Be Bold!

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be bold

Everyone has that one place where everything feels perfect, where they are infinite and feel like no one can stop them being the way they want to be, but what happens when you leave it? Suddenly the soft sand that hugs your feet becomes the tiny pieces of gravel that shoot canons of pain through your soles.  Once again the insecurity begins to fill up inside of you, and you begin to change yourself to fit the mould of society. But really our place of refuge and comfort should not be a physical place, but instead be God. In Psalm 91:2 David shouts to the Lord saying, “You are my place of safety and protection.” Therefore wherever we are in are day to day lives we should remember that God is always there and that we can always be in our place of comfort if we just have faith.

Sometimes, yes, we fight for our individuality, but most of the time we fight a battle with ourselves, we fight against how we really feel until finally we win and our beliefs become the same as the person next to us, but why? God created us to be bold in our faith and to not be shaken by what others think, but yet we are sometimes scared for people to know how we really feel and what we really believe in.

How I feel on standing strong for God is definitely summed up in Philippians 1 verse 20, “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ.” This verse really struck a chord with me when I thought about the situation in parts of the world where Christians are being persecuted for their faith. It made me think that if they can stand strong in their faith in the midst of such hatred and danger, what is stopping me?

The Art of the Swallows

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The Art of the Swallows
As evening approached I walked down the familiar lane that lead to a warming smile and a glowing fire. I watched the golden, fiery sphere descend into the candy-floss clouds. The swallows flew swiftly to their nests, how I wished I could join them. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There in that moment I felt safe, I felt like nothing could get me, it was just me under the watchful eye of my God.
It was the first time I had felt satisfied with my life in a long time. I used to be happy, but that was before Steve. This year had been a blur, I put myself in a bubble of isolation. I was silent.
It was a beautiful summer’s day and I had worn my hair up, the way he liked it. He said it brought out my eyes. He sat across the room from me and I knew he was watching me, making sure I didn’t ‘step out of line.’ As I spoke to Jen, I knew she was concerned, she wasn’t good at masking her emotions. Finally she plucked up the courage to vaguely ask the question I had heard a million times, “so, how are you and Steve?” And I gave my rehearsed answer, “never been better, thanks for asking.”
The problem was we had been better. He was so controlling. I couldn’t speak to another guy without being in constant terror that he would explode with jealousy. Maybe it was a good thing, it showed how much he loved and appreciated me, right? This was the lie I told myself on a daily basis and every time I convinced myself it was the truth.
That day was so striking and Steve and I looked like a perfect couple, his tie matched my dress and we walked together in perfect rhythm with our arms interlocked together. To many people this was a sign of security, but not for me. I felt like a caged bird dreaming of breaking free, but I knew it would only ever be a dream. Let’s face it, I was trapped.
The wedding had been beautiful, Steve and I had sat beside my parents during the ceremony. Everything was going well so far. Then came the reception.
After my catch up with Jen, I began to walk back to Steve to ask him to dance, I didn’t want to, but I knew I would pay for it later if I didn’t. Suddenly a man was running towards me with his arms open wide. It was Keith! I hadn’t seen him for years, he had been my best mate for years, but we had gone our separate ways after school.
I couldn’t believe he was here. Steve had moved to the back of my mind as I began to glide around the dance floor with Keith. Of course I was asked the usual question, “how are you and Steve?” and as usual I gave my habitual response, “never been better, thanks.”
I left the reception with a grin on my face, the only problem was Steve. His grip was tighter than usual as we advanced to our room. He opened the door for me, like any gentleman would do, but Steve was anything but gentle. Before I knew it I was moving through the air towards a wall and then THUD! I landed on the beautifully woven carpet so hard I could have sworn the floor was about to cave in. But it didn’t. Never have I prayed so hard in my life, “Lord, make him stop, please Lord make him stop.” I was silent on the outside, but inside my lungs were exhausted from screaming. I knew from experience silence stopped his fist advancing at a faster speed.
He was yelling now, “What the hell were you thinking Erin!” I felt like I was miles away from him as he roared, “You slut! The only man you should have been dancing with was ME!” I was soon reminded of how close he was as his knuckles crashed my temple and… blank.
Dazed and in a lot of pain I squinted as the sun shone into the bright room. Where was I? Quietly I tried to get up, I didn’t want Steve to hear me leave or I would be a dead, but I couldn’t. Every time I sat up I fell right back into my pillow. Finally a woman in a white coat came over and told me everything was ok and that I must have been hit pretty hard to earn the lump that was now settled on my forehead. I urged her to be quiet, I didn’t want her to wake Steve, but as I leant forward the penny dropped- I was no longer in the hotel room. I was in hospital.
Suddenly Jen came barging through the doors, a newspaper in her hands. “Are you all right?” she cried, “When I saw this I came straight here.” A large image of Steve was now directly under my nose and the headline read, “MAN SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS AFTER HOTEL ASSAULT.” I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know whether to feel overjoyed or embarrassed. All I knew was that I was free.
As I sat and watched the sunset from the small hospital window, I saw the swallow’s fleet freely to their nest and I eventually knew that I was now free. I had mastered the art of the swallows.

Fear of Food

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Every Summer I had told myself I would be productive, and every summer I lounged in my bed and slept. This summer was going to be different, I was sure of it.

As I sat reading Company magazine I dreamed that one day I could write for them, writing amazing stories, my own bye-line was all I had ever dreamed of. If only.

I had sent my story off to Company’s young journalist competition months ago and still I had heard nothing. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

The next morning I was awoken to a pleasant surprise, in the form of a white rectangle which enclosed a very pleasing letter.

“Dear Miss Sarah Milton, I am writing to congratulate you on winning Company Magazine’s ‘Young Journalist of the Year”

Tears blotched the next phrase, I was overwhelmed with delight! Just as I had given up hope, I had once again been lifted back to my feet, but best of all I was going to London Fashion Week!

As I read on I discovered that I was going to be given the chance to interview the one and only Sierra Gelado, then my story will be published in Company’s Fashion Week special. My life-long goal had been reached sooner than I thought. My very own Bye-line. Wow.

Before I knew it I was on a flight to London, the butterflies in my stomach where fluttering franticly, I was so excited. I knew this summer would be different, but who would have imagined this. A 15 year old girl from a small village in Northern Ireland on her way to interview Sierra Gelado at London Fashion Week.

Standing back stage at the run way, I could hardly contain myself. My nerves and excitement had fused to create an emotion I had never felt before, but I knew I was ready, ready to do this for the rest of my life.

Looking around me, I suddenly became very self-conscious, all around me were beautiful, tall, skinny models. As I left the hotel earlier that day, I had never felt more confident in my brand new Topshop dress, but now my confidence had decreased significantly. I felt like a fat gnome in a world of tall, thin princesses. They were perfect and I clearly wasn’t.

Finally after a 30 minute wait Sierra arrived, all those years of looking at her in magazines, watching her strut her stuff on the runway and now here she was, right in front of me and I was about to interview her!

Sitting in the small green room with Sierra was a life-changing experience. I couldn’t wait to hear all about her background and of course her beauty tips. As I stammered through my first question, my eyes were drawn towards her rigid frame, I could practically see every bone on her body and I could tell that behind her make-up her face was ghostly. She was literally wasting away right before my eyes.

I soon forgot about my strange observation and continued with my interview, I was in my element. Soon I learnt that all her life Sierra had dreamed of being a model when one day she was scouted by a modelling agency to replace a model who had broken her leg in a horse riding accident. As she told me about her spontaneous luck we were suddenly interrupted. My pen, which had been gliding constantly for the last 15 minutes, came to a halt.

A small woman walked into the room with a plate full of the most intricately decorated cupcakes I have ever seen, they were covered in swirls of silky butter cream and topped with small edible, beaded butterflies. They looked so delicious, I didn’t want to ruin them with my monstrous mouth, but my mouth was watering and I couldn’t ignore my stomach’s cry for food any longer.

As I indulged in my divine cupcake, I watched Sierra looking at the cupcakes with wide eyes. I politely asked her if she would like one and out of the blue she burst into tears. Confusion flowed through my body, I had no idea what had just happened. She sat with her head in her hands and sobbed quietly into herself, I watched her bony, staccato shoulders move up and down almost in time with her sorrowful sobs.

Finally Sierra began to come round and nervously began to unravel a story very different to the pleasant story she had told me just a few minutes before. This was the story of her battle.

As I wrote and Sierra spoke, both of us fighting back tears, she explained that to reach her dream of being a model she had to be thinner. Her manager saw potential and took her in anyway, but forced her to throw up after every meal. He forced her to stop eating. I soon came to realise that this was not the interview I had expected, it was much, much better.

Sierra was a mess, things had gone too far and they needed to be stopped. The problem was she didn’t know how. She explained to me that she didn’t care anymore, but now she couldn’t keep down her food, she no longer had to make herself sick, her body forced her to.

I soon came to the conclusion that this story was too much to put in a light-hearted magazine, it needed to be published on a larger scale. Both of us thought for a while, people needed to know the truth about models and what better to do it than in a book.

Soon Sierra got on the runway and forced her skinny frame to walk elegantly, whilst I spectated as an insider, I now knew that being a model wasn’t all glitz and glam, it had a horrific back story to it, which no one should ever have to endure.

This summer was different and most definitely productive. I may not have got my bye-line in Company magazine, but I got something much more rewarding. The chance to help someone tell their story and to warn others that even if something seems perfect, there is always another side to the story.

LLL

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As I awoke from another one of my fabulous dreams my bubble was again immediately burst. I was not a foot shorter. I was not an international country singer. And I most definitely was not living in a mansion in Beverly Hills.

For now it was just me and my acoustic guitar, banging on the doors of every record label in Nashville, but nothing. As I knocked a shimmer of hope flowed through my body, but every time I was knocked down. Most of them didn’t even hear my music they just saw a 6ft 9” girl with a guitar. I didn’t want them to see, I wanted them to hear.

As on most days I sat writing songs that would probably never be heard, I looked to my Shania Twain poster wondering if she had gone through what I had to get a successful career, but then I remembered we were very different. Shania was not freakishly tall!

That day as I drove my banger of a car down Music Row and knocked on the doors of record labels over and over and over again. Each time I got the same reply, “don’t ring us, we will get back to you” in other words, “we aren’t interested”.

These knockdowns made me feel like it wasn’t worth it, but then I would put in my head phones and listen to Dolly Parton and Shania Twain and I knew that this fire inside my belly was not going to leave until I sang alongside these amazing country musicians.

All my life I had been told that I was born to sing. I wanted to sing, but when you are my height, no one wants to sign you. The only positive thing I have ever got out of my height is my nick name.

“Whose bed have your Boots been under?” undoubtedly Shania best song. When it’s been a particularly rough day on Music row, I like to tune out from the world and imagine that Shania was singing about me. Long Legs Louise.

What happened next is something I will never forget. As I knocked on my 5th door on music row I was welcomed by a small, but deadly grey shot gun. My eyes shot open, I was numbed with fear and the only word I could force out through my trembling lips was, “why?” The harsh tone of door number five replied, “If you knock one more day, it will be your last!”

I quickly dashed away and suddenly it hit me. No one wanted me. No one cared. No one wanted a long legged, freckly country singer on their label.

There had been one too many knockdowns. I was finished.

As I drove to my motel I noticed a man on the corner of the street. He was wearing a Shania Twain tour t-shirt. I knew I could trust him, I slowly pulled over and advanced towards him with mascara plastered down my cheeks. Suddenly he reached out his hand and placed a small package into mine. I tried to speak but he placed his finger on my lips and signalled me to leave. “Who was he?”

That night as I sat in bed I finally had the courage to open the parcel, I was sure it was cocaine, but I knew, however bad it got it would never resolve to drugs. I was stronger than that.

As I tore back the thin brown paper a small piece of paper with a phone number printed on it was revealed. “Whose number was it?”

For days the number sat on the shelf, for days I could hear the phone screaming to be dialled and for days I ignored. I continued to knock on the doors of music row, leaving out door five for obvious reasons, but for some reason I had less hope and no motivation. I knew they were never going to sign me, I was just the 6ft 9” freak.

As I drove back to the motel with “Whose bed have your Boots been under?” blaring. I saw him. He signalled a phone and shook his hand frantically. This alarmed me and that night as the phone screamed to be dialled I didn’t ignore it.

“Hello who’s speaking?” The voice on the other end of the phone was undeniably, the one and only Shania Twain! I did not scream, she could not know I was merely an in superior fan, I was a woman on a mission.

“Hi I’m Louise and I was wondering if…” I was suddenly interrupted, “You’re the one on music row! You took your time.” She said excitedly, “get over to 22 Radley Place immediately, tell the gates man who you are and they will let you in.”

Never in my life have I driven so quickly, I couldn’t keep Shania waiting, my heart was racing and my face was gleaming. I was about to perform for Shania Twain!

The next morning as I awoke, I was still in my dream. I was a signed country singer, I lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills and I was touring with Shania Twain. This was not a dream. It was my life!

Explosions of Love

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“Everybody out!” yelled Sergeant Lake, the sense of urgency in his voice gave the indication that this was not just another practice drill. As I began to make my way out of the trench I suddenly stopped. Timmy! I had promised his mother I would take care of him. There was no way I could leave him in the middle of a gas attack, I would never forgive myself.

Suddenly I started to run, the gas was polluting my lungs more and more but I was determined to get to Timmy, I couldn’t leave him now. “Are you trying to get yourself killed Barker” Lake roared from somewhere in the distance. For once I didn’t care what he had to say, I knew what I had to do and nothing was going to stop me, especially not some cranky old Sergeant.

Finally I had reached the dugout and there was Timmy, completely unaware of the chaos and danger around him. There was no time to be gentle, as I grabbed Timmy I heard a loud whistling sound coming from above. My legs were moving, but I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere.

I opened my eyes to find myself in a white room with figures rushing around, I could have sworn I was in heaven. As I tried to sit up it felt like something was pulling me back, every time I would get a little further and then fall back. Finally a pretty woman in a white uniform came over to me, “Private Barker, are you ok?” she said in a soft, poetic voice, I was in such a trance that I forgot to answer, “Private Barker?, you were caught in an explosion. Private Timothy is fine, but unfortunately we have some bad news.”

Suddenly I was awoken from my trance, I looked down to see only stumps after my knees, and for the first time in my life, I cried. I felt like I had let my country down, I would no longer be able to protect them. Nurse Elizabeth sat by my side, for hours, she was the only thing keeping me reasonably calm. Her beauty stunned me, her dark brunette hair complemented her flawless, fair skin. For a moment I forgot all about my legs and that I would never be able to walk again, because in this moment I felt like I was running through fields of wildflowers alongside the most beautiful women I had ever set sight on, Nurse Elizabeth.

As the days progressed, the absence of my legs had become a little less daunting. That moment when you wake up and everything seems perfect was soon shattered into a million pieces as I remembered that I would never walk again. Although I knew it would take a long time to get used to the fact that I now had two limbs less than most, I knew that not only my physical health, but my mental health was being healed by Nurse Elizabeth.

On our daily consultations we discussed everything from the moon and back, in that moment I would forget my wounds because I knew that in that instant, I felt safe.

As my time in the great white tent came to a close my heart was gradually becoming heavier, how could I leave Elizabeth? She was the only person who I could turn to for comfort, she was the only one that didn’t judge me and she was the only one who knew how to turn the light back on in the darkest of moments.

The date was set in stone. I knew that tomorrow, at 8:00am I would make my voyage home, but not the home I had departed from almost six months ago. Invictus rehabilitation centre was to be my new home for the next while. Although I was very grateful for the opportunity to use the facility, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Not many men have to leave the girl they love on the front line

Invictus was proving to be a challenge, each day the world glared at me and laughed, but I knew I could not be defeated. I was having to build my upper body strength up in order to be more dependant, I did not want to sit helplessly in a wheel chair whilst someone else pushed me around, I was going to be the same person I was before I left for war, the only difference was I had legs then.

That night as I sat in the shoebox that was my room I listened to the wild winds roar and watched the candle flicker. I couldn’t help but think of Elizabeth, she was my light in the darkness. I needed her.

Months had passed since leaving the great white tent, but my memory of Elizabeth was still fresh in my mind. I was now able to push myself in a wheel chair and learning to carry my own bodyweight on a pair of crutches. Although the pain was extreme, it was nothing compared to the pain I was feeling in my heart. There was a hole in my heart. An Elizabeth shaped heart.

That night I cried myself to sleep, I didn’t know it was possible to miss a person so much. My hero was not a man with a gun, but a woman with a huge heart and a white uniform.

Morning dawned and I braced myself for another long, painful day. I drearily opened my thin curtains and there standing in the courtyard was the most beautiful brunette hair flowing down the side of the stunningly pale face of Elizabeth.

I couldn’t believe my eyes there she was, right in front of me, I wanted nothing more than to run to her, but I couldn’t. As she disappeared through the grey walls of my building I heard her delicate feet dance up the stairs and before I knew it she was in my arms.

Finally, the last jigsaw piece to my heart was complete. I was the luckiest man in the world and I had just fallen in love with my heroine in a white uniform all over again.

Sleeping Beauty

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Charlie and I had been friends since, well, forever. We supported each other through the tiresome time more commonly known as High School. Charlie wasn’t ‘captain of the rugby team material’ and I wasn’t much myself, in fact Charlie and I were at the very bottom of the High School Pyramid. We were invisible.

One day on a crisp, cool October day my invisibility cloak was snatched from around me. It started with a shriek and then a cry. Charlie and I looked down the corridor to see Fizz moaning when she noticed her new Mac Book had disappeared. Charlie looked at me and rolled his eyes, ‘who would be foolish enough to bring a £900 laptop to school’. We both laughed to ourselves at Charlie’s stupid question, when suddenly it went silent. I turned around to Fizz’s perfectly manicured finger in my face.

She had quickly lost her vulnerable face I had seen a few moments before, ‘Rose, sorry to be nosey do you mind if I look in your locker’, before I could answer she shoved me aside and opened my locker, ‘I knew it’, she shrieked, ‘you little thief! How dare you steal from me’? I looked at Fizz with complete confusion, ‘I have no idea how that appeared in my locker but I didn’t steal it.’ I swear, in that moment Fizz’s eyes turned red with fury, ‘don’t lie to me Rose! She screamed. By this stage people had gathered around us, no one had ever looked at me and know everyone was looking at once, I felt like a falsely accused defendant. Fizz’s eyes were staring into my soul, I turned to Charlie for back-up but he just shrugged, his jaw was dropped and his eyes wide. Fizz walked off in the direction of the principal’s office with her two evil sidekicks walking behind her.

I was sure Fizz had set me up, the ferocity was building up inside of me, how could she, what had I ever done to her. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and cry, but I knew I couldn’t let her get to me and definitely couldn’t show Charlie how hurt I was.

The moment I’d been fearing finally came, my name blared out throughout the school as I walked, dreading what was to come. I couldn’t help but feel a thousand eyes following me, watching me like a hawk, wondering what I would steal next.

As I entered the office of Mr Henry, I could see the look of shock on his face. I sat down slowly he just looked me in the eyes and said, ‘why?’ I felt the disappointment run through every vein in my body. I had always been a straight- A student and had never got myself into any trouble, until now.

That night as I sat in Charlie’s I was miserable, we were watching Michael McIntyre like we did every Tuesday, but tonight it wasn’t funny. I had done nothing wrong but I was ashamed and embarrassed. Then suddenly Charlie, who had also been unusually quiet tonight, turned to me and whispered, ‘why did you do it? I know you don’t particularly like Fizz, but isn’t stealing her laptop a bit far?’

I looked in utter shock, the tension was building up inside of me, when suddenly I exploded. ‘I didn’t do it!’ I yelled, ‘I thought you of all people would believe me.’ I stormed out of the house, my mind buzzing with thoughts, I just needed them to be quiet, but they were screaming inside my head trying to get out, ‘why wouldn’t they be quiet.’, I thought. Suddenly everything fell silent.

There was a sense of urgency running through my mind as I sprinted after her, I needed to see if she was okay. All of a sudden the urgency left my body and the panic entered. There she was her blonde hair draped over her shoulder, her face as white as snow. I dug into my pocket for my phone, I dialled 999 and waited. Each ring seem to last a lifetime, I could still hear a raucous audience laughing in the background, the laugh grew evil, suddenly the ground beneath my feet seemed to be moving. I tried to pull myself together as the phone operator, repeated, ‘what service do you need sir’. Reality hit and I screamed, ‘Ambulance!’ like my life depended on it, but it wasn’t my life that was at risk.

Finally the flashing blue lights came into view, my heart pumping so hard I could have sworn it was going to escape my body. I watched as they lifted her tranquil body into the back of the ambulance with her distraught mother by her side. The blue lights and loud sirens faded away into the distance, my body was frozen, and I was numb with shock. She had looked so calm in the middle of so much tension, but the one thing that struck me most wasn’t her calmness, but her beauty.

That night as I lay in my bed, my emotions were exhausted, but my thoughts were racing through my mind and the one thought that I couldn’t seem to shift was, ‘is Rose going to die?’ Finally, I had enough I grabbed my phone and dialled Eleanor’s, Roses’ mother’s, number. Each dial seemed to last forever, but I didn’t have forever, I needed to know now. At last Eleanor picked up and I bombarded her with multiple questions, ‘Is she all right?’ ‘Are you all right?’ ‘What did the doctor’s say?’ As she replied I froze, the phone dropped to the floor with a crash.

My mum had heard the noise from downstairs and had come up to see if I was all right, but the only words I could get out of my mouth were, ‘She’s in a coma’. I just kept repeating the same four words over and over again in hope that they would soon sink in, but they didn’t.

Months had passed and Rose was still not awake. I couldn’t bring myself to see her because I knew that it was my fault, she would never have ran out the door if I hadn’t of said what I did. I just wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole and cry, but I was afraid that if I started crying I would never stop.

After nearly 5 months Eleanor rang me in such a state that it took her about five minutes to say her first word. Eventually she gained the strength to tell me that the doctors were going to take her off the ventilator later that afternoon.

This time I knew I had to see her, I needed to apologise to her even if she couldn’t hear me. She needed to know how I really felt about her.

As I stepped into her little private room on Ward 33 of Red Haven Hospital I was overwhelmed by her beauty. There she was just the same as the night she was hit, except now she was clothed in a blue hospital gown.

Her family left to let me say my final goodbyes. I explained that I never wanted to hurt her. I took her white hand and put it in mine, the one thing I had was about to disappear just like that. I bent over to kiss her and tears started to roll down my cheek, her colourless lips pressed against mine felt perfect I never wanted to leave. As I sat back I whispered, ‘I love you Rose, and I always will.’

Suddenly I felt her hand tighten around mine, her eyelids started to flicker, I could have sworn I was dreaming. ‘I love you too Charlie.’ Now I knew, I would never be alone again.

The Silent Love Story

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Yesterday I stumbled across the sweetest love story I have ever seen. I was just flicking through Disney Pixar Shorts and found a simple little black and white film called, “Paper Man”.
“Paper Man” tells the story of a young man who works in an office. One of the man’s papers is blown into the face of another member of the public waiting for her train. The man peals the page back to reveal the most beautiful woman he has seen. The page is now printed with her signature red lip stick. The man later sees the woman from his office window and tries to catch her attention by throwing paper aeroplanes. After many failed attempts he puts all his trust into the last page, the one with her lip stain.
You will just have to watch it to see what happens.
The film is in black and white except for the lady’s lips. This helps add an even more romantic aspect to the movie as it shows that the only thing the young man is focused on is her. As cheesy as it sounds; she is the colour to his world.