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.





What makes you come alive?

IMG_3174The last few weeks I have been asking God lots of questions about what this year is to look like, what he wants me to spend my time doing, where I am meant to be, with whom – I feel like those prayers have been on repeat, over and over and over again. I want to do what God is asking me to do but I am not totally sure what that is.

Every morning as I am straightening my hair I read this little devotional app, called DVO, by an Australian couple – the last week or so has been about calling and destiny and they have asked these questions:

What makes you tick?

What makes your body feel fluid and warm?

What keeps you up at night?

What makes you angry?

What gives you hope?

What captures your attention?

What floods you with light?

What fills you with dread?

I have thought about these questions lots as I have been praying my same prayer over and over. What makes me come alive?

What makes you come alive?

Alongside these reflections and challenges is one of the constant soundtracks of my life which is that of “legacy” – legacy in one context or another has been part of the entirety of my working life. I am an expert in death and all its friends, in more ways than one. This present chapter of my working life finds me in a much more positive aspect of “legacy” and as part of what I do I get the privilege of reading the life stories of people that have supported our charity. I love these stories, as my colleagues will testify, as I am constantly telling them. I love reading about people’s ups and downs, the lessons learnt, what they are remembered for. I wish I could share some of the stories – on the face of it very ordinary lives but leaving extraordinary gifts behind them.

It has really challenged and inspired me – what am I putting down in my life now that impacts on the legacy I will leave when I am gone?

What do you want your legacy to be? If and when someone is reading about your life when you are no longer here what do you want the words to say?

As I have been thinking, wrestling, considering I think a realisation has settled in my heart that actually I don’t need to be great or significant in terms of what I achieve in my life, to leave a valuable legacy. I just need to do what makes me come alive, what God made me to be and do, all with a lot of love, and that in itself will be pretty special.

The other week I was talking to someone about them reaching a big milestone birthday and they were questioning what they had really achieved in their life to date.

Maybe it is just me that falls into this trap, this lie that I need to be achieving something amazing, some big career success, writing a book, being a great speaker, highly creative etc. etc. – to really be shining in something to be creating something of value, to be extraordinary. The truth is I am not extraordinary, I am not particularly really good at any one thing – I am fairly ordinary, fairly mediocre but actually what is settling in my heart is that that is ok, we are not all called to extraordinary, many of us are meant to be ordinary and rather than striving for something we think we should be doing, achieving, or shining in we need to find the thing that God wove into our beings from the beginning, the things he gave us that make us come alive and pursuing those things with all that we are.

It got me thinking about my mum or MJ (Mummy Jane) or GJ (Granny Jane) as she is referred to in our family. MJ is pretty normal, outside of our family and her friends she is nothing out of the ordinary. She has spent the majority of her adult life caring for my Dad, me and my brother and now her grandchildren. She hasn’t had a big career, she hasn’t achieved anything special in the world’s eyes. Only last week my child was poorly and was off school all week and my mum stayed with her the whole week, putting aside all her plans – 5 days of not leaving the house, just sitting with her, cuddling her, reading with her and playing games. This week she is with her new granddaughter, my niece, cooking and cleaning for my brother and sister-in-law, helping them with the baby. How blessed are those cousins. No set of children or grandchildren will have been prayed over and for more – I know there have been many a sleepless night for my mum when she has done battle for us. My mum’s legacy will be one of family, one of faithfulness, and one of prayer and what a pretty amazing legacy that is.

So for me I know that what makes me come alive is people, is relationships, is conversation, is words – I love people, I love hurting people (to clarify I don’t love causing hurt!!) , I love praying, I love writing, I love making new friends – I have no idea what those “loves” are going to look like this year or where they are going to take me but I am talking to God, asking him to show me, and each day I am trying to chose to hold his hand tight, as I find out more and more what makes me come alive and what I want my legacy to be.

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because that the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Called to fly

10426589_10152896763906949_6323911816379560100_nTonight my whole family are at a family party, including my child, no doubt doing lots of dancing and having lots of fun. I am sat at home, in my PJs and a hoodie.

Tonight for the first time in a good while I have talked to God properly, I have come before him and wept and poured my heart out to him again, and again.

I am not at that party because honestly, and I feel very vulnerable saying this, I couldn’t face it. In December I am going to become an aunt – it is amazing – it is answered prayers. I will love that baby so so much – so much so that its parents ought to be thankful I do not live nearer to them because I would be a complete pest. At the same time it has broken my heart again – I have cried a lot of tears. I looked at my sister-in-law’s belly today and my heart ached – it ached for all I lost and all my dreams that have not come true.

Over the last few months I have felt lonely because I felt I couldn’t really talk to anyone honestly about how I was feeling. I felt like people wouldn’t understand, that I wasn’t allowed to still feel pain over this so many years on. So weirdly and very unlike me I have run and run, partly because I am training for a 10k but to have a release. I have struggled to come before God because I have been battling feeling like he has forgotten me, that perhaps he didn’t care that much or didn’t have a plan for my future – that instead I would have to keep watching all those lives around me unfolding and growing and I would have to stand by and keep watching, feeling like my prayers and the cries of my heart were going unheard and unanswered. My lovely faithful mum said to me before she went out tonight, something she says pretty regularly to me, that nothing that happens in our lives is wasted and that God was not finished with me by a long way. She always ends that particular conversation with the words “just you wait.” Normally I swing between being thankful she has so much hope for me and frustrated at the length of the wait.

As I cried out to God tonight I asked him to show me again that he loved me, that I was precious to him, and that I wasn’t alone. I then read my devotional which today was about waiting and God’s timing. I love these devotionals written by an Australian couple. Today’s I am guessing is written by the wife because they were words that sounded so like many girls I know, so like me, and spoke straight to my heart. She talked about how she had spent so much of her time wishing things were different, longing for things she didn’t have, focusing on the past or the future and not living in the here and now but actually forgetting that right before each of us, in our hands, we have this day. That we cannot change what has been and what will happen going forward but that we can chose how we respond to today. God through this lovely lady’s writing reminded me that I am loved, I am chosen, I am set free, I am redeemed, I am covered by grace, and filled with hope. That today and every day I have the choice to choose joy, peace, patience, kindness, virtue, faith, gentleness.

Tonight again I had to lay down the things that I hold so tightly to, to the desires of my heart, to my longings, to my hopes, to my pain at what could have been, to my missing, and ask God to help me, as time and again I end up flat on my face acknowledging I cannot do it without him.

Last Saturday I did a skydive. It was totally amazing, that feeling of freedom and of flying – I absolutely loved it; in the knowledge I had a very competent and reassuring (and hot!) instructor. I have looked at the photos so many times over this last week – of being totally surrounded by nothing but the sky – it will definitely be one of those once in a lifetime experiences. Again tonight God has reminded me that he wants me to fly, that he wants me to live in freedom, that he doesn’t want my life to be held back by pain or loss or disappointment – that he has plans and purposes for me. I so often let myself be held back by those things, robbing my confidence, telling me I am no good, that I am not worthy.

The other week at work I was working away with my earphones in and one by one God was putting into my heart ideas for various things, projects (I promise boss I was still working at the same time!!) – I felt inspired and excited. Very quickly I could hear those voices saying they were ridiculous ideas that people would think I was stupid, that they wouldn’t come to anything. Alongside that was this battle of feeling forgotten and lonely. Tonight again I have resolved to myself and to God to run with those ideas, and yes they may not come to anything and I may look stupid in the process and make myself vulnerable but actually maybe just maybe they will bring life, and hope, and be actually what God is calling me to for the here and now. Maybe life is not what I would have hoped or imagined, maybe and probably there will never be another life that grows in my belly, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other amazing things ahead, different but amazing. I don’t doubt that I will trip up many times along the way, that I will keep having my battles and my wobbles, but this day I want to chose joy, to chose kindness, to chose life and love, to chose to have hope and faith and to learn more and more to stand on those things when I feel the wobbles and battles come.

I know I am not alone in these struggles, I know each and every one of my close friends has their own battles, struggles, pains, disappointments, losses, and I am sure we are not on are own. So often these things can cripple, often not in obvious ways, and we are so good at hiding them but they are there stopping us stepping out into what we are meant to be and what is waiting for us. I feel passionate about standing together in community to see freedom in our lives and to see people fly into all they were made to be. Some of those seeds God has planted in me relate to that – I am convinced for most of us it is a journey, one we need to keep on at never giving up, always believing that the best is yet to come.

God Save the Queen!

As anyone who knows me well will tell you I love the Queen and the Royal family – I went through a phase a few years ago where most of the presents I received were Royal related. I have numerous royal mugs, tins, various tea towels and even a set of wind up Royal family members. I know that the subject of the monarchy can lead to heated debate but I love them and am not ashamed to say so. The Queen has served our nation faithfully and with such strength and dignity for a lifetime and personally I think she is one special lady. I can’t remember when I first heard this quote from her whether it was something she said in one of her Christmas speeches (where each year Dad would make us stand and salute the TV – maybe that is where I have in part inherited it from!) but it spoke to me very powerfully.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

Another quote I read more recently but it was basically saying the same thing.

“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – those are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognising and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.” Brene Brown

Sometimes I feel like I have experienced enough grief to last me a lifetime and then some but I experienced grief because first there was love and lots of it and because of that I am incredibly blessed.

For many years I didn’t have to tell the story of why Lucy and I were on our own because the people in my life were pretty constant and everyone knew but as I have stepped into a new chapter with lots of new people I find myself telling the story over and over again, which is fine because I am pretty comfortable with it, it is part of who I am, but it is the reactions that are hard because you know it is going to make people feel uncomfortable or maybe cause people to view you differently. I guess it is a sad story but it is also a story rooted in love. There are lots of sad stories in life, lots of stories of abuse, rejection, brokenness, addiction, fear but my sad story is not one of those. I was loved and cherished by a lovely man; I had a brief but wonderful marriage, and from that came a gorgeous little girl. I had a daddy who loved me, who supported me to his dying day, who made sacrifices for me and believed in me.  I can truly call myself blessed because I was loved and that love did not end because they chose to stop loving me.

When you have suffered an earth shattering loss, whether that is bereavement, relationship breakdown or something equally as devastating you life falls apart and a whole raft of complex and quite frankly hard and painful emotions make themselves at home in your heart. One of those emotions is anxiety. I was fortunate because in all that has happened I have never felt afraid or anxious, except for maybe once or twice when Lucy has been poorly (fortunately God gave me a child who rarely gets ill because a) emotionally I could not cope and b) I am not great with bodily fluids), but I have watched people I love struggle with that anxiety, that out of the losses they are scared to move forward in case it happens again, or to truly live because they are locked in fear and it is heartbreaking but totally understandable.

Your heart has been through so much and you cannot bear the thought of it happening again. For others maybe a part of you shuts down. Whilst I did not suffer with anxiety I do wonder whether I may have reacted differently had my dad died with John still here, if I hadn’t already lost so much already. I miss my Dad, it was so hard to watch him fade away as the cancer ravaged his body – I remember saying to my brother in the last months that I would keep going in to check on him as he sat in his chair half expecting him to have stopped breathing and my brother said he had been doing exactly the same. We would have awful conversations where we admitted to each other that we just wanted the end to come because it was exhausting and hard to watch but when the end came it did not shatter me, I didn’t weep and wail, it didn’t devastate me and I feel awful saying that but I honestly do not feel like my dad’s death has impacted me anywhere near what I might have expected. I loved my Dad to pieces, he was one of my favourite people and there are times when actually only he will do and he is no longer there but I think part of me shut down when John died, a part of me that was never going to ever let anything hurt me as much.

That being said though I still feel like I have a huge capacity to love and I want to love and keep loving the people who God has given me to love and anyone else who wants to be loved. I am passionate about the people in my life, some may say I am a little too full on in the way I love but I don’t care. Love is what it is all about for me, it is fundamental, it is what I want to commit my life to doing. I believe love can transform, can redeem, can restore, can heal – it has such power. There is nothing better than loving and being loved. For me that love comes from God, and he is the one that gives me that ability to keep loving.

I am very aware though that pain and grief flowing out of love is not just about loss in terms of that physical separation that death brings but can be a whole host of reasons. We have all felt hurt by something someone we love says to us or about us, disappointed where someone we thought cared lets us down or does not react how we hoped or expected. Over the years I have spent many hours in tears or dissecting a relationship because it has caused me pain. I am a monkey for backing away when I have been hurt – I thought I did it so well so no one really noticed until one of my closest friends said to me that she always knew when she had hurt me. Hurt and disappointment are part of loving people, of relationship, of community – we are humans made up of weaknesses, insecurities and experiences which mean we will all let people down and which will shape the way we respond and react when hard stuff happens. I believe absolutely unequivocally in the importance of forgiveness, of vulnerability, of working hard to make our relationships work – that it is worth fighting through the crap – it is often messy, painful and humbling but there is so much freedom living in right and good relationship with people rather than carrying around anger and bitterness.

About 18 months ago in the midst of the nightmare that was the father and grandfather’s estates we had a pretty massive family row – there was swearing and the slamming of phones, lots of tears – we were all exhausted, and totally bruised and battered and so had no capacity to be kind to each other. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I lost a lot of sleep and one night I lay awake and felt like God was doing open-heart surgery on me. I was left with no choice but to open my laptop, in the middle of the night, and write a handful of emails to various people where I had been holding things against them, maybe not so it was obvious to anyone else but I knew it was there still, and one by one I had to email and say I was sorry where I had held unforgiveness in my heart towards them. It was instantly like something had lifted. These people had caused me hurt and pain, and they were people I loved, but I had a choice as to how I responded – was I going to make myself vulnerable before them or continue to hold the rubbish inside of me. There was forgiveness, healing, freedom and good relationships restored.

So I will continue to keep loving, keep being vulnerable, and keep fighting for the people I love and those that God calls me to love – I may not always get it right, I may be hurt in the process and I will no doubt hurt but I do not want to ever give up on love. I want to love completely and fully and not just those it is easy to love. If when my time comes all people say is that she loved well then for me that will be a life well lived.

And if the opportunity comes to fall in love again who knows – my heart will always be a little bit broken but I believe in a God who loves me and has the best yet to come for me.