Monday, 20 November 2017

Hope is an Anchor

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

Hope is an Anchor

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

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

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Faith in University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Confidence in the Father...

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

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

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

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Learning through failure...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 10 September 2016

New Home...

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Moving out...

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Life after Africa...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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