Our stories of struggle.

Day 25 – Lent Challenge – live.

My Mother’s day stall has reminded how much I still need to cry out to God. Reminded me of how far I have come.
Mothering Sunday ended in tears. Emotions were high after the Sunday evening church service. The mother’s day run away service was a place to lay bare my pain, placing it in front of God. It was painful and exhausting; a place to just be, to cry out surrounded by friends, to fall apart in the warmth of the church, a place to be held, a safe place to ask why?
No need to pretend, no false smiles. A whole precious peaceful hour to just be. A hour carved out of a busy day to acknowledge it hurts. To lament and invite the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.

Today’s blog is to my great auntie. A lady that faced grief alone, she settled for simply surviving the pain and challenges that come her way. Her life stopped she turned away from her faith, she bottled it up. She refused to even enter the church. Angry she set herself a path in life that God was no longer a part of. Going it alone she had no one to share her pain with. No one shout out to. When we we turn away from God and those that support us our lives change as does the way we live.

This blog is also a thank you for those that understand our grief, come to us in our pain. For those that acknowledge life is hard. For those that plan and organise services that give us the space to safely fall apart.

On remembrance Sunday last year in the church where auntie was baptised, I shared Auntie and Jacks story. I am going to share it with you too.

Jack
Each year I trace the bronze words spelling out your name on the war memorial. It’s tracing the letters that connects me with you and your story. You were aunties first husband and her one true love.
You worked as a farm labourer and married my Auntie in the December of 1939.
I don’t how long you had together before you were enlisted but I guess not long.
Auntie was a war time bride, widowed within 5 years.

Gunner 1086881 172 field reg royal artillery was killed in action on the 20th January 1943 age 32.
Your story is also aunties story – you see Auntie was never the same after losing you.
She remarried in 1946. She never removed your wedding ring, placing the 2nd wedding ring on top of yours.
As a child I would sit on her lap and be fascinated by the two rings how they sat together. The rings had become almost one but with my small fingers I could separate them into two.
Even as a child I understood the questions I wanted to ask were to two painful for her to answer .
She never talked about the pain and the loss, it was all locked away unspoken like so many.
I grew up knowing the story of you going of to war and never coming back.
I would look at your photo framed in the front room. The room that was never used. The strange blue sofa that was never sat on. In the room that you never came back to.
Auntie just she carried on, remarried and had a different life. She longed for the children which never came and a husband that never came back from the war.
Auntie carried the scars of war with her for the rest of her life.

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Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Ordinary things impact people in extraordinary ways.

Day 21 – Lent challenge – Deliver
This blog today is a thank you to my Sunday school teacher.
I remember one Christmas afternoon a car driving down our road, that was strange in its self. Our quiet road of only five houses had very little traffic. A car we did not recognise was certainly out of place on Christmas day.
Moments latter a card came though our letter box. The card was a birthday card addressed to my sister from our Sunday school leaders.
It was not the card that stood out to me but the fact my sister was remembered by them on Christmas day. They took time out of their busy Christmas to deliver a her a card. It meant the world to my sister who’s birthday was always overshadowed by Christmas.
She was thought about loved and valued on her birthday. In that simple act of hand delivering a birthday card they showed such love for the family’s that attended Sunday school.
Sometimes it’s the simplest acts of kindness that have the most lasting effects. Sometimes ordinary things impact people in extraordinary ways.
There are opportunities all around us to show God’s love. I need to be reminded that we don’t have to always think big or complex, acts don’t have to be extraordinary.
They can be the normal,everyday things we do. No matter how simple or complex, no matter how ordinary or unique we always have the opportunity to show the love of Christ through our actions.
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Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We can show God’s love for us through our actions. We can serve by accepting that Jesus served us first

To ask over and over and over again.

Day 18 – Lent challenge – Ask
When I write my blogs I normally find a bible passage that fits my blog. Mark 10 13-16 always stands out to me. Today it spoke to me in a different way.
My thinking is far from joined up but here’s a go at why it made me think about the second child that we fostered.
So today’s blog is for a 2.5 year boy that came to live with us for only 10 days.
This little boy never stayed at the centre of anyone’s world. He had no voice, no power to change things. No person to trust.
He made me aware of the pain caused to families by parental imprisonment.
No one looked at life through his eyes. No one tried to make things better for him. Paper work and produces just kept getting in the way of this little boys simple request to be with his mummy.
He knew what he wanted and constantly asked for it. Without raising his voice or getting angry he would just walk to the front door and ask for mummy key (he called her mummy key as he associated her with prison keys).
This little boy had only one thing on his mind. The relationship with his mother who could meet his needs.
I could physically meet his needs as his foster carer. But I could never be his mother that loved him unconditionally. No amount of toys and games could fully distract him. It was obvious to him what he needed to do make his life whole. To ask over and over and over again.
I think what I am trying to say is the system kept my little boy away from the unconditional love of his mother.
We fill our lives with so much we become that system. Keeping ourselves away from the unconditional love of God our father.
We have a choice to be with God. To pray to listen to him or just to be. He will not turn us away he loves us. The bars we create between us and God can be removed just by asking.
When we have a relationship with God our heart becomes whole. We receive his grace. Grace pours out love and kindness to all who trust in him.
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Mark 10:13-16 The Message (MSG)
13-16 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

 

Celebrating love.

Day 17 – Lent challenge – celebrate.
This blog is for my husband.
Twenty four years ago we stepped out of the church and into the world as husband and wife. We honestly had no idea what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams.
It’s been tougher than I ever imagined. The truth is marriage is hard work. Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible, more deep joy than we ever realised existed.
Our love has changed over time but it’s never gone. 
I have loved when I did not feel loved. Been so scared I could not function. Cried tears of pure joy and tears of my own making.
Our hearts have been broken by love, soothed and healed by love.
All the things I loved about him when we were dating I still love. His sense of humour, honesty and the way he makes me laugh. There’s often a right way and a wrong way or a different way to do something. I normally head full on towards the difficult way. The path with most resistance.
I will crash through brambles wade through rivers. Often repeating the journey to put right my mistakes.
My other half will get out a map out and plan. But he follows me silently though the mud and brambles, I love him for that. We are opposites and he is annoying normally right.
We are both discovering and learning what it means to be loved by God. Sharing God in our lives has been something I never ever thought we would do.
I have seen a side to my beautiful man that I never saw before. Jesus unites us in our thoughts and he is our standing with us.
Celebrating love, marriage and that God reaches us all in different ways.

Ruth 1:16-17 The Message (MSG)
16-17 But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”

Comforting powerful words.

Day 16 -Lent challenge 2018 – Stillness.

One of the things that has really helped me find my faith is all the little seeds of faith planted by the wonderful community and family that surrounded me as I grew up.
Today’s blog is a thank you to our next door neighbour for teaching me Psalm 23.
I don’t have many memories of her. But I do remember her dark brown doors with high handles that I could reach but my younger sister could not.
Being in the garden while my mum and next door where both hanging out the washing. They Stopped to chat over the fence,the excited conversation about the pope visiting England. I had never next door so excited before.
But most of all I remember my visits to her house, when she would take down Psalm 23 and recite it to me and my sister.

When my life became full of pain it was Psalm 23 that gave me such hope and strength. The words that where once forgotten became alive. Comforting powerful words backed up by a strong healing message wrapped in Gods unconditional love.
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Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Greek Holiday 1989.

Day 14 – Lent Challenege 2018- Journey.

This year I am following a 12-month Bible reading plan.
The Journey through Acts sent me on a physical journey to the loft. After lots of rummaging through suitcases I finally found my Greek holiday journal from 1989.
This Journal is full of memories of a fabulous trip to Athens followed by a cruise around the islands.
It’s great to see my photos of the places mentioned in my Bible readings . The places I visited as a teenager are helping me today. Joining up my worlds making the Bible come alive .

Years later my travelling companion introduced me to my husband, supported me through pregnancy loss. When her beautiful baby daughter was baptised she choose me to be one of her God parents.
It’s a massive hug of thanks to my friend of many many years.

Acts 17:16 Good News Translation
While Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, he was greatly upset when he noticed how full of idols the city was.

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Acts 21:1 Good News Translation
We said good-bye to them and left. After sailing straight across, we came to Cos; the next day we reached Rhodes, and from there we went on to Patara.

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Acts 19 Good News Translation
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the province and arrived in Ephesus.

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Revelation 1 Good News Translation
9 I am John, your brother, and as a follower of Jesus I am your partner in patiently enduring the suffering that comes to those who belong to his Kingdom. I was put on the island of Patmos because I had proclaimed God’s word and the truth that Jesus revealed.

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Brief encounter with love.

Day 13 – Lent challenge 2018 – refresh .
My Auntie K keeps coming to mind when I think about faith and the word refresh.
I think it has something to do with how real she was to herself and God.
She recorded her thoughts and prayers in dairies. The two diaries in my possession record the wars years 1939 -1940. She records air raids, birthdays, the church services she attended with her mum (my great grandmother).
She also tells her another story. Her brief encounter with love. Her life becomes increasingly complicated because of falling in love with a man that was not hers to love. They meet secretly, fell in love, bringing about unexpected consequences.
Her scribbles telling of the conflict in her mind. Concerned about the pain that she would or could cause others. She battles with her faith. She knows it must end.
She acknowledged the pain love caused. She worried her writings might be found. One diary entry tells how she must stop scribbling.
She wrote out prayers that asked for strength, she turned to scripture for guidance.

The old lady I loved struggled with life “messed up”. When we mess up, which we do and will, God loves us just the same.
Her scribbling provided her with a place to of load her thoughts and feelings. I treasure these diaries as her gift to me.
She tells me that when things go wrong it’s God we turn to. She tells me we mess up.
Theirs something in all of this about not denying who we are being real with God. In that realism we form a closer relationship with God.
When we give voice to our complaints, our worries, our bitterness, or our fears, we aren’t telling God anything he doesn’t already know. We are laying ourselves bare before him, holding nothing back, and asking him into our lives.

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Psalm 73 – Good News Translation
26  My mind and my body may grow weak,
but God is my strength;
he is all I ever need.

The Song of Kit.

Day 12 -Lent challenge 2018 – Hunger.
Today’s thank you is to my girl guide captain. This amazing lady inspired and encouraged me . She pushed a shy teenager to experience the life she was to often afraid to experience. She believed in me and still does.
Going on guide camp was the highlight of each year. Before the world of health and safety we travelled to guide camp in a removal van. All our kit was loaded we than all piled in on top. To secure us a old door was roped across the front.
We sang songs all the way to camp, we sang as we washed up and of course we had the campfire songs in the evening.
I loved the evenings wrapped in my camp blanket sat outside under the stars.
I still sing many of those songs today. The song of kit was just one of many we sang. It seemed a strange song to teach a group of teenage girls.
The song of kit has stayed with me.
Some 35 years later; our teenage foster placement was causing massive disruption and pain. Every time I wanted to walk away,turn my back on her and all the pain she was causing.
The song of kit would come to me. I would find myself singing it as I rode my bike, humming it as I cooked tea. I could not get away from the words
The chorus repeating its self over and over again in my head.

So take this child by the hand.
And lead him back to love.
Leave the fear and the misery behind.
Take this child by the hand.
And lead him back to love.
And show him that people can be kind.

It’s not within me to turn away from someone in desperate need of help and love. Every person needs love even if they don’t understand what love is or have never had it.

God crated us in his image to love one another. I could not turn away because it was the easy thing to do. I stayed with her as long as I could because it was the only thing I could do.
To trying help someone understand they are loved. Showing them that people can be kind.

Song of Kit
See a child standing there.
In the rubble and the dust.
He is standing all alone.
There is no-one he can trust.
The soldiers took his father.
And his mother ran away.
He’s a politician’s game
And he doesn’t want to play.

So take this child by the hand.
And lead him back to love.
Leave the fear and the misery behind.
Take this child by the hand.
And lead him back to love.
And show him that people can be kind.

See a child standing there.
With hunger in his eyes.
He is standing all alone.
While a nation slowly dies.
He knows that he is hungry.
But he doesn’t understand.
There are just too many people.
In that dry and barren land.

See a child standing there.
As he sees the world go by.
He is standing all alone.
And he’ll always wonder why.
When nations spend their millions.
On power and on might.
That he never had a chance.
To learn to read and write.

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If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. (Matthew 5:41)

A Joy that I took for granted.

Day Ten – Lent Challenge 2018 – Joy.

Thank you God for our beautiful daughter.
The joy of holding her in my arms for the first time. That magical connection and a out pouring of unconditional love.
It’s a joy that I took for granted. A joy that I believed was mine to own and to hold onto.

I never could have imagined the life that laid in front of me.
The children I carried and never held. The children I held and than let go.
I could have never imagined a life when joy would have a different meaning.
In the last 3 years 10 months and 9 days God has transformed my life.
A transformation that enabled me to find joy in the midst of pain.
Even in the darkest days when sadness, grief, and loss threatened to overwhelm me Gods joy never left me.
It’s a deep joy that has allowed me to cry and grieve but stopped me from drowning.
It’s a joy that’s hard to explain- A joy that comes from God.


James 1:2-4 The Message
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

My little shadow.

Day Nine – Lent Challenge 2018 – Follow

Today’s blog is for my foster daughter you taught me so much. Thank you for all you have done for me and all that taught me. She made my faith real and alive. She answered my questions without me having to ask them. We grew together in faith often it was her leading me.
She opened my eyes to a world that I never thought was possible. She has showed me how simple faith can be. She saw Jesus as her friend, chatting away to him as she talked to her school friends. Jesus’s name would pop up in conversation naturally and beautifully. This little 4 year old girl had been removed from her mother and father, separated from her siblings and found Jesus.
Her faith was not about long words and things we don’t understand. It’s was about friendship, Gods love and not being alone in the world that scared her so much. Her understanding was pure and beautiful as was she.

My little shadow followed me. You were never more than a few feet away from my side. You trusted me. That trust allowed you to move on; journey in life without me.
Following is about trust and you trusted. I trust God to look after you.
I miss my little shadow and her non stop chatter.
She left me knowing that she was loved by God.

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Matthew 19
13-15 One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left.