Clothed with Joy

My heartbreak in a box, on the wrong side of my womb. The depth of the pain is like none I have ever experienced but the joy of our Father’s love; soothing, unfailing tenderness in the most devastating of circumstances is what my heart can’t help but continuously sing about. The care, the comfort, the sweetest of visions, the attention to detail and love that I simply don’t deserve, who am I, little old me that our Mighty God could care so much! And *this* is how he cares for EVERY individual. 

Our tiniest’s remains were released after two months in the mortuary. We declined testing but the hospital tested anyway, then apologised. We chose a private cremation instead of a communal one. We didn’t use an undertaker and took our baby’s remains from mortuary to crematorium ourselves. I’d been shown ashes caskets that were hundreds of pounds, instead we bought a simple little jar. The mortuary provided a woven casket and one of my happiest memories is our daughters running around in the sunshine decorating it with daisies. 

That morning I’d been thinking about how “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”(Matt 4:4) and how this whole experience had me fixing my eyes on the unseen, how in my physical bloodied distress my soul cried out, my spirit flooded in love and my hand lifted deep in worship. The power of our Lord had me singing in an A&E ward! Only Jesus! He does turn our wailing to dancing! 

On our way back from the crematorium “You got the Love” came on the radio. I’ve heard it loads before but listening to it that day was the first time I heard the gospel in it-

“When food is gone you are my daily meal”

My daily bread. The bread of life. Jesus.

“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:50-51. 

What joy in salvation! What peace in the unshakeable, unfailing, certain hope. Leaving nothing to do but rejoice because “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

Jesus Loves You

A good friend of mine called over the weekend and we spoke for hours. He wasn’t having the best of times. It broke my heart at how thirsty he was so I told him all about how much Jesus loves him. He couldn’t get his head around this type of love. 

“Well what if I am [like this] or I do [this] or [that]?” He asked. 

“It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to how much you are loved, how much you are worth and how much you are valued” I answered. 

That night he went out to a party and called me the next day to tell me about it. It sounded a lot like one of the free parties we used to go to together. He said there were lots of travellers there and during the night a man came up to him and told him “Jesus loves you”. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised but he couldn’t believe it because only I had ever told him about Jesus, all through his upbringing he’d been told to stay away from “all that”. And on the same day I had told him how much Jesus loves him, a stranger had appeared at a party, in the middle of the night, amongst all the drink and drugs and told him “Jesus loves you”. 

I thought it couldn’t get more amazing to have the revelation of God’s love in my life but to see how it unfolds in the lives of others is something pretty phenomenal. People think that finding God is about finding religion, doing to please, trying, working and searching. Truth is God is pursuing us with such ferocious unrelenting love and meeting us in the places where we least expect. Longing for us to go from turning away from him to turning to him. 

Rejoice

A couple of months ago I found myself spiritually lacking, the fire had gone, the comfort had gone, the overflow of joy was no where to be found. I felt lost. I felt like God had abandoned me. I blamed him for the tough journey I was facing. Why couldn’t life be straightforward, I succumbed to the fact that the pattern of my life had never been straightforward so what did I expect now. I was down on every aspect of my life. I whinged to God about it all and even complained that me and my family don’t go to church and I felt left out. But even in my angry rants and my sorry self pitying painful state, I couldn’t shake off the hope, the light, the certainty and the excitement that the turnaround was near. I waited on his word. 

It is such a good and impossible-to-comprehend feeling to have everything come crashing down around and to feel so weak but to have a well of hope bursting from the centre of your being, to sing praises in the pain because God is good, his plans are always good, every rocky path leads to a place that is good. 

I took the children to a free community event, after crafts and play we sat in a tea room tent. A group of belly dancers were performing and I was shrinking into my seat hoping I wouldn’t get called up to participate. After the audience participation was over, a man was introduced and began to tell his story. He articulated everything I had been feeling and his words sank so deep into my soul that tears uncontrollably started running down my cheeks. I felt embarrassed I was crying in a room of strangers and wanted to leave but no sooner than he’d put the microphone down I stood up, approached him and told him his words had really spoken to me. He spoke such words of sweetness and encouragement to me, “yes of course you can pray for me” I answered and he very simply prayed peace over me. He gave me a big hug and reminded me to always speak truth over myself. The next day I had a renewed strength. 

When we are in the wilderness we become acutely aware of our spiritual need, nothing and no one can satisfy but God and through the trials our faith is strengthened. We long for deeper and cling on harder and grow stronger to stand firmer than ever before. I love Psalm 63:1 David writes “my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you”. Jesus is always pulling us closer, he is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2) It’s so easy to get comfortable where we are, but He never leaves us stagnant, he lovingly disciplines us, guiding us in the right direction. He continually draws us in more so we get to know him more intimately, positioning us perfectly so we can see the unraveling of everything he has already laid out before us, leading us further into spiritual maturity. 

The weekend before last as I walked along a pier I got talking to a woman and as I was about to leave she pulled me back and prayed for me, she prayed with such power and authority about deep things that I hadn’t told her or anyone. As I walked back to the shore I couldn’t help smiling because that is the Church; in tea rooms, on piers, all over the place. The body of Christ, one in spirit. He in us.

The trials will come, the temptations will come, the spiritual battle is on but it’s not an ordinary fight because we are fighting from victory ground and “the weapons we fight with are not not weapons of the world” as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:4

So “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 

Pour

Last weekend I was feeling unusually down and withdrawn. On Sunday night I couldn’t get back to sleep, I was really cross with endless worries whizzing around my head. I starting ranting at God. Where was he? Where had all my joy gone? And then the word “POUR” breathed into my heart. Pour?…Oh, pour out my heart! So I stopped ranting and started pouring out all my problems, the worries, questions, stresses, then I fell asleep.

When I woke in the morning, I felt refreshed and immediately the flashback I had a month or so ago came to mind and I had a lightbulb moment; of course the after effects; feeling down, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, the sleeplessness. The flashback I experienced had been so positive (in comparison to previous), I hadn’t considered the aftereffects. I didn’t even twig two weeks ago when I started writing a blog post called “Trauma Timebombs” and wrote –

“Having a flashback is like an internal bomb going off, the effects ripple out to all areas of life.”

I hadn’t realised I had been experiencing the ripple effects until I poured my heart out to our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Prince of Peace.
When we pour out our troubles, He pours in – wisdom, comfort, healing, peace and joy unlimited.
And then I came across Psalm 94:18-19

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

And then I read about the return of the Ark in 1 Samuel 6 and my heart flipped a million times because right there is the character of God; always providing, fulfilling every promise, never leaving us, never failing us, preparing the way before us, giving us rest in the storm, constantly working for our good even when we are not aware of it, leading us safely through the fire, scooping us up every time we fall, fighting our giants for us, surprising us with the most wonderful gifts, turning devastation to dancing, brokenness to joy, sorrow to songs of thanksgiving. He has poured heaven into our hearts.

PTSD has caused so much destruction and aguish in my life but it is a bomb that has been defused by the greatest love I have ever known. It is rendered powerless to the Name that is above all names. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Made to Praise

The last ten days has seen us go to A&E twice, 2 emergency doctors appointments and I had my long awaited maxillofacial appointment which was great news (the bone in my affected jaw now looks even better than the healthy side). As one child recovered from a chest infection, my other daughter came down with one. My husband then got struck with a virus. I also had a flashback yesterday, my first in 2 years and it was so much more positive than my previous one.

Through it all my heart keeps leaping with gratitude. I feel we are all resting in this warm blanket of goodness.

Walking in a hospital corridor last week, a tremor of fear rose in me and my helpless heart leaned into the Lord. Fear was extinguished on his words “I’VE GOT YOU”. Such peace, wondrous peace. I’m so thankful for his heart bursting, soul igniting, truly unconditional love that is equal for every one. I will never be able to get my head around this kind of love, steady and unfailing.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:

Mountains

Mountains. We all face them at various points in life. How we choose to climb these mountains will make the difference in how much we enjoy the difficult journeys.

Most of my life has been a series of treacherous mountain ranges, I’ve wearily travelled through the black valleys of depression, faced the frightening jagged edges and avalanches of PTSD, the sweeping storms of self destruction, the fog and mist of abandonment and numerous blizzards of grief. My problems governed me, ruled me with fear, held me hostage, dictated how I lived and convinced me the best I could ever have was to work on myself to be able to manage my pain for the rest of my life. What a self-centred life sentence! But the wisest of man or darkest of demons can not contend with the supreme power of our Lord.

When we stand at the foot of a mountain, we beg for it to be got rid of or we plead for a way around it. We tend to limit God by our limited understanding. Impatient for answers. We ask why a righteous, powerful, loving God allows us to go through these terrible times. But our Almighty God doesn’t move our problems out of the way because he IS mighty. He shows us he is by safely, joyfully and peacefully leading us through them. When we put our trust in him, these difficult journeys allow us to experience his awesome power. A power that is far greater than can be described by human words.

It’s often these difficult times that break down our barriers and leave us so helpless that they push us to go from depending on ourselves or others to depending solely on him. When we open our hearts to know Jesus, not only in part with our problems but trusting him with our whole lives, we are set free. He freely gives us the fullness of life. He takes our burdens, extinguishes our worries, he shows us the footholds, pitches our tent, shields us from the storms, provides an abundance of healing and comfort, we can rest always safe and warm in his unfailing love.

God absolutely delights in every single one of us. He wants nor needs absolutely nothing from us. Love is not earned, it is freely given. He will never let you go, he will never leave you and he will always carry you through the storms.

 

A Thankful Heart

  
I’m good at grumbling, I’m so naturally great at it I make Morrissey look like Mary Berry. A couple of weekends back I’d had enough of my chronic illness. Tired & grumpy I left my husband & children and charged back off to bed. As I lay in bed frowning at the ceiling I prayed, “Seriously Lord, you give me 3 children to care for, how am I supposed to do that when my body won’t let me! I know you can heal me in a breath, why aren’t you healing me? I can’t take this pain anymore! Lord what do I do?!” Then my exhausted heart calmed “what do I do?” Suddenly peace fell upon me and a list of so many things I had to be grateful for started flooding into my mind. All these wonderful gifts I’d taken for granted since I’d woken that morning;- the gift that I’d opened my eyes, I was able to enjoy the soft sparkle of the sun. Blood rushing through my body, my heartbeat, oxygen, cells. Underneath my skin there was a busy network of a million miracles continuously taking place, keeping me alive. The part of my body that wasn’t functioning properly had grown so big in my mind that it had taken over my day but in that moment it shrank so minute in comparison to all the wonderful things that I had to be grateful for (in my body alone!) In life there will be hardships but there is always certainty in times of uncertainty -Jesus is enough to carry us through. His peace surpasses all understanding. He was not only reminding me to trust and be thankful, he was enabling me to do so.

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27) 
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). 

The immense power of his love for all of us has made it possible to dance in our turmoils, sing in our heartbreak, smile through our pain and have the wonderful gift of a thankful heart. What a faith building experience!