It's a Monday night at 9.30 - Char and I have hung around after a prayer meeting and are discussing a few of our life issues and struggles as we stand in the kitchen - blogging, mental health, the future, dating, Tinder, drinking games, relationships, fear and self doubt.
As she leaves I reflect on the fact that over the last year we've both been through the mill - we've had a lot of struggles and made a lot of mistakes. We're certainly not living 'perfect' single lives and neither of us are experts at dating or relationships.
But despite all this we've tried our best to keep following Jesus and pursuing the dreams he put on our hearts.
We've never let it stop us sharing our thoughts and feelings. We really hope our blogs are a blessing and, at the very least, remind our readers that they are not alone in the struggle.
I'm sure Char would agree- if we waited until we felt in a really great place with our mental health, or until all the sticky situations were resolved or until we'd dealt with all the sin in our lives - we'd never write any blogs.
That's what shame does - it tells us we're not worthy. Not worthy to pursue a dream. Not worthy to draw closer to God. Not worthy to serve someone else.
I hope I don't have to tell you this is all nonsense.
You are worthy.
You are loved.
You are made perfect through Jesus.
And this is not conditional on us staying out of sticky situations, not messing up or struggling in life.
So, because you know I love a list of tips, here's my 5 top tips for staying connected to God and your faith through life's struggles and scrapes.
1. Find someone you can be totally honest with
Whatever is going on in your life - you will feel better if you tell someone else, preferably someone who shares your faith and understands your life. What ever's going on - be it anything from mental health issues to pornography addiction - there's spiritual power in sharing it with someone else and bringing it into the light.
2. Lean into God, don't push him away
The tendency when we feel like life is messy or that we're making a mess of it, is to avoid praying, avoid worshipping and avoid reading the Bible. Shame makes us feel unworthy and we forget who God is. We imagine he's like a disappointed parent or a judgemental church leader. Truth is he already knows whats going on and loves you with a reckless compassion that we will never fully understand. He's the father with arms wide open - don't forget.
3. Don't stop serving others
Sometimes we're waiting to have everything together, the answer for every problem, overcome every addiction, before we help someone else. But the truth is God can use you whatever's going on in your life. It might be through helping someone else, or being a blessing to someone else, that you find your way out of a tricky situation or season. Don't get self absorbed -keep asking God to send you people to bless and keep your eyes and heart open.
4. You belong in church
WHATEVER is going on or however you feel -
Don't pull back because you feel like life is too messy.
5. Don't believe Instagram
Whatever it looks like, you can be sure that everyone else is going through their own struggles. It might look different but we're all far from perfect - some people are just better at hiding it than others. You don't need to compare yourself to other people but just remember that we're all making a mess of life in our own special, individual way and God still loves us all the same.