So there I was, on a plane back from what was the most insane, beautiful, heart-wrenching, encouraging, affirming, mind-blowing trip I had ever been on. I remember the plane ride like it was yesterday.
My flight was pretty delayed so on top of the hours of journey I had plenty of time at the airport. I tried doing some work but quickly realised that my mind was going at 100 miles an hour – and none of the thoughts were work related!
I tried to make sense of it all, tried to process what had just happened.
Truth is, I didn’t even scratch the surface on that flight. I kept flicking through all the pictures and videos I had taken, journaled, fell asleep, read, watched movies and journaled again.
I ended up writing a piece in honour of my dad, brothers and nephews that day.
It speaks of the Young King and the value and potential on his life. And I made a promise in that poem that I would do whatever I could to see the potential of the next generation fulfilled. To make the world a better place for them…(you can read ‘Young King’ here)
So, inspired, tired and confused I got back home to London. My beautiful friend Kirsty picked me up from the airport and as if reading my mind, brought my little friend Elias along. They reminded me that through it all I had family back here who loved me, had helped me get this far and would support me whatever the future held.
And oh how much I needed them.
At first, everything was fine and almost exciting! I was excited about having family in the US, was excited to get to know everyone.
I should say at this point that there was one sister I didn’t get to meet while I was over there as she lives on the other side of the US. And yet it feels like we’ve already met.Quinn had been so kind to video call me even before I went to meet dad, and getting to speak to her had really helped prepare me for my journey. And even as I arrived back and ever since, she has been available and willing to talk to me and walk this journey with me. I can’t wait to meet her in person one day. She, again, is an older sister I’d always prayed for.
Anyway, I went straight back into work, as it goes, but also felt myself being more fragile than ever before. Little things pushed me over the edge quicker, I was teary a lot of the time. I knew I needed to deal with the events of the past few months but didn’t really know where to start. Thankfully, I have amazing spiritual mothers in my life. One of them made sure I started seeing a counsellor soon after my return and oh how I needed that.
Life back here in London got busy but not only that, major life events happened not only for me but also in the lives of friends and family around me. And the truth is, if it wasn’t for that counsellor and the little bit of work I did with her, what happened next could’ve gone a lot worse.
I seemed to be juggling it all okay until one fateful Monday morning.
I had just come out of a big weekend at our Men’s Conference and being with our new team in Birmingham, when darkness hit.
That’s really the only way I can describe it. I know this is getting pretty vulnerable but I feel I can’t share the story without both light and shade. Until now it had been mostly light but the shade, the valley beyond the mountain top didn’t make me wait too long.
Without going into too much detail I found myself in a spell of major depression, knocking me off my feet and out of my normal day to day life. For those of you who know me at all, that was a whole different battle for me to fight. Resting, not doing something, doesn’t always come natural to me but the force of depression left me now choice.
So there I was, home a lot, not really able to do much, talk to many people, let alone write. In that time I didn’t speak to dad much. He however was great. He kept reaching out, letting me know that he was there and available to talk whenever I would be ready.
I have to clarify at this point that it wasn’t only the experience and life altering encounter of meeting dad that caused me to snap. Though it was probably the trigger, the honest truth is that I had struggled with depression before and the circumstances of my life over the years had contributed to that a lot.
Be it as it may, I am now a few months along on that journey and am doing much better.
So why do I share this part? And what’s the development in relationship with my family?
Let me start by saying that I have probably learnt more in these past 6-8 months than – dare I say – the rest of my life. To be fair, I was probably only able to learn what I have learnt because of the work and life I had done leading up to it but these past few months have certainly been next level. Let me elaborate:
Every mountain top is followed by a valley – and that’s okay
I think in our society and even our doctrine at times, we have somewhat concluded that a good life is a life without any strain, heartache or valleys. But let’s be honest, do we know anyone who lives such a life? And more than that, when I think of the people I love and admire the most, the one thing they all have in common is that they had to wade through many valleys and climb many rocky mountains to get to where they are now. And even still, no one is immune to valleys even after the seemingly most desirable mountain tops have been conquered. Am I advocating doom and gloom? Nothing could be further from the truth!
I have experienced through many valleys in my life and particularly this last one, that the power lies in how and with whom I deal with in the valley. How I walk through it. Where my attention lies. Do I let doom and gloom take over, let woe have dominion? Or do I choose to fix my eyes on hope. Knowing that – as Daniel Goleman, the pioneer of Emotional Intelligence (EI), puts it in a recent interview with Oprah: ‘We don’t know enough to be truly pessimistic.’
If any situation has a billion possible outcomes the truth is, at least half of them are good! And most of the time, as I take responsibility for my own life (in my case that meant seeing a doctor, receiving the treatment they suggested, resting, etc.) a good outcome isn’t just good faith, it is science.
Within that, one thing that has been so helpful to me was the advice a good friend gave me: Treat yourself with the same grace you would extend to others. I don’t know about you but I can be so harsh to myself at times! The internal narrative over that time so often wanted to be:’ What is wrong with you, you found your dad! That’s what you’ve always wanted!’ and the list goes on. I had to stop, put my hand on my heart and say ‘It’s okay. This has been big and it’s going to take you a while to work it out and be okay again. It’s okay to grieve what you never knew you had. It’s okay to need time to come to terms with it and it’s okay that it takes time.’
If anything hindsight has taught me it’s that had I been kinder to myself and paid more attention to where I was at sooner – I maybe wouldn’t have had to crash as hard as I did. And that would be my advise to you: when you’re body says stop – stop. Learn to listen to how you’re doing. Pay attention! Not in a self-indulgend, self-worshipping way! But in a way that understands that if you’re not okay your impact on others will soon shift from positive to negative. If you’re not okay, you helping others be okay will soon resound hollow.
We all have stuff – that’s not the issue. The issue is if we are humble enough to ask for help when we need it.
And that was the other part – I couldn’t have done any of this journey without the people in my life. We live in a society that so promotes individualism at all costs, that everything that appears to be infringing on our freedoms – on me and mine – is bad. The price of this way of living is isolation and loneliness and those two friends lead to so so so many problems.
Dr. Martin Luther King, in the many speeches, essays and letters in which he promotes the idea of non-violence often speaks of this thing he calls ‘beloved community’. I have learnt that being part of a community – not an online or brand community, but a real flesh and blood group of humans, will require of me to sacrifice at times and to put another’s need before mine. But I have also learnt that if we all do that, with the goal being sacred and beloved togetherness, everyone is taken care of!
These last few months have proven that this can be a real thing. From people coming over to visit, staying with me when my housemate was away, feeding me, ordering me pizza whilst they’re on work trips or sharing their iTunes account with me so I’d have access to movies for days – my community, my tribe, has been a rock without which I couldn’t have done this season at all.
Desmond Tutu writes that ‘Differences aren’t intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another.’ I would humbly add: Weakness isn’t intended to cause us to isolate from one another. We have weaknesses precisely in order to realise our need of one another and maybe even a saviour…
So I learnt that. Or am learning rather…
I learnt so many other things but I would probably say that was the biggest. I might have to write a book one day to give you all the others ha!
So where are things at with dad?
Oh they’re good! We’ve been talking more again and he is currently working out if we can get my US citizenship sorted (can’t hurt right?!) and we are making plans for another visit in the summer. My siblings are well too – at least two of them are thinking about visiting me here in London this year. We try to keep in touch as best as we can (I can probably do better!) and I love every time I get to talk to them. I am SO thankful for social media in this time. I know we all have a lot to say about Facebook (trust me I’m with you, I was close to shutting down my account last year) but I have to say, it’s been so good that even in a time where I wasn’t necessarily able to be in touch much or even just when life gets busy, to be able to see what everyone is up to and how everyone is doing.
I am so crazy grateful for my miracle. And the further along I am on the journey, even the part that has taken me through this valley, the more I can see grace grace written all over it.
I couldn’t have come up with any of this.
I haven’t even gone into so many of the little details that led me to this place, have only scratched the surface. I could tell you the story of a lovely pastor in Sydney who had never met me, praying for me and giving me a word that God would vindicate even in this life time and restore what has been stolen from me. Or another time, when my lovely friend and leader Cass prayed over me at our women’s Conference in London, two years prior to me looking for dad, saying she felt like God would reveal himself to me as a Father in a way I could never imagine. Again, probably a book’s worth.
What I’m trying to say is that this miracle didn’t happen over night and it happened exactly at the right time. I know that for sure. That knowing is and was what helped and helps me through the questions and the doubts when they come – and trust me they still come.
But again, we’ve never been promised a life without struggles. The One I have put my faith in even said to his disciples once: ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33 NIV) That’s what and who I put my trust in.
So who knows what the future holds! I know this is only the beginning and cannot wait to get to know my new family over the next season, to see them become a part of my life and me of theirs. I can’t wait to see the ways I’ll get to make a difference for this land I so love (and hate at times) and maybe will one day call home. Until then, I shall carry on doing what I love most: Loving people. Contributing to environments where people can experience true hope and freedom, invest in the next generation…
Either way, from the response to sharing this story – whether it’s been over coffee with friends or via this blog – I get the feeling that if anything, this miracle isn’t just mine.
It is a timely reminder that there is someone we can put our trust in. Someone who recklessly and passionately loves us. Who doesn’t see us as tools or puppets but loves us AS we are. Even likes us. And like I said in part 2 – if you have any questions to that end…I’d love to tell you more.
Funny, when I set out to write this, I thought this would be a simple account of my experiences. But the love I feel in my heart – the love I was given and the love for you, whoever you are as you read this, just doesn’t let me leave out the God part, the Jesus part. ‘Cause the truth is, I wouldn’t have a story to tell at all without that part…I hope you’ve not taken offence. And if you have…I’m sorry, that was not my intention! All I can say is, I hope you’ve been able to put aside your preconceptions about christians and church and maybe even God himself (however justified they might be) for long enough to see the beauty, kindness and love in this story, this miracle of mine.
I hope you have enjoyed being part of this journey. And I truly hope it spoke to you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And again, reach out if you have any other questions I can help with (you can get in touch via the contact form on the blog – I will get back to you as soon as I can).
I, for one, shall be going back to writing poems and other thoughts for now, but don’t worry, I’m sure part 6 is in the making and when it happens, I’ll be sure to share it with you!
Let me close with a verse of scripture that has been a light even in the darkest night and so beautifully sums it all up for me:
“GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.
GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from GOD.
It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer.
Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way…”
(Lamentations 3:22-33 MSG)
Thank you for reading!
(not to be continued…for now 😉)