Mrs Williams

Jubilee 2012

Now, I must start this with a somewhat controversial statement. I love the Queen! I know there are lots of issues with monarchy, but I think ours is something to be proud of. Politically I think it’s great to have a national figurehead and ambassador who is not tied to political standpoint, and who does not represent government decisions. Economically, the royal family bring in tons of money to the UK economy and frankly, our current queen has shown a massive amount of class and dignity through hundreds of world changes and difficult situations, so I’m a fan. I’ve had some red, white and blue cupcakes today, and I’m enjoying the jubilee coverage on TV.Its nice to have something to celebrate in this country!!

However, watching this jubilee stuff is interesting. Our country are celebrating BIG time this weekend, because someone has done a job she was born into and had no choice about for 60 years at no personal cost or sacrifice really, whilst living a life of luxury. Do you know what Jubilee actually means?

The word Jubilee comes from the bible, and describes the ancient law that at the end of seven cycles of seven years, so every 49 years, debts were cancelled, slaves were freed and lands were returned to their original owners. This was the jubilee year, recognising that God actually owns everything, so noone should hold onto anything for too long.

CAN YOU IMAGINE?!

The significance that this kind of action would have on our society is unimaginable!

Here’s a jubilee worth getting involved with

http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/jubilee

This would be something worth really celebrating!!!

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Easter 2012

I have lots of blogs I could write today, I could tell you about how lent went (very well on some challenges, pretty poorly on others), I could write about my home-made hot cross buns (not great), I could write about the egg-celent easter fayre my church put on yesterday and how a new guy came to our church because of it, I could write about the hilarious video I’ve spent the weekend making for my gorgeous friend Carla who is getting married in 3 weeks and whose bridal shower I cant go to as its in the states.

But today is for something else. Today is Easter, and I want to write about that.

I try hard not to force my faith down my friends throats, I believe what I believe, they generally know roughly what that is, and I live in certain ways because of that, but I don’t like to put that onto anyone too forcefully because I think they deserve the right to believe what they believe as much as I do. I’ll chat about it to people who ask, but I don’t go on about it too much.

But this morning in church I realised how much I am shaped by the story of Easter. I know I probably should have known that already as a life-long Christian and churchgoer, but somehow it was only this morning that it clicked that the Easter story is MY story. It’s amazing that it happened, but its most amazing because is HAPPENS! My life is the story of death defeated and life in all its fullness, not just death defeated on that day 2000 years ago, but death defeated just a few years ago in my heart.

My Christian journey has been long and winding with moments of deep certainty, elation and fulfillment as well as questions, hurt and doubt. But around 4 years ago I went through a real dark time when I just didnt get it any more, I  didnt connect with church or faith or God. I felt so alone, and so hurt and damaged by the experiences that got me there. I started to make some bad decisions, tell lots of lies and stopped caring about most peoples opinions or feelings,  I wasn’t out and out nasty, but I didn’t mind ignoring the opinions of people I’d respected for years. I stopped going to church, and tried to run away from all of the things that had held me in church throughout my childhood and adolescence. I was so hurt and angry and deeply damaged that I couldnt take any more, so I decided not to be open or vulnerable anymore. Church jargon talks about sin and shame, and as much as those words don’t make sense to everyone, I cant think of many better ones to describe my life, my choices or my state of mind at that time.

One of the reasons I was so angry was that God had brought me out of a situation that was bad for me, but by this point I couldn’t see why anymore. I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere that was any better than the old life, and I felt so angry that I had lost so much and gained so little. It was a real wilderness experience, and although they are mentioned throughout the bible, I felt like the first person to go through it! Sara Groves sings a song about the experience the children of Israel had in the desert after leaving Egypt which says ‘I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, but leaving out what it lacks, cos the future feels so hard and I wanna go back. But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned, those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned’ and that was exactly how I felt!!

There aren’t many times in my life that I’ve felt I’ve heard from God, I don’t get booming voices or prophetic dreams, but during that darkness, God did speak to me. He spoke to me about having a plan for my life, and about what I needed to do to be in line with that plan. He spoke to me about needing some security and stability in my life, and challenged me to go and find that. He spoke to me about the need for real relationships that are raw and honest and accountable. I know that not everyone who reads my blog believes this stuff, and like I said, I don’t want to ram it down anyones throat, but for me, there was no doubt that God spoke to me, and changed me.

Since then there have been lots more twists and turns in the road, but I have found some of the security and stability I needed in the form of a wonderful church who have loved me through a lot of the hurt. I have met a wonderful man, and understand now what God was preparing me for, and I have learned some hard but fulfilling lessons about obedience from my incredible parents who have upped-sticks and moved to an incredibly difficult situation in order to serve a God who needs obedient people. I am a changed person because of the work of a resurrected God.

This Easter, I am in awe of a God who would send his son to die because he thinks I am worth it. I am blown away by the power of my God who raised Jesus from the dead and defeated death and sin. But I am also the product of a resurrection story, I have been brought from a place of death and darkness into a place of life and hope, and although I dont like to ram my faith down peoples throats, I do want to share this experience because it is so integral to who I am. I have friends who, right now, are in those dark places and who need to hear that there’s another side to them. Some who believe in God and need him to intervene, and some who don’t believe in God but need something to happen.

So this Easter, I danced and I clapped and I grinned as I sang MY song ‘Oh Happy Day, You washed my sin away, Oh Happy Day, I’ll never be the same, forever I am changed!!”

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What Love looks like: A family that prays together, stays together

I just watched this very cute video from this years Britain’s Got Talent and had me a little cry because I love these videos, the ones where what you think of someone to look at them is way off the mark, the ones that remind us that there is so much more to someone than first impressions, and the ones where people refuse to ditch their partners because Simon Cowell says they should!!

However, having not written one of these posts for a while, this video is also of the couple singing the music I walked down the aisle to. I suspect it’s been used for that purpose a lot, and was perhaps even viewed as cheesy by some, but for me it was so important to make those first steps into our marriage remembering that we cant do it without the support and guidance of God.

In the past weeks, we have faced new situations that have moved us to prayer, both as a couple, and with some of our friends, and with some of our family, including one very special prayer time in the corner of our kitchen with my little brother.  I think we are more aware than ever of the need we have for a God who knows better than we do and that unless we keep offering ourselves back both individually and as a couple, we will mess up.

Matt and I dont find praying together to be the easiest thing in the world, talking out loud in a room with your eyes closed is foreign and a little embarassing at times, but we are working hard to find ways of doing this that work for us. One thing we have found really useful is to say ‘God, we’re gonna pray now, listen up’ (in an entirely respectful manner!!) and then just talk, talk about people we love and people we’re worried about. Talk about the things we hope will happen for those people and how hard we find it to be powerless to help them sometimes. We dont start with ‘dear Lord Jesus’ or end with ‘Amen’ but we just chat together through the things we care about, offering those conversations to God. We also pray for each other separately. Matt knows that I thank God for him daily, and that I talk to God about my hopes, fears and concerns in our marriage. Praying for Matt helps me to love him more, I think!

So, for today I just pray again:

I pray you’ll be our eyes

and watch us where we go

and help us to be wise

in times when we don’t know.

Let this be our prayer

when we lose our way

‘Lead us to a place

Guide us with your grace

To a place where we’ll be safe’

I pray we’ll find your light

and hold it in our hearts

when stars go out each night

remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer

when shadows fill our day

‘Lead us to a place

Guide us with your grace

Give us faith so we’ll be safe’

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Thrifty Thursday takes a break

So somehow in the last few weeks I’ve become part of a little corner of the tweetiverse with some excellent ladies who are all about being thrifty, crafty, creative and sensationally savvy, and in between their other things, they too do ‘Thrifty Thursday’ blogs, often much better than mine. However, last night the very lovely Lucy suggested that as today is International Women’s Day, we put our thrift on hold and write something related to this.

Now Lucy’s blog is much better than mine, go and have a look at it, now…go on! However, right before she tweeted last night, I’d been having some thoughts about women that I thought I would briefly blog for you today. I’d been texting a friend of mine who was feeling a bit crappy about herself, and had ended up having a conversation with Matt about the age old question…

WHY DO US WOMEN COMPARE OURSELVES TO EACH OTHER ALLLLL THE TIME?!

I think it drives him bonkers, I am basically seriously green with envy at some trait of pretty much every friend of mine. I have two super close girl friends, and a relatively large wider circle of gorgeous girls in my life too, and every one of them I look at and compare myself and find myself lacking in some way. I said to Matt that I think it’s because advertisers play on it. They show us a woman, and ask us to say ‘what has she got that I dont?’ so that they can tell us how we can get whatever it is she has (The answer usually being to spend crap loads of money on something useless!). So it’s wired into our brains to constantly compare ourselves to other women, to see what they have that we dont.

I suspect some of it is natural, and maybe we would do some of it if it wasnt for advertising. But basically I blame them. I blame them for making me think that if I’m bigger than a size 8, I’m fat. I blame them for showing me women who ARE size 8 eating food that would NOT let them stay a size 8 and confusing my brain. I blame them for suggesting that my clothes aren’t expensive enough, my skins not tanned enough, my boobs arent big enough and my shoes arent high enough. I blame them for making me want want want, when I already have SO much. I blame them for making my friends feel crappy about themselves, and when I see my friends comparing themselves to me and others. I blame them for telling young people that they should be having meaningless sex with as many people as possible and that if they’re not, they’re weird. I blame them for saying that if you cant afford something you should borrow money, at whatever cost, so that you can have it NOW.

It makes me very angry actually. I have been angry about it for a number of years, I went to an all girls high school, and it was around then that I started to notice the ways that marketing was affecting us all. I watched friends battle eating disorders and become promiscuous and I got angrier. I try now to avoid it where possible. I dont buy magazines because they mess with my head. I try to fastforward through adverts where possible, and I go out of my way to avoid going to the shops so that I dont end up wanting (too much!) I saw this last week and I just think it is fabulous

Having been brought up in church, and thankfully by an awesome, beautiful woman of God who is pretty tight with Jesus and who showed me what God can do through his women, I am so aware that God wants more for us than what we are sold. The bible says that a virtuous woman is worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10), Jesus spoke with women and taught women despite the societal views of them. So the bible values women, Jesus valued women, but most importantly, the bible has this whole different view of beauty. “Your beauty . . . should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit . . . “- 1 Peter 1:3,4 (NIV). We sing a kids song in church that says “Man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.”

Flippin heck, if only the media got us thinking about the beauty in our hearts, if only when I got together with my girlfriends we spent as much time talking about how to develop a gentle and quiet spirit as we do talking about clothes, hair, diets, exercise, make up, spots, blah, blah, blah!

So for International Women’s Day, Im going to spend some time thinking about how I can better become a woman of God, how I can develop that virtue that is worth more than rubies, and I’m going to try very hard not to compare myself to the other beautiful women in my life, but to value and treasure them.

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Lent 2012

I havent blogged for a while, because we’ve been busily moving house, which I will write more about soon…however before shrove Tuesday is properly over for another year, I wanted to quickly write about lent this year and my plans. I usually try to take lent pretty seriously, as is the Christian way, however for lots of reasons this year feels more significant. I feel like God is doing something, something is stirring under the surface in a number of areas of my life, and I feel like the next 40 days are going to be significant.

So, this year I am committing to the following.

1) No chocolate/biscuits/cakes. I usually do this, mainly because I need to lose weight, which isnt an ideal reason but I’m going with it again. I also hope that it will just raise my consciousness about lent and keep it in the front of my mind.

2) No shopping…this is a tough one. Lately I’ve faced a number of challenges about my consumerism. I am challenged not only about what I spend but also about why I feel I need to spend it. Now, obviously I need to buy food/petrol/deodorant (for everyones sake), so its not a blanket ban. However, I am going to aim not to buy clothes, shoes, jewellery, makeup or any other luxury items. There are 3 exceptions 1) I have to buy some shoes for my friend Carla’s wedding.  I am the matron of honour! The wedding is 3rd May so I might not end up buying during lent, however, Carla’s requirements for the shoes are pretty specific so if I find some that fit the bill I will have to get them. 2) gifts for other people, but obviously only for birthdays etc and 3) charity shops. I hope this lent period can help me to realise that I can utilise charity shops as a way of opting out of the supply/demand system and thinking about what I need as opposed to what I want. My birthday falls in the middle of lent, so Im hoping for no vouchers as they really burn a hole in my pocket!!

3) Getting back on the bible reading thing! Matt and I wanted to read the bible in a year this year, but have got a bit behind with the house move, so Im hoping we can get that back on track as its really important to us both. We are also going to add some more structured prayer into that as we have a lot of things and people we want to see change happen for and we believe that prayer makes a difference

4) ok, so then I wanted to think of something to take on on my own as I really believe that lent should be as much about taking up as about giving up. However, I suspect that any taking up would have an ulterior motive as I have a crap load of work I should be doing in the next 40 days, and I believe wholeheartedly that the degree I’m doing is something I was called to, and so it is actually a spiritual responsibility to get it done and get it done well. Therefore, I am making a public pledge here (and I havent told anyone this yet) that I am going to work my little tush off for the next 40 days, and that my placement, assignments and dissertation will ALL be finished by Easter. That is a couple of weeks ahead of deadlines, but it will give me a focus and a goal and then might give me a couple of weeks extra of job hunting and life sorting post-degree. That is 40 days to write 18000 words with NO CHOCOLATE AND NO CAKE!!! I suspect this lent may be the toughest one yet!

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The prayer of St Theresa of Avila

Let nothing upset you

Let nothing startle you

All things pass

God does not change

Patience wins all it seeks

Whoever has God lacks nothing

God alone is enough

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What love looks like: Building a home

So until the end of 2011, the plan was pretty fluid. I’d graduate this year, and then I’d look for work. As Matt’s work involves a lot of traveling, and head office is London, I’d look for work somewhere within a couple of hours of London and he’d commute like he does now. We said we didn’t feel like we had a home so we’d make one somewhere, but we didn’t mind where.

We were wrong.

2012 began and I started looking for work in preparation for finishing study.  I started looking in various places including all of the London boroughs, and there were some amazing jobs coming up…problem is, I didnt want any of them. I’d open up a new city/borough council website, and feel that dread of ‘I really dont want to live there’ combined with something I hadnt totally seen coming which was ‘I dont want to leave here.’

‘HOME’ snuck up on us. We never saw Southampton as a place we’d settle, we didnt rule it out but we just didnt expect it. As Sally Army officers kids, neither of us put down roots easily, and so we planned that it would be easy to go somewhere new and start again. Only we were wrong.

Somehow, in the midst of a crazy, life altering, tumultuous 3 years, I found home here. And since being with me, so did Matt. We like being near the water, spending sunny days and rainy days on the beach. We like being a little way away from the big city, but being near enough to visit (and indeed drive there for work 3 times a week in Matt’s case), we love our church and believe in what it is doing, and want to be somewhere we are known, so we can be pushed to go deeper. In the past 3 months we have begun to develop some friendships that we believe are good for us and we dont want to go somewhere new and start all over again, AGAIN!

So we prayed, and we cried, well, I cried! We spoke to people we love and people we respect and we made some choices.

We made some pretty hefty choices.

This weekend we took a leap of faith and signed a new tenancy agreement on a house right opposite where our churches new building is going to be built. It is a house which, come July, we wont be able to afford unless I get a job, and yet it feels 100% right. It is a house which, even if I get a job, will delay us being able to buy a house, and yet we couldnt bear the thought of someone else signing for it, because as soon as we walked into it we could see ourselves building a life there. It is a house where we can imagine ourselves having children, and a dog, and a space where Anna can grow old (!). It is also smack bang in the middle of the community that our church is seeking to serve. So we will be actual neighbours to the people of the Dowds farm community, and, hopefully, will be able to be much more involved in serving that community and showing Gods love to its residents.

Neither of us have known much stability in our lives. In childhood this was because of our parents work, in adulthood, complicated work and relationship situations have meant that neither of us has found a place to be and to want to stay. But now, in faith, we’ve chosen. We have made a choice and now we can begin to build a home, to make our new house (unlike our pretty grim and seriously damp old house) into a place where we can stay, and build our future. Much of that future is still uncertain, we don’t know where jobs and things will take us, but we have, I believe, found our home.

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We are Family

I love my church.

I have loved it for the whole of the 2 and a half years I have been a part of it and I have loved it for lots of different reasons. I love the way they have accepted me and become my family, I love that lots of the important times we share together are around food, I love that lots of the people there are people who’ve been battered by other churches and have found sanctuary from a lot of the rubbish they’ve experienced before by being part of our congregation.

But today I love my church because its a place of honesty. This morning, one of my friends gave his testimony at church. He spoke from a place of some hurt and confusion, he spoke honestly and frankly and he asked for our help. He reached out to us and asked us to pray for him and to support him through what he’s facing right now. At one point, he looked at his notes, and said “hmmm, im not sure I should say this bit, it seems a little blunt…” but went ahead and shared it anyway. Some of it was painful, some of it was stuff that all of us could relate to about the ways he feels he has got things wrong in his Christian journey.

So we prayed for him, and annointed him, and committed to walking with him.

Isnt that what church is for?

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Challenged

So I am already proving to be useless at blogging regularly, must try harder

This summer has been a weird one, I have been off uni and Matt has been in a new job with long hours away from home. I’ve been fairly lonely at times and have felt a little down at not achieving much. In the end I got myself a little temp job just to save myself from going insane.

But in the midst of all of that, Matt and I have started asking lots of questions about what the future holds for us. I have another year of uni to do, so its not an imminent decision to be made, but we have started to think about it. a lot. During that, we have also been to see Shane Claibourne, a really inspiring Christian speaker and political activist, which massively shaped our thoughts.

Shane Claibourne is a guy from East Tennessee, born in a conservative Christian family, brought up in the church and crowned Prom king at his school…nothing amazing about that. But then during college he met Jesus and, in his own words, it messed him up. He suddenly began to feel that the things that mattered to him weren’t actually that important and that there were things in the world that he suddenly became very passionate about. so…10 years on, he lives in Philadelphia, working with the poorest families and communities. But this guy isn’t a youth worker, or a community centre manager, he literally lives alongside these people. He heard that there were some homeless families in Philly who had moved into an unused Cathedral and were about to be evicted by the church…this didn’t sound right to him so he went down and stayed there with them, and got arrested with them, and went to court with them, wearing a T-Shirt that says “Jesus was homeless.”

He felt really strongly that America made a wrong decision when it bombed Iraq, so during the first bombings of Bagdad, he was there, hanging out with Iraqi people and trying to show them that there were Americans who cared about their plight. He learned a lot there from he Iraqi Christians who sat with bombs falling around their churches praying for Americans.

We passionately believe that faith in Jesus has to translate into living differently. We believe that we, in our current position of having no big ties or responsibilities, are called by God to do something about the poverty and injustice and sadness we see all around us. Sadly, we don’t yet know what. We don’t know how to start or who to help. But, we have started on a journey of learning and reading and trying to find out some answers. We are actively looking for opportunities and are more carefully considering our own decisions about how we spend money and time. It is an exciting but scary time

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