The start of something NEW!

Like always, its been a while. Sorry for that- its not that I’ve not had things to say it’s more been is it the right time to say it…. and for most things it still isn’t- but one day i’ll get round to then hundreds of blog post ideas and getting some of the things said that I’ve wanted to for a long time.

This blog post is about CHANGE! Something that I massively hate and have done for the longest time… but something feels different this time and I can’t quite put my finger on it- maybe I will as I keep typing. Stood in the kitchen of my friends house last night I said about how I really don’t like change and doing something new always terrified me yet I hadn’t felt like that moving out recently as I began the process of  moving from Cardiff to Hereford (I’ll explain more later).

Growing up I defiantly was someone who needed a routine and I was someone who was always busy- every night of the week I had something… and I also would often cram in swimming before school too… routine and business kept me going. Deciding to go to college, Camp America and University was all stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing change… but it was hard! Then after I got sick even the smallest of changes unsettled me- I remember how fearful I was when anything changed. Going on my first EMCT trip I remember telling my social worker I didn’t want to go, and returning to University seemed like an impossible challenge. I think getting ill worsened my outlook on change because my life changed so drastically in an instant… I went from a normal university life to one surrounded by drip machines and months of isolation. Knowing how quickly you can loose it all really rocked me for a long time.

Things however, have finally changed…. and although I still don’t like change but I’m learning to embrace it and run with it… and having faith is helping massively with that. Don’t get me wrong I still have concerns and I’m still nervous about the change but I also know that I don’t need to worry about every little thing. I’m putting faith into my faith, and knowing that whilst I’m unsure on how I’m going to manage financially or with the practicalities of life in a new place- this should not and will not hold me back from giving it a good old go!

I’m leaving the life I’ve built for myself in the wonderful city of Cardiff, and its hard. This city has been home for the past 9 years, its where I met some incredible friends through uni, hospital and church. It’s a place I got to call my own, a place of safety and a place where I’ve got to be me. This past few weeks I’ve said goodbye to some incredible flatmates, my stomping ground where I’ve been based for at least 6 of those years, my favourite coffee shops and favourite places and I’ve had moments of sadness in this- not knowing if i’ll get to call these places mine again… (I’m not saying I won’t be back its just if I’m back it will be different). I’m also going embracing the fact that I could be called anywhere after Academy and I’m not ruling anything out yet…

Last night on my way to my last rehearsal with church I got teary… goodbyes have never been a strong point for me, I find them hard and I will often push those I’m close to away in preparation for it (I know this is not the way to do it but its a habit I’m yet to break- so I’m really sorry if I’ve done this- its most defiantly a me thing and recognising it is a huge step for me…so please accept this as an apology). The team I’ve had the privilege of working along side at church have been well incredible… they have taught me so much, not just in faith but in skills and in leadership qualities. They have helped me transform from a broken girl who felt like I could bring nothing to one who can get stuck in, own the vision and now I’ve been training others up too. This team have been key in that transformation they have pushed me when I’ve needed it and helped me manage my health when I’ve needed that too. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without them and the hours of love and prayer they have given me. I’m going to miss them all massively especially Sam and Kyle who have rocked production managing and have pushed me further than I ever thought possible. Last night they gave me a lovely send off with a couple of gifts including beautiful orchid which I’ve named ‘Mac Toshi’ after the beloved big mac.

Mac ToshiThey also prayed for me which is a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. They spoke such wonderful words about me, from the transformation that has taken place in me, to the glue I’ve been for the team… They also prayed into my future and gave me some key things to hold for the days ahead. Yes there will be a hole in the team because I’m leaving but that will soon fill with the guys stepping up and new people joining the team. I’m going to have a huge hole in my heart for this team tho- and knowing that I’m not ever coming back to the same team because everyone grows and new people will be added and others will be sent out… it does however make me immensely proud of the team that has been built here. Thank you Production team its been a blast!

I’ve got 2 more Sunday’s in church but because i’m sailing next week, which feels immensely perfect as I did my first time trip the week before I moved back to Cardiff to start University again- now i’m sailing the week before my new course. This has meant some goodbyes have already had to happen… I’ve said some goodbyes to those who I’ve known for years and thats been tough… please make me accountable to staying in touch its something I’m not great at but hope this time i’ll do better at it. I move to Hereford on the 10th September and I’ll be taking part in a leadership course with my church called Freedom Academy… it’s a ten month programme (2 days a week) designed to grow our;

  • understanding of the Christian faith
  • relationship with God
  • sight into the role and development of leadership (insight and experience)
  • growth personally

I’m super excited and think this change feels different to others because it feels so right for me, because I now have an unshakeable faith and because I’ve learnt to embrace change not fear it! I also know its the right time for me to do something new otherwise i’d just be forming a rut and one that i’d never move on from. I’ll be living with lots of people from all over and its gonna be tough and very challenging. If you pray then i’d love prayer covering  a few things

  1. My finances for the year- I’m stepping out into the unknown until I’m there I won’t know what the impact on my finances there maybe so be praying that i’ll have enough to afford to live and pay rent and course fees.
  2. Friendships- for great bonds to be formed in and out of church.
  3. Health- for my immune system to not be effected too much with the change of environment and my energy levels not to dip as much this winter.
  4. Existing Relationships- for me to navigate the best way to stay in touch with people (I’m not the best at this).
  5. Personally- that I’m able to open up, trust and give this year my all.

I’m so grateful for all the things that have helped build me to who i am today and I’m looking forward to see the change that this year has on my life further down the line… I’m looking forward to reviewing how I action some of this and seeing how I grow. Thank-you to every single person that has encouraged, challenged and pushed me I wouldn’t be facing this new challenge if it hadn’t have been for your input.

 

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Prayer

Hey all, Finally feeling more human after being on strong antibiotics for about a month- had a week in the middle of the 2 course without the strong ones and still a week left. However I’m finally through it and feeling more human again. It’s been so hard to do much over the past few weeks and at times I felt like I’d completely shut down. This coupled with a few other things has meant at a time when I should have been leaning in to God more I haven’t been. However, I have been super grateful to have some awesome people around me fighting for me in prayer, and generally having my back.

This prompted me to be quite challenged this week, especially on Saturday when a group of people doing academy in Hereford visited. Boy did things really turn around- I’m not gonna go into too much detail but these guys are incredible and I was so encouraged by them, and they have spired me on so much. So thanks guys- if you don’t know the difference you have made- ask Ruth or message me privately and please continue to pray for me. This years academy students really are awesome, if you get the chance hang out with them… or read about how they are putting faith into action here- https://hannahgraycrosby.wordpress.com/2018/01/25/scott-the-artist/

So one of the many challenges I’ve faced this past week and really past 4 weeks, has been accepting prayer and praying for myself. Some in my small group know praying for myself is something I find really really difficult (still do) and having people pray with me or for me is also something I find tough but am learning to accept and embrace it. I was asked a before Christmas why this was and I have to say that until this weekend I had no idea. For those non-christians reading this stick with it, please continue reading and you might gain something from this. Prayer works- it may seem silly but I’ve seen the results of prayer, seen it in my own life and seen it in countless others lives too. Now God isn’t some genie who grants wishes, and goodness knows we have all thrown up that God if your real- let me win the lottery prayer. (He’s probably sick of hearing this one thousands of years ago- so imagine where he’s at now.) However I’ve seen mountains shift in peoples lives thanks to the power that prayer has. I’ve experienced and seen healing thanks to prayer. Yet in my life I still find it tough to accept, and really hard.

At freedom church one of our five DNA (what we stand by as a movement) is Amazing Faith. https://youtu.be/soj_FQbT844 I would say this is probably the DNA that I know I still have a way to go with. Now I’m not saying I don’t step out in faith, or can believe for mountains to be moved. However I find it much easier to believe for this to happen in someone else life than my own. This week I realised part of the reason for this has roots from when I got sick (all those moons ago). One thing I distinctly remember is having people come up to me and tell me that they were praying for me. At the time I would get so offended by this, no one asked me if I wanted them to pray for me. In all honesty I didn’t want them to- I was so lost and confused at why God has caused all of this suffering within our world. Why cancer and cancer-ish existed I didn’t want prayer because I didn’t believe it had any worth, value or purpose. I’d have much preferred they didn’t tell me, or didn’t bother at all. I remember the new vicar at church saying he was praying for me and I thought he was a complete loon he hardly knew me, and I certainly didn’t want prayer from someone unknown… However, now looking back I’m not sure where i’d have been without it. I know that now I pray for thousands of randoms without asking.

This past week God has had me in a place where I’ve physically, mentally and emotionally felt every prayer thats been said for me. Even at times when I’ve woken not knowing who it was that was praying but whole heartedly knowing someone was. I’ve seen the difference of how my church approach prayer, whilst you still have people comment they are praying for you. We are a church that asks can i pray with you/for you? there is something more to this… at the moment i can’t quite get to it. But is powerful, special and immensely life changing.

I heard something once that every human at some point in their lives has prayed. Even if it was for that lottery win, or elusive snow day off school. Thousands upon thousands of people all around the world are praying right now, there are 24/7 prayer organisations (Freedom Church being one of them). Prayer works, else this would have died out thousands of years ago. My prayer life still has some way to go and although I’m great at getting behind and fighting in prayer for others- I defiantly need to work on praying for myself.

This is just one of the many things I’ve learnt this week. I’m gonna try and be better at telling you more about my learnings, and get better at writing blogs from that long list of topics I have, however I’m not expecting this to happen over night (or anytime soon- it is winter after all).

Lots of love till next time- I’ll be praying for you.

Wen x

ps- when i sat down to write this wasn’t what I was expecting to come out.

Pps. Just want to say a huge thank you to the academy guys- especially Ruth Djirackor aka Kenyan Ruth for really helping me by encouraging my spiritual gifting and giving me the boot in the butt I needed.

One year at Freedom

So today marks the one year anniversary walking through the doors of Freedom Church in Cardiff. A few months back I wrote a post called the faith that rocked which explains how I got there and what I found when I was there. However, I can not write something to mark this special day for me. Freedom Church has changed my life around completely and I am so so so thankful for that, and all I have learnt in this past year.

Pre Freedom I had just finished an internship which I loved but also it showed me how far away from the working world I am. I was exhausted from trying to do something with my days (only managing 1-2 days of activity) and felt really low because now I realised working even part-time was further off that I had hoped I had nothing to fill my days with. So I walked into church pretty broken, lost and feeling quite isolated from the ‘real world’.

I selfishly went to freedom looking for more people (and you know what that’s ok at my church). I wanted to have people around me incase my flat mates moved and I was left knowing no one in the city. Today I look at my Facebook friends and I’ve gained over 100 from Freedom Church. These aren’t people I just know of, or spoken to once they are people who I’ve had proper meaningful conversations with and could tell you more than just ‘oh they go to my church’. What I have found at freedom is way more than a community of friends it’s a GIGANTIC FAMILY all of whom are there for me, fighting for me and cheering me on. Some of these friends are now in Mombasa, Birmingham, and Rotterdam all places my church has planted a new church in the time I’ve been a part of the family. Some have moved away for new jobs and a new future (even one amazing family starting a new life in Australia.) Today we had 168 people in church and that really challenged me because it means there are at least 68 people I haven’t had a proper conversations with yet. It’s exciting because there are more people to meet, hear from and get to do life with!

This week was a challenging one for me because I’ve had the brown letter of doom anyone who has ever been on benefits at any point in their lives will know the gut wrenching feeling that is having to go through the whole process again. I’d like to consider  myself as a fairly positive person but this process just ends up making you feel depressed, like you’re a scrounge and you have to admit how you truly are on a day-to-day basis its gutting (as most of these things I hide from myself or try to put a positive spin on). However, I was challenged by someone to be a bit more open and honest, so I reached out to a few people within my church. One met me for coffee so I no longer had to sit on my living room floor in tears (Thankyou Zoe). Another called me to check I was ok and then took me out the next day to take my mind off it (Thanks Amanda). I had a wonderful new friend who also knows that brown letter feeling make me feel instantly better just because she knew the feeling. (Thanks Katie). The She:FOCUS group I’ve recently become apart of have all stood alongside me, with a special shout out to Jess who has said she will help me with the form. Yes I’ve had some none church friends also be there for me (Kate, Hattie and Rach your all awesome to.) However, the day this letter came through I have been so so thankful to have God by my side and placing amazing people around me.

I could easily tell you all about these amazing people in my life and what they mean to me. I had Hattie come and stay a few months back and I literally spent 2 days telling her about different people in my church and how INCREDIBLE they truly are but the blog post would just go on forever. I guess the purpose of this post is to say a huge THANKYOU to my wonderful freedom family. I’m so grateful for each and every one of you, for the endless hours of chatting we do. The catch ups in coffee shops, in cafe or in any one of our small groups. Thanks to you I have great role models, I have people who inspire me, and people who challenge me. I’m far from finished, I’m far from perfect but boy have I changed. I’m nowhere near as broken and isolated as I was. I’ve found faith, I’ve found community and I’ve found the most incredible family I could ever ask for.

God is good, all the time, God is good.

ps….Hey if your reading this and aren’t apart of my church family (this doesn’t mean I don’t love you any less). If your someone who is lost, broken or just searching for answers Drop me a message I’d love to help. If your someone who wants to know more about these amazing people ask me about them. If you want to know more about who this God is I’m talking about then ask me.

 

 

Chronic Fatigue- A cry for understanding.

Hello 2017,

This year one of my many new years resolutions is to stop neglecting my creativity and in turn that means to stop neglecting my blog. I have an aim for 2 blog posts a month… I’ve currently got about 100 (No jokes I’ve counted) blog post ideas. However for the past two weeks I’ve struggled to know where to start- should it be about my new years resolutions, do I continue to write about the Cancer world or should I move onto something else, do I write about my learnings from my awesome church or do I do a little of all? Possibilities are endless… but then I got hit by a bus (metaphorically not literally) that is Chronic Fatigue syndrome and its knocked me for 6. After a conversation with a friend I realised most people don’t ‘Get it’ so this post I hope will explain a little what its like, and my experience with it. I also hope it will help my friends who suffer with it explain it to others but also give them some advice on how to manage it in the future.

So to start I should probably explain why people don’t ‘Get it’…. This week un-intentionally I’ve had people respond to me saying my chronic fatigue is playing up with ‘yep I’m tired too.’ I don’t want to be a pity party or to ‘moan again’ (also had that this week too) but I do want to share with you the difference and why saying ‘I’m tired too’ just isn’t the same comparison (however, I do get that your tiredness does exist and sucks too). Chronic fatigue is more than just tiredness- It’s a complete exhaustion an inability to do normal tasks and literally everything is an effort. (That’s the short answer anyway)

As you may know I was diagnosed with Very Sever Aplastic Anaemia in 2010 and had to have a bone marrow transplant immediately to save my life. Many who have had cancer and received chemo or radio will tell you about the fatigue being a huge issue and its hard to even describe it because fatigue is way more than just being tired for some this lasts for a few months others it just doesn’t go away. Over the past 6 years I’ve had chronic fatigue syndrome (chronic meaning extreme and persistent lasting over 6 months) and I’m way way better than I use to be but doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. I’ve learnt a lot and realised there are several parts to my fatigue some days I’m shocked because I can go all day without using the words ‘I’m tired’ but its rare these days happen. I’m fairly sure if you’ve spent any time with me over the past 6 years you would have heard those I’m tired words more than any other it was my catch phase for a while (but I try not to say it).

Before I go on to explain what the types of fatigue I suffer are. I want to explain a fantastic way (I often use) to explain what its like living with an invisible illness.  It comes from the fantastic Christine Misarandino it’s called the spoon theory. This sprung out from a conversation with her friend about her Lupus diagnosis (something my eldest sister has and we’ve often talked about the similarities between what we both experience). You can find the full article here.

Basically when you have a chronic illness like Chronic fatigue your forced to make choices to enable you to get through the day. Unlike healthy people who can enjoy limitless life without choices we don’t get that luxury. Normal people begin their day with a limitless number of options however life with a chronic illness means your options are limited, you have a certain number of spoons (the visual aid Christine uses). So sat in this café Christine hands her friend 12 spoons (her friend automatically asks for more but it doesn’t work like that so she said no.) She then asked her to begin explaining her morning routine she explains how each small task like getting out of bed would cost a spoon, having a shower another spoon, getting dressed another, the stairs another…. Thing is you could be through half your spoons before you even leave the house. In my case- Resting and eating food can replenish spoons (sometimes) but it depends on the type of fatigue. Her friend soon realised that skipping lunch, standing on the train spending too long typing would all cost spoons. It’s hard to balance life when your spoons are limited you have to choose between things like cooking and doing the dishes, or chores or having fun. You could be out of spoons by 1pm or it could be 9pm you just don’t know but once they are gone they are gone. Some people can borrow spoons from the next day, for me I can’t because my spoons vary day-to-day sometimes I don’t know until I’ve started my day how many I’m getting. I also don’t know when I might need some extra due to an infection. You learn to have a spoon in reserve at all times so you have enough to get you home if you need it.

spoontheorymilkandhoney

My life pre diagnosis was crazy, frenetic and super fast pace. Lazy wasn’t in my vocabulary. During my school years I would sometimes leave the house at 5.30/6 to go swimming, then rush to school have a full day often with a school club after followed by an evening activity whether that was swimming, orchestra or bell ringing there was ALWAYS something. Most nights I wasn’t home before 10. Lazy I wasn’t. It’s incredibly sad for me but I know that life is dead. I’d never be able to do that again. I’ve had to learn to accept a slower paced life. Its horrible and I will forever be learning how to balance it but it’s not something  I’ve had to adapt to. I hope that the normal people out there reading this understand just how much I’ve had to give up if you know me at all you know I hate having to say no, I hate missing out but I can’t do everything I have to choose what I want to prioritize each week and then each day. Sometimes I can do a crazy busy week other times one day will simply wipe me out (and by wipe out I literally mean it could take weeks for me to recover) problem is I often don’t know until it hits me which way it’s going to be. I want to let you in on what my life is truly like but please don’t think it’s a cry for sympathy because its not it’s a cry for understanding.

I want to tell you about my most resent experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At Christmas- it’s always hard the fast pace of life, buying presents in a way crazier shopping environment. This on top of a change in routine and a crazy busy few days for me and my family. I love it, however, its super draining, the almost 2 year olds 6am wake up doesn’t help (love him but sleep is a luxury). I would have loved to have stayed a bit longer because this year was certainly less draining than last year. However, the build up of lack of sleep, plus the pace of life I knew I needed rest and soon else burn out would be soon around the corner. I also really wanted to enjoy new year as my church threw a new years eve party. I came home and bed was home for me for the next 2 days. I had been invited to a friend’s birthday meal during the day on new years eve but I had very limited spoons so had to prioritise and stay resting (and colouring) on the sofa till moments before I needed to leave. I loved it and had a great time however, I got home went straight to bed and didn’t resurface till gone 12 the following day. I suffered brain fog fatigue all day and my flatmate cooked dinner- however I was too exhausted to do the dishes in fact I struggled to keep my eyes open during dinner. I’ve been slowly spiralling for the past 2 weeks. I’ve needed to be in bed (without screens) from 9pm most nights and despite falling asleep quickly I have been struggling to get up much before 10 (the only exception been when my flatmate has come in to wake me for church). The other day I went to Bristol for an afternoon volunteering with CLIC Sargent. I rested in the morning because I knew it was going to be a longer day. However, once I was home I stupidly decided to eat tea from the sofa (I should have gone straight to bed) I couldn’t move, the immobilising fatigue hit and it hit hard.

Have you ever felt stuck in your own body? No? Well let me explain. You lose the power to move because your that tired exhausted your brain disconnects from you muscles. Your telling your body to pick up a glass because your thirsty and it is literally 30cm away but your so exhausted you can’t get your arm to move. This was me on Tuesday night. I had to nap to be able to move up the stairs where in the painful fatigue set in. I sit on my bed unable to move. I sit waiting for the pain killers to kick in just to be able to get undressed for bed which takes so much longer than normal. I know that tomorrow is cancelled and any plans in the day need to be wiped because I would be unable to get out of bed at least in the morning. Finally I make it to bed- this process took from 9pm till 1 am. All just to go to bed. I turn all alarms off and attempt to sleep despite the pain- 12 hours later I wake up- not refreshed but exhausted so spend the next 5 hours in and out of sleep. The following night I’m in bed by 10 and sleep through till 12.30 yet woke up exhausted. Yesterday I spent the day in pain because of fatigue and unable to do the things I had planned. Now do you understand the difference between being tired and Fatigue? Most days I wake up as tired as normal people go to bed yet I have to live on that. My fatigue is not solved by sleep. Napping doesn’t always help because most of the time it’s not tiredness its full body exhaustion. I’ve no idea how long it will last but for now my chronic fatigue is bad. So sorry if I flake or cancel sorry if I can’t do what you expect me to but welcome to my life.

I’ve decided to go on and write about the 11 different types of fatigue I get (I may have forgotten some), some are rare some are I have most days but I’m going to try to explain them because I think its important to know why when I say I’m tired- I’m really saying I’m fatigued and basically exhausted.

Basic Fatigue

This I have almost every day. I wake up tired, I have to pace myself and rest often. I have to priorities what I want to do- If I push myself I know it.

Dementor Fatigue

This is people- and noise, multiple conversations going on at once. Yep you get it- like dementors (from Harry Potter) this sort of activity drains me massively it sometimes feels like life is being sucked out of me (hense the dementor). In group situations I have to be careful where I sit as if I have noise behind me I get drained. When I’m tired I find noisy places more draining. I also struggle to have conversations if multiple conversations are happening. I used to be that annoying person that could tune into multiple conversations at once- now my brain tries to shut out irrelevant noise but this is hard. At times this sort of fatigue leaves me unable to hold conversations and my body wants to shut down.

Immobilising Fatigue

This type is probably the hardest for me to deal with its one of the less common ones now thankfully (however early stages of treatment it happened a lot more) but when it strikes I sure know it. It can hit at any moment and you have no choice but to stop and sit down. It can literally paralyze you. You brain to muscle movement connection disappears and your trapped inside your own body.

Brain Fog Fatigue

Thinking takes longer, finding words is harder and it basically feels like your eyes up are covered in a haze that nothing gets through. Conversations can be difficult but you muddle through best you can.

Forgetful Fatigue

You know when you go up stairs but forget why you’ve gone- yep its this but with literally everything you try to do. A simple hello from someone is distraction enough and you lose your trail of thought. Complete conversations can disappear from you brain and boy is it frustrating.

Over Tired Fatigue

Insomnia if I miss bed time it’s almost guaranteed that falling asleep will be difficult and it doesn’t matter if there are no screens it could mean I have a seriously late switch off time and if I’ve got things planned the next day guaranteed it will come alongside at least 2 types of fatigue.

Over Doing It Fatigue

If I push myself too much or have too many busy days without allocating enough time for rest I’m way more likely to get burn out and the fatigues above at a sever level.

Poor Sleep Fatigue

Sometimes I don’t get enough sleep, sometimes it’s the quality of sleep, sometimes it’s the way in which I’m woken up but all mean I’m starting my day on even less energy than I need so will really have to be strict with what I do (this is what makes me flaky).

Infection related Fatigue

Depending on the infection will depend on the level of wipe out- but even the smallest of infection will increase the number of hours I need to sleep/spend in bed. Big infections knock me out for weeks.

Build up Fatigue

This is something that I suffer with most weeks, it’s where you keep going and keep going and then have to have a whole day resting because the basic fatigue along with all the other types just accumulate till you have no choice but to write of a day and spend it in bed.

Burnout

Fatigue has hit a new low, you have had a few days of build up Fatigue but now you haven’t even got the energy to shower and the shops which are only 900 steps away (yes my pedometer told me) are just too far if you’ve not been sensible and got in ready meals your living on takeout.

However despite all of these types of fatigue I deal with I manage it all pretty well most of the time. It’s all about Planning, Prioritising, and most importantly Pacing. Its tough but eating regular balanced meals and having a small amount of exercise each day helps- even if it’s just that 900 steps and back to the shop. I have a un written rule that I have to leave the house at least every other day- trust me it helps your mental wellbeing, your physical wellbeing and helps you get a better night sleep too. Don’t just take my word from it… Watch this.. Dr Mike Evans explains what you should be doing if you have fatigue in a way that would take me another million years.  So I will leave you with this….

 

The Faith that rocked.

Don’t switch off because I’m gonna be talking about religion read this anyway cuz it’s about more than just that… So where to start?? Well it has to be Emily. If you’ve read my previous blogs about her I apologise you’re gonna be hearing more about her but I’m so grateful for all that she has done for me and I can’t even thank her. I don’t know if anyone else has ever experienced it but if you have that one friend that has changed your life forever and they are still about phone them right now and say thank you! Life is far to short not to!

So those of you who have been in my life in the past few weeks or months I’m sure I will have spoken to you about Freedom Church but this post is going to explain a lot more about it, and how I ended up there and why last Sunday I chose to get baptised.

I grew up in a Christian household and went to church (St Stephens) every week in my home town of Redditch and I always believed in God that has never changed. Many points during my childhood/early adulthood I got angry with God for what he did and didn’t stop from happening. I just didn’t get it, I didn’t understand how this God could create a world where bad things happen. I got confirmed but that was more because I wanted to have the bread and the wine. I went to a church youth group which was part of Emmanuel church during my teens where we would explore Gods word a little more but if I’m honest I went for the friendship rather than the religion. I went to church to tick a box and say yep been this week I’m a good christian but I never really listened or understood being a christian is so much more than that.

When I was diagnosed with cancer-ish I had people say they were praying for me but honestly I wanted to knock them out (couldn’t because I had no energy) I was so done with religion. How could God exist if he was going to put me through this I thought? I didn’t want people to pray for me because at that point I’m not sure I knew if I even wanted to get better or not- I was so tired and so weak, my immediate future had been taken away from me. I didn’t want God in my life but I still believed in God. I was told by my consultant that I couldn’t go to crowded places and that church was an infection risk so I stopped going… After treatment I really struggled! I have a great cancer friend called Luned who really tried to get me back to church, taking me to #convinced?/#cardiffstory but I just wasn’t ready for it. In 2013 i made a film along with some others about faith (now I look at it and its so cringey and so not where I’m at now) have a watch https://jtvcancersupport.com/2013/06/faith/ I was in and out of church only going for special occasions.

So almost a year ago (a year ago on Monday) I lost an incredible friend to cancer- His name was Peter Wilkinson- he worked for the amazing JTV Cancer support (the site I just sent you too). It was heartbreaking, I found out at the end of a rugby match (anyone who knows me knows how passionate I get) and I went from this high of emotion to utter despair. We knew Peter’s life would be shorter thanks to his brain tumours but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was going to hit me. I’ve lost many cancer friends over the years and while there were a few I’ve really missed Peter (like Emily) was in a different league. I never went to cancer friends funerals but thanks to some amazing friends I was able to go to Peter’s funeral. This may sound weird but Peter’s funeral was a dream funeral. It was perfect for him, they talked about the Peter before cancer and him growing up, they spoke about Peter and his life with cancer (#tumorhumour #boom) and Peter & Debs (his life with his wonderful wife). Peter was described as superman, because he was human most of the time but superman when he needed to be. Throughout all of his eulogy they spoke about how Peter found comfort in his faith which left me a bit confused yet comforted How could Peter keep his faith when I lost mine? Yet I was really pleased he had faith because he was comforted in his final weeks by this. The worship was more upbeat than I was use to but I loved it, we left the funeral to Jump Around (House of Pain). I left feeling comforted that Peter was in a better place now.

Over the next few months I didn’t really think much about it until I spoke with the wonderful Emily. One of my final conversations with Em was about faith, I talked to her about Peter and his amazing funeral and how I didn’t understand how she, peter and Luned kept their faith throughout. She pointed out it wasn’t easy but a work in progress, but then in true Emily style she sucker punched me. So if you found this funeral so amazing, why haven’t you seen this as your sign to find a church that’s right for you? Wow ok Em don’t hold back will you. Oh and how right she was, so I spent some time at home googling local churches and reading about them and found Freedom Church was literally 2 mins away from me. I looked on their Facebook page and saw that a friend from Uni liked it… so then obviously stalked Ste on Facebook and saw him on stage behind some drums Wow I thought he’s loving it and pretty involved. (I knew Peter had been in a band so this seemed like that sign)  So I watched a few preaches on their Facebook page and was like ok yea its pretty relevant I’ll go see what its like. I went to tell Em that i was going to go on Sunday but she had been moved into the isolation rooms so I decided I’d tell her after I’d been what it was like.

So Mothers day 2016 I walked into Freedom Church Cardiff for the first time. Wow do those guys know how to welcome you I was greeted on the door by Andy, then took two steps and got a flower (thanks to it being mothers day) then Ant saw me looking a bit lost and greeted me and asked if it was my first time in Freedom. I explained I knew Ste from uni and that’s what brought me- ste was on the next set of doors and as soon as he saw me he gave me a huge hug. Next thing i know I’m sat on the front row next to Ant and Ste. Now I’d prepared myself that it was going to be different from the traditional church I’d been use to but Freedom was something else- I’ve spent a long time working out how to describe what its like and really the only way you will ‘get it’ is to come but it’s basically like going to a gig followed by the most inspiring relatable religious ted talk you’ve ever experienced. Ste jumps during worship and I’m sure he was jumping above my shoulders. But wow did it hit me, I was in tears in the first worship song because I suddenly felt so connected to Peter again, I knew it was the sort of place he would have loved. I couldn’t wait to hear when Em was up for visitors so I could tell her all about it. The preach hit me like a em style sucker punch and at the end of the preach they ask if anyone would like to respond to getting to know this Jesus they talk about or If you’ve been away a while and you are recommitting back to the journey with Jesus. I had felt so moved I couldn’t not respond- but I originally thought i was responding to coming back- Its only now i realise how wrong I was.

The following Saturday I was at a volunteers day for the Ellen Macather Cancer Trust- which takes young people in recovery from cancer sailing, something I’d managed to convince Em to sign up for. It was the first time I’d seen people who were at Peter’s funeral so it brought back some tough emotions. At lunch they have a room with a memory tree- I wrote a message for Peter and put it on the tree- but felt really uneasy and had to take a step back in the afternoon sessions, after I was sat watching England v Wales in a pub in Birmingham with some- it wasn’t going well for us (welsh) and i looked down at my phone to see a message from Donna- Emily’s mum ‘Emily died at lunchtime xx’. I couldn’t breath, I was so overcome by grief I could not believe it, Emily’s death was so unexpected for me- despite me getting ‘the look’ from Nargal (our tct doctor) last time I tried to visit- Em was gonna pull through, she had so much to she wanted to do. It was so tough! I was such a mess. I hadn’t got to tell her i’d gone back to church. I couldn’t understand how someone with so much purpose and direction could die and there was me bumbling through and I get to survive. The next day I decided I would watch church online (Yep Freedom are also online!) I sobbed most of the way through it because now church meant that bit more. Church was hard work over the following few weeks but I kept going and started going to our small groups (catalyst groups) mid week. Em’s funeral was hard I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to someone who had made such a big impact in my life. Rev Rhiannon Francis spoke about her relationship with Emily from her hospital bed and being with Emily’s family as she passed. She described how Emily’s soul could no longer be contained I at this point visualised this cracked pot with a purple light peaking through. Soon after we were shown a purple crystal I knew that’s what i was seeing inside this vessel. Em shone, she was bright (smart and her personality) she drew people in and defiantly left you in awe. The sermon/eulogy made me realise that Emily had something I didn’t- a real relationship with God. I didn’t get it at this point still but I decided i needed to push in, listen and act upon what I was learning at church until I did get it.

Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago and I’ve been going to church for a few months and all this time I’ve been learning- looking at how others could open up their bibles and pick them apart. I found reading it like reading Shakespeare- hard and very easy to put down. Then Karin Cooke one of our wonderful pastors did an in-house preach on John 15 about growth. We were shown a picture of a dying withered branch (in this moment God spoke to me and said right now this is you- but it’s not what i have for you). The scripture talks about how God is our gardener, he prunes so that we can grow and be fruitful but to do this we need to remain in him, and his word without this the vine withers and dies. Karin talked about how we all begin as seeds and need to be in the dark soil to gain nutrients and be watered- It was a lightbulb moment suddenly everything Id been learning over the many many years made sense- and it was like the moments when a seed plants its roots in the ground for me. I understood that to be a christian is way more than just believing in God, its about the relationship you have with him. All of a sudden everything made sense and the things I’d been trying to put into practice over the weeks before stuck too- like my foundations had been laid. I understood that sometimes we have to go through the bad to be able to see all of good and to get to the place we are now in. We were set the challenge of John 15 in 15 mins every day for a month- and boy did I learn things from this (ask me about it and I’ll tell you more).

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If it hadn’t been for being diagnosed I’m not sure I’d be alive today- I had a 5 year plan to become a teacher and I’d decided that if anything got in the way of that I’d either run away or I’d kill myself. I know got dark quickly then but at the time I was in such a dark place this is what I felt. Cancer saved my life because I had no choice but to accept the treatment, and when I got PTSD after transplant and had to struggle with repressed memories of things that had happened before my transplant I was lucky enough to have Jude Rowlands (my amazing CLIC Sargent social worker) in my life who helped me get the right support in place and I have had lots of problems with my mental health since. I still struggle from time to time yes but boy have I come a long way a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have been open and honest about this.

I can now look back over my life and I see so many times when my outcome could have been different. When I’ve had good people step into my life at just the right moment. When that conversation I had with Emily came just at a point when I really needed it! The past 6 months without Emily have been really hard, because there have been so many moments I know she has influenced- pushed me to go to something, or speak to somebody. I can’t Thank Emily or Peter- but without them I probably wouldn’t have walked into Freedom Church. The past 6 weeks have been eye-opening, heart wrenching, and a constant stream of OHHH… ok I get it moments. I hadn’t realised how dead i’d become- I hadn’t realised how tough I was really finding things. However over the past 7 months I’ve found a church family who I love, I’ve found new friends that just like my cancer friends come from all backgrounds and walks of life, I’ve found a home in my city and most importantly I’ve found my Faith!

Last week I decided I should get baptised because although I was christened as a baby and confirmed I hadn’t accepted Jesus into my life at those points. I knew I needed to show that to the people who had helped make that happen (my freedom family). 7 weeks ago in freedom church I would turn up as the event started and I’d only sometimes hang around after. Now I love that place so much because of the change and massive impact its had on my life I’m volunteering there and I’m never late, I’ve made stronger connections with those that go there and now I’m a much part of their lives as they are mine. I’m still very young on my journey and like most christians I’m far from perfect and I don’t have it all down yet but it’s ok because it’s about being on that journey- growing and developing. Some people in my life have seen a huge shift in me over the last few months and it really is incredible I know the best is yet to come and my story is far from over. I’m just so unbelievably grateful for all those who have helped me get to where I am today.

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I couldn’t recommend finding a community and a church strongly enough. If you’ve read this and been moved message me, if you’d like to find a church that’s relevant to you- message me. I’d love to help. Check out http://www.freedomchurch.cc/about follow freedom church on YouTube and watch some of the preaches. Feel free to ask me questions because I’ve only skimmed the surface here.

For now sorry for such a long blog but

Goodnight God bless #boom