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.”

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A mother’s longing.

Day 22 – Lent challenge – Longing.

Today’s blog is for a family broken and destroyed by a mother’s longing to have a 2nd child. They had very little support and life spiralled out of control.
Pregnancy loss, miscarriage, grief, still birth are all words that consumed my friend. They become her everything and in doing so cost her everything including her own life.
I spent a lot of my time as a child and young adult with this family. Being alongside them, caring for their daughter as they battled with grief and loss. When the second child they longed for was born post natal depression took away the joy and the happiness of bringing home their miracle baby.
Unknown to me at that time, pregnancy loss and that longing would not be stranger to me either. I too would experience that deep personal lonely pain when your baby dies.
I remember one day feeling totally consumed, grieving by yet another miscarriage. I asked myself why aren’t you satisfied with one daughter? Why is one child not enough for you? Through my tears grief and pain I thought of my friend and her family. Her daughter and son growing up without a mother, a husband without a wife. It made me realise that this last loss threatened to totally overwhelm me. That repetitive loss snowballing the pain into something bigger than ever before. It was affecting my ability to be a mother to our child.
I started to think that I should look at what’s in front of me rather than what I longed for.
The reality of a pregnancy that would last more than 12 weeks was now only a very dim hope.

Tomorrow is mother’s day and this family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
This mother’s day our church is having a mother’s day runway service. It’s is the first year that I have a space to acknowledge my babies on mother’s day. A safe space to grieve to runaway from the flowers and the smiling mums. To be with people that find mother’s day hard for whatever reason.
The hour long service will include liturgy, poetry, music and stories acknowledging the bittersweet emotions surrounding Mothering Sunday. It’s a space to hold and be still, share my pain and the pain of others with God. Inviting the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.

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Psalm 40:1-3  The Message (MSG)
1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God

I never expected adoption would be a gift for me too.

Day 19– Lent challenge – Forgive.

Finding faith though the actions of others is powerful.
Today’s blog is for the lady that shared her faith with me: She showed me forgiveness.
A forgiveness that comes from God not us. A forgiveness that does not nag, does not say I remember when. It’s a wholeness a newness that I had never experienced before.
With that forgiveness came friendship and trust. Without her honestly and openness we could have never moved forward together.
In that moving forwarding I gave myself permission to painfully let go .To accept the role of the foster carer was to let go. To facilitate the moving of our foster son to his forever home.
I realised he was never mine to keep. He was a gift that I held and loved. He was someone else’s hopes and dreams.
Adoption is about love and a transfer of trust. The trust came from forgiveness. My pain of letting go was understood. My love acknowledged. Joy and happiness was my pain and grief. Forgiveness allowed me to be part of the joy in welcoming a very special boy into his new family.
I never expected adoption would be a gift for me too.

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Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

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)

Despair – The Compelte Loss Or Absent Of Hope.

Day Eleven – Lent Challenge 2018 – Despair

I feel called to be along side those that have complete loss and absent of hope. Reaching into the forgotten corners of our communities.
Dysfunctional families where poverty and hunger is real. Being a voice for them, fighting for justice. That the love of God may be made visible to them.

Writing the above one powerful image comes to mind.
A father sat rocking in grief unable to look up from the floor. Numb and muted by pain, he rocked slowly in some hopeless attempt to self calm. A father that had his 3 children removed by social services the day before. A father that was expected to partake in a meeting with no support.
He sat alongside his wife holding her hand. Not once did they break contact, not once did they look at each other.
I attended that meeting and did nothing. A cried deeply inside, I prayed that someone would go to them and stop this cruelty.
I am ashamed with myself for not doing something. I never had the confidence to help. I never had the words to say to them.
When I experienced terrible pain and grief myself some 18 months later, I found myself wrapped in love. Held in grief, prayed for and supported in my pain.
I can’t imagine going through so much pain without love. Going through grief without someone to hold you. Crying thinking no one cares.

The father and mother in my story will never know the impact they made on my life.
My journey is just beginning. Giving people space and opportunities to explore what it means to be loved by God.
I feel so full of energy and need some way of putting that energy down . God is changing me and giving me a voice; a voice that I have never really used much before.

My confidence is growing and so is my knowledge. I am hungry to learn, excited to see where God will send me and the path this might take.
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Psalm 88 The Message

1-9 God, you’re my last chance of the day.
I spend the night on my knees before you.
Put me on your salvation agenda;
take notes on the trouble I’m in.
I’ve had my fill of trouble;
I’m camped on the edge of hell.
I’m written off as a lost cause,
one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
blinded by tears of pain and frustration.

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.

Sharing Pain.

Day Five – Lent Challenge 2018 – Receive.

Today’s Lent challenge word is “receive and I chose to share and say thank you a wonderful person  that has helped me in many ways. This Person helped me realise it’s ok to receive/ask for help.
When life gets tough it’s easy to pretend everything is fine. Pull away from those that we love and quietly fall apart.
I used to think “ I can do this on my on my own”. Why would burden and expose others to my pain? Why share the pain? It seemed selfish to offload my pain onto others.

The reality has God created us with a need for help. Asking for help isn’t admitting failure or a sign of weakness. It’s recognising the way God made us.
This means our need for help is not shameful, or equal to failure. God built into us a need for help from the very beginning.
Learning to reach out to others has given me the strength.  It’s ok to receive help and admit the truth that I cannot do this alone. I can turn to my friends. I can cry out to God.
I can ask for help and prayers. In doing so I have formed friendships and realised their is strength is asking for help.
We are week unable to survive alone. God is strong and with his grace and help, we can do what might seem impossible.
So Thank You for helping me break the isolation of thinking I can do this on my own.

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Galatians 6:2 Good News Translation (GNT)

 Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.