Awaking to reality.
‘The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.’ Roman’s 14:11-12
I’m sure many of you have seen various reflections circling regarding the year of 2020. There were fires, waking us to the climate crisis. Then there was Covid (and still is despite the lifting of restrictions) shaking us all on a mass scale. Paired with this was an individual shaking in regards to our own vulnerabilities or stories of family members suffering. And now we are seeing the world be completely stunned and awoken to the reality of racism despite years and years of pleading.
If I’m honest the past few months have been ones of questions. I know and trust God to be good but this year’s events have opened my eyes more than ever and lead me to real places of lament over our broken world. I’m finding it harder to worship with songs and instead have been seeking wisdom in scriptures and praying the words of the psalms.
Today I finally realised something.
If Jesus were to come tomorrow, what would I honestly feel?
I am a white, middle class, british citizen. I have never really been in need. I may have had my hardships and struggled with mental health or the loss of loved ones but let’s face it – up until now it’s been graceful, plain sailing and adventurous. So adventurous that my contentment has weakened the hope I have and yearn for.
If jesus were to come tomorrow, what would you honestly feel?
I was shocked and so convicted to think that selfishly there would be an element of ‘but jesus I am enjoying this life’ or a ‘but I havent even finished ‘…’ yet. It’s a ‘hooray jesus will come but let’s hope its once I’m old and grey because I want to live my life on earth.’
What about those who are fighting pain daily? Those in poverty, threatened by climate change, with ill-health, suffering from oppression…
In my privilege, I regularly forget the need to pray and intercede for justice. To pray and yearn not just for change and love and peace, but for Jesus to come again just as he has promised. To yearn and hope for the day that he will wipe every tear and remove injustice completely.
This world is broken. We have to face up to that and yearn for Jesus. Yes we worship too. Yes we have gratitude for the blessings and privileges we’ve been granted. All of these things are good. But let us not forget the hope that we profess, instead allowing it to motivate us into action against injustice (spiritual and physical) and to share a radical selfless love beyond all compare.
‘Let us hold resolutely to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds’ Hebrews 10:23
‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.’ Revelation 21:4
On a similar topic, I wrote a post during the time of the Manchester bombings that goes into more detail regarding how to pray, what to pray and why we pray when things go wrong. Read it here.
* This post is an honest personal reflection, looking at the whole of 2020 so far, including the current anti-racism movement. I do not claim to understand everything nor am I trying to make bold claims about current issues in the media. Please read with this in mind. I wish to stand for justice and never intend to overstep or mis-educate. I understand that I cannot fully understand so please, read with grace.
Sustainable struggles are driving me mad! Six months ago I set myself the goal of reducing my environmental impact. This included being more conscious of fashion choices and trying to choose sustainable or ethical brands. However high street fashion makes this almost impossible!
Why the heck do we need sustainable fashion?
I recently found out that fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world – what?! Not that I was aware of this when I decided to change they way I use fashion. Essentially, when I went to Guinea, I had one 24kg bag in which to pack everything I needed. Firstly, all of the mosquito nets, bedding and water treatment equipment took up half of this and secondly, anything I took was bound to come back ruined by orange dust. I had shut down my blog temporarily and essentially put style on hold…
When I came back, yes I was excited to have fun styling clothes again (I do have a fashion blog after all) but something felt different. After living in basics for months, I’d forgotten about so many of my clothes. I had so many that I actually felt overwhelmed!
The “crazy” minimalist?
I decided that I didn’t need half the stuff in my wardrobe so I gave everything that I’d forgotten I had, to charity. Following this I recycled anything that didn’t fit me properly. It felt amazing! Why? I was left with things that I loved and I had room to buy a couple of really good quality items.
Living in a third world country makes you incredibly aware of pollution. There are no waste-processing sites. You either bury your rubbish, burn your rubbish, or leave it at the side of the road. You just can’t ignore the devastating impact that your waste has upon the environment. Inevitably this compelled me to start reducing my impact. With fashion being a big contributor, I had to change some things.
Ever since I’ve seriously been struggling! It’s so hard! Here are a few struggles I am facing…
Sustainable Struggle one: looking ridiculously hippie
When I thought about Eco-friendly fashion, I used to think of ‘hippie’ clothing, ‘gap-yah’ students and anything far from stylish… I mean, I do possess a very jazzy cardigan now but since then, I’ve learnt that it can be a lot more stylish and casual too! But, finding more casual items is a challenge.
Sustainable Struggle two: you just can’t win!
After recycling a lot of old clothes (to charity shops) that I didn’t want, I decided that I would only buy clothes that were made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, I was determined to ensure that they were from ethically fair backgrounds ie, they were made in the UK, or fair-trade – not ‘made in Bangladesh’ for example.
Watch this really useful video to understand what I mean by eco-friendly materials!
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s been six months now and it has been a slow journey. Why? The high street has not caught onto this movement! Almost everything is made from polyester and if you do find a 100% cotton, it’s been made in Vietnam… I’ve struggled to stick to my goals and often had to compromise.
I have however been shopping more frequently in charity shops – I found a brilliant Denim Jacket in Oxfam! Of course you don’t need to worry about labels here because all the clothing has been recycled so you are reusing a material that would otherwise become waste.
Gradually I have been reducing my wardrobe to a more capsule size. I have found that having a few items that I love, along with the important basics, still allows me style things creatively.
Sustainable Struggle three: there’s rarely anything my size in charity shops
With the seasons changing and after having missed Autumn/Winter last year, I’ve been in desperate need of warmer clothing. I have succeeded on the “less is more” front by only purchasing one dress and two knitted tops to go with the two skirts, jeans, jackets and abundance of basics that I have. However, yet again, I HAD TO COMPROMISE! I failed to find anything suitable in charity shops – most shops have very few items in size 8.
The dress and knitted tops were 100% cotton but there was no indication of where they were made!
Sustainable Struggle four: their branding sucks!
Why is this so hard? I feel like a suffragette sometimes just trying to search through clothes labels! Why can’t brands just add the information the the price tag?
Recently I have discovered that both M&S and Monki have sustainable ranges including 100% organic cotton denim and recycled cotton basics. But again they don’t openly advertise this – I merely just happened to stumble upon them.
Other brands (often found on ASOS or Etsy) that focus on environmentally friendly fashion can’t be found on the highstreet and are just way too expensive! If it’s going to break the bank, it’s just not going to take off.
It’s going to take a while!
So here I am, still trying to love fashion and love the environment. I have come so far in six months but definitely have further to go! I have even resorted to making my own clothes (check out the fair-trade outfits I designed and had a tailor make for me in Guinea), but honestly, it’s stressful and not everybody’s solution.
Does anyone have any tips? Although I shall not be buying anything for a few months now!
Welcome back to Distinctivemode! Today I’m sharing my newfound love for West African Wax fabric. Whilst living in Guinea, I came across so many bright and colourful fabrics that were sold at market stalls, to then be taken to a local tailor and made into all sorts of things. Whilst I did have some more culturally appropriate outfits made to wear in country, I visited my tailor just before I left with some of my own western designs.
One of the most popular fabrics is this blue material with motifs. In fact, it comes in all different colours and most Guineans own something in this fabric. Blue is my favourite so I purchased a fair bit of it! The first thing I designed? A scalloped pencil skirt with buttons. Originally I’d hoped for it to be made in the locally dyed indigo fabric however the tailor got a little muddled so I was surprised to say the least… But once I’d styled it with a white v-neck t-shirt, I fell in love with it!
Speaking of locally dyed indigo, you can’t step foot in the market without spotting hundreds of uniquely printed or tie-dyed sheets of indigo! There are so many patterns all hand crafted. I had a shirt made in one of the tie-dye designs and have hauled piles of different patterns home with plans to create even more – I’ve already made a skirt and am working on a little top to go with it!
The best thing about wearing African fabrics? You can inject a little bit of colour into an outfit and the indigo gives you the opportunity to be more subtle, pairing with denim. I am definitely a convert! Wearing these fabrics is like a home comfort to me now after wearing traditional clothing in Guinea for so long. It’s also completely ethical since you not only pay those who have crafted the indigo, or locals selling imported wax but you have the opportunity to employ a local tailor and support their business.
I also had a dress made and it feels incredible to wear something made to fit! Whenever people comment on it I have the opportunity to share the story of my local tailor friend, relive an experience and inject a bit of culture into someone’s life. It’s a truly distinctive dress – one I designed myself!
Head to Pinterest and browse West African Wax fabrics – it’s an awesome new craze!
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.