Made for More

As well as encouraging and kind words, the world has called me voiceless, strange, tomboy, oyinbo, spoilt child, abandoned, unloved, too white, half-caste, k**n, n****r, troublemaker, waster, s**g, druggy, victim, survivor. I’ve called myself worse at times; worthless, damaged, broken and I have also definitely not always been a voice of kindness and encouragement to others. Spiritually, unseen demons have harassed me, relentlessly chanting that I was hopeless, a mess, that there was no point in continuing to live.

But when I met Jesus my life changed forever and suddenly it didn’t matter what I, the world or the demonic labelled me because I knew whose I was, what my purpose was, where I came from and where I’m going. For the first time I had peace beyond understanding and joy I never knew before welled up from deep within me. His forgiveness and love for me meant I could forgive and love those who hurt me, bringing such freedom in the depths of my soul! My identity didn’t lie in my upbringing, the colour of my skin, my mixed heritage, being a parent, my religion, my addictions, my traumas, my achievements or my life choices.

From the minute we are born, the cry of our heart is to find our home, a place of belonging. We search all our lives, looking to find our identity in relationships of all kinds, expecting people to fill us, to “make us complete”, we make idols of people and call them “my everything” without even questioning the weight of that and whether those people even want and can live up to be “our everything”, we look to careers that will end, financial status that can change in the blink of an eye, religions that take take take, race, traditions, cultures, sexual identity, addictions, we are always searching for what satisfies. And none of it ever gives full and lasting satisfaction.

All these things can’t fill us because we were made for much more than what they can give us. God made us in his image and deep down in our hearts we know it very well, the longing is for our creator. When we allow Jesus to take his rightful place as Lord of our lives, everything changes. We no longer look to others or anything else to validate our existence because his presence alone sets everything right. The love he has for you is like nothing else. You are loved and his arms are open, always open for you to make the best decision you will ever make, to turn from being your own god to the living God. It’s a costly move; you are going to lose the life you know and all your desires for this world.

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew 10:39

If you just knew how much God loves you and the new life that is freely available to you! A life with a hope and a future! The world may have labelled you, condemned you, crushed you (and worse WILL come simply because you follow Jesus!) but God calls you “my precious child – I’ve been looking out for you, I’ve been chasing you, I was there all those times you thought I wasn’t, I’ve been waiting for you”

Luke 15:20-24

“So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

The Human Heart

God is for you. God isn’t against you. He grieves the things that have hurt us, the people who did despicable things to us. He fights for us so to breathe truth into our lives where others may have spoken evil things over us. There is so much suffering in this world and man in his finite mind thinks if he were God he or she could fix the world in an instant. Heal all those sick children, strike down those who murdered. Man? What would you do? Would you be as just to your relatives as you would be to a stranger who committed the same crime? If it were all in your hands, would your world be fair? Would you heal the sick child of someone who had taken the life of yours? And how would you deal with your own wickedness? Every thought you had to steal or a flash of wanting someone else’s home, possessions, spouse? Every time you’d lied or used someone’s else’s body for selfish pleasure and discarded them like rubbish or your relentless thoughts of revenge. The times you tossed a coin in a cup but didn’t bother to even look at the person holding it or like me even crossed the road to avoid them. All the times you did the very opposite of lift up and encourage friends, colleagues, strangers or loved ones. Our disputes with neighbours, keying someone’s car, wishing someone dead. So are the depths of evil in our hearts and we haven’t even got to the crimes that break earthly laws.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

You talk of how God, in all his power would make it a perfect world. We, mankind, are so far gone, in every way. Our hearts are evil beyond repair. Even the very ‘best’ (aka sinning in ways that don’t seem as bad or obvious as others’ sin) of us fall short of a Holy standard.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

So God looks at the world he made and the people in it, he sees the sin and darkness in our hearts and He comes, the Word made flesh. The only one, perfectly sinless, who could take the sins of the world. And this he does in his death at the cross; stripped, beaten and bloodied by men and it didn’t stop there, worse still, the unthinkable, God’s wrath against our sin violently came down on Him. Jesus is plunged into darkness, God’s love taken away from him, absolute spiritual torture and agony and all so that through him he makes the only way for us to be right with God. He lovingly gives us a choice to accept salvation, the free gift of life in him so we never have to remain in eternal darkness with God’s face turned against us. All the sins of all people, everything we ever did, thought and said and will do, think and say, all our deserved punishment came down on Jesus. Because God is a god of justice, sin is dealt with, it’s not ignored or covered up.

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Acts 2:24

And God raises him because death has no power over him and only in him and through him we walk freely and free into new life with him, where our sins have been exposed by his light, the light of the world. No longer slaves to sin, no longer ruled by guilt, shackled by shame, harassed by anxious thoughts and all the ways sin permeates and wreaks havoc in our bodies, minds and spirits – ultimately ending in eternal death, both physical and spiritual, an eternity in the absence of God’s love, holiness, gentleness, truth, justice, peace, life, light, mercy, grace, hope, healing, comfort, kindness, joy.

“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

John 3:20-21

When God’s holy, wondrous light blazed over me, it was the first time I saw myself as I am. Not the good or kind person that I thought I was but his light exposed the very depths of my nature and in an instant I saw that I was the worst of the worst. I understood I was wicked to the core but also God’s perfect love was pouring over me, his amazing grace poured over a wretch like me! Sinner that I am I was loved and because of the cross nothing can ever stand in the way of his love for me. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 and he has made me new “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

We no longer scurry about in the darkness, oppressed and in bondage by sin but are born again. We are given new hearts, hearts that are able and desire to do the will of God, hearts that have tasted and are filled with the goodness of God and so grow day by day repulsed by doing, thinking, saying anything not of God. Jesus went through the hardest unimaginable journey so we could easily come home to him. This is the love of God, this is how much he loves every single person on this planet. This is love.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

I forgive you, I love you

I was thinking about someone I had forgiven a long time ago. This forgiveness covered a huge hurt. As I was thinking about them, I saw that in forgiving them I was able to see beyond the pain caused. I was able to see the person. Just the person and I felt such love for them. I started to feel pretty happy with myself that I had been able to forgive such deep pain and then suddenly the tables turned – what about me? And who were the people who I needed forgiveness from? Pride immediately welled up in me as I told myself I didn’t need anyone to forgive me because I hadn’t done anything *that* bad! And then I thought back over my life and the floodgates opened; I had said, thought and done things that caused hurt, tears and sleepless nights. My choices with words and actions had caused countless people pain. I was sat thinking about one person I had forgiven but I hadn’t given any thought to the numerous people that I had hurt. I hadn’t given any thought to it because my pride blinded me to it. As I ‘sat down’ to take all this in, I found I ‘was seated’ right next to the person I had forgiven. We were in the same boat – two imperfect people who had caused hurt.

To give the words “I forgive you, I love you” is wonderful but to receive the words “I forgive you, I love you” is even more so.

Every single day I am absolutely floored by what Jesus did for me, for us all, at the cross. Floored that he took a sin filled, rotten to the core woman like me, took the punishment that was mine and defeated death to give us LIFE with him forever. A totally undeserved free gift. We have such a good God.

“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
John 7:37-38

Restoration

After a challenging family day out during our holiday I lay awake in the middle of the night trying to untangle my worries. Fear heavy on my chest as I convinced myself I’d got parenting wrong from the start. Then I started to pray, I gave God all my concerns and questions. This is what I love so much about our Lord;- his power, the strength, perfect peace and wisdom he gives along with sometimes just one or two word answers. The word was RESTORATION. With it came an instant coolness to my head and a lightening of my heart. 

In the morning I looked up its full meaning and have been marvelling about it ever since. Like a stone getting stuck in the tread of a hiking boot, short tempers & tantrums were niggling in the smooth running of our family. Seeds of negativity infiltrate and sprout so quickly, even between my husband and I. We needed to come back together. I needed to come back to Jesus not fight with impatience and fear on my own (notice how these feelings always bring division and isolation!). I recalled how the absolute flawless presence of our Lord, the unwavering pillar of truth had gently exposed the lies and filth in me but there was no anger, fear or punishment just boundless LOVE – My blind eyes were opened to the seriousness and vastness of my sin but at exactly the same time I felt the intensity of the love God has for me. The ultimate in gentle discipline! 

  
 At times my behaviour is no better than a toddler’s, my emotions can get blown around by my circumstances but not when I rely fully on Jesus to strengthen the foundations in my heart. He is the joy and peace in all situations. God never gives up on us. He waits for us through our tantrums, pride, sulks and the freedom we have to go our own way, waiting for us to turn back to him so he can set us on the right path. Just as a parent waits for a toddler tantrum to subside, he is always there to scoop us up into his arms the millisecond we stop kicking and allow him to. After the restoration of my heart came the restoration of our family, that evening we were at full peace with each other reading about the greatest love of all under the most perfect dusk sky.
  

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.  

Learning to love

  
Love was the one thing I was sure I did well but when God breathed truth into my life I saw that my standard of love fell so short of the perfection of Jesus. Being in the presence of flawless love instantly exposed all my unloving daily thoughts & actions. God’s explanation was so powerfully gentle; there was no anger, fear, guilt or punishment. I saw that my love only extended to the people I have in my life and occasionally to someone in need. His love is so perfect that I fail even to the people closest to me – 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

I have failed at EVERY SINGLE ONE! So what good is love if I don’t do it fully and fiercely? Why does the love that I choose to give have limits and conditions? Why is the amount of love I have for someone relative to how close they are to me or how good our relationship? Surely the love I have for the stranger in town should be just as powerful as the love for my own child. 

“Love your neighbour as yourself” 

I knew this verse and always felt, for me, it seemed impossible to obey; for example, I definitely did not love the man who raced me to the last seat on the tube when I was heavily pregnant. But I’d never read the verse before – 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

And *that’s how we love to full capacity! He breaks the barriers we set, he enables us all to love boldly, powerfully & unconditionally. By first being secure in God’s love for me (despite my many many flaws!) and experiencing how precious we are to him, it becomes crystal clear how precious EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this earth is to him so who am I to put up barriers on his incredible gift of love! If we choose every day to keep our hearts fully open to Jesus allowing him to lead us then His awesome, thundering, mighty, boundless love blazes through.  

Truth

Truth brings peace, calm and security. When I have lied; it made me feel guilt and shame. When I have been lied to; it was confusion and anger. Lies always need and breed more lies, this causes even more confusion. Some money went missing at work once, it caused suspicion, division, blame, anger, conflict, worry and unrest amongst colleagues. Even though I hadn’t taken it I found myself filled with fear that someone might think that I did. When the truth came out it restored unity and calm and no doubt brought freedom from fear and guilt to the person who had been dishonest. Only truth opens a way for forgiveness. Lies don’t allow this process, a lie keeps a person a prisoner in shame and guilt. When I’ve told a lie, I can see that my initial feeling is wanting to appear as truthful as possible. A lie always tries to imitate the truth. When we’re conned we have no idea we are being lied to until we find out the truth, only then do we see the trail of deceit and destruction. 

Unrest, division, panic, confusion, anger, fear, guilt, shame and insecurity are all symptoms of lies. In life, in relationships, our marriages, our families, in society, in how we feel about ourselves or in our behaviour. These feelings, however mild or intense should never be tolerated as a normal part of everyday life.   

By my pathetic self judgement and preconceptions about Jesus I thought I knew the things I had done wrong but I could never even begin to comprehend the extent of my sin, until I was shown. When I decided to put all my trust in God he breathed truth into my life, only then was I able to see my trail of destruction. I was able to see how utterly imperfect I am. Despite this God forgave me, drenching me with love, mercy and grace the instant I asked for forgiveness and gave my life to him in the quiet of my bedroom. By choosing to have a relationship with Jesus, he helps, teaches and makes it possible (by instilling a desire) to always walk in truth whatever our weaknesses and whatever situation we face. What a wonderful peace, calm and security he gives because He IS the truth. 


“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Words

Dear Friend,

As I walked home with my daughters, I was enjoying the heat of the sun and marvelling at what a pretty town we lived in. I felt lucky that we moved here. I took a deep breath and exhaled relief because I had recently come through one of the most turbulent few months of my life and everything was good again.

As I was crossing the road, I saw some people gathered on the other side. They took up most of the lowered section that’s built for wheeled access so I struggled to lift the buggy up onto the high part of the curb. It was no bother, I was in such a good mood that nothing was going to wipe the smile off my face.

The words you shouted hit me like bullets in my back. I was stunned. I felt nervous that some trouble was about to begin so I turned to make sense of what was going on. As I scanned the scene it struck me that everyone was still going about their normal activities. No one had even flinched. Then it sank in that you had aimed your comments at me. I tried to make eye contact with you to show my disapproval but when I saw you tip your head back with laughter my heart froze. I realised that the words hadn’t fallen out of your mouth by mistake.

Disapproval was quickly followed by disbelief. Disbelief was replaced with confusion. Confusion then turned into fear. An intense fear. Adrenaline took over and quickened my step, I needed to get my children as far away from you as fast as possible. I was shaking. I felt singled out, hunted down and very frightened. My heart was pounding and I felt removed from my body. I felt like I had been exposed and I desperately needed a pavement grey coloured camouflage to cloak us to escape your glare. I suddenly became very aware of my skin and I needed to disappear.

At a safe distance, I stopped to check my children were okay and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me that one was still asleep and the other too young to understand what you had said. More importantly, too young to see the real impact it had on their mother. I didn’t want them to sense that I was afraid. It was at this point I grew so angry that I thought to turn back to give you a piece of my mind. Had you not seen I was with children? I wanted to report you to the police. In my head, I scrambled for a witty one liner about you needing some geography lessons as I was, in fact, from a different continent than the one you had assumed. I wanted to mock you with the fact that I’m half English. As my anger spiralled out of my control I wanted to phone my husband and tell him that we needed to move and get as far away from this awful town as possible. I kept picturing you cackling behind my back. I was furious.

These horrid feelings were attacking my body and mind. But I didn’t want them to. I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to feel afraid and I didn’t want to feel confused. I tried to brush them off, pretend I felt fine. For goodness sake I am a grown woman, how could a few silly words get to me so much. But deep down I knew the weight of those words. I felt something change within and could foresee its effect on my self perception, consequently manifesting in the way I raised my daughters. I knew I couldn’t successfully mother them if I felt bad about myself. I couldn’t deny that I felt different somehow and I had no idea how I was going to deal with it. I felt sad as I faced and reluctantly accepted my new label, “Victim of Racial Abuse”.

Then I remembered Jesus. Instantly a warm gentle flowing of calm filled my heart and it became perfectly clear that those words that had come out of your mouth had not only intended to spoil my day but to do me long term harm. They wanted to fill my mind with negativity, anger and self hate. Their aim was to breed within me so I could never look at myself or others in the same way again. I smiled as I recognised and rejected those feelings with such ease, they have no place in my life. Confidently I told myself, “my heart has been filled with love” and love can never coexist with hate, fear, malice, viciousness or any other form of poison against our bodies. They are all lies and there is only one truth.

Now I am terrible at forgiving, it’s a struggle for me not to hold a grudge and those words you said really hurt. But when I felt Jesus’ love drench my heart then forgiveness became effortless, natural and instantly those horrid feelings were replaced with joy. A joy that carried me home that day feeling better and happier than before.

What you didn’t know was that when I was nine years old (probably not much younger than you are now) another boy used the same form of attack on me. He spat one word at me. I cycled home so fast that day and I never told a soul. I lay in bed, squeezing my eyes shut as I recited “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”, over and over. It didn’t work. I was still hurt. There began a journey of complicated self questioning that a young mind was not mature enough to handle.

It’s amazing, I never understood the impact that one word had on me as a child, until today.

From a young age I had been aware of my skin colour. My arm was always the arm classmates would compare their Summer holiday tan on. I understood that it was all natural children’s curiosity, it never had even a tinge of malice. It was the same type of fascination that occurred when someone turned up with a new Pop Swatch, new glasses, a Fanta yo-yo, a perm or their leg in plaster. I knew that this wasn’t the same. That word had struck me like a poisoned dart laced with a viciousness that seeped through my body and made me feel bad about myself. The colour wouldn’t rub off, yes I tried, so I was stuck with it.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I was brave enough to look at my skin again. I discovered there was a beautiful golden tone that ran through it. It looked healthy. There were tiny fair hairs on it that sparkled in the sun. Once I had recognised these qualities in my own skin, it wasn’t long before I started noticing others. I saw beautiful, rich, warm, smooth mahogany tones that shimmered in the light. Incredible pale translucent skin that was flawless. I saw skin splattered with freckles perfectly placed to highlight exquisite features. There were so many different skin types and tones and I began to see how much beauty there was in diversity. Once I’d realised this I was immediately transported back to the mentality I had as child; not to see colour. It’s been wonderful to witness this in the innocence of my children’s minds. When my eldest daughter was 2.5 years old she drew a picture of our family. She used a brown crayon for me and a pink one for her Dad and sister. I expected her to ask questions but she never did. It was just so natural and simple to her. She drew what she could see but she didn’t see that anyone was different.

So back to that sunny day to the moment our paths crossed. I have found that there is an undercurrent of hate in our world, and it will not breed and spread through me, however subtly it wants to. Vicious intent through words has existed long before you were born and I do not doubt that you are a good person with a good heart.

When I put my children to bed that night I said an extra little prayer just for you. I prayed for your happiness, that you would have wonderful people and experiences come into your life and that you would never be targeted by any form of hate. And if one day you happen to remember the moment you said what you said and maybe thought that it wasn’t really that funny after all, I wanted you to know that you needn’t feel bad about it. Please know that all is well.
I wish you good things.

Lots of love
From
The lady who, believe it or not, was once young just like you and who also thought she was a gifted comedian amongst her mates too.

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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