It’s Spring.

 

You can feel the life.
Overpowering energy.
Excited air that sings.
Beautiful harmonious songs of joy.
It’s spring.

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Journeying beyond my boundaries.

Day 39 – Lent Challenge – Freedom.

My penultimate blog for lent. 39 blogs on people that have changed and influenced my life. It’s a thank you an acknowledgement to some amazing people that I have been privileged to know, and in some cases love.
Writing the blogs has been a little bit of an epic journey. Some blogs I have had to work desperately hard to find the words that tell my story. It’s been very emotional at times, I find healing in the writing.

This blog is a thank you to a very individual down to earth man. I have so much respect for him, he showed great friendship and kindness. He also took me beyond my comfort zone, allowing me to experience the joys of being happy in my own skin.

Understanding my own journey to happiness is individual to me, not to compare myself to others. Learning that expressing my thoughts even if those around me do not think the same as me is ok.
He helped me take my first steps to seeing the freedom of thinking different. He helped me find the confidence that was buried very deep within myself, bringing it slightly nearer the surface. I found joy in being myself, making me feel more motivated and more determined to challenge myself, to be adventurous.
He taught me the values of being me and never forgetting how important that is.
He believed in me, he trusted me to push myself but also gave me space for when things become to uncomfortable.
I smile when I think about our times together. The journeys to visit him and his wife. The evenings spent on the edge of the Mendips sat in their garden watching shooting stars.
His funeral that filled the tiny parish church. He was a special one of kind type of person.
Although I am shy and lack confidence.I am happy in my own skin and have been for many years. The confidence that he taught me was a inner confidence. It stayed inside without the voice until I found my faith.

I am revisiting the area that he lived more frequently at the moment.
A journey that followers the same roads but with a completely different destination.
I journey that will need me or push myself in ways that I have yet to think possible.
A journey that scares me far more than excites me. Discovering and responding to Gods call, journeying beyond my boundaries.

It’s stepping out to follow where Gods voice is calling me. Finding my faith has given purpose and reason to challenge myself. Allowing confidence that has been locked away inside to grow. God has given me a voice and with that voice comes adventure, love, hope to a destination yet unknown.

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Jeremiah 29:13 Good News Translation (GNT)
13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.

Biblical hope has its foundational roots in love.

Day 38 – Lent Challenge – Hope

Blogging about the word hope has not been as straight forward as I thought. I have struggled with this simple 4 letter word. Of course I hope but on it’s own the word “hope” just seemed so week.
I really wanted to try and work out my thinking behind this. Spending time outside walking and praying my reasons started to become slightly clearer.
Walking and praying personally works for me. Being outside the man-made barriers that can distract me from prayer are removed and overpowered by the beauty of creation.
While walking the silent conversations of prayer are echoed in the rhythm of my footsteps. In that silent space the Holy Spirit listens and talks to my heart. I find myself questioning my questions and in some spiritual bizarre way I start to answer my own questions myself.
But it’s almost as if God makes me work for the answers as a teacher would. Encouraging me to use the knowledge I already have. To look and deeper within myself to gain more knowledge to join up my thinking.
At the moment is my heart is full of words that my head is not quiet ready to yet join up.
I am sure in time God will help me find the wisdom to form these connections. But Gods time is not considering my need to finish and publish this blog today,
So I am going to try and explain why I feel hope on it’s own is just not enough.
I’ve always had hope in my life, I’ve hoped and dreamed for myself and others.
It’s only when hope and faith meet Gods love did my life transform,.

Faith is my firm belief and trust in God. Through the Holy Spirit my faith grows.I get to know God better. Hope is the possibilities that come from experiencing Gods love. It’s a love that inspires me by my actions to see the potential of my faith. My faith is never still, it grows and changes as God challenges and changes me. Faith gives hope and that hope strengthens my love for Jesus, so my faith grows. Love empowers hope, You can’t have hope without faith, or faith without hope. Without faith, hope is just a powerless wish.

During my walk and prayers I felt that this blog should be a thank you midwife that delivered our daughter. Childbirth, love, faith and hope are so intertwined.( That’s another blog for another day).

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Jeremiah 29:11-13 Good News Translation (GNT)
11 I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.[a] 12 Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. 13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.

Providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

Day 37 – lent challenge – Wait
Today’s blog is for my college lecturer. His enthusiasm, passion and love for growing seeds.
He taught me the basic principles of horticulture. Which today is igniting me to grow faith in others.
Seed dormancy, germination, growth, fertilisation , cross fertilisation, companion planting, weeding, pruning, gardening, nurture, growth are horticulture terms.
The more I explore and learn about faith the more my world of horticulture and my God worlds join up.
Before we even grow seeds we need to prepare the ground. The more time and effort we put into preparation the higher our germination rate.
Ground prepared without love care and attention might produce some growth but it’s not producing healthy robust plants.
It’s the plants we buy in supermarkets as opposed to plants grown by ourselves or local nurseries.
The supermarket plants are grown to look good, be showy. They are not always grown for a long and fruitful life. If you look closely at them they are all very much the same, no individualism, trained and pruned to grow at optimum pace.They often have poor root structure and are not able to sustain themselves long term.

The plants grown ourselves or at a small nursery are growing in conditions that are familiar to them. Climate is local and encourages growth, they have not been stressed by moving around. They have been grown with love in conditions that remain constant to them. They are often plants that show some individual traits.
Individualism is something the gardener wonders at. Sharing with other gardeners the diversity of nature. As a gardener, I get so excited when my plants do something out of the ordinary. (I mean flower early or a colour I did not expect ).
If the supermarket plant showed such individualism it would be lost in quality control.
I was taught to grow seeds with passion, to sow in the correct medium/ soil according to the seeds needs.
Seed compost contains little nutrients, we want our young seedlings to be hungry for food. Looking for food they put down lots of strong healthy roots. Roots that will sustain them.
Roots are key to growth. I always marvel how you can chop some plants down to the ground and yet it can regrow. Often that new growth is stronger than before.
Plants that are allowed to grow quickly often flower early and die. They put all their energy into flowering instead of developing roots. We need to encourage roots to look for nourishment, to grow deep to ensure survival.

Roots are the key to growth holding and storing energy/love for growth.
I was taught when buying a plant however wonderful it looks if possible remove it from its pot and check its roots.
A plant roots to me is like our heart. The stronger Christ makes our heart the more it can withstand. The more love it can give and the more fruit it can bear.
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I love this image that shows the roots of a tree spreading out. They never stop growing, never stop providing nourishment. Spreading out beyond the canopy of the tree.
God is working in our hearts growing and changing us. It’s that growth that we cannot see that I find so amazing. It’s on that growth /faith that we rely on.

My faith is still at the stage of putting down lots of roots. Still in the seed compost, hungry and growing. A few wobbly shoots have appeared but need support.
I am excited to see what happens when I get planted out in the garden of creation.
That’s something that does not happen in my timing, it happens in God time.
Gardening/faith is all about providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

1 Corinthians 3:6 Good News Translation (GNT)
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.

 

Black Dog Called Depression.

Day 35 -Lent Challenge – Lead

This blog is acknowledging my life living with the Black dog called depression. The Black dog is not mine, it’s attached its self to my husband. It lives with us and is part of us. It’s real. That’s why it’s included in my 40 blogs.
I have written two stories, both true. For those that have not lived or cared for someone with depression, I hope this helps gives you some understanding as to what life can be like.

Recently some friends brought a puppy. It was a very much loved new member of their family. This golden ball of fluff arrived in their lives looking and acting like the perfect family pet.
He’s such a funny little character loved and enjoyed by everyone that visits them. When the family are at home he’s a joy. As soon they all get ready to leave him at home on his own things start to take a turn for the worse.
He gets anxious paces and makes funny noises. As the getting ready in the morning intensifies so does his levels of anxiety increase. Tension starts to rise between dog and owner.
When eventually they leave him in the quietness of the house he does what all young dogs do.
He’s chewed what he can. Pooed where he should not, and generally gets into terrible trouble.
The owners soon realise the dog’s behaviour cannot continue.They see their short-sightedness in buying a puppy and working full time. They love this dog and want to do all they can to relive its stress and anxiety. They arrange a dog sitter, friends and family help when they can. Dog sitting on evenings and on weekends so everyone had a good quality of life including the puppy. They consult an animal behaviourist. Learn signs of anxiety and take steps to eliminate them.They add routine to their day. Giving the puppy space to explore and play.
They no longer fear coming home. They no longer dread opening the front door.
They never blamed the dog for its behaviour they understood the reasons behind the behaviour and addressed them.

Reading the above story nothing surprises us. We know and understand that leaving a puppy alone for long periods of time is not good for dog or owner. With love time and patience they grow up and become the family pet we hoped and dreamed of.

I am going to tell you the story of the Black dog ( depression ) that lives with us.

24 years ago I feel deeply in love and married my husband. I walked down the aisle a young bride looking forward to married life. We looked the perfect couple. Young happy and in love.
The Black dog ( depression ) joined our family- it becomes attached to my husband. To start with it was more of a nuisance than a problem. With a few simple changes, it was manageable.
We learned to live with it. As we got older the dog grew up and got bigger. It would become a nuisance, causing embarrassment and upset.
It becomes so big that it forgets its manners, being rude, snapping and growling at all those who came near him/ us.
The tension in the house caused more snapping and growling. Going out without the dog become harder and harder.
We seek professional help. The Black dog refuses to go. The more tension I put on its lead. The more it bites and refuses to do even the basic tasks. The Black dog has imprisoned us in our own home. It refuses help. When the dog finally shows weakness, the help that we receive is difficult. The services are busy and overworked. They don’t have time to see past the growling. Each appointment we see someone new. This causes defence behaviour that looks aggressive.
Our friends stop visiting us. Why would they want to spend time with a dog that does not want to engage with them? A dog that does not wag it’s tail. A dog that does not play.
The hardest part for me is leaving the Black dog home alone with my husband. I fear what it will do. I fear it will take away my husband, that it will totally consume him to the point of no return. I fear its greed will be to much for my husband to cope with.
I fear opening the door. I dread coming home to the quietness of the house not knowing what it’s done when I am out.

The trouble with the Black dog it’s invisible. It’s not an imaginary dog it’s real. Because people don’t see it they fail to understand. I don’t blame them, but many blame and judge my husband. They see the behaviours but lack understanding.

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So how do I cope?
Pray
Prayer is my biggest way of coping. I pray when the Black dog is sleeping. I hold my husband first thing in the morning and pray. When it’s bedtime again I hold my husband and pray until God holds my exhausted words until sleep takes me too .
I pray that we can put a “lead” on the Black Dog. That it can be managed, disciplined and controlled.

Gratitude.
It’s being grateful for the little things and thanking God. It’s the littlest things that give hope; a hug, a smile, positive conversations.

Love .
Being honest and open to those that love us. That honesty also has to be respectful to my husband. I have friends that know and understand that life is hard. It’s so important for me to have a couple of special friends that I can trust. These friends are good listeners, they don’t judge. They love us and pray for us.

Life built on a foundation of fear .

Day 27 – Lent Challenge – Fear.

Children who have experienced instability, frightening events, or inconsistent care build foundations of fear.
Beliefs which come from a foundation of fear tend to be negative, such as:
• I can’t trust adults to take care of me
• I have to be in control to stay safe
• It’s not safe to love or be vulnerable

Children with such negative core beliefs often have concerning behaviours such as stealing, lying, defiance, etc.
As a foster carer it’s our job to understand these behaviours. We look beyond the fear to the child that is hurt, confused sad and afraid.

They are afraid to love. This blog is for one young person who’s fear of love turned my world upside down.
God prepared me for this. In that preparation I understood this child acted out if fear. It was not personal, they were not to blame.
I understood that fear and love could not co exist. I knew the only way forward for me was to trust God and stay with love.
Love came with understanding and forgiveness. I felt so loved. In the darkness it was love that removed doubt, gave hope and purpose.

The fear this young person felt was contagious. It spread to others they pulled away.
Logic and reason was replaced by fear. The fear of making a bad error of judgement.
Those that came alongside us and walked us through our pain held and loved us. Their love came from God not fear. They listened with love. They prayed for us and with us,
held and surrounded by love.
Love does not take away the pain that fear causes. Love does not stop fear trying to destroy your life. Love does not have the answers.
Gods love gave us a future and hope. Gods love stopped the pain becoming fear. Gods love gave us focus through the blur and numbness.Gods love was supporting and always their.
I have learnt to put my trust in God. That trust gave me the strength to cope with the devastation left by fear.

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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