When the Night was Total Darkness

IMG_2513

I won’t lie, I still watch young adult TV all the time. For me, watching television and film are one of the few ways I can completely switch off my brain and relax. It is my often my escape.

I follow the TV show Switched At Birth and have since it’s pilot episode. It covers a lot of topics, in the messy way that real life happens and I enjoy it. Sure, it’s still television and therefore reality is often suspended, but nevertheless, it is as close to life as possible.

Yesterday I tried to watch the latest episode, which came with this warning:

Tonight’s episode contains story lines dealing with sexual consent. Viewer discretion advised.

I am 31, I can handle it. Right? Except, not…because there were triggers.

The episode revolved around Bay, one of the lead characters, waking up next to a man (she knew) without remembering anything from the evening before. Her memories came only in short flashbacks and understanding how she ended up where she was that morning. 10 minutes into the episode I had to stop.

You can read more about the episode and the issues covered here.

You see, it’s been almost 4 years so I did not think it would affect me.

In the Autumn of 2011 I was invited to a party. It was glamorous, rocking and filled completely with 99.9% people I did not know. The evening began fine. Partying with my “date”, a girlfriend I brought with me, meeting famous and semi-famous people and enjoying the crazy atmosphere.

It must have been around midnight when it all went blank and I woke up past 9am the next morning, in my bed, no phone, no clothes and no memory of the last 9 or so hours.

To this day I remember only flashes of that night. What I do recall and what still often haunts me is the day after. It was the darkness that enveloped my spirit and more clearly my mind. It was the fear of the unknown. It was the inability to recall little more than trying to get into a club, trying to take money out of the bank machine and standing with police. Everything I could remember felt like it was happening in one of those really bad dreams where you can’t wake up, but nothing is really clear either.

It was all that came out of that night’s events…the worry of maybe having been raped. To this day I still feel like I could vomit at the thought. Luckily, I was safe and nothing happened to me. I ended up speaking to the cab driver who got me home. I realised through that conversation that I had been drugged.

Me, the good girl. I had been drugged and it was my fault.

It was in the aftermath that I dealt feelings of guilt, moment of anxiety, fear and frustration. It took an already clear inability or fear of vulnerability to an entirely new level.

I am not writing frivolously, not for attention…I am writing to give a voice, or maybe to add a voice to the many out there that are scared to speak.

You may not have been drugged like me, but there is a day or night, a time of your life that was cast in darkness and you may still be struggling with the effects or how even to get out of it.

For me, it was first and foremost my faith in God that, through time, enabled me to work through the issues that arose from that night. What I am now grateful for is that all I went through enabled me to grow as a person. It was also those around me, who I trusted to tell (and not many know), who showed me who I was and how this was not a reflection of me. You are not your circumstances or that which has happened to you.

You, the person reading this, whose stomach is turning in knots right now, whose eyes are filled with tears. Tell someone. Talk. Know you are valuable and worth being treated as a human. You have the right to feel whole and free.

If you feel you can’t tell someone around you, tell me…you are valuable.

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at” or Get out of your comfort zone

 

 

Stood in front of the mirror, fresh from the shower, I had a few minutes to myself before I ventured out into the corridor again. On a winter trip with a few of the teens from my church I decided this was the year I was going to snowboard.

Pretty sure I made it up the KIDDIE hill (or Barnbacken på svenska)…oh, once.

I never thought I’d want to declare war on a tow-lift but alas even getting up the hill on that evil contraption was about as fear-inducing as going down, fast, while my feet were glued to a board.

So there I was, a few hours later, completely covered in bruises and feeling…amazing. Yet something I said to my friend B who was teaching me to board, run in my head…

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

A few nights ago I was out with some friends for a movie when, prior to the movie, we were chatting and my Swedish skills were put to the test. One guy said to me, “Michelle, you need to get out of your comfort zone.”

You see, I can speak Swedish…and I understand so much, but I don’t speak it a lot with my friends. Why you ask?

 “I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

Recently I started running again. I’m still thinking I’m going to sign up to another ½ marathon but for now, it’s just for me. I’m on day 26 of my 365 running challenge now. The first few days were a struggle. Not because of my fitness levels, but because I was pretty sure I looked ridiculous running. Have you seen those images on the internet? Those “What I think I look like when I’m running” vs “what I really look like.” One image usually involves a bikini clad super model and the other a slobbering hound.

Truth is, I don’t look like either of those but it’s amazing what our minds trick us into.

I’m in the middle of what I call my “life break”. It’s actually not a break from life, you can’t take a break from life but you can have a season where things change, where you break away from the norm, where you refocus and redirect. This is the season of life I am in.

It’s a season where I am constantly having to get out of my comfort zone. You see, I have a LOT of dreams and ambitions for life and frankly, prior to August 22 I was living a great life but I was also smack RIGHT in the middle of the comfort zone.

And with all the respect to my old life, which, to many, and even to me, was fantastic…it sucked.

I had become too reliant on norms, comforts and myself.

I was lounging in the comfort zone.

So, being…well me…as you all know I changed my life drastically and with only one focus to ensure I kept running my race well and towards the ultimate goal (Jesus, if you didn’t know). I want all of my life to focus on Him, bringing glory to Him and showing others His love and grace.

I figured if I’m running to Him then everything else will fall into place.

What I have learned though is that following Him has taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I am pretty much constantly uncomfortable.

 

Going to church…

Uncomfortable.

 

Going to school…

Uncomfortable…

 

Writing for Beyond Rubies and SoWorthLoving…

Uncomfortable…

 

Just all…uncomfortable. Although they are seemingly normal and mundane things to one person there are aspects that make all these things uncomfortable to me. There are aspects to each of these things that I am not good at.

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

I know I have been called to a certain life, to accomplish particular things and this season in my life is preparing me for that.

But I think the greatest lesson I have learned is that it’s okay to just not be good at something.

I read this great quote…

As Christians we are called to live in excellence, to do all things for God and not for man.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

And He is going to help us along…

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

So what I am trying to say is this…

Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t step, don’t tip toe…JUMP. He has given you everything you need to accomplish all that He has put on your heart.

 

Start today. Whether it’s writing a book or getting healthy. If it’s asking that girl out or talking to your neighbor who just needs a friend.

 

Do something that you are not good at.

Do something that scares you because you really never know what will come from it or whose life you will impact.

 

I got a letter after I wrote a particularly “scary” post on SWL. Without sharing someone else’s story the letter detailed how the post helped someone through a break up. The truth? I hated writing that post. I cried writing it. I didn’t want to share it because I knew that it might get a couple people angry (if they misunderstood my intentions), it was uncomfortable.

However, as I read the words of one girl knowing that she was worth more than rubies all the uncomfortable feelings I had left me and I realized that although I didn’t like doing it…it impacted someone.

So maybe snowboarding or speaking Swedish perfectly doesn’t seem like something that will impact or make a difference but who knows? At least I’m going to try…

Sometimes I just need to shut up

God will direct

“shut up, shut up, shut up!!” (Black Eye Peas song in your head yet?)

Do you ever scream that at yourself? You can hear yourself talking, babbling on and you just.can’t.stop.

I do. I talk when I get nervous. Recently sitting across from someone, after dinner, chatting, I knew I should just stop talking and enjoy the moment, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep silent because I did not know what would happen if I just stopped. I was scared. If I stopped talking I’d lose control of the conversation and anything could happen. (really I’m not neurotic…)

Sometimes I create noise just so that I don’t have have to stop and see what happens next. If I keep going…then at least I know where I am headed.

The thing is, I reckon we do that a lot with God. We keep ourselves busy, we fill the silence with talking, with internet, with music, with thoughts, with whatever distracts us from hearings God’s voice. If we keep talking or keep planning…keep ourselves, busy, then we can direct our lives. When we create a lot of noise then we allow ourselves to remain in control.

We say that we want what God has for us. We say that we trust God. We say that we want His plan but then our actions speak differently.

Recently I awoke early and did not need to get out of bed so I put on some worship music. Playing softly the words of “Oceans (where feet may fail)” filled my room and as I quieted my heart and mind I was again reminded of God’s providence.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

I think of Peter when God called him onto the water. When he kept focused on God’s voice he walked fine. HE WALKED ON WATER! Seriously, this guy just got out of a boat, in a storm and walked on water. Have you tried walking on water lately? I live in Sweden and the closest thing I get is walking on ice. Walking on water is simply not possible without God. In fact, many things aren’t possible without God.

When Peter began to listen to the noise around him, he began to sink. It was more than the fact that he stopped focusing on God. He just could not shut up. While he may not have been literally been talking, the voices in his head allowed doubt to enter his mind and heart and change his direction. In this case, it was actually DOWN…he was sinking. However, when we shut out all the voices, the opinions, the advice and listen to what God is saying, our direction, our paths, remain straight.

God gave us his word to light our path.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6

He said he goes before us and prepares the way.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

We can trust him to lead us and give us the best.

It’s really time to cut out the noise. I am a proponent for good, strong wisdom from friends and mentors. We need community to live our lives and we need input from others. However, sometimes we take that too far and instead of praying about it, searching His word or simply being still, and we just listen to everyone else. Well, everyone has an agenda. Other people do not see your entire future. We exist within space and time and a specific context. While advice and input is important we must keep our hearts focused on the one whose love is unconditional, who knows your days, and the number of hairs on your head. have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?

So, I am learning to just shut up…in all areas of my life…and trust that the next steps are His best for me.

Psalm 46:10 says that we need to be still and know that God is, well God.

Break the Walls Down

Walls01

And you got nowhere else to go
And you’re lost within your own home
And you’re trying so hard to win
You keep trying its embarrassing
And how you don’t even know
But you know you’re off the tracks
And how did you get in here
Thinking how did I get in here

I’ll help you break the walls down
I’ll help you break the walls down
And bust you out and take you home
Believe in me you are not alone
I’ll help you break the walls down

-The Rocket Summer, Walls

Brick by brick. Stone by stone.

With each broken promise, with every dream never realised, with each empty word falling flat, the walls were built.

With each slanderous word, with each whisper of gossip, with each backstabbing thought, the walls were built.

With each painful glance at the mirror, with each damaging thought, with each murmur of self-doubt, the walls were built.

With each break up, with each broken friendship, with each moment of abuse, the walls were built.

Brick by brick. Stone by stone.

The walls went up. and up. and up.

-mp. 2013

Your walls look different than mine. Mine may be brick, with graffiti and big windows. Yours may be concrete, scratched by years of pain or maybe wood, damaged by the rain of tears.

Walls are dangerous. While healthy boundaries force you to look up and keep you protected, walls keep you hidden, closed off and unable to grow.

A lot of the time our walls are invisible to us. The walls we have built are for protection against more pain (in whatever form). They keep the abuser at bay, they keep the potential of heartbreak from existing, they hold the world away.

These walls are usually not visible to others, in fact, often over compensation leads those around you to believe you are just fine. We act out in order to preserve our dignity; over compensate to hide the pain.

Admittedly I have built walls more than once in my life. Self-preservation yielded the need to hide, to run away, to close off so that as not to allow someone else to tell me that I wasn’t good enough…

I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped being me because “me” wasn’t good enough.

Most recently I built up walls around my heart. My mom told me I am stand offish. I’m not even sure that’s a real word but apparently whenever she sees someone show interest I turn into stone.

What I thought was healed was merely mended. Although no longer in pain the next step, the one that would allow me to move on was to break down the walls.

For the former, breaking down the walls meant getting up in front of a whole lot of my friends who had never heard me sing and just belt it out at a friend’s wedding in France. It was there that I found the courage to break the walls down and believe that I was enough.

Now, for me, it’s vulnerability of the heart. In this case, when it comes to my heart, it means letting someone in again. It means even simply allowing myself to be myself with another person, to let him see me, to know me, to consider the possibility of more. It’s often a prayer, a cry out to God, going…protect me Lord, because I’m trying here…

The thing with walls is, that even if they were built because of something done to us, we choose to be victims and build the walls. Walls are built because we do not feel that we are enough. We may not feel that we can overcome the pain, the abuse, the heartache…whatever the case may be (and to varying degrees these things are not easy and may require, in some cases, professional assistance*), but they do take a first step of believing that we are good enough for a complete and fulfilled and whole life.

Understanding your value and knowing you are completely worthy of being whole is not easy. It requires acceptance of flaws, understanding that no one is perfect, and most importantly, I believe, the knowledge that you were created with a plan in mind. Intricately, fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Knowing that the King of Kings loves you and planned your very existence can help break those walls down.

He wants you to be whole, to live a full life, in relationship with Him and in healthy relationship with others.

go on, let Him break your walls down.


side note: if you or someone you know needs professional help please contact your local church or medical professional, or talk to a friend. We’re not in this life alone. x

A Lesson from a Formerly Broken Heart

Time to say goodbye: updated...

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love does not envy.

Love does not boast.

Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but love does rejoice in truth.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Love always hopes.

Loves always perseveres.

One year ago today these verses pressed against my heart. I wrote them in my journal, I pondered the implications of putting this kind of love into action. I thought through how I was demonstrating them and how in so many ways I lacked real love. The words burned into my spirit and I was unable to shake them from my thoughts.

I thought that I was being drawn to these verses within the context of my own relationship. I was in love, or least falling, and my heart was full. We’d had plans and dreams and I felt secure.

God, how can I show love to him more? How do I show real love?

These words etched into my journal in black ink, over and over. God, why are you showing me this?

You see, that relationship, it was my first real relationship. I have never been the girl to jump into anything serious. Sometimes I think I was being protected, other times I wanted to simply run away, other times I don’t think I could be bothered. Either way, this was my first relationship, my first time falling in love and I was gone.

Looking back, the last few weeks of that relationship were a warning sign that maybe something was off and I struggled with how to deal. I spent hours journaling, praying, trying to understand. It was during this time that these verses kept popping into my mind and touching, even scraping at my heart.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is not easily-angered.

Love is not self-seeking…

Than those words happened that ended it all…

“I can’t love you like you need. I don’t want to.”

Ouch.

I look back over photos from the months following that night. I can still see the sadness in my eyes. Sadness I thought I had hidden in my heart. Many people said I was protected from a hurt much greater than I imagined but when you lose love, more importantly, when you lose that which you love your heart seeks something to grasp onto. I felt like I had nothing. Admittedly, even writing these words has been something I have struggled to do over the past twelve months. Who wants to admit that someone wrecked you? Who wants to admit that you made mistakes in a relationship? Who wants to admit how you felt rejected, broken?

Pride sometimes stood in the way of admitting that it was okay that it was over.

Now, with today being Valentine’s Day, I can admit that there were days I stood in the mirror hating myself. There were days I replayed my entire relationship over and over trying to figure out what could have been done better. There are days where I saw any reminders of him and my heart broke again, not only for my relationship but because I lost my best friend. There were even days I hated him. I think the worst though are the days when you believe love won’t come again. The days when, in my case, you live in an entirely new country, with all new people and you can’t see one day in front of the next. Those days are the scariest for a heart that still has fragile moments. I can admit that there were moments when pride filled my heart and I did not want to tell any one how broken I felt. I felt so unworthy of love.

But slowly, surely and with my heart and mind focused on God He began to reveal to me why those verses burned so deeply days before my relationship ended. He was protecting me before I knew I even needed it. He took the broken pieces of my heart and healed them. Intricately sewing each piece back until the seams were invisible.

Love is patient…in my friend’s ability to let me yammer on about how I was over it…when I wasn’t really.

Love is kind…when my best friend sat with me, letting my cry for hours in her lap.

Love does not envy…standing beside my best friend and soul sister when she got married to the man of her dreams and simply being happy for her.

Love does not boast…when you are celebrating others.

Love is not proud…admitting that I was wrong and apologizing.

Love does not dishonor others…stopping the words to fall out of my mouth when someone wrongs me or others.

Love is not self-seeking…knowing all that your mother gave up for you so you could flourish.

Love is not easily angered…keeping your mouth shut and your heart soft even when you hear lies being told about you.

Love keeps no record of wrongs…remembering the past in peace.

Love does not delight in evil but love does rejoice in truth…making the decision to speak truth for long-term gain instead of short term pain.

Love always protects…knowing when to reveal truth to someone when you know it may hurt.

Love always trusts…taking the next step and letting your heart be open again…

Love always hopes…open to a future with a love greater than what you have already experienced.

Loves always perseveres…trusting the almighty God that His love is so great that He will only bring you better.

LOVE is an action. LOVE is a choice.

So…to quote the ever popular “Love, Actually” then…love, actually is all around.

I’m single and the next time I fall in love I will be better at it. Not because I’m better but because I know God’s love better. I see it in every one around me, I see it in me, I see it in the little ways that God reveals His unconditional, impenetrable and unmoving love.

My hope now is that single or not, my actions, my words, my thoughts demonstrate real love…in all that I do.

love is

Currently

swl quotes

So something a bit new in 2013! Once a month I’ll share a “currently” post. I believe we can get inspiration from many people and many places and once a month I’ll share what is inspiring me and maybe inspire you a bit.

Loving: Winter! I didn’t realise how much I love winter until I moved to Stockholm. The clothes, the warm drinks, the crispness in the air. I have discovered a love of winter (and fun new clothes) that I never knew. Now i’m just in search of the perfect fire place to sit beside and keep warm…and maybe someone to keep warm with! 😉

Watching: Mad Men. I am about 6 episodes in and I’m still unsure of whether I rate the show or not. I think from a TV studies perspective I can appreciate the history, the style, the clothes and the culture; however the misogyny and over-sexualised nature of the show puts me off.

Anticipating: Taking the youth on a snowboarding/skiing in a few weeks. Not only am I excited to see what God is going to do in their lives but I also get to learn to snowboard. Let’s see if I get off my butt at all!!

Listening to: Alicia Keys, The Civil Wars, Eisley, Lifehouse and The Lumineers…all the newest albums.

Planning: Rebranding this website. It’s a big job and slightly overwhelming. I’ve also got a second project on the go and thinkingabout the wisdom of when to start it!

Working on: patience. Is this an ongoing battle that I’m always going to struggle with? 

Thinking about: Not thinking about the future. Isn’t that funny? This is actually an area I struggle with a lot. I want it all now. I’m a true visionary at heart and getting from point A to point B may have a bunch of steps but I rather skip them, even if I know that I need them all to get to where I’m going. No one ever ate an entire cake in one bite.

Wishing: I had the finance to see my friends more and more. I miss the coffees, the walks, the evenings spent just hanging out with so many. I’m going to have to get better at Skyping!

And now to leave you with a little treat. The following was written by Cory Copeland. Thanks Cory for letting me repost!  You can find his website here or on Twitter here. I had been thinking over and pondering this topic when Cory’s post came up on my newsfeed. Please take a second and read and maybe even follow his blog too!

enjoy

Michelle

What Kind of Wrecker are You?

-cory copeland

What does it mean to be wrecked, exactly? Not in the way one car wrecks another, but the kind of wrecked when something or someone comes along and completely discombobulates your life, mind, and heart. Everything you thought you knew is now in question because for once, you’ve been awoken to new truth. To be wrecked is to be reduced to rubble and rebuilt. And this wrecking can produce itself in good and bad ways.

They say love is a wrecker. We’re marching along, happy and satisfied though wanting, and suddenly, our world is turned upside down by some ardent lover. We are wrecked from the first day because we weren’t aware we could feel these things or speak those words. They lift us up and brighten our life. We love them and they return that love tenfold. It’s all so wonderful and meaningful.
But as time passes, we grow accustomed to one another and we become comfortable. Eventually, our effort passes by the wayside and we merely exist in each other’s company. Soon after, the fights start and the passion that once burned so brightly between us turns to white hot rage. Filth spills from our mouth as we hurl insults at this person we once cherished. We do our best to hurt them, to reduce them, to wreck them.
The ending is inevitable and comes much later than it should have. We are undone and we are broken for a spell. What once was a wrecking of saintly beauty has turned us into a twisted form of bruised feelings and lonely regret. Love has wrecked us.

They say love is a wrecker. We’ve played this game before and are leery of its black magic. We proceed with caution, but the curiosity is too much for our sensibilities to resist. This new angel has appeared and with it, has cast away every doubt and hesitation we once held. We step slow but steady, proceeding at a comfortable pace because we’ve been wrecked by that wretched potential before and we aren’t in a hurry to be back there. But this new hope pulls us forward with grace and charity. Slowly, beautifully, we are becoming wrecked once again.
The nights are softer and the days feel longer. Everything is sweeter and moves slower. We feel whole again and want nothing more than to be with our lover forever. We speak sweet and smile wide. Cross words rarely pass through our lips and anger feels like a thing of our past. We are happy now and we are wrecked in goodness and love. Our once desperate life was found a new meaning steeped in graciousness and beauty. We are fulfilled. We are satisfied. Reduced to nothing and rebuilt, we have been wrecked.

And while it’s possible you’ve experienced both of these scenarios as I have, a begging question is brought forth.

What kind of wrecker are you?

Do you fill those around you with happiness and grace? Or do you selfishly take what you can and leave those around you wrecked and angry?
Are you a faithful friend and lover who aches to make others whole? Or are you in search of your own fulfillment and your own desperate treasure?
Do you wreck others in goodness and beauty? Or do you leave them broken and regretting the time spent in your company?

We all will wreck and we all will be wrecked. With guarded hearts and hopeful vision, we can avoid the lesser and wreck this world with love and understanding.

I will be a better me

A better me

1st of January.

I love that day. Growing up in the Northern Hemisphere, January is generally crisp and cool. The air feels clean and clear and full of expectation.

Around the world people are waking up with hope and expectancy. Some have said goodbye to a year of pain and for others the year will begin with blissful memories of a year gone by. Whatever 2012 was, 2013 is a blank slate, ready for the artist to create a beautiful piece of art.

I wrote in my previous post that 2012 was nothing that I imagined it to be; change was the word of the year. Truthfully, I spent most of 31 December excited to say goodbye to 2012. It was not that it was the worst year in the world or that nothing good came out of it, so much good came out of it. It was simply that there was little rest in 2013.

So this year, I plan to rest.

REST

Verb 

1. Cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or to recover strength

2. Remain or to be left in a special condition

Noun

1. An instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity

2. The remaining part of something

For me, resting does not mean doing nothing. Instead of being the instigator of more change I will build. A house stands because it is built on a firm foundation and this year my resolutions/goals are based simply around building…

I simply plan to be a better me…in all areas of my life.

I look forward to 2013, with great expectation. I know that there will still be change, that life will move forward, that the unexpected may knock me off guard and I’ll celebrate the joyous moments as well…but I also know that this year is not a year to instigate but to rest, to pause, and to consider…to Selah…with hope and expectation that He who created me, brought me to exactly where I am now and my responsibility is to honor that.

I wonder what YOUR 2013 will be. Is  it a year of change? It is a year of rest?

Why not take some time to stop, think and pray…and consider the year ahead.

do not just let life happen around you.

love x

dear past

Pride before the fall…or the Voice Within

work hard stay humble

A simple warning: this post is raw, it’s truthful and you may not like what I have to say…but hear me out…

Do you ever wonder why you have been given a gift and not been given the chance to use it? The kind of gift that when you knock on doors and try to take opportunities, that every door is slammed in your face?

Now, I am not talking about someone whose grandma, uncle, second cousin or dentist said that you could be famous and frankly, were just being nice. I am talking about real talent and gifts that seem to not be in use.

I have had conversations like this with many people in my life. People who have real talent and when they try and use it, every door is closed. These are people who are humble, talented and just wondering when it will be their turn.

Let’s take one aspect of my life as an example, oh goody…

I have to admit that the last 3 or years has not been easy when it comes to this subject. In fact, I’d say probably since I moved to London this has been something that has bothered me.

You see, I sing. I have been singing since I barely could walk. Ask my parents, aunts, uncles, anyone who has ever taken care of me. Performing has been in me since the days I would memorise entire soundtracks and perform them with dance routines and all. Throughout school and into post-secondary education I performed all the time…even if it was only in our residence lounge, sat around a piano with two of my dearest friends belting out whatever we could remember how to play on the piano or get music to.

Then I moved and for the last 8 years I have barely sang, at least not in comparison to what I used to. Yes, I have done a few weddings and I sang BVs on worship team back in London, but mostly I have just been told “you have a great voice”, “you have a beautiful voice”, or my favourite which basically implied I didn’t have the right look to be singing…that didn’t hurt at all.

I have prayed and prayed and cried and felt rejected. I have tried to understand why I have been put aside. I have tried to understand what I am supposed to do with what I have been given, how I was supposed to honour God in every way when my attempts were shut down.

and…I stopped singing outside of church.

And then recently I realised something…I stopped because I was hurt.

But I was hurt because I was not getting what I thought I should.

Of course my first priority and heart is to serve the church, but just because I am not singing in church does not mean that I cannot sing outside of church. I do not write as part of my serving in church…I’m a youth leader. That does not stop me from being a writer as a profession.

I had taken the fact that I wasn’t using one particular talent in church, projected my feelings of rejection onto that situation and stopped myself from doing everything I loved. No one could stop me from singing outside of church but I did. Singing outside of church was not going to hurt or cause someone to stumble…and yet…I did not do it…

When Paul is speaking to the Corinthians, he talks about causing others to stumble with your actions.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corithians 10:31-33

Colossians goes onto say…in verse 23, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

Just because I am not singing in church does not mean I cannot pursue that in other avenues. I used to sing to elderly people in a social centre. What fun it was to sing Christmas carols and songs from their teenage years to entertain them? I loved seeing their faces light up! I could sing to glorify Him…anywhere (well, not anywhere…but let’s just say anywhere to make my point).

I used to believe that if I was not singing in church I should not sing anywhere and then I realised how prideful that statement was. I was saying that I only wanted to use my gifts to honour God in my way and that if it was not in church, then I was not honoring Him. Who am I to make a judgement like that? That is not humility, it is pride. It is saying that nowhere else is good enough.

I felt sick to my stomach thinking about how wrong I had been…

sidenote: I 100% believe about honouring God and serving in His church, serving His people and doing that with all your heart. I will serve in my local church until the day I die…this is not about a heart for serving but about keeping your heart right when it comes to using your talents in all areas of life. I will serve in whatever capacity there is need and I will seek God and those whose authority I have been put under for direction in serving.

My point is this…

Are you not pursuing a talent simply because someone said no?

Is there pride that you need to deal with?

Have you stopped doing something you loved because where you thought you should be doing it, is not working out?

Perhaps it’s not in church, perhaps it’s at work? Maybe you did not get that promotion you wanted and now you’re not working quite as hard? Perhaps someone said no to a project you wanted to work on, so you have laid it by the way side?

Why is it that just because another human being says no that we just give up?

Why do we let pride get in our way?

So with that in mind…

What is in your heart that hurts so much to keep it in?

What talents should you be developing right now?

Psalm 119 says that thy word is a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet. I once heard that God only lights enough of the path so you can take the next step…but what are you doing in the light you see now? How are you preparing for the next step?

If I am not practising, song-writing, taking every opportunity to sing, then how can I be ready for the next step? Furthermore, if I stop singing simply because one person says no…what does that say about my passion or how I honor what God has given to me?

And who knows? We often only see the future according to our present. We see what could be based on what we know NOW but maybe God has not lit up the path further because you would freak out if you saw what was ahead…

Instead of playing it small, feeling sorry for yourself (hey, I’m so preaching to myself here) or hiding your talents, work on them…

I’m a writer. I do not choose to write. It chose me. I do not want to write. I have to write. I never let anyone stop me from writing…

So why would I let someone stop me from singing?

I may never be a famous singer, I’m not even sure that is what I want. I just want to sing and to do whatever I can to serve people with my voice, just like my writing…I cannot predict the future but I can humbly seek Him and honour every gift I have been given by stewarding it correctly.

I hope that through this post you heard my heart. I hope that, like me, if there is something you need to work on, a bit of a heart adjustment, that you take a quiet moment, reflect and ask God to help you with that.

It’s not easy, trust me…it hurts. A lot…

x

On the Subject of Singleness

I am no expert on love or singleness…

But I have been in love and I am single.

So I guess I can say something on the subject.

My lovely friend told me today that her boyfriend and her were back together after a time a part and reflecting on what they both wanted. I was so happy for her as she was glowing and as I sat on the bus riding home I realised that I am in no rush to be with someone and this, this is new.

I am probably going to have to read this post at least once a week because I do have my moments but I thought about life now and I realised that I’m just happy to wait. There is no one in my life that makes me want to give up the life I have. Maybe that’s selfish, but if you listen to Paul he does talk about how an unmarried man or woman can attend to the affairs of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7). I think, after 29 years, I’m finally believing that.

Oh sure, I absolutely want to get married but I also do not want to marry the wrong person.

I live in a country that actually has a word to describe the idea of just enough…mediocrity in another sense of the word. Okay, so not all Swedish people live like this (take for example, all the amazing inventions like Skype that have come out of this country) so I am definitely not putting the Swedes down. However, it’s a great word to describe how a lot of people seem to choose their boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses; they’re just enough.

As it says above, “Yes, I’m single and you’re going to have to be pretty damn amazing to change that.” I always thought that it was a bit rude, a bit cheeky and maybe even a bit prideful. It’s not though, is it?

I have one life one earth.

I have ONE chance to make the biggest difference to as many people as I can.

As a Christian, I have one purpose: to show the love of God to others so they may find Him and His grace, love and relationship.

If I marry the wrong person…am I really honouring that responsibility?

God has put many dreams on my heart. Some of these dreams I have fulfilled, some I’m working on and others, well, I’m not quite ready to do them yet…some of these things I will accomplish on my own, others with business partners and then some with the man that decides, with me, to spend the rest of our lives together.

I don’t want to be the girl who gets to the end of her life and sees the life she could have lead, the impact she could have made, the people who would have met Christ…I personally want to do everything in my power to make the “would, could and should haves” as small a number as possible.

So, if it means waiting a bit longer to get married…then okay.

I can wait.

Pressed upon my heart for many weeks now is this: be here, in the season I am in now, simply taking care of the things that are in my hand now, honoring the now, so that whatever God has for me, all the doors He opens and closes, the steps I need to take, the people I need to meet, that I will be prepared for them because I was faithful in my day to day.

It applies to my marriage as much as it does my career…

I have, in the past, been stuck in a job only because I had to work and took the first thing I found instead of trusting God for the better thing and that simply sucked. I do not want to be stuck in a covenant because I went for the first thing that came along. If it means waiting for that one who needs time, or waiting because I need time…whatever the reasons are that I am not yet running the race with a partner, I would much rather wait than commit myself to a life sentence of “Just okay.”

So…until that time…I’m okay..no, I’m more than okay. I am content with me, with my relationship status and well, frankly, someone is going to have to be pretty damn amazing to change that…

Until then I’ll just keep piling on the blankets to keep warm in my king size bed in a very cold country.

 

It’s Back to the Basics

I went to a party last night and since it’s customary to take your shoes off when you go into a home here in Sweden I did…and my immediate reaction was “I’m so sorry my feet look terrible and unkept” (sorry mom…)

It’s not that I am a princess who must get manicures and pedicures all the time but quite honestly there are a few things in life that I enjoy doing to make my somewhat hectic life more centred. Admittedly some of these things are very first-world and I could get some flack for calling them basics. So here is your warning: these may not all be basics for everyone but hear my heart and know that life is definitely not “all about me”…

You know those moments where you just want to go crawl into bed and hide for days? Or maybe it is the days that nothing you put on fits right or feels good? Maybe yesterday every time someone even tried to say hello you got overly frustrated and irritated? Maybe just because your boyfriend didn’t call, you cried? Or when the baby just would not fall asleep at 3am, for  2 hours and you felt like you don’t even know why you decided to become a mother or a father. Maybe you feel like your wife hasn’t stopped nagging you for days? Or has your roommate NEVER cleaned up?

These are just a few of what I feel like are evidence of a mind and body that is not taking care of itself. Let’s face it, most of the time when things are not going right around us it’s because of what is happening IN us. I have an amazing friend who often gets my rants when any of the applicable above have happened to me. She is one of the people I have allowed to speak completely freely into my life…and knows everything about me. My favourite reminder from her is always her first question after I have finished my rant, “Chelles, so are you keeping up the basics?”

And…after a momentary pause and a quick evaluation the answer is usually a quite, soft “no”.

When we think of the basics we usually think food and water. Yes, these are the very basics but everyone has their own basics which need to be sorted in order to live a full and healthy life. I have figured out what mine are…some of them are must-must basics and others are every few weeks rather than weekly (like manicures/pedicures) or even hourly but these things in my life mean that I can be the best I can be and fulfil the purpose I have here for others.

So here are mine…and in no particularly order of importance…all have their own place

  • read my bible, listen to worship music, pray: connect to God constantly
  • exercise regularly
  • get a lot of fresh air
  • coffee
  • drink lots and lots of water
  • limit the amount of sugar I ingest (which is almost zero now)
  • eat regularly and unprocessed
  • get my nails and hair done
  • keep warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot (this affects me)
  • get enough, proper sleep (so it doesn’t just mean time but I always make sure my bed is clean, with lots of pillows and blankets. It’s my oasis)
  • talk to my friends regularly
  • connect with my family regularly

These are my basics…you’ll have your own (although a lot of these will overlap). We’re all different and I encourage you to find out your strengths and weaknesses (for example; I’m an extrovert, so I get energy from being around people, HOWEVER, I am also an only child and very much know my limitations when it comes to how much alone time I need (it’s more than most think))

Take some time and remember that you need to be the best you can be so it’s okay to understand how you tick. You’ll be better off to your friends, roommates, husbands, wives, kids, boss…we want to live strong and excellent lives so please, invest in the basics.

And if you need a few suggestions for a busy season I found this blog which will give you 55 ways to maintain your sanity…

xxM