Latest Entries »


All the talk of the Mayan prediction of the end of the world made me think of the expression ‘Good Riddance’ and where it originated. Apparently Good riddance was a 16th century expression that usually meant ‘deliverance from’ or ‘getting rid of’..the most heard version ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish’ is seen as an expression of pleasure of getting rid of something..usually an individual.

That was my first thought about 2012..”yeah, Good riddance to bad rubbish”.

What a year 2012 was, the Piece de resistance of all time lows has to be when my then ‘fiancé’ disappeared into a drunken stupor, 6 and a half months ago to be exact and was never seen again, well.. by me anyway. A number of consequences on my poor psyche and soul manifested during this time. When I look back I never cease to be amazed that I got through this time with relatively healthy coping strategies. These mainly consisted of boring my poor mates stupid and wailing very loudly from the gut region while crying out to God ‘Lord have mercy – and while we’re at it, where the f*%k are you?”.
He was there, near, in the shit and the pain, close to the crushed in spirit as usual. Meanwhile, I left my job, withdrew from community and laid low like a road kill that has not quite been finished off.

I found out who my friends were.

I left my entire field of work, took time to develop some sort of ‘balance’ for the first time ever. I learnt to say no to some things and yes to others

Many wonderful things also happened in 2012. 

I visited and fell in love with Barcelona with my gorgeous daughter. Tried my hand at sailing, began learning Spanish and a lovely friend took me to Greece. I got a new job using skills I didn’t think I had. More friends chipped in and paid therapy bills for me ;-).

My gorgeous little nephew was born, Beau Huxley Hampton.

When life’s road is heading in one direction and unexpectedly the road forks drastically, it can make for a complete re-evaluation. I don’t believe God ordains everything that happens in our lives, rather that we place ourselves in positions to be hurt after making poor decisions based on self. I do believe He uses circumstances to heal up old wounds which may have just had a plaster on them but still be festering away. Outdated pride which has been a trusted and long term friend can be stripped away. As they say in AA “you can’t save your face and your arse at the same time”. Dropping the ‘Must be strong’ mask and learning how to lean on others becomes an unavoidable reality.

What seems an unimaginable crisis at the time can lead to a rebuilding that many years of talk therapies, self- knowledge or self-help groups and books couldn’t possibly achieve. In the Bible it is referred to the Refiners Fire

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” Job 23:10

“And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God” Zech 13:9

Bring on 2013 and Happy New Year!


This weekend, we embarked on a sail from Brighton Marina to Portsmouth harbour. We were all set for an 8-10 hour relaxing sail to Portsmouth. The guys were going on to watch the Olympic sailing in Weymouth, I had decided just to sail down to Portsmouth with them. There were 6 of us on board, a couple completing their competent crew training and the rest of us sailing for fun with a bit of learning thrown in.

As soon as we left the safety of Brighton marina harbour wall, the catamaran began rocking from side to side dramatically. The ornaments fell off the windowsills and we couldn’t stand up. Like trying to read the air hostesses faces on the flight when the fasten seatbelts lights go on, I studied our skipper’s expression to see how he looked. Duncan looked calm enough. He already knew both the tide and the wind were against us all the way but I hadn’t realised this was what would be the outcome.

‘It will settle in a minute,’ I kept thinking, ‘we must be in the swell of the boat in front.’

There was no boat in front.

Just a Force 6 westerly wind, we were sailing West. The boat proceeded to rock and sway like a relentless rollercoaster ride for four hours. Each one of us dropped like flies to the point that people were throwing up over the sides of the boat and none of us could string a sentence together. Something surreal about being with a group of strangers, all slightly green in colour, unable speak and all thinking  ‘hey ho, only another 7 hours of this. Somebody make it stop!’

A Catamaran is a sturdy boat,  it felt safe enough, just pretty uncomfortable. We also trusted our skipper, who calmly made us tea and bacon butties.

During recent storms in my life I wish I could have trusted in God the way I trusted our skipper that day. Like those four turbulent hours on board, I wanted the grey skies to clear quickly, the rocky waves to subside and the sea be calm again so I could luxuriously lie on the front deck pretending I was living someone else’s life.  Instead, I gripped the sides with white knuckles, inwardly moaned and groaned and wanted a shortcut. But life’s’ not like that.

It is in the depths of our suffering, when our frail human backs are against the wall that we really cry out to God. I mean really cry out to him. And he says ‘I know’.

‘I knew you before you were born and will know you when your hair is white with age. I even know the number of hairs on your head’ (paraphrased)

‘I know suffering’, he says, ‘I too suffered’.

It is then that we know he is in our midst. He sees our tears, hears our cries, heals our wounds and gives us His peace when things sometimes feel too much to bear.

When we’re clinging on with dear life to our own despair, focusing on the size of the waves and the motion sickness, it can be easy to miss him handing out the bacon sarnies.

Peace be with you.

I’m now three weeks into being tobacco free. After all the procrastination, fear and cognitive dissonance which has gone on for a good couple of years it was actually NOT THAT BAD!! There were only a couple of days where I thought I may have to stay away from humans for fear of being a risk to myself and/or others.

But far more exciting is that I now consider myself to be a sort of unofficial lay member of the Benedictine community. Some of you who know me will know I have a sort of (some would say weird) fascination with all things monastic. I have recently returned from a trip to a beautiful Abbey in Kent which has been inhabited by a Benedictine order of nuns for 75 years. I went originally in the interests of my work. This place was recommended to me as they have a heart for addiction there. I wanted to experience this place myself with the idea of possibly referring people I may come across in my work who need some respite and peace.

As usual when the times of these retreats come round in my life, im usually pretty frazzled and in need of a breather.  It is hard to describe the experience of going somewhere like this. To start with the ground is holy and sacred , the place smacks of peace and purity. The Benedictine gift of hospitality surprised me (I had of course gone with a large bag of Waitrose luxuries as only a recent non smoker needs – in preparation for solitude and starvation) The guest house was gorgeous and served home-grown food 3 times a day. As usual the Divine Office punctuates the day with the reciting of the Psalms  5/6 times, from Vigils to Compline. The beauty, rhythm and mysticism of 1400 years of spiritual practice has a depth which is difficult to describe and comprehend.

Some people are under the illusion that monastic living is easy and escapism from life in the fast lane. In a way it is a more peaceful way of life, but of course it comes with different challenges to those we face out here, living in close proximity to 12/13 others and  there being absolutely no distractions from ourselves and each other. Benedict’s Rule was designed to make living in community work as well as it can, with the emphasis on the rhythm of  contemplative prayer, work, relationship and spiritual growth.

I want to try to live this way as much as possible in my own life. I need this rhythm.

Today my Esther de Waal commentary to The Rule arrived. (I’ve been trying to muddle through with no commentary.) Like the Gospel, The Rule is a living thing as relevant today as when it was written 1500 years ago and has been a successful tool for business management as well as community living ever since. Benedict saying he wanted to prescribe ” nothing harsh or burdensome ” for his followers.

My initial revelations are how much I need this stuff as I’m self-centred to the core. I am so easily distracted from my prayer life that the routine, discipline and repetitive nature of the Liturgy of The Hours helps me stay focused on God not reliant on how I FEEL.  I need the structure of more silent time with God and in his Word. I’ve also become aware of how much excess stuff  I own. Not in some weird ‘hair-shirt’ kind of way, I’ve never been particularly materialistic, most of my clothes are bought in charity shops but there lots of them and when I want something I buy it. Full stop. Oh, and I am addicted to buying books. One click ordering – currently books about monastic living. The irony.

This is just the beginning of going a bit deeper with God. I’m a bit scared but very excited! Watch this space.

A friend recently got me this picture as a get well card. She made me smile and got me thinking.

I smoke and I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian and I smoke. To say I am in a minority is an understatement.

Most of my friends and family know me well enough to know that to judge, disapprove or lecture just doesn’t work. Anyone who knows anything about addiction knows that unless the user literally has enough, reaches rock bottom and personally integrates into their own heart enough ‘cons’ they are not gonna stop doing what they’re doing.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Paul’s ‘bang on’ description of addiction in Romans 7: 15-20)

Addiction is irrational. As they say in AA, cunning,baffling and powerful.

To stop anything, we need at least to be willing. There are stages of change which include pre-contemplation, contemplation, decision and action. Lightening bolts of divine intervention are  not my experience but I believe they happen. We must want stop doing what we are still doing (that we no longer want to do) and God meets us to provide Grace and healing in our discomfort (that is his speciality). Jackie Pullinger led hundreds of addicts to Christ but only the ones who wanted freedom in the first place.

I’ve met people full of  shame about smoking. Secret smokers who have hidden in garden sheds and lived their lives in misery, concealing their guilty habits from loved ones and friends.

Do i think smoking is big and clever and am I proud of it? No. Do I try to hide the fact that I smoke from others? No

Secrets make us sick.

I’m not saying I don’t feel uncomfortable at times. In recent times pride has kicked in and I may choose to wait an extra half hour when in certain company before having a cigarette. Society has changed and I have changed, smoking is now extremely anti-social and 99% of my friends are non smokers.

Do I plan to give up? Yes.

Am I ready to give it a go? Not quite.

Do I have a relationship with God? Yes

Jesus came to set us captives free.

The Prodigal Son enjoyed the reckless living and partying until reaching his rock bottom. When he returned, his Father was waiting with open arms, threw a party and put a ring on his finger. (Luke 15:11-32) Some of us make many detours on the way home from the party.

God is all about redemption and in our lives we will sometimes require redeeming again and again.

I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone. St. Francis of Assisi

I couldn’t help but hold my breath in anticipation at the ensuing fallout of the BBC 2 documentary earlier this week. Louis Theroux visited America’s ‘Most hated family’, the Westboro Baptist ‘Church’ for the second time.

For anyone who isn’t in the know, the WBC are a family with unconventional beliefs and actions who keep themselves busy picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, other human rights activists and basically have something to say about anyone or anything that contradicts their extremely narrow perception of how people should be living their lives.

They state that their beliefs are based on the Bible. I have also mentioned them here.

Louis Theroux is no stranger to unusual people and  he said that the Phelps family are some of the most extreme people he has ever met.

This caricature of Christianity has come about from the cherry picking of Bible verses to justify cruelty, extremism and  homophobia. The rest of us are called to pick up the pieces, answer the resulting questions and bear witness to a loving God. This has been my experience this week.

Maybe this is how God works. Maybe he uses Louis Theroux and his predictable atheist bias to visit one of the most extreme groups in the world and deliberately opens the dialogue to give the rest of us the chance to declare that the message of Christ wasn’t full of fear and judgement, fire and brimstone, but was one of love.

We have an enemy that will use any tactics, including Bible believing Christians/hate groups  to detract from us carrying out the mission of God on this earth.

Perhaps God opens doors through programmes like these and any kind of religious extremism and gives us the opportunity to refocus ourselves on the real teachings of the Gospel such as looking out for the marginalised, feeding the hungry, healing the broken and bringing peace.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.Ye shall know them by their fruits. (Matt 7 15:16)

Chasing after the wind

I have a very exciting opportunity around the corner and God is preparing me rapidly.

Having always worked in the ‘caring’ professions, I know that at times I can be a good listener and offer positive regard. I can attempt to walk in someone’s shoes with them and not advise, offer platitudes or try to fix things.

My job at one point was to build relationships with hard to reach people. At the same time I would  attempt to assess their needs and signpost them to various different services that could help them. I’m good at engaging people.

My mum says I would stand on the street when I was five years old, tell everyone who walked past what my name was and ask them theirs (never get away with that these days!)

I’ve survived on a personal level in some dodgy circles over the years, my street skills are good and I can generally meet people where they are.

On a good day, my personal boundaries are crystal clear and I know my limitations. On another, I am left scratching my head thinking I could have done more. The urge to want to fix or simply be liked is there.

God is showing me that there are people along the way whose needs are so great, whose despair is so dark and overwhelming and whose circumstances are so complex and vast that in that moment they can seem beyond human help.

And they are.

No human can fill that empty fear filled place for another.

It is only God that can heal. In fact, to think I can is vanity and is like chasing after the wind.

Sure we are called to help by showing his mercy and compassion to others. To break chains, free the oppressed and share our food with the hungry. But without any understanding of our humanness and with no spiritual life to restore and refresh us, it is not surprising that we burn out.

And it is in admitting our weakness that He makes us strong.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11

Isaiah 58:12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Catapulted into a hyper vigilant state from my early teens I am about as worldly as it gets. I’ve never had time for the supernatural, fairy tales or sci-fi. It’s the gritty, real and often dark that has always drawn me and still does. Add to the mix a couple of ‘unavailable’ male role models in my life and I have an ‘unavailable’ God, right, get me? Yes of course I talk to God but I have to admit to often not expecting him to speak to my heart. That’s why i choose to be  part of a community of believers who build and strengthen my faith.

Then I have weeks like this week, where lots of things speak to me and I hear God. I’m not talking about receiving materialistic answers to prayer/prosperity gospel stuff, getting what I want and things working in my favour. I mean I am learning to see God’s hand in my life and things working together for his purposes and for the higher good.

A few days ago,  I was with someone who was incredibly grateful for me spending a couple of hours with them. ME?! It was a humbling and slightly uncomfortable experience where someone seriously thought that I had more important things to be doing. It took me back to those feelings of unworthiness, the belief that another human being wouldn’t really want to spend  time with me. Being so aware of the time and believing that they really couldn’t wait to leave and had much better things to be doing. I can take for granted how  those feelings are not there today. The changes in my life have been so gradual and subtle to the point that I fail to see them until others point them out. It’s called restoration.

In Narcotics Anonymous they say ‘the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel

This week I was able to clearly see God purposes for my life. I don’t mean that all of a sudden I heard an audible voice calling me to be a missionary overseas or become a nun. I did see how all our past experiences can be used to give hope to others, bring light to the dark, rebuild and restore. God accepts us exactly as we are, we can do nothing to please him. He sees our hearts, our wounds, our destructive behaviours and he accepts and loves us. We are called by him to bring that exact same patient, accepting and forgiving heart to others. God uses us in ways we can’t ever foresee or imagine.

Our past hurts and stories become gifts in his plan to repair all things broken.

Valentines and singles

Today Im prompted to write after a particularly exciting and valuable talk I heard this morning.

The bulk of today’s talk was on the benefits of the different stages of our lives whether married, dating or single. The main message I heard was that it’s actually rather cool to be single and that there can be more time, energy and inclination to focus on God and Kingdom work, our prayer and spiritual life, our friends, work and interests. (Unless you are a Christian reading this, you will not understand that this is not something  heard very often in the Christian church!) Jonny talked of the great things that single people can do to serve and glorify God as well as the blessings that married couples can bring to the church and others.

Personally, I (and I know I’m not alone in this) can feel on the margins within ”the Church” being a single woman. I do not necessarily mean my church but ‘THE Church, the Body Of Christ’ as a whole. It can sometimes seem as though the majority are married and that they are in a kind of exclusive Business class Christianity while the rest of us remain in Economy looking in.

I know I often find myself saying, “Some of us are called to be single!”  about my own situation to justify  the fact that I am rapidly becoming quite set in my ways to the point that there would hardly be any room for another human being! It took me years (and lots of making mistakes) to learn to enjoy my own company and the peace that can come with that. The other side of that is that I remain extremely cynical and God has much work to do there!

I am truly blessed that I had my one and only child when I was 23 and no longer have that body clock ticking thing going on.

But I am aware that some people find being single extremely painful, are searching for ‘the one’ or are fragile and broken from past hurts. Sometimes asking folk to trust God in this area is tricky and almost downright impossible for them to do.

And Valentines Day celebrations and commercialisation appear to stretch over a cheesy 4 day period and chocolates, hearts and love imagery is everywhere highlighting singledom.

Of course love and intimacy can be experienced with friends, families and God and does not necessarily have to be a romantic thing. Today I am fortunate to have been able to spend the day with my daughter which included, going to church, having lunch and then going to the cinema. Relationship with her is where I learn about unconditional love, letting go, forgiveness, acceptance and sacrifice.

Jesus was single, Paul was single, John the Baptist was single, many of the disciples and early church were presumably single.

At the end of the day, God uses our current circumstances whatever they may be to glorify him.

And remember, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Some readers of this blog won’t share the same experiences or beliefs as me but I’m going to talk about healing. I’ve always possessed a vague cynicism and never really been convinced by miraculous and instant supernatural healings. (Oh me of little faith) I’m always far too concerned for the people who do have tremendous faith and don’t get healed. I do, however believe in a God that can do anything and that things may not always be in ‘our’ time, but in his.

I have had chronic pain in my neck/shoulder-blade area for about 20 years.

Some sort of repetitive strain injury began when I was breastfeeding my little one and carrying her in one of those front baby carriers. I also broke my collar-bone when I was younger so this may have had an impact on my posture. Anyway, for 20 years I have had a 50 pence sized area of pain which flares up when am stressed, cold, tired, typing, walking, carrying a handbag, sitting down, standing up (see what I’m doing here?) basically constant and enduring pain, at all times, except for when I’m asleep. It feels as though I have the tip of a red-hot knife stuck into that area and affects my concentration, stamina, mood, ability to listen to others…basically my all round quality of life! With the exception of my poor mother, I don’t even bother talking about it to anyone for fear of being seen as a complainer.

I’ve tried anti-inflammatory sprays, creams and pills, heat pads, ice packs, GP’s, physiotherapy, sports massage and have had people lay hands on and pray for me.

Recently this exhausting situation reached a climax. Having walked round West London all day window shopping I was honoured to get to hear the rescued Chilean miner Jose Henriquez speak. Obviously Jose’s powerful testimony of how his faith sustained him through such an ordeal and at times a seemingly hopeless situation was mind-blowing to listen to and extremely emotional and powerful.

There were about a 1000 people crammed into Holy Trinity Brompton to listen to this man’s incredible story and there was hardly a dry eye in the church.

And me..I was in pain..finding it hard to concentrate, let alone see the bigger picture.

In prayer time at the end as a couple of tears rolled down my face, I silently said something like, ‘Ok Lord, this pain is totally doing my nut in now,  it’s ridiculous, help me’.  I felt bad that I was stuck in ‘self’ while listening to someone who has endured much bigger struggles than me but, to be honest, I couldn’t wait to get home.

Fast forward…back in Brighton, that night.

So fed up, I decided to google some diagrams of that area of the body and located the area and muscle group which for half my adult life has caused me so much grief. (Trapezius (Traps) and Rhomboid for anyone who’s interested.)

Once I had located the exact area and the things which cause RSI to this muscle group, I  found some stretching exercises and posture tips. Completely broken and fed up with feeling like an 80-year-old woman I was willing to try anything at this point.

Two weeks later, with a bit of exercise, practice and mindfulness. The pain has subsided.

My point? For me, God may not always work with supernatural blinding flashes of light, legs growing longer, gold teeth appearing and instant cures. Whether freeing the Israelites from Egypt, the Chileans from the depths of the mine or people from drug addiction, he sends rescue through people, places and things (including Google). Gloria a Dios.

God will rescue you from your own mine whatever that may be.” (Jose Henriquez)

Letting Go..Of our kids

In a couple of days my little one turns 20…TWENTY!!! No longer a teenager.

I’m realising that no matter what the age, as parents they are always our baby.

My mum still sends me multivitamins in the post

Being a parent is like walking a tightrope. Putting one foot in front of another and battling between co-dependence, control and letting our children rest in God’s plan for them. I project my own fears and mistakes onto her. I swing in and out of  trying to fix her problems and letting her learn by consequences. Intellectually I know we don’t learn by other people’s mistakes but emotionally, the metaphorical umbilical cord is never really cut.

It’s like taking the stabilizers off their first bike over and over again.

Most of the time the only thing im certain of is that I don’t want her to make the same mistakes as i did. And she isn’t. The miracle is that she is so unlike me at that age its untrue. I spend much time giving thanks for that fact and asking how that can be. I often wonder if  she was swapped at birth and they gave me someone else’s kid.

For whatever reasons I was hellbent on self-destruction and struggled with life at her age. She however, naturally and charismatically marches on as a thoughtful and bubbly person, brightening people’s days and squeezing every last drop out of life.

I ring her when she is out at night with her friends and speak to her as if she is still 13 years old. I ring her to wake her  for work in the mornings, even though she has been juggling three jobs independently for a couple of years. I tell her to not burn the candle at both ends and to make sure she has her handbag with her at all times. I check to see if she is wearing a seatbelt when  travelling in cars with friends and the phone the poor kid relentlessly until I know she has arrived at her destination. I frantically google train times late at night and text and phone until i can rest in the fact that the last train has pulled out of the station towards home and she is on it.  At times she has missed it and I’ve had to let go. I then ring her non stop in the morning when she’s sleeping off the night before to check she’s ok. I hassle her to wear a scarf and winter coat. I interfere with her decision-making based on my own fears and expectations.

I kid myself she belongs to me and I’m in control. I play God.

It’s only when we have one of our own do we finally realise what we put our own parents through. There were no mobile phones when I was a teenager. This is probably a good thing as I took so many risks,  it was probably best my poor mother was left in ignorance wherever possible. I used to hitch-hike through country roads at night and get lifts from lorry drivers! There was much more mad stuff which I won’t mention here but in my hatred of rules and boundaries, I was selfish and inconsiderate and drove my mum crazy.

So, on Monday Georgie is 20. Will I let go of the illusion of control now that she fully enters adulthood? Probably not.

Will I continue to wear various hats in roles such as teacher, counsellor, financial advisor, worrier, controller and prayer warrior. Yes, of that I am sure.

Will I let her fly with her own wings and release and trust her into the arms of our loving Father? Will I try to remember that I am not in control, God is? I will try, one day at a time.

%d bloggers like this: