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Addiction, depression, eating disorders….and complete freedom

30 Aug

 

Addiction, depression, eating disorders… for some of you, one or more of those words will stand out, screaming at you from the screen. You know more about that word than you have let the world know – you know it inside out. It’s your secret.

These topics, these words, lie heavy on my heart today. Why? Because I believe God wants me to share this message with you –

COMPLETE freedom is attainable

Those first three words hold so much weight for me. Each of them is a part of my story, my testimony. I sit here today a different girl to the Anna everyone knew 18 months ago… or maybe more accurately – the Anna people didn’t know. I have been on a journey of freedom that at times I never thought possible. And you know what makes me sad? What breaks my heart? What breaks God’s heart? Is that the world says: manage it….. take this tablet, go on this course, read this book… and just learn how to manage it.

Take the tablet, read the book, do the course… but in doing that alone, we relinquish our responsibility in managing and guarding our thoughts. For we underestimate the power of our thoughts and where they can take us if we allow them to. We get into habits of negative thinking, which like a cancer can invade every aspect of our lives – making it a dark and negative place to be. God can easily get cut out of being the answer.

Eventually, after years, I got to a place where I gave up trying to do it on my own. I went to the GP, got help, got tablets…came home and had a revelation. I reached the end of myself and have never stood at such a clear crossroads before: Be ‘fixed’ by the world – or jump into my counsellor God’s arms – someone who knows and loves me intimately and who has paid for my freedom – total freedom. I put down the antidepressants and picked up the bible (disclaimer: please talk to your doctor and mentor before stopping any medication). I reached up, and I reached out. I said “God, I can’t do this day, this hour, this minute without your help”. And day by day, minute by minute, he faithfully saved me.

Man it’s a lot of work – changing thought patterns, learning what it means to truly be loved and love myself. It’s a lot easier to pop a pill. But – it’s worth it. To live in, to taste, to know true God ordained, God desired freedom.

And it’s there for you.

Freedom is a decision, it’s a process. You are loved into it. Freedom is about holding your thoughts captive and trusting God for the strength not to go down certain roads in your mind. Freedom is about clinging on to God and trusting his promises. It’s about community – letting others in on your struggles, letting people stand beside you in the fight against lies. Letting people pray for you and with you.

So, are you ready to let go? Are your ready to be loved into freedom?

Here are some verses for you:

– ‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ Romans 15:13 NKJV

– ‘Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead you live under the freedom of God’s grace’ Romans 6:14 NLT

– ‘For the Lord is the spirit, and wherever the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ 2 Corinthians 3:17

– ‘We have escaped like a bird out of the fowlers snare; the snare has been broken and we have escaped’ Psalm, 124:7

 

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Decisions decisions

30 Aug

Every day we are faced with choices. Choices about our day, our outfit, what we will have for lunch, whether we turn up for work, whether we press snooze on the alarm for the 10th time….. and then there are the bigger choices. Choices that shape our future. What will we do? What course will we apply for – what do we do if we get accepted. Who will we follow, who will we worship?

You, sitting here now reading this blog… are a sum total of all the choices you’ve made so far. Some of them were totally unconscious, some decisions have come as easily to you breathing. Some of them – you wish you could time-machine yourself back to choose the other option. Yet some have caused great stress and anxiety as you have battled to weight up the pro’s and cons.

Let’s focus on John 5:30 (NIV) ‘By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me’. John is expressing his desire to please his God and not others in the decisions he makes. Decisions can be incredibly powerful things. They can set people free or oppress. They can abuse or love. They can forgive or grudge.

So how can we be more Godly in our decision making? How can we be more God led?

– Invest in your relationship with God. Decisions become so much easier when your desire to please God is more than your desire to please the world (Anso Coetzer).

– Pray about decisions. Seek accountability and be open with one another

– Explore what decisions you might not be taking the responsibility for. Choosing not to make a decision is also a choice! We an either accept things as they are or choose to take responsibility for making them

– When you have a big decision to make, question your motivations and the place from which you make them. Are the outcomes supportive of Christ-like values?

– Remember that whilst you can’t often choose your circumstance, you can always choose your attitude! We can let circumstances harden us, or we can let them change and be catalysts for growth

– Choose life and say no to slavery! Sometimes the choices in front of you are so hard to make because you find the wrong choice far more attractive than the right one. Ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to choose what will be life giving, rather than that which may pull you further into a mess – making it even harder the next time

Life will always be changing and you will find yourself in all sorts of circumstances. But growth – both spiritually and personally is optional. 

Nutella and eternity

8 Jun

My love for good holiday books tend to result in a heart-stopping moment as I place my luggage on the check-in scales to be weighed. I hold my breath as the weight creeps dangerously close to the 10kg limit. I haven’t been fined yet, but I have had to do the awkward airport-floor suitcase reshuffle.

What’s more, I’m a naughty reader. With a good book I can’t help but sneak a glance ahead. I do it with the coyness of a child who knows they are doing something they shouldn’t – cautious not to be caught with their fingers in the Nutella jar. I look around to make sure nobody is watching as I jump a fistful of pages and chapters ahead, just to get a taste of what is to come.

It got me thinking…would we live differently if we really knew where we were going? Would we act, speak, pray, spend differently? With eternity written on our hearts, we often take forgranted the reality of heaven and what it means for us as Christians to spend forever in the presence of God. The book of Revelation provides us with that peek ahead. It is full of written glimpses of heaven offering descriptive metaphors, stunning imagery and strange descriptions of a reality that is incomprehensible to us in life.

What if we were to live with a more heavenly perspective? Paul often reminds us that the best is yet to come. He encourages us to see life through the lens of eternity. In Romans 8:8 he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”

But how can we maintain a heavenly perspective when the world encourages us to live endlessly seeking the promises of pleasure? We enjoy the illusion of security, and desperately try to satiate a hunger for things we can’t always name or put our finger on?

With inspiration from Paul in Philippians 1:18-26, here are some tips for maintaining a heavenly perspective:

– Rejoice. Not a fluctuating happiness that depends on circumstance but praise that is offered throughout the seasons of our life. Pray for the gift of Joy and make decisions to worship even when it’s costly

– Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and keep asking

– Pray and be prayed for

– Know what you are fighting! If it’s materialism, an addiction or a destructive relationship that battles for your attention – name it and seek accountability

– Get your hands dirty. Commit yourself to working for the Lord throughout your brief time on earth. We only get one chance, make it count

So…let’s live purposeful, heaven bound and heaven-focussed lives, creating echoes that bellow into eternity. Being driven by a spiritual urgency that acknowledges how short our time here is.

 

A fist full of M&M’s

17 May

I like it when my colleagues go on holiday. They might not be pleased to hear this, but I do. Why? Because when they return – they bring sweets.

As a result I have just eaten so many M&M’s I feel a little sick. Not to mention the number of Hershey’s kisses I ‘had’ to consume to make a firm decision on whether they A-taste delicious or B-taste like horse manure (answers on a postcard).

But, on finishing my fist-full of chocolate I was met with a not-so-sweet challenge. And the challenge is greed. Amidst my sugar high, it struck me that if greed didn’t exist, much of the sin in this world wouldn’t either. Think about it – no thieving, no adultery, no materialism, no poverty, no gossiping… the list goes on. Remove greed and you will see of our false Gods blown out the water.

So you haven’t coveted your neighbors donkey recently, or cheated on your girlfriend but have you daydreamed about a new car, felt a pang of jealousy, looked lustfully at someone or stashed away teabags from the hall canteen? Greed can be subtle and seemingly innocent, it can devastate lives, ruin friendships and pull apart families. It’s tempting to devise a ‘greed scale’ and feel smug that we haven’t committed many extreme acts, but greed is greed, and greed is a serious problem. It’s our problem.

If you aren’t shuffling in your chair you are either one special human being, live in a cave, or haven’t yet felt a little nudge of conviction.

We life in a materialistic and indulgent culture and need to actively guard ourself against greed because as Paul says – we can’t call ourselves brothers of Christ and be greedy. We need put up defenses, pick up our swords and fight. Where greed exists, there can be no fruits, it finds us blending right into the vacuous crowd of those trying to fill a never-ending deep hole – chasing the wind.We need to be investing into consistently realigning our perspective – It’s all about God, itall belongs to God.

But don’t shuffle too much – there is hope, we have an amazing, powerful and gentle God who jumps at the chance to lovingly work with us on our character – in order that we may reflect his Son more.

It’s amazing what challenges lie in a handful of American sweeties!

Codeine plus denial

1 Oct

Sometimes we put things off.

My tooth for example.

It hurts.

It has been hurting for quite a while. Let’s say a year. Tender enough to recognise but endurable enough to ignore.

But recently it’s gotten alot worse. Codeine worthy. It throbs. And now it hurts when I smile.

And I like smiling.

I have turned into one of those annoying people that used to quiz my physiotherapist mother on their aches and frozen shoulders in the middle of town on a Saturday morning. I remember squeezing her hand tightly – wanting to get away as much as she did. Anyway, I have become that person; Facebooking my dentist friend late at night requesting her advice on my painful tooth.

The answer is exactly as I expected – the same thing my Husband & Mum have told me in response to my incessant moaning…

“Go to the dentist”

Easier said than done. I don’t want to.

I don’t like people touching my teeth. Well, specifically my two front teeth. They rest can be mauled as much as needs be.

Why? Because one little slip of a bikes tyre at the age of ten, and I flew over the handlebars – onto my face. Yup – I can almost see the face you are pulling. So my poor two front teeth have spent the last 15 years clinging onto dear life. They have been on the floor, endured a ride to A&E in a cup of milk, put back in (wonky may I add), straightened, root treated, veneered (they went black), straightened again (yes I had braces at 24)… and now what is there left to do?

Take it out????

That is what my nightmares are about.

I’m learning an important lesson about delay. It’s a dangerous form of denial – where what you have brushed under the carpet comes to bite you hard on the backside. Or, in the bank account as I may be about to find out.

Don’t get me wrong. Delay can be a good thing – delaying anger for example. Time can be a sobering. Delay for the right reasons can prevent error, produce wisdom, experience and maturity. Delay in other things such as meeting coursework deadlines, catching flights, booking dental appointments – is stupidity at it’s best – self sabotage!

So whilst I book my now emergency dental appointment, ask yourself what you have brushed under the carpet for the last few years. Phone calls? Job applications? Doctor’s appointments?

And as for me…. 9.00 this morning. I’m facing my consequences.

The song ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’ has a whole new meaning. But I’m not that demanding – so just the left one will do.

We will deal with the other one next year.

If it lasts that long.

The occasional joys of being a sardine

29 Sep

I thawed like a big block of ice on a hot day.

Two loud Americans were sat next to me on my journey home. Producing a shelves worth of cereal bars and flapjacks (out of an apparently bottomless bag) and loudly examining their contents. “How much fat? Is nothing in this country HEALTHY?”

Beside from being bemused at the irony of their large shapes and their quest to find something healthy (did the two words ‘snickers’ and ‘flapjack’ on the packaging not say something?), inside I was sighing.

Half an hour of THIS? I had chosen the wrong darned carriage.

I was being the typical London Ice-Queen commuter

I’m not quite sure how it happened – but along with the other Ice Queen and King sat with us, I ended up being embroiled in their conversation. Within minutes I was sharing a recipe on healthy breakfast flapjack (that I’d never made), laughing at stories of their holiday, and discussing the delights of British confectionary! Not only that but I’d been introduced to the Mother in Law, Husband, daughter and sister that were spread across the carriage.

I didn’t want to get off!

But that was unusual.

Packed like sardines we journey to work. A carriage full of lives, swimming with memories, problems, excitement, despair. We sit with the closeness of good friends yet avoid communication. Pushed together by lack of space and the only known thing in common is a mutual un-knowingness of one another.

Sometimes I play a game – imagining people’s mornings, conversations, hobbies, how they like to spend their weekends and what makes them laugh.

I’m a straight face hidden behind a paper, a book or folded hands. Nameless and unknown. Another traveller.

My journeys generally fall into two categories: Bad or average. The only ‘good’ journeys are the ones shared with friends, or funny tourists who blissfully unaware of our staunch British etiquette.

Last night, on the half hour train journey home, Chloe and I laughed until our sides hurt, forgetting passengers around us and the ‘hush be quiet’ unspoken London rules.

We were carelessness children laughing at ‘in jokes’.

I wasn’t watching for rolling eyes or dagger stares, oh I bet there were a few. I was having fun. Only now do I wonder whether those unknown and unnamed people saw something of me – a little piece of character, a glimpse of Anna, an insight to add to the straight face they often see.

So I’ve made a little promise to myself.

I will be more than polite. I will be more friendly. More… human. You won’t find me speaking to every commuter in my carriage (for I would probably end up with a carriage all of my very own). Instead I will not be afraid to smile and engage.

I challenge you to do the same!

Focus on the journey and see what happens. See if you can find joy in the doing as well as the finishing.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

Bake my dreams

27 Sep

Waiting is hard.

If you saw the ‘Great British Bake off’ you will have seen bakers crouch eagerly at their ovens, watching their creations slowly rise (hopefully). All impatient for the moment that the alarm buzzes and they can nervously take out their cake to face the scrutiny that awaits.

It’s all in the baking!

If we were to skip the process, even shave off valuable minutes or in some cases seconds, then the results could be completely different. The result would be either an odd looking cake, or a rather sore stomach.

The bakers are caught in this odd tension of wanting to get their cake out – aware of each second that ticks by, whilst recognising the importance of what happens whilst it’s in the oven. It can’t be rushed by turning up the heating dial (why I end up with burnt rice), or quickened by stolen glances (the culprit for my pancake flat cakes).

I find myself in this funny tension in life sometimes. You know, when you have dreams, hopes and goals that you have held for weeks – years – decades maybe? Sometimes the passion and excitement can be too much to bear, yet you know you have to wait.

It reminds me of being a child in the run up to Christmas. That sense of anticipation and excitement, the irritation at seeing all those unopened doors on the advent calendar that are getting in the way of me and my Christmas day.

I want it ‘NOW’

But if I had had my Christmas when I had desired it (probably before the calendars even hit the shelves), then it wouldn’t have been the same. The weather wouldn’t justify a cosy open fire, the presents wouldn’t have been wrapped, there would be no seasoned Christmas pud, or hope of snow.

It’s in the waiting that these things come about.

Not just any waiting – proactive waiting.

For if we were just to sit and wait for the things we hope for – we may risk not being the person we need to be when we get there.

A little part of me wants to click my fingers and be 4 years down the line where I am really able to use my skills as a therapist and see lives changed, and people freed and empowered. But – if I was if I was there now, right this very second – I may be more damaging than helpful. I wouldn’t have the knowledge and the skills needed that grow through time and learning.

It would be like taking the cake out of the oven early.

Sometimes waiting isn’t inevitable. Sometimes our inactivity is the only thing stopping ‘it’ from happening. We can be the barriers to our futures, our dreams. We can spend our lives waiting and devising new ‘as soon as..’ excuses. Waiting for our lives to start.

Become the change, the movement. Be decisive. Your decision to move could be the decision that changes the course of your life.

~
Start that business
Make that phone call
Schedule that doctor’s appointment
Take that trip
Have that difficult conversation

~

When circumstance requires a wait – don’t sit still. Grow, challenge, and develop into the you that will make the wait even more worthwhile.

Bake.

For in the oven happens a miracle. A flurry of chemical reactions, a busyness that the eye cannot see. A critical process.

Be the cake in the oven – not the one sat on the side waiting to be put in. Focus on the present, live in the now but in knowledge of your future – live your life story.

If I you were to pop a polaroid picture, a snapshot of my future as it could be, into my hand right now. I might say – wow! THAT is what I want, I will do whatever I need to do to get there, to live that, to be that change. No matter how long, hard, high the mountain top experiences, or low the valleys will be – it will be worth it.

So, bake my dreams.

And I will try my hardest not to waste my time staring at the oven.