11 years on…

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That was the status on my facebook yesterday. It’s weird to think that 12 years ago I was swearing blind that God didn’t exist. 11 years and 2 days ago I believed that I wasn’t allowed to be a Christian.

It is true that I still doubt my faith and beliefs at times. I spent a long time being really angry at God for giving people control of their own actions in this world. It means people get hurt. It also means we get to make choices.

I’ve been asked many, many times by a close friend of mine ‘Yeah, but do you think you would have become a Christian if you hadn’t gone through all of that before?’ (that being more trauma and struggles as a teenager than I like to admit). I can’t really answer because my past is my past. But for sure, in 2011 more than any other year, I really questioned whether a bunch of control freaks had manipulated and taken advantage of my vulnerability at 17. I took several months away from all organised religion after a year of being made to feel like crap about things that I no longer felt crap about. Adam Hills comment in a stand-up sketch about women’s magazines ringing in my ears. Advertisers want you to feel crap about yourself so you’ll buy their products – it’s a basic sales pitch the Christian church have been using for years. I was starting to notice how often preachers were telling me how crap I felt about myself, stuff that had happened and how I needed healing for it. Again and again and again. The time away taught me that God was still there, just being misrepresented and the Holy Spirit having her identity stolen at times.

Clarity was gained.

(Not to mention it showed me who was faking friendship with me for Jesus points).

And it is most definitely true that the reasons I believe in God make me sound like I need psychiatric help. Whether it’s angels sitting on my bed, hearing voices telling me to get baptised or that someone’s relative has died or falling flat seeing visions of women I’ve not yet met while hearing voices speaking foreign languages to me. I guess it’s the weird stuff that no one can control or engineer that gives me faith. If faith is a step on a staircase, then that stuff is the electricity that powers the light so I can see where the steps are.

If I learned anything it’s that God can handle me just as I am. He is not afraid of my anger or questions. He is patient, but He’s also not afraid to admonish me when I’m not living the best way for myself or the other people He loves.

I don’t always listen or obey.

Being a Christian – a follower of Jesus – is hard, I’m not going to lie. But to suddenly ‘unconvert’ would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular and liked by the majority of western society who think people like me are strange, offensive or maybe even delusional. And to become religious would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular with all the church leaders and not have to say ‘no’ or feel offended at some of their rhetoric and politics.

I hope it’s all going to be worth it – it seems to have been so far, so that’s a good sign. And now, I have that constant reminder inked indelibly on my skin of ‘themba’ – faith, hope, trust, love. Memories of covenants marked by rainbows and weird moments I’ll narrate about with good humour for many years to come.

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Let’s see what happens in the next 11 years…

Churchaversary

Remembrance Sunday has always been important to me. I wish there were no wars, but I absolutely agree with remembering all the people who’s lives have been lost in the line of duty.

As a member of the Guide Association, I went to church twice a year. Once in February for Thinking Day, and once in November for Remembrance Sunday. I would come with a skirt and my Guide jumper on (the skirt was forced upon me) and my collection money with the poppy on my sash next to my Promise Badge.

A couple of months into my first year of uni, I was questioning whether I had made another huge mistake in my life by going to university at 17. I believed I hadn’t, but words of doubt from others were ringing in my head, and I was homesick. It was the beginning of November, so carefully avoiding my friend who went to a church that sounded nuts, I asked the other Christian girl on our floor if she went to a ‘Church of Scotland’ church and whether they had a Remembrance Sunday service.

They did, and she let me come with her.

It was a dreich morning, and I was pretty sleepy from partying the night before but at 9.30 a.m. I walked with her and several other students from our halls of residence to the little church in Bridge of Don.

I was shocked to find many more students there, and more who came after us – including a girl from one of my tutorial groups.

I was impressed at the friendliness and the genuine community there.

I asked my friend if I could come back with her every Sunday. I was worried about treading on her territory. I asked her to come and drag me out of my bed each Sunday morning if that’s what it took.

And she did.

Fiona – if you are reading, I’ll forever be grateful to you for doing just that. I know that it couldn’t have been easy to come and wake someone who is not only awful in the morning, but was often a little bit hungover as well.

11th November 2001 was the day I went to church voluntarily for the first time, and the beginning of a journey of healing.

I went to Alpha at that church where they accepted me and my friends who I invited to come with me. Those nights of being in a house and having our alpha leaders rather large guide dog plonking herself on my lap are ones I’ll treasure forever. And I’m thankful that even when I stopped going to that church, those 2 alpha leaders kept in touch with me right up until I went out to Australia 4 years ago.

It’s weird to think I’ve been going to church for 10 years now. I find it hard now to try and picture the 17 year old (terrified) girl who was so nervous about being there she called herself ‘Laura Anne‘ because she thought she had to be formal. The girl who’d go to church in vest tops, massive baggy jeans and skater shoes with her bible in the big pockets. The one who feared telling anyone her big dark secret for fear they’d banish her from their community.

This 27 year old is almost unrecognisable from that 17 year old.

In the best possible way. :)

Thank you church and thank you God!

 

8 years ago today

This is an AWFUL photo (in fact it is a photo of a photo because I don’t have a scanner), after a Saturday night at the student union. I was still only 17 years old! Everyone else was already in their rooms (presumably sleeping). But while I was taking out my hair, and removing the make up with my door wide open as usual, my friend was coming up the stairs having just witnessed the healing of my friend’s jaw.

And I told her that earlier that day, I’d become a Christian.

She would later slip a card under my door, with a pendant that she had bought the previous summer for someone she did not yet know…while I was fighting an ongoing battle with the University of Aberdeen Student Accommodation Office who wanted me to live in the one place I refused to put down as one of my accommodation choices…little did I know that God was doing a spot of networking.

That pendant had a habit of disappearing and then reappearing in the most bizarre places and the most weird (but appropriate times). I wore it a lot. In fact I got fish pendant tan lines while walking the streets of Paris!

8 years ago…8th February 2002, I discovered that actually even though I’d had an abortion I could still ‘become’ a Christian.

I hadn’t known that until that evening. I’d started going to Alpha, and started praying for ‘revival’ with some of my uni friends, and even invited 2 friends (one Christian, one not who now is) to Alpha with me….all the while thinking I couldn’t be a Christian because I’d had an abortion and that Christians were ‘against’ that, and therefore they’d hate me if they ever found out, and it was some kind of unforgivable sin. So though I was beginning to realise that I believed in a God I’d spent years vehemently denying existed, I didn’t think I could be part of His community.

Not to mention I was struggling with the fact that God had let an awful lot of bad things happen to me while I was a teenager. Just what kind of father was this God?

It was kneeling on my floor on Saturday 9th February 2002 that I, feeling a little silly, knelt down by my bed in my room and asked God would he please forgive me, but more than that, would he please take all the crappy things that had happened (in particular the pregnancy & abortion) and turn them into something good. Would he help me to help others who were going through similar situations?

I also asked if he would take care of my baby that never got to be in heaven.

The above photo was taken near the end of our first year at university a few months later. By this time I was a totally different girl. I still had my struggles, but I was healthier and happier than I had been in a very, very long time. And already God was answering my prayer as random people appeared at my door asking for help, advice, support for all sorts of things.

And I was no longer so sure that becoming a Geography teacher was ‘right’ for me. I just didn’t know what was in store for my life yet.

I did know that I had a very exciting summer ahead of me. My high school friends finally ‘graduating’ high school (some joining me in Aberdeen!), a trip round Europe, T in the Park, Venture Scout camp and a festival called Soul Survivor that would change my life forever.

I’m now 8 years on from that day…what a journey it has been…and it isn’t finished yet.

Wow. Are those nails real?!

When I came back to work after Christmas there was an e-mail in our inbox, from a lady who has been supporting our charity for a couple of years. Unbeknown to me, she had heard me sharing my testimony about how I came to work at the pregnancy crisis centre a couple of years ago at a New Year houseparty in Ardeonaig.

She asked if I’d be willing to come to an all-night youth event in Glenrothes (about 40 minute drive from Edinburgh) to share a little of my story and how God has answered prayer in my life through it.

I long ago accepted that my story is really not my story – it is God’s story, and it became God’s story the moment I asked him ‘Lord take all the crappy stuff that’s happened into my life and use it for good, use it to help others

(or something along those lines…I can’t remember the exact words I used at the time…it was 8 years ago!)

Friday was mental. I ended up singing at a wedding (seriously beginning to think I should start charging…but then so should my friend Kate as I borrowed another one of her dresses!) which ended up being longer than expected, from there to the centre, to baking cakes to driving across town to pick up DVDs for the training course to eating to driving to Glenrothes.

I got lost in Glenrothes…seriously thinking I need to invest in one of those Sat-Nav things as trying to read directions while driving on dark country roads or motorways is just a tad dangerous.

I screamed at God in  a car park. I was so exhausted, plus upset & frustrated from earlier in the day my little sister saying ‘please come, I need my big sister‘ and me not being able to. I hate, hate, hate not having an income that accommodates trips to see friends and family. It sucks. So I was feeling a little mad at God, even though I have no right to be mad at God. But I was mad at him anyway.

I eventually got there. The teenagers were so welcoming so excited and so chatty!

At 11 p.m. I was introduced and I shared some of my story. They were so quiet as I told it. They laughed at the ‘You’re pregnant’ prophecy and my reaction to it. I wasn’t sure if it was relevant or too much for them.

Then after I had spoken, two girls came up to me – they were only 13/14, and said thank you and that I was brave (ha! if only they knew)

Another girl came up to me wanting to know what it was like being pregnant when I was still in high school – was it tough?

Someone else wanted to know if I’d had children since.

Another girl asked me – what do you think happened to your baby?

And then I was floored by the next question…

Do you know what you would have named your baby?

I have never. ever. been asked that question. By anyone.

But all of you know that I was able to answer. Yes. I do.

Sophie.

They told me stories that would break your heart. Siblings who became parents at 16 and struggled, peers who sleep around and have already had several abortions, peers who lost their virginity by the time they were 12.

They wanted to know how they could reach out to their peers they saw struggling, that they in their words said ‘it’s like they have no self-worth‘.

We talked of all sorts of things – they wanted to know if I’d want to have children in the future, and if I had a girl, would I still name her Sophie? They talked about relationships, and wanting to wait for the right person.

I was astonished (in a good way) at their maturity. Seriously, they talked about this issue with a maturity that most adults I know don’t have.

And of course the final question asked of me…

You’re nails are so long…are they real?

Don’t know why but somehow every time I have a discussion with a group of teenage girls about pregnancy, my nails end up becoming a conversation topic but they do. It makes me giggle. :)

I’ve always tried to avoid public speaking. I’m much more comfortable singing behind a microphone than I am speaking behind one, and have always been nervous about sharing my story in front of people. It’s so totally different from blogging.

But last night made me realise that sharing my story does somehow help or make a difference in some way. I don’t think I fully appreciated that before.

And I’m grateful to the people that gave me an opportunity to do that, and for a God that gave me the courage to do it, and through His grace, used my rambling for His own glory.

May it all go to Him.

9 years ago

Tonight I was looking back at photos from 9 years ago, trying to jog my memory as I prepare to share testimony on Friday night.

9 years ago I was 16 years old. I was in the second term of my fifth and final year of high school (high school is 6 years long in Scotland, the last 2 are optional)

9 years ago I was not returning to my dance classes

9 years ago I was saying to my fiance that perhaps we should wait, and not announce our intentions to get married to our families because we were young and a lot was going on

9 years ago I was battling self harm, and trying to support my boyfriend as he battled his own demons.

9 years ago I was probably studying for my Higher Prelims in between migraines.

9 years ago my friends were walking me to school each day reminding me of my goal to get into the University of Aberdeen.

9 years ago my baby sister was just turned 10, my baby brother only 5 years old and in Primary One.

9 years ago I had a huge argument on Hogmanay/New Years Day with my Dad which somehow resulted in him accusing me of being pregnant. I was shocked and appalled that he think I’d be stupid enough to get pregnant when I was only 16.

9 years ago I was making a name for myself as the Bacardi Queen

9 years ago I got 2 of the most lovely pairs of shoes which I still remember. I think I still have one of the pairs purely because they are purple.

9 years ago I had no idea how much my life plan was about to take a massive change in direction.

9 years ago I was pro abortion and proud of it.

9 years ago I thought that the church was a place of judgment, hatred, old ladies who baked cakes and gossiped about their ‘lowly heathen neighbours’, there was no God and that the bible was akin to Aesops Fables or a book of fairy tales.

9 years ago I was getting visits from angels in dreams and sometimes they would sit at the end of my bed at night.

9 years ago I was discovering just how much cannabis is not a harmless drug as I watched how scary cannabis-induced schizophrenia can be.

9 years ago I was spending many geography periods hauled up in the Geography store room with my only Christian friend from high school as we struggled through our teenagedom. Little did she know the one person she didn’t think would become a Christian would do a year later…

I can’t believe how different I was, and how adult I was back then. The burdens I carried, were those of an adult and my wish is that no teenager has to carry those kind of burdens. Maybe it’s why I now love being silly and fun and childlike. Why I love hanging out with my friends’ children because they remind me what it is to be a child.

Something for 2010…

So I mentioned on yesterday that I had some changes planned for this blog for 2010.

Here is one of them…

One of the things I’ve loved about social networking (ie blogging, twitter, facebook, online church etc) is discovering ideas, stories, resources and supporting people in whatever way I can. Raising awareness of some stories we’d prefer to ignore or forget. And learn about things we didn’t know much about or be shown them in a new light.

I really want to find a way to do that, and my first attempt is going to be starting ‘LFS Introducing…‘ inviting guests to share what they are passionate about in a blog post.

This might be…

…organisations who are trying to make the world a better place.

…individuals telling us about the work they do and how people could support them better

…bloggers sharing with us what their blog is all about

…sharing resources or art that may encourage, raise awareness or inspire

…events that could equip groups or individuals to do what they are called to do

…people raising awareness of issues we’d maybe prefer to pretend didn’t exist

The possibilities are pretty endless, and I would love to get as wide a variety as I can. I know this is just a wee blog and I don’t have the massive readership compared to some blogs, but I hope that won’t stop people from being willing to share.

My hope is also that people who don’t have their own blog may come on board too. And to increase the number of stories, I am happy to keep people and certain details anonymised if that is necessary to be able to share on such a public forum.

I’ll also be shutting down my old blog ‘Musings of a Koala‘ which I no longer write on, which means people will not be able to access my old posts there – yes that includes the ‘journey into pregnancy crisis work’ series! I’ll also be doing a massive clear out of posts from this blog too.

If you would like to be part of LFS Introducing… or know of something or someone or an organisation that you think has a story worth sharing, please get in touch by leaving a comment below.

And yes. You can spread the word on this one. In fact, I’d LOVE it if you did!!

Riding the wave

Today one of our newest volunteers asked me about how I ended up working in the pregnancy crisis centre.

Yeah, long story, right? One of our mutual friends, who worked for the centre at the time of my employment came in and immediately started picking up on what I’d left out.

Everything in my life has had a purpose that leading up to this point. It’s so obvious looking back now, but it certainly wasn’t always clear at the time.

In 4 hours time I need to be up to drive to the airport and start making the journey to Basingstoke. I can’t sleep.

I was reading Angie Smith’s blog. I wasn’t expecting to see a ultrasound picture taken at 10 weeks gestation.

Yes, that was the stage of pregnancy I was at when I had it terminated.

It was a little bit of a kick in the guts to see that, I’ll admit. Sometimes I wish I could turn back the clock, and bizarrely I don’t want to turn it back to the point before she was conceived to change things in that way. Turning back the clock I wish I would have had the information, support and courage to make a different decision.

You can’t think like that though. Because if it hadn’t been for Sophie being part of my life, I wouldn’t have the wisdom and understanding I have now. The perspective I have when I meet with clients, or abortion providers is different from many of my colleagues. It’s not that I necessarily agree with the people who think it’s all ok, it’s that I get where they’re coming from…because I used to have a totally different viewpoint.

God is doing some crazy things with this work, ministry or whatever you want to call it.

Crazy in the best and in some cases, most unexpected of ways.

He is, as Sarah Chia put it earlier this year, widening my territory.

And yet, I’m not that close to God as I once was. My quiet times are um, yeah, embarrassingly few and far between. My prayer life sucks compared to what it once was. There are lots of things in my life that need sorting.

I feel like I’m just riding this wave of God…He seems to have me along for the ride whether I like or not really!

The majority of the time, I do like it. I love it. The life God has for me is never dull.

But it is sometimes tough.

Um, actually a lot of the time it is tough.

I need to get prepared - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – as much as I can for what God has in store for 2010.

How do you do that? Answers on a postcard (or blog comment) please… :)

 

The Assassin of Character Creep (or Cassie & the shiny Jaguar)

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So to the first of Jud and Mike’s named character assassins…the assassin of character creep.

It’s basically all about how the small things that cross our moral boundaries can build up and up until you lose your integrity big style.

First of all I have to confess that the first page of the chapter I found a wee bitty ironic…

We don’t make an entry in our diary one day: Dear Diary, today I plan to commit fraud which will eventually lead to the demise of my career, a nervous breakdown, and ultimately jail.”

Deadly Viper Character Assassins p. 24

Now. I could take the uppity high road on that one, but here’s the thing. I work for a charity. And one of the things that Sarah and I feel really weird about is that we have to write the cheques for our wages. Especially me. I would rather not be tempted to follow in my father’s footsteps and my seemingly constant financial battles definitely put me at high risk to do it unless I’m really careful. How do we act transparent about dealing with the charity’s monies when we could so easily steal money?

We double sign every single cheque. And every cheque is photocopied with the receipt/invoice of what we are paying and why.

Our accounts are doubly checked – first by an accountant, then by an auditor, then by the Charities Commission (OSCR).

So we would never get away with it. Exactly the way it should be.

And I can say hand on heart that there is definitely too much at stake to lose…

When my Dad got caught out…it destroyed his family. We’ve been very broken in all sorts of ways I never expected possible. His career is totally down the toilet. He will never be allowed to have his own business ever again. And he could have made such a huge difference – he was getting the chance to do that.

I had to apply some ‘kung fu’ action the other week on this assassin.

I’d been ill our last few days in Cornwall, and wasn’t feeling particularly great driving back up. I’d pulled into a service station off the M6 about 4 hours from home. It was pouring with rain, cars everywhere, people running across the car park. As I pulled into a parking space I heard a horrible noise.

A severe lack of spatial awareness had caused me to crash into the side of the car next to me. I got out in the pouring rain to discover I’d scratched it in 2 places.

And not just any car. No, no.

In a car park full of old bangers I could potentially crash into, I had of course crashed into the posh, shiny Jaguar.

Way to go BK.

There goes your 5 years no claims on car insurance. You’ve just used all your remaining cash to go on holiday to Cornwall so that’ll be fun trying to pay damages you’ve just caused.

A thought crossed my mind…I could just leave the service station now, and no one would ever know it was me that crashed into the car. They’d not be able to find me or track me down.

I was shocked that I could even think that. But I did. So I gave myself a talking to, something along the lines of…

Laura Anne, you are a Christian, and it is completely your fault that their car is scratched up. If you don’t own up…How Jesus like is that? You’ve just been reading about being a leader with integrity…well, time to prove it

So I sat and waited. And while I waited I tore a page out my diary and wrote my name, address and mobile number down on it.

20 minutes later, a woman and kid appeared at the car. I got out, and asked if it was their car. It was. I began apologising profusely as I explained what I’d done. And handed over my details.

She was shocked that I’d stayed behind until they’d come back or that I’d even admit what I’d done

Most people would just drive away and not say anything” she said

Gulp. If she knew that had crossed my mind….

Then her partner came back. I repeated the apologies to him. He was equally surprised at my honesty and really nice about it.

A week later he called me to say that he thought the quote he’d got back to fix it was ridiculous (over £1000), and said he had planned to get a paint job next year, and did I just want to give some money towards it so I wouldn’t have to get insurance companies involved?

Guys, that is grace.

They could have been really stroppy and angry. I wouldn’t have blamed them.

But they weren’t.

And I’m thankful that I didn’t do the loser thing of sneaking away hoping no-one would find out. I admitted my huge faux pas, and was repaid by kindness in return.

Now, I’m extra careful and super paranoid about parking anywhere near shiny cars…(well, I try to avoid crashing into any cars, people etc…but especially not the shiny ones as they are more costly to fix)

But being faithful and having integrity in the small things? It counts for sure.

Feels like more than a year…

I’ve been answering some questions posed to me by the lovely Lori Wilhite about my involvement in pregnancy crisis work.

It got me reflecting back (once again) on the journey that brought me here, doing what it is that I do.

I so remember the anxiety that went into writing all about it on my blog...the amount of times I wrote and deleted posts (sometimes even after publishing them). I remember the weirdness of it just not being mentioned at smallgroup at first. I remember meeting Alastair and just not knowing what to say to someone I knew only through blogging, and him being one of the first people I mentioned that I had essentially handed in my resignation to the centre. I remember finding out that some many more folks at MBC were reading my blog than I realised – lurkers!! ;) – and just being really nervous about how they were responding to it, and whether they thought I was a total nutter or something. Maybe don’t answer that…?!

But I also remember a few of the e-mails I got, and the comments that were left and hearing of people inspired to get involved in this work or start talking about crisis pregnancy situations and/or pregnancy loss they had experienced.

I can’t believe that it was only a year ago that I finally finished writing about it. I had intended no more than 6 posts. I wrote 14 in the end. I sure am long-winded. :)

How much has happened since then. How much has changed since then.

I moved back home. God (through others) talked me into staying and taking up the challenge of being ‘in charge’, not alone but doing it together with Sarah. And I went to South Africa (finally).

I wonder what will have happened by this time next year?