Thursday, 19 December 2013

I am not a number.

I am not my exam grades. I am not the mistakes I have made. I am not my tattoo. I am not my nose piercing. I am not ruled by my insecurities. I am not ruled by fear. I am chosen. I am loved. I am free. I am a child of God. I am a friend of Jesus. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am defined by the saviour who died for me. I am defined by the God who wove me together and wrote my story before I even existed. I am Helen and in Jesus I have a life worth living.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Empty Words, Empty Promises: I am Done.

I love Jesus, with everything I have. And I know he loves me more than I can ever imagine. But what about those times when he doesn't feel like enough? I know that's a bold statement to make in the Christian world, particularly since the Bible specifically says that Jesus is enough, that God's grace is enough for us. But sometimes I just don't feel like that's true. I don't always get the answers I need, I don't always feel like Jesus is there, providing for me. I feel distant, I feel lost and even when we are told to "rest in the promises of God, because he never breaks them" What does that actually look like? In real life what would I say to someone who asked me that? Right now, I have no idea. I don't know how to just "be." I don't know how to be okay with the fact that life happens and I can't always feel Jesus there. I can't be okay with that. What do I do when worship begins to feel like empty words? When praying feels like talking to myself? I am done with words. They are empty and meaningless alone. I need something real and something true because empty words and empty promises change nothing.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Well Hello Again!

I haven't written for a long time now... it is not for want of trying though. I have too many drafts/ideas written down to even begin to count but nothing I write reads well. I am sat here hoping that this attempt won't end up in my other pile of drafts, but you never know! I want to say that so far my stay in France has been incredible, and that everything is here is hunky dory. Well firstly, the fact that I used hunky-dory in a non sarcastic manner probably proves that I am not being entirely truthful! I do love this country, but it seems to be a love hate relationship: I love the weather, I love the people I have met here, and I love the church I am so privileged to be a part of. But the total lack of organisation and any kind of system out here is incredibly frustrating and has brought me to tears so many times. The language barrier can frustrate and annoy me, and it is definitely the small victories I am counting on.

It is small victories like making myself understood in lectures: asking a pertinent question that the lecturer actually understands and thinks is valid. It is in meeting new people who understand your french, and then proceed to complement it. It is the end of the "french headaches" caused by spending all day having to concentrate twice as much as normal just to ingest some of what is being taught in lectures. It is forgetting which language you started the conversation in because you switch between the two so often. It is accidentally starting to speak to my parents in french and therefore seeming incredibly pretentious... though more so than that it is beginning to automatically do the 3 bisous when you meet people (it is confusing when people are from different regions so don't do 3).

Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of the small victories when we feel defeated and down: they add up to so much more than we realise! The small victories are a declaration of progress and however insignificant that progress may feel, in the face of despair and heartache it is the silver lining.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Remember me?

Remember me?
I walked with you all these years,
Held you through all the tears,
Saw your beauty as that smile lit up your face,
Fell in love as you lay in my embrace,
And it broke my heart as I watched you walk away.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Journée Banalisée!

Today was a good day. It began early, with bleary, sleep filled eyes and the tram journey to uni for an early lesson. My exhaustion and drowsiness was instantly abated by the thought of my 3 day weekend beginning at 9:45 on a Thursday, due to strikes at the university. When we got home I discovered I had received a parcel of clothing from home, which also contained a beautiful note from my Mum and the reminder I needed of how wonderful she is. I needed that pick me up. Then it was an episode of Friends and finally out to explore town with my friends and eat crepes: Exactly what a day of exercising my right to protest should be. We also found out it was our flatmate's birthday and so had great fun finding him a present and eating the cake he'd baked for the occasion. Surrounded by friends and reminded of the beautiful family who are always there for me I felt happy, I felt lucky. 

I can't thank Jesus enough for the people he has placed in my life, and even though the last few weeks have been tough, I don't doubt for a second that this is where I am supposed to be. I know that this year will (and already has been) life changing and I can't wait to see the person I am becoming. It's a time to live, to love, to be happy and to be free. And I don't plan to waste a single minute. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A Love Letter (II)

Jesus I love you. I love you for the cross. I love you because you taught me to love. I love you because you rescued me. I love you because you gave me life. I love you because you are merciful. I love you because you are strong when I am not. I love you because you make me whole. I love you because of who you are. I love you because I need you. I need you because I love you.

Without you Jesus, I am lost. I thank you that wherever I am, you will find me. And I thank you that wherever life takes me, I will always find you Jesus. Forever and for Always. You are mine. And I am yours.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

"Je suis une femme forte et indépendante"

Sometimes it feels like I just have to say that I'll be okay, and if I am not, I will be eventually. I refuse to show people the uglier side to me: the side which feels constantly inadequate and turns into a horribly insecure mad woman when times get tough. Out here in Montpellier, it feels like I have a mountain to climb, and the progress is slow. Sometimes painstakingly so. More often than not, there are days where it seems like a total non starter to even take a step forward, because when I feel insecure I often throw myself into other areas where I know I am strong ie studying. Except here that is not possible because I often feel just as out of my depth at uni as I do when I am trying to work out the practical things. This means I have had to be wholly and completely reliant on Jesus since I have been here, since I cannot lean on my own understanding or strength because I get to the end of the day and I am exhausted.

I am learning to be thankful, even in spite of the moments where exhaustion overtakes me & I am left grappling with the belief that I am not strong enough. After all, Jesus has given me the best flatmates ever, a church where I was instantly welcomed and made to feel part of the family of God, and support from completely unexpected places. He has given me moments of truly unexpected elation and freedom and has spoken to me when I needed him the most. Basically, I am falling in love all over again and it feels incredible. But I am also learning that with love, it is not enough to simply pretend everything is fine all the time otherwise the relationship is built on falsehood and lies. When the truth does emerge, it will seem so much more difficult to deal with and it will be so much more painful to overcome.

So I know it's a huge step and a massive risk for the heart but bringing yourself before God no matter how much you are hurting is something that I think is essential in order to have a good relationship.

In short, this amazing song says it all:  Any Other Way - Tenth Avenue North

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Welcome to... Chaos.

When I have more time, I will fulfill the year abroad cliché & begin a new blog dedicated to my stay in La Belle France, but for now a post here will have to suffice.

Most people know that I was so anxious about my year abroad, that until about 2/3 weeks before I actually left home, it was a topic best not talked about too much for fear of triggering tears (A LOT of them) or turning me into an anxious rambling mess... neither of which is a great reaction to spending the year in another country. Gradually I progressed from this, to lying about being extremely excited (obviously more so than scared) even though in truth it was the other way round: I was TERRIFIED. While most of my friends loved the idea of being able to repeat freshers all over again... I wasn't so taken by it: What if this is hard? What if my French isn't up to it? Plus, I maybe 20, but I hadn't flown alone until now. So that was an added anxiety. But despite all of the panic and the last minute preparations, I made my flight, said goodbye to my friends, family and boyfriend... and made it to Montpellier in one piece.

Since then everything has been chaotic. From signing in, getting my room key, to my toilet breaking (& having to explain this in French) and researching bank accounts (then finding the bank is closed), phone contracts, and the most recent (but definitely not the last) error I made was turning up to the wrong introductory lecture at the university yesterday morning... mainly because I had a blonde moment and forgot that in France, French is NOT a foreign language... Ooops. Though all of these things stressed me out no end, and though day to day things continue to stress me out, out here I am learning fast that it almost always about the small victories: the times when you meet new people & they understand you, learning the best route to uni (it's actually fairly simple) and finding places to buy food to name but a few. However, my proudest moment to date has to be the achievement of my second day: I OPENED A FRENCH BANK ACCOUNT.  I had to make sure I understood the charges, the things I was signing up for and the kind of account I needed. With patience and A LOT of brain power... I did it.

During a 2 hour long walk home after a night out (It's advisable not to try to walk 14 stops on the tram at 2am...) with a group of new people I was reminded how good, loving and incredible my God is. He looked after all of us the whole way & some situations which could have been potentially bad, were always escaped. Plus, I got to have an amazing conversation with a girl from my floor who is also a Christian, which just made me feel so happy & secure in the knowledge that my God truly is a God who loves, and provides.

Two full days in and I am already learning... This year is going to be crazy. But bring it. I am ready to fall in love with French. And very possibly France.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Trusting God

Trust is a big thing and an important part of any relationship. It is no different in my walk with Jesus. I trust him with my life and I know he has a plan for me. But with the prospect of a year away from home being more than a little daunting, it is difficult. It is difficult to live by faith rather than by sight. It is tricky to step into the unknown.

This is because I think it is easy to trust when things are good, when you feel confident and comfortable. But now, I am about to face a whole year of change, a whole year of "new." At present this thought terrifies rather than comforts me. I know that I have said I am ready to embrace the challenge of being somewhere new, but this tops everything. I am moving to a new country, a new place and learning to function in a new language (okay so I do know French). And it is probably that which is freaking me out the most... the idea of being hundreds of miles away from home and having to do everything in French, from the shopping to all my university assessments.

As the count down gets closer the reality of leaving my small hometown, and the people I love, the panic begins to set in. I know that this is one of the most incredible opportunities I will ever have but my mind is struggling to see it that way. Right now all my mind is seeing a massive black hole of unknown and asking "But what if it is harder than last year?" "What if it is horrible?"

Well you know what? I will get through this the same way I got through this year: by trusting in the promises made to me through scripture and by committing myself to Jesus in prayer and worship. I have the Holy Spirit who lives in me. Through it I can do anything. Through the power of prayer and full reliance on a loving and holy God I can and will get through this.

Because despite the crazy moodswings, and horrible anxiety, I am not going to miss out on God's purpose for me because of fear. After all, God's perfect love casts out fear. So resting in this truth I will pursue this year in France and pursue my Father's purpose for my life.

After all... Life is not easy. But it is always worth living. And the bad times, the times when fear seems to be bigger than confidence, well surviving those teaches me that there is always something good the other side. That there is always a reason to hold on. It has also taught me to look for the beauty, even in the dark times, to seek out what is wonderful and good, just to hold on to my faith and my hope and my love. For without these I am merely a shell. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

My Eating Disorder and Jesus

In one of my last posts I wrote about courage and finding your voice. Well, this is me, finding my voice and daring to speak out against the lies which seem to dominate so much of society today.

As I sat on the train I watched the world fly past me. Here, I could become anything, anyone. I could do anything. The possibilities were endless: the only boundary being that of my imagination. I choose to be skinny. Not just thin, but skinny. My collar bone would be pronounced, you'd be able to see the faint outline of my ribcage, my stomach would be flat, and I would have that coveted thigh gap. I choose to be beautiful.

The last sentence jolted me back into reality. I had to check myself. Have the two words thin and beautiful really become so synonymous with each other that I can't be one without being the other? Is my 36-34-43 5"11 frame really that bad? Is my imagination really so warped that I want to look ILL?!

Every time I eat food, I seem to condemn myself to the region of the fat. Yet the hunger pangs, those sharp reminders that I haven't eaten can seem both beautiful and treacherous. A part of me welcomes them enthusiastically: it's a sign of self control. Something I am strong enough to beat.Yet they also scare me. The elation and sense of control which accompany them so often, can rule me in an instant. They can drag me back into the lies, the obsession, the fear and the misery which held me captive for so long, without me even realising it.

I would say if you are reading this, you would almost immediately say this attitude towards food is not "normal". Yet for so long it was normal. It was me. The desire to be thin consumed me. And it wasn't even being thin... it was being better, being stronger than the cravings and the pangs which came at me all the time. But you know what: I wasn't. I never beat them. I was always the loser in the corner, betrayed by my own body, and destroyed by my mind. It was a failed attempt at perfection that cost me everything.

As I sat on the train, still gazing out of the window, I realised that despite having an imagination capable of weaving entire worlds, I was still choosing to weave myself thin, because a part of me still believes that it is the only way I can be beautiful, that this is the only way I can be better and stronger. It's a LIE.

I can hear you ask already "But you're a Christian? Hasn't God got it covered?" or "Where is your Jesus in this?" I have asked myself these questions so many times, and I still don't know the answers. Self image problems are so prevalent in society that they have become normal. And in my experience Church is no different. As girls, we struggle. We wrestle with the world's view of beauty that we've grown up with and because we're so used to hearing the lie that we aren't enough, we struggle to accept the idea that we could be considered beautiful and perfect creations as we are. But we are beautiful creations, made in the image of the one who loves us deeply and powerfully. So why is the truth so hard to believe?

Equally disturbing, is my ability to manipulate the scripture to "justify" my behaviour and my thought patterns. Verses like that in 1 Corinthians were a particular favourite: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body." I believed that any food would corrupt this temple, and in order to make it, to make myself suitable for God, I had to be thin. Again I cannot emphasise enough that THIS IS NOT TRUE. As a temple, our bodies should be loved and honoured, not punished and starved. 

I love Jesus, with everything I have I want to honour him. But sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I fall. But he is always there to catch me. I have days where all I want to do is cry. I have days where those thought patterns creep back, and those temptations return. But all I can do is trust. Trust that Jesus will give me the strength when I have none (Philippians 4:13- we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us), and trust that the word of God really is sharper than any sword (Hebrews 4:12-13). All I can do is hope: hope that God will carry me through the pain. Romans 5:5 says that because of God's love for us, our hope will not be disappointed. The truth is powerful. The truth is the key to freedom: "To the Jews who had believed in him Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) It has changed my life. This is why, whenever the lies set in I pray. I put on worship music. I read my bible. I immerse myself in the truth. And when there is a war in my head, it isn't easy, but it pays. I guess the truth really does set you free.

It's not an easy walk. And there are truly days when it doesn't feel possible or even feasible to bother with the scripture, worship or prayer. This is because sometimes familiarity feels easier than the unknown. But even in those moments when I feel most hopeless and alone, I know God is with me. He is the reason I can stand here today and be happy. For me, being alive is a true testament of God's grace and the way it has transformed my heart.

I want to end this by simply saying: You are not alone. You are never alone. You don't need to suffer in silence. Seeking help is terrifying but one of the most courageous things you could ever do. You are beautiful. Don't ever let anyone make you believe otherwise.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Dreams, ambitions and little things.

I had two of my closest friends round for dinner one evening before I came home for the summer. It was a brilliant opportunity to catch up and possibly one of my favourite evenings of this year. We were just girls, discussing hopes, dreams, the big things, the little things and everything in between. And somehow we got onto the topic of our dreams for the future. I was talking about a writing competition and debating about whether or not I should enter it, and my friend asked "If you could do anything in the whole world, would you write?" I looked at her and thought about it for a minute. If  I didn't have to get a "real job" I would write. I would have a study with a beautiful view and a sleek beautiful machine to write on (alongside the obligatory writer's notebook and a beautiful Parker pen). I would write about the things that I know, the things I love, the things I hate and everything in between. If I could do anything with my life it would be that. I would use my writing to encourage others, to tell them things which aren't necessarily talked about over the dinner table. I want to paint vivid pictures with my words and create entire universes with a million different combinations of 26 letters.

Writing is freedom; the freedom to escape, the freedom to become immersed in a whole other world, the freedom to become someone different and the freedom to express what you can't necessarily say aloud. Writing gives you a voice. Writing is a power which I am in awe of. It allows you to do so many different things and become so many different people. It speaks so loudly and eloquently of what the heart feels, yet without the nervous stammers and stutters, and stumbling over words that seem to occur so frequently in speech. It builds and it destroys. It hurts and it heals. Writing is incredible. And if you love it, if you nurture it you will discover its power.

But this is where I paused to think. Ever since that evening I have been challenged. Why can't I just write? Why can't I chase the thing I am most passionate about? What is stopping me?

If you love something. Chase it. Go after it. Don't spend life regretting those chances you never took and those dreams you let die because the fear of falling prevented you from trying. How do you know what it's like to fly if you don't take the leap?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Courage: Find Your Voice

Life is scary. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, ups and downs and twists and turns, and it's the wildest ride we'll ever take. And whilst there are plenty of beautiful moments and a few of real ecstasy, often, in order to get to that point, we have to experience moments of gut wrenching fear. Sometimes, that fear isn't even in the big things, it can be in the tiny things too. But strangely enough, in those moments of fear, in those moments where the million what ifs course through your mind, sometimes those are where we find our greatest courage. In those moments, we can find the ability to speak out and to be heard.

A number of people have told me over the years that I am brave. Honestly, it isn't the first characteristic that comes to my head when I go to describe my personality. On reflection, maybe, just maybe, those people are right. Despite the fact that I am scared of a lot of things (both superficial and deeper rooted fears) sometimes I can summon up that little bit of courage. And at the time I don't necessarily feel brave (in fact I mostly felt stupid) but I would feel like what I have done is right. And that bravery has taught me a lot; and though it hasn't always yielded results, it has strengthened me. That's what courage does. It builds strength. Courage is associated with strong people. And they aren't courageous because they're strong, but they have been made strong because they have been courageous.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Waiting For The But

Complements. They're difficult things to accept. You can smile and say "thank you," but do you ever really take them to heart? Do you ever really believe the encouragement you get given? Sometimes, you meet people who genuinely believe you are wonderful, they start to tell you this and you begin to shrink away and feel uneasy (or is that just me?). I think it's because we see ourselves in the times when no one else does. We know ourselves better than anyone else, or at least we think we do. We know every single lump and bump, and every single imperfection. We know the thoughts we have and I bet we'd be truly scared if people could see inside our heads sometimes. So when we meet someone whose opinion we value and care about, the "getting to know you" process becomes that much more terrifying. They scratch the surface, and explore your heart, and the more they see, the more you worry that they will find something they don't like. For every "you're amazing" there's a voice saying "but you don't know what I have done, how I feel about this, or that." Something within you wrestles with the complement because you feel that you know different. You see all of the mistakes which make up your past, and all of the flaws which diminish your character. You see all of the bad habits you've formed over the years and you see all the ways you could mess up. Thus, accepting a complement becomes very difficult. On the surface I smile and accept it, but underneath there are a thousand questions spinning around in my head, and a thousand counter arguments to whatever positive thing has been said.

When the person/people are important to you, your own flaws become luminous. For me, it's like someone has gone over them with a fluorescent hi-lighter and said here: look. This is why getting close is a bad idea, because yes they think you're amazing now, but what about when they know about those crisps you ate or the chocolate you had last night because you felt anxious? What about that tendency to get snappy when you're tired, or how pale & drained you look when ill? What about the days when your bed seems like the only safe place? Or the ones where you could just cry endlessly for no reason? Or the days when you won't believe a single positive word about you? What about the people you hurt  growing up? Or those people you mistreated? Or the times you've relapsed? When those special people see these parts of you, what if you don't seem like a viable choice any more? What if it falls apart?

This is a very real fear, and no relationship is without risk. Whether it be friends, family, or a significant other, every single deep bond comes with a risk. And that risk never gets any less terrifying to take. Someone (I think it was in a song) once described it as a long walk off a short cliff, and you had no idea what awaited you upon landing: loving arms, or the unforgiving ground. But unless you take that risk, you never find out.

At this point the important thing to remember is that Jesus, already has an opinion of you. And it isn't just "Yeah, you're cool," it's "You are incredible, I love, value and treasure you." Again the voice of doubt pops up and says "Yes, but, did you know what I did?" And do you know something incredible? Jesus knows everything about us. He knows all of our mistakes, he's seen those thoughts, yet he loves us the same. The perfect creator knows exactly who you are and he says that you are worth it. He loves you fiercely and completely. He is the centre point in a world where validation and acceptance can seem impossible, and he accepts and loves you. 

So when you take that leap into the dark, remember that the one who is at the centre of it all has already chosen and loved you. And he will continue to do so forever and always.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


I am half way through my degree. It's a pretty bizarre thought, it wasn't that long ago that I was a nervous fresher, terrified of pretty much everything. I don't think I am the same person I was when I started uni, it's taught me a lot. In order to get here though, it' s been tough. I haven't enjoyed this year. It's been full of boredom, pain, sadness and stress. Not a great combination really, but if there is one important lesson I can take away from it; it is the power of progress. Do not underestimate it.

Whether you've written 1200 words in a day or 100 words, it is still progress and it is still 100 words closer to the end goal. Whether you have done 5 hours revision or 30 minutes, it is still revision and it is still 30 minutes more than you had done before. And that helps. It isn't by doing nothing that you reach your end goal. Even if you feel like you are wading through treacle, you are still wading through it, you have not stopped making progress. More often than we'd like to admit, progress is hindered by the belief that it isn't enough, that it is hopeless. Why is it hopeless? You are still closer to the end goal than you were before. You are still further ahead than when you began. That has to count for something. We don't climb mountains or run races by some super power, they are done one pain staking step at a time until you reach that goal. 

And I think in our walk with God, we almost certainly underestimate progress. It's about the small steps of faith and the small acts of obedience which lead us to Jesus, and lead us to be closer to him. Whether it's putting an extra £1 in the offering, or simply telling someone you go to church or are praying for them, those are all acts of obedience, they are all acts of faith. Never underestimate that, because each declaration you make that Jesus is king of everything, shows your character, and don't think God won't see the heart behind it because he will. He always does, and no matter the size of the gesture, Jesus loves that you are putting him first. And he rewards our obedience, and heart for him. After all isn't it by the baby steps that we learn to walk?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Confessions of a Social Media Addict

Hi, I am Helen and I am addicted to Social Media. I have Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course Blogspot.

I am the first to say I love social networking... the advances in technology have allowed me to stay in touch with people in ways that I haven't been able to before. Moving away to uni, this has been particularly helpful... Skype for my friends, Facebook chat, texting, it's all been amazing to help me feel a little less lonely. So that's all good you say... why is there an issue with social media? Well, like many, I feel like it can distort one's thoughts and expectations of life.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook, I upload photos, share statuses, generally just telling people what is going on in my life. I love to see what my friends are up to, how they're getting on and I know for a fact my mum uses it to check on me sometimes... though I am not sure how willingly she'd admit to it! All of this is good stuff, but what about the times when you feel down and alone and just plain rubbish?

I sit scrolling through my news feed, seeing photos and statuses about my friends having a fantastic time at this party, or finishing that essay or getting a brilliant mark for some piece of coursework. I see photos of them out with friends/boyfriends/girlfriends etc and they look amazing. I then look at myself, sat at home in my pyjamas, not having done brilliantly in that essay, having had a rubbish day and feeling particularly hideous and then I just feel awful. This is swiftly followed by the familiar pang of envy and I just want to crawl into bed with a jar of nutella and a spoon and remain there forever.

But one thing we always forget is that Facebook/Twitter etc are not real representations of day to day life. They are like the lifestyle equivalent of airbrushing. You only show people your best side. You only post the things you want them to see. You don't post a photo of yourself when you have a red nose from the winter cold, or pale sweaty skin from the flu. You don't post statuses boasting about the low mark in that essay, or those cupcakes you burned by accident. Facebook is the side of you you're proud of. And honestly, it's not a bad thing to be proud of who you are, but it's important to keep some perspective: Facebook does not constitute "real life".

Honestly, even on here, where I aim to be as honest and up front as possible, I show my "best work." I post what I am proud of and have spent time thinking about because I care, because I want to be the best person I can be. I don't post the rough drafts from my notebooks or those rants which almost culminated in a blog post... because I am not proud of those. I don't like them. And I don't think the world needs to see them. In fact the world doesn't need to see this but I want it to. I want the world to see what I can do... not what I can't.

I also write this blog because I wanted a way to tell people that life isn't rainbows and buttercups and fairies... it is pain and sorrow and suffering too. And no matter how many social media accounts you have, you can't just air brush that out of real life. But remember, you are not alone. Everyone has felt that way at one time or another and it is those around us who get us through, whether it's a simple word of encouragement or a cup of tea/coffee and a chat, you never know how much of a blessing you can be to someone, because we all need that sometimes. Sometimes we all need an encouraging smile, a cup of tea, a shoulder to cry on to get us through those rubbish days.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Chasing Perfection

I sometimes feel like I spend a lot of my time going after things which don't matter, at least they don't matter in the long term. I find myself preoccupied by insignificant things which begin to consume me. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be perfect. I have wanted to be the one with the perfect life, the perfect body, the perfect grades and the perfect everything. I wanted to have it all together. I wanted it all to be sussed out. I don't think I ever once stopped to ask myself what this perfect body or perfect life actually meant to me. I simply knew I wasn't meeting the criteria for whatever this mystery of "perfection" was. All I could be sure of is that it was unattainable, impossible, but I was damn right going to get there or at least die trying.

This led to heart ache, pain and the soul destroying knowledge that my best was never going to be enough. It didn't matter how much I improved or changed, but I knew deep down that perfection and myself were never going to be synonymous with each other. So what is perfection? What am I actually trying and failing so miserably to attain?

I decided to look to the dictionary as my first port of call... I figured this would be the easiest place to find the world's definition of it. I was surprised and confused to find that the Oxford English Dictionary lists 9 possible definitions of perfection. That is insane. How can one thing be defined in so many different ways? I decided to look at the first 2 definitions as a starting point:

1. The fact or state of being completed or perfected; consummation, completion or end

2. The most complete or perfect stage of growth or development of a person or thing; maturity, ripeness.

So here they are, but notice that the word included in defining perfection is the word perfect. But perfect is also a word thrown around a lot and is extremely subjective. So really I am no less confused than I was before. After all what is the stage of "completion"? What does it look like to be in the "perfect" stage of growth or development? The dictionary gives an example of a flower being in full bloom as the perfect stage of development. Does that mean that the flower is only perfect for the short time it blooms and then as soon as it begins to decay its beauty is lost?

Perfect. A word that is thrown around all the time. Yet do any of us actually know what it means? Again the words "complete" and "finished" come up a lot when I look this up. It also says being perfect is having a notable spiritual excellence or virtue, someone who is pure and blameless.

In short, reading these definitions only made me absolutely convinced that as myself, I measure up to none of these things. But, I also realised something else:

No one can be defined as perfect.

This is because no one is complete. Not in themselves. Not by what they do or what they achieve. So really chasing perfection is a hopeless cause, and you will lose. In fact, I hate to break it to you but you have already lost.

Yet, as Christians we throw around phrases like being perfect, and complete in Christ all the time. So given the apparently overwhelming evidence telling us that we will never reach perfection, how do I stand here today and say that when God looks at me, he sees something perfect, blameless, pure and beautiful? 

This is because of Jesus. This is because God gave his perfect son so that we may live. So that all of the mistakes we have made, all of the ways we fall short of perfection and all of the ways we have messed up can be repaired. Jesus lived as a human and in his short life he experienced every single emotion on the spectrum. He felt his heart shatter, he felt elation at being loved and he felt anger at injustice. Just like us. Jesus was fully human and yet fully God. He knew what it was to hurt. He knew what it was to rejoice and he knew what it was to be perfect in an imperfect world. It was hard. He was rejected, torn down, hated, persecuted and he died. He was separated from his Father after knowing him more intimately than we could imagine. But he did it willingly. He did it because he knew how much humanity was worth. He did it because he loves us. He did it because he knew that there was no other way. The day Jesus rose from the grave, he showed us what it was to live. He defeated the darkness and made a way for us, for me to achieve what is impossible to do alone: perfection

So yes, I have spent most of my life chasing shadows, but now I am found in the one who loves me. I am found in the one who has seen and forgiven every single mistake I have made, and who looks upon me with pleasure and love. I am found in the one who gives me strength when I am weak. I am whole in the presence of God. I am chasing after Jesus, the image of true perfection. And I know I will slip up and I know I will, and I have made mistakes, but when God looks at me he sees his son, who covers me in his love and grace, and he sees something beautiful. And something perfect. He is moulding me into his image, and there is no one I would rather chase after, no one I whose image I would rather share.

In Jesus I am whole. In Jesus I am perfect. I am blameless. I am free. In Jesus I have hope.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Lost and Found

Father, I come to you without expectations, without my pride, without hope and without strength. I come as I am; with gaping wounds, bleeding from the inside out, scars from the years of battle and my shattered heart is carried in my hands, the tiny shards waiting to be pieced together. As I step into your light I shy away. Your beauty is blinding and your light casts shadows on the darkness buried deep within.
It's the first time in so long I have felt able to enter your presence. I am trembling, with fear, with excitement, I can't tell which. As I kneel at your feet my head is cast down. All I can see are the mistakes I have made and the times I have denied you. I feel too numb to cry. The trembling still has not ceased.

You take a step towards me, you lean down to tend my wounds. I flinch. It's been so long since I have let anyone this close to me. You bind the wounds by whispering words of love and tenderness. They act as a healing balm, soothing to the ear and calming to the mind. The flow of scarlet blood stops, and the flesh begins to heal.

You then lay a hand on me and begin to trace my scars. I cannot see past the pain. It consumes me almost completely. I still want to flee, to shy away from the heart-aching beauty before me. But I stay. Part of me knows you won't hurt me.

Next you take my hand, prizing it away from the face it tried so desperately to hide from you.
"Lift up your face, child." I try but it's heavy. Your voice is soft and kind, but still the most I can manage is to raise my gaze from the floor. You then lift up my head. With my gaze fixed upon you, you begin to speak.
"Child, beautiful child, you are mine and I am yours." You see my heart lying upon the ground, shattered into a thousand tiny pieces by an ache and desire for love which has shown me only destruction.
Piece by tiny piece you gather it up, recreating and remoulding it into something beautiful. A slow and steady pulse begins to revive it once again. You place it back into me, becoming its life, its centre. Father, you are moulding me into something beautiful.

I feel so vulnerable but I have never felt safer, I have never felt this trust before; love had always been something painful and destructive, a force to avoid. Yet here I am in the presence of your love, coming back to life.

You then see that my garments are still but rags. I want to hide in shame. Beauty this perfect cannot be tainted by my ugliness. Yet still you love me, and still you tend to me. I glance up and see a gown. It is stunning. It glows brighter than the sun and its beauty speaks of hope, freedom and peace. It's then I realise: You mean it. "I am yours and you are mine," I say. A smile begins to cross my face. I look up at you and seeing that you delight in me I want to dance and sing and the joy is unspeakable. You offer your hand, I take it and that is when I know: we are infinite.


Sometimes you're the only thing I am certain of. Amongst all of the chaos and all of the heart ache, you are the only thing which is constant and unchanging. And that is all I need : to know you are stronger than everything which hurts me and to know that your grace will get me through.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Happy Endings

I love chick-flicks... the whole film, builds up to boy ending up with girl and them having "the moment" right at the end of the film. You know the one I mean, the dramatic music, the cheesy speech, the heart wrenching kiss and the utter happiness that the "right" people have found eachother. You assume that from that point on, as the credits roll that everything will be perfect. That life is "fixed."

I think as Christians, that we can view people's stories of salvation as "happy endings," in the same way that the life changing kiss happens in the film, those beginning moments of knowing Jesus, those journeys we have travelled, all culminate in a beautiful, crazy, life changing moment which fixes everything. And yes. I am not denying for a single second that the moment/the story of us coming to Jesus isn't miraculous or beautiful or crazy, but that too often we can assume it means that from there on in things are perfect. That becoming a Christian is the happy ending we've been searching for. But that moment is not the end. 

It is the start of something mad, something wild and something beautiful. But the mountains we faced before, the things which held us down do not disappear, the storms don't stop coming. But knowing Jesus, and loving him gives us a new confidence. It gives us a new found hope which gives us the strength to weather the storms, the ability to climb those mountains. It helps us to seek beauty in a world of ugliness and it helps us to love those who we most struggle with. Being a Christian doesn't mean we have it "easy," but it means we have the knowledge that God is greater than those mountains, he is stronger than those storms which batter us. And he is on OUR side.

Every day I live is a testimony to the grace of God. Every day is a demonstration of how good He is. And every day is a fresh reminder of however painful life is, that I have something that nobody can take away. 

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Pain Heals, If You Let It.

I sprained my ankle recently. Badly. I was playing tennis, jumped to get a shot (which I still missed) and fell. It hurt. I am sure I heard something rip as I fell. Cue the "Are you ok?" and the "Can you walk?" questions. My first thought was "Don't cry, be brave. It's not that bad."

"I am fine," I replied. "It hurts. It actually really hurts." But I got up. I simply gritted my teeth,smiled and said it'd be okay with a bit of ice and a good nights sleep. I limped home from the bus stop, I put said ice on my foot (which by now was a little blue and swelling up) and then went to bed.

I woke up Monday, felt okay, it was still sore, but by this time the bruising was beginning to show. And it was spectacular. My entire foot was a plethora of different colours. I had to function so I couldn't just do nothing. I gritted my teeth and kept going.

In short, by Wednesday I was in pain. I was still able to limp but the shooting pains across my foot and periodic pins and needles were agony. It was time to admit defeat: perhaps I needed the hospital. My very good  BEST friend drove me to A&E after my lectures and we sat and I waited to be seen to. By this point the pain was excruciating and I was beginning to see the extent of the injury. I was scolded numerous times by friends, and by family for not getting help when it happened, and even then my overwhelming thought was "I didn't cry. Not once." When my friend (with one of the highest pain thresholds I've ever seen) said "Why? I would... it looks awful," I was speechless.

I didn't fall apart, I just carried on. I thought that's what you were supposed to do. Pick yourself up,wipe yourself down and keep going. That is how life goes right? Something bad happens and you just move on. You just keep going. You have to.

After being told that I hadn't broken my ankle, but sprained it I was relieved. I just needed to rest up and look after it and use the crutches reluctantly given to me by a nurse. But I have hated every day I have had to use them. They produce a wealth of concerned looks, pitying voices and "Are you okay?" questions, which meant I couldn't just get on with everything. I couldn't just pretend like it was all fine. I was faced in the form of a blue/purple/yellow ankle, to admit that I needed help. And I hated that. Every single concerned voice seemed to hit a nerve, seemed to feel like salt in the wound. Mainly because I felt like what I'd been so good at doing for so long (burying it and carrying on) was not possible anymore... even if only due to a physical pain/injury. I have to let people look after me. I have to ask people to help me out. That is something I find physically painful to do. Somewhere along the line I have started to believe that if I don't cry then I am a big girl, if I don't show pain then I am a grown up. Right now, I know a lot of people who would simply call it stupidity.

In short, please don't let it take you a painful injury and a beautifully bruised foot to realise that tears aren't weak and that it is in fact perfectly okay, and even expected to seek help when you struggle. Trust me. I found out the hard way, that wounds won't start to heal unless you start to admit that you are hurt.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

This is For You

This is for the times you've been underestimated. This is for the times when everything good feels like it's falling apart. This is for the times people have brought you down. This is for the times when you feel like there's nothing left. This is for the times when you feel like you can't fight any more. This is for the times when you've cried so much there's nothing left, just numbness. This is for the times when one person too many has broken your trust. This is for the times when you feel hopeless.  This is for the times when you feel like things will never change. This is for when you feel you've fallen too far to be loved.

You are beautiful. You are precious. You are strong. You are courageous. Life throws us a bad lot sometimes but it doesn't mean you should believe what people tell you. You are better than what is hurting you. Admitting you're hurting isn't weak. It means you are strong enough to admit you can't make it alone. Hearts get broken, people get hurt, but wounds heal and hearts learn to love again. It seems dark now but the light will come.

You might feel like you can't be reached but you don't know Jesus. NOTHING can separate you from his love. He will take you up into his arms, brush off the dirt, bandage those wounds and teach you to hope again.

Don't ever let anyone make you feel like you have to be someone else. You are you for a reason. Hold on to that.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

If I Could

If I could tell you how much I care,
I would write it in the sand,
I would paint it in a picture,
But would I dare?

If I could show you how much I care,
I would take you in my arms,
I would shower you with kisses,
But would I dare?

If you could see how much I care,
Would you feel the same?
Would you write it in the sky?
Would you tell me you'll be mine?
Would you tell me it'll be fine?
Or will it stay a secret, buried for all of time?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Escaping means different things to different people. For me it means going to my favourite place in the whole world for a long long walk and losing myself amongst the beauty of the skyline and feeling the cool sea breeze in my face while I pray that tomorrow is better.
"It has to be." I whisper under my breath to noone in particular. I feel the wind hit my face. It's freezing outside but the wind feels refreshing and it smells like freedom. There is no one around but the odd dog walker here and there. The view is glorious. The ocean ripples with the brilliant white of the sun bouncing off it, while the cliffs stand tall with their sharp pale faces being met by the quiet thrashings of the waves breaking against them. The countryside is peppered with houses, the green hills rolling into one another and the sky is so blue it almost hurts to look at. It all seems so perfect and so beautiful. I really felt like there was no-one who could touch me and I loved the feeling of being practically lost in my surroundings. I twirled in the grass and smiled up at the sky. It was escape. It was this I had been craving for so long. It was this I had been wanting for months. To get to a place where who I was didn't matter, to get to a place where yesterday didn't count, tomorrow didn't matter and now was everything.

"Child," I heard a voice speak. But there was no one around. It stirred my heart and filled my stomach with butterflies. "I know who you are, and I love you." The voice was velvety, soothing and tender, yet full of strength. I was stunned. I fell silent and just stopped. The truth astounded me and stopped me dead in my tracks. He loves me. Jesus. God. The Creator of all things loves me. I simply stood for a moment letting the breeze sweep my face and once again gazed at the impossible beauty surrounding me. Of course he does.
"Of course you do," I whisper to myself, once again smiling up at the sky. I felt like the whole landscape had been written for me, just when I needed it. He was bringing me into his arms and showing me what he did for me, what he could do for me and what he would always do for me.

"But I feel suffocated. Free me." I spoke a little louder this time. I was enveloped by the voice, enveloped by the whole place. It was magical.

"You are free child. Do not worry about tomorrow, for grace will help you through, and do not worry about yesterday because that is past. Enjoy this, enjoy today, enjoy me," I was overwhelmed. I could say nothing and I let the burdens go. I twirled and danced and ran. I became a child again. I escaped. I found freedom in the arms of my Father.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Love is... My Parents.

Love is in the hugs from my Mum and Dad that make me feel safe and untouchable. Love is in their eyes when I have done something to make them proud. Love is in the number of times they've sat through endless carol concerts/founders days/school productions then calling my sister and I their "little stars" even though I've either just sat through it or had one line in one scene. Love is enduring the endless concerts given by my sister/cousins and I when we thought we were pop stars. Love is loving us even when we mess up. Love is in those precious moments so saturated with emotion that the silence says it all. Love is in the pain when they wipe away my tears, put plasters on the grazes and tell me it'll be alright. Love is the fear in their eyes when we venture onto something new. Love is their desire for us to be happy. Love is the evenings spent tucking us into bed whilst reading us bedtime stories when we were little. Love is the support and sacrifices they have made for us. Love is spending lazy weekend mornings with them talking before breakfast. Love is the random laughs and jokes shared over dinner times.

Love is me wanting to do anything to see them smile. Love is me wanting to hurt anyone who hurts them. Love is me wanting to say thank you but not being able to express it in words. Love is wanting to show how much they mean to me  but knowing nothing would ever be enough to accurately express it. Love is knowing that even when they're angry with me, it's because they want the best for me. Love is me wanting them to know that they are my world.

Mum and Dad, I love you. No words could ever say how much.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Love is... Over-used and Under-valued.

Upon face value this statement sounds nothing but cynical and depressing. But think about it. How much do you use the word "love"? We hear it in music, it either is or features in the main plot line of almost every book/theatre production/ TV drama/ film in existance and as if that multitude wasn't enough, it is also used in daily life: "I love this/that" "I am a little in love with..." The list is endless. Has this put paid to us devaluing something powerful and important? Has this changed our expectations of what love should/ could be like?

In 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus describes love as the most powerful and essential thing a person can possess. Without love, everything, from the small gestures, to the grand ones is rendered meaningless. Yet, today it is thrown around all the time, volleyed  back and forth without any real consideration for its meaning or power. This means that when, as a people of God, we are commanded to "love" one another we get so stuck with what this is saying and how this looks practically. 

Love is often portrayed as the soppy romantic kind which belongs exclusively to the genre of cheesy chick-flicks and romance novels. It is shown as the grand gestures, the heart-felt declarations and the happy endings we spend so much of our time devouring (I could just be speaking for myself here). But when we love people, we don't go round declaring our undying love to everyone, and giving chocolate & roses or expensive jewellery to everyone (although those would be welcome in my house). These novels give us an unrealistic expectation of romance and relationships: that once that life affirming "happy ending," is reached love is nothing but good and happy, maybe even easy, from thereon in. 

The constant use of love when referring to objects has weakened the value of it. How can you really "love" cheese/chocolate/alcohol? Is it that great? It confuses the definition and takes power away from the word. I am guilty of saying I "love" things a lot, even though I probably just really like them.

People are precious and beautiful and love is used to express the strong need and desire to make those you care about most happy, and to be the best person you can be for them. How can you attribute the same word to describe this emotion to something as trivial as chocolate?

So here is my challenge: Next time we say "love," be careful. It holds real power and thus we need to use it wisely.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Fine. I admit it...

I always told myself that when I wrote this blog I would write from the heart. I would be truthful and frank and write what I know about. So far I like to believe this has been the case.

I find it difficult to admit how I feel. To those who know me I seem like quite an open person, someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. A lot of people have also said I am like an open book. Those closest to me however, know differently. Yes I wear my heart on my sleeve, but in reality talking about how I feel is nigh on impossible. Sentences become jumbled, my speech (which weirdly is not eloquent anyway) loses all meaning and becomes stunted and physically painful to listen to. I hate talking about how I feel. I hate confrontation. I used to think this was just in the case of arguments but now I realise I much prefer to bury everything and pretend it is fine. I think a lot of us do this. So here I am, confessing in the only way I know how: writing.

I am lost.

In a few months I am no longer going to be a teenager. I always assumed that when I got to 20 I would have left the "awkward phase" behind and be this beautiful, thin, confident, happy, self assured woman. I assumed I would have life sorted. I would be going on wild adventures, doing wild things, meeting new people and know what I wanted to do with my life. 20 seemed like the end of teenage years and the beginning of a life led by a confident happy woman. It's naive I know. I've met people in their 60s who still don't know what they want to do with their lives. I have had this ideal in my head for a long time and the reality of "wild adventures" (my year abroad) is scary. The prospect of meeting new people is scary. Life is scary. And not knowing the ends I am striving for and questioning so much is enough to make me feel lost.

Life feels like a never ending maze of twists and turns, dead ends, games and it is so easy to get lost. I am trying my best to hang on to Jesus but at a time when life seems nothing but a storm and the path is treacherous and uncertain this is difficult. My grip is weakening and I am mere millimetres from letting go. Talking to God is difficult. I don't know what to say, or how to say it. But I forget one thing, which one very wise friend reminded me of:

Jesus knows our hearts. He sees into the very core of us and knows our every thought before it is voiced. Yet he loves us all the same. Psalm 139 is a well used and perfect example of God's intimate knowledge of each and every one of us. 

In other words, God knows I am lost. He knows I am frantically searching for Him, and he is guiding each and every step I take. All I can do is trust that He will bring me through it and light my path.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Why do I write?

Because writing gives me hope. Because I'm scared if I speak I'll get it wrong. Because writing gives me freedom. The freedom to pretend, the freedom to express what I cannot say aloud, the freedom to escape for awhile. Because writing comes straight from the heart. Because language is beautiful, exciting and powerful. It's capable of cutting like a knife or helping to heal wounds. The power of writing scares me but the excitement of not knowing who maybe reading or whose heart your words touch make it worthwhile. I write because I love the pictures words can paint.
I write because I love it.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A New Year & The Same Old Story

I am Helen. I love Jesus. I find life difficult. I have a slightly unhealthy addiction to chocolate. I resolve to be different every year. This year I resolve to be me. This year I resolve to be assertive. This is a year of change. That frightens me. I love my friends. Sometimes you have to lose something precious before you realise its value. I am trying to let go of the past but it haunts me. Sometimes a brave face is the best you can do. I want to learn to love who I am. I want to learn to accept my faults. I want to see the people I love most  be happy. I don't want this to be a new year and the same old story. I don't want to repeat the same mistakes. This year is the chance for something new, something better. I want to take that chance. So here I am, taking that chance. Welcome to 2013.