God has called you by name and made you His own

Last week I attended the confirmation service of a dozen or so candidates at my local church. I had the honour of being the ‘Crucifer’ and carrying a great big wooden and metal cross. I got to lead the Bishop and the rest of the party up and down the church, which I thoroughly enjoyed as it was much like drill, something I’m both experienced in and fond of. This was another one of those moments where my two worlds and identities collide; being a soldier and being a Christian.

I wasn’t always a Christian, but I feel like I have always been a soldier.

I’ve been getting paid for it since I was 17, and prior to that I just played at it with my cousin. We had Action Men toys and would run around the woods and North Yorkshire Moors with sticks, pretending to be soldiers. We used to make dens and catch fish and draw maps. We’d lay silently and patiently for hours watching birds through our binoculars, consulting the Dorling Kindersley British Birds book, whilst eating packed lunches our Grandma had made us, then we’d spring up, startling the farmers and we’d pretend we were fugitives on the run from the German Army and would hurtle down the hill together back to the caravan.

Real soldiering is somewhat different, but I feel as though my outdoorsy and somewhat non-conventional childhood prepared me well. I was accustomed to cuts and scrapes, exercise, being too hot and too cold and hiding in bushes. So whilst I may have always been destined for soldiering, or at least very comfortable doing it, I couldn’t have imagined spending the rest of my life as a Christian. This second part of my identity is a recent development. I was never interested in faith, and though I attended Sunday School as a child until I was 10 or so, I understood church to be in the same category as the Brownies or Guides and so I grew out of it as I did other my childhood clubs. My faith in God came as a huge surprise. I felt ill prepared and it certainly seemed that God sought me out, rather than the other way around. My account of just how I came to believe in God, whilst serving in Afghanistan, can be found here.

This blog is about the endlessly surprising ways in which God has changed my life since I committed to being a Christian. It is also about why I think the C of E is so weird and so wonderful, and about the many and frequent embarrassing mistakes I make as a new Christian. I’ll be writing about what I feel God is calling me to be and what this discernment process feels like. I will write about living out my faith in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Shrivenham and other exotic locations, and the organisations and people who have shaped my faith and helped me to become a disciple of Christ.

This personal blog is also linked to my work blog TheGenerousGivingProject. Yes, another surprise for me was landing a job working for the church, shortly after leaving full-time service in the Army. If you like short stories that poke light fun at the church whilst tackling a serious message (in this case what it means to be generous with our money) then you might like these. They’re also useful as resources for your own church and will be updated every few days. You don’t have to be an Anglican to read them.

That’s it by means of an introduction. Enjoy and be sure to pop back if you like what I write.

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Photo by Sgt Jamie Peters

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Yesterday's first, day 16: Elizabeth Frida's first rugby match. She might have slept through the whole thing and have been facing the wrong way (snuggled in her sling) but it was great introducing her to the team and seeing how much these amazing women brought her into the fold and looked after her. She has lots of lovely aunties. Oh and this Moby sling is in Mowden colours 👍🏻🏉. #newborn #newbaby #IVF #ivfjourney #womensrugby #thisgirlcan #rugbyfamily #mowdenfamily #firstgame #preseason #breastfeeding #mobysling #breastfeedinginpublic #newmum #day16 #shark #sharkpup @dmp_sharks
The last few days of firsts: First trip to Twenty2 with her parents and Granddad in her Moby sling, which she LOVES. We also went to the newly opened Dr.Inks which was great. She slept through both. . First trip to church where she was welcomed by the congregation and blessed. She got to wear her fanciest outfit, courtesy of @kat_d_1983 . . She had a bit of a cry during the sermon but afterwards lots of our church family said that she was a real delight and no one minded the brief but very loud distraction. It's very important for new parents to be reassured of this because it can feel pretty stressful when your baby is howling and everyone else is quiet. We felt very welcome, comfortable, loved and happy. And besides, I've cried in church loads of times (just not as loud!) . . #mobysling #babywearing #firsttimers #newborn #newbaby #IVF #teatimedrinks #familytime #blessed #sundaybest #churchofengland #church
Day 13. A visit to Durham so my fabulous colleagues could meet the little lady. After much swooning, passing her around and coffee and cake, we headed into the city centre for a walk. . Visiting the cathedral was pretty emotional. It was strange and wonderful and tear inducing to stand in the Galilee Chapel at the altar with my beautiful healthy baby, recalling the times I've knelt and cried at that same altar over recent years. And now she's here. Thank God. . We also did the obligatory book shop wander and bought a great little book that will help us with all the gaps in our art knowledge, which are numerous and wide. Frida Kahlo gets 4 lines. Impressed. . Changing her clothes today I noticed for the first time that she's visibly put on weight since birth. I know that's what the scales say, but now I can actually see it. Our little tubster will be weighed again tomorrow. 🤞 for further weight gain. . Also of note, I breastfed all over Durham today including twice in the cathedral, once while walking around. Delighted and encouraged that I've had no negative experiences whatsoever since starting to breastfeed my baby whenever she needs it, so including in public wherever we may be. No one has made me feel uncomfortable. I think/hope the recent coverage in the media about this topic has helped. . #breastfeeding #breastdeedinguncovered #breastfeedinginpublic #durham #durhamcathedral #newmum #firsttimemum #cibii #ouod #arthistory #prayer #chapel #grace #godisgood #IVF #ivfjourney #weighin #newborn
Day 12. The morning began with my first mums and babies Pilates class with the NHS Physio. Babies are unpredictable so I was running late, literally. Whilst breastfeeding with one arm and pushing the pram with the other, I dashed into town, very stressed and liberally doused in milk, with my howling baby, but thankfully only 2 minutes late. Sadly, the physio told me as I stood there sweating and panting, that I'm not allowed to join the class until I'm 6 weeks post partum. She then spent 30 mins explaining why (oxytocin, loose ligaments, major internal trauma, unstable pelvis, separated abdominal muscles, risk of haemorrhage blah blah blah) then to convince me further she demonstrated how knacked my core is my doing an examination on a mat and having me do some basic exercises. Convinced. My hopes of returning to rugby training tonight were dashed, so I spent a lovely afternoon in town with my mum then this evening walked to The Mowden pub and back which seemed like a reasonable substitute. I miss the old club. @dmp_sharks #returntorugby #pilates #postpartum #babywearing #babyshark #babysling #mobysling #recovery #abdominal #newmum #womensrugby #oxytocin
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Day 10. A family day. A lie in, coffee in town with the parentals then lunch in town, then an afternoon and evening with the parentals again. Gorgeous homemade food, rock music and stories of childhood and family history. Happy tears over our beautiful daughter and newest family member. Such a privilege to live so close to them. Relaxing at "Grandad and Nona's" is the best. . #familytime #newparents #pizzaexpress #lafamilia #family #IVF #miraclebaby #clothbum #grandparents #dungarees #rockmusic #homecooked #home #granddaughter #specialbaby #ivfjourney #britishgarden #britishsummer #familytree #stories #drunk #tears #breastfeeding #breastfeedinginpublic #newborn #newparents #dimple #saltedcaramel #dinner #parents
Hanging with my little superstar. Couldn't love her more. Just so grateful to have her and can't quite yet believe it's true. A year ago I was told it'd never happen and here she is. Thank God. And thanks to all our brilliantly supportive family and friends who've been with us through it all. #thanks #blessed #godisgood #IVF #ivfjourney #miracle #science #family #smitten #love #newborn #delighted #newparents #nevergiveup #blackandwhite
Day 9. Today is a day dedicated to R&R because we really need it. I've resolved to not get out of my pjs. It's all about laundry, sleep, feeds, drying nappies and hanging out in the garden. May treat myself to a bath later if it's not too much effort. #newborn #newparents #knackered #garden #britishsummer #rnr #reusablenappies #clothbum #clothnappies #tired #day9 #babygirl #ivfjourney #miracle #reality
Day 8. Late post. Yesterday we took the little lady on her first big trip to Harrogate. No doubt her memories of the lovely afternoon tea at Bettys with be fond and clear. Right? Her parents however were so tired that they could barely make conversation (though were civil enough to trade favourite sandwiches). For us yesterday's experience may be one we'd rather forget, than look back on wistfully! It was however, really lovely to be the proud parents of a baby that gets so much attention from the elderly in M&S. In droves they came up to us in the cafe to ask her age and weight and to say nice things. Being a parent is cool. We also visited (fake aunty) Freya for coffee and I got in some practice of public breastfeeding under pressure: Elizabeth screaming, pram too big to manoeuvre in small cafe, not enough seats for us all, screams getting louder, lots of people looking and smiling- everyone loves a newborn. Found a chair and had to hope the friendly customers would go back to their lattes as I struggled with my top, bra, latching, milk everywhere, tiny pumping fists and further screams. Fortunately the whole tense affair was over in moments and she fed contentedly in silence until the rest of the party could find us a table together. Being a parent is stressful too. Yesterday was day 2 of the sling and she still loves it. Doesn't seem to mind car journeys either, but I know this can change with the wind. I also discovered baby changing facilities yesterday. Until then I'd never stepped foot in one (why would I?) so I'm no expert but the ones in M&S were great. A little oasis for stressed, tired parents to sit and chill, change, nap(?) and put on and adjust slings out of sight. We're still very much novices so it takes a while. The last pic is thanks to our lovely lodgers who volunteered to watch her for an hour so I could go to bed at 8pm the night before while Dickie did some chores. Every extra minute gained is a win. We're now properly tired teddies. #bettystearooms #bettys #harrogate #afternoontea #kangaroocarry #babysling #babywrap #babywearing #newborn #newbies #newparents #firsttimer #mobywrap #breastfeedinginpublic #clothbum
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Day 5. A lovely relaxing morning in the garden, hanging out with family, receiving a visit from the midwife, celebrating the baby's gain in weight with pate, bread and a little prosecco and it turns out parenting newborns is EASY! . Then we hit some kind of wall about 20 mins ago and all the adrenaline we'd been surfing on since the labour and birth just crashed. Tempers, tantrums and off to bed to sleep while Nona watches the baby in between feeds. Sh*t just got real. . We're in zombie territory and I don't know if we'll make it out. Night night. . #day5 #newborn #newbaby #hittingthewall #exhausted #tired #sleep #nona #parenting #newbies #reality #bedtime #ftm #newparents #wingingit #sleepdeprivation #torture #knackered #reallife #notapicnic #inlove
Day four. Celebrating parenthood over lunch in town. . Gorgeous meal, fantastic babysitting by Nona, and first two public breastfeeding experiences in cafes were very positive. Feeling emboldened and encouraged by the Ch4 programme. . We all got to eat our meals in a very natural way and none of us felt the need to wear a blanket over our heads. Well Dickie did briefly over pudding but he always does that. #dayfour #newmum #newparents #babygirl #newborn #newlife #ivfbaby #miraclebaby #lunching #nona #familytime #breastfeedingmama #breastfeedinginpublic #bf #breastfeeding #ouod #breastdeedinguncovered #worldbreastfeedingweek
Hands up who's loved their first day at home! . This little dot has had a very chilled day in the garden getting used to life on the outside. Staring at her is an almost full-time occupation. . #newlife #newborn #2daysold #newbaby #ivfjourney #ivfbaby #bambinomio #bambino #bebe #clothbum #miracle #thankgod #blessed #newmum #parenting #newparents #lifegoals #inspiration #beatingtheodds #gdbaby #gdmummyuk #gestationaldiabetes #diabetes #newbie
Our little miracle Elizabeth Frida Phillips. We thought this day would never happen. Thank God it has. #ivfjourney #birth #announcement #newborn #ivfpregnancy #newbaby #ftm #induction #labour #hospital #midwife #fastandfurious #fridakahlo #news #baby #gestationaldiabetes #gdukmums #GDdiet #tbtg #thankgod #blessed #psalm139 #holdingcross #babygirl @gestational_diabetes_uk
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