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 

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How did you wake up this morning? 

How did you wake up this morning? With sunshine streaming through the windows? Anxiety filled? With shouts of “Mummy!”/ Heavy with grief/ Excited for the day ahead/ On a pillow still wet with tears/ refreshed/ exhausted/ Having everything you ever dreamed of/ frustrated /angry at the world/ in a tender and loving embrace/ Still drunk from last night/ discovering an unidentifiable human snoozing next to you/ the happiest you’ve ever been/ shaking in the grip of addiction/ hurt/ isolated/ afraid/ lonely/ with wonderful plans for the day/ drowning in struggles / wanting to sleep and never wake up/ not knowing how to get out of bed let alone make it through the day or with everything just perfect?

However you woke up this morning know that Jesus will meet you exactly where you are. You don’t need to move a muscle, all you need to do is ask.

Unfortunately some religious institutions, our conscience or when we put our faith in the opinions of men or human traditions it makes us feel we have to dress up in our “Sunday best”, try to be a “good” human, bury our mess and struggles. It convinces us to use our every effort to change our behaviour, it can crush us with strict impossible demands, it can confuse, divide, anger or isolate.

Putting faith in religion can be so overbearing or leave us feeling total desolation in the absurdity of rituals.

The good news is you don’t have to make any effort at all. So however you woke up this morning, if you want to know Jesus, just simply ask him. You don’t need to try to change yourself or hide or disguise because we have a God who doesn’t mind meeting us in the mess, he is ready to heal, ready to turn our lives around, his love for you is bigger than any problem, shame or pain. He has dealt with it all once and for all at the cross. He will meet you wherever you are right now and wake you up in a way you’ve never been woken up before. 

“This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:4

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.

 

Loneliness in a crowded room

There’s a loneliness that’s very real even in a room full of people and sometimes the things/experiences/relationships that we expect to make us happy can sometimes leave us feeling the ache of emptiness so much more. Wherever we are there is NO situation Our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace can’t lead us out of and into the most indescribable deep joy. Please don’t despair, ANYWHERE you are just ask Jesus, believe in Him, depend on Him, trust him, hand it ALL over to him. He will come for you. 

Years ago I stood in a bookshop’s self help section looking for the possible causes for the ache in my heart; was it because I didn’t have enough of something or was it because of hurtful experiences. On the outside it was all fine; I lived my days for having fun but deep in my heart there was a relentless longing I couldn’t ignore, mask or fix. I went home overwhelmed and empty handed. Soon after, I broke and fell to my knees on my bedroom floor and turned it all over to God. I felt so sorry and told him I was ready for him to take the lead in my life. He came to me instantly. A crushing weight lifted off my body, the power of this release brings me to tears even a decade later. Then the most perfect, pure, powerful warmth of love flooded my heart. That’s the day I met our rescuer, our constant friend, our counselor, our healer, the light in the darkness, our restorer, the one who NEVER fails, the truth that exposes the lies, perfection that brings forward my imperfections, love in its purest form, our Saviour, our forgiving and gentle guide. After choosing to get to know Jesus I see his gentleness, I see that he had been there all along, he had been waiting for me through all those years but I hadn’t recognised him, I had doubted him, avoided him, even laughed at him. Whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or not done Jesus died for us. He overcame death to give us LIFE. He came to set us free; free from pain, free from misery, free from the punishment of death. Our hearts were not created for sadness, fear, depression, worry or grief they were made for full, constant, overflowing, everlasting joy and peace that’s found in union with our Creator.  

It’s been too long…

It’s been nearly two months! So it turns out that having three young children is actually quite a lot of work. I’ve had lots to write about but never seemed to dedicate enough time to type past the first paragraph. Our youngest went through a little phase of waking up at 4am for an hour which left me quite foggy headed during the day. Our 2&4 year olds have come up with a new song that they love shouting whilst jumping on our bed, before their evening bath. It goes like this “We got energy! We got energy! We got energy!” I’m usually crawling up the stairs and finding myself lying on the landing for a few minutes while my 11 month old excitedly pats me on the head. 

I got my first parking fine too! I took the girls “shopping”, we very rarely go to the shops so it’s always an exciting day out. I gave our eldest two the first letters of the shops we needed to go to, they love spotting letters in shop signs. I even managed to buy a top, a smart one! (It wasn’t just a case of buying one that I wouldn’t mind getting banana mush on). We chased seagulls, ate sandwiches and tried on anything that was pink and glittery. Just as we were about to leave I realised I’d dropped our baby’s hat (one that belonged to my first baby), so we retraced our steps but didn’t find it. We had parked in a quiet carpark (which I had always thought was part of the shopping centre) turns out there are two separate shopping places and there is a limited time customers can park there (funny how the signs with little black writing never seem noticeable until after a letter comes in the post and you go and check!). The fine was three times more the total spend of our trip!!! Luckily they took a bit off for early payment. I think we’ll stick to days out having picnics and picking wildflowers.

Spring is just so beautiful and we have had some lovely blossom fragranced walks. We randomly chose a spot on a map to drive to and ended up at Blean Woods, we had so much fun exploring and getting lost. Feeling the wonderful warmth of love Jesus pours out to all has made me appreciate nature with a childlike wonder all over again, it’s all just so perfect. The wind through the trees, the perfect structure of a kiwi fruit, the vastness of the ocean, the intricate pattern of the iris in my children’s eyes, it’s so breathtaking and powerful, full of peace, just like God’s love. 

I have had time to do a little illustration that I would like to give away for free. It’s one of my favourite verses from the bible. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been in tears for so many different reasons, praying desperately and wondering if God really was listening, and if he was why wasn’t he just sorting it out for me! The more we draw closer to Jesus, the more we trust and grow our relationship with him, he lets us know his plans for us. His plan is ALWAYS perfect, with perfect timing and ALWAYS a perfect solution and with a powerful comfort that is breathtaking. Problems and worry can really get on top of us, stop us sleeping, interfere with relationships, make us ill with stress at times. Jesus wants ALL our worries, wherever we are, sobbing on the kitchen floor, lying in bed at night, crying in the toilets at work, at our desk, on the bus, he is listening and waiting with open arms for you to just ask. Love is always whole hearted. When we give our whole hearts and worries to him and depend on him with everything we have he NEVER EVER fails us. 
Please email me with your delivery details if you would like me to send you this print for free (30x30cm frame not inc.)

thechrissiewhiteshop@hotmail.com   

      
 

Real Love

When I was five I would curl up on my dad’s knee. If I really concentrate I can smell his work shirt; the soap and sweat mixed by the Lagos humidity. His hands were like giant’s compared to mine. I was entranced by the magic of cigarette smoke as it whirled up, danced and disappeared in the air. I would press my ear to his chest, listen to his heartbeat and then find mine with my palm and try to match it’s beat to his. I felt so safe, warm and calm as my head rose and fell with every breath he took. This is my earliest recollection of feeling loved. When I was 18 I held his frail hand, desperately clinging to his fast fading safety and protection. I watched his silhouette as his chest filled with air for the last time. I somehow made sense of the movement of the nurse’s lips and the world dropped from beneath my feet leaving me suspended, lost. I ran out of the room and an unfamiliar noise was released from the pits of my being. I felt an almighty pull in a place in my heart that I had no idea even existed. Then it dawned on me, our heartbeats could never be synchronised again and I calmly walked back to his bedside. The curtain was drawn around us and I kissed his forehead. The cold clinical atmosphere filled with a glowing warmth that filled me with an incredible feeling of hope and an overwhelming feeling of love. It was beautiful. It was perfect.

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My granny was the first person to make me feel special. She wrote my name on a small card and placed it on a placemat, next to a Christmas cracker, on a beautifully dressed table in a big room full with family. She never mentioned my shyness, never made me feel awkward for not eating the vegetables on my plate. Her house was always safe, warm and smelled of lavender. She drove fast on the motorway and there was always a tin of sweets in the glovebox. She loved birds and could make marmalade. After dinner she would break up chocolate into a bowl and leave it on a side table next to me. We spent evenings playing scrabble in front of the fire. I was fascinated at how she could knit without looking. She was the first and only grown up who I wanted to talk to so much it felt like I could burst. She would take me out of the bath and wrap a huge warmed towel around me and sing Rub-a-dub-dub. She would give me Kim’s favourite ball and let us out onto her perfectly manicured lawn and tell me he had missed me which delighted me. She always made sure that I had a tuck box full of treats to take back to school. She sent me typewritten letters and handwritten postcards that radiated warmth. Reading them today still makes my heart warm. She always kissed me good night, made sure I was warm enough and left a blanket incase I wasn’t. Her presents were simple and thoughtful. She made delicious meals and then told me she had put carrots in. I’m laughing now because I’ve just realised what she was doing! She is the reason I stopped being fussy and why I have the confidence to hold a conversation. I couldn’t stand it when she died. One of my remaining childhood toys is a teddy she let me choose from the toy shop. He’s missing his red ribbon from his neck and he is sat at the end of my daughter’s bed. Writing this has made it clear how much of her has shone through in the way I mother my children. My granny provided one of my deepest experiences of motherly love.

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I soon discovered a love that no one could take away from me. Safety, warmth and happiness. I felt accepted, free, at one with the world. I finally felt truly loved and I loved everyone. My cheeks hurt because I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy. I wasn’t scared of dying and if I was to die what better way to go than this! This incredible feeling tingled through my arms and my legs. Waves of elation rose and flowed through my body and exploded from the top of my head. I could fly!
The come downs got worse and worse. It took more effort to reach any kind of state that helped me numb my heart. My newfound love hadn’t become weaker, I had become a maniac. The feeling of it’s “love” leaving me was like sitting cold and naked in a drained bathtub with a head full of tangled barbed wire trapping echoes of laughter and bass. I couldn’t bear the internal pain as well as the two facedness of whatever substance I saw in the palm of my hand. I had been tricked. Synthetic love was a clever little lie.

I have prayed since I was a child. During the time mentioned above there was only one prayer I said at the start, “God please don’t let this kill me”. I didn’t do much praying after that. Prayers like asking to pass exams when I hadn’t put the work in, praying to win on a scratch card, praying to be a day girl instead of a boarder. I had never got the answers I wanted. I once prayed to be born again, I recited all the right words but nothing happened so I shrugged my shoulders and felt I was probably not worthy.

One prayer changed my life, it was an ordinary day and I crashed to my knees. I was hopeless. I was done with life. I had failed. I had such internal torment but I wasn’t even sure why. Yes, I’d experienced bad things but who hadn’t? I had friends, family, health, a good life. On paper everything seemed fine. There was just an emptiness in the bottom of my heart I couldn’t live with. I was at home and I crashed to my knees and said the biggest and scariest prayer of my life, “Lord, please help me, I can’t do this on my own anymore. I’m sorry for all the wrong things I have done. I want you to take control of my life. Please, please, please help me.” I meant those words with everything I had. I was fully prepared to change and give up my life and anything in it. I was done with making stupid decisions that had resulted in emptiness. Suddenly, I felt a heaviness physically lift from my soul. The guilt, the burden, the heavy heart. Feelings I didn’t even know I was feeling rose from my body and disappeared. Just like that. Gone. It brings tears to my eyes because it was such a powerful release. I felt love pouring into my heart. A great love. It was so pure, I don’t have the gift of vocabulary to ever fully do justice to it because it was greater than anything I knew of this earth. This was my first experience of God’s love.

Have you ever seen the Elephant Melody scene in Moulin Rouge? That was exactly how I imagined my future husband and I to feel when we met. It was nothing like that, there was no singing or fireworks, instead a quiet, inexplicable and intense connection, the more I got to know him the more it felt like broken or disconnected pieces of my life were slotting into place. It was calm, natural and effortless. All was blissful for three years into our marriage then out of nowhere we were in our first storm.

This time last year I didn’t think there was much chance of us still being together now. We had gone from being the best thing to happen to each other to the worst to happen to each other. A marriage in crisis really is one of the loneliest places to be. I found myself praying again, desperately. I knew I had to be patient in these turbulent times but it was hard, I was convinced that after the difficult life I’d had that I was doomed to brokenness. I didn’t deserve a happy ever after. Old haunts, worries, intense self destructive thirsts came flooding back. I told myself I wasn’t even a good enough mother to hide my sadness from my children, surely they were better off without me. Many evenings I drove up to the cliffs and fantasised about the drop. The blackness seemed so inviting. Months passed and when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did, again and again. I cried at the horizon. I begged and pleaded “Where are you God, where are you?” I prayed and waited but nothing. I eventually decided I would turn away from God. He had answered my prayers for a family and a future but why was my marriage falling apart? This was a cruel trick, surely. Maybe it was a punishment? How could he ruin my life like this? But when I pictured my life without God all I could see was a bleak desert, cold and loveless. If it was true, if God really didn’t love me anymore then I would sit at his closed door because to be outside his closed door was better than a life without him.

The misery and rows continued. Our home became unbearable, we were strangers to each other, we circled one another emotionally wounded, a seething hive of eggshells and raw nerves. Utter confusion at how we had turned into enemies. We talked, we resolved, but every positive step got crushed. A mere word would splinter into foriousity. We were at war with each other day after day. Month after month. We faked happiness mid quarrel when realising we were being observed by our children. We avoided one another but to make arrangements on what the best was for them. Separation seemed to be the lesser of two evils. Marriage counselling expensive and with no one to sit with our children, impossible. The lure of divorce was everywhere I turned; quick, easy, cheap, and everyone seemed to be successfully doing it.

Then came our worst day of fighting, I sat on the kitchen floor clutching the phone after calling the Samaritans. “Martha’s” voice had been a welcome distraction but she couldn’t fix anything. Through the tears I repeatedly whispered, “Where are you?”.

My husband returned home with eyes still filled with hate. The rage between us continued so I walked out and went and sat beside our youngest daughter sleeping in her cotbed. I hung my head and lost hope. I conceded our family was well and truly broken. It was then that an incredible, vast, powerful, magnificent feeling of a love so pure, so brilliant, so wonderful descended into our home. The power felt like that of thunder, the room felt engulfed in a roaring fire but somehow the ‘flames’ were cool and gentle. It was perfect, perfect. So perfect. I was drawn back to the room I had angrily abandoned my husband in and we sat together into the night.

After a Church service the next morning, our lives had changed. The things we were fighting about hadn’t changed but everything had been fixed. Just like that. A permanent resolution that we could never have even come close to conceiving. Since that day our love has deepened and grown richer. I would have thought it madness or impossibility that I could have loved or felt loved by my husband more than I did the day we married, but that is what has happened. The depth is astonishing. We are now so strong in our union.

I was stunned for days at this sudden turnaround, but happier than I have ever been in my entire life. I will never forget that moment, the magnitude of purity of love that appeared. Have you ever seen elderly ladies singing to Jesus to take them home? That’s how I felt, the love I experienced that evening was so big, pure and perfect and safe I wanted to dance in that feeling for ever. Again I don’t have the words to do it justice. Divine intervention. Miracle. We are so blessed, so grateful and so happy. We have a new deeper understanding of one another and ourselves. We have the tools to move forward. I have a newfound and even greater respect for marriage and feel truly humbled to have been blessed to be in this position. Marital love is the greatest love of another person I have ever known. Marital love with the help of The Lord has been the most incredible and profound experience of my life. Just like that, he brought comfort, help and peace to our home.

In the weeks after I took a long hard look at my life. I remembered back to crashing to my knees and the certainty I felt of being prepared to change. I felt ashamed because I had to face the fact that in the years after I had reverted to my former ways. Old habits really do die hard. I thought back to the moment my Dad died, the sudden warmth in that room wasn’t his special way of saying goodbye to me after all and it wasn’t what happened when everyone died, it wasn’t a special sign he’d gone to heaven. I now recognised that presence. God was watching me then, letting me know that even though I thought I’d lost everything, he was there for me. Suddenly a well known poem I’d long admired finally made perfect sense, they weren’t my footprints in the sand.

My first child. The moment the blue line appeared, love drenched my soul. I felt deep inside there had been planted the most precious gift. I was protective of our baby from that moment. I even stopped swearing because I didn’t want it infiltrating through to my womb. When I first saw those little eyes blinking up at me I grew wings, I felt I could face an army of a thousand men if they dared to harm a single hair on my child’s head. I wondered where more love would come from for my next child, somehow it multiplied and again for my third! Limitless, unconditional. In the moments I look at my children the love rushes through me, their eyes stun me into a heavenly trance. Warm, real, beautiful.

I have said a prayer, in my head, every day without fail for each of my children from the moment I knew I was pregnant. Only recently have I started praying out loud with them but I hadn’t spoken to them about Jesus because if I’m honest I didn’t feel “qualified” as I am still learning myself. I had always been under the impression it was best left to the professionals like RE teachers at school or Sunday school. If I’m really honest, I’ve always felt a bit shy and rubbish at praying out loud. The other month my daughter had not been very nice to her sister. I explained to her how it might have made her feel. I put my hand on her chest and said it probably made her feel sad in her heart but it is better when we feel happy in our heart. Out of nowhere she asked if we could say a prayer. I was completely taken aback. She had made the connection. Our bedtime prayers had been the most basic prayers “Dear Lord, thank you for our warm cosy beds and help us to have a nice sleep. Amen” that was it! Nothing complex! I immediately knew she had experienced the warmth of Jesus’ love in her heart from when we had been praying at bedtime. And there was my answer, I didn’t need to teach her or explain it to her because just by sharing a simple prayer with her she had already felt it and her heart was speaking for itself. I knew in that instant she had experienced the joy of all the love she was ever going to need in her life. That is Love. Bigger than me. Bigger than anything I could physically provide for my children while I am here. Everlasting.

The love that I have experienced from Jesus this year has been mind blowing. It has changed my life. Feeling the absolute perfection and grace of his presence seems to have exposed the many imperfections in myself. Becoming a mother made me lose my thirst for swearing, drinking and smoking, now I have the joy of Jesus in my heart I have lost the thirst for all that is not of him. I thought I was a fairly good person on the whole, yes I’d done stupid things, regrettable things, but I wasn’t bad bad. How wrong was I! I need working on on a daily basis! On a minute by minute basis most of the time. Like a photograph slowly exposing, the more I seek to know Jesus, the more I feel his almighty love, the more my many imperfections rise to the surface and the more I am humbled by his magnificent grace. I’ve noticed that when my children know they’ve done something wrong, they cover their eyes with their hands or hide under a cushion, it made me laugh one day because I realised that’s what I did with God, the things I do and have done wrong, I try and hide, ignore and bury them hoping they’ll disappear! I have learnt that nothing is too shameful, embarrassing, or bad for God, nothing. He corrects with Love. This is exactly how I am striving to be with the upbringing of my children. I am learning from his gentle corrections. I have certainly learnt a thing or two in my behaviour as a woman, in my relationships with the people around me. I fall so short of the perfect beauty of Jesus’ love and everyday I am still learning to be guided by him in my heart.

God’s love is the greatest love I have ever known. I have learnt that it is up to me to make the effort to nurture my relationship with Jesus. He would never barge in on my life because he is love, of course love doesn’t force it’s way in. He is there the moment we say his name with our whole heart and from there everything is easy. He makes it all easy. He provides the answers, heals all the pain. Brings joy in devastation. Turns tears of grief into tears of happiness. There are many many lies, he is the truth. He is waiting patiently around us until we call, flowing in us the millisecond we do, perfect, forgiving, so forgiving, gently guiding. His is real love, we can’t see it, we can only feel it. It drenches our hearts making us want to do better, to live better and to love better.

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Jeremiah 29:11

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Matthew 11:28

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Proverbs 3 v5-6