27 Feb 2013


Recently my Church has been running a midweek series called Alive which has been looking at how to feel fully alive in our faith; how to actually live in a way that is living life to the full. 

I was intrigued to see what they were going to say because in my observations of Christians they generally fit into this camp:
THE DO-ERS: People who serve and serve and serve and have a job and kids and are doing distance learning and caring for elderly relatives and campaigning for something to be better...the ones who NEVER stop. The ones who single-handedly run Sunday Schools, who finish their kids art projects for them, who find time to redecorate rooms and visit people in hospital. The ones who you need to book a slot with because they are doing life at an insane pace.

Christians seem to be the busiest people I know. Whether it's because they see ways to serve and love God in everything, or whether it's because they feel an obligation to - Christians DO a lot of things.

However, at Church we are often told to be: 
BE-ERS: The Mary's, who sit at Jesus' feet and learn from him. Those who can spend substantial amounts of time in solitude reflecting and communing with God. Those who always seem to be at peace and carry this aura of calm with them wherever they go. 

If I'm honest neither of these options has seemed hugely attractive to me. I can definitely identify more with being a DO-ER, but the older I get the less this fulfills me. I used to find security in being busy; now I relish time to stop and reflect. The prospect of being a BE-ER though doesn't sound my thing...don't get me wrong I want to spend time with Jesus and learn, but solitude is not for me, and I don't carry calm with me at all!

So the opportunity to hear something new about how to live a life fully Alive has been tempting.

Today in our Alive course I took away the following:

  • In my life I need boundaries. I need to realise that my every day yes/no determines how I live my life. What is it that I really want to do with my life? How am I going to protect it? Once I've decided these priorities I need to put things in place to help me see whether I am sticking to the boundaries or not.
  • A lot of the time we subconsciously judge people as good/bad Christians based on outward things - do they come to Church? Do they pray out? Do they serve? How big is their Bible? etc. We use these things as "boundary markers" - they are all good things, but they don't necessarily make you a good Christian.
  • However, the boundary markers we should be looking for are do they love God? Do they love his people? This is taken from the commandment Jesus gave in Mark 12:30-31 
  • How do I most naturally love God - when is it that I feel most close to God? What do I do that makes me love him more? Whatever that is - do it! Do it more, grow in it. Find others who will support/encourage/wrestle with you. 
  • Don't deny who you are. We are all different and that is good. Don't try to fit into a mold that hasn't been made for you. Instead explore how you connect with God even if it is unconventional. 

So I learnt this evening that I connect with God mainly through relationships and being with people. I am much more likely to feel challenged/encouraged spiritually after a chat with another Christian or with spending time with others. I struggle being on my own and find that it sometimes actually has a negative reaction on my faith - something I am trying to address. 

I think there is an unsaid expectation in the Church that we all should connect to God through reading our Bibles and praying. And that stuff is great! But I know for me that I generally get more out of a 10 min conversation with someone than an hours personal Bible study. I get frustrated with expectations - what does God expect of me? That I love him and love others. 

Let's be free in how we best do that. 

23 Feb 2013

Ghana Take 3

I have just returned from my third visit to Ghana. (You can read about my visit last year here) I guess the fact that I'd been a couple times before didn't necessarily prepare me for what God had in mind. Things had been so busy in the run up to leaving that I hadn't really had a chance to prepare myself hugely for the trip. This was the first time I have led a mission trip and maybe it was being in that position that made me see things with a different outlook. 

(my team)

This trip was fantastic because God was very good to us...in everything!
  • Our travel was smooth, and even when we had a really close gap to make our flight in Istanbul, God made a way for us to make it.
  • No one got horrifically sick. Imodium was taken, yes, but did it stop anyone from taking part in activities...no. This is massive considering last year pretty much everyone was really ill by the end.
  • Everything was so laid back. We had a timetable that I had drafted before we got there and confirmed things on the first night. From there we just followed it; there were a few slight adjustments but we did everything we said we would do and yet had time to stop for roasted plantain/ice cream.
  • Relationship building was at the centre of what we did and it was so positive. We built relationships with the students at Jubilee School, the congregation at Juaso Church, with the women who cooked for us, with our translators, with kids all over the place. God made a way for us to be able to connect with people quickly in order that we were able to learn from each other. We were SO blessed by relationships - a special one for me was building on a relationship I had started last year with a girl called Mary.

  • Mary is in her final year at Jubilee School (the school that XLP have helped to build). She is SUCH a joker! Totally has a gift of leadership and also has a pretty good gift of organisation - she is the "dinner-hall prefect" so has to make sure everyone sets up the hall and cleans it well. I was really blessed by getting to know her a bit more - I see a lot of similarities between the 2 of us. She wants to study business administration at university and so it was a privilege to be able to take her and the other final years to an open day at the local university to let them see what its like. Hopefully it has inspired them to work hard and pass their exams. 

This trip though was hugely challenging. I don't know whether God was hitting me with a lot of stuff or if I was just in a place where I noticed things more but yea it's had me thinking.

  1. MY OWN ATTITUDE - I really noticed how selfish I am. In a culture where people share everything and look out for each other and where extended family means you have a responsibility to them, I realised just how independent and self sufficient I am. Not that that in itself is a bad thing; but when it comes at the expense of others it is. I noticed that I was more worried about my own comfort than of the people around me who had so so much less.
  2. MY FUTURE - Some of you may know that I have always felt like God has called me to overseas mission of some nature and I guess I have no idea what that would be, but this trip really cemented for me that it is a possibility. God was challenging me on him being my sufficiency, and I don't know if it will ever happen, but I could picture myself living in a community like Dampong (where Jubilee School is)
  3. MY GIFTING - Growing up I have always seemed to fall into leadership. Like it has never been difficult for me to wind up in a position where I am leading something, whether it be a Christian Union, a sports team, a school or a youth group. But I think more and more God has been showing me the depth of that gifting. If I'm honest I don't "try" to lead. It's not like something that is an effort for me - it seems that my personality is one which seems to naturally lean towards leading. But I think God has been challenging me on how I do that in a more humble way.
I met up with my friend Annie today and was talking to her about how I don't want to forget these lessons - I don't want to just fall back into the same patterns I was in before I went to Ghana. I want to adjust my actions accordingly. So here are some actions...

  • Do 1 generous thing for someone else every day.
  • Purposely go out of my way to speak to someone I think is lonely 
  • Pray/fast about what God has for my future
  • Spend time reading a book on leadership
  • Speak to a leader I respect to ask if they will informally mentor me
I would appreciate any other ideas as to how to put into practise things I have learned - comment away!

Ghana take 3 was different to any trip before, but totally immense. 

9 Feb 2013


Apologies...I should have done this yesterday...it was a bit manic then.

But, the winner of the Good Book Giveaway is.......


Woooo...*party poppers going, a load of glitter falling from the sky, music playing*

Congratulations Gemma. I'll pop it in the post to you. 

Thanks to everyone who entered - not going to lie I'd still recommend actually spending money on that book as it is fantastic...plus it's one you want to lend to people afterwards.

On a totally separate note, I am going to Ghana on Monday. I went last year (you can read about it here) but this year I am leading a team of 9 others. If you are the praying sort I would appreciate prayers for safety and that we would be a blessing in that community. 

7 Feb 2013


This blog is a bit out there for me. As in, before I've even written it, I feel vulnerable. I was reading a post from Prodigal Magazine (which I am finding to be a really meaty online article resource) and in it the author was being really honest about an insecurity she had - at the end  she asked if people were willing to share their insecurities in the hope of growing together. You can read her article here.

Anyway, I had a think about it and if I'm honest I am pretty insecure about the fact I have horrifically dry skin. There, it's out there.

Since I was born I have had eczema and I genuinely don't think there has ever been a time when I haven't had to moisturise multiple times a day. 

The frustrating thing about it is that growing up Doctors/parents would say that I would grow out of it. That clearly has not happened. So how much growing up do I have to do exactly? (clearly I'm not growing physically up any more!) 

I find myself constantly checking my face in mirrors, windows, cars that drive past...just to assure myself that I don't look like a raisin. And then if I do, being able to readily crack out the infamous E45 to deal with the situation. 

Growing up at school I could kind of deal with it ok. I mean no one wants to be the eczema kid, but everyone was going through something - acne, ridiculous growth spurts or hormone overloads. I guess I felt like it was just the thing I had to deal with.

Now, when my colleagues are beautiful adults, I feel more out of place.

Annoyingly, Doctors don't seem to have developed any new cures for dry skin conditions in the 25 years I've been alive. So while I know there are a few things that specifically set my skin off a bit more (like: cold weather/hot heating, stress, eating dairy products, wearing wool), there is nothing to deal with it completely. 

To be honest YES I am fed up of constantly thinking "am I a flaking mess". 

It's a tricky one because on one hand I have friends who will tell me when they think I need to moisturise which clearly I appreciate in the sense that I don't want to look like my face is falling off...however the fact that they notice in the first place almost plays into my insecurities as it reminds me how obvious this thing is. 

I guess the point of this post is more to get it out there that this is an issue to me. I struggle with wanting to look beautiful and not feeling it a lot (and no that is not an invitation for you all to give me sympathy and tell me I look beautiful anyway...thanks but it would feel like pity). This post is me venting my annoyance that no matter what type of creams/ointments/pastes I have tried, they don't seem to work. It's me giving two fingers to my skin and snarling at it because sometimes it makes me sad.

It's me saying thank you to those of you who help me feel like it's not an issue. That helps. Because in my head it is. 

NOTE: On a totally unrelated issue you have 1 day to enter my book giveaway 

2 Feb 2013

Good Book Giveaway

Some of you may know I'm a bit of a reader - I like to fill my mind with things to mull over. You may remember that back just over a year ago I wrote a post on a book called "The Me I Want To Be" by John Ortberg (you can read my book review here). Well, at work I am part of a mentoring group which has decided to study this book and so I got given another copy.

Clearly the first thought that ran through my head was WOOP a giveaway prize!

It's a fantastically easy book to read but totally challenges a lot of perceptions that sometimes Christians just fall into believing. I know that as I'm re-reading it now I'm being hit afresh by how life-giving it is. Like it almost makes you breathe a bit deeper...(I don't know exactly how it's possible for a book to do that...but that's my experience) For more info on it read my review!

So if you would like an opportunity to win this book you need to do one of the following:

  • Follow my blog (look on the right hand side of this post and sign up)
  • Re-post the link to my blog on your fb page
  • Retweet about this post/my blog
  • Mention my blog on your blog
Once you do one (or all) of the above, let me know by leaving a comment, either on this post or on facebook/twitter...somewhere where I will see.

The more things you do the more times you will be entered to win.

The deadline for entering will be Friday 8th Feb at noon (GMT) so if you're interested in giving this a read get cracking!