Introduce yourself! Share a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what makes you YOU!
Hi! I’m Naomi. I’m so pleased to meet whoever happens to be reading this!
I’m from London, England. I was born here and despite moving house at least ten times in my adult life (although I love to exaggerate, this is straight up truth), I’m still here! Right now, I live in a little corner of West London with my amazing husband, James. We both serve together on our church staff team.
At church, I head up ‘Operations and Development’ which essentially means making sure that all the exciting stuff we’ve said we want to happen, actually does happen! It also involves training interns and recruiting volunteers to serve the church with their time and their talents. It’s a pretty new job for me. I spent most of my twenties doing what I’m qualified to do – teaching high school students! I was Drama & English teacher for seven years and I led an alternative education unit for the final two years of those seven. Working with teenagers has challenged me with some of my most testing times and blessed me with some of my most rewarding moments. I love teaching and so I’m delighted that I still get to do just that…
As I work part-time for my church, I’m blessed with the exciting opportunity to be able to use the rest of my time to write and create material which equips people with ‘real truth, for real life’. (Remember, teaching is my thing!) I love the Word of God, but not in the same way that I love a good novel. The Bible is a tool, a powerful weapon which we have full access to. One of my deepest joys comes from seeing women live out the truth from the Bible’s pages like they know that they know that they know the promises of God were written just for them. Because they were. I do that through my blog posts, video messages, sermons, spoken word poetry, devotional e-books and… brand new for 2017, my e-course! (Which will be the first of many, by God’s grace.)
Share your story–how did you come to know Christ? What have been some big milestones, both good and difficult, of your journey?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known of God, but it took me a little bit longer to actually get to know Him.
Although my dad is not (yet) a believer, he and my mum have been married for 31 years and, despite their differences in beliefs, my mum took me, my brother and my sister to church from a pretty young age. Until I was a teenager, church was fairly boring to me and to be honest, just a part of the routine. Little did I know, though, some of the moments I had then would be seeds planted for later on.
Fast forward to me about aged 12, I was at a new church and a part of a great youth group. I’d met some friends, and church suddenly seemed a bit more fun! I started going to Easter & summer camps with this youth group and it was on one of them, (‘Endurance 99’!) where I first remember properly committing my life to Jesus. Shortly after that, in June 2000, I made the decision to get baptised. From that moment onwards, I knew that I loved Jesus. Sadly, however, my actions didn’t always reflect my heart. Thankfully, though, being the first child of my parents, I was a pretty sheltered teenager and a typical first-born ‘rule follower’ and so didn’t really have the space (or the guts!) to get into too much trouble!
Until university, that is…My church ‘commissioned’ me as I travelled a couple of hours down the country to live on campus for three years. I had every intention of finding a church and a Christian community like I’d had back home. But my intentions sadly didn’t materialise as my actions. Instead, I got swept up in a life of partying with a side of heavy drinking pretty much every night. Growing up as the girl who was always the ‘funny one’ but definitely not ‘the pretty one’ at school was my norm. So, coming to university and finding out that I was actually attractive to the opposite sex was like a whole new world to me. A world I wasn’t really ready for. I got into a relationship with almost the first good looking guy who was interested in me (self-esteem was clearly lacking!) and although he was a lovely man, he didn’t love Jesus. But I was already attached. Despite all of my good intentions and my (now distant) relationship with God, it wasn’t long before our relationship became a sexual one.
Parties, alcohol and sex – I was having a pretty good time… until I wasn’t anymore. The boyfriend cheated on me after a while, I knew about it and yet because of my rock-bottom self esteem and my ‘I’m only the funny girl anyway’ mindset, I tried my best to forget about it and carry on as normal. Soon enough, though, the relationship was over and any ounce of self-worth I had was gone. More drinking, more parties, more flirting.
Even when I thought I was having fun, I was actually pretty empty. One day, just before going home for the summer, I ended up having a conversation with one of my really good friends on my course. Although we’d known each other for almost two years, that conversation revealed that prior to university and the parties and the drinking and the guys, we were actually both Church going, Bible believing Christians. Through tears, we shared our quiet heart’s desire to come back to God. We promised each other that when we came back for our final year after the summer, we’d find a church and start again. We mumbled a prayer and we went on our way.
That summer I met another guy… well, I say ‘met’, he was actually someone I’d met years before on one of those camps I mentioned earlier and I’d always had a bit of a crush on him. The problem? He was what I believed to be a ‘super Christian’ and so, even though it wasn’t his fault, I always felt a bit ‘unworthy’ of entertaining a relationship with him. Especially after my sinful university living. However, that summer, he took an interest in me and we started dating. I was on cloud nine! Before I knew it though, it was time to go back to university.
My friend and I tried our best (and failed a lot of the time) to avoid the fresher’s parties and the copious amounts of drinking. We found a church. With the new ‘super Christian’ boyfriend on the scene I was determined to try and be a ‘proper’ Christian again. During that final year of university, I got myself a Bible, tried my best to go to church most Sundays and did my best to avoid all of the temptation which was constantly surrounding me. I didn’t always succeed, but I was committed to trying to walk with God once again.
I came back home having graduated from university and despite still being in a relationship with my boyfriend, I felt compelled to go back to my old church as opposed to his. That decision has been one of the best I’ve ever made! I found myself on another camp, this time, though, I was 21 as opposed to 12 and I was wearied by all that the world had presented me with. I was ready for change, I was ready for Jesus! And boy, did He meet that desire! This camp was pivotal for me. I couldn’t ignore the call on my life any longer, the clear prompting of the Holy Spirit. I told my pastor there and then that I wanted to live my life for Jesus properly (I didn’t entirely know what I meant by this!) and, to cut a massively long story short, my new life with Jesus begun with the church I’d only just about come back to.
That was ten years ago now, and, although there’s been bumps in road of course, I’ve never looked back. (Although that was long, there’s so much more! I’ll be going into the real nitty gritty of my journey on my course.)
How have you seen God at work in the hard moments of your journey? Where has God made beauty in the broken and unexpected places in your life?
God has always been at work in my life. And what they say is true, hindsight really is 20/20! Looking back I see God’s hand in so many aspects of my life and I can’t help but be thankful. As well as the moments in my journey which I spoke about in the previous answer, He’s also moved in so many other areas.
As you may have figured out by now, I was someone who fell for people hard and this meant experiencing heartbreak after heartbreak. God pieced it all back together and reminded me I was loved by Him before the beginning of time and that is truly the best type of love I could have ever hoped for.
When I used to think back on my sinful past I would feel so, so ashamed. In those moments, the Lord reminded me that His grace was and is sufficient and I experienced His mighty healing.
I’ve seen His hand at work more recently too, of course. Back when I was 22, I had just finished my church gap year I mentioned earlier and was weighing up my options for the future. I couldn’t decide between being a church youth worker or a teacher- so I filled out the application form for both roles, but only ever posted one of them. I taught in secondary schools for seven years. I harboured a dream of what that ‘youth worker’ post might have looked like for most of my teaching career. I prayed about being in church based ministry ‘full time’ and God said no. But now, seven years later, I realise His ‘no’ was a ‘not yet’ as I’m now serving on my church staff team and I get to write! Of course, teaching wasn’t all bad- But after those especially tough days when I continued to ask God what I was still doing there, He was silent. Yet He held on tightly to those dreams of mine.
Of course, the transition wasn’t that easy and dreamlike, though and God taught me yet more about Him in the face of feeling rejected in an entirely different way. Although my job at church was lined up and I was ready to hand in my letter of resignation at school, it turns out my role at the alternative education unit was no longer going to require the Drama and English training I had and so I was actually made redundant instead. That was a blow. Although I was going to leave anyway, nobody likes to be laid off, right? The students I was teaching were doing well and I (wrongly!) wanted the school to really feel it when I told them I wouldn’t be working there any longer.
I felt that surge of uselessness rise up in me again, especially when the school posted that they were hiring another Drama teacher a few weeks later and (although I was leaving anyway) I felt especially useless when they didn’t even ask me to consider applying! Yet, God kept me close to Him and reminded me that when He closes one door, however firmly, it’s because He’s opening another one. And indeed He has!
Why do you think it is important that we share our stories?
We must share our stories because we’re better together!
Women spend far too much time picking one another apart – analysing who’s wearing what/saying what/dating whom…
Stories tear down the barriers and say ‘I get it, I’m with you’. Stories mean we can stop being rivals and start being allies.
Stories mean we’re humans, as opposed to perfect, polished Instagram highlight reels.
Stories scream ‘no filter’ and make everyone reading them a lot more comfortable with their own blemishes.
Have there been any specific Bible verses/songs/soundtracks/books etc. that have made a big impact on your life and your journey?
I literally love the Word of God. I have devotionals on my website which call people to read the Bible, to experience its truth and to love it. There are too many verses to choose from, but one of my all time faves has got to be Psalm 27:13…
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
God’s goodness and promises are so readily available for us today. He’s willing us to walk in them more than we will ever know!
What is one thing you would like readers to take away from your story and your experiences?
I’d love for people to be re-reminded of the fact that God is a redeemer. Most of my shame in my life has come as a result of not what’s been done to me, but what I’ve chosen to do myself. It’s harder for people to feel sympathetic for and to forgive that kind of sin – but it’s not for God! He’s a redeemer and NO ONE is beyond His redemptive love.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)