I’d be a mess. I’d be angry most of the time, at myself and anyone who was close enough for me to take it out on. I’d be broken inside; chasing every numbing high that could soothe the helpless pitiful feeling. I’d crumble when thick darkness flooded over. I would still have outbursts of self harming. Grief would have overtaken me. I would have sabotaged my marriage a long time ago. I’d be hounded by abandonment and PTSD, consciously and unconsciously it would rule my life. I wouldn’t be able to muster up an ounce of forgiveness. I would be a survivor, not an overcomer. I wouldn’t cope with being a mother because all I’d crave was to be mothered. I would spend so much time nursing my hurts that I wouldn’t have anything left to give. Giving wouldn’t even cross my mind. I would have no desire to control my tongue, I would still be spewing thoughts and talk of all kinds of evil from my heart. I would have no control of what my flesh desired. I’d be cowering to all the demons day and night. Depression would play Russian roulette with me. I’d be held hostage by all forms of fear, scream inwardly and regularly wake up crying. I’d be spiritually dead in the darkness speeding towards my grave. I’d have no idea what deep unshakeable love, peace, freedom and joy was. I would live looking like I had it all together. But Jesus, my rescuer, my healer, my hope, my home, my future, my restorer, my strength, my freedom, my peace, my joy, my gladness, my eternal life. He loved me when I didn’t want to give Him any room in my heart, loved me when I rejected Him, He loved me when I laughed at Him, loved me when the cross was a load of foolishness to me, loved me when my lawless heart chased, did and thought anything that it desired. Loved me until the crushing pain of choosing life without Him became too much and the moment I called to Him He took the burden off my shoulders, scooped me off the rotting floor led me to an open place, gave me the mountain top view of my living. He breathed life into me, poured joy over me, opened my eyes to see, unblocked my ears to hear, gave me a new heart, put His Spirit blazing inside me. Jesus changed EVERHTHING
Find a mirror, take a breath and breathe onto it.
News of a beautiful baby born and more joy with another arrival. A midnight phone call, coma, ongoing critical care. A message received, illness, treatment, recovery. Waking up to the news of the death of a loved one. 5 lives. 12 days into July.
Are you ready for what is to come?
My soul was pressed yesterday and in that pressing a song erupted from deep within “we thank you for the cross”. Thank you Jesus you did not leave us in despair, darkness, bleakness, blackness, dead in our sin. I rejoiced singing at the top of my lungs because what a Father we have. Thankful we have hope, peace, joy, love, truth, light, a future and an eternity in His perfect presence.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
We are good at making plans, booking holidays years in advance. Finalising our retirement plans. Talking of tomorrow as if it’s a given but we can’t even secure anywhere near the next millisecond of our lives.
How much thought have you given to what will happen to you when you die? What ever conclusion you have come to, are you certain?
Are you certain?
Are you certain you will be reincarnated? Are you certain you will be floating around in the atmosphere? Are you certain you will disintegrate until no trace is left? Are you certain you will go and sit on a fluffy cloud with loved ones? Are you certain you are headed for heaven? Are you certain there is nothing more? Are you certain that no one can ever be certain of what comes after death?
We see that our bodies decay, so what about the part of ourselves that we don’t see physically? Our spirituality? The unseen. Do we just switch off? Does that part of us even age and decay? I’ve heard a few over 90’s say they still feel 19 inside.
We are on this earth for a little while then we are gone. A mist that vanishes. Life is short and death is certain, I plead with you to be certain about who or what you have put your trust in when you take your last breath.
I know that lies cannot uphold, so when we put our trust in a lie it will crumble at the slightest testing. Truth stands firm and is unchanging.
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6
With truth comes certainty. Truth floodlights every single lie. There are many lies but there is only one truth. Truth is a person, his name is Jesus.
Take a deep breath and breathe onto a mirror. Your life is a mist. Here and then gone. If you desire to receive life, in this short life and for eternity, then simply ask Jesus.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
A lovely little surprise at my Birth Afterthoughts meeting when the midwife said I could look through my hospital notes if I wanted. And there it was, my baby’s name, my beautiful, strong and shiny one always reminding me of how much love, hope, joy and peace we are lavished with in the midst of the darkest of horrors. The best is yet to come. Only Jesus. King of Kings and Lord of Lords, HE turned my mourning into dancing. No one cradles us in our anguish like he does. The ongoing care and attention to the smallest ripple of anxiety to the excruciating heaviness of heart, in my weakness his strength never fails to gently thunder in.
There is no better place than “Lord I don’t understand what is going on but I trust you. Thank you” “Lord I’m afraid but I trust you. Thank you” “Lord I feel so sad right now but I trust you. Thank you” “Lord it hurts so much but I trust you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you” and scripture that breathes into our souls at the exact time we need it; When my womb and arms ache for my baby – “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
When I’m afraid it was it something I did?- “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10”
When I fear it will happen again – “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
When I think of the horror of the death that took place in my womb – “he is risen” Matthew 28:6
He is risen!
My daughter needed a Halloween themed costume for her ballet class, she described what I should make and said she wanted it to be really, really scary. Her costume was at an early stage where it could have gone two ways – light or darkness. She was adamant on darkness as it was more scary.
“You know….” I said “you know what is more terrifying than anything?”
“Light shining in the darkness”
“Because when light shines in the darkness it exposes EVERYTHING and THAT is terrifying”
This simple conversation made it hit home to me the power and freedom we have been given in Christ; the incredible gift we have received that saves us from stumbling around in the bondage of utter darkness to walk free and fearless in everlasting light.
We are all born separated from God; spiritually dead. We live in total darkness, deafness and blindness. We go from having an inkling that something isn’t right within us to total brokenness and questioning about who we are. We wrestle with confusion, fear, guilt, shame. No coincidence that all these feelings are rooted in and only produced by lies. I’ve heard people talk of living with some or all of these crushing burdens and in some cases don’t even know why.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 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 3:19-21
It’s no good measuring ourselves against people who have done worse in our eyes and concluding “well I’m a good person” because when we truly see ourselves in the full light of perfection Himself, God who is pure holiness, we ALL fall short. (Romans 3:23)
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5
I spent a lot of my teenage years and twenties out clubbing. We’d spend ages listening to music and getting ready and drinking, making sure we didn’t cross that fine line that would result in a bouncer not allowing us in. Once inside, thumping deafening music would leave ears ringing for days and the only communication possible would be a signal to your friends that you were going to the bar. More drinks led to more loss in vision but then from across the room you see him. ‘Wow’ you think ‘who is this guy and why didn’t I notice him before!’
You stumble through the dry ice and blackness and shout into each others ears. Quickly breaking the pact you made with your friends, only an hour before about sticking with the girls, you spend the rest of the night dancing as if you and this man have suddenly been superglued together. Then the dj announces the last song of the night and as you admire the hottest human being you’ve ever seen standing in front of you, the lights come on. Now you see the truth and so does he!
Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but to free us, to rescue us from everlasting darkness and take us into everlasting light, bringing us from death to life. To free us from the bondage and punishment under the power of sin to having freedom and power over sin.
When we come to light himself, all our deeds are exposed, we see clearly who we are, who we have been, where we have been, who we were made for and where we are going. The truth shines so bright that all the lies are exposed. And because of what Jesus did for every single one of us at the cross we are not left terrified but met with loving open arms filled with grace. Amazing grace! And through the resurrection we are given new life, born again, not of flesh but of spirit. When we choose to receive this gift we are instantly sealed with the Holy Spirit, we have God Himself dwelling in us.
“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” John 1: 9-13
God always gives us the freedom to choose, love always does and God is love. We can go on in futile attempts to cover our sin ourselves, working to be a good person or we can receive God’s incredible gift to us and rest in full confidence, covered permanently by Jesus taking it all for us at the cross. Do we go on in darkness or do we turn to him?
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18
At the end of last year we began making some big changes so we could have a better balance in some aspects of our lives. During this time we had huge devastation hit our hearts. So much changed overnight and so much was changing along side this. It’s been seven and a half months since we left our old home and we still haven’t decided on a location that will work best that we can call home. This season of my life has felt like I have been stuck swimming against a rip tide. I can still see the shore but fighting against the current of many continuing hardships and getting pulled further out to sea. I’ve felt tired, drained and worst of all spiritually exhausted.
The Flesh v The Spirit – this title has not left me over the months, I knew I was living this battle out and knew I was ‘Martharing around’
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
A few days before we left our old home, as it was my birthday, I chose what we should do that day and one was to join the church, which was linked to a playgroup the children and I had attended for many months, for a Sunday service. I was sad about leaving all that was familiar and worried about the unknown. The presence of God flooded that room so much so I was in tears, his love drenched my heart so powerfully and tenderly. The sermon was about our identity but a totally different message was imprinted on my heart, it was simply –
“Don’t be afraid to step into the fire”.
I came away at full peace, knowing the future would be hard but it would be just great and that God had the details covered.
I moved around many times in my childhood and adolescence, my parents worked overseas for long periods so school holidays were spent making sure I got to where I needed to be. I was 13 or 14 when I travelled from Leeds to London and checked into a hotel by myself, setting my portable alarm clock to make an early flight to Lagos. If staying in the U.K. I was either getting picked up, dropped off and journeying around the country to stay with relatives or family friends. I really relate to Paddington Bear because I always seemed to be lugging a suitcase around.
This type of living provided me with great emotional and physical independence but also a huge craving for a secure base. Fast forward twenty five years and I here I was feeling the same well into my adulthood. I didn’t want to step into the fire, I wanted to stay in my comfort zone at the perimeter, toasting marshmallows and enjoying the warmth of the glow. Anything but in the fire! But one thing I know is that God doesn’t keep us in our safe spaces, what he does do is keep us safe in the unsafe spaces.
We made plans, plans fell through, circumstances changed and we hit stumbling blocks. I became more frustrated and more focused on making sure our children continued to have access to fresh air and countryside rather than packed tube trains and the rush of city life. All my creative materials and equipment are still in storage and with limited space to design and make this contributed to more frustration. Also without our old community we were having to and still having to forge a new one.
I made myself busy being busy but I knew my worries were all of the world. Like Martha I was distracted by everything that had to be done. I was being carried off by my fleshly desires and I was not at peace. Still struggling against the tide, my moods accurately reflected my constantly changing and uncertain conditions; up and down.
Then there came the day where clarity hit me like a ton of bricks. We were at a museum for the day and as we were leaving the family rooms into the main foyer one of my children refused to budge and was crying loudly. A staff member made a gesture to me that I should try and keep her quiet and I just snapped. I thought ‘wow in six years of numerous tantrums, I finally found the lady who can quieten a child mid one’. I was so cross and stormed over and let her know what she was asking of me was ridiculous. Turns out that a child *can* be quietened mid tantrum when they see their mother have a tantrum too! That evening I went over what had happened and truth smacked me right in the face; I was not at peace.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22
Here I was with all of God’s riches there for the receiving but I’d been led by my flesh. I felt just as the prodigal son when he realises his situation after eyeing up the food for the pigs (Luke 15:11-32). My planned letter of complaint turned into an apology letter which was passed on and received by the lady.
Aren’t open arms the best? Even in times when I haven’t had the will to sit down and read scripture He has breathed His word into me. There are two verses that have been nudging me along over the last few months. The first, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:6
Even at the times I’ve judged myself too far gone and beyond help or hope I’m continuously reminded we can come boldly into his presence because we have been clothed in His righteousness. This can not be changed, it can never be taken away. It is eternal. The greatest gift!
The second verse that kept breathing into me was, “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matt 8:20 & Luke 9:58
Where was my home? Was my home dependent on my physical comfort, worldly possessions, security of a house and the continued presence of loved ones around? What happens when some or all of these are stripped away. Where was my Home?
One simple prayer I found myself saying during these months was simply “Lord, bring me back”. It is never by our power to change or do the work but by His to change and do the work in us.
I love love love the lessons the Lord teaches us in our hardships, how he draws us nearer to him. How every difficult circumstance is an opportunity to learn moment by moment and not rush through in frantic search of an escape. In the midst of this blazing fire he has shown me Home. He is home. We can’t even rely on our own bodies to keep us, as time passes they get older heading straight to inescapable death and decay but what joy that our spirits, forever been made alive in Christ, are continuously renewed day by day.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5
Earlier this year we took the steam train up Mount Snowdon, the weather was fine and we were excited for the breathtaking views ahead. As the train chugged along past jagged slate and startling a few of the hardiest looking sheep I’ve ever seen along the way, we entered the clouds. We stepped off the carriage and could barely see our hands in front of our faces. This wasn’t what I had expected! After a cup of tea and a sausage roll the clouds still hadn’t miraculously moved and it was time for our return journey.
Strangely I left the summit as satisfied as if I had seen the view because while I stood at the top of that mountain staring into the fog, I saw so clearly how God’s word still stands, what ever situation we find ourselves in; fog or fire. The magnificent view was still there, beautiful, breathtaking and unchanging.
I’ve been as stubborn as a mollusc stuck to her rock and my stubbornness has been overcome by His patience. My grumbling softened by his grace. My worries smashed by the fact he is a good Father, all his plans are good and for good even when things don’t go how we think they should. As sure as the rivers meander to the oceans, all we go through; pain, troubles and hardships all lead to a place that is good, there is no other outcome than one that is good. It is the sweetest assurance.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
I woke up last night fully clothed and not in my own bed (I thought this kind of thing had stopped once I stopped going out!). Last thing I remember was shutting my eyes for an early evening snooze then being woken by my 2yo who was having a midnight tantrum. So I got into bed with her and then not long after I was woken by my 5yo who was sat up and crying because she’d had a bad dream, I didn’t get out of my 2yo’s bed for fear of waking her so I spoke softly over to her “It’s okay darling lie down and go back to sleep” she immediately stopped sniffling, lay down and went to sleep. It was 3am and in that moment I was reminded how God cares for us. He speaks to us and at his word we lay our head down and rest. I didn’t know at the time but this gentle night time reminder would stand me in good preparation for today. All day this verse keeps breathing into my soul “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27. God is always speaking to us all, those familiar with his voice and those yet to be. He is the whisper of hope in devastating times, the warmth in the bleakness, the nudges of gentle encouragement when the storms come. When we stand on his word there is nowhere to go but to enter into peace, the full rest.
On Sunday morning we were reminiscing with such joy about loved ones who are no longer with us. That evening I received a phonecall with some very sad news. I’ve been walking around doing the usual everyday things but my heart has been floored. Inside I have felt so weak, as if my soul was just a puddle on the floor. While I was washing up I was telling God how sad I was, how my heart hurt for the immediate family, I felt so broken that they were experiencing this devastation and I said “All I can do is rely on you to carry me Lord, I’m so weak with pain” then the Lord spoke to my heart “Why are you crying as if there is no hope?” I felt as if he was gently lifting my chin and in that moment I was reminded how mighty our God is; we have a God who is bigger than all the pain, sickness and death, we have a God of hope. We have a God who understands our worries, fears and questions and is available at all times. We have a God who provides healing, peace and deep joy. We have a God who is in total control. We have a God who we can trust, even more so when we can’t see further than the blur of our eyes that are clouded with tears. He is the inexplicable presence of warmth in times of devastation.
Two verses immediately came to mind and soothed my heart –
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 and
“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.
When sadness has pushed me down and left me a broken mess on the floor, my hands are up ready for our Lord to pull me up and carry me through. His love leaves no room for worry –
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
He is always with us, pouring out his love and providing us with the strength to go on.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7