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By Better Days Global, Aug 17 2018 11:41AM

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:9-13:

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

If you’re a Christian or you’ve ever been somewhere when the Lord’s Prayer is being said, you might be familiar with these words. So often we recite them corporately but how often do we actually think about what it is we’re actually saying?

Recently, I have been particularly challenged by one line in particular ‘Give us today our daily bread.’ Verse 11. Have I really understood what this might mean for me? The answer to that is definitely not.

Last week I was serving at a holiday club and during the morning reflection, the woman leading it referred to this line, explaining that so often we go to God with a big list or massive things and we become disappointed in the answers to prayer we don’t see. But this stops us from seeing the things in the everyday, that if we should go to God and ask for our daily bread, as we are told to by Jesus.

I’ve since been reflecting on this, I can hardly get it out of my head. I have been so challenged but also so encouraged. We see and hear, so often, stories of miracles, very clear answers, but how often do we hear ‘you know, actually I believe that God helped me to do life today’? Yes, that’s challenged me to recognise the smaller things, the daily provisions but it’s also really encouraged me. (Of course there are times and places to share the miracles and the clear answers, I am not dismissing these in any way, shape or form, they should be celebrated without a doubt.)

If you’ve read my previous posts you will know about my journey with mental health and how much of a rollercoaster that has been. So many times I’ve prayed that God would take it all away, I’ve sat thinking that it isn’t fair, asked why me, asked when it will stop. But as I consider, almost the last year of my life, I can see the greatness of God woven into the everyday. Whether that’s simply been making it through the day, making it to work, realising that I’ve been smiling more than I’ve been crying or a bar of chocolate that’s made it’s way into my life at a very timely moment!

How many more times a day, week, month or even year would we be able to say ‘God did this for me’ if we did focus on the how we get through each day, the blessings that might seem small but are so present. Of course life is going to be difficult and at times we won’t be able to pinpoint what is good but I hope and pray that each one of us, even retrospectively, can see all that God does in and for us daily.

God really knows each one of us. He knows exactly what we need. And He provides for us.

I believe that He is a good God and He will provide that bread daily.

Written by Kate Newhook

By Better Days Global, May 22 2018 08:54AM

I write the following not aimed at any church or people in particular but out of my personal experience over the last eight or so years. Previously I have tried to voice this but either it falls on deaf ears or is forgotten quickly. Many people are in similar situations, and in the same way that we would continuously call people up on other unacceptable behaviour, this is something that needs addressing time and time again, until we do a better job of it. What I write is personal but I know many other people who are either living this now or have done previously.

Dear Church,

It is with trepidation that I address what I am about to write because I feel that for the most part it is done in love, but please see things from the other point of view and how this can make people feel. Be reminded of what it’s like to have a physical wound that you repeatedly injure...a cut perhaps, that you keep knocking, causing it to bleed again and again, over time, the cut is going to get worse and take longer and longer to heal. Maybe the area becomes infected, the cut won’t go away, people look at it, wrinkle their noses, it hurts...but it’s physical, so we can see it and we know that it hurts or it’s frustrating. What I write is like that cut, only it’s unseen, and you can’t see the damage going on underneath the surface.

For years I have been on the receiving end of comments and prayers and ‘banter’ regarding my relationship status, been told ‘I’m on the shelf’, and felt that the ‘people who have prayed for years for a partner’ comment at the end of a sermon was directed at me.

Please stop.

Why do you define me by this? Because it really isn’t who I am, yes it is a part of me but I am so much more.

Why is my singleness something that you feel the need to draw attention to? Rejoice about something I do have, the talents and gifts God has given me.

Why do we need to linger on this fact? Quite simply, we don’t.

Do you feel I need another person to make me whole? I don’t, I have Jesus, and he makes me whole.

Would you approach a widow/er in the same way? Or the divorcee?

Would you go up to a childless couple, of whose story you know nothing about, and give them banter or tell them you were praying they would conceive?

I hope and pray that the answer to that is no. Please stop drawing attention to what I don’t have, and focus on what I do have. You don’t know my story and how I feel in my current life stage.

I would be surprised if anyone really knew and understood the journey I have been on, my life has been an adventure, with ups and downs, people have come and gone. My past is full of a variety of stories, a lot of these include testimony of all that God has done in my life, all that He has led me into, the places He has taken me, the people I have met, friends I have made, experiences I have had. I have been so fortunate to do and achieve so much in my life but there are also stories tarnished with disappointment or sadness and I don’t need to you to make me feel like a failure because things haven’t worked out.

I do not need fixing because I’m not in a relationship or married. But those comments hurt. Media already tells me I’m not good enough and I don’t need to be made to feel that way by you as well. I need you to love me and accept me for who I am and the stage of life I am in now.

I also don’t need excluding because I am a single person. It’s not an illness or a label hanging around my neck. Please look past that and see me for who I really am.

I am a person. A human being. Created by God, my Heavenly Father.

Just the same as you are.

Please, from this day on, would you think before you make those uninvited comments. Please would you remember that who I am is enough. Please would you encourage me to walk closer with Jesus than make marriage an idol. Please would you go against the pattern of this world and recognise that living for Jesus is far more important. Please would you build a meaningful relationship with me and get to know who I really am.

Like I try to do with you.

Church, we are all here for a purpose, to serve the risen King, let us do that in unity, spurring each other on, recognising what we have each been gifted with and not pointing out what someone might be painfully missing. It can be hard enough with someone highlighting it.

This doesn’t just apply to singleness, it covers a broad range of subjects. There are many people that we will meet in our short lives, many of whom are fighting battles and struggling with issues that we know nothing about. Treat people lovingly, welcome them with open arms for who they are and with what they are working through.

How much more of a unified Body of Christ would we be if we looked beyond what one another didn’t have but valued the opportunities that can provide? God loves each and everyone of us, with the same amount of love, we are called to mimic that. Let’s start today.

By Better Days Global, Apr 22 2018 06:56PM

Last Sunday I was getting ready in the morning before going to church…my usual routine of having a shower, getting dressed, doing my hair, etc. Then I looked in the mirror. The first thought that entered my head was 'my face looks awful’. I felt tired and I could see that tiredness in my face, my eyes had darker circles than normal and I really didn’t look wide awake.

My next thought was, ‘I need to put makeup on this morning’.

Following this was me having a conversation with myself in my head. The one part of me that wanted to try and cover up how tired I looked which, let’s be honest, probably looked about 10 times worse through my eyes than it would to anyone else. The other part of me was questioning who would be benefitting from me wearing the makeup. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing it for me. If I had picked up the mascara and concealer, it would have been for the benefit of other people. Even though I was really annoyed with myself about this, it still took me about thirty minutes to stand firm in my decision and leave the house ‘fresh faced’.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was going to have at least one make up free day a week. Not only to benefit my skin but to also challenge myself. I’d got into the habit of wearing it daily, which wasn’t good for me in so many ways. I didn’t want to rely on cosmetic products to feel good about myself, or to think that they were making me a better person. In recent months that one day has spanned over weeks and I think I actually went about six weeks without using one product or needing to use one facewipe.

Did this affect me? No

Did it have a negative impact on anyone else? No

So why, all of a sudden, did I have an overwhelming urge to try and alter what I was viewing as an imperfection? Why did I want people to see a ‘better’ version of my face? I don’t really know the answer to that question but I do know I felt God challenging me. How concerned am I about what my actions are displaying? What my words are portraying?

1 Samuel 16:7 says: ‘But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’’

This is said in the context of Samuel seeking a new King, one to replace Saul on the throne. He discovers that the Lord has chosen David, a young shepherd boy, working in his father’s field. A boy who grew to be a man that served God (not perfectly, none of us are ever going to achieve this), he was courageous and he did what he had been called to do.

How much more should I be concerned with the ways in which I am serving the Lord, the things that He sees when He looks at my heart and how I can serve Him faithfully for all of my days.

Last Sunday morning I felt challenged to spend less time looking in the mirror, at my outward appearance and more time asking God how I can better follow Him or reading the Bible or in prayer.

In society, we have so much to contend with, so many standards that we’re expected to reach, that if we don’t we will be judged for. If I had put makeup on last Sunday morning, I probably would have felt worse after I had taken it off and begun to be sucked back into the lies that I need to wear it everyday because I don’t look good enough without it. These are the awful pressures that we are all facing. Ones that children and young people are being shaped by and are growing up with. Some of whom are being hugely impacted by what the media is telling them they should be like.

We have the use of a powerful tool: Words

We can speak positively over one another, we can point each other to Jesus. We can remember that it is our hearts that matter. We can live a life that is beautiful. I’m not saying that I’m never going to wear make up again, but when I do, it will be because I want to not because that’s what I think I should do for the benefit of others. I’m going to do my very best to ensure that it is my heart that is beautiful.

Written by Kate Newhook

By Better Days Global, Feb 15 2018 02:54PM

When I last wrote 'The One Constant in Mental Health', I was coming into a recovery phase in my journey with anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, since then, I have found myself struggling more than I ever have before. I still have my anxiety under control but the depression is consuming me in a way that it never has previously.

Just a few weeks after I was discharged from my CBT course and the Healthy Minds team, I woke up on a Monday morning feeling unwell. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something wasn’t right. Having attempted to get showered, dressed and have breakfast, I gave in and went back to bed. I stayed there for two days. On the Wednesday, I tried again but my head was pounding, I couldn’t concentrate, I felt so ill. I pushed myself and worked, probably a mistake. The rest of the week and into the weekend saw me trying to balance what I knew I needed for my mental health; going to the gym, running, eating healthily, not shutting people out, and what I needed physically; rest, time alone and convenience.

Fast forward two weeks, I still had the headache, I was still trying to maintain a balance. I had taken so many tablets, in attempts to relieve the pain, and tried so many other things, I had seen the doctor, I had listened to advice. I found myself signed off work. It felt like that week just kept throwing one thing after another at me, and the smallest (or biggest) thing would cause my eyes to well up. Sometimes I could hold the tears back, and sometimes it felt like I just couldn’t do anything to stop them.

Whilst I would like to say that in the last week I have improved dramatically, that isn’t the case. This is the worst I have ever been and I’m still struggling so very much. Each day is a battle. It’s gotten to the point that I’ve had to not care who sees me cry, because I can’t always control it.

Yet, in the midst of all of this, I know that God is still there. He is still so present in my life, even if right now it really doesn’t feel like it.

Some people will question how I can hold onto this. I’ll be honest, sometimes I really have no idea. But each morning I will read The Bible, because that is what I do. That is where I read the promises of God and can find His presence, even in the darkest of situations. You only need to read the story of Jesus dying on the cross to know that Jesus endured far more than I am, and you will see that God was still at work, still there, still God. I started this year being overcome by the obedience of the disciples, upping and leaving their families, their jobs, all to follow a man who just told them to ‘get up and follow me’. By apostles who were put in prison for proclaiming the name of Jesus but didn’t stop. For this reason, I will continue to be obedient. More recently, I have been focusing on the love, joy and peace that can be found in Christ. I have been focusing on the hope that I find in my Saviour. Whilst, I don’t always feel those things, I know that they are still there, still true. And they always will be. Some people might also question why I can believe in a God that would allow me to endure so much. This is harder for me to explain because I know that I have so many people praying for me and I too have prayed that this would be taken away. There are two things that I have held onto. The first is from The Bible. Romans 8 is my favourite chapter and it has my favourite verse, Romans 8:28,

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

I have held onto this verse so tightly for many years and I truly believe that God will use whatever happens for the glory of His name. This verse makes me think of sunrises and their beauty, but we can’t have those without the darkness of night. Or beautiful budding trees, unless they shed their leaves and withstand the bitterness of winter with nothing on their branches, they won’t flower. I trust that God is working behind the scenes and at some point, this will get better.

The second thing is a song. I love music and I listen to it all the time. A friend recently said, about me, ‘Kate lives her life through music’. This song is on a playlist I was listening to and I had never heard it until about a month ago. It’s called 'Even If' by MercyMe. This song has provided me with so much hope and comfort. I identify with these lyrics and it explains entirely how I feel as I am journeying through life right now.

For those of you who don’t understand the journey that people go on with mental health, please be patient, we can’t help what we’re feeling. For those of you don’t understand how I can trust in God, please don’t judge me, you don’t know the path I’m walking, and if you really knew God, you would understand.

People have told me how brave and strong I am to be able to speak out about my journey. Please believe me when I say that I really don’t feel brave, or strong. This is me being so vulnerable that it scares me. So many people are suffering in silence, and they needn’t. Another friend said recently, ‘we see vulnerability in others as a strength but in ourselves as a weakness’. That doesn’t add up. Vulnerability is vulnerability whoever it comes from. Being vulnerable is powerful, and I can assure you that once you’ve stepped out the first time, it’s not as bad as you think it might be (that doesn’t mean it’s not scary again though!).

Let us all live with patience and understanding, with an awareness of those around us. Let us stop being so quick to judge others when we haven’t walked in their shoes. Let us all become a little bit more vulnerable and let other people in, it helps. And ultimately let all of us hold onto hope that one day things will be better, and I believe that one day they will be. Remain hopeful, Romans 8:24-25 says this,

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’

By Better Days Global, Jan 12 2018 09:31AM

My best friend & I tell each other we love one another, probably on average, once a day. We’re close, and we give each other running commentaries of our days via text. Sometimes the ‘love you’ is in response to one of us saying something a bit quirky and ridiculous, so it’s a light hearted, never change, love you. Sometimes it’s because one of us is having a bad day and they are the comforting words we say, because they are the only ones that will do. At other times, saying ‘love you’ is completely unprompted and it’s just because we want to let each other know how much we appreciate one another, that we care, that we want to tell the other person they are loved. Who doesn’t like being told that they’re loved? How nice is it hear those words? From a friend, a partner, a parent? Or from someone else. Whenever I speak to my Mum on the phone, we always end the phone call with an ‘I love you’. Sometimes we then have an ‘I love you more’, ‘no, I love you more’ debate. It always makes me smile.

As a child, every night, my Mum would tuck me into bed and she would always say ‘good night my darling, I love you very much, you have a beautiful sleep, and you dream lovely dreams, and I’ll see you in the morning’. It made me feel safe. Sometimes I still get her to say it to me, I find comfort in those words. Of course I know that she loves me but sometimes I need to hear it. Often, when I can’t sleep, I’ll pray. Last night, was one of those nights and as I was thinking that it would be good to pray, I was trying to think of what it would be good to pray about and for. I’ll often start my prayers with thanksgiving, thinking of different things to be grateful for, whether that be something that has happened that day or a characteristic of God that I’m thankful for. Last night as I was lying there, I didn’t think that one of those long elaborate prayers was sufficient. Sometimes I think we can get carried away, trying to use great language, or making sure that we say enough to be thankful for before reeling off our shopping list of requests. Last night was different.

Instead, all I said was, ‘I love you Jesus’.

That was it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It was peaceful. It was real. It was, and is, my heart. It was honest.

So often we try and over complicate things. We use words that we might not fully understand. We try and show people that we love them instead of telling them. Whilst this has a purpose, sometimes it wouldn’t hurt us to just strip everything back and come back to the truth. Come back to love. To say I love you.

It’s a vulnerable thing to do. Even saying it to Jesus was vulnerable, and I know he loves me back. Sometimes we’re worried that someone won’t say it back or doesn’t feel the same but doesn’t everyone deserve to know that they are loved? God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for us. John 3:16 says ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. God did this before we were born, before He knew if we would ever love him back. Some of us still don’t.

This week, let’s strip things back. Tell Jesus that you love Him. Tell your parents, your wider family, your partner, your friends. Stop dressing it up. Stop expressing love through social media posts or gestures.

Let’s go back to basics and say what we mean.

By Better Days Global, Jan 2 2018 06:40PM

Mental health, that subject that we’re attempting to stop being a taboo subject but, in my opinion, risking it becoming trendy. Yes, we’re much more aware of the issues but it almost seems that having a mental health issue is something to be desired. Let me tell you, from my experience, that’s not the case.

I’ve suffered with mental health issues for the best part of 10 years, on and off. What started as taking a mild antidepressant as a muscle relaxant for an ongoing headache that just wouldn’t shift, started to unravel the cause behind the headache. Depression. At the age of 17, in my final year of Sixth Form, I was faced with feelings I hadn’t known before, I struggled to enjoy life, I was constantly teary and, to be honest, I was embarrassed about it. I went to a counselling session which was less than empowering and left feeling like I had had no reason to attend.

The few years that followed, I went through cycles of recovery and then would find myself back tracking, feeling teary again, agitated, struggling with life. This continued for about four years. I suffered from panic attacks when I was driving. I couldn’t control my emotions and I hated that. There would be periods of time that would require me to take antidepressants. I don’t quite know what happened but at around the age of 22, I started to self-manage my mental health. Maybe it was my frequent exercise routine, a better diet or because I had more knowledge of what triggered the feelings I had and I could manage them more successfully. There was no more medication. Yes, I still had days when I felt down or sad, but they weren’t as clustered, I could enjoy life more. Occasionally I would suffer from bouts of insomnia but I could handle it, I knew that eventually I would get a good week of sleep and that would sustain me.

In the summer of 2017 I kept getting headaches, some that I couldn’t shift for days or weeks at a time. In the September, my anxiety was increasing, I would worry about things that were completely irrational, I knew that, but I couldn’t stop these thoughts taking over my mind. The smallest thing would happen and I would find myself in tears, for no reason. My sleep was bad, and the three things mixed together were not a good combination. I could feel myself getting worse but I was scared of going to the doctor.

At the beginning of October, on a Saturday evening, nothing major had happened but I just couldn’t cope, I rang my parents and drove for two hours, trying not to cry, arriving there 24 hours earlier than anticipated. At that point, I knew I needed to do something. The racing heart of anxiety was consuming me, and I was afraid that I would burst into tears at any given moment. I avoided seeing people because I was embarrassed that I might not be able to control my emotions and social situation made those feelings of anxiety so much worse. I went to the doctor, I cried, she gave me antidepressants and told me to self-refer myself to the local healthy minds team.

This is the part of mental health that is not fashionable, not desirable. Yes, we no longer want it to be a taboo subject but when you’re suffering and all of your feelings appear irrational, one of the last things you want to do is talk openly about it. You worry that people won’t understand, even when they claim to. The last words you need to hear are ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘you’ll be alright’, because in those moments, you can’t pull yourself together and it doesn’t feel like things will be alright.

It’s exhausting. On the days you feel like you can face people, it feels like you have to paint on a happy face and on the days you can’t, you’re exhausted from pretending. Mix that with an erratic sleep pattern and it feels like you’re stuck in a pit you can’t get out of.

I didn’t tell many people what was actually going on because I find it really hard to explain the situation. I also couldn’t face people continually asking me how I was. And how exactly do you say to those around you ‘oh, by the way, I’m taking antidepressants and having online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy because I can’t handle life right now’? The depression, the anxiety and the insomnia make it so hard to do things like that.

I remember one particular day I went to visit somewhere, it’s something I had been putting off for a while but I knew I needed to go. I prayed the whole car journey, I felt sick. Anxiety was consuming me. I was so worried that I wouldn’t cope. However, the whole day people kept telling me how happy and healthy I looked. I could not have felt further from that. When I left, I was exhausted. Exhausted from the face I had painted on, from pretending to be okay. So life was pretty crap. But there was one thing that never changed. God. God and his faithfulness. God, the solid rock I have built my life upon. God, the firm foundation. I may not have been happy but I never lost my joy. I may have been anxious but I never lost my peace. In the hardest and darkest times, I prayed. Those nights I couldn’t sleep, I prayed. The days when I couldn’t understand why I was crying, I prayed.

Over the last 10 years, I can honestly say that no matter what I’ve been facing, God has been right there with me. At times I’ve found that hard to believe but as I look back, I can see it. God has put the right people around me and moved me into or away from situations at the right times. Yes, it’s been hard but He is the constant in everything, the one I can depend on. As I’m coming into recovery again, I’ve come to learn again how much I can rely upon God. I know He has walked this journey with me, I’m pretty convinced that at times He’s carried or dragged me along as well. He has given me the courage to speak out and I’m certain that He’s prompting me to share all of this now.

I’m not cured. I’m still taking antidepressants but I’m hopeful that one day I can come off them again. I’ve completed CBT but it doesn’t mean I don’t get anxious anymore, I just know how to manage it a bit better.

Let’s continue to speak out about mental health but let’s not dress it up, let’s not make it desirable. Let’s be real and authentic and love one another as we walk through it. Let’s not question people or make it the elephant in the room. Let’s not make it the whole person, because it isn’t. Let’s also keep pointing people towards Jesus and sharing testimonies about the differences He’s made in our lives. Let’s remember that He too wept. Let’s fix our eyes on Him because regardless of everything else...

He is the constant and He always will be.

Written By Kate Newhook