Hello you lovely bunch, today is a post I’ve been wanting to write for ages but have always been a bit nervous to, since I don’t want to seem like a ‘bible basher’ who is trying to force religion onto people. I’m just going to gently talk to you all about how I came to be a Christian and how faith has influenced my life so far.
I think I’ll start off my sharing my testimony. For those of you who don’t know, a testimony in the religious sense is basically just how I came to faith. A lot of this is from my testimony I gave when I got baptised in April 2015 as of course it’s the same- I had to say all this in front of the whole church (plus guests!) which was around 300-400 people and I was so nervous- I remember dad mouthing/saying to me ‘slow down a bit love’. I’ll add in bits along the way (in pink) but this is basically how my relationship with God formed.
So, I grew up in a very loving family, consisting of my mum, my dad and my sister Steph (who’s four years older than me). God has always been in my life I guess, as mum had believed in him my whole life yet despite going to a catholic school, I never felt truly committed to the idea that there was a saviour for all of us, and it just seemed a bit too ‘unrealistic’ to me. Steph and I spent the majority of our childhood in Dorset, but when I was 7, my family and I moved to Stratford-upon-Avon as Dad had been given a promotion at Birmingham airport, and it was difficult for all of us staying where we were because he was away quite a lot. My new school in Stratford was fine, I did well in my schoolwork and had a good bunch of friends. However, when I reached year 6, things became a little bit harder. The ‘friends’ I was hanging out with started to become mean, and not just to me, but to each other and seemingly the rest of the people in our year. They would ‘pretend’ to hate one another, just to see how the person would react and talk about each other behind their backs, replying with a simple ‘it was only a joke’ when they got upset. Back then I was also a bit chubby, and so got picked on by others in my class which obviously made me feel ashamed of myself, yet thankfully not to the point I would totally stop being myself. Throughout all this I would just go along with it all, telling myself it was ‘only another year’, but when my supposedly best friend started sending me hate through social media, I isolated myself away from them, and began to seclude myself at lunchtime, reading on a bench or whatever instead of playing with the others. Towards the end of year 6, I became happier in myself, as my amazing adoring family helped me through it, and my future looked brighter as I was moving onto secondary school. At Stratford-upon-Avon school, In year 7 I was still the chubby girl, the one who felt under-confident and just assumed everyone hated her all the time, depsite my family telling me daily how loved and special I am. Year 7 was slightly rough because of that, but by Year 8 I had met some amazing friends, and my confidence was starting to slowly go up. In Year 8, I plodded along quite happily, doing well in schoolwork and being surrounded by friends who made me happy, yet I still didn’t feel comfortable in my own body, having snide remarks from people occaisonally, which would tear my confidence back down again and result in me crying when I got home from school. It also didn’t help that my friends wouldn’t really stand up for me as they didn’t want to seem ‘uncool’. However, as people began to mature this became less frequent and I started to like myself a little more. Although just as my confidence was starting to go up, a bombshell hit our family. One day, when I got home from school, mum and dad both sat us down and told us that they had been to the hospital that day and had found out some devastating news. Mum had breast cancer. Seeing as mum and dad wanted to protect us as I was only in year 8, and Steph had just started her final preparations for her GCSE’s, they only told us this bit at this point. What steph and I were unaware of is that not only did mum have breast cancer, but it was Stage 2, and had also spread to her bones. As many of you will know bone cancer is incurable, and stage 2 cancer is particualrly bad news, as it is most likely that the patient won’t be healed, and their life will probably be shortened drastically. Once Steph had finished her GCSE’s and I was a little older, mum and dad sat us down again, telling us the full story this time. We cried for a long while, yet I could still see that mum was faithful and strong, which made me feel more hopeful for the future. It was around this time that mum started going to the original Bidford-on-Avon church, which restored her faith immensly and made her realise that she is a daughter of the Lord, and she will be protected under his wing no matter what. A couple of months after joining the church, mum decided to get baptised, something that was completely new to us as a family, but also something that to me, said that everything was going to be ok in the end as mum had declared her faith, and so god would automatically heal her.Obviously, as I came to learn, things don’t work like that. As the years went on, mum had scan after scan, some proving that she was getting better, and others proving that things were getting considerably worse. She had chemo multiple times, which meant that Steph and I had to do more around the house, and it made us grow up perhaps faster than we had expected to.When theBarn formed, I decided to come along every once in a while, to maybe seek an answer from God about what was happening. The atmosphere at the church was incredible, and seeing everybody’s face light up when they saw mum made me realise just how much she had grown through faith of Jesus. Despite my faith being restored slighty, my heart and soul wasn’t in the church, and most weekends, in fact nearly all weekends, I would rather have a lie-in or go out with my friends than go to church, and when I did go, despite singing the songs and praying the prayers, they didn’t mean much to me and my mind would always wander off elsewhere. By the begininng of 2014 mum’s cancer had become increasingly more aggressive, and even though mum’s health was declining, her faith was increasing day by day. At this point, I felt I had nowhere to lay my trust of the sutuation, and so just tried to not think about it and focus on school, even though mum’s illness was a part of my daily life. On the 23rdMarch 2014, mum invited me to go to Hillsong in London with her (Hillsong is an AMAZING community of churches- would really recommend looking them up!). I originally said yes, but chickened out at the last minute. However, dad persuaded me to go claiming it would ‘be a nice afternoon for you and mum to spend together’. So off to hillsong I went, not knowing how much of an impact it would have on my life.On the way there, I felt intimidated, being surrounded by people I didn’t know who seemed to be like family to one another, and going to a place where there would be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people I didn’t know, all who have a stronger faith than me and all who were ‘better people’ than me (so I thought). When we arrived, I was blown away from the positivity of the people there, and how even though they didn’t know me, they treated me like I was their family. The sermon at Hillsong was about how Christianity is not about following a set religion, but about being in a relationship with God, the one who has been with us throughout it all. The preacher spoke about how you don’t have to climb a (metaphorical) ladder of rituals to reach God, and that we just have to be ourselves. This talk made me realise that this is what had been holding me back from committing to the church for so many years. I had always assumed that because I didn’t pray everyday, I didn’t read the bible, I swore and I sometimes lied, this meant that God didn’t love me, and that I wasn’t worthy to be a part of the church. By the end of the sermon, I was completely and utterly overwhelmed with the thought that God loves ME, despite my sins, and so when the preacher asked if anybody would like to give their life to the Lord today, my hand automatically rose, bringing tears of joy to mum’s face. On the journey home, I had a crazy amount of support and was welcomed with open arms to the christian community, which to me, just confirmed that this was exactly the right path to take for the rest of my life. That night I gave all of the worries and stress of mum’s illness to God, and I knew that even if mum didn’t survive cancer, she would have an eternal life of happiness in heaven, which to be honest, is pretty great!Over the next couple of months, mum’s cancer became worse, and by easter 2014, it had spread to parts of her brain and to her liver. As I was busy preparing for my GCSE’s, my confidence had finally grown and I began to feel happier in myself and what I looked like, mum and dad protected both me and steph by only telling us what we needed to know, and keeping from us the uncertainty of mum’s future, to help keep our lives as happily normal as possible. During this time I was adament that mum was going to get better, due to the multiple prayers of healing she received each week at church, and just purely down to the fact she was the most positive and most inspiarational woman I had ever known. I attended church regularly now, and had built up a relationship with God, and although it wasn’t nearly as strong as it is now, it was a definitely a comfort to mum and I during this time. Although, something in me knew mum wasn’t going to make it. I had reoccuring dreams in which an unnamed someone in my family would die (it was always a brunette middle-aged woman), and thinking about mum’s future just seemed completely unclear to me. The thought terrified me, and daily it would uspet me thinking that mum wouldn’t be around to see me succeed in my career, see me get married or even be a grandma to my children.Throughout the last few weeks of April and throughout May, it became clear to us all that mum wasn’t going to live past the next few years. Just as I had began to sit my GCSE’s, mum had a consultation with the oncologist and mum and dad got told that mum only had a few weeks to live, as the cancer had become severely aggressive and was starting to seriously damage mum’s liver and weaken her bones. She got given the choice of chemo, yet by this point it had only a very small chance of working, so mum opted for the natural way, and was bed-ridden for the last couple of weeks of her life. I remember dad sitting me down and asking me how long I thought mum had left. In my naïvety, I replied with a few months but dad just shook his head and told me it was a couple of weeks. I think this is when it really hit me and I clung onto any stability I had which was mostly in God. On June 11th 2014, mum passed away, after being in immense discomfort for over a week, and having to have had everyone do everything for her. The following weeks were unbearable, and it was then that I finally truly gave my life to God, knowing that I really couldn’t do it without him. My friends were truly amazing to me, and even though we may have fallen out since then, they really helped me on my bad days and kept me busy and as happy as I could be.A couple of weeks after mum’s passing, I came to church with dad, almost promising myself I wouldn’t let the question of ‘why did God take mum away from me?’ destroy my realtionship with Him. It was this Sunday that my friend Abby intruced me to the youth, mainly to people I had already met like Lucy and Becca, but also new faces like Mark and Luke, who showered me with hugs, compliments and understanding, making me wonder why I had been scared of talking to them for so long (they are incredible people). From this point I started to really get to know people within the church, being so appreciteive of everyone who gave me support and a shoulder to cry on when I needed one. They helped me realise that mum is always with me, always watching over me wherever I go, and she’s even here today watching me get baptised (or writing this blog post!)During the summer of 2014, I got to know the youth much better, and they became some of my closest friends, keeping me positive no matter what. Other people like Caroline and Mike White and Sylvia and Martin Robson were also amazing during this time (I love you Robsons!), being such comforts to me, and helping me to understand that God’s got me, and he’s never going to let me go or let me walk by myself in my hour of need. In July, Becca and Chloe suggested the idea of Soul Survivor to me, and even though the thought terrified me of being with a group of people I didn’t know that well, as well as being with a MASSIVE group of other people I didn’t know, they eventually persauded me to go. However, I couldn’t go for the full week as I already had plans with my best friend to go on holiday with her. (deciding to go was one of the best decisions I have ever made) When I arrived at Soul Survivor, I was amazed at the atmosphere, and at how many teenagers and young people had given their life to Jesus. Over the course of the next few days, my faith became stronger and stronger and I met some amazing people, as well as strengthening realtionships with people from the youth, the Chipping Campden lot (miss you guys- Zac, Josh E, Harriet, Lydia, Elisha and everyone else- love you), and also some people I’d never met before. On the first night, I had the my first experience of being moved by the holy spirit. I was pretty scared at first, but with people around me, I felt an overhwhelming sense of peace. At the time, I had been really worried that I was going to get breast cancer, and not live the life I wanted to. I prayed into this and felt an odd tingling feeling in my chest just above my breast, knowing that this was a healing from God, that he was healing me from breast cancer, and even if not fully, to an extent where I don’t have to worry at all. (this might sound crazy to some of you and I was so fricking scared at the time but it was really such a massive comfort) On the last night, I made the decision to become baptised, and rejoiced with the youth when I told them all the news. The perfect ending to the most amazing week, where so many friendships were made, and which resulted in me feeling completely restored in myself, knowing that no matter what life throws at me, I can overcome it by the power of Jesus. Once I got back from Soul Survivor, I received my GCSE results. To my amazement, I got much much higher grades than I would have ever expected despite the circumstances, and despite everyone being very proud of me, I knew ultimately I had got these grades through the power of the Lord, which made my faith even stronger. Dad, Steph and I went immediately to Alcester Grammar, and after nervously waiting for a while; we had the amazing news that I had got in! (One of the best things to have ever happen to me- if I hadn’t have got those grades I wouldn’t have met Will and some of my other amazing pals)From August until now (my baptism day), I have met some more amazing people, formed even stronger relationships and become completely renewed in myself from the power Jesus. I feel much more confident in how I am in myself, and despite still having my ‘off days’ know that God has me in the palm of his hand always, that I am never alone, and that mum is right beside him, watching over me always. Over the next few years I hope to be every bit as positive and happy as I’ve been over the past few months, and hope to go to university to study psychology.(we all know that didn’t work out but I’m still adamant He has a plan for me!)
|Getting Baptised! My dad on the left and my pastor Jamie on the right|
|Me surrounded in prayer afterwards (such a special photo to me)|
|They’re all incredible|
So that’s basically it! Since then my faith has unfortunately definitely been shaken. After I started my last year of sixth form and university my anxiety got really bad and I became angry at God. I didn’t understand why he firstly took mum and then ‘made’ me go through the pain of the anxiety. It’s only until this year I have been open with my relationship with Him again and I now understand it’s through my actions I had the anxiety even though I couldn’t see it at the time. Not talking about mum and not allowing myself to grieve for four years, quite honestly, messed my head up and caused me to have severe anxiety and depression as all the sadness, guilt and negative emotions I felt about mum’s death was with me everyday in the back of my mind as I had never allowed myself to recognise them. Through having grief counselling these past few months my anxiety has become so much better and my Faith is growing stronger every day as I know He’s helping me through it. I want to sing Christian songs in the shower again, I pray for others again and I just talk to him like a friend again. I have met even more amazing people (Kim especially you are fab) and although I think it might take a bit of work to get back to how I was in my Faith, i’m hopeful that in the years to come I will miss mum not with a feeling of sadness, but fondly, and be able to walk with Jesus again.
I hope you all didn’t think this was too much. I wanted to share this with you all as religion has been a big part of my life for the past eight to nine years and it seems silly to shy away from it just because some people might not agree. I accept absolutely everyone for who they are (unless they are unnecessarily cruel like Trump ergh), I completely support the LGBTQ community and I believe everyone can do their own thing as long as we love and respect each other (that’s what I think God wants for us anyway!)
Thank you so so much for reading and of course if you have any questions, comment or message me and I’ll be happy to talk to you alwaysSending all my love out to you lovely lot,L x