This evening I heard that an elderly man in our church died last week. I have shed actual tears, not something I do that much.

It’s partly because I have had a really hard week. Meeting two of my sisters for drinks on Wednesday was an exhausting and demoralising process. So I’m pretty vulnerable right now. But actually, it’s down to the man himself too.

When I was nearly 18 my parents started taking us to a large church in our nearest city. Mostly because the American organisation ‘in authority ‘ over my parents said we needed to go, though forewarned against assimilating into ‘the church’. They picked this one because it was least likely to have anyone in it who used to go to their Jewish church thing.

I was a lonely, hurting, questioning, awkward teenage girl who wanted so desperately to find friends and fit in, but was torn with doubts about God, church, family and … well, everything.

One Sunday evening at the youth group I doggedly persisted in attending, even though I often felt like the outsider, they had in a guest speaker – a gentleman who must have been in his 80s, Don Maxwell. He was asked questions about his life, his faith and why he had kept on believing all these years.

After the official session, the youth leader brought Don over and introduced us. Ever since I had started going to the youth group my name had been on a list of young people to be prayed for. Don Maxwell had been praying for me Every. Single. Day. He’d never met me, didn’t know a thing about me except my name, but had been praying for me every day, and now he wanted to meet me.

My mind was completely blown. I was overwhelmed that someone had been so faithfully remembering me, even though they’d never met me!

Maybe you can appreciate how, coming from a large family, with high standards, strict rules and conditional love, this was revolutionary.

And now I hear he died. My heart is feeling broken.

When your Past is in your Present

So today I saw one of my sisters… by choice, so my fault, right? Despite the mega distance I moved away from my family of origin spiritually and emotionally, I only live about 40 minutes from them and my older sister works in the city I live on the outskirts of. I ended up right by her work place and long story short I went and said hi …

It was about 7-8 months since I last saw her and wow! I nearly didn’t recognise her! Big thing – she cut her hair!!! She’s always had hair down to her hips or beyond and it was a big thing in our family (hair being the glory, blah blah). And she just got her ears pierced too!! AND she just got her first ever smart phone!! All significant changes people! Oh yeah, and she went on holiday with another of our sisters- wtf?!

I am on one hand beyond pleased to see such big (yeah, I know, insignificant to ‘normal’ people) changes but the other part of me? The other part of me wanted to ask, ‘but why didn’t you do them with me?’ She is 34 and still living with the parents (all 3 of my siblings are) and one of my biggest hopes when I left 10 years ago was that I could show them it could be done and so I could be here on the outside for them when they needed it … I’ve never been needed.

A wise lady has suggested in the past that changes they’ve made might not have been made without what I did, but there is still a part of me that asks why they couldn’t have done that before I left. Does that make sense?

I now feel like a stranger looking in. I’m not a part of my sister’s changes, I’m just an occasional observer.

There is no way I still want to be there, but can you get how a part of my heart yearns for what possibly never was? Because we were so isolated, my sisters were absolutely everything to me – sisters, playmates, school friends, enemies, best friends. And now they’re nothing more than casual acquaintances with a painful history that they try to pretend isn’t there. And there are times when that still makes my heart physically throb with loss.

And what’s maybe worse? It makes me question if it was really as bad as I thought it was – and that, after all I’ve been through, brings me to my knees.

When Your Heart Is Just Too Heavy

TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about some issues that might be triggering, please consider before reading.

My heart is so very, very heavy and I have that aching tightness in my throat from needing to cry, but not being able to get out one tear.

I have read too many stories today of CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) and ChurchToo survivors. I have to read them – my heart demands I bare witness to their stories and hear their truth. But it brings pain – not just the pain that flows from their words and must be a daily part of their lives – but it stirs up my own pain, reminds me that the lid is still open on the well of my own experiences.

I also printed out almost an entire journal to read, that was recommended through the GRACE organisation – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. The journal was titled ‘Child Absue and the Chrusch – Prevention, Pastoral Care and Healing. I didn’t really read it as I printed, but my heart broke again that it is even needed in the first place.

Why am I putting myself through such tough reading, such constant exposure to horrible issues? Because I can’t just sit and do nothing. There are too many hurting people out there, hurting people that all too often don’t find the comfort they need within churches, and if in my battles to make people talk about these things more and have a gentle, loving response to survivors, I can help at least one person to feel listened to, valued and loved, through one of the most horrific life-experiences, then it is more than worth my pain, my heavy heart, my sore throat, my nightmares.

For now, my heart is too heavy and it has exhausted me. Sometimes seeing hope is nearly impossible and the mountain seems overwhelmingly steep.

So for now, I’m going to seek hopeful-oblivion in an afternoon nap.

Un-Happy Fathers Day?

I wrote this post two years ago, but felt it was worth a re-post. You’re still not alone.

This is for you if Father’s Day is far from happy; if you can’t think about your father without it bringing you pain; if you roll your eyes when you see yet another card with words like ‘daddy’, ‘hero’, ‘the best’ on it.

This is for you if you can’t find anything to celebrate about your father; if you get a pang of jealousy when someone says how great their dad is; if you avoid the question when asked if you’re doing anything for father’s day.

This is for you if you feel slightly sick when you read another facebook post gushing about a great dad; if singing church songs about ‘Father God’ is confusing; if you know your children will never know their grandfather.

This is for you if you see a little girl with her dad and pray hard that he’ll never hurt her; if hearing how earthly fathers are meant to be a picture of our heavenly Father makes you question your faith; if sometimes – when memories are the darkest and the pain is too much to bear – you wish you never knew your father.

I don’t have words or answers. Just questions and pain. But I’m thinking of you and hoping that this year Father’s Day is a little easier than the last one.

Most of all, when you roll your eyes at yet-another dad advert, give your finger to a ‘family is the best’ movie or burst into tears over a spilt drink because it’s easier than crying over what really makes you sad … know you are not alone.

Here’s to too much chocolate, silly comedy and cold cider!

Oh Hello …

I’ve been so bad at keeping up on here … I haven’t even looked and seen when the last time I posted was – I decided I don’t need to know!! I haven’t been reading other people’s blogs either – I’m so sorry!

This is me starting again (again!) and hopefully getting back into talking to you regularly and reading your thoughts and being back in touch …

Tomorrow I am submitting my application for a Level 2 Introduction to Counselling Skills course at my local college – I am both excited and terrified!!

Ladies, Luke and Lunch

On Sunday afternoon, around 40 women from my church, are going to be getting together and creating an audio recording of the book of Luke.

To say I am excited about this would be a bit of an understatement!!

This kind of came about because of me. No, it’s not that simple and so far from just me.

Last summer my church did a spotlight/focus group for anyone that was feeling disillusioned with church or God. Baring in mind my history – and my bewildering urge to step up and be vulnerable so others feel safe to share – I went along …

Long story short, I had coffee with a leader from church and I ended up telling a bit more of my story and trying to answer her (very familiar) question of ‘why are you still in church?!’

Once I explained I couldn’t read the Bible because it brought back too many memories from my childhood and the constant replay of my father’s voice in my head, she asked if I’d tried an audio version of the Bible …

After explaining that listening to the Bible read by a man was just a reinforcement of the “men are the final authority on God and life and you are just a feeble woman” message I grew up with, she challenged me to find a version read by a woman …

Numerous hours and frustrating clicks on my keyboard later, I found one woman read, second hand, audio version of the New Testament available for over $150, through US Amazon only.

I decided this had to be corrected and honestly? I was kind of surprised no one had noticed this gap before… I mean, how could it have slipped everyone’s notice that there wasn’t a female-voice audio Bible?!

Instead of heading down the route of crowdfunding, awareness campaigns and professional recording studios, I mentioned my plan to the amazing S who had first suggested I find this female audiobook. After one of the most spine-tingling ‘I’d been thinking the same thing’ moments ever, we had the plan I’d just dreamed of.

And so, two days from now, after notices and then an interview in one service and an interview still to come in the second service, over 40 of us women are going to come together and create what we believe is the first of its kind in the UK – a women-read audio recording of a book of the Bible.

I know I am absolutely not the only one out there who struggles with reading the Bible – for whatever the reason – and the number of any of us that would struggle to listen to it in a male voice can only begin to be recognised.

We still haven’t heard back and got the all-clear from the publishers of the TNIV, but I hope that this can be free to anyone that wants, or needs, to hear it, and can be given, free of any charge, to any organisations that seeks to heal and support anyone who has been hurt by men, of whatever gender, background or faith.

You’ve got to love a sense of humour…

Turning everything into a joke? Defiantly a coping technique! But you know what? Sometimes not the worst you could have…

I’ve got some big stuff coming up this weekend… I’ve got a post or two working through my head about it … so for now, here is a little look into my (childish) sense of humour… I’ve no idea why they mostly involve minions…