Thursday, 9 January 2014


2013 started off in a cell for me. A cell I wasn't sure how I got into, and one I did not know how to get out of. One I had put myself in, but never intended to.
This cell was dark. It was quiet. It was predictable, structured, controlled. I knew what my days were going to be like. I could decide who could come visit. But no on knew what it was really like. I cleaned before they came round. I straightened the curtains and made my bed. I pretended like it was great in there.
To me, it was familiar. I knew the cracks, which floor boards creaked, the number of chips in the ceiling. It was peaceful in there. My home.
Something wasn't right though. My body wasn't working the way it used to. Sleep wasn't restful. There was a constant blockage in my ears - like they needed to pop. There was pressure behind my eyes. My hair was thinning. My bones felt sharp. My clothes hung off me. My energy levels - low. My eating - disordered.
My doctor suggested I put on weight. My housemate asked how the thought of that made me feel. Petrified.
I became aware, then and there, of the cell. That being in the cell was making my world a small place.
Over the next few months, the parts of my cell I had found comforting were now a threat. The cracks weren't just quirks - there were hazards. The solitude wasn't just peaceful - it was isolating. I wasn't just hungry - I was starving.
The walls were caving in fast, and my therapist's mention of the word "hospitalisation" resonated loud - I needed to get out before the cell crumbled with me in it.
A plan is what we worked on next. A plan to get out safely to reach a healthy BMI. A literal food plan, careful note-taking and monitoring of the progress, establishing the safest moments to move forward and the times I needed to lie low.
Adrenaline and vulnerability like I'd never known before.
Some days I looked back, craving the drama-free quietness of my old home. I longed for the peace again, to not always need to watch and keep track of my every move.
But somehow, memory of life on the other side of the prison walls spurred me forwards. The hope people carried for me on the outside kept me running towards them.
And I did.
Towards the end of the year, I reached those walls. The BMI considered "normal". I began to climb, ready and rearing for life beyond.
But still, something not right. I could hear no birds chirping, no gentle trickle of a stream, no wind in no trees.
Instead, the world I knew before had turned against each other, it became so obvious when I reach the top of the wall. A civil war had broken out, and I needed to pick a side to fight for.
Two options. Go back to the quiet. Go back and risk never knowing a larger life, an adventurous life.
Or jump. Jump down and face the wide open space ahead, full of uncertainty. Of decisions. Of choosing which side of the war to fight on. Of risk. Of wrong turns. Of anxiety. Pain. Battles. Threats. Carbs. Identity. Purpose. Forgiveness. Love. Hope. Rest. Joy. Dinner parties and chocolate.

2013, I'm deciding to leave you behind. Deciding to be grateful for where you've brought me. To remember you as a battle won, strengthening me to fight 2014 with victory on my side.

PS. I wrote a story for Tell it in Colour last month. Read HERE

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

God is not loving, nor is He powerful...

I haven't blogged in months. Months and months. Let's not delay any longer...
I'm in the air at the moment, sat in a seat really high up above Wales. I'm headed back to Belfast via Dublin after a wonderful wonderful trip home. My soul needed it. I fell in love with Switzerfrance again.

Somewhere amidst all the beautiful food and scenery and weather and faces and car rides and wedding fun, I had stunning conversations. I'm going to tell you about a couple of them now.

An old friend and I were walking around a park with fenced off grassy patches because the Swiss like to fix things that don't need fixing and grow greener grass where it's already greener than most grass. As we were doing this, she was telling me about how she couldn't deny the existence of a powerful being anymore. She described how large and vast yet intimately linked with everything the being had to be in order for the world to be as it is and function the way it does. She said she can't call the being God. The being is too big to be the God of the Christians.

A couple days later, on the drive through the alps back to Geneva from the spa we had spent Tash's hen do at, our carload talked lengthily about the scars Christians had left them with. About the unloving, alienating nature of churches so far removed from the message they preach. The desire they all had to be loved was not met by what Christians had to offer.

Both these conversations initially blew me away, and then they upset me. Disturbed me. This is what the world thinks of our loving God. Our beautiful, grand, almighty, powerful God. They see a weak and careless being. One that has limits. One that falls short. That will disappoint. They're being fed lies. They're being fed lies because we are failing to show them our God.

The Jesus of the bible left heaven (which probably wasn't a very easy place to say goodbye to), came to earth, did a whole load of loving, conquered death, and then went home leaving Christians behind to represent Him until His return. We've been left with the HONOUR of wearing His name, carrying his flag, illustrating who He is with our lives. From the conversations I've had this week, it is pretty evident the real Jesus is not known. His reputation is being influenced by cheap tabloids. It is tarnished. It is wrong.

So now I'm headed back to Belfast. Rumour has it we are due 1 month's worth of rain in the next 24 hours. People often ask me why I live in such a place. I have spent most of my summer asking myself the same question, trying to figure out the purpose of my life in Belfast. I still have no real answer. Instead, I now have a new question. How can I be an ambassador for Love? Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing. How can I paint a true picture of who God is with my life? 

I refuse to live in a world where my God is not known as the loving and almighty being that He is. I'm willing to endure the rain for Love.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Enough with your lies, Mirror!

I looked.

It was like seeing an old, familiar face I hadn't seen in while (maybe because it was just that). I felt all the similar things you would feel when you see an old friend again after having been apart. It was like I was reunited with myself. I really enjoyed it. After I'd caught up with myself for a while, I noticed (unsurprisingly, really) that I didn't look all that different. Then I got excited about how long my hair seemed to be getting. And then I noticed just how much my eyebrows needed sorting.

The first forty-eight hours of mirror reunited life were peculiar. Every time I came across a mirror or a reflection of myself I had to double check whether or not it was ok to look. I would glance at myself, look away, and then realise I was allowed, so look again.

It's been 5 days now. I've looked at myself a fair few times now. It scares me a little that I'm going back into old habits and come away unchanged. This is why I've decided to no longer have a mirror in my bedroom. Being able to go back to my room in the evenings and get changed without thinking about what others thought about how I looked during the day has been one of my favourite perks of the challenge. Sitting in my bed and not getting distracted by my thoughts triggered by a glance into the mirror has also been wonderful. I want a healthy relationship with my mirror. I want to use my mirror as a means of enjoying my appearance, enjoying my hair style and my make-up and my outfit and my face and body and skin. Not as a tool that musters up and reinforces insecurities. Not as a critical presence in my life. Not as something I dread looking into. Not anymore. 

So I'm going to keep looking, but only when I'm using it to get ready, and only when it is conjuring up positive thoughts. I'm aware I'm not always going to like what I see, and that's ok, I'm just going to have to learn to walk away. Walk away when I'm not using it for any real purpose. Walk away when those 'not good enough' thoughts creep in, because staring at them is not going to help me understand that I am in fact, more than good enough.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Day LX (that's 60): Happy Distractions

I just did my hair for the last time without a mirror. I am now sat on a train travelling from Basingstoke to London Waterloo (not looking at my reflection in the window next to me) having spent a wonderful time with a wonderful friend (and her husband), on my way to spend some time with extended family, and can smell my shampoo, extra strongly aromatic today for some reason. No complaints.

I've come to the end of two months without mirrors. And I feel refreshed.

I've relied on my inner mirror for 60 days. The image of myself I have in my head. The one that has memories of what I look like, that imagines up a picture of me depending on how I groom myself. These images are inaccurate at times. Like the time a couple weeks ago I rocked up to a lecture thinking my makeup was presentable, but was greeted by a bunch of (honest) friends who leaped onto my face, fixing the explosion of eyeshadow that had somehow spread across it. If they had been a little less honest, or had a sense of humour closer to that of my father, I would never have known I looked like a 5 year old who had raided her mum's makeup bag and used the contents to craft a less than intricate work of art.

Until I was told I looked off, I had no idea. I contently walked about with my mind on something else.

That's how these couple months have been. I haven't been showed what I look like, and so the image in my head is what I had to go with. Thoughts did arise making me feel insecure, but not being able to look meant I was able to shrug them off quicker. I couldn't obsess over trying to fix my look, because well, I haven't been able to see how to do so. Not being able to look meant I looked elsewhere, got distracted, and spent less time thinking about my outward self.

Do I still have insecurities? Yes. Do I still care about what I look like? Yes. Do I want to start looking at myself again? Yes I do, and I'll let you know what has changed after my first look tomorrow!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Day XXX: Even in a good year, there aren't 30 days in February!

Today marked the final day of my challenge. I made it. I haven't seen myself in a month. So to celebrate, I'm going to not look at myself for another month! Bear with me, there is some logic behind this insanity:

1. I can't think of any other crazy challenges for the month of March.

2. I quite like the feel of my room with my mirror turned around the way it is.

3. I feel like if I stopped now, I would quickly slip back into my old vain habits.

4. I'm tempted to go a month without makeup, but i'm too chicken right now so this is a way of putting that off.

5. I have learned a lot, and I'm too fired up about learning more to stop now!

Now all I need is someone to pluck my eyebrows and trim my hair. Any takers?

(ps. Though I've hardly mentioned it, I've loved being off facebook. I loved how many more interesting and productive things I found to do. It's good to be back in touch with the world, but I'm setting myself a 30 minute time limit per day to stop me from partaking in any unhealthy, unnecessary activities)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Day XXVIII: Crooked Toes, Painful Prodding and Promised Joy

I looked in the mirror on Friday.

I was at the physio, because apparently I have shin splints caused by crooked big toes which are making my knees hurt when I run, and she made me look at my reflection to see what my knees do when I perform one-legged squats (after I figured out how to do a one-legged squat, it was evident that my knees bend slightly outwards). I wasn't aware of this before she pointed it out, nor did I know they weren't meant to bend that way (FYI I didn't look at myself above my knees in the mirror, so the challenge has not failed. I was also pleased to discover my mirror fast hasn't had an effect on my knee-hotness).

The physio gave me two options:

Numero uno - Not bother doing anything. Ignoring the problem isn't going to kill me, it just means running will always be a struggle.

Two - Go to the physio on a weekly basis to fix the shin splints by undergoing various forms of prodding(ouch!), get orthotics for the inside of my shoes to straighten my toes out, and eventually be able to run again.

Running is something I enjoy greatly, so the first option would pose a bit of a problem. Opting for the latter, though more painful and costly now, means I will run again.

I was shown in the mirror what needed to be changed, told how to change, and now the choice to change or not is my own to make! Changing is not the easy route, it's not the cheap route, but it's the route that'll allow me to run again!

Changing is central to living the life God wants us to live. We're called to change ourselves, and then join the fight to bring change to the world (Stay tuned: I'll talk about changing the world in an entry coming up!).

A common problem people have with Christianity lies within the "rules" the bible sets out. Dos and Don'ts and everything in between can overwhelm the reader, and failing to meet them leaves one basking in a pool of guilt. This is not the intention. The bible is more than just a mirror reflecting our bad sides. Its intention is precisely that of the physio: to show us our flaws, give us instruction on how to correct them, and provide us with more support than we will ever need to set them in place. It is not going to happen over night, or in one go, it's going to take sacrifice and patience and stumbles and pick ups and let downs and baby steps and tears and pain and sweat. In Luke 9, Jesus tells us to pick up our crosses and follow him. Daily. When Jesus picked up the cross he was killed on, he was battered and bruised and torn up all over. He picked up a massive tree-sized object and lugged it up a mountain. And he lugged it up a mountain all the while aware he was carrying the thing he was going to be nailed to for hours until he died.

Telling us to pick up our crosses daily in no way implies the ride/hike up the mountain is going to be an easy one. Quite the opposite, there's a daily challenge to face, a challenge not necessarily oozing excitement.

There is hope though. Not the airy-fairy kind of hope we play around with when we talk about the weather in Northern Ireland. The kind of hope the bible uses. A strong and confident expectation, a CERTAINTY that what God has promised will occur. There's a treatment with 100% recovery guaranteed. There's a freedom guaranteed. And that's the reflection God has planned for your mirror.

Question is, do you want to run?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Day XXII: Another uneventful entry

I am experiencing quite a dilemma (fun fact: dilemma and enema are the only two words that rhyme with my name, neither of which have terribly fun definitions).
I have 5 blog entries lined up, each of which is incomplete, each of which I'm undecided on, each of which could be merged with another of which. Truth: I'm feeling a bit uninspired. So uninspired in fact, that I'm not entirely convinced what I'm writing right now is important enough to blog about, but I figured you could do with an update on my challenge.
I'm still plodding along with it; only a week to go now! Today I went for an "unbrushed" look, a daring enough look when I can see the mane to tame it, so I struggled a bit more than I usually would with not being able to check the face out. Key lesson so far: learning that learning is not something you can necessarily see in the every day.
Now, to ensure you don't completely give up on this blog, here're a couple extras for you:

1. This prayer is doing me a world of good these days:

"Oh God, I have tasted Thy Goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing, I thirst to be made thirsty still. Show me Thy glory. I pray Thee, so that I might know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, 'Rise up, my fair one, and come away'. Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long" - A.W. Tozer

2. This video is stunning