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30.7.16

The Wedding Day

#9

 

On 17 September 2014 we began our happily ever after at a garden wedding in Cannizaro Park, London. It's not as grand as it sounds, we have no money at all and pulled off the most beautiful wedding very creatively. Our church friends really pulled together for us and if I had a million pounds to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing! We did the legal side of our wedding in the registry office in the morning and then in the afternoon had the 'real' wedding in a public park. Our friends were so amazing at making our day perfect. One friend surprised us by buying and arch and decorated it with lace, she also created an aisle out of ribbing and organised our picnic as well as our pastor's picnic. I am sure she did so much more arranging and organising behind the scenes that I probably don't event know about, but that is just the type of amazing friend that she is.

A lady from church who we barely knew offered to make our cake - and it wasn't any old cake - check this out!

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Another friend played chauffeur and drove me through the busy London traffic to the park - the alternative was that I took a bus in my wedding dress! One friend did my makeup and nails, another took care of my girls while we were on honeymoon, another let me borrow some shoes, two other friends took the photos and another lovely friend bought my lovely bouquet.

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We did our wedding invitations online so there were no printing costs and we spend our wedding night at our home which was much more special than a hotel. Our honeymoon was all we had to pay for and we had an amazing time in Sardinia, Italy.

It was a perfect start to our life together and once again, our church played a massive part in our happiness. Without our church friends and pastors I can't imagine what we would how done and how different our wedding day would have been.
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26.7.16

The Man of my Dreams

As I looked up to the stage where the musicians were playing I saw this man who seemed to be surrounded my light. Inside I said, "Wow he is so beautiful!". I didn't mean it in a pretty boy way but I sensed purity and loveliness. It was quite new to me and I just knew that there was something special about him. I watched him closely as he played his guitar.

Weeks passed by and God did the most amazing things in my life, He spoke so many things to me of the future and what would still happen. I no longer found myself repenting of the past and trying to make up for it but rather being completely and utterly overwhelmed by His love and filled with excitement for the future. It was incredible. At the same time I became increasingly 'aware' of the guitarist on the stage each Sunday at church. After some time I wasn't sure if I was excited to go to church to worship God or to see him again. It was a difficult infatuation as I desperately didn't want to be the person I used to be and to do things the way I used to do them. I longer for purity and a clean heart before God. No boy was going to get in the way of that. Not even a very attractive guitarist!

I cried before God saying how sorry I was about my feelings toward this man. Deep down inside I genuinely only wanted Jesus, I did not want the feelings I had and begged God to take them away from me. After what felt like an eternity, probably only a few weeks actually, I decided that if God didn't take them away then I was cautiously going to explore them. Being the planner and schemer that I am I devised a strategy to get him to notice me. I was on the coffee team in church and saw him every Sunday. Little did I know that getting him to notice me subtly was Mission Impossible I, II and III all put together. I prayerfully proceeded with caution but decided that the best way to meet him was to get to know his friends, which I did! It wasn't long before we were introduced and I was love-struck! His version of our first meeting is very different to mine - not in a good way either. In my attempt to mask my feelings for him and my nervousness of our first meeting I apparently looked so scary that he went to the bathroom to check if his hair was funny or if he had something on his face.

Telling our story now is very romantic but relevant to the church journey that I am trying to tell you. Church was key in our meeting, in our coming together as a couple and ultimately our marriage. We met at a point in our lives where we were both the other side of broken and completely sold out for Jesus. Church was extremely important to us both and so was our Christianity.

I did meet the man of my dreams at church. Church is a wonderful place to meet people, both friends and potential husbands! The great thing about meeting someone at church is that if you are both involved in the life of the church and serving then you have so many ways of observing each other and getting to know someone before making yourself vulnerable to them in a romantic way. I was always encouraged to get to know a guy in a group of friends and as a friend before allowing him close enough to turn your brains into mush. Well my brain was pretty mushed right from the first time I saw him but getting to observe him at church and getting to see who his friends were and how he behaved was wonderful. I have seen very many beautiful relationships blossom in churches. My closest and dearest friendships were formed in and through church, my children have grown up in church and made lovely friends too and I hope that one day they too will meet their future spouse in the wonderful setting of church.

 

 
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20.7.16

God Moves Suddenly

It was time to move. I can't really explain why I felt this as my church had been a huge part of my healing and recovery, however, I felt that God was moving me to another church in London. Looking back now I know why but you will have to wait for this part of the story - it's really rather exciting!

And so I moved on, with my pastor and home group's reluctant blessing, from one church in London to another one. Church became the highlight of my week, I counted the days until Sunday, that's how much I loved church. It was vibrant and lively, full of amazing people who were crazy about Jesus. I loved the worship, the preaching, the coffee, the home groups and got involved in as much as possible. Even though I hadn't fully walked through the consequences of the previous season I was already seeing a harvest from the new seeds I had sown. If you sow financially you will reap financially, if you sow in friendships you will reap in friendship and I had grown to love some amazing friends. They took such good care of me and my girls, even though they were mostly young single people they were always mindful that I was a single mum and made a way for us to be involved in 'normal' London life. It was so much fun! We were having fun for the first time in... well since coming to the UK.

My desire to lead crept up, I didn't actively seek leadership positions but joined teams, served and ended up leading a team, serving on another team and leading and a home group. Christmas was spend with about 20 other lovely people and my home was buzzing, always filled with lovely people, parties (the good kind), prayer meetings, girl's nights, home group, BBQ's and just a full and amazing life. Church was not a Sunday thing at all! It was a 24/7 thing and it changed my life. God gave us a beautiful new three bedroom home which was like a palace compared to our studio flat. Even moving was fun, again at least 20 people got involved and we had a big party afterwards to celebrate.

One particular Sunday morning I woke up with a song stuck in my head. It was a worship song from church and as I sung it while I was getting ready for church I knew deep down inside that when we sung that song in church something BIG was going to happen. I didn't know what but I knew that something was about to happen in my life. I took a wedding photo from my first marriage with me. I was walking along the Thames River to church chatting to God about how sad I felt that I had messed up my life in the past. I said,

"Oh well God, at least you have a plan B for me."

To which I head an instant reply,

"There is no plan B, you are still on plan A."

Wow, what an amazing thought, God still had a perfect plan for my life! I walked up to the river and threw the wedding photo in whilst praying that God would help me shut the door and move on in my life. I prayed a little prayer and put that season of my life in my past. With a skip in my step I went to church. I worshiped my heart out but was a little disappointed when we sat down for the preaching as the song that I was convinced was going to trigger something big, wasn't sung. The preacher must have prepared his sermon just for me as it touched my heart so deeply. At the end of the sermon he said something like, "If you don't feel beautiful stand up." I don't recall the exact words I just remember standing up and as I stood it happened! The intro to the song started and I KNEW something was about to happen. Let me quote this part of the story from my book, Secure on the Rock:
I stood struggling to sing the words of the song but determined to get a few out.  My eyes closed and my hands stretched out to heaven, I waited… then bam!

 

My Rescuer made his majestic appearance and reached into my chained up heart. I bent over and cried deeply and (unfortunately) loudly as He ripped all the “stuff” out of me. I began trembling and shaking a little.  This was not the sort of church where this sort of thing happened; we were way to cool for emotional outbursts, so I tried to keep calm.  The pastor stood up and told everyone to sit down. I couldn’t, I was frozen and could hardly control my body.  After a few uncomfortable minutes I managed to sit down.  Once seated I just cried and cried and cried.

 

My left leg started shaking uncontrollably and the rest of my body shook.  People around me asked if I was alright and I motioned to them that I was fine.  I saw in my mind a closed door and felt in my heart that God was saying that He had shut the door to my past.  It was over, the heartache, the struggle, the pain was all over.  His hand had closed the door.  It wasn’t done by my will or strength; He shut it and at the exact same time, opened the door to my future.

 

I continued to shake and cry so the people seated around me laid hands on me as God continued to work in me.  He told me that He had shut the door on my past; everything I was struggling with up to that point was behind that closed door now, never to be opened again.  This was a fresh start, a clean slate, a totally new beginning!  The shaking got less and all I could say was “Thank you Jesus”.  I kept on saying this until the shaking and crying stopped.

 

I knew something life changing had just occurred. He touched me, He gave me the breakthrough that I have cried out to Him for, fasted for, prayed for and begged for.  He gave me a breakthrough in my heart and I knew I would never be the same again.

 

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." - John 8:36
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11.7.16

5 Reasons Why I Teach My Children to Tithe

"see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love."
2 Corinthians 8:7-8

Generosity, tithing (10% of your income) and offering sermons are never popular. Could it be because we sometimes do not like when people mess with our god, causing us to feel the need to defend it? Or perhaps we want to to be in control and do whatever we want with what does not even belong to us in the first place?! I could be wrong but I sense that if we cannot give up everything (including control) we cannot be Jesus' disciples. Jesus never asked for 10%, or 50% or 99%. He asked for 100%.

I teach my children to do two things with their money:

  1. To bring 10% of their income to the church.

  2. To put 10% towards savings.


As Christians we have to be intentional towards generosity. We need to display it to our children and God's house (the church) is a great way to do this. Some people right now are teaching their children to gather, be in total control and fearful when comes to trusting God financially. Don't get me wrong, we must do our part. Tithing is the first step. But there are also offerings and the whole concept of leading a generous life. Do you have to tithe? No. Are there consequences? I believe there is.

Here are five reasons why I teach my children to tithe:

  1. Tithing teaches them gratitude, not a sense of entitlement.

  2. Tithing teaches them that God is in absolute control of their finances not them.

  3. Tithing teaches them to set their treasure in the right place.

  4. Tithing teaches them passion and zeal for God's house.

  5. Tithing teaches them the principle of firstfruits. God must always be first.


How about you? What do you think?
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9.7.16

God Places the Lonely in Families

Back to my church story and this part is a really happy part of the story :) It comes after the terrible mess I made of my life, after my first marriage failed due to my stupidity and after I moved away from Crawley London to start over with my girls. Just a quick glimpse into the low point so that you can appreciate how high the highs were. This is an extract from my very first book, Hope's Journey.
"During a very dark and confusing season, when I was living a shameful lifestyle and going through a divorce, God spoke to me.   I was sitting in the hallway drinking wine and crying my heart out.  Sadness, confusion, helplessness and total aloneness was closing in on me. The razor blade was already bloody as I had attempted to hack into my wrists.  Pain consumed me as life had become completely unliveable!

 

Whilst I sat there crying in agonising pain, I cried out to God to help me.  I said that I didn’t want to live anymore and couldn’t see any way forward except to keep trying to hit a vein on my wrist.  Then I heard this voice in my heart that said;

 

“Angela, the next cut on your wrist will do the job.  If you cut again you will die.  Is this what you want?  It is your choice but I am warning you that the next cut is your final one.  What do you want?”

 

I quickly sobered up as I realised the reality of my situation.  Lorah and Jordan’s faces flashed before me in my mind and I realised how much my death would hurt them.  It would have been very selfish to leave them that way.  Nevertheless, the urge to die was still strong.  I sat there contemplating the consequences of leaving my children in this manner and cried the deepest cry I have ever cried and said to God;

 

“I want to live but I don’t know how to, please help me!”

 

The following day I started to rebuild my life. "

It is from here that I pick up and of course the first thing I had to do was find a church. I did this before I found a home or a job. I knew church was the most important part of rebuilding my life. Even though I had to walk out the consequences of my bad choices I was excited because I knew that God was with me. He didn't take away the pain but He gave me peace, He didn't remove the consequences but He gave me keys to walk them out and finally He showed me that even though I was reaping the consequences of what I had sown I was to sow new seeds so that the next season would offer a better harvest. So this is what I did, in the midst of the pain of rebuilding a new life for my girls and I, I sowed new seeds.  I read my Bible each day, prayed to my God, joined a church, joined a home group and made myself accountable. Within ten days of moving to London I had two job offers for a great job! God told me to chose either and He would bless me. I then found a lovely little home for our fresh start which God miraculously provided for me. It was impossible to secure a tenancy agreement in my situation with no employment history, no savings for a deposit, no references and two little children. The first miracle was that the landlord agreed to me staying in his property, the second miracle was how the church helped me financially so I could pay the deposit and buy food as I had not started my new job yet. From that point I lived on miracles! I could write an entire book of all that God did and how he provided that year.

I felt alive and well for the first time ever! God spoke to me loud and clear and guided me every step of the way. I never felt that being a single mother was difficult because we were place in a lovely church family where everyone chipped in and my girls were being raised and provided for not only by me but by about 12 other lovely people too! It was incredible and we were blessed and our cup was running over. Yes there were still things I was working out, mistakes I was making and a mess I was still cleaning up with God's help but I always had someone at the end of my phone to talk to, a counsellor who was patiently walking with me from brokenness to wholeness and some wonderful friends who helped in so many ways. I was finding freedom and joy in my new church family.

"God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy." - Psalm 68:6
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4.7.16

Building a Great Team

 

 

Just came across these team training notes, and since my work involves team building and training, I thought this could be helpful.

You cannot build a strong organisation without a strong team. You cannot build a strong team without building the people within the team. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? However many times we see our team as a whole module forgetting the components that make up that module. When dealing with a team I try to keep things as simple as I can. This helps towards effective communication. The chart below has helped me to quickly assess where a team member is at. You might find it overly simple. I like simple. I believe simple can help leaders to unclutter, to see clearly beyond the mess and focus on the results we look for. Every now and then via conversations I ask a team member the following:

  1. What is your main challenge at the moment? This question helps to spot problems.

  2. What do you fell you need in order to perform better? This question helps to spot their main need.

  3. What is your passion? This question helps when recruiting as well as with matching their job description with what they actually enjoy doing. You don't want someone who hates talking on the phone attempting sales calls.

  4. What you can provide. This will help you to think of how you can provide a solution in order for the person to perform better within their team.


Let's look a little bit more into the four categories;

Problem - When you detect a problem (e.g. poor performance) within a team you've got to act immediately. You just cannot afford to ignore the issue and expect it to go away. It won't. The longer you take the more the problem will grow and spread among the team. So write the main problem on this part of the chart.

Need - Is the problem caused by a particular need (e.g. training, budget). Assess the need by asking direct questions (e.g. what do you think your primary need is?).  Also assess past performance to detect not perceived but actual needs.

Passion - Do you know what your team member is passionate about? This part of the chart should be revealing something to you. Is the person in the right role? Perhaps their dreams are different to what they are doing at the moment. People will flourish when they start doing what they love. After discussing the topic add their passion to this part of the chart.

Solution - This is your chance to write down a solution in order to move your team member forward. Take this opportunity to describe what is required from you and your team member in order to achieve results. Be concise and clear - I've found that too much information tends to get people confused.

The chart above can also be used as a tool in interviews, appraisals, coaching and informal meetings.  If you want to zero in on a problem, focus, think, develop and provide clear solutions with clear instructions, why not give the above development chart a try and let me know if it worked for you too.

 

Why not keep it simple!
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1.7.16

The Body of Christ

"For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." 1 Corinthians 12 - 12

Before I continue with my church journey I wanted to take a look at how awesome the body of Christ is. No matter where I have been geographically, emotionally or spiritually I have always been a part of the body of Christ. During a dark season as a backslidden Christian when I was about 19 I first discovered the beauty of the body of Christ. I loved Jesus, I always did and always will do, but I went through a patch of unGodliness where I loved other things more. I got caught up in the party scene through a Christian friend and started drinking alcohol through that same friend. Up to that point I was a good Christian girl trying to work out my faith. Being a teenager who grew up too quickly, the pull of parties and fun was too much and I gave in. It wasn't long before I no longer attended church and was out until silly o'clock leaving my baby girl with baby sitters. I was having so much fun until one day the consequences starting to kick in, my marriage fell apart and I felt dirty inside. It was a terrible season. The partying and a boy took me away to another town where I initial went to party but then decided to clean up my act and sort my life out.

Church was the starting point, I knew that I had to find a church if I was ever going to fix my life. It was so lovely to get into a church and feel right at home. I worshipped God like I had never stopped, listened to the preaching with a hungry heart and at the end went up for prayer ministry to begin my journey back to God. Even though I was in a different town and a very different place, I was still a part of the body and fit right into the local church.

I am ashamed to say that this wasn't the only time I backslid, I have turned away from God twice in my life! The point is not how bad I have been but how amazing the body of Christ is. Each time I wanted to come back to God and fix my life I found a local church and got planted. No matter where I was there were always lovely people that welcomed me, sincere and caring people who listened to my story and patiently helped me work out the consequences of my sin so that I could get back onto the right path. I experienced this in Knysna, South Africa, Johannesbury, South Africa, Crawley, England and London, England to name but a few places where I have felt at home in church. Wherever I have been and whatever season I have been in the church has welcomed me with open arms. Each person faithfully doing what they are meant to do in the body.

"If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." - 1 Corinthians 12: 15 - 18

I had times when I have really needed the ministry of 'the hand', to love and to offer practical support like when moving home or needing help putting up a curtain rail. This may sound silly but I know that as a part of the body I can always find practical help if I need it. The ear has been vital to my journey, all those lovely kind people who have listened. There are many examples of how the body has helped me so very much. I too have a part to play and hope that even though I have received much from many churches I have also given much so that I too have played my part in the body of Christ.

It is a beautiful and phenomenal thing and even though I am not planted in a church in this season I still feel a part of the body of Christ. One friend from a particular church came over to my home offer me comfort and a bunch of flowers, another friend from a different church spent hours listening to me pour out my soul, another friend from a different church is covering me in prayer and..... well you get the picture! We do need to be planted in a church but the body of Christ is so much bigger than that and stretches beyond the boundaries of each individual church. I don't currently feel safe or settled in a church but I do still feel a part of the beautiful body of Christ.

Thank you to all who are looking out for me as I find my way through this dark stormy season.
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