Not Feeling Like Myself.

Sometimes I question everything.

I become apathetic about the things in life that matter to me and I wonder if I should give it all up and do all the things I say aren’t a part of my life any more, all the things I gave up because they made me too sad. Because sometimes the things that make us sad, that we know aren’t good for us, are the only things that make sense when we consider how big God is, or why we’re trying to be different.

Is who I’m trying to be really having an impact?
Does my hypocrisy not turn people away from the message I’m trying to share with them?
Does the fact that my words and actions don’t always link up not make people wonder what I’m doing with my life?

I just don’t know how to do this life sometimes, how to find beauty, how to create art.

I pick up my guitar and all my inspiration is gone, my voice cracks when I try to sing, I put a pen to paper and all I can think of is writer’s block.

But beauty isn’t found in all the things we do to try and alleviate the pain, it’s not found in avoiding God, it’s not found in anger, it’s not found in giving into our temptations, it’s not found in staying in bed all day.

It’s found in dragging yourself out of bed every day because you know you have to, because you want to live, not just exist. It’s found in being so aware of everything around you, of refusing to shut it out because living through it is the only way to know what it is to be alive. It’s found in waking up to the rain hitting against your window and knowing that you have to walk through that rain but that it’s okay because at least you can walk through that rain. It’s found in walking to the beach after a long day and seeing where the ocean meets the sky; nothing can beat the horizon line.

Acceptance of seasons is not easy but we can’t expect everything to be perfect all the time. Sometimes life is a total breeze, we wake up and enjoy every second of the day. But sometimes it feels like we’re being dragged through life, as if we’re not really taking a single step.

That’s okay. It really is okay. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us, it means we’re alive, it means we know what the good times are like if we know what bad is like too. And this won’t be wasted. This won’t ever be wasted. Every painful time we go through is used to make us stronger, to help us grow, to teach us new lessons.

So don’t ever stop trying, don’t ever stop fighting, don’t ever stop being who you are, because it still matters, I promise.

x

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A Friday Evening Thought.

Just something I think everyone should take note of tonight. Our pain is never meaningless, our struggles are never meaningless. No matter how broken we feel, no matter how numb we feel, it all means something and is nothing in comparison to the glory we will know for eternity. God will never waste your pain.

Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland; Justice Will Prevail.

The kids in my Church have been learning about Jericho and this morning made trumpets, and at the end of the service the minister told us how they had wanted to march around the congregation with their wonderful creations that they’d made during craft time. But instead of a captive audience watching this very triumphant procession the minister got the kids AND the adults to march around the hall to represent what the Israelite’s did at Jericho, but this time for Bangor and the rest of Northern Ireland, to lift up the name of Jesus in our town and our communities and to bring His light to our nation.

I could have cried. In fact I almost did but managed to hold back the tears because explaining what I’m about to explain to you would have taken quite a lot of time.

My whole life growing up in Bangor, and Northern Ireland as a whole, it appeared to be this lovely little Christian bubble. I think that’s the view a lot of people actually have of it too, which makes the truth even harder to hear. I grew up in the Church, 99% of my friends were Christians, I went to Christian events in Bangor, Belfast, Comber, Newtownards, and numerous other places. The whole place was this little safe haven for Christians and I wasn’t afraid to be honest about my beliefs.

But then I went away to Scotland for four years, grew up quite a bit, and came home again. And recently my eyes have been opened to the truths of the little town I grew up in.

This morning while we marched around the Church hall, with the kids blowing their trumpets, laughing and smiling at the silliness of it all, I couldn’t get the problem of human trafficking in Bangor off my mind. I don’t want to be a killjoy, it’s not like I stopped the congregation and made them all pray in silence, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how important it was that I keep praying into these situations, that I start getting involved in the movement against human trafficking in Northern Ireland that really seemed to gain a lot of speed around this time last year.

I loved marching around the Church hall with the whole congregation, I love my Church and how it brings together so many broken people who have been set free in Christ. I want all the trafficked women and men in my community, the community of Bangor and the wider community of Northern Ireland, to know that freedom too; to know safety and comfort, family, security, warmth, home. Trafficking doesn’t always involve women, and it doesn’t always involve sex, but wherever it happens, to whomever it happens, and however it happens, it is a horrendous and tragic thing. It is beyond cruel and it is a reflection of how bitter and broken and hurting our society is, that we would break people down, that we would use people, that we would crush them under our feet so we could prosper.

Trafficked people are told lies, told that if they do what their traffickers tell them they will have good lives and make lots of money for the families they have left behind; this is never the case. They are exploited and tortured, beaten, abused. Many Eastern European people leave their homes in countries like Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia and many other places, and are told of the great jobs they will have. Instead they find themselves being sold for sex, dancing in the windows of red light districts of many cities across Europe, becoming one of thousands of people involved in the pornography industry, or doing numerous other things that we would never want for any part of God’s creation.

There are numerous brilliant organisations to speak to and get involved with in the fight against human trafficking. Firstly, for the North Down area, check out North Down ACT (active communities against trafficking). Further afield there is No More Traffik, who are based in Northern Ireland but who also have a very much global outlook, and for an organisation outside of Northern Ireland check out International Justice Mission.

Please also do not be afraid to contact Crime Stoppers (0800 555 111; they also have an online form if you don’t feel comfortable calling) if you suspect something in your area, regardless of where you live in the UK. We are their eyes and ears in our communities and it is important that we aid them as much as possible. However, please remember to use this contact responsibly.

Finally, please pray. Never think that your prayers are too small or insignificant because every prayer is listened to by a great God and through Him has great power. Even if our prayers are short, as long as we keep bringing them to God He will keep working on them. Never be afraid to pray.

At the minute there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world, which is more than there has ever been in human history. We live in a progressive society but are still treating people as if we didn’t understand the value of human life, as if we had no knowledge of the slave trade in America that was abolished so long ago. William Wilberforce fought for the freedom of the African people and I believe that if he was still alive would be as passionate about the current fight as he was about that one. I’ll leave you with one of his many inspirational quotes from his speech entitled On the Horrors of the Slave Trade, delivered in the House of Commons in 1789:

“When we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God? Sir, the nature and all the circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance, we can not evade it; it is now an object placed before us, we can not pass it; we may spurn it, we may kick it out of our way, but we can not turn aside so as to avoid seeing it; for it is brought now so directly before our eyes that this House must decide, and must justify to all the world, and to their own consciences, the rectitude of the grounds and principles of their decision.” 

We couldn’t be any more aware of slavery in the 21st Century, it is now our job to do what we can to fight it.

Justice will prevail.

x

Dreaming Big

I used to think I wanted to be a professional musician. I wanted to get a record deal and make CDs and go on tour. But I fell out of love with that idea when guitar stopped being my crutch.

I used to want to be a music journalist. I wanted to go to gigs every day and interview bands and write for a really cool music magazine. But I fell out of love with that idea when I realised how unethical the journalism industry is.

I used to want to be a missionary. I wanted to travel to far off lands and do the work of God by simply being in a place. But I fell out of love with that idea when I realised how much I enjoy working in a secular environment.

I used to want to be a writer. I wanted to spend my days at a desk, writing about numerous topics that interested me. But I fell out of love with that idea when I discovered how lonely it made me feel.

For the longest time I’ve wanted to open my own cafe. To have my own business, to feed people yummy home made food, to give a large part of the profit to charities and organisations who need it more than me, to let my space be a second home for teens and students, somewhere that families can eat healthily and cheaply, somewhere that little ones can run around and be totally safe, somewhere that people can drink really good coffee or sip tea on a rainy day… This is no longer a dream, this is becoming a reality. On Monday I start a college course in professional cookery and I want to use the skills I gain to help others, to benefit the communities that I’m a part of.

I graduated university with a degree in journalism, film and media and had no use for it whatsoever. I knew I wanted to do something creative, that I didn’t want to have a normal job, and working for a corporation for ten months made me realise I want to do something that involves caring for people, whether that means employees or customers, I want to ensure people are at the forefront of what I do. I have had negative experiences in work of employers giving the impression of caring about their employees but, in reality, only really caring about the business and the money they make. If my business is my home, if it is family run, it will be far more than a business.

I’m dreaming big here; I’m planning for something that I don’t think will come into existence for at least 10 or so years because there are so many other things I want to do before I settle in one place, but I know it’s what I want. It’s my dream and it will become a reality. I am ready to work hard, to have sleepless nights, to involve as many people as possible to ensure it’s a success, to gain all the experience I can. I have a passion for independent business, for really good food, for that feeling of home away from home, for the sheer need of a cafe that represents the true meaning of hospitality when so many just want you in and out the door as soon as you’ve finished eating.

But right now I start college in three days and I’m so nervous I could vomit. Who wouldn’t be on day one of the beginning of working towards fulfilling a dream?

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