Friends With Faith

FRIENDS WITH FAITH PICLife is richer when shared with others. On this page, I seek to invite old friends and new to share some of their stories. Together we are better, and inspiration and perspective come through a variety of different voices and experiences. Enjoy!


January 2018

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Jess: Hebrew name meaning, “Jehovah exists.”

Jessica: Hebrew name meaning, “Rich. God beholds.”

Jess: Life name meaning, “Baby Whisperer.”

What perfect name meanings for Jess, someone who I believe wholeheartedly seeks a deeper relationship with God, and goes to great lengths to know Him more. I may have added the last one myself just because it’s true and she’s an Aunty to many!

Jess embodies the nature of a servant in giving her all to help others, I have had the pleasure of witnessing this when volunteering alongside her. She has a smile that lights up the room, and is both creative and organised, a sometimes rare phenomenon to find in one person, but she will explain more about that in her blog. Passionate about people, Jess loves to encourage all to realise their full potential, especially within the creative spheres. She also loves to sing, is an avid devourer of books, speaks more than one language, and has also penned a blog of her own, which you can check out here and enjoy some more of her creative writing.

What she writes about in her post is something that I believe many have and are grappling with.

Enjoy and be encouraged!

IDENTITY:

How to Love Others as Myself

The age-old questions of “Who am I?”, and “What makes me who I am?”, answered from the perspective of a 30-year-old, single, mixed raced, third culture, uni-quitting, organised, creative.

The invitation to write a post for FaithDiaries reached me while I was on holiday in New York.

The message read something like this: write whatever you want, about whichever subject you’d like to write, as long as it’s honest and raw, because who has time for any more “fake news”, “embellished truth”, “polarised opinion” and “crowd-pleasing…ahem…rubbish”.

(Am I paraphrasing that about right Anna? ;))

I immediately responded accepting the invitation, knowing that this was going to require some serious thinking time. What do I have to say that could help somebody?

After quite some to-ing and froing, influenced by the experiences of my NYC holiday, I settled on the title of this post, “How To Love Others As Myself”.

I know what you’re thinking – many more qualified people have tried answering this question over the centuries. There are so many schools of thought out there, telling us what shapes our identity, what loving ourselves looks like and what it doesn’t. So who does this 30-year-old, with a lack of qualifications and a particularly confusing background think she is, talking about this topic?

Fair question.

As you will see (I hope), I’ve had my share of a journey, and on it, I’ve had to learn what the title means – I have had to learn it, meaning I had to in order to survive.

I’ve learnt that unless I truly know who I am and love who I am, all my “love” and “service” to others comes from a place of lack. What I call loving others, really ends up being seeking approval, striving for acceptance and begging for love.

I have learnt – sometimes the hard way – that in order to love my neighbour as I love myself, I must first love myself. And to love myself I have found, (prepare, this is revolutionary), that I must first know WHO I AM.

Not a small challenge… I am hoping that my experience helps someone, so here it goes.

Working out that I needed to know who I am, in order to love myself was not easy for me, because I had grown up to believe that all that mattered was knowing who we are in Christ. Knowing what the bible says about us and knowing that it’s all about others and serving others. As I’ve grown older I no longer agree with that. Let me explain.

Today I believe that being created in the image of God, and a revelation of who we are in Christ, shapes the FOUNDATION and the CORE of who we are.

The revelation of being created in the image of God, (even before I became a Christian by the way), is essential to living a life marked and shaped by an understanding of our inherent value as human beings. It is imperative so that we can treat others and ourselves with dignity, respect, and place value upon ourselves and everyone we encounter.

Those of us fortunate enough to know and experience the truth of the gospel can then add to that the wonderful, liberating revelation of our now untouchable position in Christ. Our righteousness, our worth – even when our actions may seem unworthy, the fact that his love for us is unconditional regardless of our behaviour, and all the other wonderful truths of the Word of God.

All that can – and must in my opinion – significantly influence our sense of identity.

First and foremost I AM a daughter of the Most-High, I am the righteousness of God in Christ, I am forgiven, I am accepted…and the truth is I will be meditating on this and trying to get this permeating every fibre of my being until the day I die.

Unfortunately, the famous verse in Matthew 12:31, doesn’t say “love your neighbour as God loves you”. It says “love your neighbour as you love you”.

So although knowing how loved I am by God is crucial, and the beginning and the end of this journey, there is an in-between bit that I had skipped for too long.

I have come to experience, that there are three things on top of that truth that influence and shape who we are. I don’t believe we must be victim to them, but I think for too long, especially in the Christian world I’ve known, we have pretended that they don’t matter at all.

Over the last few years I have had the privilege to go on a journey of discovering this: knowing, understanding and processing the factors that have shaped me over the years, meeting them with the liberating truth of the gospel, and seeing its power transform what has been negative into a true reflection of who God has created me to be is the most exciting thing ever.

Not only that, but I believe we must approach the question of identity like that in order to fully become the wonderfully unique people God has created us to be, to love ourselves and ultimately be able to love and serve others.

The three things I have had to consider, deal with, process and reconcile with the help of the Holy Spirit are these, (I’m using past tense here, but don’t be mistaken, I am still very much right in the middle of this process):

  • My Cultural Background / Heritage
  • My Upbringing / Childhood Experiences
  • My Personal and Unique Desires, Passions and Skills

Let me tell you what I mean by explaining a little bit about myself:

I was born in Germany in the late 80’s. My mom, who herself was born in the Czech Republic to parents who fled Germany as kids during World War II, and then moved back later in life, raised me and my brother on her own. My dad left us when I was about two months old, and my step-dad, (who is also my brother’s dad), wasn’t around for very long either. Both men were in the US military and brought those respective dynamics into our home. When we were young we had many close relations to Americans and I spoke English as well as German. As we got older, US military bases in the area shut down, fewer Americans were around, German language and German culture became more relevant in our day to day life. Not to mention the fact that I went to a German school, German church etc.

Then there were my grandparents. Though somehow German, they brought with them expressions of the Eastern European lifestyle, and as my mom was a single mom, I spent much time with them.

There was, of course, also the issue of race. Even though the late 80’s and early 90’s were marked by much progress, growing up as practically the only black kid in a very very white environment brought its many challenges and hurts and left scars that I’m still dealing with today.

Today, I’ve lived in London for almost 8 years, and I still shudder when someone asks me where I’m from – no answer seems to express what I feel to be true…how can all that not shape who I am?

And lastly, the issue of desires, skills and passion. Today I am privileged to be part of our staff at Hillsong Church. However, still to this day, I struggle with not really fitting into a box. I love the arts – a creative myself who loves music, singing, writing etc. I have loved getting to be a part of our Performing Arts ministry, being involved in building our performing arts academy and getting to be a part of launching the Artist Collective. On the other hand, I’m fairly organised, (I say fairly because there are some ridiculously organised people out there and I ain’t got nothing on them!), good at putting systems and processes in place, and analyzing and structuring things etc. Oh, and I love people.

So as you can see, denying that all these things somehow make up who I am could be quite dangerous.

And yet, for many years that’s what I did, because my theology paired with experiences plus well-meaning, (yet wrong), advice from people, told me none of that really mattered, those were just human concerns and my response was to just think of the things of God, and everything else would work itself out.

Sadly that wasn’t my experience. I spent many years NOT dealing with my background, my roots, my childhood experiences and traumas, working out what I loved and didn’t love, what hurt me and what brought me joy – the list goes on – and therefore I wound up a pretty messed up adult when I hit my twenties.

Not knowing “WHO I AM” and what that was influenced by got me into a lot of trouble.

I ended up “serving” and working hard to gain approval from people, to be accepted, approved of and told that I belonged by others… as you can imagine, that never goes well.

In my case, I ended up going through a burn out before I was 22, have been struggling with depression since my teenage years and had very confused ideas of what boundaries were.

Now, that sounds a bit dramatic, and to be fair, my circumstances may have been more extreme than yours and therefore the symptoms may have been worse, but I know for a fact that I am not the only one dealing with this challenge.

So I want to propose this:

What if we – grounded in the truth of the word of God, stood on the solid foundation of who HE says we are, completely loved by him – had the courage to REALLY discover who we are and learnt to genuinely love ourselves?

There’s this beautiful scripture in the message translation:

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for”, (Ephesians 1 v 11).

I have discovered that it means, as He is my true North, as His word is my daily companion and main influencer in my life, as I surround myself with people who speak truth into my life and believe that I am here to make a difference in this world, and as I serve people – that I can confidently process my past, discover the desires of my heart and become fully who I am called to be.

That finding out about my heritage and background matters, that dealing with things I’ve experienced in my past properly is of utmost importance, and that doing what I love and reframing and evaluating that on a regular basis is paramount.

Interestingly enough, the more I have committed myself to that journey, the more I have found that I can be a TRUE blessing to the people around me.

In my work, in my friendships, in life… The more I LOVE who I am becoming, love what I do, the more productive, inspiring and uplifting I am. The more I can truly love my neighbour as myself.

So here’s my encouragement to you: Don’t use “Knowing who you are in Christ” as an excuse. Don’t hide behind that. Use it as the core, the foundation – maybe even the lens through which you look at the things of life. And then explore! Discover what you love, what you’re good at.

Deal with your past and go through the emotions connected to that. And then enjoy the feeling of coming out the other end.

Define your boundaries and don’t be afraid to express them.

For if you do all that through the lens of the gospel, closely connected to the heart of the Father, you will end up serving others, loving people and seeking the kingdom first in more glorious ways than you could’ve ever imagined.

From a place of fulfilment rather than from a place of trying to fill a void.

From a place of acceptance rather than trying to gain approval.

From a place of love rather than strive.

From a place of peace rather than anxiety.

Knowing who we are and being comfortable with that, is part of the freedom Jesus has won for us. It allows us to love ourselves and in turn truly and deeply love and serve others.

I don’t think that journey ever ends – like I said, I’m still smack bang in the middle of it, but trust me, looking back at where I’ve come from I have a feeling this approach works.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I truly hope that this has helped maybe one or two of you out there.

If not, writing it has definitely helped me – and reminded me how much I love writing….it’s a pretty fun life when we embrace it!

Much love,

Jess

PS: Check out Jess’ blog alifepouredoutblog.wordpress.com 


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Rich and I were very happy when Stephen and his wife Stephanie decided to relocate with their family (Frankie, 7 and Maverick, 4) to London to become a part of our church here in the UK. We have known them for about 8 months now and are enjoying our new friendship with their family. 

As a keen writer, I thought Stephen would be a great guest for the blog. From what I know of him so far, he is a man of integrity and passion with a dry sense of humour who makes a delicious Aebleskiver (if you don’t know what they are – you should!). It is obvious that he loves his family, God and the church and alongside spending time with them, he enjoys reading, screenwriting, making music, and speaking.

As a family, they feel called to build the church full-time and he has been in vocational ministry for 18 years after growing up as a Pastor’s kid. Currently, he works in production but has also been a pastor and served in various capacities, from being a worship leader to making film, producing services and events, and more.

I’m pleased to share his thoughts with you…

Know not No

We have a four-year-old son named Maverick. Maverick was in the “why?” stage not long ago. Everything was followed up with “why?”, which made me wonder if we always have that nagging question in our minds, we just stop asking it out loud as we get older.
Now, Maverick is in the stage where he realises he can say no, although it is followed up with a consequence when it is inappropriately directed at his mom or I. Usually it is a conversation explaining that when he is asked to do something he needs to go do it with a happy heart. Often times his emotions get away from him and then it takes a longer conversation to help him listen through the emotions he is experiencing. When he or his sister is too emotionally upset to listen, I remember how it was explained to me once, that we, as a species, speak an average of 150 words a minute yet process at 500 words a
minute, which means we add commentary in our heads when we are listening, thus
explaining why miscommunication and misunderstanding happen.

In the book, Made to Stick, the writers enlighten us as to what happens when incorrect knowledge and anger are paired, “Emotions are elegantly tuned to help us deal with critical situations. They prepare us for different ways of acting and thinking. We’ve all heard that anger prepares us to fight and fear prepares us to flee. The linkages between emotion and behaviour can be more subtle, though. For instance, a secondary effect of being angry, which was recently discovered by researchers, is that we become more certain of our judgements. When we’re angry, we know we’re right, as anyone who has been in a relationship can attest.”

That information then reminded me of the beginning of the movie, The Big Short, where a quote from Mark Twain is shown. It says, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” The funny thing is Mark Twain never said it, which is why I think it was used.

The word “no” can get sticky when it comes to working with people. Whether it be that some still feel like that child that can’t say no and they have to do what they are told to do with a happy heart, or there are those who do say no and then get a bad rep for having a bad attitude. In these situations, I have learned to look through the “no” and see the person who may be too prideful to admit that instead of no, they should say “I don’t know”.

Sometimes the no stems from a lack of knowledge.

As a worker, it is best to be solution-oriented and instead of just saying no, we say what is possible or likely solutions. As a leader, we do better looking past the no and helping the team process what is possible.

Not having enough knowledge may not be the only problem. The flip side can be so much knowledge in an area that we suffer from the curse of knowledge. Not remembering that people don’t have the same knowledge base as we do.

Not only when working with people, but even worse is when we say no to ourselves. We may be saying it to ourselves because of fear or pride. In one work situation, someone kept telling me, and themselves, that something wasn’t possible. In response, I said, “if you keep saying it, you will be right”. And, in that situation, it ended up being possible. I remind myself that outside of bending physics anything is possible, we’ll just need time or money. I’m not advocating to throw out all wisdom and to leave common sense in the wind, but do not use it as an excuse either.

Before saying “no” it helps to remember two things:

1.What you know

One thing to remember is you are a child of God. Maybe you don’t believe in God, maybe you’ve long forgotten, maybe you’ve been a follower but need the reminder. There was nothing more lifesaving than that reminder for me. When I say lifesaving, I wasn’t contemplating suicide, but I wasn’t truly living either. And if you aren’t truly living then are you a dead man walking or a zombie?

I remember I was visiting my brother’s church one summer and the worship leader led the song, No Longer Slaves, by Bethel. The chorus says “I’m no longer a slave to fear, for I am a child of God”. That reminder reached me in a depth I had forgotten about. When we are saying no because of a lack of knowledge we have to swallow our pride and raise our hand or be honest. Our lack of knowledge in any given area does not change our value as a person, much less who we are in Christ. We can only gain the knowledge when we recognise the need to pursue it.

In this life, we will not know everything. We just have to be willing to figure it out. And if you’ve forgotten what you know, read Romans 8 on repeat as the entire chapter is a
reminder of what we know or should know. We aren’t condemned, God knows all, He works all things for good, He is for us, and nothing can separate us from His love.

2.Who you know

In those times of insecurity, it can lead us to try and figure things out on our own. We must prioritise when we need to figure it out on our own and when we need to ask for help. Thankfully through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with many people who have a wide variety of gift sets that I can call on and ask how to do something. One of the best things I’ve learned is that I can easily say I don’t know, but I know someone who does.

In 2012, I was at a conference and the phrase came to mind, “The Lord Knows”. I’ve held that phrase close to my heart ever since. It can be a hard phrase when things are not going well or when we don’t understand why He isn’t doing something, but remembering what we know like Romans 8:28, we hold on because He knows.

Just like remembering we are a child of God, we need to remind ourselves who we know in the good times and the bad. The thing when coming to God for help is remembering it is not always answered immediately or the way we would expect. There have been many times I have thought something was going to happen and instead something did happen but in a way, I didn’t expect.

One example of this was our coming to London. When I was thinking of leaving my previous position, those I talked with would ask the same question, “If I could do anything what would it be?”. I told people my thought would be planting a church in North Chicago in the Gold Coast area, off North State Street. Raising up leaders there and then doing the same thing in London and then Paris. The reason being, those are hard places for a church to work. Fast forward to a year later and I’m on staff at a church in London that already has campuses all over the world, including Paris. I wouldn’t have planned or guessed that answer, but it was something the Lord put in my heart that was answered in a way I didn’t expect.

Of course, there are other reasons that cause us to say no. It could be laziness, or people may not think something is possible, they may not have the time, money, or personnel to do it, or they may have given up. There is an abundance of reasons as to why and this is not an exhaustive list.

There are plenty of times and reason to say no. I just want to encourage you in this, always remember what you know and who you know.

Know instead of no and then go and do.

PS… Hear from Stephen’s wife Stephanie on juggling motherhood and ministry here


December 2017

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Annie Kyei kindly agreed to write a post for the blog and I’m excited to share it with you all. I’ve known her for about 7 years; we met at Church whilst serving together on the performing arts team.

Having always had a passion for social justice, on completion of her studies she went straight to work in the humanitarian sector. Her current role is as the Communications Lead for the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. In this role, she oversees all media, communications and events which entails drafting speeches and blogs, as well as managing all press engagement. Annie has also previously worked for the UN and A21 (a not for profit organisation that works to fight human trafficking).

At Church, she leads alongside her husband Phil as they pastor the Hillsong Bermondsey campus together.

For as long as I’ve known her she has had wisdom beyond her years, a heart to serve and a joy in encouraging others to flourish. She is genuinely one of the nicest people you will ever meet and always brings a smile and some fun to every situation. Beautiful inside and out.

Here’s what she has to say…

Twelve Years

The journey that God takes you on cannot be predicted, predetermined or preempted. It’s His journey, in His will, for His glory and it’s endlessly surprising!

In the last couple of years, my walk with God has had its twists and turns. I’ve found myself waiting on God for the miraculous and trusting in God for the impossible, while at the same time being shocked by His faithfulness, encouraged by His presence and amazed by His grace.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Likewise, where struggle, confusion, challenge, pain, fear, impossibilities (and the rest) abound, there goes His all-abounding grace!

One story of grace that I have repeatedly found myself going back to in recent seasons – seasons that have tested my faith and challenged my hope – is the account of “Jesus healing the bleeding woman”(Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48). She appears in 3 out of 4 gospels and demonstrates the kind of faith I want to walk in. In a nutshell, as Jesus walked through a busy crowd of people – so busy the bible says “the crowds almost crushed him” – a woman was there who had been bleeding for 12 years. She reaches for Jesus, touches the cloak he is wearing and is immediately healed. Jesus stops in his tracks, aware someone has touched him, and tells the woman to “go in peace”. “The woman with the issue of blood” was how she was known. Because of her condition, she was viewed as unclean and unworthy. This was her reality and it became who she was.

Too often, our issue can become our identity – and it’s a hard place to come out of. If we’re honest, it’s pretty easy for us to be consumed by the challenges we face. It becomes what we focus on and what we talk about, and it can swiftly become our natural tendency to worship our struggles without realising it. I’m certainly guilty of that. When my go-to thought should be the promises of God, it quickly becomes the problem I face. I’ve had to consciously decide to take captive certain thoughts, to think about things pure and praiseworthy, to live beyond my reality and step into a hope for things unseen and unspoken. This is exactly what we find in this gospel story. The woman didn’t settle. She believed for so much more. She had the audacity to believe she could be made whole and healed. She dared to dream of the impossible – even after twelve years of bleeding.

TWELVE YEARS!

Twelve years is certainly enough time for something to become the norm. Twelve years is long enough for something to become the seemingly unshakeable expected. Twelve years is a long time to fight. But she didn’t let the length of her battle limit her belief.

She was not bound by her fight; instead, she was blessed in her faith. Because she believed, she was healed. This tells me…
·       Time has no bearing on victory!
·       Years do not inhibit healing!
·       Continuity does not block breakthrough!

In spite of her constant sickness and her ongoing lack, she believed in a God who could heal. She believed in a God who cared. She believed in a God powerful enough to transform her life. And her reality did not limit her response.

The story goes on to say “she touched the edge of His cloak”. She touched. She stretched. She reached. Reaching Jesus doesn’t always come easily, but silencing thoughts, ignoring distractions and disciplining downtime are all choices worth making. This woman inspires me to fight to follow my Saviour!

She didn’t need to become pure or behave perfectly, she simply chose Jesus. All it took was a touch and “immediately the bleeding stopped” – the battle had gone on for years, but the breakthrough came in a moment.

I have found myself in recent years waiting on God. Waiting time is never wasted time – he refines and renews no end in that time – but jeez it gets tough! Impatience can lead to frustration and doubt, but this story again reminds me to keep it simple. Circumstances can be painful, but He is still good and He always will be. His thoughts are higher. His timing is greater. And no matter what my reality is, the truth remains that His presence carries instant power. As we simply initiate “the reach” we open ourselves up to His endless goodness and grace.

The story ends with Jesus telling this woman that it is her FAITH that healed her. I think it is fitting that my gifted friend asked me to write something for her “faith diaries” blog, and the only thing I felt I could contribute was how this story has impacted me on my own journey. And there you have it – it was faith that was the fiercest weapon in this fight.

Faith led to breakthrough. Faith led to healing. Faith led to the miraculous. And Jesus doesn’t stop there – He tells her to “go in peace”. Peace is a consequence of this faith. Peace follows faith. Peace is the fruit of faith.

In the last couple of years, my reality has been one of demotion and promotion. There’s been opposition followed by crazy favour. I’ve had health scares and healing, heartache and blessing. I’ve had things taken and I’ve seen God restore more than was lost. There’s been hope deferred followed by God’s exceeding and abundant provision!

Just because He’s an all-good God doesn’t mean it feels like an all-good ride. But you can guarantee that it’s for an all-good purpose. Just like our leading lady, as we repeatedly reach for Him – against the odds, hopeful in the seemingly hopeless – we find Him to be ever-present, ever powerful and ever faithful.

Written by Annie Kyei


November 2017

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Rich and I have been married for 7 years, nearly 8, but have been together a decade in total at this point! We met when we were both still students and have laughed, lived, loved and cried together ever since. Every year is sweeter with my best friend. Marriage takes work and I’m blessed to work hard alongside him. He’s generous, kind and full of integrity. Don’t be fooled by his quiet demeanour, he has a witty sense of humour and works harder than anyone I’ve known. He has wisdom and discernment beyond his years, and a huge random tank of knowledge stored in that beautiful head. There’s so much I could say but at the risk of gushing and causing you to reach for the sick bucket, I’ll stop there. 

I asked him to write a blog on his perspective of parenthood, here’s what he had to say…

Fatherhood – Embracing the Tension

When Anna asked me to write a blog entry for her, I didn’t really know where to start.
There’s lots of things that I could write about. I could write about a husband’s perspective of the whole birth process. Maybe I could talk about the initial days of fatherhood and some of the preconceptions I had. I could maybe give some pithy advice as to how to juggle life as a Dad and as the sole breadwinner. But somehow, I feel that all of the above could be written about by far more experienced, and eloquent people than myself.

Becoming a Dad has been the best thing that has happened to me, but also the most
challenging. It is both amazing and terrifying to think this little person is your child, your responsibility, your legacy. That you have the ability to both love her and also fail her. Going to work is bittersweet. I travel quite a lot with work, which always used to be fun and exciting. It now can seem as though I’m missing out when I’m away. We often can’t wait to get her to sleep in the evening, especially after a busy day but as soon as she’s in bed, we’re talking about her, missing her a bit if truth be told. Not enough to wake her up though! I’ve basically realised that being a Dad isn’t simple, it’s actually often paradoxical with the right thing being held in tension between two seemingly conflicting positions. I’m learning to embrace the tension.

Here are a few tensions I’m currently trying to embrace:

I’m expected to lead but I don’t know where we’re going

When I think of my Dad, I always felt like he knew exactly what was going on and what to do in any given situation. I’m sure he didn’t. He was probably doing exactly what I am currently, and making it up as he went along. As men, I feel sometimes we feel the pressure to have it all together and know which way we’re going. The thing is, most of us if we’re honest probably don’t know where on earth we’re going, let alone what we’re going to be doing there when we get there. It’s this self-imposed pressure that I think can cause a sense of inadequacy and even depression. The fact of the matter is, no one knows what is going on. If someone tells you they do, don’t believe them. We don’t get the full roadmap, we have light enough for the next step, no more, no less. I’ve come to realise that when it comes to my family I don’t actually have to know everything and have it all together. I don’t have to lead my family through a specific route that I’ve mapped out. I just have to show them how to take the next step. I have to model what it is to walk in faith, to walk in humility. I lead my family when I model excellence and a healthy work ethic. I lead my family when I am kind and compassionate in a situation that would often warrant a different response. I lead my family when I am consistent, loyal and faithful. I lead my family when I say sorry and show vulnerability. It turns out I can lead even when I don’t know the way by modelling how to take the next step with integrity, even if I don’t know the final destination.

I’m not 20 any more but I’m also not 80

It’s true. When I look back at what I used to look like, it’s as though a complete stranger is
looking back at me. I was a lot thinner, healthier and had way more energy. I have realised that actually, I am not immortal. I need to look after myself and my body so I’m still around and useful when I’m older. I’m by no means a health fanatic, but I have come to realise that I cannot expect to eat what I used to, drink whatever I want and do no exercise without repercussions. People never think of their health until they lose it. I don’t want to be a 40-year-old dad with an 80-year-olds body. I’m trying to look after myself better these days, understanding that I’m not 20 any more but I shouldn’t feel like I’m 80 either. I can’t do what I want any more and it have no repercussions. It’s early days but hopefully Sienna and Anna will thank me for it long term.

I can’t be there all the time but I can be fully present when I am there

This one is really important and so hard to do. As a dad or the working parent, you can find yourself constantly feeling guilty. You feel guilty for going home early to see your child before they go to bed. You also feel guilty working late knowing your wife or other half is taking the full hit back at home. You know you need to go to work and put in a full day there, but you also need to be a dad/parent and help out when you’re home. I’ve come to realise that it takes discipline and perspective to navigate. Does that email need to be replied to this second? Can that call wait until tomorrow? Similarly, will missing a bath time once in a while ruin my daddy-daughter bond? Can Anna put her to bed once or twice without me being there? The answer is usually yes to all of the above. The real issue isn’t how much time you spend at a certain place, it’s being fully there. If work had 100% of your focus between the hours of 9-5 you wouldn’t need to take work home with you. And if your family had 100% of your focus when you’re with them, they wouldn’t feel like they’re missing out on you either. We lead full lives, we work jobs to pay bills. We work out this journey pragmatically, we have to. The goal is not to spend every waking moment with my family, it’s to let them know that wherever I am, I’m doing my utmost to do my job well so I can come back to them with no unfinished business. They are my priority, wherever I find myself and whatever responsibility I have to fulfil. I need to work in a way that honours my boss and prioritises my family.

It’s impossible to always be in a good mood, but I ‘m consistent with my countenance

I have made the decision, that I always want Sienna to know that I’m pleased to see her,
regardless of what kind of day I’m having, and regardless of how much of a pain she’s been. That’s a choice, it’s a decision that I’ve made, that she will always know that her Dad is pleased to see her. It’s important to me because that’s how I want her to view her Heavenly Father. I’m not always in a great mood. I could have had an awful day but I have disciplined myself to always smile at my daughter whenever I see her. It’s a small thing, she probably doesn’t even notice it, but I need to remind myself that it’s how God is with us. He looks on us and smiles. I can’t always be in a good mood, but I have committed myself to being consistent with my countenance towards Sienna. She needs to know that she can always come to me, no matter what, and she is welcome. She needs to know that her Dad is, and always will be, pleased to see her.

Written by Rich Harris