Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Chances (Or Why I Walk Slow, Forgive Quick and Love Loads)

N.B. I have depression. Clinical Depression. I have since I was a teenager, but I only really sought out medical help when I was studying at Uni and everything just got far too much to handle: March 2012. Almost 10 years after I probably first began displaying symptoms of depression, I finally plucked up the courage and the know-how to visit my Doctor and get medical help. I've been to counselling. Several different ones actually. I've never really found it to be very helpful. In fact, I've had late night MSN conversations with friends that have aided me more than counselling ever has. But that's just the way of the world, isn't it? The reason I am telling you this is that I have never really publicly spoken out about it before. And I guess if someone wants to understand me and the way my brain works... it's pretty important that you understand that simple fact first and foremost. I'm not looking or asking or wanting sympathy. I just think that it's time that everyone started being more honest with one another... even if it is from behind their computer screen.

I love to walk. I guess that comes in handy, not being able to drive. But I don't mean walking is my preferred method of travel: I regularly use buses, trains, taxis and other people to get around. What I mean is, I love to just... walk. Wander. Hike. Meander. Dilly-Dally. Wherever and whatever I'm doing, I like to take my sweet time about it. Especially if I have no fixed schedule. There is a art in walking slowly. In observing every aspect of your surroundings. The birds. The trees. The clouds. The sun. The warmth. The breeze. The bugs on the ground. The traffic, or lack thereof. The feel.

There are some days when to wander around outside is like you are walking around in heaven. To be in God's world, but to know that it is only temporary, and yet to appreciate every aspect of that perfect day that God has gifted into your hands. He has placed you exactly where you are, and in whatever difficulty or circumstance you are facing... God has given you a chance to just BE. When I am walking slowly, I am not under pressure. I am not at anyone's beck and call. I am not being summoned, or bothered, or interrupted. It is just me and God, taking a stroll. A chance to chat over those ideas and dreams in my head, or listen to the one's in God's. A time to seek forgiveness, guidance, direction, calling and gifting. A time to rethink. A time to let go. Yes, walking slowly is an art form, but that is why I do it.

Some people find it easy to hold grudges. I don't. In fact, I find it's more effort than it's worth. If you hold someone's mistakes against them, you are basically saying that the relationship you had with them; whatever it was; is not as important as the stupid or horrible thing they did or said. It also comes from an assumption that the person is so perfect that they are not going to do anything that hurts or upsets you. And let me be frank: there is NO-ONE in your life who will never upset and hurt you. In fact, those closest to us are the most likely to hurt us. Why? Because they are whom we place on pedestals, assuming that they are so awesome they are infallible. Who is infallible but God?

I'm not advocating letting people walk all over you because they are imperfect and they are bound to hurt you. But if someone does something that upsets or hurts you: Talk to them about it. And then forgive them. And then move on. Holding on to our grudge and our hurt and our bitterness diseases none but our own heart. You may need help to forgive. You will most definitely need prayer. But the more we practice it in our everyday lives, the easier it becomes. I have had a number of people who have been very close to me do things that have really upset me. But I have learned to forgive each and every one of them, because I am incapable of holding grudges. They sit like an ugliness in my heart and a heaviness in my chest and it causes all normal function and life to cease until I let it go. So I have learned to forgive quickly. It's just something that has to be done.

The longer I work as a youth worker, the more I realise that I am incapable of not loving a child. There is something that happens inside of me, the minute I connect with someone, I feel a loving and caring feeling towards them. (Not in a romantic way....) Sometimes, it's from the minute I see their shining little smile looking up at me. For others, the love hits me the minute I see something of their character, or strength, or passion, or hopes, or dreams, or fears. But there is always something... something of God that I see in each and every child and young person I meet. I love that. I love that I love my job. I love that I love my young people. It doesn't mean that they won't annoy me, or frustrate me, or even make me angry. There are definitely days when I feel like throwing in the towel. But then I think about one smile, one laugh, one sparkling or tearful eye, and I remember. To feel loved and accepted for who you are: Surely it is the single most important and desperate search in every young person's life. And ultimately, the answer to that struggle is found in God. But what chance does a young person have in finding that in God if they don't see it in the ones who tell them about God? So I love all my young people. The ones I see weekly. The ones I see monthly. The ones I've met once. The ones I will pass on my way somewhere. The friends of the ones I meet and work with. I love them all. Because God does. What other reason is there?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Loud and Clear

N.B. Today, has been an awesome day. Read on to find out more.

Over the last few weeks, I've not had many of them. There have been plenty of okay days. And a few alright ones. And a fair few really crappy ones. But rare are the days when I can say, "Today has been great." The last few weeks I've been feeling pretty low and vulnerable to hurt, criticism and things not going to plan. All of those things, as well as general busyness and not managing my time very well led to me feeling particularly down last week, and then with my back playing up... everything was pretty dire. I generally try not to show that part of me to most people, but those closest to me see it, or know it.

Anyway, at the weekend I was away(ish) camping with the Junior Section of Hutton Free Church. 8 boys, 4 leaders including me. It was a nice weekend... albeit exhausting, frustrating, loud, pretty sleepless, and because of my trapped nerve, painful. The problem is, that I am one of those people who feels lonely a good 80% of the time, especially when I am surrounded by people who I don't really know 'me.' So although it was a good weekend, and I enjoyed it, I was lonely, and by the time I got home on Sunday afternoon I was desperate for a hug. (It had also been 4 weeks since I last saw Dan, so I was pining.) My two best friends were in London at HTB so they weren't around to meet up/talk to. But instead of laying on my bed crying (which is a general post-weekend away reaction) I somehow found the strength to spend the afternoon doing random little things, (like re-stringing my guitar and browsing Wikipedia) to keep myself busy. And wouldn't you know, my awesome best friends popped in for ten minutes to see me on their way home that night, so I didn't feel forgotten and left out.

But Monday morning I awoke feeling less than energetic about the day. It was my day off, and I'd woke early so I could book myself a Doctor's appointment, and spent the morning pottering about doing odd bits. After the Doctors appt. I wandered over to HSUC where I share an office with Alex to collect my folder for the groups that evening that I had stupidly left behind. Alex was having an 'out of the office working' kind of day, but he popped in for something I was just sitting at my desk sorting some bits out. We didn't speak much, but Alex is one of my best friends in the world, and he just knew that I was feeling 'bleurgh.' So just before he left again he leant down to where I was sitting and kissed me on the top of my head. It was such a spontaneous thing, but in that single second, my day changed. That one small act of love and care broke through my dark clouds and melted my apathy. It made me smile.

The rest of the day went really well. I felt so much more calm and relaxed about the day. Both the clubs that I was helping at/leading that evening went great. I felt energetic, enthusiastic, cheery. And as I went to bed that evening, I felt okay. I wasn't surrounded by the usual dark mist of loneliness that tends to settle in around that time everyone else logs off. I got myself into bed before midnight, and I lay awake in the darkness, I remembered how it felt to be kissed on the head, like a child sitting on her parent's lap, I felt protected and cared for, loved and reassured that everything was going to be okay. And although it was Alex that did it, it was more than that. It was God, knocking on all the bad cloudy thoughts and telling them to be quiet for just a few seconds. It was God, surrounding me with His love and care and reminding me that He would protect me through the storms. It was God's great Fatherly arms that wrapped around me and held me tight. And so as I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, I smiled to myself, knowing it was going to be okay.

And that was yesterday. And today was also a great day. I was happy, but I was more than that. I had found rest in my soul. I could laugh and joke and be silly and enjoy being with my friends, colleagues and the kids I work with. I could genuinely say that I was 'good' when someone asked how my day was. That is such a rare moment in my life that I was almost willing people to ask me how I was!

But you know, I'm not saying that every morning I am going to awake feeling on top of the world: I have lived long enough to know that mountain top experiences don't last forever. The dark clouds that frequent my heart and mind come thick and fast, like a thunderstorm, but that one small gesture, that amazingly awesome moment when God barged into my life with flashing lights and a siren... well, I just thought that deserved a blog.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


N.B. I've been thinking about this blog for a few weeks now. It just so happens that I have nothing else to do on this Saturday evening so the blog has been written! No apologies if this blog offends you in any way. I speak from my heart, and this was on it.

Children & Adults = Church.

What does that equation mean to you? Perhaps you have a vision of children and adults, worshipping together in collective song, giving, prayer, teaching and Bible reading. Perhaps there is a few under enthusiastic-ly sung kids songs, and perhaps a 'Something for Everyone' talk. But more and more I see this happening:

Adults - Children = Church.

I witness children being ignored, told to be quiet, shuffled into a corner, talked over, talked about, glared at if they are making noise, told to sit still during the prayers, and more often than not expected to want to sing songs that are 60+ years old with no real explanation of the complex theological words used within them; and sometimes for no other reason than they rhyme... sort of. What is this "church" we have created? 

During a Baptist child dedication service, the church congregation says they will do all they can to assist the child in their faith as they grow. Is that what we are doing in our church services*? I used to be optimistic. Or maybe I just used to be slightly more ignorant. But more and more recently, I've recognised the general attitude towards children in churches... and it's shocking when you take stock of it. As adults we like to send our children to the best schools we can, with good teachers who encourage and take care of and inspire our children to achieve goals and dreams as they are able.  We choose people to be around our children that we think will care for them, inspire them and teach them about the ways of the world and how to live right. Why then, are we not wanting the same for them in their faith?

When did the enthusiasm for holding children at the HEART of God's family wane so badly? Did we just forget? Did we get so tied up in Hymn 104 that we forgot that our principal duty as stewards of God's kingdom is to pass the joy and acceptance and belonging in Christ's family onto the next generation and the next generation? What are we teaching our children by waiting until they are out of room before we do anything of real spiritual significance? That they aren't good enough or old enough to be followers of Christ? No wonder the 11-30's are leaving the UK church in their drones. They feel pushed away. They feel cheated. They feel bored. They feel out of place.

The thing I love about the Soul Survivor summer camp is that nothing is hidden from the young people. During the services, worship, prayer, communion, ministry, healing, jokes, songs, fun times, bad times, are all shared. As one family of 8000 or more children AND youth workers, they don't hide from the teenagers the struggles, nor the times of connecting with God. They see and experience God at work. In that place. And they see and experience the adults around them worshipping with their heart. Did the kids think I was a bit crazy when I felt like dancing during worship? Sure they did! But did I hide my joy in Christ from them? No. Why do we feel then that we must hide these things from them in our own little congregations?

We MUSTN'T be afraid to invite these children to the heart of our collective meeting with Jesus. We must involve them in the prayer, the worship, the tears, the laughter and the relationship.  We must not give the impression that we know all the answers. We must widen our tolerance. We must not allow negativity and choosiness to enter our churches as we seek to worship as collective individuals. Let ALL be welcome. Otherwise we're just a dying congregation, a clanging cymbal that has no love for the small or the vulnerable of this world. And we miss out on all the blessings God has poured on our young people and our children to share with us.

I leave you with this:

"After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

* I know that church services aren't the only thing that churches involve children in. You might have the most spectacular youth and children's clubs, or even Sunday school. But if we can't accommodate children in the oldest, most central way of meeting together as God's family, then what's the point?

Friday, 23 August 2013


N.B. I have just returned from a trip to Soul survivor with some young people, during which I must have cried more in that one week than I have done all year. This is what got me thinking about this blog, and the thoughts I have had since I share now.

Many times over the last few months I have looked at the life I am living and thought about how blessed I am. I have come to really appreciate the small things in life that allow you to let worries slip away from your mind, appreciate the friendships that allow you to feel like you can face the world, appreciate the relationships that make you thankful for each day, having a job, that pays just enough so that you don’t have to constantly worry about your bank balance, the home that you can feel comfortable and relaxed in, the family around you that although you don’t always get on with, you are grateful that they are around. And the church that you go to without having to think about what you’ve forgotten to do, the friends that encourage you, the members that are grateful for you and appreciate you for who you are AND what you do. I have all of these things and more in my life.

And yet, at Soul Survivor, I found plenty of reasons to cry. But this year, there was a difference in my tears. I have been to SS eight times now, and many times I have cried because of fear, disappointment, worry, hurt, pain and the unknown. But this year, I cried for the pain of others, the disappointment of others, the unknown that others face, the worry and hurt that others experience. I cried when I heard the heart-wrenching stories of young people living in pain.

I cried for the millions across the world who live in slavery and entrapment. I cried for the children dying of hunger and thirst. I cried for the women and children sold into the sex trade. I cried for the thousands of Christians who have been attacked, threatened, imprisoned, forced to flee their country or even killed for their belief in Jesus. I cried for the children who have lost parents. I cried for the parents who have lost children. And I cried in anger at how unfair it was that so few of us (globally) live with plenty, when so many more go without.

Last year at Soul Survivor, I pleaded with God to break my heart for the things that broke his. And this year I realised that He had. Despite how blessed my life is, I am utterly heartbroken. My heart has been torn in two, trodden on, crushed, split and is bleeding for the pain of this world. Just like Jesus’ heart is. And this heart-ache has no cure on earth. Because until the last tear is wiped away from the last hurt and broken child of this world – my heart will remain broken. I can no longer live a single day in ignorance of the pain and the suffering of this world. The problem is no longer someone else’s problem – it is mine. And it is no longer someone else’s job to fix it, it is mine. And there is no longer a future time to do something about it. That time is now.

And that doesn’t mean that I know all the answers or I know what I’m going to be doing about it. All I know is that I am going to be paying attention to the opportunities God gives me to help someone. Anyone. Because there are plenty of opportunities, aren’t there? Some of us chose to ignore them, to walk on by, to ‘do it another day’ or ‘another time’. But not me. Today is the day, and now is the time.

And God provided me with a chance to help someone about ten minutes after I walked through the door from Soul Survivor. I was smelly, sweaty, hungry and needed a nap, but the *knock knock* at my door put an end to all that. The poor don’t stop being poor when we are eating our dinner. The hurt and broken don’t stop being broken because we are tired and need a nap or a shower. So I breathed a deep breath, and I did all that I could in God’s strength, and afterwards I thanked God for being faithful. And for blessing me so much that I was able to bless others. 

And so, today, just like yesterday, the work begins. Every new day, a new opportunity to get back up on my feet, and search for the moment. It’s going to be an epic journey. Why don’t you come for the ride too? Ask God to break your heart for the things that break His. Allow him to show you what you can do to change the world. And be prepared for tears. God cries them for this world a lot. And now, so do I.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


N.B. I know it's always been a while since my last post but I had some good excuses this time. I'll try and fill in my Philippines blogs when I find where I've written them....
Just before Christmas I made the decision to move out of the flat I'd been staying in for the last three and a half years. It wasn't a decision that was made lightly, but I without a job or a steady/decent income, it was just too expensive to stay. So I put my life in boxes, and in the week in between Christmas and New Year, transported it to various lofts, garages, and my Mum's lounge. I then said goodbye to the town that had been my life and my home for five years, and headed back to where it all began: Brentwood. Although I love my family, moving back in with Mum (minus all my stuff) and not being independent has been a bit of an identity shock. I'm not quite sure where I fit in, and it has taken me almost a month to get used to the way things work. I'm so used to having my own space, and doing everything for myself, and now I don't really get that. I feel out of place.
Since finishing my job as a youth worker at the end of August, I've also been 'out of work' although I spent 2 of those months in the Philippines, being a 'big sister' to lots of gorgeous children; at no point was I 'doing' youth work. And back in my home town and at my home church, where people have known me since the tender age of 5, I'm just Ami, who has been missing for five years and who happens to be a qualified youth worker. People have asked for my opinion, but I'm not in charge of anything, and none of the kids/young people really know me so far. And actually, none of the adults really know me very well either. They don't know what I stand for, what I'm good at, what I'm passionate about, what I'm capable of.

At Housegroup the other week, we were discussing the Nooma DVD 'Name', and in church, one of the sermons was talking all about how our identity mustn't be found in what we do, or our service becomes a self-service rather than to benefit God's kingdom, and ultimately, is damaging to ourselves and others. Although I would never normally admit it openly, it really hit home to me how much of my identity is caught up in what I do, and what I perceive to be my 'service' to God, might actually be a lot more about allowing me to find myself rather than to help others. I don't consciously serve others to help myself, I like helping others, and am happy to do so, but perhaps over the years, I have gotten so used to doing things that now that I'm not, I feel lost... As if I have no place in God's kingdom.

I do have this desire to please people. I cannot cope with people being upset with me, and often go out of my way to ensure that whatever hurt I think I have caused is atoned for... even if there wasn't any. The thought that someone is holding a grudge against me really gets to me, and so a lot of the time I will try extra hard to get people to like me by doing things, helpful things, so that people won't think of me as lazy or unwilling to help others. Sometimes I am conscious of this decision, and other times I have volunteered to do something before I am even aware of it myself. I have a real problem with saying no, often because I feel I have no good reason to say no. Other people have kids or partners or families to take care of, and I don't, so why don't I help? The idea of saying 'no' to someone just because I have something better I'd rather be doing doesn't sit too well with me.

So anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not quite sure who I am. And I wanted to record that in my blogs, so that people who think of me as having everything sorted and always being strong can know the truth. I'm just as confused and unsure of myself as you. Perhaps I'm just better at hiding it.