Hearing God swear.

If you are easily offended by swearing (and/or the thought of God swearing) this is your warning.

I went on holiday a few weeks ago. I spent quite a lot of time praying and talking to God. I read Pete Greig’s ‘God on Mute’ book. Which made me cry numerous times.

I don’t have answers. No one has the answers. People are honest with me about that. Which I am thankful for. Friends, church leaders, people walking with me. Who knows why this is happening? I don’t. And reading Pete Grieg’s book reassured me. That even the founder of a 24/7 prayer movement doesn’t have all the answers. And in his own suffering and issues facing him, his wife and family he admits to asking the hard questions.

So I sat on the beach, asking some hard questions of God and as watched the sea, the sky, the waves, people I made a decision.

I decided that if I’m really sick, as in really really sick, as in if I have Mast Cell Leukaemia which my haematologist will give me more of an idea about next week I didn’t want treatment. Having googled far too much in those initial 48 hours I understand and realise and know about the severity of it.

The statistics are not great. Its considered ‘progressive’/’chronic’ so by the time its been detected its often too late to anything about it. And even then its aggressive. So even doing anything about it would most likely be fruitless.

So I decided I didnt want treatment.

IF (its a big if at the moment) I have MCL and I’m going to die, then I don’t want to die having spent the last however long of my life being even sicker because of treatment. Because of chemo. I don’t want the side effects ruining what I might have left of life.

I would take the drugs I needed to to die peacefully. Pain free. And happy. I decided that.

And as I decided that. I cried. And felt lighter. And more peaceful. And at that moment my two friends arrived on the beach to join me. I had my sunnies on, so they didn’t see my tear filled eyes. As they settled in, I decided to walk the shoreline. I wet my feet. Saw the indentations of my footprints as I strolled along. And I walked.

I had my old iPod with me, which was playing Tim Hughes music. Old Tim Hughes music. And I reflected on the fact that in the days of old, I used to go and sit by the shore line on a beach near my house and hurt my self. And then to make it hurt even more, I would pour salty sea water into my wounds. Its a miracle they never got infected. 7 years ago, I was in a bad place mentally and I used to sit by the beach wishing I was brave enough to walk in and drown.

Anyway, 2015, walking along the sun drenched beach in Portugal having decided if I have cancer I would have no treatment, I thanked God for all He had done in my life. For who He is, and for HOW far He has bought me. I’m not where I want/ed to be, but I’m not where I was either, and thats good.

And in that moment I heard God.

 

And He was saying ‘WHAT THE FUCK?’. Ha. Yep. For real.

It stopped me in my tracks. Literally. ‘What the fuck?’.

And yes, I was like, ‘Er you are not supposed to be swearing at me, thats MY job, to swear at you’. And I have. Many a time.

And so I was shocked. And jolted. A bit like a lightening strike, not that I’m sure those things actually happen, I don’t know. Maybe they do? Maybe they are not actual lightening strikes, but maybe they are moments that stop you dead in your tracks, and jolt you. Like this moment for me. And as I’m typing these words, I have a song playing called ‘holy moment’. And bizarrely, and in an unusual way, actually, it was a holy moment. It was what I felt like a ‘direct communication’ moment. I had talked to God. A lot. And now He was talking back.

To be honest, I can’t really fully put into words what I felt, and how it felt. But I ended up on my knees.

I figure ‘holy moments’ are supposed to be really reverent. I don’t know? I’m not sure what holy moments are meant to be and whether they are meant to include bad language. I don’t know what holy moments are meant to be, but to me, it was this.

It was a holy moment.

God was using my language. Back at me. And made me stop in my tracks. And made me realise I had said a lot to Him. But I wasn’t listening back.

It was a life lesson moment. A life lesson moment of stopping and listening to Him.

I was over awed.

Anyway, God made me hear him. By swearing at me. Unconventional, sure. But hey, this IS God.

So, why was God shouting ‘what the fuck?’. Well … because actually He had a point. What was I thinking … making my own plans?. Deciding my own future. Deciding what I was going to do. I, I, I. It was about all about I. I this, I that, I the other. And actually God wanted in. God wanted an in on my decisions (and some of those decisions aren’t mine to make anyway)

He was reminding me that He has a different plan for my life. That His plan for my life is not for me to curl up, wither away and die.

His ‘what the fuck?’ was reminding me that I am a fighter. As I wrote in my previous blog. I always have been, still am, and actually always will be a fighter. It is not in my nature to just ‘give up’. Even through gritted teeth as times, I have continued to fight. For a better life, a better future, a better world. I don’t know how well I’ve done, but I keep going.

His ‘what the fuck?’ was reminding me that I am not alone, and that I am a fighter, and that He is with me in this too. His presence is in my life. In January I had several life changing experiences of God over a space of 4 days. I’ve never been the same since. And during the first experience I had I felt strongly in a way that needs a whole blog on its own God saying ‘I have bought you safely this far, I am not letting go now’.

And when I look back, through it all, and I mean THROUGH IT ALL, not just this ill health, but through the abuse, the violence, the rape I realise and see that He is right. He has bought me safely, through it all. He isn’t going to stop now. He isn’t going to let me fall. He isn’t going to let me go. And He isn’t going to let me let go.

And so, by the time I had walked several miles up and down the beach after that ‘moment’ I realised I have to let God do what He does best, and be God. And let Him be in control. And trust that He has a reason, and a purpose. That whatever will be, will be.

But I have to keep walking with Him. Hand in hand (I know, its soppy, sorry, and hell, I have such a big issue with handholding anyway, but …)

By the time I got back to my sun lounger, still on the beach, my friends were chatting away, one was about to get ice creams, and I sat back down and smiled and joined in with them.

Gods ‘what the fuck?’ stopped me in my tracks. He will not stop fighting for me and so I must not stop fighting either. IF I am really sick, if I am to die sooner than old age, I will go down in the way that I know best. Fighting. With my family and friends. And with God.

For He is good.

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Planning my funeral before my wedding, and fighting on.

I always imagined walking down the aisle, with my Grandad, to ‘Gabriels Oboe’.

My most favourite piece of music.

I never imagined at the age of 30 I would have planned my funeral and that instead of planning for walking towards someone who felt I was worthy of marrying, I would be thinking about the fact that I want my coffin taking in and out of church to that same piece of music.

At the moment it feels like death might come before marriage.

And I never imagined that.

Well, maybe I did, once before. 7/8 years ago when my world felt very black … but since then I’ve started to live life again.

I rediscovered hope. I rediscovered faith. I rediscovered what it means to wake up in the morning and be glad to be alive. I rediscovered what it is to smile again. Properly smile, not the fake ‘through gritted teeth’ or ‘pretend’ smile. And to laugh again.

So at the moment it is all a bit weird – because I’m finding myself in a place where to be alive feels too good and too precious to give up on, but yet I have had to spend time wondering if eventually I’ll have no choice.

Sometimes when I start my day I wonder if this is going to be the day that I die.

I wonder if It’ll be the day I have an asthma attack that they actually cant get on top of.

I’ve more than a few now that have gotten pretty close …

I wonder if this will be the day when my body is allergic to something that closes my airways or that I react so badly to, I just die.

I wonder if there is something more serious going on that no one has been able to identify which is why I am now seeing more consultsants, and facing even more tests.

I wonder if, when a few weeks ago one of my Consultants told me about mast cell disorder and that there are indicators that could suggest something much more serious than that if I have cancer. And if I’m going to die.

I’m not sure if I have ever thought about dying so much.

I was never really conscious of breathing. You know, that thing we all do, thousands of times a day. We breathe in. We breathe out. We take absolutely no notice. Well, most of us don’t. I never did. Until the first day I found myself unable to breathe.

Then I became pretty conscious of it.

Someone from recently told me I am like a cat with ‘9 lives’. I think I’m pretty close to that now … and then what …?

What happens when the nine lives have been used up – is that death?

I don’t know. At the moment I don’t know a lot.

But I do know I don’t want to die.

 

I do know, that despite the scars of a life before turning 30 that I am glad to be alive. And I don’t want to die.

 

I also know that I am a fighter.

On those days when I don’t want to get up and face the world, somehow I have to keep fighting.

On the days when I have absolutely no energy and I wake up and bury my head under the pillow for a few extra minutes that I somehow I have to keep fighting.

On the days when yet another hospital appointment feels like it might tip me over the edge, I have to keep on fighting.

I have to keep on fighting. Because if I don’t, then I might as well be dead.

 

Some days the fight looks like crying.

Some days the fight looks like wanting to have a tantrum.

Some days the fight looks like allowing myself to be looked after by other people.

Some days the fight looks like looking quite well and being able to go out.

Some days the fight looks like sleeping all day because I have no energy for anything else.

Some days the fight looks like writing.

Some days the fight looks like being the positive, strong and resisilent Helen lots of you know.

Some days the fight looks like reading my bible, praying, worshipping God.

Some days the fight looks like asking God why.

Some days the fight looks like being surrounded by my church family and friends and being together corporately to praise and learn about the One who has given us life.

Some days the fight looks easier than other days.

Some days the fight looks harder than other days.

 

Each day is different. But I know with each sun rise in the morning, comes a new day.

A new breath. For that moment, for that minute, for that hour. For that day.

And I am thankful for that.

 

 

#MHAW

#MHAW – Mental Health Awareness Week 

Its Mental Health Awareness Week this week. I will be blogging on a couple of things throughout the week (I hope) but felt like I wanted to re share something I wrote last year. I wrote it on World Mental Health Day after an exchange with someone on twitter. 

Stigma against people with mental health issues is well and truly alive. And it also exists within faith communities. For me that is the Christian community/church. 

There is some amazing work being done out there to address this – something I will write more about in my next blog, but there is still a way to go. 

This is what I wrote about having PTSD and depression, and not being demon possessed or a freak. 

‘Its been a while since I’ve written, but today is World Mental Health Day – a day in which millions of people have been tweeting using the #worldmentalhealthday hashtag, and under many others too – and I felt compelled to put a few thoughts down.

There have been some amazing blogs written today and I am under no illusion that this is going to be one of them. It isn’t.

This morning, on a rare day off I spent a few hours on the sofa, listening to music and catching up on the online world – on Facebook, twitter, emails, blogs etc. I saw a few tweets and then got into a conversation with some friends/people I’ve been connected with for a long time. And we were talking about it being World Mental Health Day.

And I got thinking about my experience. My experiences. Of mental health issues, and specifically of having mental health issues and being in a church on and off over the years.

I tweeted under the hashtag myself. A tweet that celebrated the amazing CPN I had involved in my life for 18 months, who I learnt to trust and like, without whom I’d have been dead (literally – he broke into my flat when I didn’t turn up for an appt and found me unconscious having OD’d).

And a couple of tweets that acknowledged the pain of churches that have gotten it SO wrong over the years whilst acknowledging that there are some that do get it right.

Then I wrote and tweeted this –

‘My name is Helen. I have PTSD & struggle with depression. I am not a freak and I am not demon possessed. #WorldMentalHealthDay #EndTheStigma’

Why?

Because I am not a freak.

And because my experience over the years has been of being told if I just prayed more, had more faith, or trusted God then I would not struggle with depression, or the issues surrounding the PTSD.

I’ve been told many times that I have demons. I’ve been told I am demon possessed. I’ve been told if I honoured God more/was more in love with Him then He would ‘take away’ the blackness.

I’ve been told by a Pastor that if I was truly a Christian my story would be erased from my mind, and I would not suffer because of it, therefor depression should not be a part of my life.

I’ve been told by another one that I was too much for him, their church, and probably God because the ‘Devil’ really had hold of me.

I’ve been told many things.

And we wonder why people fear being open and honest about mental health issues they face.

We wonder why the last place a person would think about going when in mental health distress is a church.

And we wonder why people end up more hurt and damaged by the responses of people, who not only misunderstand but who are often wilfully ignorant of the wider issues.

Not long after I posted the ‘my name is Helen. I have …’ tweet I got a reply.

From a ‘well meaning’ Christian, who firstly started off by joking. It wasn’t massively funny, and I spent a couple of minutes before I replied trying to work out if they were being totally stupid or if behind their words were deeper meaning.

It didn’t take long to find out.

To find out that they believe I need ‘deliverance’.

It didn’t take long for them to tell me I am not experiencing freedom and victory (because they know me oh so well right? As if).

It took a matter of minutes for them to become another one of the very many people I’ve had in my life speaking dangerous untruths. Thankfully I am strong enough to respond/respond/answer back now. A few years ago I was not.

A few years ago, for me personally, someone coming at me with those views were damaging. Damaging to me, to my life, and to my relationship with God, and the church. It contributed to making it non existent.

After our little exchange, and after being told I don’t live in victory I got thinking about what ‘victory’ means. And what it looks like. And how it looks different and unique to every single person.

Victory to me is waking up every morning and being OK that I am alive.

Victory to me is putting one step in front of another and keeping on walking.

Victory to me is not self harming for 4.5 years, and not trying to kill myself.

Victory to me is being 7 years on from the day I was raped.

Victory to me is overcoming each and every battle as and when they come to confront me.

Victory to me is when someone (I know) touches me/gives me a hug and I don’t flinch, freeze, want to cry, or hit them.

Victory to me is in the overcoming of big things, but also in the very small, tiny day to day things too.

Victory to me is looking the world in the eyes, holding my head up high and knowing I have survived.

So how dare someone tell me I am not experiencing victory, because I do. I experience victory every single damn day.

And thankfully too, God is now in that victory too.

Mental Health Issues are so misunderstood and stigmatised in society generally, and that is no different within the church.

Whether its deliberate or just pure ignorance its not good enough.

And we cannot continue to brush the topic under the carpet.

People like me are everywhere. We are next to you on the bus, in the shops, in your work places. In your schools, your hospitals, your libraries, your Dr’s. Everywhere there are people, are people with mental health battles happening. And that includes in the church. My church. And your church.

If you are reading this I urge you to, if you haven’t already, begin to educate yourself. Begin to assess how you respond and support someone with mental health issues, especially within your faith community.

And I beg of you to consider spending time on working out how you effectively support someone.

Because believing we are demon possessed is wrong. And damaging, as I said above.

Learn to love. Learn to accept. Learn to walk along side us.

Learn what we need. And for each and every one of us it will be different. What I do guarantee though is that it won’t be being told we have demons.

We don’t.

My name IS Helen. I have PTSD & struggle with depression. I am NOT a freak. AND I AM NOT DEMON POSSESSED’

a health update

Dear friends, 

I was going to blog this but then realised I could attempt to succinctly just post it on Facebook.

I’m always so thankful for all the love and support you all give me and I’m sorry if I don’t always manage to respond to social media messages at the moment. 

I’m also always so thankful for the prayers a lot of you put up there especially over the last 18 months/2 years since the health dramas kicked in. 

The last 6 weeks have been tough with a really serious asthma attack a month ago, passing out in church, and various other issues. I’ve had several appointments with my medical people since too. 

Last week, on Tuesday one of those appointments was quite tough. 

And I (we – glad my Mum was here) was told by my GP to expect my next appointment in Nottingham which is a multidisciplinary to be one where they tell me they have exhausted all treatments. 

My body is completely autoimmune which is attributing to various issues and it’s unlikely any will ever ‘go’. 

It needs to be managed. 

And I’ve been told I need to face the reality this is going to be considered chronic. 

It will change and impact how life looks for me massively in weeks and months to come. 
Today in church we sang – 

‘We believe in God the Father

We believe in Jesus Christ

We believe in the Holy Spirit

And He’s given us new life

We believe in the crucifixion

We believe that He conquered death

We believe in the resurrection

And He’s coming’ back again’

and another song about Him being the lifter of our heads which moved me because of bible verses I’ve read on that theme this week. 

I believe in those things above. And I believe and know He is faithful.

I believe He heals but I know he doesn’t too. I don’t know why. But that’s OK for now.

So my point of this long update is? I wanted you to know where things are at health wise BUT I also want to affirm my trust and faith in God.

He has done good things in my life. 

And despite the hardness/difficulties/emotions all this stuff brings right now I know He IS good and doing good things. I am holding on to that. 

Thank you to the people who’ve journeyed this with me since Tuesday and continue to do so.
You are amazing

Thank you to the people who are not so close but who still often cheerlead me. You are amazing too.

An Easter Poem

A baby sent.
A life lived.
A miracle maker.
Grace giver.
Leader.
Gatherer of people.
Lover of the lowly.

Mocked.
Nails in hands.
Raised up on wood.
A crown of thorns.
Blood.
Pain.
Agony.
Death.

Waiting.
Tears.
Questioning.
Silence.
Stillness.
Confusion.
Wondering.
Darkness.
Mourning.

Shaking ground.
Rolled away stone.
Light bursting.
Violent hope.
Breakthrough.
Death defeated.

RISEN!
ALIVE!

Stop, just for a minute …

Part 1

Stop … just for a minute …

When did you last say ‘I love you’ to someone?

Anyone ? … a friend? Your family? Jesus?
When did you last say ‘I love You to Jesus’

When did you last speak to Him?

When you last pour out your soul to Him?

When did you last tell Him whats on your mind?
Why not try it now …

He loves You! He is waiting …

He is waiting to hear from you … He wants you to talk to Him … He wants you to pour out your heart to Him

He longs for the day when all is surrendered

He longs for you to stand before Him, in prayer, in worship. He longs for you to come to Him.

He is stood with His arms open wide, waiting to embrace you … To surround you with Love, Grace and Mercy. He wants to shower you with blessings after blessings.

Stop …

Praise Him,

Worship Him,

tell Him how much You Love Him!

 

Part 2

When was the last time someone said to you ‘I love You?’

Stop ….

Listen …

Hear the voice
Maybe it’s the smallest, faintest sound.

Maybe it’s a whisper, blowing in the wind,

Maybe it’s a loud bang, so loud it hurts your ears,

Or maybe, just maybe it surrounds you in the every day noise.
Have You ever stopped to listen? … to hear …?

Try it now …

What do you hear? What do you want to hear?

Don’t be scared, or afraid.

Listen to Him say ‘I love YOU’

Surround yourself in the whisper, the wind, the loud bang, the everyday noise. Listen to Him saying ‘I LOVE YOU’

YOU are LOVED

YOU are PRECIOUS

YOU are VALUABLE

YOU are FORGIVEN

YOU ARE HIS CHILD!

Whoever you are, wherever life has taken you, whatever you’ve done …

Just stop, and listen …

Listen to Him saying

‘ I LOVE YOU’!

Rise Up.

Today I felt God challenge me to participate in the church prayer meeting tonight. I lost all confidence in praying out loud years ago and am *just* starting to explore that again but with my very small close network of friends so reasonable sized groups of people who I don’t know everyone in doesn’t work for me. But went because I felt God telling me I should (I know that probably sounds a bit weird, it feels it too!).  I ended up sitting in a spare space, praying myself, and having a little chat with a beautiful person I’ve never properly chatted to before which left me encouraged massively. I wondered what God meant by ‘participating’ because I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to. And then I wrote this. And was asked to share it – which I did (eek!) – have been asked by a few people to share it online/on Facebook so here it is …

Rise Up

Rise up, rise up
broken, ashamed, abandoned.
Rise up.
Lift up your head.
Open your eyes, look into His.
Rise up, rise up
be healed, be pieced together again .
You belong
To Him.
You are His.
He is yours.
He knows your name.
You know His.
Rise up.

Rise up and take your place
as the Prince or Princess He calls you to be,
and knows you as.
Rise up.
Do not fear.
He is love.
He has come .
He is amazing grace.
Rise up.

 

Come to the table.

Come
Come to the table, you who are weary and tired.
Come to the table, you whose tears fall night and day
Come to the table, you who can’t see the smallest flicker of light
Come

Come
Come to the table, you who feel a failure and worthless
Come to the table, you who feel isolated and alone
Come to the table, you who feel the deep open wounds of pain of life
Come

Come
Come to the table, you who can’t lift your head up high
Come to the table, you who can’t look people in the eyes out of shame
Come to the table, you who does not know who they are any longer
Come

Come
Come to the table, you who longs for acceptance but has never found it
Come to the table, you who lost all the hope you once had
Come to the table, you who has hidden behind your fear built walls
Come

Come
Come to the table, you who is broken beyond broken.
Come to the table, you who is desperate.
Come to the table, you who is at the end of yourself
Come.

Come to the table where He is
Come to the table where His arms are open wide.
Come to the table, you.
Yes you.
Come.

Come to His table.

Come to His table of grace.
Come to His table of mercy
Come to His table of peace
Come to His table of forgiveness
Come to His table of hope
Come to His table of love
Come to His table of freedom
Come to His table of healing

Come to His table of blood stained redemption.
Come
Come to His table.
Come to the table where He is
Come to the table where His arms are open wide
Come to His table who ever you are
Come to His table, you are welcome.
Come to His table, for it is for you.

Yes you.
Come to His table.
Come.

Abortion – my 13 year secret.

Her name would have been Sophie.
His name would been Jack.

She/he would have been 13 now. A teenager.
A teenager who would probably have been grounded a few times by now, if they had taken after me anyway. A teenager who probably had a girlfriend or boyfriend. A teenager who would have started secondary school and hopefully be thinking about what subjects to take for GCSE’S. A teenager who hopefully wouldn’t be making the same mistakes as I did.

I often wonder what Sophie or Jack would have looked like. Would they have looked me? Would they have looked like him? Would they have had blue eyes, brown eyes, blond hair, brown hair, black hair. Would they have been tall, short, slightly built or more well built like me?
Would they have been quiet and calm, or loud and boisterous? Would they have been activists at heart like their mother and father were?

I often wonder what they would have been like.

And I, especially most recently regret massively the fact that Sophie or Jack only lived for a very short amount of weeks, inside my body.

And that I made the decision to not continue their life.

I made the decision to have an early abortion. Distinguishing the life that was starting to grow inside of me.
Why am I writing this blog? Why am I telling you this?
Why after 13 years of total silence am I breaking that silence and speaking out?
Why after years of pro choice believing am I about to probably upset some people off by saying out loud that I cannot think anything other now than that life is precious, life starts at conception, and the life I carried did not deserve to be aborted.
Why after years of silence am I writing about the abortion that I had that will probably upset some of you reading this who have faithfully followed my writing and blogs online over the years and feel like you know me?
Why after years of silence am I sharing this that will probably get the Pro Life tweeters online condemning me and my actions because in their seemingly graceless world that is what they feel they should do (with the exception of a couple of people I’ve recently tweeted with whose brutal grace put tears into my eyes)

Why after years of silence am I telling you this?

The simplest answer is because it feels like I have come full circle.
When I first started blogging years ago it was a space to write about the things I could not vocalise. It was a space to write the things that my head was screaming but that I could not express whilst sitting in front of someone. And as life changed, so did I, and as I battled life, I wrote about it. ‘Fragmentz’ the identity was created, as a blog and as a tweeter. And I talked/wrote about life. And was grateful for the support I gained and received through that season from people I didnt know as I often went to places that were uncomfortable for folks, and where there were ‘no holds barred’ so to speak.

When I became a Christian again in October 2013 life changed. So did the need to write anonymously about absolutely everything in my life that had and was happening. And I started to explore life as a more ‘cohesive’ person, joining together the ‘Fragmentz’ who could only discuss the horrors of the past online with strangers (and a very small handful of people offline who didn’t live locally to me) with ‘Helen’ who had found a community safe enough/close enough offline to start exploring them properly face to face with people.
Blogging took a back seat a bit, and I started to write much less about what was going on and what I was experiencing. I remember some of you (people I’ve connected with solely online over the years) being quite hurt when I chose not to record/blog/publish transcripts of my baptism last year. I got to a place where whilst I love and need my online relationships I also needed privacy and space to explore and ‘do life’ in relationship with people offline. Something that was a different experience for me, and at times VERY challenging. I discovered it is one thing being ‘vulnerable’ online via twitter and a blog and a totally different thing being totally vulnerable face to face with people offline.
To look people, people I was learning to trust and can say I do trust now, in the eyes and be vulnerable with. It was tough.

But its what has happened. And it has been life changing. Life giving.

A few months ago during one of my many hospital stays which seem to be frequent at the moment I remember spending most of the time reading my Bible and praying. And felt a real sense of needing to ‘complete’ what had been started in terms of vocalising my story.
A real need to complete what had been started by God in terms of accepting who I am as a person and my past.
I felt like God was saying to me that if I was going to die then I needed to have made my peace fully with Him. And in that moment realised that IF I was going to die that I didn’t want to die with out having ‘become’ right with Him. Fully.

And that my ‘story’ was largely about what people had done to me. It was about the abuse as a child. The rape as an adult. And other stuff in-between, like the self harming, down ward spirals of depression and the overdose. The consequences of what happened to me.

But what I also realised was that my ‘story’ needed to become about things that I have done too.
I’ve needed to forgive much over the years, but I have also needed to be forgiven of much too.

My ‘story’ needed to include the realisation and acceptance that I have made mistakes. Huge massive big deep profound heart ripping mistakes that have held me condemned for many years.

A mistake that some people who identity as ‘pro life’ would call murder.
A mistake my pro choice friends and people I’ve identified with for years would call a choice I had every right to make.

But as I’ve journeyed life with people, offline, I’ve journeyed what it means. Life. What ‘life’ means. And being part of the lives of people who have become pregnant and carried their babies until they have been born, and seeing that process made me reevaluate my thinking. I remember the day when someone who has become an amazing friend showed me her first scan picture of the baby they longed for for so long. I could have cried. And just kept looking at it going ‘oh my God, theres its nose, feet, toes’ etc. It was so clear.

I realised in that moment, that very moment, in the pub over lunch that day looking at that scan picture, that having always been a pro life thinker (life in every shape or form, including the life of animals which was my big activist heart back then) I had become ‘pro choice’ in order to live with what I had done. Because by having an abortion I had gone against everything I believed in.
I had gone against the fact that I once believed life is life and is so from the moment it is conceived. I had gone against believing that all life, including the life of animals deserved to live.
And to live with myself I made myself believe that the baby I had aborted was not a baby. Just a mass of cells. Just a thing. Just a fetous. With no heart beat. With no feelings. With nothing. I made myself believe it was not life.
And I closed my heart and my head down. In order to survive. Which is what I’ve had to do numerous times over the years.

In order to be the ‘survivor’ that my twitter profile says I am, I had to close my heart and head down many many times to the horrors of life, in order to just keep on going. In order to take that one more step in front of another. In order to just make the day through. In order to live.

My baby has always been called Jack or Sophie though. So perhaps I didn’t close my head and my heart completely. Just enough to survive. Because if I believed what I had done was perhaps not the best thing back then I don’t know how I would/could have carried on.

But I also know, back then I didn’t know how I could/would have carried on when I discovered I was pregnant.
My living situation was volatile and difficult. The situation with my ‘boyfriend’ difficult. He didn’t care. I remember the day I told him, and he told me he didn’t care. I could do what I liked. I could have an abortion. He did not want to know. I could have the baby. He did not care or want to know. A week later he text me and told me to not contact him again, changed his phone number and ‘moved on’. (He lived from house to house with friends). He disappeared from my life. I’ve never seen or heard from him again.
I felt if I had gone to some of the Christians I knew at that time that they would have been more concerned about my ‘sin’ than anything. And shocked that Helen had got herself pregnant. Whether or not that would have happened I don’t know. But I felt it would.

I was alone. Totally alone. I was drinking a lot. Self harming. And still battling with other peoples behaviour towards me.
I had no money. No support. No where to go.
I was alone.
I felt like I simply could not bring a child into the chaotic world I lived in. Into the chaotic world my mind was. Into chaos.
I went alone to the clinic that day.
I went alone into the room to see the Dr’s, with just the nurse whose name I don’t even know alongside to get the medication I needed to take. I went back the day after, alone.
I walked in alone. And I walked out alone. I walked the next few days alone.

And I’ve continued to walk this particular walk alone. I’ve held this secret, alone. For 13 years.
And as I’ve come to value life more and more over the last 12 months the more painful the choice I made that day has become.
The more the condemnation and shame has hit.

The stronger I’ve got especially over the last year, the more I’ve come to realise life can be lived fully, the more Ive journeyed with people offline in community, the more I’ve become part of peoples lives, and the more they’ve become part of my life the more I’ve come to realise I don’t want to carry secrets. Because with those secrets come shame. And the condemnation. And the feeling that what I did could never possibly be forgiven by anyone. And if you read the tweets from pro life tweeters online you would be led to believe that it can’t be forgiven.

But thats not the case.
One of my favourites quotes is by Brene Brown. It is ‘shame cannot survive being spoken and met with empathy’.
And I discovered I needed to speak my shame.
And so I did. At the end of last year.
I spoke my shame.
I spoke my shame to the handful of close friends who have journeyed with my over the the years who I simply could not do life without. I spoke my shame to them fearful that this might be the ‘last straw’ in what they could cope with – having thrown lots at them.
I spoke my shame to my immediate church leaders, who have journeyed the last 18 months with me, whose baby girl changed so much of my thinking, fearful that this might the ‘one’ thing that would make them think ‘that Helen, she is too much’.
I spoke my shame to my church Pastor fearful that this would change his thinking of me, that he would treat me differently, that he would tell me this was the one thing that God could not forgive. That he would not want me in his church any more.
I spoke my shame to God.
I spoke my shame, to them all. Fearful of rejection.

But in that speaking of my shame, I discovered freedom. It wasn’t instant. But I found it.
I discovered I was wrong. Wrong to expect rejection which has been such a big part of my life, from the people I love. And who I have discovered and finally(!) accepted love from. I discovered that in speaking my shame to them, they were able to respond with love. And empathy. And its changed me.
I have discovered that despite there being absolutely nothing left to hide now, no part of my ‘story’ unspoken that these people, these friends that have become my family still love me. Still accept me. And still want to walk with me.

And I discovered I could speak my shame to God, who already knew it anyway, and still come to Him.

The last few months have been a painful journey.

The last few weeks have been a revolutionary journey.

With experiences of God that I simply cannot put into a blog, so personal and profound, that have made me fully realise and accept that I have been forgiven. And if I am gong to die, tomorrow because I’m hit by a bus or if I’m going to die because my respiratory system shuts down during an asthma attack and I can’t breathe any more, or if i’m going to die because my immune system is not working properly and my white blood cells are so high there could be something much more serious going on than we know about then actually that is OK.
It IS OK in as much as I am at peace now. I am at peace with my story. All of it. I am at peace with the people who have hurt me. I am at peace with the decisions and mistakes I have made.
If I am to die, I am at peace with God.

I have forgiven much. I have been forgiven much.

And so as I said above, we have come full circle. Having journeyed this journey over the last fews months, offline, it feels right to journey it with people online now. It feels right to speak out to people who have followed and supported me via twitter and fragmentz/helenblogs and to be fully open and transparent. Honest. About who I am as a person.

If you have shared my blogs/tweets over the year’s I’d be grateful if you were able to share this one. Because I want as many people as possible who have had contact with me to know who I am. What I have done and where I am at.

It feels especially right to be sharing this now because more recently I’ve had an influx of ‘pro choice’ and ‘pro life’ tweets being put into my timeline due to the political status in the States, and some big pro life marches that have recently taken place there.
It feels especially right to publish this blog, a blog I’ve actually written over quite a few times over months now because I am desperate to see more grace, especially within the pro life movement. A movement that seems to forget the life of the mother. A movement that online especially comes across as far more concerned with condemnation than anything else.
I beg you, if you, like I am now, are a pro life thinker that you consider love, and grace and mercy as you tweet what you tweet and say what you say.
Remember as well as the life of a baby you are ‘protecting’ you have the life of a woman to think about too.
And she deserves more than being shamed and condemned.

If you are reading this having had an abortion, there is no condemnation. you are loved.

Thank you for reading.

This is it.
This is me.
This is my story.

The day I hit a Pastor.

Once in a while people who know me, or who have known me a long time will joke about the fact I once hit a church leader. A Pastor. The person who led the church I was going to at that time.

When and if the topic comes up I often laugh and joke about it with them. Usually its brief, and I never go into detail as to actually why I hit him, usually citing ‘he was a tosser’ as the reason.

But the other night, for some reason it came into conversation with a friend, who happens to be part of the wider leadership team of my church, and who is also my home group leader (it one of those round the dining room table conversations at stupid o clock in the morning ones). We had been talking about the church and people who hold a role of authority/accountability when it comes to the leadership of it.

For the first time in the many many years it has been since I did what I did as I was talking about it properly I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion, and became teary eyed. It came out of the blue. I was not expecting it. Its never happened before.

And I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on that.

I’m not proud of the fact I smacked a Pastor. I’m not proud of the fact I’ve hit anyone.

And yet I realised how devastating his betrayal was.

How devastating this persons behaviour and actions were to me at the time.

I was a teenager. An older teenager granted, but a teenager none the less. A teenager who had stopped being abused by my biological father but who held the memories and scars of what he did to me close. I was a teenager who was self harming, smoking, drinking, having nightmares every night but a teenager who gave the impression I was not afraid of anything.

But I was. Because I was also a teenager being physically abused by my biological brother, at home. And I was afraid of him.

I was afraid of men. Not that I let them know it. Which led to, at times getting into situations I probably could have done without. And that just eventually ended up compounding the fear of men I already felt.

I was known as a ‘challenge’. I was known as ‘difficult’. As ‘too tough to handle’. A label that has followed me around since.

I used to get picked up by one of the youth leaders to go to the church which was about 20 minutes away from where I lived. I used to go on a Tuesday night, and a Sunday. Tuesday nights were their weekly prayer meetings. And the ‘youth’ would also go, and meet up and do other things. One Tuesday night we were late.

I will never forget walking in to the building to find a circle of people, most of the church (about 30 people – it was a small ish community) sitting there looking at me. And the Pastors wife standing up, and telling me they wanted to pray for me. That I would be able to forgive my biological father. My abuser, for what he had done. Because if I didn’t then I couldn’t claim to be a Christian. And if I was proclaiming to be a Christian then these things would not be issues. And that they would be erased from my mind.

See, just a few days before, for the FIRST time in my life, having been being abused since a small child I had worked up the courage to tell someone. One of the youth leaders. What had happened and what was still happening.

And they in turn took it to the Pastor (which years later  I totally understand and accept they had to do)

Who, instead of doing anything else decided to ‘take it to the church for prayer’.

So MY SECRET had become public knowledge. The whole church knew.

And I was being told I needed to forgive and forget.

As I stood there, on the outside of this circle, having just walked in the door the said Pastor came up behind me. I was in shock. I was stood transfixed at the Pastors wife stood up in front me and the circle of people all looking at me to realise someone was coming behind me.

And as he came to my side, he put his arms around me, and drew me in for a hug. Big mistake.

I impulsively got my self myself out of his ‘hug’ and hit him.

I went into melt down and was taken out of the church into the car park where I punched walls until I calmed enough to be put into a car and taken home.

I skipped church the following Sunday.

A week on – another Tuesday – the youth leader came to pick me up. Except he didn’t pick me up. Him and his wife gave me a letter from ‘the church’. I was not welcome any more because of my behaviour.

I never saw any of them again.

The impact of the actions of that man, and the church have actually been massive and long running. It was years and years before I plucked up the courage to tell someone again about the abuse I suffered. And even then I was unable to tell them the full story. Just mumble about ‘life being hard’.

I found myself in a position of working along side ministers as I worked for a group of churches and unable to trust them. Unable to be honest. Unable to be vulnerable. And unable to look them in the eyes. For fear of them abusing their position.

My trust in men had already been shot to pieces because of the men in my life who were supposed to care, protect and love but who instead took away my innocence and subjected me to horrendous physical pain.

My trust in ‘Godly men’ was shot to pieces by this Pastor.

So why am I writing about this?

Because as I’ve been driving to and from work this week, thinking about it all/reflecting on it I’ve had to lay it down. I realised that deep inside me I still held anger towards this man and the church. And I’ve had to lay that down. And I want to say out loud that I choose to forgive him, for his actions.

I am choosing to forgive him. Not forget. But forgive.

And move on.

I’m writing about this because I want people to know how wrong actions can lead to major consequences. Which may seem small to you, I don’t know, but which have been massive to me.

I am writing this because I want people to know/realise/understand that whilst people do make mistakes, and maybe this was a mistake on his part, maybe he just didn’t know what to do about someone disclosing abuse that this isn’t how to do it.

There is a right way. And a wrong way. And if you don’t know the right way, find out. Pretty damn quick.

And to say that just because you are in leadership of a church it does not mean you can do what the hell you like.