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25.9.16

Leading on Empty

Our pastor was very gracious towards us and never put any pressure on us to serve or get involved in church at all. We were allowed time to grieve and get whole again and so we just sat in church Sunday after Sunday with no desire to do anything or speak to anyone. We came, we sat, we listened, we left. One night in a dream God spoke to Eric and told him that he must connect with people at church and so we started to stay afterwards for coffee and a little chat.

King's Daughters Girl's Nights was set up at our new church before D7 Church had closed down. It was one of the things that I was passionate about and was what we did to help churches with their women's ministries. Where they had nothing in place we would offer to set up a King's Daughters for them at their church. So I was involved in ministry already and had connected with many of the ladies through King's Daughters. Somehow, despite all that we had gone through I managed to keep going with King's Daughters. Sadly most Tuesday nights all I could muster was dragging myself there, often without makeup on or any enthusiasm at all. I don't know how I did it, only God knows, but he used the empty shell of a vessel to someone still pour out into these precious ladies. My heart wasn't in it but I was sincere in my leadership and did my absolute best for the ladies. The anti-depressants did help for a while and kept me going. Looking back I do wonder if it wasn't really damaging to take the anti-depressants as they allowed me to continue to lead on empty when I probably shouldn't have been leading at all.

Thankfully, when I prayed about my year towards the end of 2015 I felt God saying that 2016 would be a year of rest for King's Daughters. That I was not to do our annual conference and that until I heard further instructions from him I was to do nothing in this ministry but rest. So I committed to spending the year praying and investing in the people not the ministry. It was our seventh year as a ministry so it made perfect sense to have a rest year! Girl's Nights continued but I didn't build or plant anything new. God knew what was to come in 2016..
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18.9.16

Necessary Endings

It seemed that church was just not working! Everything became really hard work and the church grew emptier and emptier. Our very good friends from another church invited us to merge churches with them and we thought it may be a good idea. After some negotiations on titles, roles for our team and pay scales we decided to go ahead. At first it felt strange and we didn't feel that we fit in at all but we all tried our best to serve well. Perhaps it was wrong to merge and get stuck straight into ministry without taking time to grieve and to council our team through their grief. I certainly wasn't excited about Sundays at all and hated the season. It's not that there was anything wrong with the church at all. I loved the people! The service was lively, spirit filled and the teaching was spot on Bible based teaching. It was a beautiful church with beautiful people whom we loved and admired. But for some strange reason we were miserable and Sunday's became really difficult. One Sunday, Eric whispered in my ear mid-service that he wanted to go home, so we snuck out and went home. After a chat he said that he never wanted to go back so we left. Just like that. We hurt our best friends. We hurt their church. We just left!

My heart broke even more. I felt guilty. I had just started building new relationships and loving the people I was at church with. Despite my unhappiness with Sundays, I had done my best to settle and serve. Leaving just hurt all over again.  My heart was exhausted and ripped in pieces.

Our team agreed to leave with us and give D7 Church one final try and we gave it our all. Not that we didn't give it our all before but we gave it all we could possibly muster. We hung in for as long as we could. Everything that could be done to make church work was done. Our team were amazing even though it ended up being the same faithful five people always doing all of the work. Creativity blossomed as we tried new and unusual things to build our church thinking that perhaps God wanted us to think outside the box. One of our ideas even got us a radio interview. We announced that we were going to be giving away money to each person who came to a particular service. There would be no strings attached and the point was to teach on Biblical money principles and then give each person a starting point which is exactly what we did. Many were grateful for the small seed of £20 that we gave to all who came along.

Perhaps we could have made it, perhaps we should have hung on a little longer. No, it wouldn't have worked as the team went down to Eric and I and even I didn't want to go to church anymore as it was so depressing! What went wrong? Who knows, we have analysed it to death over the years, seen all of our mistakes and tried to think what we could have done differently. Our dream was to build a large thriving church where people would encounter the living God and be radically transformed. In our mind we saw entire communities being transformed and wanted to make a difference all the way to government level. It broke our heart when met for the final time on Sunday 30th March 2014.

Failure is hard, loss is difficult but when you have failed and lost in the things of God it seems harder. You feel as if you have let God down. One thing that no one tells you when you pastor a church is that it too, just like a business, can fail. If the books don’t balance and your income is less than your expenses, you can fail. If you don’t have a committed team to keep up with the work you can fail. If people just don’t feel like coming on Sundays you fail.  And on top of all that you blame yourself for not being good enough!  Not praying enough, not hear God well enough, not working hard enough, not loving the people enough and just about everything else under the sun. Failing in ministry is the worst kind of failure, it's horrible.

Eric said he didn't want to go to church for a while. Even though I was hurting I knew that I had to go to church for the children's sake. They too grieved. Sometimes they just randomly started crying and when asked what was wrong they said that they missed D7 Church. It took a lot longer than I ever imagined to start feeling a little bit better about it all.

I had become friends with the pastor of a local church through King's Daughters and so decided to take the children there so that they had somewhere to go while we figured things out. They loved it and were happy so I kept on going even though I didn't want to go to church at all either. After a few weeks God spoke to Eric and told him to go to church so he started coming with me. He did so out of pure obedience to God as he really didn't want to go to church either. Looking back I would say that the first year we were both numb and all we could manage was to pitch up and be present on Sundays. I became burnout and depressed and the doctor put me on anti-depressants.
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11.9.16

Raging Storms

Storms raged all around me, not in the natural of course but the storms of life. The next season is a bit blurry as it was almost too painful to bear. First it was my second eldest daughter who left home. For the sake of her privacy and to protect all involved I can't tell you too much about it but let's just say that family life got really nasty for us all and it resulted in Jordan leaving home at only seventeen years old. Oh how I wish I could tell you the details so you could understand how much my heart was ripped out, how my marriage was hanging together by a thread and how losing Jordan not only hurt but confirmed my complete failure as a parent to her. Just believe me that it was nasty, unnecessary and very painful and left me broken in a way that I have never experienced before. I was even faced with a choice on one occasion where I was made to choose between my daughter and my husband! What would you do in that situation - it was not nice and I refused to choose either.

It may have been weeks, possibly months but certainly not very long after Jordan left that the next storm hit and if losing a daughter wasn't enough I had to face almost losing a son. We noticed that something was wrong with our son, Daniel who was 7 years old. He seemed fit and well and nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that he was drinking unusual amounts of water. It got so bad that he had to get up during the night several times to have a drink and of course go to the toilet. So after about a week of this I decided it best to go see a doctor even though it seemed like a silly symptom to go to the doctor for.

Everything from the doctor's appointment is a bit of a surreal haze and even two years and nine months on, I can remember the shock as if it were yesterday. The doctor did a urine test and afterwards looked gravely concerned and called the hospital.  Daniel was sent over as soon as possible and we were told to be prepared for him to stay overnight. He didn’t say what was wrong. Upon arriving at the hospital Daniel was seen immediately and had blood tests. I don’t recall exactly what happened or the order of events, all I remember is that his blood sugar was 33  (normal is between 4 – 7). They said they were surprised that he looked as well as he did and was not in a coma. He was that ill!

Daniel was admitted to hospital and we spend the next week at his bedside learning about type 1 diabetes, watching him crying as he had his finger pricked and blood taken often during the day and night. It was heart wrenching. Eric and I were in shock. After a week of excellent education by the NHS diabetic team, we were expected to start caring for him. They assured us that he would not be allowed home until they felt confident that we were able to manage his blood tests and insulin injections. We had to learn how to count carbohydrates, check his blood sugar levels and give him 4 to 6 injections a day. The severity of the situation was heavily impressed upon us and we were reminded that if his blood sugars went too high or too low he could die. It seemed every 5 minutes we were reminded that it was a life threatening lifelong disease that could not be cured ever.

Eric and I were exhausted from being in hospital, little sleep coupled with a lot of worry and uncertainty. We reached a point where we just wanted our family back home all together so we could get some sense of normality back into our life. Although it was clear life would never be the same again we craved some sort of routine. Each day we were asked if we were ready to give Daniel his injections. In the past Eric has passed out when he saw me have an injection during labour with Amy, I could not see him ever coping with this. I thought I would be fine but when they put the insulin pen in my hand I burst out crying. There was no way I could ever inject my son, or so I thought.

Much to my surprise Eric took the pen and gave Daniel his injection. I asked Eric how he managed to do it as I simply couldn’t and he said that he knew that if he didn’t, Daniel would not be able to come home. The nurses kept reassuring me that things would get better and giving the injections would become easier. Although I believed them and knew it was true I couldn’t see how. Eric became highly competent in caring for Daniel and so he was allowed home. I struggled. I couldn’t do the injections. I couldn’t prick his finger to test his blood. I was a mess. Shock, confusion and tiredness took over.
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4.9.16

Mistakes, Regrets and Hopelessness

In my previous post I mentioned my many mistakes and regrets! There are too many to write about but I will do my best to highlight a few as accurately as possible. Even though I know God has forgiven me and hopefully the people involved have too, I cannot fully forgive myself even though I know I should. I want to keep the sting real so that I never make the same mistakes again. It's not that I want to punish myself and I have tried my best to forgive myself, it's just that I don't ever want to hurt people again.

Although church life had become difficult there was still much joy in the journey. We launched King's Daughters in 2009 and recorded our very first album, King's Square, with our original songs in 2010. We had so much fun both with King's Daughters and making music together as a church. Things seemed to be going well even though they were a little tougher than at first.

My first big mistake was based purely on my own insecurity and it shouldn't surprise you to know that I wrote an entire book on that subject too! So here is a little extract from Secure on the Rock where I recount one of my silly mistakes.

Huddled in the corner of the studio, I was sitting holding back the tears whilst telling myself to stop these silly thoughts. I knew I was being pathetic and there was no way I was going to cry about it! So there I sat, giving myself a telling off, all the while trying to look like I was alright. The band looks on from the other room, oblivious to my inner turmoil. It's hard for me to hide my feelings, my face always gives my feelings away so I thought I'd better put some distance between me and them so that they can't see my struggle.

The band has been awesome, incredibly supportive and regularly offering lovely comments about how well I was doing. Their kindness was consistent all through Monday and Tuesday, but this is crunch time, the final vocal recording time. The pressure was now on!

The journey has been incredible, I can’t even believe that I am in this position and able to be involved in something this amazing. It has been quite surreal really. Not only have I had the privilege of writing some of the songs for this album, but I also have this mind blowing opportunity to sing some of them. I never, ever dreamed I would get to do this. I have always loved singing... in the shower, and have always loved moments in God’s presence. Often I have found myself lost in His presence singing a brand new song from my heart.
Since I first became a Christian I have loved worship, but all through the years I never, ever considered joining the choir or the band. It never crossed my mind. I was turned down for the choir when I was about nine years old so since then I had decided that I wasn’t a singer. It was that simple for me and ever since then I have never considered singing in any capacity whatsoever.

It all started when the band started having practice at our home. I used to be in my room or in the kitchen washing dishes whilst they practiced the set list for Sunday. More often than not, I would sing along and enjoy a moment of worship as the band played nearby. I am not sure how it all started, but I got the desire to sing in the band with them. Occasionally I would help Eric with band practice by taking the singers to one side and helping them practice while he concentrated on helping the musicians.

I did this for about a year, and even though I have a good ear for music and was able to help them get the right notes, I still never considered actually singing myself. I was happy to help Eric in any way that I could and I enjoyed doing singing exercises with the singers.

As I worked with the singers I did notice that I was very insecure around one of them. She sang beautifully and was very pretty. She was also very outgoing, chatty and a bit flirty. She was everything I was not and somehow being around her highlighted all my areas of lack. Her boobs were a bit of a problem for me too because you couldn’t miss them, they always seemed to be on show! I have breastfed four children and it showed but I had never felt inadequate in that area until she showed up. My thoughts were that if I couldn’t miss them, then neither could Eric or any of the men for that matter! The insecurity crept in and although I genuinely don’t think I was jealous, I did feel inadequate around her.

I say I wasn’t jealous because I really don’t want such heavy boobs. At times I also felt that she didn’t really like them, she seemed uncomfortable when at church events, as she knew we expected her to keep them tucked away and not on display so as not to tempt the men and teenage boys into sexual thoughts. I could see her struggle, a part of her wanted to be sexy and have them showing as much as possible, while a part of her wanted to be a good church girl and keep them neatly tucked away. I felt sorry for her at times as this struggle was a result of a decision she made.

Yes, I know I have gone into a lot of detail, but I want to be real or there is no point to me writing this book. I know many of us girls think like this but very few actually say it. This girl was the cause of a huge six month struggle with insecurity which obviously caused a lot of friction in our church and between Eric and me. Of course people probably didn’t know that it was my insecurity that was the problem but I am very sure they knew something wasn’t right.

Generally speaking, I was secure in who I was and had a pretty stable identity. There were moments of complete and utter out of control insecurity though and those were dreadful, but I will get into that more later on. For now, let’s get back into the singing thing. She sang beautifully but had no confidence, like me she had never sung in public before and seemed to have never considered herself as a singer. I found myself encouraging her and trying to draw some confidence out of her so that she could flourish in this area. Even though I felt insecure around her it never once crossed my mind that I wanted to sing or be like her or take her place. That thought just never came. My insecurity was purely based on my own fear that Eric found her attractive and that was the one thing that drove me crazy.

Eventually I shared my struggle with Eric; I simply couldn’t bear this burden alone any longer and felt very guilty for even having this struggle. Surely a pastor’s wife should not struggle with things like this? Eric was great about it and assured me that she simply wasn’t his type at all and listed all the reasons, which I loved! He also went on to tell me all the things that he loved about me and how not only does he not need or want anyone else but also that he has chosen me and therefore will never consider anyone else but me. This really helped me and from time to time we had this conversation and my insecurity was consoled by my darling Eric’s kind words.

I better warn you though that this is not the way to deal with insecurity at all, you can’t depend on another human being to make you feel better. It is essential to cut it out from the root and build a strong foundation and strong identity. Even though I knew this, I wasn’t quite ready to get to the root of it. I used Eric’s kind words to buy me time until I was brave enough to eradicate my insecurity. His comfort was precious and he did his best to help me through patches of insecurity, all the while I knew that it wasn’t solving the problem at all.


This little story doesn't end here, it continues on and on as I dealt with this poor woman based on my insecurity and not on how God saw her. As a leader I know now that I should have asked God to show me how he saw her and also how he saw me. I should not have compared myself, I should not have been jealous of what she had that I didn't, I should not have been intimidated around her and worst, the worst part of it all is that I should not have used my position of authority in her life to make myself feel better. There are things that I did and said that should not have been done and said. Looking back I am so ashamed, she is such a wonderful, precious woman of God and I would give anything to just go back and do everything differently. I would love her, celebrate her, encourage her and help her find all that God had install for her.

Too many women are leading as I did - STOP IT! It's horrible and hurtful to too many people. You must know who you are in God's eyes and lead with confidence in who he made you to be. Comparing yourself to other people is the most dangerous thing to do every and can only bring misery into your life and theirs.

Let's move on from that lovely lady and onto the next one... yes there are many sadly. This lady was lovely too and was a good friend before I ruined it! She and her husband were faithful team members in our church, generous tithers and a real pillar to our church. They did the best they could and submitted even when they disagreed with our decisions or methods. They were older and wiser than us but never tried to lead us. All in all they were an asset to our church and great friends to us. I was an idiot and reprimanded her in front of a group of people. At the time, I thought it was the Biblical thing to do, you know, the two or three witnesses thing, but looking back I realise that I forgot the first steps and should have shared my feelings with her privately, as a friend. She would have heard my heart and respected what I said I am sure. The way I dealt with her was terrible and hurtful and I am sure I hurt her more than once too. Despite my terrible leadership they did their best to remain in our church and do their best until they could no more and had to leave. We suffered a terrible loss not only of a key family in our church but also some really lovey friends.

Our church started to shrink as the quality people moved on. More and more homeless people joined us as we offered free sandwiches and coffee to get them to church. It worked but without the mature Christian leaders in place to care for and disciple them we were stuck in a messy situation that we couldn't cope with. Hopelessness started setting in and church went down a path that we didn't want it to and seemed to have no control over.
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