Will The Real Slim Me Please Stand Up

WILL THE REAL SLIM ME PLEASE STAND UP copy

I’ve recently joined slimming world because I’ve realised that I can’t keep pretending that the clothes I wore pre-baby will one day miraculously fit again. In my mind, I’m still 25 and as fit as I was when training to be a professional dancer, in reality, I have an ever-expanding mum-tum. Whilst proud of the beautiful munchkin produced by the mum-tum, I’m no longer ok with this extra flab taking up permanent residence on my person and I can’t use the excuse of being a new mum anymore – that ship has sailed.

Harsh as it was starring in the mirror at the withered balloon that is now my midriff, I had to face up to the hard fact that to fight back against it, I must actually do something about it. Much to my surprise, I managed to lose a few pounds in the first week of following the programme, and for once, not due to a hole in my purse! I have witnessed actual bonafide weight loss! It’s amazing what we can do when we set our minds to something, and when it costs us something to participate!

I wouldn’t have seen any results or even joined any group had I not first admitted that I was no longer the perfect size 10 and that something had to change! Wearing baggy oversized clothes not only has a time and fashion limit, but nobody is fooled as to what lies beneath, least of all myself. Admitting the need for change to myself was the first step towards getting healthy.

This all got me thinking about why it takes us so long to admit and deal with things in life? To drop the pretense and actually take actions to get help or get better? I don’t know why we put so much pressure on ourselves to appear to be perfect, especially as Christians. Maybe it’s media, celebrity and image, or maybe it’s family, friends or the past? Either way, deep down we know that we actually aren’t perfect. We default to masking our issues and continue to fool ourselves into believing that we’re ok with them and will deal with them at some point in the future. It’s amazing how much we can hide by parading around in baggy T-shirts to cover our underlying issues. The irony is that the longer we smile on the outside and keep up the facade of being ok with whatever situation we are in, the further away we are from seeing real progress and change. As soon as I decided to face the fact that I was no longer my healthiest self and put action into thoughts and words, I saw results quicker than anticipated.

As Christians, we should definitely seek to attain maturity in our faith but this shouldn’t be mistaken for pretending to be perfect. The longer I walk with God and the deeper my relationship with Him develops, the more I realise my need for Him. If I am to actually mature, to love and lead better, I need to be more reliant on Him, His word and His strength. I never want to think or feel like I’ve made it. If that is ever the case, I will have missed the point. Being transformed into His likeness requires pruning. Pruning produces greater fruit, greater influence, greater love, more grace, more of His heart. I believe wholeheartedly that the world needs to look upon our lives and see blessing upon blessing and grace upon grace. They need to see a church flourishing, people with financial freedom, dreams and vision, healings and justice, but for them to see that, we must first admit that we are sick and in need of help. We must conquer mountains and take new ground and move forward and beyond things that hold us back so that we can do more for His kingdom. However, we can’t achieve this if we pretend that life is always a party full of ‘insta’ worthy friendships, relationships and careers all of the time. The truth is that pruning can suck! Pruning requires honesty, sacrifice and perseverance, but pruning produces the BEST fruit.

We mustn’t forget that it was grace motivated by love that bought our freedom, and it is His grace that continues to guide us through life. It is grace that the world needs alongside our honesty and love and a life that signposts to a real Saviour who reached down and pulled us out of our pit and continues to do so. Without Him we have nothing and we are nothing and we produce no good fruit. He enables us to breathe, to live, to love and to laugh, He enables us to dream and upskill, train, do and be. He gives us platforms we don’t deserve and opportunities we couldn’t create ourselves. He is good and kind and faithful, slow to anger and rich in love.

So, will the real slim me please stand up? She’s in there somewhere, underneath the layers! She’s waiting on the other side of some honesty, hard work and sacrifice and a little bit of pruning, discipline and help from some healthy weight loss gurus.

What are you waiting for? What’s on the other side of your fresh admission of your need for a forever Saviour? It could be healing, restoration, freedom, financial stability. Let’s not waste another moment pretending everything is ok. It’s ok not to be ok. We must give ourselves permission to be human and therefore God to be God. It’s not an excuse for sin or complacency but an opportunity to grow, a path towards real freedom.

John 15 v 5 – 8 NIV

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Heart’s Intent

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There are so many fun new things to experience with Sienna as she continues to develop and grow, and she certainly has a curious mind and adventurous spirit. With each new week, we witness her try new things, increase in understanding and attempt new words. She takes joy in repeating and practising that which she’s learnt and lucky for us we get to partake in this repetition, over and over and over and over again!

Along with new pleasures come new frustrations and anxieties for her cute little self. There’s still much to learn and understand as her comprehension is still infant. One of Sienna’s ‘wonderful’ phases of development we currently ‘get to’ navigate is bouts of separation anxiety. This is where children may experience some anxiety when away from their loved ones. Helping her to understand that we will always return can be a tricky endeavour whilst she is unable to comprehend an explanation of what’s happening. However, the more she experiences our return and the consistency of our character in this way, the more assurance will build within her. Her anxiety now, is due in part, to her lack of knowledge and understanding.

As parents, we try our best to teach her new language and ways in which to help her let us know her feelings, needs and desires. We also endeavour to gradually expose her to different experiences with us, so that, as in the case of separation anxiety, she will soon have a full memory bank of positive encounters with the faithfulness of our return and her anxiety will become a thing of the past. Whilst these things can be difficult to deal with now, as we spend time together daily, reinforcing our love for her and teaching her our ways, her revelation of us will grow. The hope is that she will learn the consistencies of our character and the increasing depth of our love. That she will know and understand that it’s our pleasure to help her, to love her, to ease her pain and to teach her. With that, also comes discipline and whilst we don’t enjoy saying ‘no’ to her we do it because of our love for her. Our love causes us to want the best for her, and eating wires, putting her hands in the bin and throwing things in the toilet isn’t that!

My encounters with her often cause me to wonder about my own experiences with my Heavenly Father. I remember times in which I have been frustrated and anxious and wonder if sometimes it was due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of Who He is and His intentions towards me. How many times have I missed his guidance or discipline because I didn’t understand the motivation? I think about the times I’ve lacked comprehension of His ways and wonders, and been distant from His word which has caused me to feel separation anxiety. What am I missing out on now even because I haven’t taken the time to know Him more? This reminds me of a verse in Hosea, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”(Hosea 4 v 6). It’s sad to think that things, hopes, dreams, understanding and worse – people may perish due to lack of knowledge when it’s been freely given. I want nothing more than for Sienna to be able to see the love behind the decisions we make, as well as be able to clearly communicate with us so that we can respond quickly and accordingly. I imagine our Heavenly Father may feel much the same in wanting us to know more about Him and understand His love.

As a family, we have daily opportunities to grow together, to learn, to laugh, to love, to communicate and to flourish as our understanding of each other deepens. As Sienna’s communication develops, conversations will flow more freely and become two way, understanding will grow and revelation will deepen. The good news is, it’s not too dissimilar for us as children of God. He wants to be known, if that were not true He would not have revealed Himself to us time and time again. We only know Him because He allows us to in many ways but perhaps most clearly through Jesus. The invitation is to know Him more, to also grow together as a family so that we may know His heart and intentions towards us so that we can live the life He has called us to and enjoy His Presence and Fatherly love.

I wonder if some of the anxieties and frustrations that you are feeling today could be eased if you could understand the intentions of a good Heavenly Father towards you and how it’s his pleasure to respond. Furthermore its His pleasure to know you. Jesus reveals His heart over and over throughout the gospels, in fact, His whole life and death point towards His motivation towards us. I leave you with this scripture and trust that you, like me, will accept His invitation to know Him more. I pray that not only will our understanding develop but the vaults of our memory will fill to overflowing with experiences of His goodness as we take on the challenge to grow as His kids.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’”

Matthew 7 v 7 – 11

 

365 Days Later

365 days later

Technically upon writing this, it’s only 361 days since the birth of our beautiful daughter Sienna, but it’s her birthday week and I try and post on Mondays, what are a few days between friends?

Coming up to her first birthday has made me reflect on this past year and the highs and lows of becoming a parent.
I thought I’d ask myself and Rich, “If we had to choose three things that we’ve learnt over the past year what would they be?” It’s almost an impossible task to only pick three because it can be a daily stretch into the unknown, navigating continual beginnings, as she progresses from one stage to the next. However, we’re always up for the challenge so here they are:

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance takes on a whole new meaning when there is no get-out-clause, you’re sleep deprived and you have no previous experience to draw from. In the early days, weeks and months it often felt like I was climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops after not sleeping for a month! An uphill battle, with the least amount of energy, whilst feeling totally ill-equipped. Every now and then you stop to take a breathe and are awed by the view, but then it’s head down and back to the grind. However, I made it, each day was followed by night and each night followed by a new day. One step at a time, often one day at a time I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Not because it was easy, not because I had the training, not because I was always excited or passionate but because I had to. Now I think back to those early days as welcome distant memories, smiling at the highlights. Today Sienna presents new challenges with her strong will and determination (ha!) but every day she brings joy and life, and to see her grow and learn, smile and flourish make every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth it. There’s no amount of preparation that can make you ready for your individual unique child, it’s a journey that has to be lived, like many things in life.

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

Thank God for sleep training! Like anything worth doing, it requires consistency and determination but it has huge benefits. From the start, we established the difference between night-time and day-time for Sienna due to some great advice. It hasn’t been easy and this year has meant I’ve hardly left the house on an evening. However, she now has no issues going to sleep pretty much anywhere as she’s in such a good routine, the sacrifice and continuity are really paying off. Parents have different approaches to different things but most likely for most, there’s still some discipline involved somewhere. Discipline requires keeping the long-term goal in view in order to outwork the daily, often mundane tasks to achieve your goals. Discipline can feel restrictive but it actually brings freedom in the end. Freedom to plan, freedom to enjoy its benefits, freedom from issues avoided through lack of discipline.

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

One huge lesson for me has been learning to relinquish the need to always be in control. Preparation and schedules are all important and necessary but when the poop hits the nappy at 3 am in the morning in catastrophic proportions, you have to strip your child and chuck them in the bath whether you or they like it or not! I like to be in control of my own life, that’s not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. I’ve learnt to make plans but hold onto them lightly. I take a breath and whatever happens, try and enjoy and embrace the moment I find myself in. There’s nothing as important as this little tiny life that can’t wait another 5 minutes, a day, a week, a month or even a year if necessary.

Rich:

Be Kind To Each Other- Everyone Has Had A Tough Day

Being a parent is not easy. Whether it’s dealing with a cranky child all day, or having no sleep and having to go to work and deliver on projects. It’s tough, you’re shattered and probably just about holding it all together. It can be so easy in this type of stretching environment to play the “woe is me” card and paint a picture of how your day was way worse and far more stressful than that of your spouses… but don’t. Be kind to each other, prefer one another, go out of your way for one another. Try and laugh together, enjoy the absurdity of parenthood. Be kind with your words, they’re the oil that keeps the wheel spinning.

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

It’s true and thank God that’s the case. We all get it wrong, probably way too frequently for our liking, but children are far more forgiving and resilient than we give them credit for. They aren’t insecure, they don’t care about what people think about them. As far as they’re concerned, they are the most awesome human being in existence. They don’t try and hide their emotions to be cool when daddy comes home from work, Sienna’s face lights up. When daddy tells Sienna off for touching the TV, there’s usually lots of frowns and a few tears, but her default position is towards love and closeness. It’s only when we grow up do we, unfortunately, learn how to be insecure.

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” I like that thought. This year has been a discovery of what actually matters. As adults, we get so myopic in our view of success. Having Sienna has stripped away all pretence. The things I used to worry about just aren’t as important as they used to be. Perhaps I’ve got wiser, maybe I’m just more tired. Whatever it is, it feels good to remember that Sienna couldn’t care less whether I’m good at my job or not. She doesn’t care whether I get promoted, get a pay rise or drive a nice car. She just knows me as Dad, and to be honest I think that’s pretty cool.

365 days later sienna

 

“Colic – come at me bro!”

COLIC, COME AT ME BRO' BLOGcopy

Colic is definitely not my “bro”, nor my “sis” or any other relative for that matter, and is actually more foe than friend. So why the title? Well, living in South East London, I’m acquainting myself with the colloquial lingo, (who am I kidding?!)

According to my parents, I suffered from colic myself as a baby. If you have any experience of a baby with colic, you know it’s a miracle that any parent and baby survives past the newborn stage.

When I look at other newborns that lie contentedly in their parent’s arms, or on the floor, in a pram or Moses basket etc. I look on in wonder and disbelief. This was not our experience of our fresh-out-of-the-womb, Heaven-sent little package.

Quite a few health professionals were in disbelief that Sienna had lost 17% of her birth weight within the first week; all of her other health checks had gone really well. After a recommendation from our health visitor, we took a trip to A & E. This resulted in a 48-hour plus stint in the hospital. After being unable to insert a cannula into her tiny arm, (after what felt like an eternity of trying), the doctor said that we should try to feed Sienna some formula. Fortunately, after a strict 48 hours of planned feeding from both myself and the bottle, our gorgeous little poppet had gained enough weight to be discharged. We thought, ‘finally, we can start to enjoy being new parents.’

Enter colic. With hours of relentless crying, sometimes screaming, often in inconsolable discomfort, we could never put Sienna down between the early afternoon and late evening, without her becoming hysterical. It’s one of those things that you can’t imagine until you’re in it. Rich’s greatest hope for parenthood had been scaled back to, “I just want to be able to hold my daughter without her crying.” Mine, “I just need to get through the hours that Rich is at work.”

On the back of 9 months of cooking our child and all that this entails, followed by a pretty traumatic birth; labouring for 4 days with little sleep, a late epidural, meconium in the waters, and an emergency C-section, colic at a few weeks old was certainly an unwelcome guest.

Colic seems to be a mostly undefinable and untreatable phenomenon that some babies get. Both child and parents somehow have to struggle through this period, which can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, until it decides it’s had enough of tormenting its victim; the baby grows out of it, the tummy matures.

After trying Infacol, gripe water and taking other advice on how to manage this unrelenting issue, we were at the end of our resources both practically and emotionally. 

If you were to apply for a job with a high level of responsibility, with no prior experience, the chances of being asked for an interview are slim to zero. Yet as new parents, here you are with the most precious treasure on the planet, with zero experience (at least for us anyway), 24-hour responsibility and very little sleep. Now add on top of that, the phenomena that is colic. Argh!

We mustered every bit of strength within us and both Grandma and Grammie to try to ease the discomfort of our special little one. We discovered a few tricks, that eventually, sometimes, 50% of the time, worked every time (not the best odds!) It was proving too difficult to manage. People tell you that the first 6 weeks are the hardest, meaning to be helpful, but 6 weeks feels like a lifetime away when every day is a battle.

Friends wanted to come and visit and drop off food parcels and see our beautiful little girl, but I was barely getting through each day. Walking to the park or the shop was often a cause for mild anxiety, with us hoping and praying she didn’t have an episode in the store. To see your baby cry in distress for at least 6 hours a day is less than fun, in fact, it is an absolute nightmare. I would dread her being awake (how sad is that!) beyond 2pm because that is when it seemed to hit the worst. It’s in those moments that you realise how out of control and on edge you are. 

One day, with emotions, hormones and physical discomfort chipping away at my positive outlook, topped off with a good dose of sleep deprivation, I’d had enough. Rich had gone back to work, and on this particular day he’d had to leave at 5am and wasn’t due to be home until around 11pm. The morning, as usual, was pretty good, with Sienna having some lovely awake time and napping on schedule, confidence built and I thought, “I can do this!” It turns out I couldn’t. I tried every trick we knew, the bouncy ball, the rocking, the gentle shushing, the singing, the feeding, the Infacol, and so the list goes on, and nothing was working. Sitting on that bouncy ball I cried out to God, “I can’t do this, you need to help me, I’m desperate.”

One emotional phone call later and Rich made his way home for as early as he could, arriving home at around 9pm. Just as he walked through the door she went to sleep – typical!

We sat down and chatted and decided that this was not OK and if God had called us to this life and to be parents to this child, then we needed to see His breakthrough. Every day we had prayed faith-filled prayers, but it felt like we needed to go to war for this little one. In the natural, going into battle at your weakest point seems borderline suicidal, but standing on the truth that His Grace is sufficient for us, and His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12 v 9) we decided to fast (sensibly given I was feeding and Rich working) and pray for 7 days.

The first 6 days of the fast were still just as tough, but we had a renewed sense of hope and belief that the end was in sight. The seventh day came, it happened to be a Sunday. What a perfect day to end the fast on! It was also the first time that I had made it to church with Sienna. The day wasn’t without its hiccups and she had a meltdown towards the end of the service, but I thought, “We’ve made it.”

During the period in which Sienna suffered from colic, I had become a Google addict, typing in everything I could think of related to colic that might show up some useful results or advice on how to cure it or deal with it. I did it religiously every day for a few weeks in the hope that maybe I had missed something. In the week of the fast, I did the same thing. The same sites that I had previously clicked on all popped up as results to my new searches when suddenly I came across an article from the Guardian that helped me to refine my feeding methods for Sienna. Where had it been? How have I missed this? The article definitely helped to ensure that the colic didn’t return as the feeding had exacerbated the situation, and it was something I put into practice immediately, but from Monday onwards, Sienna was miraculously healed. God stepped in and healed her and relieved her of her discomfort and gave me the tools to ensure that it didn’t return again. Writing it in a sentence doesn’t seem to do it justice. It is that simple, but it wasn’t that easy. 

I have to admit that every time she cried during the weeks following her healing, I was a little on edge. We had to re-learn that crying is one of the ways in which babies communicate and just because we hadn’t had a “normal” initial experience, we were now able to attend to her needs. The scream that made us fear the neighbours might think we were chopping her leg off had disappeared, and we could finally start to build a meaningful bond and relationship with our daughter. Now we can’t believe it’s the same child, she’s so happy and easy-going, so much fun to be with and has a clear determined spirit. Every day we are thankful.

There is advice out there for coping with colic, and help in trying to manage it, as well as advice on how to get through it emotionally and physically for parents, but there is no medical absolute cure. I am really grateful for medicine and science, however, one-size doesn’t always fit all and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, however, I believe one God does fit all.  

Some might think it’s a fluke, a coincidence, but I’m here to say that God healed Sienna and everything I read in the scriptures about Jesus, show that He healed without condition and He was and still is always willing to break into people’s situations. There was no illness, injury or issue too big or too small for Him to care about, and it was and still is His will to see people restored. I can recount many events in my life, and the life of friends and family, where God has responded to our faith and stepped in with His loving hand, to turn things around.

I write this blog in the hope that anyone in the same predicament as me, possibly at the end of their tether, with colic or even some other sickness or issue, may somehow stumble across it. I want people to know that there is hope in a God who is real, who cares and who can and who wants to break into your situation.

I always say that it’s difficult to trust someone who you don’t know. For Rich and I we didn’t just arrive at the decision to pray and fast randomly. It was a decision made based on a Person that we know, whose traits, character and provision we have seen on many occasions. He’s available to be known by all.

Hebrews 4 v 16

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

For anyone interested in the article related to colic:

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/mar/30/familyandrelationships.healthandwellbeing

My Journey to Motherhood 

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When you start dating, people often ask, “So when are you getting married?” and then when you’re married, “When are you having children?” On both occasions, if you’re anything like me, you think, “Slow down people and let us enjoy the moment!” For us, having children was always something that we wanted to do… in the future. Moving to London when just married, we both had an excitement and anticipation for our futures, believing we were following God’s direction to use our talents, (dance and sound), in the entertainment industries. At that time children didn’t yet fit into that picture – and that’s OK. We were still young enough, and possibly naive enough, to accept living with other people despite being newlywed, and working in jobs that were a means to an end to allow us to pursue our passions. We could survive on a steady diet of beans on toast, cheese on toast, egg on toast, toast on toast, right?

Five years in and many challenges, highs and lows, stretching and growth later, God started to change our hearts and impress on us a softness towards the idea of having children.  Once Rich made the decision, he was ‘all in’ and ready, but for me, it took a little longer to accept the challenge. After all, carrying and giving birth to a baby changes the game, in every way. Dreams I’d held onto, things not yet accomplished or even had the opportunity to dip my toe into, seemed like a distant pursuit that would be pushed even further away if I chose to put my ‘life on hold’ to have a baby. Having a baby was a huge step of faith for me because that side of giving birth, everything was so unknown and as it was a ‘new’ desire to grow and nurture a tiny human, I had little experience of what that could or would look like.

Fast-forward to Rich and I eating fish and chips, (one of Rich’s faves), after work one evening and the conversation again turned to…. “So kids”… and us both smiling at the prospect of what that could be like. We finally made a decision together to go for it. In my heart, I made a whisper to God, “OK God, I trust you with this.”

Getting pregnant for us was easier than we thought, and pretty much within the first two months of trying, my little regular monthly friend failed to appear. I must mention in the run-up to that I probably thought I was pregnant every day – ha – turns out I was just bloated! Now that we’d made the decision I was excited, albeit a little nervous at the prospect of us becoming parents. We decided to keep the news to ourselves until we reached the ‘safe’ 12-week mark and had seen our first scan. Even though it was still early days and it felt very surreal, we couldn’t help but start to imagine what this little life might be like.

Unusually the hospital had somehow confused our paperwork and we were due to have a 6-week scan, something that seemed a little odd, but as we were newbies to this whole thing we went along with it. At the time Rich was the Head of Production at our Church whilst I was leading the ‘Glam Squad’ – (hair, make-up, wardrobe) – team, and we were coming up to our annual Christmas Carols at Wembley. Lots to do with lots of moving parts. The day before Carols was a Saturday, and we were at our Church warehouse doing the final prep for the big event when I started to experience cramps and experience some light bleeding. A mixture of emotions ensued as I tried to continue to organise the team and final prep, whilst battling this underlying distraction. I found Rich and told him and we both decided that we would pray and give it to God and wait until our scan on Monday, the day after Carols, as there was nothing we could do and we needed to focus on the task in hand.

Praying on the way to the hospital, a little nervous but full of expectation we arrived and patiently waited for our turn.

Lying on the bed and hearing the news that nothing was there, they couldn’t see anything, was somewhat of an out-of-body experience like I was watching from afar. Again, they said it, “I can’t see anything, it looks like you’ve had a miscarriage.” Initially, I managed to get up from the bed and sit next to Rich whilst maintaining a reasonably steady demeanour. As I started to process the words, reality suddenly began to sink in and it seemed like all my hopes had come crashing down, and the tears began to fall.

So much was riding on this moment, I trusted God and I’d put my life on hold, I’d started to imagine a little person, and myself as a mummy. I tend not to cry in public, but this time I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. What followed was the walk to the crowded waiting room full of expectant mothers. I felt overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment, made all the worse by the embarrassment of not being able to control it in front of a room full of strangers. Rich was looking on in shock and doing his best to console his inconsolable wife whilst trying to process his own emotions.

Fast-forward to many appointments and hours of waiting later, what transpired was, in fact, an ectopic pregnancy, something I had remembered reading about and thinking, “That won’t happen to us.” It was like a cruel joke the enemy was playing, “Ha, you think it won’t happen to you”.

The day I was booked into the hospital to have an injection that would help to remove the cells from my fallopian tube was a Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, and a touching Heaven service at Church, (extended worship and prayer). I was so desperate to be there; so desperate to not accept this fate, and so desperate to lift my eyes higher.

From a medical point of view, I was in danger if the cells continued to grow in the wrong place. The fertilised egg was going to die anyway, so the sooner we could get rid of ‘it’ the better. Thank God for the concern and diligence of the medical professionals! However, I knew that the living Almighty God of the universe that created everything, who is omnipotent, was able to change this situation around and move this fertilised egg to the womb as this was the beginning of a precious life.

I still believe He is and He can, but on this occasion, He didn’t. Something I still question and seek answers to and may still for a while. Was my faith not enough? All I know is, it’s not God’s will for the innocent to die but we live in a fallen world. My prayer is this, “Teach me to call Heaven to Earth like the Lord’s prayer instructs.” 

So many emotions and feelings ran through me; faith that God was in control no matter what the outcome, reliance and dependence on Him, faith that at any moment God could still infiltrate this situation, grief for a life so short-lived it hadn’t even had a chance, grief from the death of hope.  Disappointment and heartache joined this mix of sensations and a sense of hopelessness settled in, I mourned, “But God, I trusted you with this.”

Rich made the necessary calls and he was excused from work, feeling a little helpless he waited patiently until he could come and be with me at the hospital. Strangely, that Sunday, during the extended worship, the sound system suddenly cut out at our Church venue, the one week Rich wasn’t there! No coincidence I think.

The weeks and months that followed were tinged with a black cloud, trying to make sense of what had happened whilst carrying on and still leading in each of our respective areas. Trying to bring encouragement to others when our hearts were filled with discouragement. There have been so many challenges since moving to London and those bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youngsters were close to being chewed up and spat out by the big City, “why was nothing easy?” There had been many blessings along the way too because God is God, but in moments of despair, they seem to fade into the background if we don’t fight to remember.

A turning point for us was when we were invited to a leadership evening with an American pastor, who shared about losing his wife to cancer and still having to lead his Church. He shared on the report given by the Israelite spies when sent to scope out the land of Canaan, and how the negative report of 10 of the 12 stopped a whole generation of Israelites from entering the Promised Land despite the promises of God spoken over them previously.

I realised I didn’t want us, or the people under our care, (many of whom had no knowledge of our situation), to miss out on what God had for us just because I couldn’t remember the promise of God and had become discouraged at the first hurdle. Little did anyone know in the room that evening how this testimony was watering my soul. Hearing his testimony and the Word that is alive and active, faith once again began to rise within our spirits. The decision to try again didn’t happen overnight and it involved a process of choices, sometimes daily, to believe and profess God’s goodness. I once read a definition of perseverance that reads like this: “Perseverance is a continuation in the state of God’s grace.” Each day was a decision to continue in the “state of His grace.”

There is so much more I could write and share but for the sake of brevity, we finally decided to try again. I’d like to say from the moment we made the decision all things fell into place and we jumped in feet first, and when we fell pregnant again, there was definite joy, but also trepidation and a little numbness as we sought to protect ourselves from further disappointment. Keeping our hearts soft towards God and holding onto hope for the future was a battle we had to fight.

Today our family of 3 is a wellspring of joy to my life. Sienna Faith Harris was born on 23/02/2017. Her entrance into the world wasn’t without struggle, a story for another time, but she is beyond worth it. Piece by piece our broken hearts have mended and God has restored joy to us through her. 

These days I’m a little more careful about asking others, “So when are you getting married?” or “When are you having kids?” knowing that every person’s journey is different.

There is no deep and fancy meaning to the name Sienna and we’ve never visited the town in Italy called by the same name, (although spelt differently). In fact, it means ‘reddish – orange/brown’, not particularly inspiring. However her middle name – Faith – is of great importance to us.

Had we let our story end with discouragement she wouldn’t exist; had we allowed the negative report to be the end of our story she wouldn’t be bringing joy, (and lots of poop), into our every day. It’s also a profession over her life, that we believe that she will have faith that will move mountains and see her enter into the adventure of a life walked with Jesus when she chooses. We believe that she will have faith that will be an inspiration to us and her generation. I have such an expectant hope for her that I couldn’t describe to you what I think it looks like because it’s beyond my imagination.

I realise there are many people out there who have had even longer journeys to parenthood than myself and some may even still be on that journey, but I write this in the hope that it brings courage to someone who needs it, to face whatever struggle they are facing on this day. To know that God’s word cannot return to Him void and if you don’t allow hopelessness to be your end, there’s a promise waiting to have life given to it on the other side of your hope. For us, literally.  

Proverbs 13 v 12 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.