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. 

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Alive and Singing

As I walked through the hospital car park I saw a clown unloading boxes of toys and craft things from her car. It was three days till Christmas and I thought to myself how awful it would be to be in hospital on Christmas Day. I was 11 weeks pregnant and on my way to my first antenatal appointment.

That night I was woken by my 2 year old daughter who was having a midnight tantrum so I got into bed with her. My other daughter then woke from a bad dream a little while later. I hadn’t wanted to get out of my youngest’s bed because I didn’t want to wake her, so I spoke gently to my eldest and as soon as she heard my voice she immediately calmed, lay down and went to sleep. The reassuring power of just my voice to her ears amazed me, it was 3am and I was reminded of the relationship we have with God; at his word we lay down and rest.

When I woke in the morning I felt a small gush and thought “surely not, I can’t be losing my baby while I’m snuggled up to my baby”. I drove to the maternity unit at the hospital and they told me to go to A&E where I was assessed and waited for over an hour for the Early Pregnancy Unit to open. As soon as they opened I lay on the bed, had the blob of gel on my stomach and fixed my eyes on the screen. 

The first thing that hit me was the silence from the monitor. Little one was so still, just floating in the darkness. The sonographer was clicking away taking measurements and up flashed the words “8.3 weeks”. I wondered if maybe I’d got my dates wrong and also if babies so tiny have sleep cycles. The lady stopped clicking and turned to me and gently said “I’m so sorry. There’s no heartbeat”. Those softly spoken words were like a ten tonne boulder knocking the wind out of my chest. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed. She offered me baby’s scan pictures, which I was so grateful for. 

I was handed several leaflets and given three options; 1. wait for everything to pass naturally. 2. Take a pill to help everything pass. 3. Have an operation. I was offered a cup of tea but I just wanted to get home. Unexpectedly I felt a wave of thankfulness wash over me. 

I drove away from the hospital and stopped at a quiet place to call my husband to tell him our little one hadn’t made it. 

I then went for a walk at my favourite beach and talked with God. I knew that the hospital diagnosis was not the final diagnosis. I knew that the situation could turn around. I knew that God could breathe life into my little baby, that starting that little heart again was no big thing for our Lord. I was hopeful for a miracle. But on my way back my heart spoke the words “your will be done” and because of that I knew that it was possible that things may not go the way I so desperately wanted but I was safe in the certainty that what ever happened the situation was covered. I stopped to offer to take a picture of a holidaying family, their beaming smiles filled me with warmth and then I spotted a tiny green shoot growing from the sand and I was deeply moved; against all odds this tiny shoot was thriving.

When I got home we gathered in the children’s bedroom and sat on the bed and my husband and I told our daughters that the little baby we told them was coming was no longer going to come. 

I spent the rest of the day feeling well, intermittently quarrelling; “really Lord, surely you can’t sandwich me in between the death of my father and my child!” and pleading “please just let me keep my baby, please” and crying “I said I wanted five children, did you not get the memo that I wanted them all alive!” but through all the anguish my heart always peacefully concluded with “your will be done” and with great confidence “I stand on your word” and “You are the God of LIFE not death!” I spoke life over myself and the child inside me. I slept very well that night and felt good for most of the next day and then the pains came.

Contractions came fast and also the non stop urge to keep going to the loo. I was so naive about the physical process, I didn’t realise I would be in so much pain. I’d given birth three times, spoken to countless midwives, had antenatal classes, did biology at school, read articles and knew people who had been through this and from the little pieces of information I stitched together I assumed I would just bleed a little and a tiny baby, either that I could see or inside a tiny jellylike ball would come out. The pain and the vast amount of blood I experienced was staggering. 

The contractions were so painful I was having to breathe through them and position my body leaning forward over cushions much like I did in my previous labours. I kept going to the loo and then I started passing small clots. I inspected every one in search of my tiny baby. In between reassuring me, my husband was successfully keeping things calm and normal for our children and just as he was putting them to bed I grabbed a sieve from the kitchen and asked him to find me a plastic container. I was determined our baby was not going to end up in the toilet. 

I crawled back up the stairs and across the landing in agony. Then I passed two fist sized clots, I assumed the largest had the baby inside and kept both in the container. I don’t know if it was the sight of all the blood but I started to feel extremely unwell, like I was going to black out so I asked my husband to call an ambulance. 

I was so relieved to be in the ambulance with gas and air to manage the pain. They elevated my legs to get my blood pressure back to normal. When I told one of the paramedics how much pain I was in he gently said he understood and I was so grateful for this. They then slid me onto a bed at the A&E ward and I continued to breathe heavily through the gas and air mouth piece. I was very aware that the ward was full, the desk in the middle of the room was busy with people coming and going and the privacy curtain remained open. There was a moment where because of the effects of the gas and air and contractions, it triggered memories from my previous births so I forgot for a moment and I had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to hold a warm 7 pound baby in my arms at the end of this and I just broke, sobbed and groaned “no, no, no”. 

At the same time they were having trouble getting a line into my vein and after multiple attempts had to use ultrasound to find a good vein and I was eventually given morphine and I felt its warmth spread through my body dulling the pain and contractions, I was relieved to be “back in the room” and not so dependant on the gas and air.

A doctor then asked to examine me. I agreed. She asked if she should remove anything she saw. I agreed. I had already assumed baby had come out, retrieved in the container but I didn’t know where the box had been put. I put my head back, closed my eyes and forced my body to relax. Then the incredible happened, I raised my hand pulling all the attached tubes with it, twice I felt the doctor pull my hand back and tell me I could hold onto her arm but I pulled away both times, I didn’t need or want anyone’s arm, I was reaching up to my Lord. And then I began to sing, over and over, my heart filling up and overflowing with gladness – 

“There is none 

None like you

Who can know my heart like you do

For all creation sings your song

I will join with them declaring your glory”

(United Pursuit – “Met By Love”)

I was totally lost in worship by the time the doctor confirmed that there was still something there but it was too firmly attached to remove. Knowing now that this was baby, I’m relieved she couldn’t. She then took her gloves off and leaned in to speak to me, 

“I know what you were doing. I’m a Christian. You are too?” 

“Yes” I replied. 

She looked at me, visibly moved she said “you’ve really shown me something.” then she paused for a moment and asked 

“What are you thankful for?” 

And these words tumbled out of my mouth 

“Life. I’m thankful for LIFE”

In that moment I saw that God was showing not only the doctor but both of his precious children something that day. Even though I was broken, bruised, battered, at the lowest point in my life so far, laying soaked in a puddle of my blood, devastated at the loss of my precious child my spirit was ALIVE and SINGING! I was welling up with such joy and soaked in nothing but the sweetness of his love. Not even being in this tragic mess was able to stop me enjoying a glimpse into the never ending joy in eternity. 

I was taken to a ward where I had a comfortable night and no more blood loss. I asked for some disposable bed pans as the doctor had later confirmed the two big clots I brought in the container, which was found tucked under my coat, were just clots. She showed me how they were soft and broke up easily. 

I went through about six bed pans and nothing. 

I woke on Christmas morning blinking at the blue curtain around my bed. My baby had died and it was Christmas Day, the celebration of the birth of the baby who changed the world forever. In Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection we have been given new life. The old has gone and the new has come, we are a new creation, born again. The greatest gift from a Father who loves each and every single one of us so deeply. A gift that is for EVERYONE and ANYONE to simply receive. It is because of Jesus that we are no longer left floating in darkness, no longer to live life spiritually deaf and blind, no longer under the punishment of the death we all deserve, no longer steeped in sorrow and pain and fear but have the free gift of eternal life. 

“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.”
John 3:16-17

Because of Jesus I have full rest. And once again in my darkest distress he has carried me through, never leaving my side. No words can ever come close to describe this kind of love. I am continually filled with such awe and wonder.

Another doctor came to review me and go through my options. He impatiently said if I had an operation I could be out the same day but if I waited it could be days. I’d been told earlier I’d have a scan to see what was going on in my womb but he immediately dismissed this and said “maybe so with a viable pregnancy but not for one that isn’t”, his manner was as cold as the clip board he held like a shield between us. I told him I wanted to wait for nature to take its course. 

Not long after I went to the loo and a large oval shaped sac slightly bigger than my fist dropped into the pan. It looked very different from the clots and was firmer to the touch. I called the nurse to check and she took the pan away and returned to confirm that the sac was baby. I was desperate to see my baby and asked if I could so she asked me to wait. She returned gently cradling and placing a new smaller disposable pan on my lap. Her manner was filled with such kindness and understanding. She explained the sac was still in tact because hospital policy did not allow them to open it. A doctor joined us and we went through the details of what happened next and I refused any testing on the little one’s tiny body. 

My husband arrived with the children minutes later just as I was walking back to my bed. I was discharged not long after so we were able to spend the rest of Christmas Day at home together and my husband cooked the most delicious meal. At times it felt a bit like I was sat in a glass box with the sound muted when I saw the happiness and laughter on tv or online but remembering what a Christmas like that felt like made me smile.

It’s the 2nd of January today and I have physically recovered very well after we all had a few days restful break with family. Our bodies are incredible and amaze me time and time again. 

We named our baby Albie. My heart aches for our little one. My womb screams for my baby. The pain is immense and the grief so deep. I love our baby so much and no one else will do. But when I search deeply for my child all I see is smiles, BIG smiles and then I can’t help but smile. The joy overrides everything else and I am so thankful. The first word I squealed when I saw those two blue lines was “hello!” and I know with far greater and unimaginable joy I will say hello again. 

I am so grateful for a Father who cares, really cares. Who never leaves us, will never abandon us. Who takes the time to explain things to us, guides us, comforts us and tend to our every need. Whose love for us -those who know him and those yet to know him, is beyond description. One thing that really hit home for the first time and gave me such deep peace is that God knew all this would take place before I was even born. All the tragedies I have faced and am yet to face. We have a Father who has gone before us. When we read –

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

This isn’t a little bit of friendly advice to keep your chin up and try your very best not to fear or be discouraged. This is the reality of being in his presence; where fear and discouragement simply do not exist.

I was given a Chaplain’s phone number as we were offered a communal cremation. During our conversation I told him I had given my life to Jesus years ago and his response was silence. I asked to see the words on the service sheet, which he emailed. 

“No singing?” I asked 

“No singing, but some appropriate music played at the end” he replied. 

How can I stand drearily repeating words passed down through religious tradition, how can I stand in an environment only allowing us to be sombre and full of grief when my heart is bursting with songs of worship, praise and thanksgiving. There’s no way, I just can’t.

 
How much more wonderful does it get! Every time I’ve witnessed God pour out the incredible and it makes me think that it surely can’t get better than this, he takes me to a place a million times better. My heart is joyfilled and guaranteed it will always be, grief runs deep but His love runs deeper. 

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God,but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
John 1:1-19

Rest

I woke up last night fully clothed and not in my own bed (I thought this kind of thing had stopped once I stopped going out!). Last thing I remember was shutting my eyes for an early evening snooze then being woken by my 2yo who was having a midnight tantrum. So I got into bed with her and then not long after I was woken by my 5yo who was sat up and crying because she’d had a bad dream, I didn’t get out of my 2yo’s bed for fear of waking her so I spoke softly over to her “It’s okay darling lie down and go back to sleep” she immediately stopped sniffling, lay down and went to sleep. It was 3am and in that moment I was reminded how God cares for us. He speaks to us and at his word we lay our head down and rest. I didn’t know at the time but this gentle night time reminder would stand me in good preparation for today. All day this verse keeps breathing into my soul “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27. God is always speaking to us all, those familiar with his voice and those yet to be. He is the whisper of hope in devastating times, the warmth in the bleakness, the nudges of gentle encouragement when the storms come. When we stand on his word there is nowhere to go but to enter into peace, the full rest. 

Block Printed Wrapping Paper

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.

 
Materials

1 roll of Plain wrapping paper

Block printing ink

Ink tray

Lino cutter

Ink roller /brayer 

Lino sheet

Paper

Pencil

Marker pen

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.


5. Apply a very thin layer of ink after each print for an even finish.

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!

Reading the Bible

Two months ago I finished reading the bible, it took 26 months. I’m not a big reader, I absolutely hate reading, the first thing I do with a book is flick through to find pictures. Years ago I tried to read the bible because I was intrigued, I started at the beginning but didn’t even make it past Genesis 1. It was big, old and boring. Some snippets I randomly read were lovely, some frightening and I couldn’t make any sense of it. But then I met Jesus and my heart was changed. This time I read with such excitement, starting at Matthew through to Acts then Revelation and then the letters. Finishing the New Testament I began the Old Testament at Genesis through to Deuteronomy continuing with intervals of the later OT books, then finishing with Psalms. 

This incredible book is no ordinary book. Some say it holds secret codes. Others say it’s just a load of fairytales. Truth is you can be the greatest bible scholar, the most respected theologian, attend church religiously but still not grasp it’s meaning. It’s possible to know the bible inside out, read it daily but be as the Jewish leaders that Jesus told “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40

But it was never intended for human wisdom. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. In our spiritual blindness and deafness, to which we are all born, it makes no sense to us. But God who loves you, who can not stop lavishing you with the best gifts freely gives you the eyes to see and the ears to hear. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” James 1:5

The whole book is centred on the greatest gift you will ever receive. It shows us the love of a Father who never gives up on us when we rebel, run, fail and fall time and time again. Who cannot stop giving us incredible gifts, who is righteous and just. We see a Father who is faithful in his promises, displaying his incredible love for all at the cross.

In poetry or songwriting, readers can come to many different conclusions about the meaning of a poem or song. But the only person who can ever give you the truth about it is the author. We know that “All Scripture is God-breathed” 2 Timothy 3:16. The big question is are you willing to go to the author to receive life? 

I now call the bible the greatest love letter. Somebody asked me what I’d do when I finished reading it, my reply “read it again and again and again of course!” Same as a love letter!! 

As I came towards finishing reading the bible, I began to wonder what the last verse I would read would be and it couldn’t have been more perfect; I was overjoyed when I read Psalm 150! What joy there is in his presence that our hearts overflow with praise now and for all eternity! 

Light Party 

It was such a treat to spend time just me and my eldest on Halloween night; to take her out for dinner, watch the sunset and then go to a light party with music, games and glow sticks. During the evening pumpkins were given out to prep and while we scooped out all the seeds and placed a light inside, a lady spoke of this being like what God wants to do with our hearts; take out all the sadness and mess and fill it with light, joy and peace. I thought it was a really lovely simple way to interpret the verse “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 

If you are someone who is yet to encounter the magnitude of God’s love, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are he is ready to drench you in it the moment you ask. Do you have to earn it? Definitely not. Do you have to try and be good or do good things? Not a chance! Do you have to try and change yourself? Not one bit. Do you have to hide all the bad stuff? Absolutely not. You have a Father who has dealt with the darkness and is ready to ignite the heart that asks a with the light that can never ever be extinguished.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 

Homemade Sparkly Scented Play Dough

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

Food colouring 

3-4 drops of glycerine

Essential oils

Vanilla essence

Bowls

Wooden spoons

Plastic containers to store play dough 

Glitter


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. 


2. In a separate jug add 2-3 drops of essential oil (or 1tsp vanilla essence) to a teaspoon of grape seed oil and glycerine.

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. 


8. Work into a soft ball and store in airtight containers when finished with


If you feel the dough needs refreshing at any point rub a few drops of grapeseed oil into hands and work though the dough, it moistens the dough and your hands!