Anchors of Celebration

I have spent hours worrying about a whole host of things. Being in the middle of a pandemic has a way of amplifying them to the max!

“When will I get to see my family again?”
“Will our central heating be fixed in time for winter?”
“Should I go to the doctor for this issue?”
“What if the results are bad?”
“Am I doing enough?”
“Am I doing the right things?”

Recently I’ve felt God challenge me that I spent far more time worrying about things going wrong than celebrating when things actually go right. When something bad doesn’t happen (or when something good does) I dismiss it and move on. I miss out on good things because they don’t look 100% how I expected.

Since our central heating broke last winter I’ve spent so much time worrying about it that I’ve missed out on noticing and celebrating the hundreds of other things that make our house such a great place to live!

I missed out on celebrating:
My housemate (4.5 years plus a pandemic and we still think the world of each other!)
The massive south-facing window
The garden
The spare room
The central location
Space to have people over for dinner
The wood-burning stove
The dishwasher and so on and so forth.

I think back to the few times I’ve gone rock-climbing, how when you climb a new rock face you’re better off setting up multiple anchors instead of relying on one to catch your weight if you fall. Celebrating what goes right is the deliberate act of placing an anchor. The more anchors you place, the more there are to hold you when things get tough. 

When God helped the Israelites to cross the Jordan river, they placed a monument of twelve boulders to remind them that God was there for them when they needed Him. It was a reminder that even when things were tough, God had come through for them in the past and He would do it again, even if they couldn’t see what He was up to in that exact moment.

When my friends began IVF treatment this summer, for every appointment they made sure to have a fun trip planned right after. Their IVF journey is marked with photos, not of doctor’s offices and clinics, but of beaches and rivers and forests and yummy food and smiling faces. They made the decision to celebrate every milestone so that they would be guaranteed to have a collection of happy memories to look back on whether or not the treatment was successful. Placing anchors of celebration.

When a friend needed to have a difficult conversation with her boss this week, we decided to have a treat afterwards to mark her bravery at choosing to show up well. When the conversation went well, we celebrated big with ramen and laughter! We placed an anchor of celebration.

The past few months have been tough. Limited social interaction has made room for insecurities and fears and worries to come to the surface without hindrance. I’ve had the choice to numb myself to what’s happening or to sit and give those thoughts the attention they need. It’s necessary. It’s difficult. I haven’t always done it well. But the payoff is huge.

My anchors of celebration have given me the capacity to be able to face uncertainty head on when I need to. And on the days I don’t have the capacity? I celebrate more not less!

Got out of bed? Celebrate!
Went for a walk? Celebrate!
It’s sunny today? Celebrate!
Ate a vegetable? Celebrate!
None of us got covid this week? Celebrate!
Got to meet a friend face to face? Celebrate!
Decluttered my wardrobe? Celebrate!

Placing anchors of celebration is an act of cheerful defiance in a world that seems pretty dark right now.

What’s gone right this week that you can use to place an anchor of celebration? Notice it, point it out to someone else, and celebrate it together with a cup of tea, ice-cream, a happy dance, or an elbow high five!

Writing prompt from Fiona Mae’s @journalingjourneys September writing prompt week 3:
One thing that helps you get through tough times”


Deep Diving

Some people have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon. Not me. I have the emotional capacity of a 50 metre swimming pool with no shallow end. That might sound all romantic and mysterious but have you ever tried to maintain a 50 metre swimming pool with no shallow end? You can get all sorts of things hiding in there and all sorts of gunk growing on the surfaces. One of the huge things I’m realising is how long it can take me to get in touch with what I’m actually feeling.

One time a friend did something that really hurt me. It took me three months to realise that I was angry with her. Three months. By the time I became aware of it enough to have a conversation about it she had forgotten about it and moved on (but not before scolding me for not approaching her sooner). It wasn’t that I was holding onto resentment and secretly wanting to wring her neck everyday, I simply didn’t realise how angry and hurt I felt. It was hiding in the depths and I hadn’t looked. I wish I could say that three months is the longest it’s taken me! Continue reading


Mornings often feel like a seed birthing a shoot, desperately pushing for what it hopes is the surface where it can emerge into the light in relief and breathe. This morning I turned to Mister Rogers for some much needed light, playing a playlist of his songs on youtube. In the middle of one of the playlists was Daniel Striped Tiger hanging up a sign that read “143” on the set. 143 being a letter code for “I love you”, with a number matching the number of letters in each word.

I remember my very first email address which began with volare143: volare after the song, meaning “to fly”, and 143 after the code which I think I read about in one of The Babysitters’ Club books!

This morning was slow but Mister Rogers helped me out of bed. I sat down to write out one of the Psalms in cursive writing à la Ray Hughes. I started with Psalm 150 a few days ago and have been working my way forward*, writing each psalm out in its entirety before singing it out loud to myself, to Him, to the house. I’d missed a couple of days so I sat down to write the next Psalm. I started to re-read my script, “I am losing all hope; I am paralysed with fear… Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning for I am trusting You.” Your unfailing love… guess which psalm it is? 143.

Smiling to myself I got up to add some milk to my coffee just in time to see the washing machine timer blink from 1:44 to 1:43!

On a day where I feel like I don’t feel like I measure up, it is giving me great reassurance that I don’t have to. I am loved right now 🙂

*Unlike most calendars which record time as running from left to right and top to bottom, time in my mind has always flowed from right to left and bottom to top so doing certain things in reverse makes more sense to me.

Dear People of Ireland, We- the Church- Have Failed You

Dear people of Ireland, today we’ll vote on whether to remove the 8th amendment from our constitution. I’m not writing to you to tell to what to vote, I don’t have the right to do that. I’m writing to you to apologise on behalf of the church in Ireland.

The debate surrounding this referendum has been heated and hate-filled. At first I simply chose to switch off. I unfollowed everyone on Facebook. Everyone. (Yes, including you) Yes campaigners and No campaigners alike. It’s felt like everyone is shouting and no one’s listening. And the less heard people have felt heard, the louder they’ve shouted in trying to be heard.

This week I had a couple of friends come to visit and one of them stopped to talk to a Yes campaigner, simply to ask her what the referendum was all about and why she was campaigning for a Yes vote. What she shared wasn’t hate but pain. Pain at her voice not being heard, particularly pain caused by the church. After listening and asking her questions to hear her story, my friend told her that he works for a church and apologised on behalf of the church for causing so much pain. I don’t know if his words had an impact on her (though it certainly wasn’t what she was expecting to hear) but they certainly had an impact on me.

I am just one small voice among many clamouring for attention but for what it’s worth:

People of Ireland, we- the church- have failed you. God told us (not the Government) to take care of the most vulnerable people in society, especially women and children who are at risk of being marginalised. Instead of caring for you, mothers, when you found yourselves in crisis situations we punished you and took your children from you, selling them to the highest bidder. Instead of teaching you, children, we abused you and shamed you. Instead of loving you, orphans, we neglected and killed you. When you told the truth, we didn’t come clean. We are without excuse.

Jesus’ harshest criticism is for those who publicly side with God yet completely misunderstand His heart and misrepresent Him to others. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells how the loving father runs towards his lost son. The crowd is also running towards the son, to condemn him and cut him off from their community forever. The father outruns them so that his son is met by love and not judgment. People of Ireland, when you turned to us we should have represented the father, our heavenly Father, and met you with love, welcoming you as family. Instead, too often we have been the crowd, meeting you with condemnation and no mercy.

Jesus laid down all of His power, His authority, and His own life in order to pay the penalty for our sin so that we, you and I, could be forgiven and adopted into God’s family. He does not turn anyone away. Instead of laying our lives down for you, we have used our power to abuse you.

The prophet Isaiah describes Jesus:

“He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets.”
We have denied you your voice and shouted you down instead of listening to you and valuing what you have to say.

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.”
When you were bruised and vulnerable and weak we should have held you gently and comforted you. Instead we crushed you.

“In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; He will not falter or be discouraged til He established justice on earth. In His teachings the islands will put their hope.”
Jesus ensured that those who were suffering injustice were heard and vindicated. He sided with the vulnerable and protected them from those who were trying to crush them. Instead of protecting you from those within our ranks who sought to destroy you, we said nothing. We did nothing. We allowed injustice to win. We should have pointed you towards hope. Instead we shut the door.

We have failed you. We do not deserve your forgiveness.

I realise that this is too little, too late but I want to say it anyway: on behalf of the church, I am sorry.

If you have been hurt by the church then I realise that I am the last person you’d like to speak to right now. But if you feel like your voice has not been heard and you would like to share your story with someone who will not interrupt you, shut you down, or de-humanise you, I’d be honoured to hear it. I’ll have the tea ready, just in case.

Seeds, Surrender, and the Alpha Course

It’s amazing the lengths God goes to to catch your attention!

(And how slow I can be to catch on)

This morning I read the devotional for my daily reading plan, “Bible in One Year” by Nicky & Pippa Gumbel, pioneers of the Alpha Course. I was particularly struck by one thought about Matthew 13:18-25:

“When I look at the lives of some of those who did Alpha five, ten or fifteen years ago, they have had a massive impact. Some have even started ministries that have had a global impact.”

As I read this line I started counting years on my fingers- it’s been 13 years since I sat in a parish hall on Tuesday afternoons (like this one!) taking part in an Alpha Course with some of my teenaged classmates. It was in that hall that I first heard you could have a relationship with God.

This was a completely new idea to me, who considered myself a good church member. I knew you could do good things for God, pray to Him, etc. but the thought of Him answering back, being interested in my life, and wanting a friendship rather than a dictatorship was completely new. It was a seed that dropped straight into the depths of my heart.

A few months later, I responded to the good news of the Gospel by surrendering my life to God completely- not out of compulsion but as a grateful response to His undeserved love. I accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as punishment for my sins and received His free gift of eternal life. Intense, enduring peace washed over and through me.

I would never have guessed that 13 years later, I would be sharing that same Gospel message of hope and reconciliation with students just a little older than I was then. I would never have guessed that I would be involved in an international ministry committed to having a global impact.

As I thought about this this morning, I remembered that Nicky Gumbel will be one of the keynote speakers at our upcoming European conference in April- duh! What an honour to hear from a man who pioneered a ministry that has impacted the lives of thousands of people, including countless individuals (like me) whom he has never met!

P.S. I’ve been invited to address a group of students this evening. Please pray with me for God to give me grace and the right words to say to inspire a new generation to impact the world by making disciples who make disciples!


Hairline Fractures and Flying Debris

The past three days have been eventful. On Saturday, my brother fell fifteen feet out of a tree and broke his back. Yesterday, a piece flew off the roof of my rented home and damaged a neighbour’s car. While storm Ophelia raged outside, my grandfather’s cousin passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.

Outside of my tiny sphere of experience, three people lost their lives because of Ophelia and many more people are assessing damage of property and vehicles and trees and roads and waiting for the electricity to come back on (it could take up to ten days for some).

In the wake of tragedy and deliberate evil, I often hear the question, “Where was God when…?” “Where was God when that tree fell on Clare O’Neill’s car?” “Where was God when Stephen Paddock starting shooting?” I think these are perfectly valid questions, I ask them too. It’s very rarely I hear the reverse though. Continue reading

Dear Coffee

It’s nothing personal, I’m just done- it’s over.

I know everyone is going to to think I’m crazy breaking up with you- you’re as close to perfect as they get. You are idolised the world over from hipster haunts to fast food basics to the jar of instant in Mum’s cupboard. People cling to you in the mornings as if their lives depended on you (and they would swear they do). Endless memes have been created to praise your name. You even have your own international day of recognition this Sunday. Your fans have raised the standard of living for farmers and suppliers across the world. They’ve also raised the standards of taste and consistency- even I can tell the difference between franchise and something special and smile a sigh of appreciation! Continue reading