test with the text “When God has a sense of humour………………” – my first response was “but you’ve sold all your baby stuff” and then I cried tears of pure joy.  God had answered all those years of prayers and that little one will be here come the autumn.
  • Prayer changes things, prayer works, prayer is powerful. I say that knowing there are possibly people reading this who have prayed and prayed for similar situations and the outcome has not been such a celebration. I know those situations are painful, so painful that your heart breaks over and over again. I prayed and prayed those 4 hours John was lying on a hospital bed desperately ill but God didn’t save him in the ways I wanted and the consequences of those unanswered prayers were life shattering and life changing. Likewise I prayed for 3 years that my Dad would be healed, that the cancer would be gone from his body but he wasn’t healed. I don’t know why in those cases those prayers didn’t get answered. There is a tension, a tension that is very hard to explain but I have seen too many situations changed, people’s lives transformed and healings come through prayer to ever stop. I am learning very slowly to trust, to trust that God knows best and that if I put a situation in his hands and ask him to work and take control he will, trusting that whatever outcome he brings he is in it and knowing that in the process he will change me and bring me closer to him.
  • Nothing is too big or too messy for God, nothing is too bad or too difficult for him. He can turn any situation around, he can bring beauty and hope and healing out of the most broken of situations and lives but it all starts with prayer. It starts in making yourself vulnerable before him, by being honest and real. He is not looking for fancy, clever, articulate sentences – he wants to hear your heart. I have spent so many hours in prayer crying, shouting, and questioning. God is big enough to take it all, he just wants us to come to him, to give it to him in whatever state it comes.
  • Prayer builds community, as you pray with people it builds trust and vulnerability and something so beautiful can come from that. I love being in communities where we pray together. It is often during those times were special things happens, both seen and unseen, where relationships are forged and deepened, where family is built. Sometimes prayer is the only thing I can offer – when situations feel impossible and hard – sometimes all I can is “I am praying for you” but in those moments we feel less alone, we know someone else is standing with us, that we aren’t in it alone, that someone is showing and claiming faith and life and truth on our behalf and what a different that makes in the natural and the supernatural.

So I will probably never be that great at this journey, I have no doubt I will make many more mistakes before I am done, but I know that I will never stop praying, never stop putting my hand in the hand of the one who has it all and always will.





It takes a village

WARNING: this may include an element of smug mumminess – it is not normally something I feel that comfortable in engaging in so forgive me – it hopefully has some level of creative (?!?) purpose.

It’s that time of year again – the summer holidays are finally in sight and I for one can’t wait. I feel so tired that this afternoon I have had to crawl into my bed and have a little afternoon nap. So roll on 7 weeks of not having to make pack lunches (I can’t even put into words how much I hate making pack lunches!!!!!), not racing out the door each morning checking the right clothes are being worn and that right equipment is packed or the right letter has been signed, 7 weeks of not having to ferry from drama to music to swimming to parties. Yes I will still have to get myself to work but that break from all the rest of it feels like a little piece of heaven, a little piece of selfish heaven.

And with this time of year comes the annual school report – my child is no genius, she is very normal, she struggles with some stuff and shines more in other areas but it bought me to tears. It talked about a polite and delightful little girl, a little girl who was always willing to help, always willing to try new things and always gave everything her best. Obviously you want your child to do well and go out and find their way in the world but to some extent the academic stuff is secondary to me – I want to see kindness, generosity, compassion, a spirit of adventure.

If I am being honest there was a moment of pride in myself – single parenting is incredibly hard at times, its incredibly lonely and it can be scary – you feel solely responsible for the way this human being turns out, there is no-one to share that responsibility, no-one to share the amazing bits or the really tough heart breaking bits. So reading that report made me thankful that despite everything that has happened we are doing ok.

I very quickly got over myself though and started to reflect on the fact that getting Lucy to this point, getting her to year 10 of life in a fairly good state wasn’t down to just me.

I remembered that old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child and my heart became full as I thought of the village that had helped me raise my child, for all those people that can take some of the credit.

For her GJ who continually goes above and beyond, who makes numerous sacrifices and who quite frankly neither of us would function very well without. For her other grandparents, here and no longer here, who love her so well. For an uncle who has loved her so beautifully from day one, who makes her feel safe and makes her laugh and a beloved aunt who she knows adores her. For her wider family who encourage her, invest time in her, listen to her.

For her “best adult friend” who has been such a steadfast presence in her life, who has always made her feel special and has been so generous in her time and love. For a whole community who have been her family, her places of belonging, who have provided “siblings”, who have helped her create so many happy memories. For her teachers, an amazing teaching assistant who was a gift in a tough year and will always have a special place in our heart. For her babysitters who have not simply come and put her straight to bed so they could get on with their own thing but who have got down on the floor with her, and played with and talked to her and read to her.

For all those who have prayed for us from day one, and have been so faithful in those prayers, people we know and love well, and those we don’t know at all.

And above all for a heavenly father who has poured out his grace time and time again, over and over – my child has witnessed more of my tears than I would have cared for her to see, she has seen me battle and wrestle more than I would have liked, she has seen more loss, illness and grief than most of her peers but I thank God that in his grace he has protected her, he has used those things to shape her in good ways, and that despite my failings, and there have been many, she is a good and happy kid.

This is not something that I talk about too much because on the whole I have found peace with it but there is a sadness at the children I never got to have, those I didn’t get to love and parent. I would never have chosen to have an only child. However I am so thankful that I didn’t get to love just one child I get to love a whole host of gorgeous kids, who I have loved since the minute they arrived, who I have loved watching grow, who I have prayed for over and over, who have made me laugh and cry, and who I can’t wait to watch become amazing adults. For all those conversations I have had with their parents, about their struggles, their achievements, their character, their friendships. I have loved being part of the village that has helped and will continue to help raise them – because what a privilege that is.

This parenting lark is amazing, it’s a wonderful gift, and I am so so thankful I got the chance to do it but I defy anyone to say it is easy, there are moments that lift your heart as high as it can go but there are plenty of moments that break your hearts into pieces, where the tears flow, or the frustration takes you to breaking point (for me it is usually maths homework) but I am so thankful for that village that I get to do it with. I am thankful for that village because in all honesty it would probably be unbearable without them but I am thankful for them because my child’s life is so much richer because of it. Yes she needs me, I am her number one and I am the centre of her life but I can’t give her everything she needs, and the people that make up her village bring her life, and colour, and experience – different things than I can offer her.

So lets be part of the villages of the children around us, invest and love those children, support and care for their parents, pray for those families because there are very few greater privileges.

Things I wish I had told you

So the other day Simon text me to say he was listening to “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles and thinking of you – you see you are never far from our thoughts. I think I think about you at least 10 times a day, sometimes it is something that reminds me of you, other times it is something I want to tell you and the rest of the time it is simply because you are part of who I am and so therefore never far away.

I can’t believe that in a few days time it will be three years since I last saw you – I remember in those last weeks sitting talking with you and thinking that very soon you were no longer going to be there to do that with but not really being able to get my head round that thought because you had always been there and so I couldn’t understand my world without you in it.

But that day came sooner than we realised – once you had decided it was time to go home you didn’t stick around. One day you were sat in your chair talking to me, the next you were lying in your bed, struggling to talk or breath and it was clear the end was near. I was too scared that day, I was scared of what I knew was coming and so I didn’t say what I wanted to say to you – I knew you knew it but still I wish I had said it. I wish I had climbed onto that bed and lain next to you and told you thank you, thank you for loving me and for always believing in me.

You weren’t perfect, in fact at times you were a total bugger – you could be stubborn and difficult – so many times you drove me to distraction but I wouldn’t have swopped you because I guess for all the times you drove me mad I drove you more mad, for all the times you were difficult I was more difficult. And for all the rubbish times, and there were some, there were so many good times and you gave me and taught me so much.

So now that the dust has settled, and I have healed up I want to tell you what I wish I had told you that day. I want to say thank you for always listening to me, for always understanding and never judging – I miss you most when it comes to making decisions, after John it was you and now you aren’t here either, the silver lining being that I am learning more and more to make those decisions with my heavenly father but nonetheless I miss you. I wonder what you would make of my career change, whether you would be in the camp that thinks I have totally lost the plot or whether you would think it was a good thing. It has been so good for me, and so I hope you would be in the latter camp, but I am not so sure. How I wish I could tell you all about it!

Thank you for always being on my side – when I think of you one of my strongest memories was of your arm never leaving me on the day of John’s funeral and from that moment onwards you fought for me, you told me it was crap and in saying that made me feel understood and safe. I know how hard it was for you to watch me in pain and how much pain that caused you but it showed me how much you loved me, even though the words never came easy for you, and in a funny sort of way I will always be grateful for that.

Thank you for never pushing us, for letting us be who we were and never putting pressure on us – for gently and quietly always being behind us, encouraging us and letting us find our own way.

Thank you for loving my child so much – how proud you would be of who she is becoming and how much fun you would have had with her. She has taken your chair at the table when no-one else could sit in it. And oh my goodness how you would have fallen in love with your new little one – she has bought so much joy in her short 5 months, joy that has been so desperately needed, and if she is a ginger (there are early signs) I think the blame will be firmly falling at your feet!

Thank you teaching me the importance of being kind to people – so many people since you have been gone have talked about what a kind and giving man you were. You were a good man.

Thank you for working so hard to provide for us – there are not many who work harder and who sacrificed so much for their families.

Thank you for sharing my dark sense of humour – there aren’t many people around who get that but you always did and always laughed with me!

Thank you for being brave – you battled so hard and so courageously. You never showed us you were afraid, which I am sure you were, but in that you gave us such a gift. I think part of that courage came from knowing where you were going and your certainty in that and I will forever be thankful for that because it made letting you go easier.

I would have told you, that as I knew would be the case, even before you had gone, there would be such specific things that make you feel near – for Simon it may be Beatles songs for me it is the Carpenters. It is the smell of cigars in your car. A pinstripe suit. A Chelsea boot. Seafood. So many memories.

But most of all I would have said thank you for being my Daddy, how grateful I was for you and how much I love you x

P.S. I got a tattoo – but it is too late for you disinherit me!!!

Who is fighting for you?

IMG_4021A few weeks ago a friend played a song which included the line “ Praise the one who fights for me and shields my soul eternally” – I was so struck by those words that I haven’t been able to quite shake them off and they have been going round my head on loop.

It is probably just me being a bit late to the party but I had never really thought about the fact God fought for me. I know God loves me, that he longs to know me, to be my number one, that he longs to bless me and that he is my protector, my redeemer, my saviour but that he goes into battle for me well that has blown my mind a little.

Fast forward a few weeks on and I hit a situation which hurt my heart and I couldn’t quite place where God was in it all – a situation where I really needed to know God was protecting my heart. One of my best friends in the midst of it sent me a text to say she was praying over me a verse from Exodus (14 vs 14) which says “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” I had never heard that verse before but was immediately taken back to the words of the song.

It started an internal wrestle with God which found me on a weekend run asking God over and over whether he was in fact fighting for me – 3 or 4km of me saying “are you really fighting for me in all of this” over and over and then I just felt in my spirit God say to me “I have fought for you from the first breath you took and I will fight for you until your final breath, many battles that you will never see or never fully comprehend – I have this and I am fighting for you.”

The next day I was flicking through Instagram and again that same verse in bold letters popped up “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Only yesterday with a few hours to spare in London before my train home I went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey – in the midst of the seriousness and old fashioned language the words “I will fighteth for you” jumped right off the page.

I love the fact that God is so patient with me, that when my humanness and my weakness means I struggle to accept a truth he keeps telling me over and over again. The truth that the one who holds the whole universe in his hands fights for little old me! That whatever situation I find myself in he is right there with me, on my side, he has my back and I don’t have to fight or battle because he is doing it for me and his fight is so much better than mine. All I need to do is be still – to be honest that is so much more of a battle for me than letting him do the fighting. I just have to be still, to surrender it to him and to wait and watch.

And as my heart found that peace that he was fighting for me it renewed my fight for people I love who I know need to know he is fighting for them too.

I don’t know what you are battling, big or small, but I know there is one that wants to fight that battle for you, to give you that hope and reassurance knowing he is in control of it and he has the future. All you need do is be still x