Saturday, 6 July 2013

Letter to the brave

Dear brave one,

Remember that verse that you read all those years ago, that one that was read at your baptism and has been written out in pretty much every notebook you've owned since then? Joshua 1:9 "Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don't be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go." I want you to know that you live that, that you are brave. Far braver than you think. 

Remember that time when things were so painful that you poured out your hurt through your arms instead, because tears themselves just weren't enough. You were scared and lonely and you hurt so much, physically and emotionally; but you kept going, putting one foot in front of the other. Remember the friends who called you brave then? You just shook your head and looked away, because who can possibly be brave when they are making so many mistakes. But I want to tell you, sweet girl, that you were brave. Maybe not on your own but certainly with God by your side, and you never let go of Him, no matter how bad things got or how angry you felt, and you knew, deep down, that He never let go of you. And maybe that's the bravest thing of all, knowing that you couldn't go through it alone, knowing that there is no way to do life without Him.

I want you to know that bravery comes in all shapes and sizes. It's not just rescuing babies from burning buildings or being a missionary to an unknown tribe in the depths of the jungle! More often than not bravery looks like the single mother working hard to put food on the table for her kids, or the person battling a chronic illness who just tries to make the most of each day. It looks like the office worker, or the stay at home mum. It looks like the person hiding at the back of church, or the pastor standing at the front.

Maybe bravery is not stopping when things get tough. Maybe bravery is feeling scared yet doing it anyway. Maybe bravery is not only adapting to your circumstances but learning to love your life within them too, to be content in all circumstances as Paul says. But I think most of all bravery is knowing you can't do this alone and clinging to God's hand and believing, trusting, knowing that He will lead you through.

I'm linking up with Sabrina over at Just Keep Singing as part of the 'Letters to' series. This weeks prompt is Letter to the brave so head over and check it out!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Letter to a stranger

Dear stranger,
I only met you twice, I think, or was it three times? I forget now, but you weren't there long. What I do remember is that I was scared and desperate for answers. I was fed up of being labelled a hypochondriac for seeking answers about what was happening to my body, so I changed doctors and I met you. You believed me, the first time anyone in the medical profession had. You saw me shuffling slowly, and painfully into your office, exhausted after a short walk and having trouble concentrating and you agreed that this was not normal for a previously active 19 year old. You referred me to a rheumatologist, but you were only at that doctors temporarily and I didn't see you again after the rheumatologist appointment. I wonder if you ever thought about me, if you ever wondered what I was eventually diagnosed with. Would you have still been so supportive after I was diagnosed with such a controversial illness? I like to think so.
I don't think you'll ever know how much it meant to finally be believed, to have someone backing me up and starting the process to finding answers. Of course I didn't realise that this was just the beginning, or know how tough this journey would be, or how much I would have to fight for the help that I need. But that doesn't matter, you gave me my first glimmer of hope. Hope that I would get answers, hope that I wouldn't always have to fight, and hope that there were some doctors who were on my side, who wanted answers for me as much as I wanted them for myself. And for that I will always be grateful.

I'm linking up with Ruth's letters to series which will be every two weeks with different prompts. Today's prompt is Letter to a Stranger, the link is open all week so head over and link up if you want to.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A word for the year

Today marks 3 years of being ill. Anniversaries of this kind are hard, 3 years is a long time to be ill! It means I am in a completely different place to where I had envisioned I would be but that doesn't mean it's wrong. It just means that God is taking me on a new route.

I've read a couple of blogs in the past few days where they have picked one word for the year. This challenged me a lot and so I decided to think about and pray for a word of my own. So this year my word is going to be TRUST!

Proverbs 3:5-6 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Trusting isn't something I'm very good at. The verse above asks me to trust in the Lord with all my heart, yet there always seems to be a part of me that wants to hold a little bit back just in case. It seems so ridiculous to write it! Just in case of what? That I'm right and God is wrong?!
I no longer want to hold onto part of my heart. I want to go from knowing in my head to actively all out trusting in God, no matter what the outcome.

This year I need to trust in God for my healing. I need to trust that He knows best how and when it is going to happen because I certainly don't. I need to trust Him whether He says "yes now" or "not yet". I want my prayer to be "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees" (Psalm 119:71)

I need to trust God with my future. I need to trust that He has my best interests at heart and I don't need to be anxious about anything.

I need to trust God with my degree, with my finances, with my living arrangements, with my family. I need to trust Him with my life, my heart, my everything.

I'm not saying that I'm going to get it right every time, I know that I won't. My prayer is that I will get it right more often, that it will strengthen my relationship with God, that it will encourage me to depend more on Him and less on myself. I know it will probably be a journey far different to how I envision but I hope that I can look back at the end of the year and say that I said yes to God more often than I said no and trusted him with the outcome.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


I've always been someone who thought my testimony was really dull and boring. I don't have one of those big defining moments where I surrendered my life to Christ and there was a miraculous transformation. I gave my life to God when I was 6 or 7 and I've never really known any different.

I guess what I didn't realise is that testimony isn't just the story of how you gave your life to God, it doesn't end there, in fact it's only the beginning. My testimony is about the ups and the downs, how God has brought me through the tough times and rejoiced with me in the good times. It's about how I can stumble through the valleys and still come out praising God simply because He is.
My testimony is about the times when I've walked closely with God and about the times when, like now, I feel like the silence is deafening and I struggle to find God in the hard places.

Most of all I've realised my testimony is important. There are things that I've been through and wrestled with that I can talk to others about. It's about encouragement and honesty. It's about bringing people to a place where they can meet Jesus and ultimately it's about giving all glory to God who is able.

In John chapter 4 Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and tells her that he knows she has had 5 husbands and that she is currently living with a man who is not her husband.
'So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the town and were coming to him... Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did."
John 4:28-30, 39

The woman's testimony wasn't extravagant, it was simple but powerful. It brought them to a place where they could meet Jesus.

I think that's the point, our testimony doesn't have to have the wow factor and it doesn't have to look like we have it all together. God uses the messy bits, the pieces of us we don't think will ever be put back together, he uses our hurt, our pain, our sin. Our testimony isn't about us at all but about God. Like the woman by the well it's about bringing people to a place where they could meet with Jesus and letting Him do the rest.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The question I dread...

There is a question that I’ve come to dread. It’s a perfectly innocent question and I’m sure the asker doesn’t realise the whole host of emotions it evokes within me. The question is simple, mundane, something you ask when you don’t know someone but are taking an interest in their lives. The question is ‘What is it you do?’ I can see you all thinking that I’m a little bit weird for dreading that question, except for me the answer isn’t that I have a great job, or I’m studying the course at university that I’ve always wanted to 
do like most people my age are. For me the answer is ‘nothing’. You see because of my health condition I’m currently too ill to study, or work, or sometimes wash my own hair or get out of bed. The fact that I'm on disability benefits and currently unable to be a fully participating member of society fills me with shame and sometimes fear and hurt, I dread having to explain myself. I hate having to explain that all I’m currently doing is ‘getting better’ or at least praying that I will.

As a Christian I know that God has a plan for my life. I also know that this is part of His plan. Not that He inflicted it upon me, because despite some people’s opinions I don’t believe that God inflicts suffering, but that He is using it to shape me and mould me into the woman He has designed me to be. I know that I shouldn’t feel ashamed or fearful about something that is out of my control, if people want to judge me then that’s their choice, but I still haven’t quite learnt not to let it hurt me when they do.
There are days when I just want to yell at my 18 year old self to rest (and rest isn’t the only thing I’d yell given the choice!). 

I got glandular fever when I was 18, just three months after I started my nursing training and I was very sick. I’d always been really good at picking up whatever was going, (I think I should win an award for the number of chest infections I had whilst I was in India!) but a 10 day mad rush trip to India to visit my family at Christmas after a busy first term at uni and a chest infection that I got when I was out there, meant I was unable to fight off the glandular fever when it started its attack. I contracted a secondary bacterial infection and ended up in hospital on IV antibiotics. When I got discharged back to my grandparent’s care I was ordered to rest for several weeks but this didn’t sit well with me. I was worried about all the absences I was clocking up at uni and the placement that I would have to make up. I was worried about being kicked off the course and it was my worry that led to me going back as soon as I could physically cope with walking around. Had I sat tight and rested for as long as it took to get well again, I probably would be graduating with my class in a few weeks. However I can’t let myself think like that very often because it’s no use regretting actions in the past, all it does is hold us there and not give us a chance to move forward.

It says in Matthew 6 “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (From the MSG, approximately vs 33-34)

I’ve read and quoted that passage time and time again, in many different versions but I don’t think I’ve ever read it in this version before and today it speaks to me more poignantly than it has done in the past. It’s something I wish I’d learnt at 18, it’s something I still need to learn today. I’m still inclined to worry about missing out, not just on going out with friends which happens frequently, but on getting a degree and a good job, on finding a husband and having a family. I watch people getting on with their lives; graduating uni, getting jobs, getting married and I sometimes feel like my life is on hold. What I forget is that my life hasn’t stopped. I forget that having a degree, or a job or a family doesn’t define who you are and not having those things doesn’t define who I am. Sometimes I’m so focused on what isn’t happening in my life that I miss what is. Verse 34 says “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (emphasis mine)

By wallowing in self-pity, or wishing the situation was different, I am missing what God is doing in my life and I am limiting what He can do through the situation I’m in. In the past two and a half years I may not have been able to finish my nursing degree or get a job, but I’ve seen God’s faithfulness countless times. I’ve watched God provide for me when I had nothing and never once have I had to dip into my overdraft. I’ve seen Him pour out His grace and mercy and love into my life over and over. I know that He is healing me.  I know that He’s carried me through the hardest parts and never once have I felt like He’s left me to handle it on my own. I know that I will come through the other side of this illness and that my faith will be stronger for it and I will, I hope, be a little more like the woman God has designed me to be because I focused on what He is doing in my life right now.  So you know what, even if I could tell my 18 year old self to rest, I don’t think I would because I would have missed the amazing stuff God has done since then and all that He has taught me through it.

Note: Sorry it's been such a long time since my last post, with everything that has been going on I haven't been able to manage one :) Hopefully this will be the first of many again! 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

ME Awareness week 2012

It's that time of year again, when I spam your facebook or twitter news feed with stuff about ME and you either just roll your eyes and ignore it, or read what I've put and I really hope you read what I put. ME is a serious and debilitating condition that affects 250,000 people in the UK alone. It changes lives and family dynamics, it leaves people unable to work, housebound, bedbound sometimes even paralysed.

My friend Kate described it in this way
"Imagine a really bad hangover, then having to run a marathon, then coming down with the flu, all at the same time. On top of that, imagine someone is prodding needles into you constantly, spinning you around on a chair so you are extremely dizzy and nauseous and shining a bright torch in your eye so that light hurts. Then also, imagine everyone has a speaker phone, so even a whisper seems like shouting. Imagine spraining every muscle in your body and having to carry someone equivalent to your own weight who is clinging on to your legs all the time. Imagine having muscle spasms almost constantly uncontrollably which feels like torture as its so painful and tiring. Imagine someone speaking a foreign unknown language to you, and you have to concentrate REALLY hard to try work out what they're saying, then you forget it. Imagine having to sit in an ice bath for a long time, freezing cold, all the time. If you think you can't get any more tired, imagine having panic attacks on top of that, & really bad anxiety which literally drains any energy you've got left. Then, imagine staying like this, not knowing if/when you're going to get better, having to deal with this HUGE change of lifestyle. Imagine how tough and heartbreaking this illness can be. Imagine a lot of your support mechanisms breaking down, some friends move on. Imagine having to deal with this on a day to day basis, not knowing how you are even going to be hour by hour. And worse of all, imagine being told 'ME isn't real' and 'it's all in your head'. Even by medical processionals. This is what I want to change. I can't control my ME, the causes, the cure, but what everyone together CAN change is its understanding."

I think this is an amazing way of describing how ME feels, although no one suffers in quite the same way. For me anxiety isn't really a problem but I think the rest pretty much explains how it feels for me, especially on bad days and I'm no where near as bad as Kate.

I'm fortunate, I am well enough to at least try and go back to uni but 3 short days on placement means I spend the rest of the week in bed or on the sofa dosed up on strong painkillers, usually with spasming limbs, extreme pain, weak muscles and a myriad of other symptoms. When I am on placement I have to be constantly finding ways of sitting down when talking to patients, taking 5minute rests when its quiet and doing my best to not overdo it which is pretty much impossible.

But I didn't want this post to be all negative, this time last year I was housebound. I celebrated my 20th birthday in the back garden with a few friends and relapsed so badly afterwards that I was hospitalised. This year I'm going to the zoo! That may not sound like much to most people, especially when you combine it with being in a wheelchair but it's something I couldn't have even considered doing last year and I'm grateful that I'm well enough. I'm grateful that I don't have to wear sunglasses every waking hour; that I can cope without needing to wear ear plug to watch TV or have a conversation; that I can sit up for longer than 30minutes without my back going into spasm. All things that I couldn't do this time last year! 

This year a DVD called Voices of the Shadows was released to make people aware of what it is like for people living with, and dying from, severe ME. You can buy a copy of the DVD here. This is the trailer for it:

Please make yourself aware of ME. Understand that it's not something to be taken lightly and it's certainly not all in our heads because every ME sufferer I know, myself included, would do anything not to feel this way.

Below are a list of blogs written by various friends of mine. Please check them out :) 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wilderness Mentality

I'm going to fess up straight away and say that this isn't a term that I've coined myself, I read it in my bible reading devotions by Joyce Meyer, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't original to her either!

This subject has come up over and over again over the past 3 or 4 weeks (maybe longer!) so I'm getting the feeling that this is just as much for me as it is for me to share with you!

It really struck a chord with me when I read it though 'wilderness mentality'. I'm currently going through Exodus as part of a one year bible plan and it amazes me that a journey that should have taken 11 days took 40 years because the Israelites chose to believe someone's report instead of the promise that God had given them! Ultimately they weren't dreaming big enough, all they could see was the size of the problem instead of seeing the size of their God! It may seem crazy to me or you that the Israelites ended up spending 40 years in the desert but when we think about it how many of us have faced the same trials or situations or 'mountains' again and again because all we could see was the mountain and not who God is?

1 Peter 1:6-7 says this 'So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.' 

God uses the trials in our lives to test our faith and refine it and strengthen it, if we give up then far from our faith being strengthened we take a big step back in our relationship with God. I've often found that if I don't learn something the first time round, a little while later God will gently remind me of what He is saying again, often by using a new trial or situation.

This past year has probably been the toughest year of my life but through it all I've learnt so much more about trusting God and giving Him control over my life. These aren't new lessons for me but it took something as serious as my illness for me to learn it with a new depth of understanding of what it means to really hand it over to God and I would like to say that my faith has really grown through it.

The best thing is God is a faithful God, a loving God and a patient God. This is so clearly demonstrated throughout Exodus and He has so clearly demonstrated this in my own life too. God loves me too much to leave me where I am and even though it means going through trials, I think this is a great thing!

I think there are 2 things certain in life: 1) there will be trials. I wish I could promise you otherwise but being a Christian definitely doesn't guarantee a trial free life! 2) God WILL faithfully bring us through them.

So back to the Wilderness Mentality... What is it in your life that is keeping you in the desert? Maybe it's a dream you had once that now seems impossible, or a promise God gave you that you've waited for years for but never seen fulfilled. Maybe it's the situation you are going through that seems just so big and overwhelming that you think you'll never get through it.

I think the key to getting out of the desert and into the promised land is to go back and look at the Israelites.They had a promise given to them by God and they had a report given to them by the people sent to have a look at the land. Instead of remembering God's promise they listened to the report and panicked. To walk out of the desert and into the promised land we need to remember who God is, remember that He is bigger than anything we can ever face. By focusing on Him our perspective changes, our fears are calmed and we can realise that the impossible is made possible through Him!