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20.11.16

What happened to me?

I remember a time when I was heavily pregnant with Daniel who is now 10 year old! During that season our church was about an hour's drive away and we were very involved. Eric didn't have his driver's licence at the time and he played in the church band, so every Thursday I would drive him to church, sit through band practice and then drive him home. To make this journey work I would prepare Eric's dinner and give it to him to eat in the car as I picked him up from work on the way to church. On Sundays we would get to church very early to help set up and then rest in the car in-between the morning and evening services so that we could attend both. It was too far to drive home and come back again so we decided to stay in town and wait. Thursday's was our home group night which we attended each week and occasionally we would have to head over to church for a team meeting. This was our life. I may have mentioned this season previously but wanted to refresh your memory to show the contrast from when I was that in-love with church that I would give 110% to whatever we needed to do, to how I feel now.

Now I feel like I am holding back. I fear being asked to help with anything. Sunday's approach each week with dread because I still feel numb inside. A part of me want to run again. I want to get stuck into church life and help build it in whatever department I am needed. Another part of me wants to run in the opposite direction forever to get as far away from church as possible. What happened to me? How did I go from being so passionate and sold out for the cause to where I am now? Will I ever have that kind of passion again? Will I always feel so horrible inside and so lost?

Since Eric has made a career out of church and we no longer serve together I feel weird. We have divorced our church life. We no longer dream together about what could be or pray together over what we are building. Our conversations are no longer passionate for the cause but all about him and his career. Church has stopped being something that I love and more something that I have to endure so my husband can do what he wants to do. Will this division ever end? Will we ever build together again? Will our dreams ever be one as the once were? Or is this it, do I walk on my own path and simply survive the journey?

All I have right now is questions, confusion, hurt and aloneness.  Not loneliness, I have friends. Aloneness because I don't think anyone can understand me right now. I am sure they would try and would offer the best advice that they could muster but if I don't understand this season I am in how can anyone else.
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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.
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6.11.16

Amazing Breakthrough

Enough was enough I thought! Something had to give. The pressure was too much and I wanted my job and peace back. My prayer was specific and I wanted a clear and final answer before I put the whole thing behind me. Although I tried to go to church with Eric once I was still spending Sundays at home. Everything inside of me did not want to go to church. I knew that if I did go to church it should be to Eric's church. So the children and I stopped visiting other churches and committed to go to Eric's church and support him in his role. It was too difficult though and no matter how hard I tried I could not force myself to go to church. Sundays became a day where I prayed while pottering around in my garden and we became a TV church member of Life Church - they have a fantastic kids program each Sunday.

Back to my prayer which went like this:

"Dear Father God. I love to hear your voice! There is nothing more that I desire. Father, please tell me if you want me to do anything about Eric's university? Do I interfere? Do I get involved? Do you want him to finish his studies? What do you want me to do?"

After praying I had an extremely strong conviction to do whatever I had to so that Eric could go back to university and finish his studies. I found several email addresses on Eric's computer for his university contacts and also found some of this friends contacts. All in all I contacted everyone that I felt I should contact and simply said,

" It has been on my heart lately to do whatever it takes to get Eric back to his studies. I don't know where to start so am just praying and reaching out and trusting God to lead the way. Do you have any advice?"

I received several responses where people confirmed that they also felt that Eric should continue his studies as he was clearly called to ministry. Everyone was so lovely but there was still that matter of Eric's outstanding fees from the first year of studies. Eric was adamant that he would not return to university without his debt being settled first.

What happened next blew my mind! The very next day this email came into Eric' inbox:

"Dear Eric, I hope that you are well. I'm writing to let you know that we have now received pledges of funds to cover all your fees for this year apart from £1500. The College is able to give you a bursary for this outstanding amount. I do hope it might be possible for you to continue your studies next year. Please do get in touch if you would like to  talk about this."

Oh my goodness! I got Goosebumps when I read this. It couldn't have been any cleared and served as direct confirmation to my prayer the day before, that Eric should be back at university to complete his studies and continue on the path he had originally set out on. I was immediately reminded of Isaiah 65:24,

" Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear."  NIV

Another version says it like this:

" I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!" NLT

It seemed possible that all this time I was not actually completely wrong but that I was in fact fighting a battle for my husband's future so that he would remain on the path that God had for him and not be tempted by another path which seemed to be good and Godly but was in fact simply not the right path.
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30.10.16

The Reason for Everything

There is only one way to really and truly get God's attention and that is to either break his heart so badly that he turns away and cries or to fast! So I chose the latter as I have broken his heart far too many times in my life and I needed him nearer to me that every before. So I withheld food and all drinks except water from my flesh and cry out to God.  Day one of my fast consisted mainly of headaches and me pouring out my heart to God. Day two God spoke briefly:

"Everything comes from God alone, everything lives by his power and everything is for His glory." - Romans 11:36 TLB

Bottom line: It's all for Him.

So with this revelation I forced myself to see things differently. I tried and make it about him and not about me. What did he want? How could I make it about him?

One Sunday evening I insisted that Eric and I seek God together. We spend the evening really reaching out to God together and I prayed until I felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out from the intensity of my prayer. My prayers were groanings in the spirit! It was then that I heard God's voice as clear as anything as he said:

"I want you to trust your husband?"

I was baffled, of all the things God could have said to me why did he say that? Seriously! I needed encouragement, support and nice warm fuzzy. Not a command that didn't fit into what I was seeking him for. So without even thinking about it I responded tearfully,

"But God how?"

To which God instantly said, "I won't ask you to do something without giving you the grace to do it."

And that was the end of the conversation. I left the living room knowing that God had spoken and that I had to obey his voice. I can't say that I was happy that I had heard from God. He unearthed something that I didn't know was there. I thought I did trust Eric. What did he mean trust him? It seemed that deep down inside I held onto the fact that I can trust men, no man in my life has ever been trustworthy and although Eric is the nicest man I have ever known he was still a man and not to be trusted. This was not a conscious thought but it seemed to be a thought that I believed someone deep down inside my soul. So my next challenge was to learn to trust my husband.
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23.10.16

Deep Darkness

Eric was convinced that I was depressed and wanted me to see the doctor again. I stood by my confession that I was healed of depression in October of last year and that what I was going through was NOT depression. It was a deep darkness but not depression - I knew the difference. I was unhappy. I was deeply miserable. I was not liking life. But I was not depressed. And so in my frustration I resorted to writing melancholic poetry. It didn't even rhyme which was an indicator of how deep the darkness was, I couldn't even be bothered to rhyme!

Darkness surrounds me
I even breath it in
It feels heavy
I can't find a way out

"Sanctify yourself[i]," you say
"For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

Hopelessness fills me.
How did life get so bad.
Hurt consumes me.
There seems no escape.

God help, please rescue me.
I can't do this on my own.

_________
[i] Joshua 3:5
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16.10.16

The Submission Struggle

It's 5am on a dark, warm, late summer's morning. I have been awake since 2:30am.  Sleeping has become difficult lately with me averaging about four to five hours sleep most nights. Sometimes less. It's horrible! But my sleeping pattern is not what I want to share with you today. Today I want to share something that I never dreamed I would ever struggle with. Submission. A word that many recoil at. A concept that the modern woman finds outdated and irrelevant and many modern Christian woman believe it's a cultural thing for times past. I however have always been a massive advocate for submission and have passionately preached about it, written about it and believed it with all my heart - or so I thought. Well it's easy to think you are submissive when everything is going your way!

Eric keeps asking me why I won't follow him. I can see he is hurt by the fact that I am not fully behind him in his new church, in fact I am totally opposing him. I am 100% in disagreement with him about his choice to attend and work there. I have been very clear and direct with my disapproval and we have argued many times about the fact that he expects me to follow him wherever he goes and to trust him. Most of all he has made it clear that he expects me to submit to him.  Aargh I hate being told to submit, it goes against what I believe submission is so I dig me heals in even deeper. I believe submission is given by my own free will as a gift to my husband and cannot be demanded of me. Despite everything else I am about to share with you I still believe this to be true - anything else would be domination in my opinion and I don't believe a husband should dominate his wife in any way at all. This whole church situation has really thrown me! I can't understand why I so passionately resist the church that Eric is working at. It's not the people or the church, I believe that they are Godly and have a great church. It is a firm conviction that we are not meant to be going down that path again!

My past has affected me. I don't blame anyone or any past experience but I also don't want to put all the blame on myself either. As you may or may not know from my other writings, my dad was not the greatest of dads having crossed over boundaries that he should have. My step dad wasn't any better, in fact he was much worse. I had a string of hurtful relationships and a failed first marriage (because I was an idiot sadly). So to me the thought of completely trusting and surrendering to a man is ludicrous, even to a man as wonderful as Eric. I have always felt to keep my cards close to my chest and always make sure I have the winning hand. Never consciously but definitely subconsciously making sure I always have a way out, an emergency exit. Divorce thoughts plague my mind regularly and have done for 12 years of marriage. There was a season when I thought I cracked it but they came back. Knowing that there is a way out if I get too hurt is a comfort to me. The thought of having someone have full control over me is... well... unthinkable. Only God gets that much of me.

My prayer was something along these lines this morning:

"God, I don't want to give my husband, or anyone, power over me. Why should I give up the free will that you gave me. How can a trust a man. I trust you completely but I don't know how I can trust my husband. I don't want to give him power over me. I want to keep the door open to leave it I need to. What do I do as know all of this is wrong but you know it's the truth of how I feel. I give you all my heart and all of me, I trust you but I can't give that to another human being. I am tired of always feeling hurt. I don't want to keep myself in that position when my husband or anyone else can hurt me. What do I do? I know this is displeasing to you and I desperately want to please you but I can't see a way forward."

As I sat on my sofa in tears I saw a large thorn stuck in my flesh with a bloody wound around it. I felt like God was saying to me that He could remove the thorn if I wanted Him to. He showed me how I had been protecting and holding onto this thorn, not wanting to let it go. My pain was caused by this thorn but if I didn't allow Him to remove it I would continue living with pain that it brings. It made sense to me, why would someone knowingly hold onto a splinter or thorn in their flesh? Even though it would hurt to take it out it was a no brainer that it has to be removed. Yes I still resisted. The thorn was an obvious metaphor, perhaps of me holding onto my divorce thoughts or of me not wanting to submit. It could also be the fear of losing my power and giving a mere man his way with me. What if losing this thorn meant I became a mindless zombie who just did whatever my husband said and lost me in the process of blindly obeying. Yuck! I don't want to be that kind of person!

So I surrendered to God, not knowing for sure what the thorn was, how painful it would be to have it removed but fully confident that willing living with a thorn in my flesh is painful and foolish. I do trust God with all my heart and I know that He only ever wants what is best for me. I know that I can't 'fix' myself, this problem is too big and probably too deeply rooted. So I surrender. I will wait and see, trust and obey.
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9.10.16

My Broken Heart

The new year had kicked in and I was fully focused on building my business - the right way! It seemed right to be busy with something that was not ministry and we did need to money so it was what I chose to do. King's Daughters Girl's Nights continued on a monthly basis at a coffee shop connected to our church. Eric started a Men's Night as the men saw all that God was doing in the Girl's Nights and wanted their own special night too. Slowly, our hearts warmed to the lovely people at our church as we let the barriers down and allowed ourselves to feel love and compassion again. Brick by brick the walls came down and we starting giving pieces of our heart away as we were able to allow people in once more. It was scary to care again. Being vulnerable hurt a little as the scars were still raw from so much hurt from before. But the people in our church were (and still are) so lovely that we couldn't resist loving them and serving them to the best of our ability.

Eric was thriving in university and getting fantastic marks for his assignments. He loved the hour journey to and from university too, it was a special time where he drove much slower that the speed limit and just chilled in God's presence. He told me how precious that time was to him and I was happy for him. Despite our financial struggles, we were getting by each month and managing to pay most of our bills. We didn't go hungry and had a nice warm cosy home for which we were very grateful.

A niggling feeling started bothering me. I asked Eric to make sure that his university fees had been paid by the church as I didn't want that debit falling on us. He told me not to worry, that everything had been agreed with the church and that it would be paid in full by the end of the year. I didn't have peace, something didn't feel right. Weeks later I asked him again to check and I think just to get me to stop nagging he contacted the college only to find out that none of his fees had been paid at all. Towards the end of the academic year the university started asking for his full year's fee and my niggling feeling grew stronger and so did my nagging to sort it out.

There are many details and names that I won't divulge as this story is not about blaming anyone or being nasty in any way. It is out story and I hope to share it as delicately and diplomatically as possible without exposing or hurting anyone in any way. The bottom line is that there was a massive disagreement about the arrangement for Eric's university fees and we were left with a £8,000 bill that we could not pay. After a very well handled meeting between Eric, the university and the church we all agreed to disagree and Eric informed me that we were leaving the church the next day. We were both in shock about what happened and to be honest I think Eric panicked. The church that we had previously merged with after D7 Church closed had offered Eric a job several times over the years and so he decided that he needed to accept, if only to cover his university fees and find a way to get our family back on track financially. He did want to serve the church and told me that he was fully committed to doing the best possible job that he could at this church whilst finding a way to pay his university fees and take care of his family.

I was devastated, in shock, hurt and confused. We were ripped out of another church, left behind our ministries and hurt a lot of people who didn't deserve for us to abandon them the way we did. I decided then and there that I was not going to go to church. It hurt too much.
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2.10.16

Standing in the Way of the Blessing

Eric of course has his own story to tell, and I hope that one day he will also share his side of this journey as I am sure it will be filled with very different details, struggle, opinions and his own convictions and revelation. For now, I can only comment on my view into his part of our story. Eric is a man of prayer! He is always desperate to hear what God wants to say about every are of live and seldom moves until He is sure God has told him to. What I love most about Eric is that he is authentic, what you see if what you get. He does his level best to be a good husband and father but most important to him is that he is a man of God.

I don't recall how it came about but during 2015 Eric started exploring going to bible school to do his BA in theology so that he could be ordained and become a 'real' minister. As his desire to study grew he explored several universities and took advice from our pastor. Together they agreed on the course that Eric should do and after several meetings our pastor and our church agreed to support Eric on his journey but spiritually and financially. Eric was over the moon and signed up for university and began exploring Baptist ministry. I have never seen Eric so happy and fulfilled as I did during this year. He was doing exactly what he was meant to me doing and I recognised this.

Sadly, I could have done better as his wife. I made several mistakes along the way that made his journey much more difficult than it had to be. We were sitting in a coffee shop discussing the way forward with our pastor. Eric suggested taking his studies from part time to full time so that it could get done quicker and get back to earning a salary. I agreed to support him and had no problem with him going full time, in fact I preferred it that way. So I said, "Don't worry, I can take care of us financially while he is studying. I am making enough money in my business to support us."

Not long after that meeting Eric had a dream. He dreamed that I was flying an aeroplane and the cockpit area started to crack. He knew I was going to crash. After discussing his dream I asked how we could prevent it but neither of us could find the answer. We knew that the aeroplane was my business and that is was going to crash. I was frightened but didn't know what to do.

Shortly after the dream my company did start to fall apart. I went from a really good, steady income to almost losing the business. It seemed to happen overnight. My whole world was be falling apart. We got behind in our bills and tithing became impossible because the money was leaving our account before we could even touch it. We went from doing really well to doing really poorly. Everything I had built seemed to be crashing down around me. God was silent until I begged him to show me what was happening!

Pride. He showed me that I had become proud. My income and my husband's lack of income had caused a terribly imbalance in our life. I hated that he wasn't earning and that I was responsible for us. I desperately didn't want to feel this way, I wanted to support him while he was at university and I wanted to do it well. But I wasn't doing it well, not at all. And so the company continued its steady downward spiral and I repented of every possible thing I could think of. Nothing changed. The crash was inevitable.

Seven months passed and I held onto the 'yoke' in the cockpit for dear life! Things were not good but I held it together both in the business and at home. I was preparing for a crash because I really didn't know how to prevent it.

Then out of the blue when I was praying one day God reminded me of what I said that day in the coffee shop, "Don't worry, I can take care of us financially", and he showed me how that one little sentence was causing all this trouble.  I had repented of pride in general but not of saying these specific words. Our words create our world and so when I said these words I took hold of the yolk of the aeroplane from God and I became our provider. Clearly I was not a very good provider. As soon as I saw the power in the words I had spoken, and what they had done, I repented and asked God to please be our provider again. I realised that all that time I was standing in the way of God's blessing. As soon as I got out of the way the cash flow started to return and I started to get back to steadily building the business with God's help and for his glory. Everything didn't suddenly snap into place but I felt the weight of my words had lifted and I was back to following God's lead and trusting in His provision, not my own.
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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..
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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14.8.16

The Flood and a Church Plant

Church was awesome! Our children were happy and loved it. Lorah got baptised. Daniel was born. We started leading a home group, which was awesome and meant less travelling too. One day, out of the blue, Lorah asked I we could lead a youth group like I did in South Africa. When she was little a did a lot of children and youth work and even though she was young it obviously had an impact on her. I immediately responded yes. It made sense to me and if it helped her make friends at school then why not.

The Flood was born! It was a structured youth group that we help on Friday night's at our home. It started with just four girls and then they requested that the boys come along.  Gulp! I was a bit nervous to add boys to the mix but agreed and the following Friday we had twelve children (one of them named Samuel Beard.... who is now our son-in-law, but that's a whole other story). From there it grew and grew until we were averaging 25 children a week in our apartment. We enjoyed cooking and eating a meal together, some open question time, games, some sort of Bible teaching and of course music as many of the children played an instrument or sang. It was amazing, we love The Flood. It wasn't long before we outgrew our home and annoyed the neighbours too much so we moved our little youth group to a local community center and continued to grow to fifty plus children. At one point we had 112 young people on our database and many of them were accepting Jesus when we shared the gospel with them.  It became obvious that we needed to disciple them and although we were taking some to church with us on Sundays we simply couldn't get them all to church.

One Sunday we arranged a meeting with the pastor of our church and asked if we could set up a Sunday discipleship group rather than attend the evening services so that we could care for these young Christians. After a good discussion we left the meeting with permission to plant a church! What!! To this day I have no idea how that happened but it happened. Our pastor asked us to send him a written proposal for the church and a proposed start date. I guess he didn't expect the massive document that was emailed over to him within a week, perhaps he didn't expect us to get back to him at all. But we did and proposed a September launch date to which he agreed.

That was it, Eric and I were about to become church leaders! We worked feverishly around the clock trying to get ready for the launch. Our pastors didn't really offer any guidance or get involved at all but we knew that they were available if we needed them. One amazing man from our home group was immediately appointed the youth leader and agreed to take care of our children. Eric of course was a brilliant guitarist but other than that we didn't really have a worship team. So when we needed a singer Lorah offered to do it. She had never done anything like it in her life but knew that someone needed to step up and do it so she offered. Sam played drums so he offered and then some of the boys from our youth group quickly learned to play some guitar and bass. Within months we had a worship team.

Next was the preaching.... gulp! Eric and I had never preached yet. EVER. But we put that to the back of our mind and just got on with it. We shared the very first sermon for the launch event, Eric planned to say some things and I would say other thing and together we were hoping for a halfway decent first sermon.

The launch date was set, the band rehearsing their set list, the sermon written, promotional cards printed and the coffee and tea ordered. We were conveniently able to hire the community center where we held The Flood on Friday nights so the venue was set. We were so excited and the launch date couldn't come quick enough. Life was so good and made perfect sense to us as a family. Oh and did I mention that I was pregnant with Amy at that time, she was due in December of the same year. There was no way we could have anticipated the intense roller coaster ride we would go on from that September.

Our church was planted, our baby born and we were having the time of our life! But more about that in my next post...
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7.8.16

Marriage and Moving

You never know who you really are until you get married! With all my heart, when I accepted Eric's proposal, I wanted to be a great wife! I didn't know that I wouldn't be and that I still had so much 'stuff' inside of me that needed working out. After all that God had done in my life, I was sure I was okay as a person and had a lot to offer my husband. Well I did offer him a lot! But not the good stuff I had hoped for. He had to put up with a lot of my crap! Sorry there is no nice way of saying it. But that is a whole other story and I am pleased to report that 12 years on I am a much better wife :)

After about 7 months of marriage Eric managed to find a good job out in Cheltenham. We had never heard of this place before and it seemed a whole other world compared to London. After a visit and finding a lovely home we moved. Many of our church friends came over to our London home for a leaving party and since we were already packed up and ready to move the next day they all helped us pack the van too! One amazing friend even offered to drive with us so that she could help drive the removal van back to London for us. We were so blessed with amazing church friends but also found it easy to leave our church. Little did we know what lay ahead and how limited our options would be on the church front.

Almost as soon as we were unpacked we began looking for our new church. The big scary question was how do you find a suitable church? It's not that any church is better than the others but I suppose you do need to find a place that you would be comfortable and could call home. In theory any church should be fine as long as they believe that Jesus is the son of God and came to earth to die for us so we can be reconciled to him. It is not quite like that in reality though. You 'shop' for a church that has a worship style that you enjoy, you check out that you agree with the preaching and even read the statement of faith and see who they are affiliated with to make sure that it's a church that you would deem healthy. We checked out several church websites, disregarded two churches as they had women ministers (why I don't know) and finally settled on a church for two reasons; 1) It was a Vineyard church and we were familiar with that movement, 2) the photo of the pastors on the website looked really happy. Of course we prayed too and asked God for guidance too, we wanted to be where He wanted us to be but didn't get any specific instructions from him.

That was it - we had chosen our church and were keen to settle down rather than visit lots of churches. We got stuck in right away, joined a home group, Eric joined the band and I got stuck into serving the coffee just as I had done at our previous church in London. It was a very small church and we were not used to this as our previous church had about 3,000 people in. It took time to adjust and we did our best to be a part of the church's journey. For some reason we just couldn't settle into church life. On our way back from a holiday in South Wales we visited a church just for fun and fell in love with it! Eric and I both said that it felt like home and knew that it was what we were sadly missing. Even though we tried our best to be good members of the Cheltenham church we just knew that we would never be happy so left and joined our church in Wales.

Every Sunday was a highlight! Even though it took about one hour each way we always thought it was worth the journey. No church in Cheltenham could ever compare to the awesome church that we found in South Wales. It was a bigger church and more like the church we were used to back in London. In time Eric joined the band so we were travelling to church twice a week and then we also joined a home group so were travelling three times a week. At some points when we had team meetings, as we had also joined the Welcome Team, and then we travelled four times a week! I became pregnant and so was too tired to travel back and forth twice on a Sunday for both services so we had a nap in the car in between services so that we could attend both. I remember how much we loved church. There was nothing too big or too small that we could be asked to do to serve our church. During the end days of my pregnancy I remember being so tired that I closed my eyes during all of the worship, not because I was really connecting with God but because I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open! But that didn't stop me from making the journey to church, I love it so much and nothing would keep me away.

Looking back from where I am now, I fear never feeling that way about church again. The way I feel today is so far from how I once felt. Can I ever get back to that place I wonder? I guess with God nothing is impossible.
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30.7.16

The Wedding Day

#9

 

On 17 September 2014 we began our happily ever after at a garden wedding in Cannizaro Park, London. It's not as grand as it sounds, we have no money at all and pulled off the most beautiful wedding very creatively. Our church friends really pulled together for us and if I had a million pounds to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing! We did the legal side of our wedding in the registry office in the morning and then in the afternoon had the 'real' wedding in a public park. Our friends were so amazing at making our day perfect. One friend surprised us by buying and arch and decorated it with lace, she also created an aisle out of ribbing and organised our picnic as well as our pastor's picnic. I am sure she did so much more arranging and organising behind the scenes that I probably don't event know about, but that is just the type of amazing friend that she is.

A lady from church who we barely knew offered to make our cake - and it wasn't any old cake - check this out!

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Another friend played chauffeur and drove me through the busy London traffic to the park - the alternative was that I took a bus in my wedding dress! One friend did my makeup and nails, another took care of my girls while we were on honeymoon, another let me borrow some shoes, two other friends took the photos and another lovely friend bought my lovely bouquet.

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We did our wedding invitations online so there were no printing costs and we spend our wedding night at our home which was much more special than a hotel. Our honeymoon was all we had to pay for and we had an amazing time in Sardinia, Italy.

It was a perfect start to our life together and once again, our church played a massive part in our happiness. Without our church friends and pastors I can't imagine what we would how done and how different our wedding day would have been.
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26.7.16

The Man of my Dreams

As I looked up to the stage where the musicians were playing I saw this man who seemed to be surrounded my light. Inside I said, "Wow he is so beautiful!". I didn't mean it in a pretty boy way but I sensed purity and loveliness. It was quite new to me and I just knew that there was something special about him. I watched him closely as he played his guitar.

Weeks passed by and God did the most amazing things in my life, He spoke so many things to me of the future and what would still happen. I no longer found myself repenting of the past and trying to make up for it but rather being completely and utterly overwhelmed by His love and filled with excitement for the future. It was incredible. At the same time I became increasingly 'aware' of the guitarist on the stage each Sunday at church. After some time I wasn't sure if I was excited to go to church to worship God or to see him again. It was a difficult infatuation as I desperately didn't want to be the person I used to be and to do things the way I used to do them. I longer for purity and a clean heart before God. No boy was going to get in the way of that. Not even a very attractive guitarist!

I cried before God saying how sorry I was about my feelings toward this man. Deep down inside I genuinely only wanted Jesus, I did not want the feelings I had and begged God to take them away from me. After what felt like an eternity, probably only a few weeks actually, I decided that if God didn't take them away then I was cautiously going to explore them. Being the planner and schemer that I am I devised a strategy to get him to notice me. I was on the coffee team in church and saw him every Sunday. Little did I know that getting him to notice me subtly was Mission Impossible I, II and III all put together. I prayerfully proceeded with caution but decided that the best way to meet him was to get to know his friends, which I did! It wasn't long before we were introduced and I was love-struck! His version of our first meeting is very different to mine - not in a good way either. In my attempt to mask my feelings for him and my nervousness of our first meeting I apparently looked so scary that he went to the bathroom to check if his hair was funny or if he had something on his face.

Telling our story now is very romantic but relevant to the church journey that I am trying to tell you. Church was key in our meeting, in our coming together as a couple and ultimately our marriage. We met at a point in our lives where we were both the other side of broken and completely sold out for Jesus. Church was extremely important to us both and so was our Christianity.

I did meet the man of my dreams at church. Church is a wonderful place to meet people, both friends and potential husbands! The great thing about meeting someone at church is that if you are both involved in the life of the church and serving then you have so many ways of observing each other and getting to know someone before making yourself vulnerable to them in a romantic way. I was always encouraged to get to know a guy in a group of friends and as a friend before allowing him close enough to turn your brains into mush. Well my brain was pretty mushed right from the first time I saw him but getting to observe him at church and getting to see who his friends were and how he behaved was wonderful. I have seen very many beautiful relationships blossom in churches. My closest and dearest friendships were formed in and through church, my children have grown up in church and made lovely friends too and I hope that one day they too will meet their future spouse in the wonderful setting of church.

 

 
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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
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11.7.16

5 Reasons Why I Teach My Children to Tithe

"see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love."
2 Corinthians 8:7-8

Generosity, tithing (10% of your income) and offering sermons are never popular. Could it be because we sometimes do not like when people mess with our god, causing us to feel the need to defend it? Or perhaps we want to to be in control and do whatever we want with what does not even belong to us in the first place?! I could be wrong but I sense that if we cannot give up everything (including control) we cannot be Jesus' disciples. Jesus never asked for 10%, or 50% or 99%. He asked for 100%.

I teach my children to do two things with their money:

  1. To bring 10% of their income to the church.

  2. To put 10% towards savings.


As Christians we have to be intentional towards generosity. We need to display it to our children and God's house (the church) is a great way to do this. Some people right now are teaching their children to gather, be in total control and fearful when comes to trusting God financially. Don't get me wrong, we must do our part. Tithing is the first step. But there are also offerings and the whole concept of leading a generous life. Do you have to tithe? No. Are there consequences? I believe there is.

Here are five reasons why I teach my children to tithe:

  1. Tithing teaches them gratitude, not a sense of entitlement.

  2. Tithing teaches them that God is in absolute control of their finances not them.

  3. Tithing teaches them to set their treasure in the right place.

  4. Tithing teaches them passion and zeal for God's house.

  5. Tithing teaches them the principle of firstfruits. God must always be first.


How about you? What do you think?
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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
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4.7.16

Building a Great Team

 

 

Just came across these team training notes, and since my work involves team building and training, I thought this could be helpful.

You cannot build a strong organisation without a strong team. You cannot build a strong team without building the people within the team. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? However many times we see our team as a whole module forgetting the components that make up that module. When dealing with a team I try to keep things as simple as I can. This helps towards effective communication. The chart below has helped me to quickly assess where a team member is at. You might find it overly simple. I like simple. I believe simple can help leaders to unclutter, to see clearly beyond the mess and focus on the results we look for. Every now and then via conversations I ask a team member the following:

  1. What is your main challenge at the moment? This question helps to spot problems.

  2. What do you fell you need in order to perform better? This question helps to spot their main need.

  3. What is your passion? This question helps when recruiting as well as with matching their job description with what they actually enjoy doing. You don't want someone who hates talking on the phone attempting sales calls.

  4. What you can provide. This will help you to think of how you can provide a solution in order for the person to perform better within their team.


Let's look a little bit more into the four categories;

Problem - When you detect a problem (e.g. poor performance) within a team you've got to act immediately. You just cannot afford to ignore the issue and expect it to go away. It won't. The longer you take the more the problem will grow and spread among the team. So write the main problem on this part of the chart.

Need - Is the problem caused by a particular need (e.g. training, budget). Assess the need by asking direct questions (e.g. what do you think your primary need is?).  Also assess past performance to detect not perceived but actual needs.

Passion - Do you know what your team member is passionate about? This part of the chart should be revealing something to you. Is the person in the right role? Perhaps their dreams are different to what they are doing at the moment. People will flourish when they start doing what they love. After discussing the topic add their passion to this part of the chart.

Solution - This is your chance to write down a solution in order to move your team member forward. Take this opportunity to describe what is required from you and your team member in order to achieve results. Be concise and clear - I've found that too much information tends to get people confused.

The chart above can also be used as a tool in interviews, appraisals, coaching and informal meetings.  If you want to zero in on a problem, focus, think, develop and provide clear solutions with clear instructions, why not give the above development chart a try and let me know if it worked for you too.

 

Why not keep it simple!
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1.7.16

The Body of Christ

"For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." 1 Corinthians 12 - 12

Before I continue with my church journey I wanted to take a look at how awesome the body of Christ is. No matter where I have been geographically, emotionally or spiritually I have always been a part of the body of Christ. During a dark season as a backslidden Christian when I was about 19 I first discovered the beauty of the body of Christ. I loved Jesus, I always did and always will do, but I went through a patch of unGodliness where I loved other things more. I got caught up in the party scene through a Christian friend and started drinking alcohol through that same friend. Up to that point I was a good Christian girl trying to work out my faith. Being a teenager who grew up too quickly, the pull of parties and fun was too much and I gave in. It wasn't long before I no longer attended church and was out until silly o'clock leaving my baby girl with baby sitters. I was having so much fun until one day the consequences starting to kick in, my marriage fell apart and I felt dirty inside. It was a terrible season. The partying and a boy took me away to another town where I initial went to party but then decided to clean up my act and sort my life out.

Church was the starting point, I knew that I had to find a church if I was ever going to fix my life. It was so lovely to get into a church and feel right at home. I worshipped God like I had never stopped, listened to the preaching with a hungry heart and at the end went up for prayer ministry to begin my journey back to God. Even though I was in a different town and a very different place, I was still a part of the body and fit right into the local church.

I am ashamed to say that this wasn't the only time I backslid, I have turned away from God twice in my life! The point is not how bad I have been but how amazing the body of Christ is. Each time I wanted to come back to God and fix my life I found a local church and got planted. No matter where I was there were always lovely people that welcomed me, sincere and caring people who listened to my story and patiently helped me work out the consequences of my sin so that I could get back onto the right path. I experienced this in Knysna, South Africa, Johannesbury, South Africa, Crawley, England and London, England to name but a few places where I have felt at home in church. Wherever I have been and whatever season I have been in the church has welcomed me with open arms. Each person faithfully doing what they are meant to do in the body.

"If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." - 1 Corinthians 12: 15 - 18

I had times when I have really needed the ministry of 'the hand', to love and to offer practical support like when moving home or needing help putting up a curtain rail. This may sound silly but I know that as a part of the body I can always find practical help if I need it. The ear has been vital to my journey, all those lovely kind people who have listened. There are many examples of how the body has helped me so very much. I too have a part to play and hope that even though I have received much from many churches I have also given much so that I too have played my part in the body of Christ.

It is a beautiful and phenomenal thing and even though I am not planted in a church in this season I still feel a part of the body of Christ. One friend from a particular church came over to my home offer me comfort and a bunch of flowers, another friend from a different church spent hours listening to me pour out my soul, another friend from a different church is covering me in prayer and..... well you get the picture! We do need to be planted in a church but the body of Christ is so much bigger than that and stretches beyond the boundaries of each individual church. I don't currently feel safe or settled in a church but I do still feel a part of the beautiful body of Christ.

Thank you to all who are looking out for me as I find my way through this dark stormy season.
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