Showing posts with label Seasons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seasons. Show all posts

15.5.19

The Closer You Get The Brighter The Light Shines!



I was born again in 1991 and I will never forget the moment that the pastor asked me if I thought I was a good person. My reply was a confident, "Yes". At that time, an unwed, pregnant, seventeen-year-old teenager who had not finished high school and done just about all the naughty stuff that a teen could have done, but I thought I was a good person. I have since learned that this is a common response from most people.

"A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart." - Proverbs 21:2

Now, 28 years later, I feel like more of a sinner than I ever have. The more I get to know Jesus the brighter His light seems to shine on me, and on all my imperfections. The thing about this is that when He shines his light on my character flaws I don't feel bad or guilty, I feel His love and am inspired to work on them and become a better person.

The Bible says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." in Matthew 5:48 and I have never quite understood what that means as the entire Bible is proof that we cannot be perfect surely. The Greek word for perfect in this verse is teleios which means 'brought to its end' and finished. It also means 'wanting nothing necessary to completeness' and fully grown adult.

So, in my understanding, the Bible isn't telling us to be perfect instantly but that we are to grow into maturity in Him and thankfully we also have the amazing verse that says that we are clothed in His righteousness so we are also perfect instantly too on the day we accept Jesus into our life.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5:21

So I am both perfect already because of Jesus and still growing into perfection as I walk with him. As the light shines more brightly on me and I see more of my imperfections I am encouraged by how far I have come but also challenged about becoming even better.

Where are you in your walk towards perfection? I would love to hear your views, struggles and any questions that you might have.

Love

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6.11.17

A New Day



It is November, a year since my last post on this blog. The sun is shining and the birds chirping outside my bedroom window on this crisp autumn Monday morning. I'm chatting to God and remembering yesterday's church service with warmth and realise that I am looking forward to going to church again next Sunday. It occurs to me that I haven't felt this way in many years. I feel excited about going to church for the first time since we had our own church, D7 Church. I never dreamed the grief process would take so long. I never imagined that it could hurt so much and that my church life would become so complicated!

It's a new day today. I feel a little flicker of something I used to feel. There is hope. But I'm taking it slowly and just enjoying going to church each Sunday. I still fear someone speaking to me and may seem very unfriendly when someone does. The thought of being asked to serve on a team still terrifies me. There is a long way to go in this healing process I can see. But just being in the House of God each week is healing. I love the time of worship and can't get enough of it. Hearing the word preached is another layer of healing and each week I see how important our weekly church gatherings are.

The church isn't the Sunday meeting, it is the people and together we are the church 24/7 but there is still something powerful that happens when we gather together each week.

I never thought I would ever get to feel this way about church again, but I can honestly say that I am looking forward to going to church again this coming Sunday.

13.11.16

Back on the Path

We went to church on Sunday. Eric, Daniel, Amy and I. Together as a family for the first time in ages. At first I felt nervous going back. I knew it was right and it was time. The season had changed and there was no reason for me to stay away any longer. My heart felt full, I was no longer tired and all my other reasons and excuses had faded away. To be honest, I actually missed church. My reasons for being nervous are too many to list starting with fear from all that had happened in the past all the way to fear of being hurt all over again and everything in between. Despite all that was going on inside of me emotionally something stronger was drawing me to church.

Choosing a church wasn't an option, it had to be a Baptist church so that Eric could do his placement for his studies and it would continue being a Baptist church for the two remaining years of his studies. I was ok with that. I accepted that church would not be as exciting as it had once been both because I was fond of the Hillsong style of church and also because I had been hurt so many times that I would keep my heart protected and remain cautious for some time by choice. I felt a sense of responsibility to the Baptist church and knew that God had something in mind for us as a family.

Eric is back on the path he is meant to be on and so I go to church of my own free will to support him on his journey and to get connected again as I should be. My heart pines for church to be fun, full of life and... well as it says in 1 Chronicles 22:5 ," ... the house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendour in the sight of all the nations." In my mind church should be magnificent, full of joy, worships should be loud and make you want to dance, prayer should be powerful and yielding results such as healing, miracles and deliverance. Even the building should shine either because it has cool lights or more importantly because Jesus is there.

I digress. The point is that Eric is back on the path that I believe he is meant to be on and we are back at church as a family. Our new pastor is a woman and she is really amazing, taking the church over the Jordan and into new and exciting things. We are honoured to be a part of what God is doing at our new church and will serve the pastor and the people to the best of our ability.

25.9.16

Leading on Empty

Our pastor was very gracious towards us and never put any pressure on us to serve or get involved in church at all. We were allowed time to grieve and get whole again and so we just sat in church Sunday after Sunday with no desire to do anything or speak to anyone. We came, we sat, we listened, we left. One night in a dream God spoke to Eric and told him that he must connect with people at church and so we started to stay afterwards for coffee and a little chat.

King's Daughters Girl's Nights was set up at our new church before D7 Church had closed down. It was one of the things that I was passionate about and was what we did to help churches with their women's ministries. Where they had nothing in place we would offer to set up a King's Daughters for them at their church. So I was involved in ministry already and had connected with many of the ladies through King's Daughters. Somehow, despite all that we had gone through I managed to keep going with King's Daughters. Sadly most Tuesday nights all I could muster was dragging myself there, often without makeup on or any enthusiasm at all. I don't know how I did it, only God knows, but he used the empty shell of a vessel to someone still pour out into these precious ladies. My heart wasn't in it but I was sincere in my leadership and did my absolute best for the ladies. The anti-depressants did help for a while and kept me going. Looking back I do wonder if it wasn't really damaging to take the anti-depressants as they allowed me to continue to lead on empty when I probably shouldn't have been leading at all.

Thankfully, when I prayed about my year towards the end of 2015 I felt God saying that 2016 would be a year of rest for King's Daughters. That I was not to do our annual conference and that until I heard further instructions from him I was to do nothing in this ministry but rest. So I committed to spending the year praying and investing in the people not the ministry. It was our seventh year as a ministry so it made perfect sense to have a rest year! Girl's Nights continued but I didn't build or plant anything new. God knew what was to come in 2016..

18.9.16

Necessary Endings

It seemed that church was just not working! Everything became really hard work and the church grew emptier and emptier. Our very good friends from another church invited us to merge churches with them and we thought it may be a good idea. After some negotiations on titles, roles for our team and pay scales we decided to go ahead. At first it felt strange and we didn't feel that we fit in at all but we all tried our best to serve well. Perhaps it was wrong to merge and get stuck straight into ministry without taking time to grieve and to council our team through their grief. I certainly wasn't excited about Sundays at all and hated the season. It's not that there was anything wrong with the church at all. I loved the people! The service was lively, spirit filled and the teaching was spot on Bible based teaching. It was a beautiful church with beautiful people whom we loved and admired. But for some strange reason we were miserable and Sunday's became really difficult. One Sunday, Eric whispered in my ear mid-service that he wanted to go home, so we snuck out and went home. After a chat he said that he never wanted to go back so we left. Just like that. We hurt our best friends. We hurt their church. We just left!

My heart broke even more. I felt guilty. I had just started building new relationships and loving the people I was at church with. Despite my unhappiness with Sundays, I had done my best to settle and serve. Leaving just hurt all over again.  My heart was exhausted and ripped in pieces.

Our team agreed to leave with us and give D7 Church one final try and we gave it our all. Not that we didn't give it our all before but we gave it all we could possibly muster. We hung in for as long as we could. Everything that could be done to make church work was done. Our team were amazing even though it ended up being the same faithful five people always doing all of the work. Creativity blossomed as we tried new and unusual things to build our church thinking that perhaps God wanted us to think outside the box. One of our ideas even got us a radio interview. We announced that we were going to be giving away money to each person who came to a particular service. There would be no strings attached and the point was to teach on Biblical money principles and then give each person a starting point which is exactly what we did. Many were grateful for the small seed of £20 that we gave to all who came along.

Perhaps we could have made it, perhaps we should have hung on a little longer. No, it wouldn't have worked as the team went down to Eric and I and even I didn't want to go to church anymore as it was so depressing! What went wrong? Who knows, we have analysed it to death over the years, seen all of our mistakes and tried to think what we could have done differently. Our dream was to build a large thriving church where people would encounter the living God and be radically transformed. In our mind we saw entire communities being transformed and wanted to make a difference all the way to government level. It broke our heart when met for the final time on Sunday 30th March 2014.

Failure is hard, loss is difficult but when you have failed and lost in the things of God it seems harder. You feel as if you have let God down. One thing that no one tells you when you pastor a church is that it too, just like a business, can fail. If the books don’t balance and your income is less than your expenses, you can fail. If you don’t have a committed team to keep up with the work you can fail. If people just don’t feel like coming on Sundays you fail.  And on top of all that you blame yourself for not being good enough!  Not praying enough, not hear God well enough, not working hard enough, not loving the people enough and just about everything else under the sun. Failing in ministry is the worst kind of failure, it's horrible.

Eric said he didn't want to go to church for a while. Even though I was hurting I knew that I had to go to church for the children's sake. They too grieved. Sometimes they just randomly started crying and when asked what was wrong they said that they missed D7 Church. It took a lot longer than I ever imagined to start feeling a little bit better about it all.

I had become friends with the pastor of a local church through King's Daughters and so decided to take the children there so that they had somewhere to go while we figured things out. They loved it and were happy so I kept on going even though I didn't want to go to church at all either. After a few weeks God spoke to Eric and told him to go to church so he started coming with me. He did so out of pure obedience to God as he really didn't want to go to church either. Looking back I would say that the first year we were both numb and all we could manage was to pitch up and be present on Sundays. I became burnout and depressed and the doctor put me on anti-depressants.

11.9.16

Raging Storms

Storms raged all around me, not in the natural of course but the storms of life. The next season is a bit blurry as it was almost too painful to bear. First it was my second eldest daughter who left home. For the sake of her privacy and to protect all involved I can't tell you too much about it but let's just say that family life got really nasty for us all and it resulted in Jordan leaving home at only seventeen years old. Oh how I wish I could tell you the details so you could understand how much my heart was ripped out, how my marriage was hanging together by a thread and how losing Jordan not only hurt but confirmed my complete failure as a parent to her. Just believe me that it was nasty, unnecessary and very painful and left me broken in a way that I have never experienced before. I was even faced with a choice on one occasion where I was made to choose between my daughter and my husband! What would you do in that situation - it was not nice and I refused to choose either.

It may have been weeks, possibly months but certainly not very long after Jordan left that the next storm hit and if losing a daughter wasn't enough I had to face almost losing a son. We noticed that something was wrong with our son, Daniel who was 7 years old. He seemed fit and well and nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that he was drinking unusual amounts of water. It got so bad that he had to get up during the night several times to have a drink and of course go to the toilet. So after about a week of this I decided it best to go see a doctor even though it seemed like a silly symptom to go to the doctor for.

Everything from the doctor's appointment is a bit of a surreal haze and even two years and nine months on, I can remember the shock as if it were yesterday. The doctor did a urine test and afterwards looked gravely concerned and called the hospital.  Daniel was sent over as soon as possible and we were told to be prepared for him to stay overnight. He didn’t say what was wrong. Upon arriving at the hospital Daniel was seen immediately and had blood tests. I don’t recall exactly what happened or the order of events, all I remember is that his blood sugar was 33  (normal is between 4 – 7). They said they were surprised that he looked as well as he did and was not in a coma. He was that ill!

Daniel was admitted to hospital and we spend the next week at his bedside learning about type 1 diabetes, watching him crying as he had his finger pricked and blood taken often during the day and night. It was heart wrenching. Eric and I were in shock. After a week of excellent education by the NHS diabetic team, we were expected to start caring for him. They assured us that he would not be allowed home until they felt confident that we were able to manage his blood tests and insulin injections. We had to learn how to count carbohydrates, check his blood sugar levels and give him 4 to 6 injections a day. The severity of the situation was heavily impressed upon us and we were reminded that if his blood sugars went too high or too low he could die. It seemed every 5 minutes we were reminded that it was a life threatening lifelong disease that could not be cured ever.

Eric and I were exhausted from being in hospital, little sleep coupled with a lot of worry and uncertainty. We reached a point where we just wanted our family back home all together so we could get some sense of normality back into our life. Although it was clear life would never be the same again we craved some sort of routine. Each day we were asked if we were ready to give Daniel his injections. In the past Eric has passed out when he saw me have an injection during labour with Amy, I could not see him ever coping with this. I thought I would be fine but when they put the insulin pen in my hand I burst out crying. There was no way I could ever inject my son, or so I thought.

Much to my surprise Eric took the pen and gave Daniel his injection. I asked Eric how he managed to do it as I simply couldn’t and he said that he knew that if he didn’t, Daniel would not be able to come home. The nurses kept reassuring me that things would get better and giving the injections would become easier. Although I believed them and knew it was true I couldn’t see how. Eric became highly competent in caring for Daniel and so he was allowed home. I struggled. I couldn’t do the injections. I couldn’t prick his finger to test his blood. I was a mess. Shock, confusion and tiredness took over.

4.9.16

Mistakes, Regrets and Hopelessness

In my previous post I mentioned my many mistakes and regrets! There are too many to write about but I will do my best to highlight a few as accurately as possible. Even though I know God has forgiven me and hopefully the people involved have too, I cannot fully forgive myself even though I know I should. I want to keep the sting real so that I never make the same mistakes again. It's not that I want to punish myself and I have tried my best to forgive myself, it's just that I don't ever want to hurt people again.

Although church life had become difficult there was still much joy in the journey. We launched King's Daughters in 2009 and recorded our very first album, King's Square, with our original songs in 2010. We had so much fun both with King's Daughters and making music together as a church. Things seemed to be going well even though they were a little tougher than at first.

My first big mistake was based purely on my own insecurity and it shouldn't surprise you to know that I wrote an entire book on that subject too! So here is a little extract from Secure on the Rock where I recount one of my silly mistakes.

Huddled in the corner of the studio, I was sitting holding back the tears whilst telling myself to stop these silly thoughts. I knew I was being pathetic and there was no way I was going to cry about it! So there I sat, giving myself a telling off, all the while trying to look like I was alright. The band looks on from the other room, oblivious to my inner turmoil. It's hard for me to hide my feelings, my face always gives my feelings away so I thought I'd better put some distance between me and them so that they can't see my struggle.

The band has been awesome, incredibly supportive and regularly offering lovely comments about how well I was doing. Their kindness was consistent all through Monday and Tuesday, but this is crunch time, the final vocal recording time. The pressure was now on!

The journey has been incredible, I can’t even believe that I am in this position and able to be involved in something this amazing. It has been quite surreal really. Not only have I had the privilege of writing some of the songs for this album, but I also have this mind blowing opportunity to sing some of them. I never, ever dreamed I would get to do this. I have always loved singing... in the shower, and have always loved moments in God’s presence. Often I have found myself lost in His presence singing a brand new song from my heart.
Since I first became a Christian I have loved worship, but all through the years I never, ever considered joining the choir or the band. It never crossed my mind. I was turned down for the choir when I was about nine years old so since then I had decided that I wasn’t a singer. It was that simple for me and ever since then I have never considered singing in any capacity whatsoever.

It all started when the band started having practice at our home. I used to be in my room or in the kitchen washing dishes whilst they practiced the set list for Sunday. More often than not, I would sing along and enjoy a moment of worship as the band played nearby. I am not sure how it all started, but I got the desire to sing in the band with them. Occasionally I would help Eric with band practice by taking the singers to one side and helping them practice while he concentrated on helping the musicians.

I did this for about a year, and even though I have a good ear for music and was able to help them get the right notes, I still never considered actually singing myself. I was happy to help Eric in any way that I could and I enjoyed doing singing exercises with the singers.

As I worked with the singers I did notice that I was very insecure around one of them. She sang beautifully and was very pretty. She was also very outgoing, chatty and a bit flirty. She was everything I was not and somehow being around her highlighted all my areas of lack. Her boobs were a bit of a problem for me too because you couldn’t miss them, they always seemed to be on show! I have breastfed four children and it showed but I had never felt inadequate in that area until she showed up. My thoughts were that if I couldn’t miss them, then neither could Eric or any of the men for that matter! The insecurity crept in and although I genuinely don’t think I was jealous, I did feel inadequate around her.

I say I wasn’t jealous because I really don’t want such heavy boobs. At times I also felt that she didn’t really like them, she seemed uncomfortable when at church events, as she knew we expected her to keep them tucked away and not on display so as not to tempt the men and teenage boys into sexual thoughts. I could see her struggle, a part of her wanted to be sexy and have them showing as much as possible, while a part of her wanted to be a good church girl and keep them neatly tucked away. I felt sorry for her at times as this struggle was a result of a decision she made.

Yes, I know I have gone into a lot of detail, but I want to be real or there is no point to me writing this book. I know many of us girls think like this but very few actually say it. This girl was the cause of a huge six month struggle with insecurity which obviously caused a lot of friction in our church and between Eric and me. Of course people probably didn’t know that it was my insecurity that was the problem but I am very sure they knew something wasn’t right.

Generally speaking, I was secure in who I was and had a pretty stable identity. There were moments of complete and utter out of control insecurity though and those were dreadful, but I will get into that more later on. For now, let’s get back into the singing thing. She sang beautifully but had no confidence, like me she had never sung in public before and seemed to have never considered herself as a singer. I found myself encouraging her and trying to draw some confidence out of her so that she could flourish in this area. Even though I felt insecure around her it never once crossed my mind that I wanted to sing or be like her or take her place. That thought just never came. My insecurity was purely based on my own fear that Eric found her attractive and that was the one thing that drove me crazy.

Eventually I shared my struggle with Eric; I simply couldn’t bear this burden alone any longer and felt very guilty for even having this struggle. Surely a pastor’s wife should not struggle with things like this? Eric was great about it and assured me that she simply wasn’t his type at all and listed all the reasons, which I loved! He also went on to tell me all the things that he loved about me and how not only does he not need or want anyone else but also that he has chosen me and therefore will never consider anyone else but me. This really helped me and from time to time we had this conversation and my insecurity was consoled by my darling Eric’s kind words.

I better warn you though that this is not the way to deal with insecurity at all, you can’t depend on another human being to make you feel better. It is essential to cut it out from the root and build a strong foundation and strong identity. Even though I knew this, I wasn’t quite ready to get to the root of it. I used Eric’s kind words to buy me time until I was brave enough to eradicate my insecurity. His comfort was precious and he did his best to help me through patches of insecurity, all the while I knew that it wasn’t solving the problem at all.


This little story doesn't end here, it continues on and on as I dealt with this poor woman based on my insecurity and not on how God saw her. As a leader I know now that I should have asked God to show me how he saw her and also how he saw me. I should not have compared myself, I should not have been jealous of what she had that I didn't, I should not have been intimidated around her and worst, the worst part of it all is that I should not have used my position of authority in her life to make myself feel better. There are things that I did and said that should not have been done and said. Looking back I am so ashamed, she is such a wonderful, precious woman of God and I would give anything to just go back and do everything differently. I would love her, celebrate her, encourage her and help her find all that God had install for her.

Too many women are leading as I did - STOP IT! It's horrible and hurtful to too many people. You must know who you are in God's eyes and lead with confidence in who he made you to be. Comparing yourself to other people is the most dangerous thing to do every and can only bring misery into your life and theirs.

Let's move on from that lovely lady and onto the next one... yes there are many sadly. This lady was lovely too and was a good friend before I ruined it! She and her husband were faithful team members in our church, generous tithers and a real pillar to our church. They did the best they could and submitted even when they disagreed with our decisions or methods. They were older and wiser than us but never tried to lead us. All in all they were an asset to our church and great friends to us. I was an idiot and reprimanded her in front of a group of people. At the time, I thought it was the Biblical thing to do, you know, the two or three witnesses thing, but looking back I realise that I forgot the first steps and should have shared my feelings with her privately, as a friend. She would have heard my heart and respected what I said I am sure. The way I dealt with her was terrible and hurtful and I am sure I hurt her more than once too. Despite my terrible leadership they did their best to remain in our church and do their best until they could no more and had to leave. We suffered a terrible loss not only of a key family in our church but also some really lovey friends.

Our church started to shrink as the quality people moved on. More and more homeless people joined us as we offered free sandwiches and coffee to get them to church. It worked but without the mature Christian leaders in place to care for and disciple them we were stuck in a messy situation that we couldn't cope with. Hopelessness started setting in and church went down a path that we didn't want it to and seemed to have no control over.

28.8.16

Messy Church

If I could go back I would do just about everything differently! I am ashamed to admit how many mistakes I made in those early years of our church. Shame sometimes consumes me when I realise how me people I hurt simply because I was an immature and insecure leader. It breaks my hurt that I am the cause of some people's church hurts story. If I could go back I would take better care of your hearts, I am so sorry. Why did God even allow me to minister when I was clearly not grown up enough? With all my heart I only meant good, I only wanted to build a beautiful church and help many find and know Jesus. How did I go from such good intentions to such a mess? My only hope is Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  I pray that prayer for those who I have hurt and for myself too. Here is another extract from The Tale of a Church Planter to recount the first bit of mess in our church.
 
It was 2am and we were still sitting in our living room chatting with the two young men that might well have been our future sons-in-law.  Perhaps that was looking too far ahead, but as a mother, I was always on the lookout for potential husbands for my girls.  Very ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I know, but unless you are a mother with young ladies at home, you will never understand the insane drive within a mother to find a suitable match for her girls.

Lorah-Kelly, Jordan, Eric and I sat with the boys and were glad that we had finally met some Christians that seemed to be mature in their faith.  Up until this point, we had struggled along with raising the lost and the baby Christians that were born in our church.  Determined not to build a church on transfer growth, we pushed forward with what and whom we had.  It was a relief though, to think that perhaps God was sending some labourers to us, to help us with our work.

We began spending more and more time with these two young boys and were quite sure that they were sent as helpers to help us stir up our young teenage believers.   Very quickly we began to bond and it wasn’t long before they started bringing their friends and family to church.  We were thrilled, not only were they mature Christians but they were also bringers.

At the same time we started relying heavily on another family that joined us as soon as the church was launched. They too had been Christians for some time and they were also bringing their friends and family to church.  We were growing steadily and everything looked great.  For the sake of privacy we will change everyone’s names in this chapter, let’s call the two young boys Matt and Sam and the family the Smiths.

We also discovered that Matt and Sam, along with their friends and family, were well acquainted with the Smiths too.  It all seemed good, everyone knew everyone and they were all getting along very well.  Everything seemed fine and dandy, people were getting saved almost every Sunday and church was growing steadily each week.  We trusted Matt and Sam with our daughters and allowed them to go out together to socialise.  Great friendships were forming and there was nothing to be concerned about, or so we thought.

It wasn’t long before we allowed the Smiths to host a connect group and to lead in our church.  They truly were a wonderful family and they had been with us from the beginning, so it made sense to allow them to grow into a leadership role.

Matt and Sam started meeting up with our young Christians for Bible study so that they could help them find their way.  We didn’t offer the sort of ‘thing’ they were doing ‘officially’ in our church but we figured that there would be no harm in a bunch of young people getting together to study the Bible and pray for each other.  It was quite nice actually; it took the pressure off of us to keep finding new and creative ways to ‘feed’ our young people.

After some time we noticed that the young Christians were not doing so well.  We could not put a finger on it but the fruit simply didn’t seem good.  A few weeks later, we started to feel concerned - we were alerted to the fact that the Smith’s were hosting a Bible study in their home for all our young teenage Christians.  Again, probably not something that should raise an alarm, but we were concerned because it was being led by Matt and Sam’s father.  Their father was not a member of our church and had openly come against Eric and I as leaders, as well as against the pastor who had released us to plant our church.

We called the Smith’s in for a meeting and lovingly explained our concerns and that as leaders in our church; they really shouldn’t start things up without at least chatting to us about it first.  The content of the Bible studies were discussed which raised further concerns as it turned out that they were being taught exclusively about the end times and the Book of Revelation - not a subject that we would jump into with new Christians.

The Smith’s received what we had to say very well and agreed with our concerns.  According to their own free will they stopped the Bible study at their home as they realised that it was doing more damage than good.  This of course infuriated Matt and Sam’s father as he could not understand why they felt that they had to do this.  He continued to visit the Smith’s home almost daily to try and ‘teach’ them about the Bible and the error of their ways with regards to rejecting his Bible study.  He also made it very clear that Eric and I were not fit to lead a church.  A few weeks passed and we discovered that the new Christians were confused about many things.  They came to us with questions but sadly some of them went back to Matt and Sam’s father for guidance.

It wasn’t long before Matt and Sam became upset with our rejection of their father.   After many long debates in person and very long emails with them, they left our church.  They stayed in touch with our daughters and most of the teenagers and then began stirring the teenagers up against us.  Soon the teenagers started leaving our church too.  Many of them were totally confused and had lost the way of their simple faith.  They had too many unanswered questions.  Questions that really didn’t need answers but the teaching they received blinded them to the simple love of Jesus and opened up a theological can of worms – something they were not ready to deal with.

Eric and I were grieved.

Months later, the Smiths, and all their immediate and distant family, and their friends, left our church too.  They too became confused and found it difficult to find their way forward in our church.  A chain reaction had started and anyone linked to the chain ended up leaving.  We went from what we thought was a thriving, flourishing church to a struggling church with few left in attendance.  We had lost at least sixty percent of our congregation. Sadly, most of them didn’t even go on to join another church, they simply went back to worldly things.

During this season, we took a great deal of counsel from our pastor.  He very wisely advised us of every step we should take and we followed his advice to the letter.  In fact, in one meeting Eric actually wrote down every word he said and regurgitated it word for work to a couple that we were told to discipline.

Our mother church encouraged us every step of the way and gave us all the support they could, which is why it was a real shock when they too cut ties with us.  Three weeks notice was all we were given to set up a new church and take over all the bills.  If ever we felt totally confused and alone it was during the November of 2009.   It was the end of a very difficult year, we had worked hard, seen many saved but lost too many people when the ‘wolf’ attacked.  We were still wounded and recovering from this horrible process when the bomb of abandonment hit us.  Our mother church was not happy with our numbers.  In a nutshell, we had not grown sufficiently and were not producing enough income to sustain us.  They wanted to pull the plug on the church.

Shocked and horrified, we considered the way forward.  We were given a choice, either we closed the church down completely or we went back to being a connect group and found a way to transport everyone to our mother church each Sunday.  The third option was to continue on our own.  Our pastor said he would release us with his blessing and no hard feelings.

The first of many storms had hit. We felt abandoned and bewildered. When considering the faces of some of our congregation and their stories and how much they loved church, we decided not to close the church but to continue on our own. Realistically we could not transport everyone to the main church each Sunday, so one way or another we had to continue. And so D7 Church was born - the same church just a new brand and completely independent leaders who had to make it on their own.

21.8.16

The Tale of a Church Planter

King's Church was official born on 7th September 2008 under the watchful eye of our senior pastors. Leading a church was interesting. Mostly good at first, in fact I very clearly remember waking up each morning feeling on top of the world, wondering how life had become so good. Yes there were challenges but the joys of leading and building a church far outweighed the difficult spots. Eric and I were blissfully happy and so were our children. Everyone was flourishing and thriving. Our church was growing steadily, young people were growing in their faith and our lovely street people were getting to know Jesus too. Church didn't hurt - it was just as church should be, or so I thought. Looking back on those days now as I recount our story to you leaves me with a smile on my face. There really were a few years where things were truly great. You can read our full story in detail in my book, The Tale of a Church Planter. Here is a little extract with one of our many rewarding stories:
“He made it!” That was the remark I made to Eric when I read Ewen’s very first blog post. His post was rich with love for Jesus and gratitude for what He had done in his life. My heart swelled with pride. Ewen was turning eighteen and I felt as much pride for him as I did for my own children.

I first met Ewen when he was fifteen years old in 2008. He dropped in to see what was happening at our Friday night youth group when we were meeting in the community centre. Clearly he was a trouble maker. That night, I also noticed a display of deep cuts all over his arms. The image is still vividly imprinted in my mind as I knew that those bleeding wounds on his arms represented the state of his heart.

Many teenagers came to us with heart wrenching stories full of hurt and confusion. The first time I met Ewen, his manner and body language made a clear statement that he was not to be messed with. His foul language and rough exterior combined with the cigarettes, drugs and alcohol defined him. Worst of all I could see that he really believed that this was his true self. After a few incidents at youth I began to dread his return, it was clear he was there to make trouble and assert himself as a ruffian.

The first time I caught a glimmer of hope was when I ran a session on identity and Ewen surprisingly participated. I spoke of the confusion that I saw the young people dealing with and delved into the fact that they didn't really know who they were. As I spoke I saw Ewen's eyes well up. He nodded continuously as I described what I saw in the lives of young people and then he spoke of his inner turmoil. I had to hold back my tears. Behind his rough exterior was a heart of gold suppressed by anger and confusion.

That day changed my life, I began to pray for him and begged God for his salvation. It seemed impossible that someone so rough would soften enough to allow God in but when I prayed I placed the picture of his teary eyes in the forefront of my mind. On the 21st September 2008 God answered my prayer. It was our very first church service and Ewen was our very first salvation, our precious first fruit. Even now as I remember that special day I am overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy.

Since then God has done amazing things in Ewen's life, too much to begin to write here. At school the teachers wrote him off. Almost daily he was in some sort of trouble and his grades were so bad that they didn't expect him to finish school. It wasn't long before the teachers were gobsmacked by the change in Ewen and more than that they were shocked by his improved grades. I guess you could imagine their reaction when he announced his plans to go to university! What the teachers had written off, God had declared a ‘future and a hope ’ to. Ewen has since achieved the grades he needed to get into the school he wanted. No teachers’ words define him now. The word of God is the ‘light to his path ’. Ewen knows who he is and that he is called to do significant damage to the darkness that nearly killed him. His testimony is powerful and his influence in this nation will be too.

Yes, God did change Ewen's life, but more than that, Ewen has changed mine. I love him as my own son and am a very proud mama. To add a cherry to the top of the cake, Ewen wrote the most beautiful song on our debut album which I had the honour of singing with Lorah-Kelly. It’s a powerful song written by a truly grateful heart.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
- Galatians 6:9

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:13

That day, his eighteenth birthday, was one of those special days, the day where I reaped a rich reward. I confess I did grow weary; perhaps I did lose heart a bit too. There were many sleepless nights praying Ewen through rough patches during college. At times I wanted to give up but I couldn’t, there was always that ‘what if?’ What if he was only one day away from victory? What if he really needed our love and support for just a little longer to make it? What if something really bad happened to him because we lost heart? What if he was intended to be the prime minister of England and we let him slip away? The ‘what ifs’ lined up and suddenly the small sacrifice of prayer didn’t seem such a big deal after all. So we prayed, we loved him and every now and then we had a few awkward chats too.

The reward for me that day was to see him celebrate his eighteenth birthday knowing deep down inside of my heart that he had made it. He is safe. He pulled through the dark times and I am utterly convinced that he is going to be all that God wants him to be! I don’t think the verses about growing weary meant that we should not grow weary. Growing weary will happen. If we are working hard, there is no escaping weariness. No, for me, the not growing weary is of ‘doing good’. You will get tired but don’t stop. Don’t stop doing good even though you are tired. Keep doing good despite the weariness.

This is one of many amazing stories that made our life rich and full, we were happy and were seeing other people find joy and freedom too and it was great! Little did we know that sadly, this wasn't to be our real life, only a short season before a long season of storms.

20.7.16

God Moves Suddenly

It was time to move. I can't really explain why I felt this as my church had been a huge part of my healing and recovery, however, I felt that God was moving me to another church in London. Looking back now I know why but you will have to wait for this part of the story - it's really rather exciting!

And so I moved on, with my pastor and home group's reluctant blessing, from one church in London to another one. Church became the highlight of my week, I counted the days until Sunday, that's how much I loved church. It was vibrant and lively, full of amazing people who were crazy about Jesus. I loved the worship, the preaching, the coffee, the home groups and got involved in as much as possible. Even though I hadn't fully walked through the consequences of the previous season I was already seeing a harvest from the new seeds I had sown. If you sow financially you will reap financially, if you sow in friendships you will reap in friendship and I had grown to love some amazing friends. They took such good care of me and my girls, even though they were mostly young single people they were always mindful that I was a single mum and made a way for us to be involved in 'normal' London life. It was so much fun! We were having fun for the first time in... well since coming to the UK.

My desire to lead crept up, I didn't actively seek leadership positions but joined teams, served and ended up leading a team, serving on another team and leading and a home group. Christmas was spend with about 20 other lovely people and my home was buzzing, always filled with lovely people, parties (the good kind), prayer meetings, girl's nights, home group, BBQ's and just a full and amazing life. Church was not a Sunday thing at all! It was a 24/7 thing and it changed my life. God gave us a beautiful new three bedroom home which was like a palace compared to our studio flat. Even moving was fun, again at least 20 people got involved and we had a big party afterwards to celebrate.

One particular Sunday morning I woke up with a song stuck in my head. It was a worship song from church and as I sung it while I was getting ready for church I knew deep down inside that when we sung that song in church something BIG was going to happen. I didn't know what but I knew that something was about to happen in my life. I took a wedding photo from my first marriage with me. I was walking along the Thames River to church chatting to God about how sad I felt that I had messed up my life in the past. I said,

"Oh well God, at least you have a plan B for me."

To which I head an instant reply,

"There is no plan B, you are still on plan A."

Wow, what an amazing thought, God still had a perfect plan for my life! I walked up to the river and threw the wedding photo in whilst praying that God would help me shut the door and move on in my life. I prayed a little prayer and put that season of my life in my past. With a skip in my step I went to church. I worshiped my heart out but was a little disappointed when we sat down for the preaching as the song that I was convinced was going to trigger something big, wasn't sung. The preacher must have prepared his sermon just for me as it touched my heart so deeply. At the end of the sermon he said something like, "If you don't feel beautiful stand up." I don't recall the exact words I just remember standing up and as I stood it happened! The intro to the song started and I KNEW something was about to happen. Let me quote this part of the story from my book, Secure on the Rock:
I stood struggling to sing the words of the song but determined to get a few out.  My eyes closed and my hands stretched out to heaven, I waited… then bam!

 

My Rescuer made his majestic appearance and reached into my chained up heart. I bent over and cried deeply and (unfortunately) loudly as He ripped all the “stuff” out of me. I began trembling and shaking a little.  This was not the sort of church where this sort of thing happened; we were way to cool for emotional outbursts, so I tried to keep calm.  The pastor stood up and told everyone to sit down. I couldn’t, I was frozen and could hardly control my body.  After a few uncomfortable minutes I managed to sit down.  Once seated I just cried and cried and cried.

 

My left leg started shaking uncontrollably and the rest of my body shook.  People around me asked if I was alright and I motioned to them that I was fine.  I saw in my mind a closed door and felt in my heart that God was saying that He had shut the door to my past.  It was over, the heartache, the struggle, the pain was all over.  His hand had closed the door.  It wasn’t done by my will or strength; He shut it and at the exact same time, opened the door to my future.

 

I continued to shake and cry so the people seated around me laid hands on me as God continued to work in me.  He told me that He had shut the door on my past; everything I was struggling with up to that point was behind that closed door now, never to be opened again.  This was a fresh start, a clean slate, a totally new beginning!  The shaking got less and all I could say was “Thank you Jesus”.  I kept on saying this until the shaking and crying stopped.

 

I knew something life changing had just occurred. He touched me, He gave me the breakthrough that I have cried out to Him for, fasted for, prayed for and begged for.  He gave me a breakthrough in my heart and I knew I would never be the same again.

 

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." - John 8:36

9.7.16

God Places the Lonely in Families

Back to my church story and this part is a really happy part of the story :) It comes after the terrible mess I made of my life, after my first marriage failed due to my stupidity and after I moved away from Crawley London to start over with my girls. Just a quick glimpse into the low point so that you can appreciate how high the highs were. This is an extract from my very first book, Hope's Journey.
"During a very dark and confusing season, when I was living a shameful lifestyle and going through a divorce, God spoke to me.   I was sitting in the hallway drinking wine and crying my heart out.  Sadness, confusion, helplessness and total aloneness was closing in on me. The razor blade was already bloody as I had attempted to hack into my wrists.  Pain consumed me as life had become completely unliveable!

 

Whilst I sat there crying in agonising pain, I cried out to God to help me.  I said that I didn’t want to live anymore and couldn’t see any way forward except to keep trying to hit a vein on my wrist.  Then I heard this voice in my heart that said;

 

“Angela, the next cut on your wrist will do the job.  If you cut again you will die.  Is this what you want?  It is your choice but I am warning you that the next cut is your final one.  What do you want?”

 

I quickly sobered up as I realised the reality of my situation.  Lorah and Jordan’s faces flashed before me in my mind and I realised how much my death would hurt them.  It would have been very selfish to leave them that way.  Nevertheless, the urge to die was still strong.  I sat there contemplating the consequences of leaving my children in this manner and cried the deepest cry I have ever cried and said to God;

 

“I want to live but I don’t know how to, please help me!”

 

The following day I started to rebuild my life. "

It is from here that I pick up and of course the first thing I had to do was find a church. I did this before I found a home or a job. I knew church was the most important part of rebuilding my life. Even though I had to walk out the consequences of my bad choices I was excited because I knew that God was with me. He didn't take away the pain but He gave me peace, He didn't remove the consequences but He gave me keys to walk them out and finally He showed me that even though I was reaping the consequences of what I had sown I was to sow new seeds so that the next season would offer a better harvest. So this is what I did, in the midst of the pain of rebuilding a new life for my girls and I, I sowed new seeds.  I read my Bible each day, prayed to my God, joined a church, joined a home group and made myself accountable. Within ten days of moving to London I had two job offers for a great job! God told me to chose either and He would bless me. I then found a lovely little home for our fresh start which God miraculously provided for me. It was impossible to secure a tenancy agreement in my situation with no employment history, no savings for a deposit, no references and two little children. The first miracle was that the landlord agreed to me staying in his property, the second miracle was how the church helped me financially so I could pay the deposit and buy food as I had not started my new job yet. From that point I lived on miracles! I could write an entire book of all that God did and how he provided that year.

I felt alive and well for the first time ever! God spoke to me loud and clear and guided me every step of the way. I never felt that being a single mother was difficult because we were place in a lovely church family where everyone chipped in and my girls were being raised and provided for not only by me but by about 12 other lovely people too! It was incredible and we were blessed and our cup was running over. Yes there were still things I was working out, mistakes I was making and a mess I was still cleaning up with God's help but I always had someone at the end of my phone to talk to, a counsellor who was patiently walking with me from brokenness to wholeness and some wonderful friends who helped in so many ways. I was finding freedom and joy in my new church family.

"God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy." - Psalm 68:6

26.6.16

How Can a Church Close?

That's what happened on 16th April 2000, my church had its final meeting and closed its doors forever. That season is a bit foggy in my mind, perhaps it's better that way, but I will do my best to recount someone of what happened but please keep in mind it is my view point, many others would share their version of things a little differently.

Hindsight is interesting, looking back all the signs were there, well hidden most of the time but occasionally they did pop up. Being the pastor's PA and church secretary meant that I got to see a lot more than many and I quickly learned that what happens behind the scenes is very different to what you mostly see at church on Sunday. I learned how churches can run out of money and struggle to pay bills at times, a sad but very real  circumstance. Bills need to be paid and if people don't give generously and faithfully then where does the money come from? I saw how incredibly generous some of the church were and how about eighty percent of the people didn't give at all of their time or money. But that's not why my church closed.

To be perfectly honest, I can't really rattle off a whole list of all the things I saw wrong behind the scenes, everything that I saw was still mostly right and I witnesses very little drama, politics or unpleasantness at all. One or two things surprised me like for example, I regularly visited a lady in church who seemed to be ill a lot. I was chatting to my pastor about her and at some point in the conversation he said, "Well she's just a hypochondriac".  This lack of compassion surprised me and I thought it odd. I now realise that it was not a lack of compassion but merely the reality that he was aware of. I was very naive in those days and often didn't see things that I should have. But that's not why my church closed.

Our churches merged with another church, that was the official story. For some reason when I was invited to transfer my PA job to the new church still working for my pastor's wife I declined. Looking back I have no idea why I declined as I loved my pastor's wife and my job very much. Something inside of me said no, it wasn't even a conscious decision I don't think. It just happened. Looking back I know now that it must have been God protecting me from what was to come. Having our church close was hard enough. It left many confused and hurt. Our happy family was breaking up and it felt strange and wrong. It has never been clear to me why the church merged in the first place or what went wrong behind the scenes. All I know is that it was horrible and I didn't like it one bit but got on with finding a new church right away and got involved immediately. It was a lovely Vineyard Church in Port Elizabeth and I have nothing but fond memories of my short season with them.  I remember the first time I saw the pastor I thought he just like Jesus must have looked. His eyes were so soft and full of love and compassion. When he preached I hung onto every wise word and loved church and all the beautiful people that I got to meet every Sunday.

Thank God for that church as what I had to go to next has scared me for life! You see the pastor's wife who I worked for was like a mother to me. At the time I didn't have a very close relationship with my family and church really was my family. She influenced me more than any other person to this day. My husband can vouch for how much I still speak about her and how highly I speak of her. In my eyes she had no faults, she was just plain wonderful and such an inspiration to me! As I mentioned previously I don't have all the details I only have my perspective and how it impacted me. Church hurt when it closed, it felt a little like the time when my parents got divorced. But what happened next really did feel like my parents got divorced all over again. I felt abandoned, alone, confused and like my whole life's foundation was cracked.

I remember that day in detail. I went to see her as I heard a rumour that an announcement had been made at the new church that morning which devastated me. I needed to see her so went to where she was living. As I walked into the living room I burst out crying. I was a mess and can't remember what I said but I remember what she said after I was urged to leave, "I'll call you."

That call never did come and I had to deal with my pain alone. What happened was the she and her husband had announced their divorce that morning. It hurt like hell for some reason. More than my parents' divorce hurt me. Looking back I know it was unreasonable to expect her to comfort me, she had her own stuff to deal with. I felt betrayed! I didn't know that they had marriage problems and I felt so weird that she never even spoke to me about any of it, or prepared me in any way. After being so close to her for almost 7 years I suddenly realised that we were never close at all. I was an employee, a team member and ten years her junior. I needed closure and not having that 'call' make it really difficult. Everything felt strange and although on the outside I just got on with life, inside I was hurting and had a lot to process. Within six months after that my then husband, two children and I left town for a job he was offered. We joined another Vineyard in Johannesburg but the job didn't work out and so within another six months we left South Africa and moved to England.

Even though church had hurt A LOT I never once considered not going to church. I didn't blame church as a whole for hurting me, just that isolated season of my church life and so quickly found a church within weeks of landing in the UK. Sadly I know quite a few families who did stop going to church as a result and some even strayed from the faith. I don't think church leaders really understand how much their life impacts those whom they lead. Pastors truly are the mommy and daddy of the church. I grew up a lot from that experience when I had to face the facts just like I did when I realised that my dad was the tooth fairy and Father Christmas wasn't real. Pastors are just people who make mistakes, give up on their church and get divorced. Well not all pastors but some sadly do.

From my position now, after years of many more experiences, I can look back at that time and to those people whom I loved and hold no bitterness and cannot judge them at all.  I did learn that harsh, painful reality that churches can close and that pastors are just normal people not demigods like I originally thought.

12.6.16

... continuing the journey

Picking up from my recent post, let's get back to my church story.  Oh and before we go there, what do you think of the new King's Daughters lilac logo? We are trying to keep the 'K' across all three areas just have a slightly different feel.

Ok, let's go back to the church I was first saved at, The King's Lighthouse in Brits South Africa. It was a wonderful season where I was totally loved up by  my church family despite all my 'stuff'. I loved being saved and forgiven, I felt clean despite the many things I still had to work out with God.  I was baptised, filled with the Holy Spirit and passionately on fire for Jesus. I only listened to Christian music, burned anything that was even slightly unchristian (seriously!) and even wore Jesus t-shirts to make sure it was clear I was a Jesus girl!  About a year or so later we had to move towns for my then husband's job and so we were transplanted into a church recommended by our pastors. It was amazing to experience how we were all one family even though we had changed houses. I felt at home in my new church and got busy with Bible studies and getting to know people. That season was a very short one and then we moved back to the town I grew up in and quickly settled into a new church there which was recommended by an old friend who had also recently got saved.

I don't know how deep and detailed God would have me go in this church story of mine, I hope a recap is fine.  I guess the key part is to look at the times when church hurt and how I have processed it. As a baby Christian it was inconceivable that church could hurt. Everything else in life hurt but church was my safe place. In my eye my pastors were perfect and I could trust them with every fiber of my being. I also naively believed that all Christians were good and they too could be trusted. Just like Father Christmas was very real to me as a child, so was a perfect church.  But then you grow up and stop believing in fairy stories and have to face the truth. I hope plan that one day I will come full circle and get back to believing in the good in everyone but not from nativity, purely by choice to seeing good knowing full well that the bad exists too.

Keeping private things private

My first and second church didn't hurt. I was oblivious to any church politics, leadership team issues, gossip or anything that may or may not have existed. This is good for a baby Christian and to this day I don't know if these two churches has any behind the scenes stuff. Knowing what I know now about the reality of church, I image that there was a lot of stuff but they did a brilliant job of keeping it from affecting a young Christian such as myself. If ever I am in a leadership position again I play to remember this and make sure that I deal with private things privately to protect the people.

"Love covers a multitude of sins" - 1 Peter 4:8

My third church was the church that helped shape and mould me, it uncovered the real me and all the beautiful gifts and talents that God had placed inside of me. Through the love, support and prayer of many I went from a terribly shy introverted teen into a glowing, confident young woman. I was lovingly trained in God's ways, taught the Bible, delivered from evil spirits and given many opportunities to grow in my faith and as a person. This church, which sadly no longer exists so I can't link to the webpage but we will get to that part later, was the making of me. It did what church should do. It (the people who are the church) cared lovingly and practically, it taught the Bible and flowed in the Holy Spirit. I never felt unloved or unimportant in my church. Opportunities to grow were plentiful and after many years I ended up becoming the leader of the children's ministries. I LOVED my role in church, you could not have found anymore more passionate and committed to serving the children and reaching out to the unsaved little ones and their parents. The years went by and I worked closely alongside my pastor's wife helping to build an international women's ministry and ended up being employed as her PA. Later I even took up the role of church secretary in addition to my PA role.  I absolutely loved being in and around church most of my days and nights. Life did have it's challenges and I had a lot of growing up to do but church was a huge part of my growth and development as a Christian and as a person. Most of all I loved raising my daughters in church. They went where I went, they served alongside me and when I traveled they often came with too. I loved sharing as much as possible with them. This was my reality for about 7 years.

It all changed on 16th April 2000

6.6.16

Girl's Nights and The Wilderness

I will continue with my early church journey in my next post but I need to interject with this letter to all the lovely ladies who are a part of our Girl's Nights over at King's Coffee House in Cheltenham.

To all you wonderful women who have been on the Girl's Night journey with me for the past years. I write to you with a heavy heart but also with much love in my heart for you. We have grown to know each other and love each other and this new season in my life takes me away from you, which is not easy at all. I would like to say that it's all positive and that you should be happy for me but it's not such a simple story. For various reasons our family have left our church that we have called home for the past 18 months. Eric has accepted a job at another church and felt that he needed to do this to provide for his family, as being a full time student this past year has made life rather difficult. He had to leave his studies and cannot finish his degree to take this job. I have not joined the church he is working at and seemed to have gone into the wilderness. I found the change very sudden and unexpected and it has thrown me into a place of heartache and confusion. You see, I have learned to love each and every person in our church and feel like my heart has been ripped out. Girl's Night has been a place where I have been able to connect with you lovely ladies on a deeper level.  We have worshipped together, challenged each other, laughed together and cried together.

I want what is best for you all and I don't feel that I can continue leading you in my current circumstances. As I find myself lost in this wilderness place I realise that this is nowhere to lead people from or to. You must move on as I pass the baton onto someone who is better able to lead you more positively. So please know that I love you all very much and will be thinking of you and praying for you as you meet tomorrow night for Girl's Night. Please keep me in your prayers too as I keep you in mine.

1.6.16

Stuck going in the wrong direction

I remember one particular trip back from London to Cheltenham. It had been a long day of hard work, conducting interviews for our Women's Business Magazine, driving from one side of London to the other and back again. Lorah and I were travelling back late at night and were desperate to get home. My back hurt so much from sitting in the car for so long that I had to lean forward over the steering wheel in a funny position to relieve the pain. I was exhausted and the drive home felt like an eternity.  THEN IT HAPPENED! I accidentally  took a wrong turn on the motorway. I can't tell you how my heart sank! The worst part was that it was a long drive to the nearest roundabout to get back in the right direction. There was a metal barrier between the two sections of the motorway and no way to turn around and get back on track. I was stuck going in the wrong direction and there was nothing I could do about it except keep going IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!  I can't tell you how horrible it felt to be driving away from my way home.

That is how I feel right now in my church journey. I feel like I took a wrong turn and am heading in the wrong direction but there is no way to fix it, I simply have to keep going in the wrong direction until I reach the next opportunity to turn around. Then I can turn and start heading back towards the original intersection that I should have taken, to get towards my/God's goal.

The metaphor is clear, I have made a mistake, it is out of my control, I cannot do anything about it and I must keep going until the opportunity to correct it presents itself. The practical outworking is not quite so clear. What mistake did I make and when did I make it and how will know when I have come to my 'roundabout' to turn around. I guess this is where my previous post comes in. There is nothing I can do, so I simply have to stay snuggled in Jesus arms and He will carry me. Oh the theory and metaphors are great but it's another thing knowing how to put all this into practice. All I can do is keep close to Him and trust that He will not let me go astray.

The verse He gave me today was a mystery at first when I read Psalm 68:19 in my NKJV  Bible: "Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah"

But when I went to looked it up on the internet to copy and paste it here in this post I burst into tears, have a look at this version, the NIV: "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."


And if that wasn't enough to make it clear that God is speaking, see what the NLT says: "Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms."

Oh my goodness I cannot tell you how special this is to me, to know that I am not imagining all this - that He really and truly is with me and saying what I believe He is saying. Out of all the 31,102 verses in the Bible, what are the odds that I would turn to this one verse this morning? It is not coincidence, it is God confirming His word to me and perhaps somehow by reading this He is trying to tell you something too.

May God bless you today as you snuggle into His arms and accept the things that you simply cannot change. Keep driving and trust that He will show you the way. He is still God even when you are driving in the wrong direction! Let's end with a powerful prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Meditate on how close God is to you today with this beautiful song from Hillsong Empires.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHBd-V167Mg]

29.5.16

The Truth

I don't know if what I am going to be writing about in the near future is going to make any sense at all. I don't even know if I should be publicly processing all this. You may have noticed that the tone of my previous post wasn't in proportion to the announcement. I realised after posting it that I was trying to say something without saying it, which of course didn't work at all. So I am going to attempt, over a series of posts, to share my journey with you - live from the heart, as it happens. This is not something that I have been through, come out of, got the t-shirt and can help others through. This is what I am going through and trying to figure out. You can expect it to be raw and real so please don't judge me. I have judged too many others in my situation in past years only to find out what it really feels like to be this side of the judgement.

When church hurts

You may recall a similar story that we posted in 2010 - When Church Hurts.  Now I will attempt to write my own 'church hurts' story without naming names or hurting people. My aim is to be honest in sharing what I have been through and am going through but at the same time protect all involved. So if at some points you feel I am hiding something be assured that it is only the bits that are necessary to protect others. I don't intend to hide anything from you at all as far as possible, I will tell you the truth.

Setting the scene

Where to start.... um.... well, I may have to jump around a bit because it's difficult to know where the journey really began, it may have been at birth but I won't go that far back. Like any good thriller let's start at the current scene and then jump back to the past. How does that sound?

Right now I am in bed with my pyjamas on clicking away on my laptop while the children are downstairs watching TV. My husband, Eric, is at church where he has recently been employed as the Executive Pastor. Yes, it is a Sunday morning. I am not going to church at the moment. Not for the foreseeable future. I am trying not to cry as I write this because I am tired of crying. I don't want to cry anymore! The truth is, I need some time out. Church has hurt too often and for too long. I just want some time to be with God. Just me and Him. Time to heal. Time to reflect. Time to get back to... I don't really know... but I know where I am now is not a nice place to be. What happened to me? How did I end up here? I feel like I have had every part of me stripped away and now I am revealing my bare soul. I am empty. I am broken. I am lost.

Stop wriggling

One thing I hold onto is a picture that I believe Jesus showed me. This picture makes it OK for me just to be for the time being. Before I saw the picture I heard the words, "Stop wriggling!" With a rather puzzled expression on my face I imagine, I said, "Huh?" I heard it again, "Stop wriggling!" and then almost right away I say a picture of Jesus holding me in his arms like a little girl and instantly recalled the beautiful Footprints in the Sand poem. I realised that Jesus was trying to carry me and I was trying so hard to walk on my own. I was wriggling in this arms trying to get down and walk myself. Often I am too hard on myself, always forcing myself to do the right thing no matter how painful it is. I know I was trying to do this in the church context. Despite how much I was hurting I was still looking to get on with doing what was right. Jesus didn't want me to do anything. In this time I believe there is no right or wrong action for me to take. All I need to do is snuggle into his arms and allow him to carry me. I know there will come a time when I will need to take action and walk on my own two feet again but I don't need to worry about that right now. For now and the foreseeable future, my only action is to take now action and snuggle in Jesus arms. It is this picture that I hold onto.

In my next post I will tell you what happened and how I got to this place but in the meantime, enjoy this beautiful poem and if you too are in a season where you are needing Jesus to carry you, stop wriggling and just snuggle in his arms and rest.

Footprints in the Sand


- by Mary Stevenson

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."

25.5.16

I Don't Know What to Say :/

I have sat with my hands on the keys several times now, to write to you but never know what to say. So here it is, I am just going to let it come out, raw and real. You see, I have a choice, I can pitch what I have to say to you in a very positive, exciting way (which would be honestish) or I can pour out my heart and soul which could be overly negative and draining for you. For your sake and mine I will do neither, I am not pitching anything to you, it is not positive nor negative, it just is. This is where the journey has taken me and many of you have been reading my posts for years and have stayed with me through all the ups and downs, trials and tests, joys and laughter.

Not A New Beginning

I considered calling this post A New Beginning but realised that it is not a new beginning at all, it is the next chapter in our book, a new season in our life, perhaps even a turn at a cross road. I considered calling it Starting Over only to realise that nothing is starting over but this new chapter, or perhaps we can even call it a new book, is the wonderful culmination of all that we have been through, learned, failed at and enjoyed. Life has brought us to this point and it is both terrifying and wonderful. We had to go through every single thing that we have been through to get to this point and this point is all part of God's master plan. This is what I choose to believe. If I don't believe it then life just doesn't make sense. God is good. He is always good. He is full of mercy. He is love. So what I am choosing to believe makes sense based on these very important facts.

Death Brings Life

Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  - John 12:24

Sometimes we just have to die! Die to self. Die to our selfish plans and desires. Die to our way of thinking. Die to so many things. If we don't die we will never live. The Bible is full of things that are hard to understand but once you come out the other side they make perfect sense and offer so much freedom that you wonder why it took you so long to get it. I am currently in the pre-die stage, working through dying. At least in this area. In past seasons I can testify to the pain of dying and how wonderful it is bearing much fruit when you come alive again.

The one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world preserves it for eternal life. - John 12:25

King's Life 

So this brings me to our big announcement. We haven't worked out the details yet, we don't know where this path will lead, but we do know that this is the right next step. As you may have noticed, our website address, name, logo, branding, social media, email address and everything has changed! This is a nutshell overview of what is happening:

  1. King's Daughters, AD Life and Cheltenham School of Music have merged into one amazing ministry called King's Life Ministries. Eric and I have joined forces and will be coming together to build what we are most passionate about, which is;


  2. King's Life Ministries is about the church - the wider church not one building in particular - the body of Christ. We are most passionate about this which is why it makes perfect sense to make this our main focus. Our mission is to 'equip the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body of Christ' as it says in Ephesians 4:12  Eric and I will write and preach along these lines under the general category in the blog called King's Life.


  3. King's Daughters will continue under the umbrella of King's Life Ministries with a clear mission to create connection opportunities for women. We will focus on prayer, study of the word and friendship. You can continue to follow these posts in the blog category King's Daughters.


  4. King's Life Music will transform from Eric's existing music business, Cheltenham School of Music, to a more specific focus of teaching music, worship leading and songwriting. We will also record our own music and make it available for your enjoyment.



This is the new season, next chapter, change in direction or whatever you wish to call it. I am exciting about partnering directly with my husband on this project, we work well together and have complimentary skills which is great. We will take it slowly though and not rush into anything, we would love you to walk with us, share your views with us and please pray for us. All King's Daughters mailing lists and social media have changed now to King's Life Ministries so please invite your men over to join us.

So that's it - for someone who didn't know what to say at first, I said quite a lot didn't I!
Love

signature

I Don't Know What to Say :/

I have sat with my hands on the keys several times now, to write to you but never know what to say. So here it is, I am just going to let it come out, raw and real. You see, I have a choice, I can pitch what I have to say to you in a very positive, exciting way (which would be honestish) or I can pour out my heart and soul which could be overly negative and draining for you. For your sake and mine I will do neither, I am not pitching anything to you, it is not positive nor negative, it just is. This is where the journey has taken me and many of you have been reading my posts for years and have stayed with me through all the ups and downs, trials and tests, joys and laughter.

Not A New Beginning

I considered calling this post A New Beginning but realised that it is not a new beginning at all, it is the next chapter in our book, a new season in our life, perhaps even a turn at a cross road. I considered calling it Starting Over only to realise that nothing is starting over but this new chapter, or perhaps we can even call it a new book, is the wonderful culmination of all that we have been through, learned, failed at and enjoyed. Life has brought us to this point and it is both terrifying and wonderful. We had to go through every single thing that we have been through to get to this point and this point is all part of God's master plan. This is what I choose to believe. If I don't believe it then life just doesn't make sense. God is good. He is always good. He is full of mercy. He is love. So what I am choosing to believe makes sense based on these very important facts.

Death Brings Life

Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  - John 12:24

Sometimes we just have to die! Die to self. Die to our selfish plans and desires. Die to our way of thinking. Die to so many things. If we don't die we will never live. The Bible is full of things that are hard to understand but once you come out the other side they make perfect sense and offer so much freedom that you wonder why it took you so long to get it. I am currently in the pre-die stage, working through dying. At least in this area. In past seasons I can testify to the pain of dying and how wonderful it is bearing much fruit when you come alive again.

The one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world preserves it for eternal life. - John 12:25

King's Life 

So this brings me to our big announcement. We haven't worked out the details yet, we don't know where this path will lead, but we do know that this is the right next step. As you may have noticed, our website address, name, logo, branding, social media, email address and everything has changed! This is a nutshell overview of what is happening:

  1. King's Daughters, AD Life and Cheltenham School of Music have merged into one amazing ministry called King's Life Ministries. Eric and I have joined forces and will be coming together to build what we are most passionate about, which is;


  2. King's Life Ministries is about the church - the wider church not one building in particular - the body of Christ. We are most passionate about this which is why it makes perfect sense to make this our main focus. Our mission is to 'equip the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body of Christ' as it says in Ephesians 4:12  Eric and I will write and preach along these lines under the general category in the blog called King's Life.


  3. King's Daughters will continue under the umbrella of King's Life Ministries with a clear mission to create connection opportunities for women. We will focus on prayer, study of the word and friendship. You can continue to follow these posts in the blog category King's Daughters.


  4. King's Life Music will transform from Eric's existing music business, Cheltenham School of Music, to a more specific focus of teaching music, worship leading and songwriting. We will also record our own music and make it available for your enjoyment.



This is the new season, next chapter, change in direction or whatever you wish to call it. I am exciting about partnering directly with my husband on this project, we work well together and have complimentary skills which is great. We will take it slowly though and not rush into anything, we would love you to walk with us, share your views with us and please pray for us. All King's Daughters mailing lists and social media have changed now to King's Life Ministries so please invite your men over to join us.

So that's it - for someone who didn't know what to say at first, I said quite a lot didn't I!
Love

signature

15.1.16

My Life Pie Update



It's two weeks into the new year and I feel a bit overwhelmed by the reality of my life but also hopeful that somehow I can find the balance - in fact I will not stop trying until I get my days looking more like I want them to! In my previous post I launched the concept of the My Life Pie. I was not quite sure how you would take it. Some loved it and some hated it. However, as the days go by I find myself sharing it with others as a way of explaining my attempt to find some balance this year.  

So far I established that I work way too much and do little else during the week. Every Saturday I stay in my pyjamas and do as little as possible to recover from the week, leaving a little energy to get my butt to church on Sundays and do my best at loving my Christian brothers and sisters. Shocking I know!!

My Life Pie gave me some sense of order, at least in theory, yet to be realised practically. Cleaning was the very first thing that I noticed was missing when after one week of trying to do life better I noticed how dirty and messy my house was! Ooops, I needed to factor some cleaning in.  You will laugh when you read my next post about this, entitled How to have a hot body, a clean house and save money

Each day, in my mind, should have a variety of activities not just work and sleep, so I continue to strive towards building days that are balanced. I want to wake up each morning around 5am as I love the early mornings when everything is quite (this means I should be going to bed around 9pm which is not always possible). I would like some time to exercise and some time to meditate (I have discovered how wonderfully powerful the simple act of controlled breathing can be coupled with hearing God or dwelling on a Bible verse.)  Playing the guitar is also something I strive to do daily if possible, I am not very good at all, been a beginner for many years, but I am OK with that as I only want a simple accompaniment to my simple worship.  I LOVE to play and sing PRIVATELY!!!

Cleaning is now a new time slot where I focus on a quick whiz around the hour or focus on one room's deep cleaning. I couple this with loud worship music or a chilled chat to God while I am cleaning. God can speak even as we do the mundane everyday chores.  

Yes I confess, I do try squash 9 hours of work into my day, at the moment it's more like 10 or 11 some days but I am determined to cut down and fit these others things into my day.  I love my work but equally I loathe it. What I mean is that I love what I do but because it is still a relatively new business, it needs a lot of attention just like a new baby.  The Women's Business Club is growing steadily and very soon I hope will be great success story that will support women in their businesses all over the UK. I do love my work but I don't want to love it at the expense of my children, my marriage and my very sanity!  I especially don't want to love it so much that God get's the bare minimum of my time.  

So that takes me to the final slices of my pie - my family and relaxation time. I LOVE my family so much, it is the most important thing in the world to me but sadly it is my family that gets neglected the most when I overwork. I dearly want to stop working soon after the children get home from school, dedicate some time to play with them and do homework, then cook and have dinner with them and finally end the family time by spending time with them as I tuck them into bed. This is my ideal scenario. Too often they come home and I say, "Just finishing something off, be with you soon." Hours pass and I race to the kitchen to throw a dinner together so I can get them to bed on time. Eeek and another day has passed leaving me unsatisfied that I neglected the most important part of my day!

Relaxation is wind down time in the evening, usually a long bath with candles and chilled music or a movie just to switch off, I would like it to be more reading but I am usually too tired to focus on the words so opt for something more brain dead like a movie. Many nights I go straight from work to bed which of course is SILLY and has a significant impact on my sleep!

You see, I know what I want it life! I know what I want my days to look like. I know how I want to feel at the end of each day. What I want and what I actually have are completely different. My Life Pie is my way of working hard at trying to get what I want to become my reality. Too many years have passed by now, I am 42 years old, I have missed too much of life itself to allow any more years to go by.

Some of you might have a quizzical look on your face right now wondering what all this waffle is about and when I will make a point. Others may be nodding and totally understand what I am saying. Either way, please make sure that you are living your life and not just letting the days, weeks, months and years slip away from you. For me, starting to tackle what my days should  look like in the form of My Life Pie is the only way I can find some sort of control in my life.  

I would love to hear from you.  How do you feel about your life right now? What are you working on to truly life your life? What is most important to you this year?  How can we pray for you so that you don't have to battle through things alone? Please use this blog, don't just stand by and observe all my random waffle but get involved. Let's make this more of a community of King's Daughters who build each other up and support each other and less of a monologue from little ol' me.  

To make chatting and prayer support easier, I have set up a brand new Facebook group for us at www.facebook.com/groups/963686297000397/  It is a closed group which means only the members of the group can see what you write - it is private to outsiders so you won't be exposed to the whole world, just a lovely bunch of Christian women.

Love


9.1.16

Depression, learned behaviour and the freedom to choose.


It's no secret, I have tried so many things to beat depression. I have come at it from every angle, been on and off meds, prayed, fasted, experimented with food and exercise and done whatever I have thought to do. The early years of my struggle are recorded in Hope's Journey. There are days when I feel cheated of life itself, like I will never know it feels like to be content or normal! It is frustrating. At times I just hate myself. I hate that I cry for stupid things, shout at the children I love dearly and annoy my wonderful husband with my nonsense. I don't always feel this way or even behave this way but there are times when I do and I beat myself up over it because it's not the person I want to be.

Our current Girl's Night series this year is a powerful one and already after the very first session I feel empowered and excited about the possibilities. What struck me most was that I had to choose contentment and not wait for the feelings to come. I know this to be true of happiness too, you can choose to be happy or sad. There is always the option for both emotions in most situations and we can choose how we response or react. At times I have been upset that I can't just be happy, why do I have to work so hard at it.  And now to add to my annoyance it seems I have to work at being content too!

My lovely father-in-law bought me a great book this Christmas, Passion into Profit, to encourage me in my business. Right in the beginning the author, Andy Harrington, described a real life scene from his own life at a Tony Robbins convention.  We will jump in at a random point of this story which won't make much sense to you but read it and bear with me as I tie all these pieces together for you afterwards.

"I swallow hard and hope Robbins knows what he’s doing.

‘So you’re depressed? Why are you depressed? Tell me about it,’ Robbins commands.

Within a few moments she is tearful, rocking back and forth on her chair in the foetal position, and she’s starting to become withdrawn and unresponsive.

‘What the hell? How’s this going to help?’ I’m thinking.

Then he asks her something that totally surprised me. ‘Have you ever had
an explosive orgasm?’

‘Huh?’ she asks, incredulously.

‘I’m just curious. Have you ever had an explosive orgasm?’ he asked again.

‘I can’t tell you that!’ she said coyly. The audience laughs.

‘Well you just told 5,000 people about this depressing episode. Why not
tell us about this joyful one?’

She’s stumped, and looks confused. Robbins calls on help from the audience.

‘Ladies and gentleman, can she tell us about this experience – yes or no?’

Five thousand people respond as one with ‘Yes!’ and clap enthusiastically.

Robbins asks, ‘Can you think about that time now? Go back to that time and see what you saw, hear what you heard and feel what you felt.’ 

She closes her eyes and begins to associate back to the experience. It starts to resemble the scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally where Sally (played by Meg Ryan) has a full-blown orgasm in a cafĂ©. The crowd cheers her on and it starts to build up – and I mean really build up, if you know what I mean. She is flushed in the face and making quite a sound through the microphone she’s holding. Now remember, there are cameras onstage looking at us, so the whole audience can see on the big screens what is taking place. You should have seen the look on my face. All I remember thinking was ... ‘I haven’t seen this before!’

This one seminar changed her life. She was totally stuck but came to realize through this intervention that she had the power to choose her emotions depending on what she focused on and the meaning she gave to what happened to her."

This got me thinking, as I have thought many times that the power lies with us to change our mind. Freedom comes when we take possession of our mind.  We can choose happiness, we can choose contentment and we can choose our emotions. Most people allow emotions to rule them but the truth is we can choose our emotions.  

Too often we question why God doesn't heal us but I have recently learned that God has healed me. I very specifically remember being prayed for one evening and raced home to tell Eric that I had been healed from depression. I remember it well.  So if that's true why do I still struggle, why do I still cry when I don't want to, why do I still get in a mood and why do I still sometimes just want to die?

I now know why. It is not depression anymore. I believe I am not depressed now. There are two things left that I need to work on and they are: 1) my freedom to choose my emotions and 2) my learned behaviour.

I am going to stop here because before I share these two powerful keys with you I want you to take some time to think about this.  These keys are not only for people with depression they are for every single person no matter what the struggle!  They apply to EVERYONE.

Please share your thoughts with me in the comments box below and I will share part two of this post soon.  It will blow your mind!  You will be free. Nothing will have power over you every again. The enemy will be defeated because his mind games won't work anymore on any of us. I can't wait to tell you about it... but not yet.  First you have to do your homework and think about this carefully and how it applies to you.

*** Please use your common sense, only you know where you are at on your journey with depression, there is nothing wrong with medication - I took anti-depressants for over a year and it was a welcomed break from all the hard work I have done to beat depression. I feel stronger and ready to do all I have mentioned above.  There is no condemnation in this, just know that God works in many ways and you need to follow His guidance as He leads you in the way you should go.  He lead me to anti-depressants for a season and I am so grateful as it has helped me so much. But now I want to move forward without them because that's what I feel is right for me.  You must figure out what is right for you too.

Love