Does anyone ever struggle to make all of their passions compatible? Perhaps, as if each of your interests or desires are buckets of water filling and about to overflow. You dash to one just in time, to pour it down the sink but suddenly realise another is about to go, reaching it just in time.
I have always had a ridiculous amount of hobbies or interests. In all of them I genuinely find happiness. I love to paint and find it a space for reflection. For hours I can sit and create a detailed portrait. Photography and blogging has a similar effect.
Running and cycling excites me. Playing my violin is a skill I’ve been honing since 7 years old. Studying architecture is enriching. Guitar sessions are a regular pass time. Languages are my forte.
An old friend once remarked about how I reminded her of Repunzel in the film Tangled. At the beginning of the film she sings, “When Will My Life Begin,” ungratefully reeling off all these activities she does, whilst feeling so disappointed and unsatisfied. I don’t really know how to react to that comment… Its was harsh – but true.
When you have such a diverse range of interests it’s incredibly difficult to juggle them. Sometimes it’s even overwhelming. As life goes on I find I have to prioritise and choose much more. I don’t really read books anymore, I haven’t spoken Spanish in two years and my violin has been in it’s case for two weeks. My heart genuinely feels a little crushed to admit that – have the 13 years of learning been a waste?
I have recently had time to get the paints out again but I know that this will have to pass soon and regardless, I don’t paint as much as I used to.
My life is literally so full. Full of friendships, hobbies, interests, travels, stresses, joys… But none of this satisfies. Every day I struggle to balance the desires of my heart with the tug of this world. I get distracted by other things or just simply don’t have time to fit everything in. And my human, crazy ‘Repunzel’ heart just keeps yearning for more temporary happiness or worth.
But that’s just it. Nothing in this world can satisfy. No amount of stuff will ever make me feel worthy. It doesn’t matter how much I do, I will never feel good enough. No matter how much I clutch onto, I will always feel wasted.
Except there is one place where I feel fulfilled. There is one thing that satisfies. There is one expression that I could pour out forever, without wishing to move or give a half-hearted attention to.
Jesus is my one true love. In Jesus I have found eternal joy, different to the quick spurts of happiness that I find in other stuff. In Jesus I can rest assured knowing that all things are an expression of praise, for He made me with all of my passions. In Jesus I know that nothing is wasted. Seasons come and go. What I did is still worthy and never wasted when I have to give it up.
In Jesus I have a hope and future. Whenever I feel like I’m being pulled out and stretched across about fifty different corners, there is an inexplainable peace. This peace reminds me that eternity is before me. It reminds me that I have all that I could ever need and that I have great significance.
Jesus will never run dry or disappoint.
Nothing lasts forever. We can’t store up earthly treasures. But we can store up treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy.
I was given two beautiful years of studying art and Spanish. I may not do either now, but it was wonderful in its time and Jesus will bring joy in other areas. Who’s to say there won’t be another season of this in the future?
When God grants time to sit and paint, I sing! And when I don’t quite manage to get out on that bike ride, I count my blessings and trust that Jesus gives only what is best – sometimes that is rest or a day in the office.
But in all things, I continue to take captive every thought and feeling that sets itself up against the true joy in Jesus, and demolish all arguments that say I am worthless or a waste or simply without. I turn to Jesus – the only one who can truly satisfy. And here I sit, filled with eternal joy.
Run to Jesus. Let him pull out each of your gifts and desires as He so chooses. Remain in him, the way, the truth and the life. He came so that we may have life and have it to the full.
We all have a purpose in life. Yes, it’s a single, clearly defined purpose fit to us as unique individuals. However, it manifests itself in different ways in each season of our lives.
For example, I would say that my one true purpose is to rejoice. I live to worship God. By this I mean to express joy in everything and in every situation allowing that joy to not only be a light to others, but a thankful expression of how amazing God is. I’d say that my purpose is to declare the unconditional, unimaginable, incredible love that I believe God has for every one of us.
This has looked so different in various seasons:
As a teenager, it looked like learning to play musical instruments, write songs and paint. Through creativity I expressed joy.
In 2017, I found that by training to run, I was honouring God for strengthening my body and committing to giving 100% effort to use that body.
Last year, rejoicing looked like dancing crazily with children who experience abuse at home or struggle to focus in school. It was watching a lady smile as she tried on her first ever pair of glasses.
Recently, expressing joy has looked like fighting battles. Sacrificing so much time to studies and persevering through moments of crippling anxiety has had such purpose because I have learnt what it is to be thankful and sing in the midst of a storm. I have spent a year prioritising community living in a wonderful flat and my purpose to express the love and light of God motivated me to cook them dinner, be radically generous, pray for them throughout the year and just spend time doing life together.
‘I don’t feel like I have a purpose’
It can be so easy to worry that our lives don’t have a purpose. Often we only see the purpose when we look back. I know I also find that I grieve the last season thinking, ‘I had so much purpose,’ or, ‘I never get chance to do that anymore.’ But I have to trust that I still have the same purpose – it just looks different!
In fact, this year the phrase, “I will put a new song in your heart” has been on my mind. It speaks hope to me and it also excites me – my life will change and look different but in it I can always find something to sing about because God is all good and all loving! Dreams keep coming true, strength increases when times are hard and I can laugh at the days to come because at the end of the day, whatever the future holds, I know that I will still be me. And me, is all that I ever have to be!
Moulded for a specific purpose
In the bible, it talks about how God is a potter. He takes a lump of clay and he moulds it into something. Some lumps he will mould into common, practical dinner plates whilst others he may mould into beautiful display vases. It also affirms that God is a completely fair God and highlights that our purpose in life is to display God’s power in us. We may be an incredible noble-peace-prize winner, or maybe we will just be the local (incredibly important) caretaker.
We all have different skills, passions, personalities… These were all predestined and created in us. These things show God’s power of creating! You are a unique, beautifully crafted person and your purpose is to express that to the full. For now, that may look like studying and training an intelligent brain. In the future perhaps it’s to travel and become so thankful for this awesome world set before us. One day it could simply just be raising a child to know that they are loved and valued, or practising a sport.
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
You are a beautiful, worthy human being and your life has so much purpose! Your mind, emotions and dreams are all so intricately detailed. Every single season of your life has a purpose.
Start believing it. Start living it.
The other day we were asked a challenging question, which lead to a community culture conversation: What was most responsible for the growth that you experienced overseas in Guinea?
We had never thought about defining an overruling factor before. Of course, there have been umpteen challenges, growth points and stretching factors that we regularly highlight. But which had the most impact?
We found ourselves having a conversation as a team in front of our church audience that night, evaluating this question. The result? In a fashion, we each found ourselves approaching each other and naming one another responsible for our growth.
When we boarded an aeroplane in October, our families’ expectations were that we were flying the nest and becoming independent. Our western culture models independence as the ideal lifestyle, forgetting community culture. Yet little did we know that as we held hands on take off, prayed for a safe flight and left all things comfortable, we were about to become the most dependent we had ever been…
We depend on the body of Christ. Alone, we could not and would not have navigated a new culture, a wave of hardships and incredible joy. It was impossible. We left our familiarity but held onto each other, strengthening one another and running at God together in all that we did. We ate together, prayed together, worked together, read books together, studied God’s word together, worshipped together, lived under the same roof… One of our team values was “laugh together, cry together.”
Depending on each other was crucial.
Speaking of a new culture, the greatest change was switching from, “me,” to, “we.” In fact, when we claim to speak French, we can actually only conjugate the “nous” form! We never used, “I,” or “she,” throughout our six months. In Guinea you just don’t speak individually. Everything is about community. The things you do affect whole neighbourhoods and what you speak, you speak on behalf of your family or tribe. Community culture is quite literally the opposite of British lifestyle, where everyone thinks for themselves and actions don’t affect others.
The craziest thing is that we never questioned this. Somehow, we automatically switched into the community culture and it felt natural.
When we apply this to faith we see something greater. The Guinean church will never talk about, “my faith,” or say, “this is what I believe,” as we do in the west. Instead the church will always talk about, “our faith,” proclaiming, “this is what we believe!” Faith is not an individual belief or opinion. No, it’s a system of hearts coming together, abandoning certain individual values that misalign and pursuing the values and beliefs that Christ set, together.
This is the body of Christ that Apostle Paul talks about in the bible. This is a body of people from different backgrounds and tribes, coming together, to journey onwards. Prayer in Guinea is not individual either, but collective. Christians meet regularly (if not daily) to pray together and build one another up. They have not yet achieved the goal. At times tribal culture may cause disagreements but as a community they uplift this to God and make one kingdom decision together. In times of trouble, the body of Christ come alongside each other and depend upon one another for strength. Perhaps neither knows the answer but living alongside each other, they can try to move onwards as one.
Imagine if this was the vision of the western church today. Imagine if we lived together in a community culture – what would that look like? Would it be open doors, shared houses, a redefinition of the word, “family?” Perhaps we would scrap the “this is what I believe,” statements and move towards, “this is what the bible says we should believe and so let’s pursue it together.”
As a team this is something we are exploring together and are passionate about. Whilst we do not yet know the answers, we are eager to journey together and wait upon God to see just how and where He will use us to build his kingdom in this way. We don’t believe that there is space in the kingdom of heaven for lonely individuals or huge theological disagreements. In our advancing individualistic nation, it’s devastating to see division over what certain parts of the bible mean or how a church should “do church.”
For the church is not a group of individuals using the same theology to live their own lives. The church is a body of people who come together, believe in one God, lay down their own lives and move forwards together, as one multitude of kingdom builders. A body who hear the truth and share it. A community culture.
If you have been following Distinctivemode from early on, you will know that in November the blog will turn four years old. As I write this I am speechless – quite literally! How on earth has it been that long? Not only this but I myself have changed considerably and I do hope that the blog has reflected that somehow.
Four years is a heck of a long time. I still remember the first few days of blogging in 2013, when the site was purely a fashion communication platform and I’d read articles from Bazaar and Vogue, then blog my thoughts about them. Initially Distinctivemode was my step into fashion journalism. Then as I changed, I strayed from this and started to expand: inspiring thoughts and faith. As I grew up, I started to creatively explore different avenues and see how we could creatively journey to “become the person we want to meet”- as we used to say!
We’ve seen a year of Give Save Love in 2015, Grace Cherish Go in 2016, and now 2017 is a year to throw off all boundaries and let adventure unfold. Looking back I see a timid girl with little confidence and a big dream. Now I see a woman stood on a cliff edge about to jump into a very different dream – a much greater dream!
So far this year has been filled with crazy travel opportunities and day by day my heart grows for more – I’m curious to see the world and that means getting outside of my comfort zone. It means going beyond the reach of media for a little while.
Something I have mentioned a few times on the blog is that over the past three years, I’ve dreamt about taking a gap year, seeing something new, and growing in the knowledge of who God is. Now, I’m about to embark on just that. It’s been a challenge to study hard, blog a lot, plan for this year and still live the spontaneous adventure of life with Jesus! But in prayer I have managed it. There have been times when I’ve come close to giving up on the blog. I had so much to do but I’m incredibly thankful for the team of readers backing me, being patient and encouraging efforts. We made it to four years – together!
But it’s time that I did step down – just for a little while. Over the next 9 months I’m running off to experience Africa! To serve God, to work in a brilliant team and to grow in faith. I’ll grow, I’ll change and I’ll see a lot more of creation! I need to be fully present in this – not sidetracked by other things. It’s time I laid down all other responsibilities to commit my all to this.
So until the end of March there will be no more posts on Distinctivemode due to no internet. After this, I do hope to update you on my period of journeying but I know I will be incredibly busy and unable to resume our usual Sunday and Wednesday schedule.
So until the summer of 2018, I wish you all the best. Take time out to adventure. Take time to grow. I’m about to leap from the clifftop – perhaps you’ll join me in that adventure?
I’ll see you when I see you – refreshed, full of stories and ready to grow a little more!
Happy four years,
Do you ever feel like you’re not fully conscious? As if you’re living the longest dream, blinking, about to wake up and return to reality?
Everything at the moment seems incredibly surreal. I leave home in under 2 weeks to start a gap year with BMS World Mission. I have always known that I would do this however now that it’s happening, it looks and feels so different to what I had imagined a couple of years ago.
First of all, I’m going to live in Africa for 6 months – one of the poorest places in the world! It’s going to be such an adventure. But the closer I get, the more I have to come to terms with things, and the more I have to give up: family, friends, diet, communication, reliable electricity, toiletries, clothes, money, a years worth of appointments and dreams… Even the freedom to walk or run alone!
I am quite literally laying my everything down right now! I am surrendering so much to God – so many things that I have never surrendered to God. Yet I am fully confident that it will be worth it. He will protect me and give me joy!
Already I have built strong friendships with the others on my team. Already so many unexpected donations have come through. Already so much equipment has been sourced.
Most of all, I know now that I am about to step into the unknown: a new country; a new culture; a new world of political background; an unknown landscape. There are almost no photographs to look at, very few travel reviews and I don’t even know the exact location of my accommodation yet. I have absolutely no control over anything! Am I willing to accept that?
God wants me to take my biggest leap of faith yet. Literally! I know for sure that I want to say yes – to let go of all control is to allow God to show me that he really is in control of everything. Only one thing remains – God’s compassion.
BMS World Mission are an excellent organisation and they look after their workers so well. I know that God will be my protector and that this next year will bring the adventure of a life-time as I learn to rely on the one true God, whilst helping others at the same time.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He will keep me safe. He will go with me and He will allow me to have joy as I adventure further than I’ve ever been before!
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Galatians 3:9 so those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Today I want to talk about Paul, Silas and Timothy. These three leaders were incredibly influential and played a significant role in the faith of the church in Thessalonica. You can read all about their influence, the growth of this little church and the things that the three leaders taught in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. However what catches my eye is how faith thrives amongst these three leaders…
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10, we learnt that Paul and Silas were suffering a horrid persecution. However Paul makes an effort to send Timothy to Thessalonica, in order to find out how the church is continuing to grow. When he discovers that faith is truly thriving in this church, he writes back immediately, encouraged by all that he has heard. In fact, by asking fellow Christians about how they are journeying with God, Paul was made alive despite all of his suffering.
Hearing testimony, even when we ourselves feel as though we are far, spiritually dry or simply insignificant, should shake us alive! How often do we ask one another, “what is God revealing to you right now?” Or perhaps, “what have you been challenged with recently?” This question is vital so that we may all be shaken to life, grow in the knowledge of the many marvellous ways in which God works and be leaders for each other.
So without further ado, “what is God doing in your life right now?”
I know for sure that within my own personal journey with God, I am learning more and more about how my faith applies to real world situations. Recently, God has been revealing areas in life where he is present. The recent general election has been a particular growth point – this year I was eligible to vote for the first time. Previous to this I had rarely payed attention to politics, knew very little about policies, cared even less about the need to vote and simply had never even considered how God could be present in politics. Over the past month through prayer, scripture and reading, God has shown me just how many Christians there are in politics and simply opened my eyes to be more aware of our country’s affairs. As a result, I was able to prayerfully make my own personal choice whilst having the confidence to know that God is in control and will use whoever is currently in parliament to govern our country. God is present in the every day.
I would also say that I have recently been learning from various leaders, including Moses, Paul and Jesus himself. I have been growing in the knowledge of how they actively lead their people in the small things – that leadership is largely about attitude, outlook, and humble steps. I’m still journeying through this and learning so much – this idea of making effort to ask each other for testimony is one of many little learning curves.
When turning to friends, I was amazed to hear some wonderful stories: the power of healing; finding purpose; walking alongside those who are questioning God…
May you share with one another and be made alive in the thriving of the faith of God’s church!
The question is, what is God doing in your life right now?
I have wanted to create a Draw My Life video for a while now and when I finally got round to it, it was such a fun, creative project that allowed me to reflect upon all my best memories. I also would like to think that when I’m older I’ll be able to watch this back and be reminded of so many happy times! I guess it’s also a way for you all to get to know me on a more personal level.
Enjoy it – what memories make up your life?
P.S. I tried my best to include everything. To my family and friends: I’m sorry if you were missed! You all mean the world to me!
This morning I woke up as usual but as soon as I swiped right to turn off my alarm, the words “Manchester Terror Attack” boldly sat staring up from my lock screen. Immediately I awoke from my slumber and came to the realisation that the city I have known for so long, had now been targeted with violence. Reading those three words and shortly after discovering the details, I felt sickened, angered and completely speechless…
Half of my family live in Manchester. My best friend was supposed to go to a concert tomorrow – it could have easily been her. I’ve walked down those very same concert hall steps.
It really, utterly hit home and my heart just cried out for all involved – I honestly wanted to jump in my car, drive to Manchester and start helping those affected. But I knew that wasn’t possible.
All day I felt riddled with anger and upset, as I’m sure thousands have today. But when I came home, I turned to my bible and I randomly came across Psalm 141(NIV). What I discovered was incredibly moving…
This Psalm is a prayer written by David, who also found himself surrounded by a violence (whether physical, emotional or mental I don’t know) caused by someone else. David felt angry and frustrated. His heart also cried out for mercy. I found it incredibly comforting and humbling to read that I was not the only one.
We can’t deny that evil is in this world – after what happened today we can’t help but stand stunned, angry and devastated. But in a similar situation, David (who was just as stunned) turned to prayer and remembered the truth of who God is – despite how he felt.
In vs 3-4 David acknowledges that violence is a very real thing – daily, people are doing evil all over the world. David acknowledges that this indeed is sickening, poisoning and dreadful. He recognises that these evil things are devised from corrupt, lost and broken hearts that do not know what goodness really is – that being the goodness of God. He responds by looking to God, declaring His goodness and praying for rescue. By doing so he turns his focus from the violence (not a blind eye – he still acknowledges it but refuses to dwell on it) and surrenders the situation to God, knowing that God can bring rescue.
Then in vs 4-5, David prays for protection. He is humbled by the violence, realising that He cannot keep himself safe. He chooses to rely upon God, and acknowledges the daily traps that entangle him, giving them to God. In the same way may I challenge us today to acknowledge the traps surrounding the Manchester Terror Attack:
- Terrorism causing fear – lets pray over our country, and the protection against fear so that we may rebuild a confident society, not allowing fear to cause worry or racial speculation.
- Blame: pray for protection against Islamic or Religious societies so they may not be trapped by prejudice labels regarding terrorism – sadly today I had to tweet somebody who wrongly and racially claimed that “religion has caused this hate.”
- Trauma: pray for protection against trauma, that all involved may be healed physically, restored emotionally and allowed to completely recover psychologically, not trapped by fear or trauma in the future.
Next, in vs 6-7 David cries out in mercy. Today’s events were sickening. As mentioned before, when I awoke today, my heart dropped and all I felt was compassion and hurt for all involved. Perhaps I couldn’t actively go and help, but like David, I could pray – I could cry out for mercy on behalf of those involved. Many injured may not know Christ and so as a follower of Jesus, my responsibility was to pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit bring comfort on behalf of them. I’m not talking about a quick, #prayformanchester tweet or arrow prayer. I’m talking about an invested, heartfelt faith-can-move-mountains prayer. Spend time praying and crying out to God for these people – prayer after all, is powerful.
When we look at vs9-11, we read that unfortunately, there will be people today who stand proud of what has gone on – how inhumane! Firstly whilst the psalm says that they will be, “thrown into the fire,” we must remember that these are David’s words, not God’s. Undoubtedly David, like many (including myself) today, was angry and craved justice. But unlike David, we have the truth of the New Testament. Jesus has died and rose victorious to take away sin, so all may be forgiven. I am not saying that the man who carried out the attack last night was right – he was very, very wrong. However, Jesus has already dealt with all wrongdoing. We don’t have the power to punish or judge this man (especially since he has died) but God does, and has already, dealt with it – we don’t know the outcome of this but we can trust that God is in control. Now, we must focus on applying the “all may be forgiven” aspect, not forgetting that what he did was wrong, but in our hearts coming to terms with it and moving on. This allows us to turn the tables, counteract the violence and have peace in our hearts.
World peace starts with inner peace and the first step is forgiveness. It’s hard and we don’t want to forgive right now – but the result will be worth it in time.
Finally, in vs 12-13, David finished his prayer with a great hope. He reminds himself that God is good and declares this over all of the violence. Right now it’s hard to see all the suffering and believe that God is good. But he is. Due to freewill, God can’t stop people from doing evil. He didn’t cause this pain, and he is rebuilding already through the work of emergency services and other aids. His presence is real and current – God is walking with the suffering.
We can all experience this goodness today amongst such violence – simply by opening our hearts with, “God, I need you – come and change my life, show me who you really are.”
If we do this, although there will still be hatred, we may enter a relationship with God and encounter his presence so that whilst in the storm, we may know and trust his good, strong and loving power.
This afternoon after reading and thinking about Psalm 141, I sat and prayed through all of these points. As I prayed for God to free and protect, I saw an image of a mouse trap clenched closed. But then the glorious light of Christ shone upon it, and set it wide open – free! In this moment, my heart suddenly felt peaceful. Suddenly I felt able to forgive and all my anger disappeared. I felt comforted knowing that the situation was now in God’s hands and that he is carrying those involved.
My prayer is that you may also know this freeing power in your heart.
Pray for Manchester – cry out for mercy and invite God in. Live freely set apart from all the violence in this world, simultaneously praying for, walking with and acting on behalf of those who are suffering.
Remember a distant post back in 2015? In a post called, The Fear Excitement of Adventure I discussed how my future plans and ambitions were beginning to change. At this point in my life, my childhood view of how my life would pan out was rapidly changing – I no longer knew what I wanted to do with my life…
Although this was a rather positive post and for most of this period I viewed it as a wonderful adventure, trying new things, enjoying great memories and exploring options, there was always something in the back of my mind that said, “Eleanor you need a plan.” Often it was something along the lines of, “don’t waste your life – do something worthwhile!”
I guess my self-pressure to become successful has always been a wonderful thing: I rarely say no to opportunities, I enjoy learning new things and have been able to cherish valuable life experiences. However my definition of success has changed incredibly! There was a time when I thought that being successful meant passing all of my exams, climbing a career ladder, being awarded an OBE (very unlikely but who knows, maybe one day) and simply being admired. In a way, success does still mean this. However the difference, is that all of these things are a result of success and not success in themselves…
I guess what I am trying to say is that some of the most successful people in life are incredibly humble and only do what they do because it makes them happy! They didn’t necessarily do it to be recognised nor did they imagine what they would accomplish previous to doing so.
As I’ve grown older (and I hope a little wiser) I have come to realise that happiness is key! Yes I still strive to take part in as many things as I can. Yes I still study incredibly hard for exams. Yes I still want to go to university. But only because I enjoy learning new things and am passionate about new experiences!
I now have a plan for the next few years of my life and funnily enough I will be going to university after all. However no longer will I be studying art – from now on it’s architecture and I am definitely looking forward to it! Despite this, I know to that going straight to university will not be the most successful step for me. In my opinion, as a young person with no responsibilities or career strings, there is no time like today – I want to see the world, gain experience and also make a positive contribution. I have spent 18 years being showered with love, education and other blessings. It’s time I gave something back.
September will bring another type of success as I embark on a gap year to India, taking part in mission work with BMS World Mission Action Teams. There I will grow as an individual whilst making a positive contribution to the world. Perhaps it does mean postponing my future career by a year – but how much more valuable will this year of personal growth and culture be?!
Success is yours – do with it as you wish!