Sunday 7 August 2022

Always a Pioneer

I haven't posted on here for years. I mean, literally, years. And so much has changed over those years; I mean, obviously, right? But when I talk about change, I don't mean the kind of change that is par for the course with ageing: the creep of middle aged spread, grey hair and increased mortgage payments (although I can't deny the reality of any of those things). I'm talking about significant, life-altering changes. I went from being a crunchy home-educating mum to a working mum of schoolchildren. I went from being an evangelical Christian to a liberal, LGBTQ-affirming Christian. I went from being someone who wore long dresses and skirts for modesty to someone with a passion for dungarees, shaved heads, piercings and tattoos. I went from being someone whose idea of Christian thinking was a Joyce Meyer self-help book to someone with a foundation degree in theology. I went from being someone who did the church flowers to someone who led services in a cassock. I went from being someone who had been a Baptist all their adult life to someone who was training for Anglican ministry. 

 Big changes were the hallmark of my life over the past five years. And they were good changes. I was progressing, developing, finally fulfilling my potential. And then, just as quickly as things began to change, things began to fall apart.

How and why they fell apart is complicated and messy and doesn't include any of my finest moments in life, all of which are better left in the annals of time. I will say, however, that I'm waiting for a diagnosis of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and, after an 18 month period of Covid-imposed inability to access medical treatment, I'm also finally receiving treatment for Perimenopause. The two conditions together have wreaked havoc on my mental health. Mostly, now, with a combination of HRT, antidepressant medication and hormonal contraception, I inhabit a place of relative sanity. However, there are days, and nights, during the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle where the dark abyss of hormone-induced fear, paranoia and self-loathing threaten to swallow me up.

So here I am, no longer a pioneer of Christian motherhood or first generation ministry. I'm more of a pioneer of survival. A pioneer of brutal self-reflection and personal growth. A pioneer of trying to get my shit together and rebuild some kind of life from the rubble of failure. A pioneer of finding faith and spirituality when church has become a toxic and triggering place. 

I don't know where I'm going, but they say that the company on the journey is more important than the destination, so please, come along with me. Join me in my journeying.


Saturday 14 March 2015


For so much of my life I have felt that I was not enough.  I sincerely believed that my worth was measured in the currency of the world and that the scales showed me lacking.  One area of my self esteem which was fractured by doubt and insecurity was that of my appearance, most notably my weight.  I was always a rather overweight child and the butt of many a humorous jibe at school and with friends.  My family was not unkind to me about my weight but they talked about heredity and the 'fat gene' which plagued our kin as though a terrible fate had befallen me.  And so my destructive relationship with food began.

As a little girl I loved to bake with my grandmother.  She made the most awesome fruit cakes,... and melt in the mouth bread rolls which we would eat straight from the oven with melted butter.  I loved her so very dearly, a feeling which was beautifully requited. And in her love for me she wanted to give me every good thing, including Horse and Pony magazine, which she bought me every week from the newsagents, and an abundance of baked goods from her repertoire of farmhouse cooking. It was hardly surprising then, that I came to equate love with sitting in front of Grandma's fire, feasting on some delicious home-cooked treat whilst indulging my literary tastebuds to boot.

My love of food and the non-physical pursuits of reading and crafting (another wonderful inheritance from my grandma) meant that the 'puppy fat' of my childhood had become firmly established by the time I reached puberty.  I was a 'fatty'. At school I was subject to bullying and social exclusion.  I became depressed and developed a strong sense of loathing towards my body, and so it was that around this time I first induced myself to vomit after a meal.

I struggled with bulimia until I became a Christian at the age of 21.  It may seem unbelievable to some and was miraculous to me but my conversion to the faith saw a total healing of my relationship with food.  I seemed to be able to eat purely to satisfy hunger and then stop.  I was also on my feet a great deal in my job as a library assistant.  When I married at the age of 23 I was slim and healthy and glowing.  And once married, I didn't pile on weight like other wives had said I would.  It was a golden time for my self esteem.

The trouble came with babies.  There were five of them and with each pregnancy my weight ballooned.  Thankfully, the evil of bulimia had truly been slain and I never binged and purged again.  Instead of bulimia, however, I began a cycle of overeating and dieting, which gradually took over my life and contributed to the breakdown of my self confidence.

As a Christian I was well aware that my physical appearance was not important to God.  That God sees the heart and not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).  Despite this I became trapped in a cycle that, since I was fat, I was ugly and worthless and must therefore eat to medicate my pain. Sometimes the cycle was punctuated by long periods of weightloss, when I signed up to Weightwatchers or Slimming World.  The loss was often shortlived, however, as I would become frustrated by the restriction of foods I liked to eat and indulge in increasing numbers of cheat days where I would totally blow out.

Hope came via Trim and Healthy Mama, a programme which had few restrictions but separated meals including fats from those with carbs.  It seemed to suit me very well and I lost six stone over eighteen months but eventually I began to struggle with eating some of the foods from the plan and developed intolerances where there had been none before.

So here I am.  A failed dieter.  And today I want to publicly say ENOUGH.  Enough with the food restrictions. Enough with value based on my appearance. Enough with the lie that I am not enough.
The Bible is clear about where beauty comes from; it comes from within.  It is also clear about stewardship of the good gifts God has given us; we are to take good care of them.  And it is very clear about our value; we are each one made in his image and precious to him.  So my mandate today is to treat my body with care and respect, to use it for his purposes and glory and to be thankful every day for the strong and able physique he has given me.  This body has experienced beautiful union with one who has loved it through fat and thin.  This body has carried and birthed five wonderful children. This body stands in worship and bends in prayer.  It scooters up and down the drive with a demanding three year old.  It carries our laundry mountain up and down the stairs each week.  This body is amazing. I will no longer allow enmity between us.  

I remember today Kara Tippetts, whose body now is failing her as she loses her battle with cancer.  I am inspired by her to be thankful for the health of my body, regardless of the number on the scale or my dress size.  More than that, I am inspired by her beauty.  The beauty of her courage and the grace of the Lord which shines through her, despite her cancer ravaged frame.  Another such woman who inspires me is Lizzie Velasquez.  Once known as the ugliest woman in the world because of her physiological inability to gain weight, Lizzie has used her high profile suffering to challenge stereotypes of beauty and identity. These women are the examples we should look to when we consider how to present ourselves, not the notions of beauty toted by the prevailing culture.  

From a Christian point of view, this message ought to be indisputable. Sadly, however, there are still too many Christians who believe that we should succumb to the world's model of airbrushed perfection in order to keep our husband's eyes from straying.  This is not our remit at all.  There are many ways in which we are urged to relate to our husbands, but this is not one of them.  Further, to my mind, it does rather assume men to be shallow, fickle and without self control; hardly assumptions to bring out the best in our menfolk.  

What now?  Am I just going to become overweight, unhealthy and unkempt in my appearance?  I don't know.  I hope not.  I am trying to listen to my body.  Eating what I fancy when I fancy it. Eating to satisfy hunger and then stopping.  I believe that not having restrictions will remove the temptation to binge and therefore help to regulate my eating in a way which is sustainable.  I have to admit that I am afraid.  I have enjoyed the compliments that my slimmer figure has brought me.  I am afraid of rejection and mockery should I initially put on weight.  I believe, however, that this is part of the process of my liberation from the fear of others' opinions and from my attachment to the shallow caprices of the world; part of the development of my inner beauty.  I believe that it is a God thing.  And God has plans to prosper me, and not to bring me harm, to give me a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And that's enough of me then. 


Jo xxx

1 Peter 3:3-4 
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Experimenting with Young Living

I have always maintained an interest in Aromatherapy and have sporadically used oils to make cleaners for the home as well as natural hygiene products.  Lately I have been using Young Living oils and have been very impressed with their quality and effectiveness.  This week, after one scraped knee too many, I decided that there had to be a better alternative to the traditional antiseptic cream and experimented with blending oils to make a BooBoo Balm.  I used coconut oil for a base with a little cocoa butter and some beeswax, left over from my previous forays into homemade cosmetics.  The oils I chose to use were Peace and Calming, Lavender, Thieves and Valor.  Peace and Calming and Valor were obvious choices to help soothe a little one after an accident.  Lavender is a powerful antiseptic and Theives is known for its cleansing properties.

I am very happy with the balm I created.  It smells divine and has solidified to a nice consistency, making it easy to apply without fuss.  Now we just have to wait for the bumps and grazes to manifest.  With five boys, I don't think it will take long.

I also made some Thieves cleaning spray, using a mixture of white vinegar, water and ten drops of Thieves oil.  I don't know whether these are the correct quantities or not as I am still an aromatherapy novice, but it certainly seems to do the job and I feel far more confident using something I know to be entirely natural as opposed to the toxins contained in many commercial cleaning agents.  Furthermore, it smells most pleasant and may even entice me to tangle with the dishcloth a little more often.

If you are at all interested in Young Living oils and the benefits they offer, feel free to post in the comments below.

Ray of Hope

Spring has felt like such a long time coming.  This winter has been a hard one for me emotionally.  It is only recently that our car was fixed so, for the most part, we have been immobile, squirreled away in our snug nest, awaiting the sun.  Hibernation sounds like a cosy idyll to begin with but when the incandescent glow of Christmas has faded, and there is not even the excitement of snow to break the monotonous bleakness, it begins to feel more like incarceration.  So we held on.  Held on to the rituals that guide us through the year: Epiphany, Candlemas, Valentines.... Held on to the hope of light and warmth and community.  Held on to Him who is present within every difficult, stir-crazy, ill-tempered moment and yet promises that this is not all, promises to make streams in the desert and a path through the wilderness.  And just when the dark and cold seemed most oppressive, just when I needed it most, ...the sun shone.  I am sure that there will be many more inclement days around the corner but for today I am thankful for a chance to wake up from my winter sleep, stretch out my arms and welcome the sun.  Similarly, even though I know that my long fought battle with depression is likely not over, I grasp the good days and thank God for his mercy.  

Thursday 5 March 2015

Easy daffodil garland

Pinterest is awesome but some of the crafts on there go rather beyond the capability of my three year old and I.  We attempted handprint daffodils the other day and got something more like a daffodil coloured massacre in paint.  Maybe we should submit it to the Tate Modern as some kind of abstract masterpiece.  Or maybe not.  Anyhow, I decided of late that it would be nice if we could decorate for Spring/Easter and that some kind of daffodil bunting or garland would be just the ticket.  Joey is really the only one of my boys who is terribly enthusiastic about crafts (TERRIBLY enthusiastic if you know what I mean) so with our joint limitations in mind I decided to design my own based on the resources we had available.  And should any of you internet lovelies be quite as challenged as we are when it comes to the cutting and sticking business, I have uploaded our step by step photos below. Enjoy! 

I drew a vague daffodil shape on yellow felt.
I cut it out.  This could have been done by an older child but Joey's scissor skills aren't quite that 
developed just yet. 
 I drew daffodil leaves on green foam and cut them out too.
 I tore up lots of orange tissue paper which Joey scrunched up and stuck in the centre of the 
daffodil to represent its trumpet 
He also stuck the leaves to the back of each daffodil.
I threaded each one onto green wool, using an embroidery needle.
I hung up our lovely garland and basked in the joys of spring.

Happy Crafting.

Jo x

Wednesday 1 January 2014