I’d be a mess. I’d be angry most of the time, at myself and anyone who was close enough for me to take it out on. I’d be broken inside; chasing every numbing high that could soothe the helpless pitiful feeling. I’d crumble when thick darkness flooded over. I would still have outbursts of self harming. Grief would have overtaken me. I would have sabotaged my marriage a long time ago. I’d be hounded by abandonment and PTSD, consciously and unconsciously it would rule my life. I wouldn’t be able to muster up an ounce of forgiveness. I would be a survivor, not an overcomer. I wouldn’t cope with being a mother because all I’d crave was to be mothered. I would spend so much time nursing my hurts that I wouldn’t have anything left to give. Giving wouldn’t even cross my mind. I would have no desire to control my tongue, I would still be spewing thoughts and talk of all kinds of evil from my heart. I would have no control of what my flesh desired. I’d be cowering to all the demons day and night. Depression would play Russian roulette with me. I’d be held hostage by all forms of fear, scream inwardly and regularly wake up crying. I’d be spiritually dead in the darkness speeding towards my grave. I’d have no idea what deep unshakeable love, peace, freedom and joy was. I would live looking like I had it all together. But Jesus, my rescuer, my healer, my hope, my home, my future, my restorer, my strength, my freedom, my peace, my joy, my gladness, my eternal life. He loved me when I didn’t want to give Him any room in my heart, loved me when I rejected Him, He loved me when I laughed at Him, loved me when the cross was a load of foolishness to me, loved me when my lawless heart chased, did and thought anything that it desired. Loved me until the crushing pain of choosing life without Him became too much and the moment I called to Him He took the burden off my shoulders, scooped me off the rotting floor led me to an open place, gave me the mountain top view of my living. He breathed life into me, poured joy over me, opened my eyes to see, unblocked my ears to hear, gave me a new heart, put His Spirit blazing inside me. Jesus changed EVERHTHING
Who knows that terrible boredom in a church service? The type of boredom that makes you want to peel your skin off and the dread that rises as you realise that the sermon may actually never come to an end.
We walked into an old church a few months ago and the children had such fun playing in the pews, singing round the alter and reading from the pulpit. It was a lovely sight as only a few days previously I had been praying that I wanted my children to always feel at home in any church they entered. I was brought up very familiar with church environments and my children are not as we don’t go very often. This long season of my life has really taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Not to rely on tradition, religion, nostalgia; the smell of old hymn books, the creek of oak pews, soft light through the stained glass. All lovely and good but the church is not made from mortar and stone, it is made of people (1 Peter 2:5) Church is not an activity to be done each week but it is who we are. My place in this season is not within the physical walls but outside of those walls ready with the Good News. Good news which everyone is invited to receive, those inside nightclub walls, sat beside supermarket walls, hanging around sitting on walls, surrounded by marble walls, trapped behind prison walls, confined to religious walls, those who have built their own walls and everyone who is yet to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34.8) because through Jesus, God has smashed down the wall that kept us from him, the wall that blocked our hearing, took away our sight and darkened our hearts to Him. Once we receive His gift of salvation we are given a new heart, a new spirit, (Ezekiel 36:26) our hearing and sight is restored and His word is then welcomed balm for a softened heart and not painfully boring arrows rebounding off a hardened heart.
For a long time I thought Church was about weddings, funerals, Sundays, Christmas and Easter. But Church is every day, every second of the day; hallelujahs in the car, blessings in the street, forgiveness all round, lavishing love on enemies. Bringing healing to the hurting, grieving with those who grieve, worship in hospitals, singing praise in crematoriums. The church is one family that spans across continents and denominations, breathing in scriptures, speaking His word, living life spirit led and fully free, walking in power over all darkness. Hearts blazing in inextinguishable light. Our brokenness exposed. Shedding our old nature and walking in the new. Having everything in common with someone we just met because we have the same Heavenly Father. Praying for each other. Pouring out gifts that have been poured into and over us. Overflowing with immeasurable joy through all circumstances and always ready to give an account of the hope we have to anyone who asks. (1 Peter 3:15) Church is new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), coming boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) , thankfulness for every blink and breath and fully resting in and reflecting His glory.
“ But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
It’s a year since we found out our baby died early on in pregnancy. The grief has been searing, relentless and so crushing that at times my legs have felt like they may collapse beneath me. Over these months I’ve had so many conversations with people –
I’ve been told that I had a lot going on at the time and I was doing too much and not resting. And that maybe it just wasn’t the right time for this baby. And the suggestion that it may have been a good thing as I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the things I’d done since. There have been lots of taking deep breathes along side well meaning words. Truth is how ever much we desperately try to scramble for the right thing to say, there are no positives to death. Whatever age or time.
Going out with my daughters always seems to bring up two conversation starters;
“They all yours? Are you going to have any more?”
“All girls! Are you going to try for a boy?”
A lady on the bus had come up with the first opener and I told her about our baby, she asked when in the pregnancy and showed her relief when I said it was early on.
The lady doing my hair came up with the second opener. I told her about our baby. “Still, not as bad as my sister” she said and told me that she had three babies die late in pregnancy.
A sweet family friend in her eighties who was so distraught after her little one died she could never bring herself to go through being pregnant again.
“Any more?” one of the home ed mums asked me and this led on to the loveliest conversation as we both shared our experiences of our babies that didn’t make it.
The first time I saw death up close was through a window from the car where I’d been told to stay as it had been decided I was too young to go to a funeral. I watched as the miniature white and brass coffin was carried past.
So many more experiences and conversations that are not for me to share.
So many babies.
There is one conversation that had a huge impact on me. I was sat on the sofa sharing tea and biscuits and letting somebody know about our baby. I was talking about how hard the grief had been for both me and my husband and she met me at this point because she understood, it had been the same for her and her husband. I looked down and my heart sank and I started to feel little bubbles of anger growing bigger from the pit of my stomach and I just wanted to scream “but this isn’t the same, this wasn’t MY choice!”
I started to panic because I couldn’t pop these rising bubbles. I didn’t want to upset her but I didn’t know if I could hold my back my emotions. Then just like that my Prince of Peace rescued me, peace swept over me and draped a warm blanket of stillness around me. I looked up at her and I saw brighter than day how Jesus sees her. Loved. Treasured. Died for. So desperately longed for.
Truth scattered the lies like cockroaches in torch light as I was reminded we are all in this mess together; broken people living in a broken world. I hadn’t made the same choices as her but I was so so so far from perfect in how I’d lived my life.
I saw we were both dealing with the heavy consequences of death and I listened as she opened up about the grief she was going through. We had the same pain, our babies have left huge holes in our families.
So many babies.
I birthed my tiniest baby on Christmas Day, two days after I was told there was no heartbeat. The dark valleys of grief and the trauma of the physical process have not left me and neither has the incredible hope, peace, comfort, joy and love that was poured out to me and that is all because of one little baby given to us all.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The greatest everlasting conversation we will ever have is the one God has with us. It has never been a question of “Is God speaking?” but rather “Are we listening?”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
A love like no other that at our most destitute facing the punishment of death we rightly deserve, one we can never escape or work to pay ourselves. He took our place and paid the price on the cross. He took our sin, dealt with death by rising again to give us the free gift of eternal life.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
1 John 4:9-10
The greatest gift we could ever receive from a Father who never gives up on us no matter how far we run and how long we hide. He made the way, the ONLY way that we can return to Him.
We have only two choices when it comes to being presented with gifts; reject or receive.
As we were leaving my youngest’s class I heard a lot of commotion coming from the other side of the road. I was careful to put her in her car seat quickly from the road side as the argument was between a driver and traffic warden. Sure enough the angry driver sped past right behind me leaving the warden open mouthed on the pavement. I looked around and people were walking up and down the street as if nothing had happened. I looked back at the man and he still looked shocked so I asked him if he was okay. He crossed the road and we chatted about what happened.
He was a community officer and had issued the lady a parking ticket. She had tried to persuade him to cancel it but when he refused, she got really angry, told him she was a Christian and that God was going to punish him and he was going to hell. He began to laugh and said,
“Not very Christianly of her and anyway I don’t believe there’s a hell so I can’t go there”.
I asked him why he didn’t believe there was hell and he told me it was because the God he believed in who was all loving and righteous wouldn’t send anyone to hell. I replied that it IS because God is loving and righteous that there is hell. Take, for example, somebody murders your child and you are in court and the judge says ‘I’m not sending anyone to jail’. You expect a court judge to draw the line between right and wrong but the God of the whole universe, who is loving, righteous and holy you expect not to draw a line between good and evil?”
We both turned as a small white car came past us, the window was down and the driver shouted obscenities in our direction, making it clear his dislike of traffic wardens.
He turned back to me and continued, “Good people wouldn’t go to hell though”
“Are you a good person?” I asked
He quickly and confidently replied, “Yes I see myself as a good person”
“By whose standards? Because I used to measure my goodness by human standards. I looked at terrible things others had done and judged myself “good” because I hadn’t been as bad. But when you see yourself measured against the absolute holiness of God then every single one of us falls short of that perfection”
The same white car drove around again, more shouting from the window.
He told me he was raised in church and the things he’d seen that had made him question religion and I said that you can go to church from day one and attend every single Sunday of your life and be as religious as you like but it makes absolutely no difference.
Then the conversation turned deeper and the smile dropped from his face as he told me he’d been searching for so long. Then one of the most heartbreaking things anyone has ever said to me came out of his mouth
“My cup is empty”
Empty?! I normally hear people say their cup is half full or half empty but never empty.
“You were raised in church, I’m sure you’ve heard Psalm 23 countless times? Your cup should overflow!…You know, Jesus didn’t just say ‘I know the way, I know the truth, I know where life is’ he said “I am the way, the truth and the life”….the one you are looking for is Jesus.
We were interrupted by a bleeping sound and he began typing into his machine and said he had to go but if he wasn’t in uniform and had more time he could talk to me all day and that I’d really made him smile, I noticed he was beaming by this point. Of course I knew it wasn’t me making him smile but his heart was filling and softening with what he had just heard.
We are good at making up our own gods, gods who turn a blind eye to our wrongdoings, gods who we use to get our own way, gods to frighten people, gods to control people, gods who will punish the way we would, gods who need us to do religious duties, gods who satisfy our fleshly desires, gods we make with our hands, gods who others have made with their hands, gods who don’t speak, gods we can interpret the way we want to, gods who adhere to our own plans, gods of traditions and the root of sin in when we are our own god.
But the living God far exceeds all we could ever possibly dream of. Wanting absolutely nothing from us and pursuing us with such ferocious love. God who loves us so much that when we fully deserved the biggest parking ticket that was way too great for us to ever pay on our own, he stood in our place and paid it on the cross and defeated death so we can have eternal life. Covering us with his righteousness so we have full access to his presence, now and for eternity. There is no greater love!
Thirst. Horrendous in the natural and utterly crushing in the spiritual. Attempting to quench our spiritual thirst with anything other than the free gift of living water will leave us empty. Nothing or no one can satisfy that deep thirst; our relationships can’t, our achievements can’t, our possessions can’t, our addictions can’t, our good deeds can’t, our religion can’t – like downing a fizzy drink they all ultimately leave us still thirsty.
We are ALL given the invitation to drink and the certainty to never ever ever to thirst again. To live with our cup overflowing.
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38
“Come to me”
Not come to religion, not come to the man made, not come to tradition, not come striving to do good deeds, not come covering up, not come to a special building or place, but to come to the one who when we ask we will receive. The living God loves you, his heart breaking until you are home, always searching the horizon for when you will turn back, seeking to find us ready to say ‘yes’ where ever we are; in our rooms, in our cars, in churches, on the bus, on our way to work, in nightclubs, in the park and on a regular afternoon as we go about our job issuing parking tickets.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Last year we enjoyed printing Christmas & thank you cards with my eldest daughter’s designs, so this year we had a go at printing wrapping paper. This was a great project that we could all get involved with. My four year old did the design this time; a sweet reindeer drawing that made a great print.
1 roll of Plain wrapping paper
Block printing ink
Ink roller /brayer
Wooden block (cut to size of design)
Strong craft glue
1. Draw out a design. Using a thick marker pen on the lino.
2. Cut out the areas around the marked section. Trimming off excess lino. Glue to wooden block.
3. Roll out some ink and apply a very thin layer to the lino.
4. Do some test prints for positioning and ink density.
6. Print the red noses. We used a flat crayon dipped lightly in ink but fingertip will do too.
7. Leave to dry.
8. Ready to wrap gifts!
We get through so much play dough that I thought I’d be worth having a go making it ourselves. I’ve tried a couple of times before but always ended up with that stodgy floury nursery school smelling stuff. This time I experiented with some different ingredients and invested in some good essential oils. The children enjoyed having different fragrances to sniff, they love smelling the tester perfumes in shops so it was great to have an activity like this at home.
To make four colours –
You will need
2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 – 1.5 cups of warm previously boiled water
3-4 drops of glycerine
Plastic containers to store play dough
I used cinnamon leaf, pine needle and mandarin essential oils and vanilla essence. Make sure to research the oils which are safe for you and children, also in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil.
I have used grapeseed oil with all my children in baby massage so I knew their skin wouldn’t react to it. A good tip my baby massage instructor showed me, if using for the first time, is to dab a little on the wrist and wait ten minutes to see if there is a reaction or not.
I divided the ingredients into four so the children could make a tub with a different colour and scent each. But you can always make one batch and then divide the dough to colour and fragrance.
1. Into four bowls add flour, salt and cream of tartar.
3. Add a 1/4 cup of warm water to the mixture and add the food colouring.
4. Take one of the bowls of the flour mixture and slowly combine the wet mixture with the dry, adding more plain water if needed, until you get a bread dough like consistency that can be kneaded.
5. Adding different colours and scents repeat stages 2,3,4 for the remaining three bowls of flour mix
I used yellow with vanilla, green with pine needle, orange with mandarin and red with cinnamon.
6. Place the dough on a smooth surface and add a sprinkle of glitter (too much will cause the dough to crack).
7. Knead the dough well and it’s ready for play.