The end of 2013 and the jar.

So I’m finally here. I’ve finally reached it. It is currently 9:31 pm on December 31st 2013 and I’ve made it through the year.

As I look back over the past twelve months I find very few that weren’t hard, very few that didn’t find me struggling to get out of bed most days, that didn’t find me unable to sleep. I have discovered that the people who I thought cared really don’t, that the community I tried so hard to be a part of wasn’t really as welcoming as I’d hoped, and that happiness isn’t something we can expect.

But in the midst of all this sadness, of all this fear, of all this anxiety, I have found my strength.

I have found that good friends are out there, you just have to get through all the crap ones to reach them.
I have found that if I want to do something all I need is the motivation to keep wanting it.
I have found that being honest with myself about who I am is the most freeing thing I’ve ever done.
I have found that endurance teaches us life lessons.
I have found that choosing to stick to my guns and not follow the crowd is terrifying but also brilliantly rewarding.

Over the past twelve months I’ve had a little jar that I’ve put notes in every time something good has happened. In approximately 48 minutes I get to open it and read them all for the first time… When I do that I’ll put some of my favourites in this post for you. I hope that they can be an encouragement to you.

Time doesn’t stop for anyone, but tonight many people will go out and celebrate its passage. Life keeps on moving and the only way to really get through it is by taking it one day at a time. So I say just throw caution to the wind, figure out what you want to do, who you want to be, and live it, live that life. Tomorrow we’ll all wake up (some of us feeling less chipper than others) and, once again, it will be the 1st of January and we’ll still be the same people. Change is up to you; a different number at the end of the date won’t make any difference, and once you find your strength you’ll know it’s here to stay.

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Lioness

It’s 1:36 am. Most of the world is falling asleep and I am coming alive.

Every so often I have these moments where I realise my strength. I realise what I’ve gone through, what I’m going through, what I’ve carried all on my own, and it hits me that this will all be okay.

Like a lioness looking after her cubs I have bared my claws to anyone who dares try to attack my home.

At night I lie awake; I have cried salty tears into my pillow but left no stain.
I have tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable spot in what sometimes feels like rocky ground.
I have stared up at a glowing screen, hoping for conversation that never comes.

I have had moments where my heart begins to beat so fast and I become so overwhelmed that my chest tightens and I feel like at any minute I might stop breathing, I might stop living. It might all turn to darkness and life as I know it might end.

Like a ship miles out at sea, I have thrown down my anchor but found no land to hold on to.

But I can only control my own heart.
I can only be strong for me, I can’t worry that others don’t love me.
I will find land, my home will be safe, and I will lift up my arm and shake my fist at the world.

I will let it know that I cannot be conquered, that I cannot be held down.

I want to be friends with the Pope.

Growing up as a Christian every so often I would come across people who made me think, “They’re so Christ-like”. In recent months these illusions have been shattered and my views of many of those people have changed entirely.

This morning I was reading about Pope Francis and what he’s been up to in 2013, and I’ve decided that I’d really like to be friends with him because I think he’s one of the first genuine Christians I’ve ever come across. There haven’t been many but he’s definitely one of them.

Really it all comes back to rules, doesn’t it? It all comes back to the fact that this guy is totally ignoring all the junk that people have put down as rules to be a Christian. It comes back to the fact that he isn’t afraid to hang out with criminals, women, Muslims, homeless people. It comes back that to the fact that he cares about the environment and wants to protect the rainforest and its native people. It comes back to the fact that he phoned a women who had been raped and told her she wasn’t alone. It comes back to the fact that he doesn’t think atheists are bad people.

So if the Pope is doing all this stuff why isn’t the rest of the Church? Why do we debate over women leading congregations? Why do we push gay people out of the Church because their “lifestyle choices” (homosexuality is neither a lifestyle or a choice) are “wrong” and only support heterosexual couples? Why is the topic of sexuality very seldom, if at all, discussed in Church? Why do we act as if Muslims are the enemy? Why do we refuse to care about the environment, choosing to say that it isn’t our fault? Why do we force people to look at photos of dead foetuses, forgetting that women don’t want to have abortions? Why do we think that just because someone doesn’t believe in God it means they’re a bad person; did we not all question at one point?

I don’t feel a part of this thing we call the Body of Christ any more because there’s far too much bitterness and exclusion and I don’t really think it’s what Jesus ever wanted. What we know as the Body of Christ, as the Church, is ugly and rotting and broken and that would be okay (because Jesus died so we could be okay, so we could know love) if we didn’t force all our pain on to others. We’re a broken people who’ve forced our brokenness on the world, forgetting what love really looks like and failing miserably to communicate it and pretending like that’s okay because “we’re only human”. But it’s not okay if you constantly say you’re meant to be “different” but yet continue hurting people. It’s easy to go out and do nice things for people but if your thoughts, your opinions, everything you keep inside, screams of hate and anger and judgement, then what’s the point in trying to make people think that you’re good? I don’t think actions speak louder than words, I think both go hand in hand and I don’t think God will ever say, “well you told that gay person they were living wrong but you fed some homeless people so it’s okay.”

I just don’t really want to be called a Christian any more because I think that word has far too many negative connotations. I’m trying to find out who God really is, what He’s doing in my life right now, and what exactly He wants me to do with my time on earth. I’m trying to figure out if the love of God really exists, if it can really be found in this world any more, and what it’s like to really know that love (the unconditional love that I’ve heard so much about but that has been overshadowed by the conditions created by Christians). No amount of nice worship songs or Christian blogs or Church services can help me any more, this is between me and God. I can’t tell you what the outcome will be, maybe I’ll realise that God just isn’t what I thought He was, or maybe I’ll realise that I can’t live without Him. I’m not afraid to question, to doubt, to be unsure. I’m not afraid because if God is who He says He is then I’ll go back to Him, and if He isn’t my time will be better spent on other things.

Life is meant to be figured out, to be poked and prodded, to be questioned. It isn’t a stagnant thing, it isn’t consistent. People were made to change and grow and I’m not afraid of change.

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Snow

The silence of the snow falling all around,
The way each flake almost breathes as it flies past me.

The wind stops howling and each individual snowflake, so unique and different, like every finger print to ever exist, they all fall to the ground.

It’s as if everything stops moving for that moment; even the world refuses to spin on its axis and the thick blanket of clouds above us that seems to have no end stays perfectly still.

I tilt my head back, stick my tongue out and try and taste a little bit of this wonder and, after years of repeating this silly ritual, am still baffled that snow doesn’t really taste of anything.

Your footprints make a crunch, crunch, crunch in the white sheet upon the ground as the snowflakes are moulded closer together, letting people know that someone was here before, that this world is connected by those who came before, so we are not alone.

In this white, wintry world we are not alone.

The Fox and the Robin

Robins are here all year round but no one notices them until it snows. Their red breasts burning like fire in white landscapes, their little hearts so warm, their voices so strong in the silence of snowflakes falling fast, the silence that is broken every so often by feet crunching through the snow.

This silence is where I have been, you see. Dying to be like the Robin, my little heart so warm.

No feet crunched in the snow, only the silent padding of the fox’s paws, his breath lingering as steam. There was warmth in his blood but not in his heart. His claws tore at my wounds, removing all the healing, taking what I thought was good.

The fox took what he wanted and ran away.

So now I am left among the pine trees. I am left to figure out a new path out of the forest. I am left to follow the Robin, his red breast shining, his little heart so warm.

He is teaching me strength, he is teaching me to trust, he is teaching me to control the blizzard that used to wrap its cold arms around me and refuse to let go.

Sometimes he sings to me and reminds me that one day spring will be here and the forest will be full of colour again, he reminds me that this is not my forever, that nothing is forever. Some nights I dream of this, I dream of the warm sun on my face and all the flowers in bloom and I know I will eventually reach that place, because when I awake a new day has dawned.

So for now I will follow the Robin, and if the Fox comes back I will fight him with all the strength in my little heart so warm. Because the Robin may be little but he is strong.

Redefining God, and why that’s not blasphemous.

So it’s been a while.

I probably shouldn’t even be writing at this time; tomorrow morning I’m sacrificing my usual Friday morning lie in and poached egg and bacon breakfast for a job interview in Belfast. As much as I’d like to sleep in and eat some of my favourite foods before turning up to class at 1:00 pm, I’m pretty happy to be taking the next step in life.

Things are changing, you see. In recent weeks I’ve experienced life changing events, things I have no way of changing my mind about or going back on. There have been quite a few different issues but the one I want to write to you about is the idea of redefining God.

I’ve been angry with the Church (as in the group of people who call themselves Christians, not the church I used to go to) as of late. I’ve been angry with the people who say one thing and do another, who have made so many feel like outcasts, who have said that their faith isn’t about rules and regulations but still found a necessity for them, who have told me that my interpretation of the Bible is ‘harmful’ yet not considered that it could be theirs that is damaging people.

I’m not the first Christian who has found themselves wanting to walk away from God because of the Church, and I’m certain I won’t be the last. I think the problem is that it’s so hard to separate God from the people He created, I think it’s almost impossible to consider that God is nothing like His creation because we’re told He made us in His image.

If God is anything like me we’re all screwed…

Which is why I want to start redefining my idea of who God is.

I think we’ve become so comfortable with our rules, with guidelines to follow and Bible verses to quote for every situation, because it’s safe. It’s so terrifyingly safe, isn’t it? If we took those rules away surely things would fall apart? Rules keep us hemmed in, they tell us how we should be living. What if we stopped living a certain way, if we removed all the little details about reading our Bibles every day, and girls always dressing modestly, and never forgetting to pray, and never swearing? What if we decided to just love people and stop worrying about all the little things? If this faith is nothing more than a relationship with God then why have we made it all about dressing a certain way and eating cake and drinking tea? The changes should be inward, our hearts should change but it shouldn’t be about minor details.

If God is better than people then God isn’t safe, and if God isn’t safe then we need to stop feeling so comfortable. 

You can’t put God in a box and you can’t give Him rules. I don’t think God gives me or anyone else rules, I don’t think He asks me to quit swearing or read my Bible every day or always think about how I’m dressing or pray all the time. I believe that He asks me to love people and to love Him because of what He did for me on the cross.

It’s all become very exclusive, you see. It’s become exclusive to heterosexual people, to virgins, to women who’ve never had an abortion, to people who don’t get drunk, among other things. But Jesus hung out with anyone and everyone so why have we decided who can and can’t join us in church on Sunday mornings? Why have we decided that we can define sin?

I’ll probably have a lot more to say on this topic in coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for updates. I also definitely need to go to bed as it’s now after midnight and I don’t want to fall asleep during my interview tomorrow…

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