Here is my latest blog on cross rhythms. I pray it encourages you.
I have some exciting projects to share about soon! So watch this space!
Here is my latest blog on cross rhythms. I pray it encourages you.
I have some exciting projects to share about soon! So watch this space!
Hey guys here is my latest blog for cross rhythms – praying it blesses you!
Hope you are well, and wishing you a blessed Easter weekend. For those interested in my America trip please check out my miniseries from the last few weeks. I am glad to be back with my family, and slowly getting there. Still rather jet lagged and will be glad to feel back to normal before Spring Harvest next week!
Here is my latest blog for cross rhythms.
I pray it encourages you today,
I have previously mentioned how I have been so blessed by the way that God has gone before me in my travels and the trip home was no exception. It was on my mind, but God provided people who helped me at every turn.
My hosts drove me to the airport and dropped me off, and I was nervous going in by myself to try and work out where to go. I never travel light and love getting gifts for people, so I did have a lot to carry back and had to quickly place some bits from my suitcase into my hand luggage to avoid a $91 dollar surcharge for 3 extra pounds of luggage! I could feel myself start to panic as I looked at the busy security queues so quickly had a chat with the lady checking in my bag and she sent someone to help me through. This person went above and beyond – showing me to my gate, and then taking me to the food court so I could buy my dinner, then taking me back to my seat, and making sure I was all settled before heading off. I was so incredibly grateful as I had no idea where anything was. It don’t like going through security checks because I never know what to take out of bags so it was great having someone tell me exactly what to do.
I then sat and read and ate some dinner quietly before being able to board early whilst the plane was still quiet. Unfortunately we ended up being boarded on the plane and sitting on the tarmac for almost two hours as a passenger had forgotten to mention a serious allergy to nuts and eventually had to be taken off the plane to avoid a possible allergic reaction.
This sort of situation would have previously sent me into such a stress and panic, with a feeling of inertia and claustrophobia but I felt such a sense of God’s peace. We eventually set off and once again I was blessed to have a friendly person next to me, although there was a very funny moment. I went to go to the toilet and had to wait a very long time and by the time I came back she was fast asleep. No matter how much I nudged her or asked politely if she would let me back in she didn’t hear me. This provided much amusement to the person behind me – hysterics ensued as I pondered climbing over her. Eventually I managed to nudge her awake and she sat up straight and she apologised, which led me to apologise and so on!
I don’t sleep well on planes, but other than that the flight was fine although pretty bumpy. As soon as I got off the plane I had someone to help me through, which was great as by this point I was very tired and emotional. I got through to arrivals and saw Ali straight away. It was so lovely to be back with my wonderful hubby who was so lovely in releasing me to go on this trip, edited my blog each night and took brilliant care of Dom.
It was a very sweet moment when I rang the doorbell and Dom came flying into my arms and wouldn’t leave them for a good ten minutes. I missed my boys!
It has been such an amazing trip and I have learnt so much and grown so much. When God asks you to step out in faith, He goes before an prepares the way. He doesn’t ask you to jump out of your comfort zone without planning to catch you. I learnt that I can still be safe and secure even if I am miles away from home, in a different country and on my own because I have a God that is bigger than it all, who is so faithful and holds me safely in his arms. It was a really beautiful and releasing trip and I look forward to more adventures.
I am planning to hide for a little while, take stock, recover and recharge. I don’t know whether I am coming or going at the moment and know I just need time to be, and spend time with my family.
Thank you for walking this journey with me, thanks for those of you who have been writing encouraging comments, and sharing how my blog has encouraged or inspired you. I want to encourage you to remember that through Christ we can do all things, even things that we felt were impossible. I want to encourage you that He is so loving and merciful and knows our every needs and will go before us. I can honestly say from my massive leap of faith that God has gone above and beyond what I imagined and I have been so incredibly blessed. I know going out of your comfort zone can be challenging, but it is truly worth it.
I pray my blog over the last ten days has encouraged you, and I pray that you would knows God’s grace, peace and love in all you do.
With many blessings and love from England in my final “Only the brave!” blog.
I decided to spend my last full day to do go and see something in Atlanta. This trip has been focused on spending time with people and building relationships, but as I was going to be myself most of the day I decided to do something on the tourist trail. I was dropped of at the aquarium by my kind hosts. I can’t say I am a big fan of museums and other attractions because of the noise and busy-ness, but I decided I would go for a few hours just to experience it and say I had done it.
When I was dropped off and I went through the door labelled aquarium this way it was just a huge car park and I was starting to panic. I looked around me and there was a whole group of other people also looking puzzled. We all started chatting and commented on this being the strangest entrance – we grouped together and found our way through.
When I was in the entrance queue I got the most awesome message from my husband showing me a picture of my son getting his hair cut. I almost started dancing with joy in the queue. This may sound utterly nuts to you, but he has not been able to have a professional hair cut for two years after three different hair dressers couldn’t bring themselves to do his hair again because it was so traumatic for everyone involved. I have been cutting his hair when he is asleep which is pretty stressful too! I was pretty emotional to see that he had also tackled a big challenge for him! It was a super proud mummy moment!
There were many moments today where I had to perfect my ‘screaming on the inside’ but looking relatively calm on the outside. I need personal space so to have people bump into you left, right and centre (center?), or stop right in your path and push you out the way, means it’s hard to keep cool.
I felt rather overwhelmed as I walked into the main entrance, there were signs everywhere, shops, cafes, too much information! I wanted to roll up in a ball and either cry or hide but instead I took a deep breath and just prayed “Lord, please help me through this!” I spent several moments just turning in confused circles – this is where I need to be with some some who is good at making decisions so I just trot faithfully after them. I didn’t have that luxury so I decided to start with the dolphins, as I had been told to go and see that show. I went to the “theater” and made sure I was well away from the splash and soak zones. I was a bit disappointed when they said no photos allowed during the show, but then I felt challenged as last time I saw a dolphin show I spent the whole time taking photos and not just experiencing the show. So this time I just watched and enjoyed it. I then managed to get myself to another animal show, and then saw some of the other exhibits.
After a few hours I was very grateful that my host picked me up, and I then slept for a couple of hours to recover. I felt proud of myself because this is not something I ever do by myself or even really enjoy in groups. I am learning that in short bursts, even though it is challenging, I am able to enjoy it. It has opened up yet another door.
I found myself just looking through loads of family photos on my phone wanting to hug and kiss my little boy and be back home with my hubby. It has been amazing, and I have been so blessed by everyone’s kindness but I need to be home now.
So today, Sunday, I have just been making the most of my last day visiting another church. It was a church much closer in size to my church and the pastor shared a powerful message about how we can get so lost in consumerism in church and forget that we are part of it. He also spoke that we have the ability to share the gospel, reach out, and love our neighbours and to be Jesus to the world instead of falling into the thinking that only the ‘professionals’ can do it. In the Great Commission WE were sent to go out.
This message has been on my heart, and something we have been looking at my church in being released in ministry wherever we are – office, at home with your children, in the play ground, etc. We all have something to give and something that will bless others. I am so hungry to see people released in what they have and to see the incredible beauty within, the gifting they have and the knowledge they can make a difference, they are of value and have worth. It is not about a Church celebrity culture, but a family one where every one has something to bring!
After the service I had lunch with some friends from 10,000 Fathers which was so lovely to spend a bit more time just chatting and sharing. I am so grateful for the incredible journey God has been taking me one and the way I continue to grow and learn. I have been so blessed by the incredible kindness and love shown to me.
I have been feeling a bit of anxiety about going home, simply because there is not as much help available at Atlanta Airport as there is at Heathrow. But then I caught myself – God has met me at every turn and detail of this trip and has so beautifully provided. He knows that I am someone who needs extra help and guidance in certain things. So again I have to that He will have gone before me on my trip .
So homeward-bound, I am leaping in faith, and trusting that He will guide me!
I will wrap up this mini series with one final blog when I have arrived home.
Sending you love, for the last time from Atlanta!
So Friday was the last part of my 10,000 Fathers journey on this trip. I was utterly exhausted from so much going on, and spending so much time with lots of people – I was yawning my head off but it was a really sweet time.
We all met together in a house owned by the church and shared breakfast together. Something I have been so struck this week, but especially over the reunion time together, is just how different people are – different personalities and characters. I will admit I find it hard with people who aren’t easy to read, if they are more closed I don’t know where I stand and if they are a mega-loud extrovert I don’t know what to expect!
In the past this has caused me to write people off. But I am getting so much better at not doing that. I’m looking deeper and learning to appreciate their differences and see the way that these people bring so much to those around them. There are those who organise others, those who dream big and have amazing visions, those who bring joy, and those who bring peace. We all have people we are more comfortable with and people we naturally gravitate towards, but when we only stick to these people we can miss the beauty and blessing that others bring. This week reminded me to push through to see this.
It was really special for me to hear from different students as we fed back what impact 10000 Fathers had had on our lives, and how we wanted to see more growth and change in our churches and our culture. It is a really incredible ministry and the fruit from it is already so beautiful to see, and I can’t wait to see how this grows, and people’s hearts and lives are changed dramatically by this heart of discipleship.
I have never felt so English in my life than this week! People have squealed at how much they love my accent and I have been asked to say several “English phrases”. The excitement went up a notch when I said I live in Surrey – “Do you know Ed Sheeran and the Queen?” It was fun at the reunion when we were seeing which student had traveled the furthest and I was able to trump it, (no pun intended) flying from England!
It has been such an honour (honor?) this week spending time with people, growing and going deeper in relationships. My life has been so impacted by incredible leaders and I thank God again and again for them. I can’t recommend this ministry highly enough. They are such servant-hearted and humble leaders who have welcomed me into their family. I have experienced so much healing, breakthrough and joy over this last fourteen months, and this week has been a real precious part of my journey. My tutors knew how much of a big deal this was for me as they saw me at the beginning of the course when I was shying away from conversations, feeling so overwhelmed and hiding behind my music. They have seen such a change this week. That is simply through the mercy of our incredible God!
It is always sad saying goodbye to people, but I know this is still just the beginning of my journey in many ways. I know God has so much in store and I can’t wait to see what that looks like.
Throughout my trip, people have blessed me with kindness, driven me to places, hung out out with me, treated me, and today a lovely friend, Shauna, drove me from the reunion to Marietta and another host family who have also showered me with kindness and hospitality.
I am very ready to come home now, but will make the most of my last full day tomorrow to do a little bit of sightseeing before flying home to my precious family.
Many blessings to you from Atlanta,
So one of the key reasons that I have made this trip to Atlanta to visit the Worship School at this time was because of the 10000 Fathers’ Family Reunion. All the coaches come together with a bunch of students past and present and whilst I have been out here I have been trying to connect with some of the different tutors, spend time, and have conversations with them.
On Thursday morning I had the opportunity to meet up with one of the coaches, Dave, who is an amazing communicator, and he showed me this TED Talk called ‘Embrace the Shake’ where an artist shared how he developed a tremor in his hand which made it impossible for him to draw a straight line. He ended up leaving art school and quit art for two years. He couldn’t forget his love for art, though, and was challenged to think what would happen if he embraced his shake. So, he started creating these incredible pictures made up of squiggly lines but when you zoomed out to look at the big picture, it was an amazing portrait. He started to operate out of his limitations and embraced the challenge.
The session with Dave was a real privilege and has given me lots to chew on. I have been learning that by being aware of my weaknesses and areas of challenge I am not defined by them. There was a point when they held me back and crippled me, but now they are part of the beautiful story of grace in my life, and are a part of what draws me to be in relationship and need to be with other people. God changes our perspective.
I spent some time with Megan preparing her house for the Reunion Party by hanging curtains, sweeping the yard and cleaning some tables. I was aware all of this time that the busy-ness was about to hit, and soon there would be people everywhere. I was very glad that I got an hour just to rest and refresh before meeting up with people. Pacing is so very important and I have learnt it is a key part of what I need to do.
One of the other things that came up with my chat with Dave was the importance of having a pre-game ‘warm up’. Communicating and being with lots of people takes a lot out of me, so I need to make sure that I am preparing well for these times, doing everything that I can do to be in the best possible place to be present with the people. This has been one of my biggest challenges over the years and now that I have noise reducers, this has changed for the better. I have learnt that hard way that relationships only grow, flourish and deepen when you are present and investing in them. I am still getting a handle on it. Still learning.
So a lot people arrived, but I was so blessed by people’s friendliness and welcome. The hospitality here has been unrivaled and so beautiful. It was rather overwhelming coming to a reunion where I only knew a few people as I had only ever met students from the Europe School. So many people welcomed me, chatted with me and just let me join in.
One thing that I really wanted to do whilst out here was to connect with people that I could write songs with. Although I would have loved to spend time writing whilst I am in the US, my main focus has been building relationships. It was really lovely getting to meet some people that I had only emailed or chatted to on Facebook.
It was a beautiful night of song-sharing and the theme seemed to centre around the cross. There were a few songs that were very emotional and moved me to tears. I love songwriting, and I was reveling in the beautiful gifting of the students who shared their songs. After the worship night, we all headed back to the Keyes’ house for the party. I was slightly dreading this, as being more introverted I am so much happier with a one to one conversation that a lot of small talk. Having over sixty people in the house was a little unnerving and as I walked in the kitchen I felt that sense of panic hit. There were people everywhere, engaging and having a good time and I wanted to go hide in a cupboard. In the past that is exactly what I would have done. But I forced myself to make a conversation, and then went down to their basement where it was quieter (basements in America are BIG).
I went up to a couple of groups and stood there, but no one engaged me and I felt so overwhelmed and stressed. So I sat in a quiet corner trying not to look too much a loner praying that God would send someone willing to talk to me. At this point a lovely girl came downstairs who I had met briefly earlier that day, called Caroline. She suddenly saw me, breathed a sigh of relief, and said, “Thank goodness, another introvert!”
It was such a blessing and we just sat and shared our stories, laughed, and just had a great time. It was really precious – a real God moment. God is so amazing in His provision – we ended up chatting for an hour and a half. How incredible is our God.
I feel like I am learning so much on this trip – growing and being stretched. I am also getting to a point where I am ready to be home, and yearning for my family and familiarity. As I blogged the other day, it is good to be stretched – but you need recovery time.
Many blessings from Atlanta,
I shared with you in my last blog how I was needing to pace myself out here – the joys of being an introvert. I must admit I woke up on Wednesday and was so tired. I was confused as I am pretty much over jet lag so why was I so exhausted? And then it hit me. Even with yesterday’s quieter morning I have still been doing a huge amount of seeing people, conversing and connecting. All this physically, mentally and emotionally drains me, let alone all the addition stimulation and challenges of being in new and different environment. So today I stayed in my PJs most of the day. I wrote, I slept, I ate, I watched some TV and just enjoyed the quietness. It dawned on me that the next two days which are the 10,000 Fathers Worship School reunion are going to be so busy, full of people and noise and over-stimulation that preparing wisely is important.
The difference between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts recharge around people, whereas for me, being around people and noise for me is draining. So today was a really valuable time to make sure I was in the best possible place for what is ahead.
Late yesterday afternoon, Megan took me to dinner at their church and to an event where you could choose to go to a Bible Study, a prayer training session, or a panel discussion.
I love the way they are so community focused – at dinner time everyone brought something, pitched in and shared. The heart of being together, eating together and doing life together is something I want to get better at, but with suitable boundaries and achievable targets. This is important because I can go from one extreme to another – from hiding away to thinking I need to entertain all the time. I am learning to seek God’s wisdom and see who He is putting on my heart, and to see the people He has put around me who I can minister to and reach out to.
I am observing so much that is giving me food for thought, but I am learning that I just have to be me, and I can then adapt things in my own unique style – not needing to copy someone else.
I am a work in progress, but I delight in the way God is giving me strength, and the way He is helping me be brave and tackle my challenges head on. He has released me from being crippled by fear and is now showing me I can do more than I ever thought I could, because he is the God of the impossible.
Many blessings from Atlanta,
So yesterday when I originally got told that everyone was in meetings until the afternoon I panicked a bit. But then it hit me – I am here to connect and spend time with people but I’m also an introvert, which means I need to recharge my batteries in a quiet environment and have some time on my own. So I was able to have a quiet morning in my PJs, have breakfast and watch some TV, which was really nice. I then decided as people were busy until mid afternoon to go to the cinema to catch a film (The Americans loved me saying this because it was so ‘English’ the way I said it, and without using the word ‘movie’)
Then came the challenge of getting myself there. In England I would just walk from my house to the train station or catch a bus and go to a local cinema but it’s not as easy here unless you drive. I knew I had to get a cab or an Uber and whilst that may seem simple for some, when you are abroad and being careful on how much you use your phone it’s more challenging. Also, because Uber was something new for me, I didn’t know how to do it. Poor Ali got several stressed calls and then when I finally booked it, was worried about how to tip because I didn’t have any small change, and because I didn’t know was expected. I have never used Uber on my own before and was anxious about getting in the car of a stranger. All this might sound silly, but I find it challenging as I am someone who likes to know what is going on. But just like in every other detail of this trip, God had gone before me, and I had a lovely chatty driver, called Dennis, who put me at my ease, and literally talked at me the entire time, so I was able to just smile and nod and make the odd comment until I got to the cinema!
The cinema prices made my day! Going to the cinema in the evenings or at the weekend in London can be very expensive. So when I got a ticket, and refillable popcorn and drink for just $12 I was amazed! You know that great feeling when you feel you have got a right bargain!
I was slightly taken aback that the popcorn was butter-flavoured. I think the server thought I was crazy – I was looking at the topping with incredulity and he couldn’t believe I didn’t know it was just melted butter! What on earth is it doing on popcorn! Where’s the sweet popcorn? I had to resort to putting my chocolate peanut M and Ms on for my sugar rush.
I saw a film that will probably not be shown at cinemas in England, called ‘I can only imagine’. It’s a Christian song that I love and have sung for years and the film was about the writer of the song and his life. I sobbed a lot of the way through it seeing his relationship with his abusive father, who finally came to know the Lord and the beautiful story of redemption God made in their lives. The song was written after his dad passed away and spoke of imagining the beauty of heaven and meeting the Lord. It was a beautiful movie.
I then had a session of co-songwriting and for those of you who know me you, you know song writing is my language and the thing that truly makes my heart sing. Over the last year, whilst being on Worship School, I have been learning more about the beauty of co-writing – working with people whose strengths complement mine. It’s been great to have another pair of eyes and ears to take a song from mediocrity to really strong and moving. Writing melodies is one of my areas of strength and I love creating these, but sometimes my lyrics are just okay. I have been so blessed to write with people who are gifted at developing lyrics and we have wrestled out the best lines and rhymes together and worked out the best fit for the song. We don’t settle for the obvious, but rather challenge people to think about the words that are being sung or that they are singing. I found this process really helpful with some of the congregational songs I have been trying to write.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this place. For years, my insecurities made this type of cooperation hard, and add to that my difficulties in really connecting with others. As I have been working on these fears I have found the real beauty that comes in a secure identity and in overcoming challenges. For years I opted to work alone to avoid rejection and being misunderstood because it felt much safer, however it robbed me of the beauty of working with others. God is now restoring this to me and I am so grateful at how He can redeem things, and how he is teaching me the beauty and necessity of connecting, and being in relationship.
In the afternoon I was part of what they call ‘family dinner’ where about six families all came together. All the children played together and the adults shared ideas, conversations and jokes. It was really lovely to be a part of it, although it was pretty overwhelming for me suddenly being with so many people, a lot of noise and only a few familiar faces. I felt myself retreat a few times but I am learning it is okay to take a few moments and then go back. I managed to take myself back into the conversations and noise even though most of me was wanting to run and hide somewhere quiet. I knew that I was only there for a few hours and so I really tried hard to be part of it. I was very pleased though when one of my friends asked if I would like to cuddle her baby. He was such a cutie and I am so much more comfortable talking baby speak in that sort of busy environment. We had a great time and I was grateful for a way I could still be engaged but on a level that I was able to connect on at that moment.
I am learning to cover myself with grace – pretty much everything I am doing this week is way out of my comfort zone and the main thing is that I have got to a point that I am willing to tackle the challenges and run away and hide. I am willing and I am training, and through God’s grace I’ll continue to overcome hurdles and receive the richness and beauty in deeper connections.
Much love and blessings from Atlanta,
I am really enjoying the beautiful blossoms that are out already, on my visit here. Passing the pinks and the purples always puts a smile on my face – I do enjoy the seasons. I will admit that I am slightly intimidated by how big everything is here, and how much space there is. It is very different from home as here everyone has to drive everywhere. I am used to seeing people walking around so that is been a bit strange. And yesterday I definitely got to a point where I was feeling a bit homesick. Going away and experiencing different things is good, but it always makes me so grateful for my home.
So yesterday I did need to remind myself why I was here. As I started to retreat within my shell and hide in my music and writing. I remembered that I had come to connect, to have conversations and to spend time with people. There are times when I find it really hard to feel, and I have learnt that at those times, likes yesterday, I have to just keep speaking truth over myself, to choose to walk in God’s promises even if I’m struggling.
I ended up having some really lovely times with some of the leaders from the Worship School and their families. I got to hang out with my amazing tutor, Taylor, which was so fun and she took me to shop at Target, which I was told I had to do! I was especially excited as I managed to get some Thomas trains for my son at half the price they are are in England – was it so sad that I squealed with excitement at the bargains!
I had a moment of panic when I went to a build-your-own pie/pizza place with my friend, Megan, and was overwhelmed by the choices. The kind server noticed my panicked look and helped me out – customer service in America is somewhat more friendly and attentive than some places I have been to! Ordering can be stressful for people, like me, who find too much choice overwhelming and confusing.
I brought bagels and peanut butter – when in Rome! I have also tried peanut butter and chocolate pie, which was actually pretty good. Something that really struck me yesterday is that on Worship School we have been learning all about discipleship, and how it means inviting people into your home and into your life and being willing to show them who you are at all times, not just the version you might want people to see. I felt this when I was doing grocery shopping, and curtain shopping with Megan, and helping her cook dinner. It’s a real privilege to ‘do life’ with people where I am the guest – are we willing to be host for those around us?
To be authentic with people means showing how you do life not just in the good moments or the big moments but in the every day, the mundane, and the challenging. When we convey an image to others that things are always good because we only let them see those times, what message are we really sending out? I have discovered the importance of vulnerability over the last few years. I try in this blog to be open about about the struggles, the triumphs, the challenges and the smooth sailing. It’s good to model how to overcome hurdles, and how to use our strengths to bless others, and even more so in our journeys of faith – showing what it looks like when we are clinging on with one small finger, and when we are making great strides. As a mum, I want to learn to model a healthy life balance and not just hide my struggles because I think I need to be a strong, super mum all the time. It’s okay to show to our children when we are sad that they can learn how to process that type of emotion, but this is still a work in progress, but such an important one.
With love and prayers from Atlanta,