Death to Life 

I used to think about death when I had to courage to. It can’t be that bad I’d tell myself, EVERY person will die, and billions have already died. I wished mine wouldn’t be too painful or gory, slipping away while asleep sounded best. I tried to comfort myself that we probably just switch off for good, with no memory. The truth that I would never have admitted is that it terrified me. I side stepped the fear by trying to live for the moment, after all we never know when we’ll get hit by a bus, as the saying goes.

It’s been over a decade since I crashed to my knees on my bedroom floor and I gave my life to Jesus and instantly he took my baggage; weight I had no idea I carried lifted of my shoulders. Love saturated my heart. Peace. My desires started to change, behaviours that had once felt so natural to me repulsed me. Then three years ago I had the most incredible encounter with the Holy Spirit, my eyes were opened, my ears were opened and my heart was set on fire. I saw who I was, who I had been, and how Jesus sees me. The magnitude of what Jesus did for me, for ALL, at the cross hit me like a meteorite. I once lived wide eyed in utter darkness, stumbling around on the road to death but now the God of the turn around, the God of the impossible, the God who never leaves us or gives up on us, whose love for us displayed so clearly on the cross brought me from death to life. 
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

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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

I was Blind but now I See

  

Luke 24:13
Jesus walks along with two followers returning from Jerusalem but they are kept from recognising him. I love that he asks them what’s wrong because God’s humour really shines through here, it reminds me of the playful excitement of a parent when they’ve got you your dream gift but haven’t told you yet. The two friends are so sad, they can’t understand what has happened to the one who was to save them. They had heard the news “Jesus has risen” but it seemed like nonsense to them. I love the way Jesus pulls out their feelings by asking them questions. 

We have a loving father who doesn’t give up on us even when we have given up, who walks with us even when we are unaware that he does, who is here to listen and take our worries and problems and breathe on us the truth that overcomes the lies.

Jesus explains everything to them. When they arrive at their destination, Jesus goes to continue on. It’s only after they urge him to stay with them, inviting him in and Jesus breaks bread and gives it to them that “their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared from their sight”. Then it hits home that it had been Jesus all along -“Were not our hearts burning within us as he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us”. And even though it was late and they had wanted to get back home they couldn’t hold in their excitement and joy and immediately return to Jerusalem to share the good news with the others.

When you urge Jesus to stay with you, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour, he comes to live in you. Your ears and eyes are opened to him, he gives you the wisdom to understand his word and a new heart capable of doing his will.

In 2 Corinthians 3:16 we read
“But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”. Just one encounter with the risen Christ will change your life for eternity. There are no special words, no special place to be, no special praying position, just a heart that says “yes” to receive God’s greatest gift. Jesus is walking right along side you now, waiting for you to invite him in, longing with such joy to give you eyes that see, to enjoy the beauty of his presence now and for ever. 

Annoying Christians

I’ve been around countless Christians my whole life, when I was younger there were a few that I found a little annoying. Funnily it wasn’t the ones who pointed out my faults, it wasn’t the ones who shoved the bible in my face, I could handle those people by laughing or walking off. No, the ones that really annoyed me were the impossibly calm and kind ones. They glided around as if everything was perfect in their lives. They were always smiling, kindness and peace endlessly shone out of them.

I remember sniggering at how boring it must be to make so much effort to be good all the time. They were nice, too nice, but I didn’t want to be around them, I lived my life at the other extreme of their lifestyle.

In my early teens I chose to stop going to church which I found either boring or cringey. I spent the next decade living to fill my life with everything I could. Hangover after hangover, comedown after comedown. I lived for me. I needed constant refuelling, more nights out, more holidays, more stuff, more experiences. Then one Christmas I found myself alone, my mum was out the country and unexpectedly feeling lonely I opened a bible (yep that’s how lonely I was!) and this verse jumped out at me –

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” Isaiah 66:13.

Those words shot through my soul like a lightening strike. Freaked out I slammed that bible shut and didn’t go near another one for over two years!

Because of my upbringing and because I believed in God I always labelled my self as a Christian. What I now know is I was a big hypocrite; I knew of Jesus but I didn’t know Jesus and had no desire to know him. I had long outgrown the sweet childhood stories I heard about him.

In my twenties I was at a point in my life where I hadn’t made any plans. As I had time to reflect I felt really tired, not physically but internally. There was a strange empty longing in my heart. I didn’t understand it because there was no obvious reason. I turned to the self help section at a book shop but was overwhelmed by the titles and every book became relevant as I’d experienced a lot of hurt in my life, but this emptiness was more than that, I went home empty handed.

Soon after that, I was alone in my bedroom and all the feelings imploded, I was done, broken I fell to my knees and I made a pretty scary decision, I cried out to God “I am ready for you to take the lead in my life”. I was a mess and I felt so sorry. Instantly I felt an enormous burden release from my body. A huge weight that I wasn’t even aware that I was carrying lifted off me! Then love came flooding into my heart. Beautiful, powerful, pure love. Wow. The ache in my heart disappeared. It has never come back.

At the time I didn’t realise the small changes that started taking place but looking back now I see my faith started to grow, I also started losing the thirsts for once strong and embedded desires – things that I’d depended on for happiness no longer had a hold on me. I even had the urge to read the “dusty old boring impossible to read” bible, it suddenly felt comforting to me. I didn’t understand most of it but I found hope in Jeremiah 29.11 and although I didn’t know the deeper meaning at the time, I trusted the promise of it.

Soon there came a major turn around in my life and within a year I became a mother and a wife. I thought I was in the home straight of life;- settled, sober and best of all I was secure in the knowledge God loved me. I was content. A few years later life turned bad, really bad. I started praying again, desperately. My faith was tested, I was broken and in a very dark place, I had nothing left in me but to trust God and wait. He showed up in the most mighty, incredible, no words could ever fully describe way! (However helpless a situation feels, God ALWAYS turns it around for good, at his perfect timing). I came out of the most difficult time of my life in absolute awe of how wonderful our Lord is, stunned at the incredible turnaround of my situation, completely forgetting the pain and trouble. His love, his power, his beyond perfect explanations, his wonderfulness overpowered the darkness. He breathed truth into me that exposed every single lie. He showed me an incredible love and attention to detail in my life in ways I couldn’t possibly begin to describe, a love that I definitely did not deserve.

The presence of his perfectness instantly exposed the depth of my imperfectness, the destructiveness of my vast sin and, most humbling, was the fact I used to categorise sin but it became perfectly clear that God does not categorise sin the way we do, it’s one category! I am utterly imperfect but incomprehensibly loved.

I begged to be wrapped up in this incredible love forever, powerful as thunder and so extremely gentle. I begged God to just take me with him, words that I never thought possible to come from me, a woman with a husband and children who I love so strongly. So I asked “if I can’t come with you now how do I stay close to you?” And suddenly my heart flooded – “JESUS” – and as if someone flicked a switch – I was able to see Jesus. As if an invisible screen had been lifted, I saw where he had been all my life, how he had always been there waiting for me, even through the times I had rejected him and laughed at him, it became crystal clear what he had done for me and I fell head over heels in love with him. What joy!

I now understand what peace that surpasses all understanding means and the joy in all circumstances. He really is the light of the world. Jesus never just said “hey I know the way, psst I know the truth, life is over there… ” he said “I AM the way, the truth and the life”. “I AM” !

Something strange also happened – I started to read the bible again but this time I understood it’s meaning. The book that was old and dusty and not easy to understand suddenly became alive and read like the most beautiful love letter. I had been given sharp fresh new ears to hear and eyes to see what God was saying. I finally understood what the guy who wrote “Amazing Grace” was talking about – “I was blind but now I see”! Life became so bright, I never even realised I was in darkness before light came in. I started to see strangers the way God sees them, totally precious and loved beyond measure. My heart became calm, totally content with an abundance of joy, continually being drenched in a constant love that has me singing and dancing and wanting to shout about Jesus from every roof top. He’s Alive!!! He loves you!!!! So much!

Now I see that God’s love is not to do with our efforts in being “good”, or practicing religious duties or trying to change ourselves. It is not by our efforts at all. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less. No matter how far we run, he is patiently waiting for us to turn back to him. He loves us and has made a way for us in Jesus. We need do nothing else, absolutely nothing else, but trust in him. 

“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.”

John 3:16