All that’s left to say………goodbye

I’ve questioned

I’ve wondered

I’ve cried

I’ve denied

I’ve moved 

I’ve stayed 

I’ve called 

I’ve listened

And yet it’s in the stillness and silence that these days made sense

And yet it’s in the stillness and silence that I find some peace

There are moments of raw grief

There are episodes of emptiness

Maybe one day I’ll understand

Maybe I never will

Maybe I won’t need to understand 

This isn’t only because of you my friend

This is about all those encounters with loss 

The time spent wondering why

The only true response is there is no answer why

And all I am left with is “goodbye”

©Estelle Blake – 19th August 2015 (3rd edit.)

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I’m here to share with you some rare And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity…….I’m beautiful!

so during the month of August, I have decided to share something everyday on my Facebook profile to help me and my friends learn something new about the world we live in. Today, I chose to share about beauty.

Bette Midler is one of the singers I play when I want to go to another world and dream and think and relax and there are several songs that make me smile. here are the lyrics of one of those fabulous songs.

This is the Divine Miss M
And I’m here to share with you some rare
And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I simply believe with all my heart: ”

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, so beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

“Go away, little girl,” they used to say.
“Hey, you’re too fat, baby, you can’t play.”
“Hold on, miss thing, what you trying to do?
You know you’re too wack to be in our school. ”

Too wack, too smart, too fast, too fine,
Too loud, too tough, too too divine.
I said you don’t belong. You don’t belong.
Too loud, too big, too much to bear,
Too bold, too brash, too prone to swear.
I heard that song for much too long.

Ain’t this my sun? Ain’t this my moon?
Ain’t this my world to be who I choose?
Ain’t this my song? Ain’t this my movie?
Ain’t this my world? I know I can do it.

I’m not too short, I’m not too tall,
I’m not too big, I’m not too small.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
I’m not too white, I’m not too black,
I’m not too this, I’m not too that.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

I seriously am beautiful but it took me a long time to get to that place of believing this about myself.

Let me start at the beginning. I am loud and I did that to cover up who I was on the inside: insecure and weird and different and bigger than others. I actually didn’t like being the girl who had to wait whilst her friends went into shops to try on clothes. I didn’t enjoy the reality of people not wanting to sit next to me. I never liked being big, but it became a part of my rebellion to a society that suggested beauty was about a Barbie.

A few years ago Mel and Andrea came into my life and along with Kathy, they would begin to call me out about the comments I made about myself in public. Andrea – told me blatantly that I was to stop the self deprecation I used in my church leadership and in presentations. Every day Mel called me beautiful. She would write me notes that always began “to my beautiful Stelly”. Kathy has known me in so many guises that she sees when the stuff is bad.  So you see after being challenged by these fabulous women, I actually began to believe that I was beautiful. I repeated it every day. I took time to see that when I smile, I shine. I am at peace with the body that is in front of me. This doesn’t mean I don’t want t to improve, it means that I love the person that I see every morning in the mirror. It means that I am a beautiful person.

Yesterday a friend posted on facebook that she was surprised because someone had called her a gorgeous lady. She is stunning. She is such a beautiful person but I can remember those moments. Beauty is Beauty. In some cultures, bigger is better. I have received so many marriage proposals from one ethnicity and yet in my own culture my beauty is often questioned.

I have a book on my bookshelf, “I Hear  A Seed Growing” by Edwina Gateley. In this book she writes something that was part of this self-discovery for me.

Only a few people believe themselves beautiful. That saddens me: it is a diminishment of the human potential for grace and excellence. i would like to help people believe in their infinite potential for beauty – otherwise when we all diminish ourselves we diminish God also. I want to call forth the seeds of beauty God has planted in abundance.”

I realized that I was diminishing the God I believe in and the creation He made in me.  It’s not easy to believe in your own beauty. It’s not easy to look at what is in front and like what you see. It’s not easy to see people everyday not believe in who they are. It’s not easy to say “I am beautiful”. I need people to hear the truths that are out there. You are Beautiful or Handsome and the world will believe it if you do. It’s not about the clothes we wear or the shape of our bodies (and I know I need to work on that but that’s a whole other blog!), it’s about the fact that we are created gorgeous – don’t doubt it. Remember to tell someone today and if you don’t hear it said – repeat it to yourself everyday in front of the mirror until you realize that you are actually gorgeous.

remember what Bette Midler as The Divine Miss M said,

And I’m here to share with you some rare
And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I simply believe with all my heart: I’m beautiful “

…. and just maybe it wont be a rare and stimulating insight after a while.

discovering………………

Last night, I had the most awful attack of Homesickness. I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it left me with the sense of loss and pain. I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket and fly to where? I have no idea where that was supposed to be. I know why but this is not the place to discuss that.

I made the decision to go for a walk today, no matter how hot it was getting and how much the heat would hurt. So, a few weeks ago, I found this Villa in the back streets and so I got off the bus and arrived there.

Hidden Treasure.......
Hidden Treasure…….

it was hot and arriving at 12.30pm in the midday sun was mad, but after walking through the park. I was so pleased I made the effort. It was full of hidden gems and included a cafe; open air theatre; columns (their description of two Obelisks);a science centre; art museum and then this place. I want to know more. I want to discover more, so a visit in Autumn needs to happen.

Has my homesickness passed? More or less – yes? And the walking around Rome after getting on the wrong bus means I had time to process and make a decision about what to do when it happens the next time. How to deal with the elements that brought it on.

I will go back, when the sun is not so strong and enjoy the walk even more.

 

Downgrading a Dream 

So I know I only wrote a couple of days ago, but I have this thought going around in my head. It’s something that happens easily to me. Close my eyes and “BAM” I need to write something down. (I started this post at 12.05am last night)

I love the word vulnerability but I think sometimes it can be seen as a negative idea. I used to think that too and the more I go on this journey of social media and life I realise that being vulnerable is okay; but not as a tool searching for sympathy. It’s about being who I am in the good and the bad. It’s about honesty in my dreams for myself and ministry and when that doesn’t happen how I see it then allowing myself to be me in front of people who may not care but need to see that there is strength in vulnerability.

Today my fear of looking vulnerable (and weak!) saw me downgrade a dream I have. A dream for me and the ministry I am involved in.  Just so you know – I don’t have a car provided and that’s strange to some people. I am okay with that but I do wonder if it would make life easier for ministry and it definitely would for me personally.

Now I need to say that this is not a plea for a vehicle but just me explaining myself.

Here is my ultimate dream car – driving around the streets of sunny Italy in this would be amazing.

My dream car
My dream car

Here’s what I think are sensible ideas for ministry in Rome.

sensible option
sensible option
great idea
great idea

This is what I think would be the most useful for getting the message out about The Salvation Army in Italy but impractical for outreach as its only a 3 door vehicle!

The PR Machine
The PR Machine

And here’s what I reckon I might end up with for darting around the city.

the possibility
The Reality

Now the vulnerability bit is trusting God that He has the time & provision sorted and exercising that belief & not posting random statuses asking if someone has money they want to give me for a scooter.

Downgrading the Dream is believing that the ministry is only ever going to need a scooter and not the minivan or Hackney carriage (& I genuinely believe both are needed)

I suppose the point is that in the strength of my vulnerability I need to believe in a God that will supply my needs and not my wants. A God who understands my heart and will help me to see His ministry as something I am involved in  Not downgrading the dream to fit the circumstances of where I am, but rather enhance my belief in a God of the Impossible.

So back to dreaming and I might as well got for it – I am upgrading my dream to this:

Upgrading the dream
Upgrading the dream

 

What dream have you downgraded recently to remain calm & sensible instead of vulnerable and a little wild?

 

Where do I sign up?

At the beginning of the month of July, I along with 15,000 other people attended The Salvation Army congress in London. A chance to celebrate 150 years of our existence and yet again I wanted to sign up to the fight. 

As I am now back in Rome and have spent a week with a young woman learning about this crazy ministry I get to be involved in; I am challenged to stand up and shout. Rosie wrote this on reflection after a week of living and working in Rome. 

“…’vulnerable’ people come in all forms with very different needs. I really saw this this week as I went from listening to Estelle talk about international campaigns such as ‘Up For School’, to packing bags at a food bank, to an outreach programme working with people in prostitution.”

Way to go 17 year old woman to make me think. And so I am thinking as it’s Tuesday about the women I shall meet tonight and the team I will be with. The familiar faces that are missing when we pass by. The ones that we know by name and call out to us for a hug or a word or a smile. 

Green Light Project
Green Light Project
Recently an interview was published in The Salvation Army UK’s magazine. Here is a small excerpt about The Green Light Project. 

In December 2014, Estelle took the GLP to the streets of Rome. The first stage of this fortnightly outreach involves slowly forming relationships with the victims. She explains: ‘We take tea and coffee and chocolates to two areas in Rome and are slowly beginning to make some contact with victims of trafficking and prostitution. Already we’re beginning to see some great opportunities and we’re beginning to pray with people. Now they greet us with hugs and kisses and say “We’ve missed you, where have you been?”.’

Initially Estelle has trained officers  from command headquarters (& other church members)  to be part of this ministry, but the plan is to extend this to corps members as the project expands.

I know all the fancy words make it sound like I am doing something special but you know what makes it special, a woman calling to me and hugging me and telling me that we are the people they look forward to seeing as we speak from the heart and with love. With no judgement of the person in front. That’s a compliment, an encouragement and a challenge. I want to represent Jesus whenever I am out in this world. I want people to know that they are loved and needed and can be redeemed and life is not about the street corners and the car parks of Rome. I want them to know that Jesus can transform them and that I will love them and then love them a lot more. 

Being a light
Being a light
I am challenged to be a light in the darkness. I am challenged that a simple “hello and how are you?” and “would you like a coffee?” can change the lives of individuals.

Challenge to be a light in the darkness
Challenge to be a light in the darkness
So where do I sign up? Again? 

Men…….

Cue Faith Based Blog.

So here I am just a couple of months short of 2 years in Rome working with issues of Human Trafficking and Prostitution and suddenly lots is clicking and happening that is making me return to 13 years ago and 9 years ago and 2 years ago. It’s crazy how I get the chance to sit and look at things.

Let’s go back to the 9 years ago “thing” or “moment” because that is the one that is most on my mind at this time. I have spent a few days rejoicing and celebrating God and also remembering some stuff.

I had a meeting with my leaders of The Salvation Army project in London and we were talking about the need to discover diversity and what that would mean in a project as I was in at the time. I prayed and asked around and discovered that the groups for men in prostitution (not the clients and there is a serious lack of provision there too) were so few and far between that this was a possibility and a way forward. I connected to groups and met with group leaders but always “the door” of opportunity was closed.

I genuinely got annoyed with God because I wanted to do something different and that came – we began an outreach to Massage Parlors and Saunas and even after 6 years of being persistent, a lap dance club.; but this wasn’t what I wanted. It was not what I had thought about. I never liked to fit in and thought that the premises we visited were easy. How wrong was I? I got so excited about this ministry and work, and the “men” project wasn’t going anywhere. Jump ahead 9 years now.

Then before Christmas along with my colleagues here in Rome we decided to begin Outreach. And the Green Light Project Rome was born.

Green Light Project
Green Light Project

I had my ideas and really wanted something different and I along with a group of “volunteers” climbed into the red van. Off we went armed with homemade biscuits and coffee and tea and smiles and a few nerves too.

Did I expect results – yes because even one person talking to me would be great.

What happened though was something that I never expected. In 4.5 months we have over 70 names and a whole load of “unknowns” and 90% of those we have met are Transvestites and they admit they are men, we have their male names too.

GLP

Last week reflecting on all that had happened with my leaders, I realized I was reaching the men in prostitution. men who are looked at differently to others. men ignored by the world. Men judged by the world at large. And yet God had prepared me with knowledge and information many years ago.

Now I know why God closed all those doors and why it wasn’t the right time. I am glad that the right time is now. I am glad that I didn’t try and do something back then, but more than that I am humbled by these amazing people I meet every Tuesday evening. They welcome me and accept me and we laugh, cry, talk and pray together. In confusion and pain and hurt and rejection, I am privileged to be a friend to them all.

So, there will be theologians and Christians who have something to say, well come with me and let me take you to the place that one called “Hell”. It doesn’t fit any artists image but who cares, it’s where I meet L and all those other amazing people.

William Booth said the following words and when “B” told us not to pray because the place we meet is hell, then my thoughts turned to these words again. And yes I am prepared.

“You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.”

So, I share this wanting you to know – that as a Christian, nothing is ever wasted.

Mum…….thanks & Happy Mothering Sunday

on the 15th March 1932, an extraordinary event took place, and yet it was so very normal for all involved. My Mum, Valerie Mary Hudson was born. An event that didn’t change the world. She was born in the East End of London, a cockney by birth at Thhe Mothers Hospital in Clapton. Her life as a child wasn’t easy. She lost her own mother when she was little. And that changed her attitude in a way you can’t imagine. 

In 1952, she was “commissioned and ordained” as a Salvation Army Officer. She met my dad and they married October 6th 1956 (dad’s birthday). Together they changed the world around them. They inspired me in ways that maybe I never got the chance to tell them. (This is them on their Golden Weddings Celebrations) 



But back to mum. You see to many she was Val or Major Val, or auntie Val and to dad she was Valerie. His love and His life. Yet to me she was my mum, she was a friend to so many and yet so few knew her deepest secrets. She welcomed my friends as though they were her children and family. She was the person my friends turned too. She was the person I turned too. 

She inspired me in her cooking, although some of her meals weren’t the best. She would bake and place love gifts of Ginger cakes and chocolate muffins on people’s doorsteps because she could. She walked through hazardous districts and challenged church thinkers on their technical jargon. She was a fervent prayer and loved outrageously. She wanted people to know Jesus, she took ages writing and working on her messages because she wanted them to make sense to people. She was desperate that faith was a personal challenge and belief. She was my mum who at 64 years of age, tried to learn Italian because of my calling. She cared deeply for dad and our family. She would take the time to write to people and let them know she cared and loved them. She would phone me before dad got out of bed so we could chat without interruption. She missed me a lot (she told me that) and would count down the days till we saw each other. I never understood that – I do now. She had the most wicked sense of humour. She like me loved to laugh at silliness and she loved a practical joke. She taught me about language and poetry and God and fun and faith and cooking and joyful, disciplined service for God. She taught me about the value of friendship and investing in friends. She showed me how to love the unloveable, how to make space for the forgotten. She showed me how to see the best in people. She called me everyday to tell me she loved me. She went to the football with me because dad didn’t want too. She made me understand the love of a mother. She helped me to realise that being myself is okay. She taught me to be all that God has called me to be.

Yes that was my mum. And this year, I miss her as much as I did last year and the year before and will do next year. My mum was fabulous and wonderful and crazy and a full of faith. 

But this year in the UK it’s Mother’s Day on what would have been her 83rd birthday. I pay tribute to her and to the mum’s similar to her, because she was one of a kind. 

All I really wanted to say was – thanks Mum, I miss you! 

Happy Mothers Day Mum and Happy Birthday too. 

(Mum as a young Cadet)