Everything has changed. Nothing is the same. It can’t be.
Rewind to last Friday night. I was running late, heading out the door to go to friends, via the Dr’s who had called asking me to collect something. I’d had a massively busy week, but it was OK. Until I looked in the mirror as I was about to walk out of the door, and one of the biggest realisations/revelations I’ve had to date about God hit me. Big time. I then spent the entire evening crying.
I had little sleep that night, maybe 3 hours. I was up at 6am, so I could head to the Gathering of Women Leaders, an event happening in London. Which is exactly what the title suggests, a gathering of women from across the country meeting to be with each other, support each other and to hear from inspiring and amazing people – particularly women leading within the Christian context. To connect, learn and develop.
The website is here if anyone is interested (or feel free to ask me about it)
I’ve only made one of these gatherings before. My personal issues of believing I was inadequate and not recognising that I was entitled to be there stopped me. And then by the time friends who attend or who are involved with facilitating it finally convinced me that actually it was fine for me to be there I was unable to because of health issues – each time I planned to make it I’d either be in or had just come out of hospital.
Finally I actually made it! Hurrah! And I am SO glad I did.
An amazing day of being with friends, catching up with others I know but don’t speak to/see regularly, and meeting/connecting with new people.
It was inspiring to hear from someone who manages a hostel for women in central London, and her work there. It was brilliant to hear from Ruth Mawhinney, the new editor of ChrisitanityToday.com who also edited another Christian magazine before. Her honesty was incredibly refreshing. And it was brilliant and thought provoking to hear from the amazing Jenny Baker who talked about equality from her new book ‘Equals’ which I have at home and cant wait to read. These are amazing women who are doing amazing things, inspiring generations.
But we also heard from Tamsin Martle who is an executive coach and who spent an interactive hour with us at the GWL thinking about our personal mission statements. She titled it – Women of Purpose.
I have to confess that when we started the session, I did ½ roll my eyes, thinking this would not be relevant to me whatsoever as I have no mission statement, purpose or point but happy to sit with it because I was surrounded by some super amazing women doing super amazing stuff, so it would be relevant to them.
Turns out it was the most relevant part of the day, for me.
At one point we had to spend some time thinking about what we would like people from particular groups of people around us to say about us at our 80’th birthday party. I found this quite hard, and initially went into my auto mode of joking – although to be fair most people who know me well would also express surprise at the thought of me making my 80th! Anyhow, someone next to me nudged me in the right direction, told me to start thinking of what I would LIKE them to say not what I think they would, as I’m never very nice about myself.
So I got through that bit, and continued on, engaging with some of the questions she threw out and starting to think about a personal mission statement.
Another bit was ‘what do I want to achieve’ – another hard one for me. Until I actually decided that if I got to 80 and the people around me were saying the things I had already written down, that I would like them to be saying, then that was my achievement.
If I get to 80 and people around me are saying I am/was loving, kind, committed, loyal, hard working, reliable, determined, passionate, honest, focussed, trustworthy, inclusive, faithful and non judgemental then I would be happy
Another point Tamsin mentioned was this question ‘how do our most trusted friends and family ACTUALLY see us’ – positively and negatively. She challenged us to consider perhaps asking them …
We also thought about ‘what gives my life meaning’ and ‘What is at my centre’ – Is it Jesus?
There was some really important stuff/questions to think about.
And my head was challenged. But it was also stuck with the thinking that its been stuck with for the last 7 years – and that’s ‘but I used to …’
‘But I used to have a focus, a vision, a mission, a personal statement’
‘But I used to do this, I used to do that and so on …’
‘But I used to … and I don’t any more’
Anyway – I took the paperwork, filed it in my bag, and carried on with the day.
And then on the train home, that evening, I relooked at it. Rethought it. And the ‘but I used to …’ thing hit me. It’s been something over the last few months I’ve been trying to move on from. Since life changed so dramatically for me 7 years ago I have changed. I’m not that same person and I don’t do those same things. But I’ve been living in mourning for a lot of it. My identity has been who I ‘used’ to be. And it has been the right thing to try and severe the ‘I used to’ links. I used to be a lot of things and then it felt like I lost everything.
I need to live in the ‘who I am now’ and not the ‘who I was then’ which I lost.
When I got home, very late I found a piece of paper, which must be about 10 years old or so. With some simple words written on it. Another thing I felt I lost.
And then on Sunday morning, I woke up and was getting ready for church, and it suddenly hit me – actually I’ve not lost everything.
I really have not. I’ve not lost what was written on that piece of paper. Deep down in my soul, I’ve not lost that. That still exists.
Those words – they were my personal mission statement. And actually they still are. They convey what my heart was passionate about, and they still do.
I USED to have a mission. A vision. A focus. A purpose. A call.
And whilst I have changed – it hasn’t.
The words written were about being a radical ‘bridge gapper’.
It was why I left my nicely paid job, packed up my stuff and moved. To work with people, who for whatever reason sat on the fringes of society.
My passion, desire, vision, focus, ‘call’ was to love the unloved and to bridge the gap between wherever they were at and God/church. To go out to them and be with them where they were at, and not expect anything in return.
It was to be a voice for the voiceless – a voice for those without one.
That was my heart. Until 7 years ago when I lost my own voice.
But Sunday morning, the day after the GWL event, I realised my voice is coming back.
And then when I text that to a friend, her response was this ‘its already back, you just didn’t realise it’.
And she was right. She IS right.
My voice IS back.
And I do have a vision, a purpose, a reason, a focus, a ‘call’.
And it is EXACTLY THE SAME AS 10 YEARS AGO.
My voice is back – it has changed. It has had to. It cannot be possibly the same one before 7 years ago. It never will be. It’s different one to before. But it is back.
And it is still passionate about the oppressed. About speaking out for those who cannot themselves.
On Monday morning I woke up, bright and early, having slept well, a rarity for me, and the very first thing that entered my head were these words ‘everything has changed’.
And it has. It really has.
I don’t have a big plan and I have no idea what the future beholds. I have no idea where this is all going, and I have no idea where it is going to end. I need to start thinking on how to start rebuilding my confidence and believing that I can achieve again.
Monday night, on the way to an evening meeting, I was driving down the road towards church, and in front of me was the most stunning scene I have ever seen in my life. My friend and I gasped, and stopped pretty suddenly (sorry car behind us!) – I was gobsmacked. The most stunning, beautiful, bright, full rainbow I have ever seen – spanning across the entire town. And it was a double. I didn’t know rainbows like that could exist.
I found out that evening a little about rainbows (I’ve never really looked into it before) and that they are created by a white light going through a prism and it breaking up into all the colours that make white. Black is not present because black is the absence of light.
It was a fitting end to an immense few days of real revelation, both on Friday evening and on Saturday at the Gathering of Women Leaders event (thank you to all who facilitated and contributed to that) and of continuing journeying forwards.
Life has been black. There have beens times where I cannot imagine how it could have gotten blacker.
But life is generally in a different place, I’m moving onwards and upwards. Slowly, but its happening.
And seeing the rainbow reminded me of Gods promises, of life after the storm.
I realised over the weekend despite the view I have held for so long, actually, I’m not done yet. And God is not done with me yet either.
And that’s exciting.
So, everything has changed.