Light in the Darkness

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?”

“What?”

“Light shining in the darkness”

“Why?”

“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 Godchildren 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

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We Grieve but we Glory

While everyone around me talked grief, all I wanted to do was sing glory. I am very much part of the church but my family and I don’t go to church (apart from twice this year for my birthday and Mother’s Day). 

When I came across something Levi Lusko said – “we grieve but we glory”, it struck my heart so powerfully that even though reading books is not my favourite thing to do I had to buy his book immediately. Everything written in it helped to cement what was already in my heart. It was like receiving a reassuring and encouraging hug, like being in a room with everyone speaking a foreign language then suddenly hearing someone speak to you in your language. 

The grief is crushing and ongoing; twice recently I’ve been walking in the park with my children, the three of them were ahead playing in full view and out of the blue this awful, sickening, piercing anxious dread came over me, similar to when you lose sight of your child for a few too many seconds. It searingly reinforced what a gaping hole our child left here. Losing our little one early in pregnancy is the most devastating, traumatic, painful thing I’ve ever been through, but grief is not the whole story. I can also look back and continue to live each day in amazement because during this darkness I have experienced some of the most awesome and unforgettable moments of my life, some I never even imagined were possible, the tenderness with which God cares for us in the horrific times is beyond words. Every pain has been soothed, fear disarmed, whispers of guilt crushed, longing satisfied, despair destroyed because of the truth, the hope, the comfort, the joy, the peace and the overpowering love welling up in abundance as my weary heart turns it all over to the Lord. 

Clothed with Joy

My heartbreak in a box, on the wrong side of my womb. The depth of the pain is like none I have ever experienced but the joy of our Father’s love; soothing, unfailing tenderness in the most devastating of circumstances is what my heart can’t help but continuously sing about. The care, the comfort, the sweetest of visions, the attention to detail and love that I simply don’t deserve, who am I, little old me that our Mighty God could care so much! And *this* is how he cares for EVERY individual. 

Our tiniest’s remains were released after two months in the mortuary. We declined testing but the hospital tested anyway, then apologised. We chose a private cremation instead of a communal one. We didn’t use an undertaker and took our baby’s remains from mortuary to crematorium ourselves. I’d been shown ashes caskets that were hundreds of pounds, instead we bought a simple little jar. The mortuary provided a woven casket and one of my happiest memories is our daughters running around in the sunshine decorating it with daisies. 

That morning I’d been thinking about how “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”(Matt 4:4) and how this whole experience had me fixing my eyes on the unseen, how in my physical bloodied distress my soul cried out, my spirit flooded in love and my hand lifted deep in worship. The power of our Lord had me singing in an A&E ward! Only Jesus! He does turn our wailing to dancing! 

On our way back from the crematorium “You got the Love” came on the radio. I’ve heard it loads before but listening to it that day was the first time I heard the gospel in it-

“When food is gone you are my daily meal”

My daily bread. The bread of life. Jesus.

“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:50-51. 

What joy in salvation! What peace in the unshakeable, unfailing, certain hope. Leaving nothing to do but rejoice because “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

Alive and Singing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is none 

None like you

Who can know my heart like you do

For all creation sings your song

I will join with them declaring your glory”

(United Pursuit – “Met By Love”)

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

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

“Yes” I replied. 

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

“What are you thankful for?” 

And these words tumbled out of my mouth 

“Life. I’m thankful for LIFE”

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

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

I went through about six bed pans and nothing. 

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

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No singing?” I asked 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Rest

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

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 

Made to Praise

The last ten days has seen us go to A&E twice, 2 emergency doctors appointments and I had my long awaited maxillofacial appointment which was great news (the bone in my affected jaw now looks even better than the healthy side). As one child recovered from a chest infection, my other daughter came down with one. My husband then got struck with a virus. I also had a flashback yesterday, my first in 2 years and it was so much more positive than my previous one.

Through it all my heart keeps leaping with gratitude. I feel we are all resting in this warm blanket of goodness.

Walking in a hospital corridor last week, a tremor of fear rose in me and my helpless heart leaned into the Lord. Fear was extinguished on his words “I’VE GOT YOU”. Such peace, wondrous peace. I’m so thankful for his heart bursting, soul igniting, truly unconditional love that is equal for every one. I will never be able to get my head around this kind of love, steady and unfailing.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43: