When you have no idea where you are…

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Grief is such a strange beast.
Regardless of how I seem to be doing, it lingers.

Things which are usually enjoyable, seem like an uphill struggle, and disproportionately drain me. Getting out of the house for a walk on my own, feels impossible and I find myself afraid I’ll miss my family too much, to take an hour to myself.

I have been reading though, lots – blogs, novels, poetry.
Over Christmas, I re-read my way through the entire Harry Potter series, in about two weeks, including The Cursed Child. I also read several biographies, and then made my way through Sense and Sensibility (which I had never actually read), and Persuasion (which I had). I have just finished The Penguin Lessons – a memoir by Tom Michell.
It has provided a welcome escape.

I am feeling pretty low and lost at the moment.
I love my family, but for the first time in years, I have no idea what my purpose is. I have nothing to work towards, nothing to look forward to – although in the day to day, I do have a million little things in which to delight.
But I am struggling.

Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
Proverbs 29:18

I have moved churches, and whilst this was a good decision for me, and well supported by Husbandman, whilst he and I go to the evening service at my church together, we are no longer worshipping in the same church community.
Because he is responsible for music at his church, he is not free to really be engaged with watching our children if we go there, although he occasionally takes Eldest on her own. I find it too hard with the particular children we have, to manage at church on my own, wherever we go, as the Boy and Mini One want to run around and climb. It really needs two of us, therefore the kids don’t very often attend, meaning our family church experience is dissipated – disconnected.
And I want more. I know there is more.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I am not working as an actress, either.
I have said before, and I absolutely mean it, that I have never missed acting more than I have cherished and delighted in raising my children and committing to educate them – yet I still miss it dreadfully. I have no project to work towards, nothing that needs my skills, creativity and focus, and I am floundering.

Encouraged by my best friend, I had begun recording my own poems and those that I have previously performed, but, like with my walks, I struggle to take the time – despite it being available to me.
I signed up to a casting website, with a view to taking a few bits of work as they would fit with our family, but didn’t even complete my profile before the 30 day trial expired! They have since offered me a further 30 days free of charge, but I can’t seem to make the effort.

I am lost.

I have always been full of ideas and dreams, of what next and where I want to go. These are still in my heart, but for the first time in years I have no idea what I need to be doing.

I am not currently needed in rehearsals. There is no role for me to have to get my mind and body around.
No one needs me to record my poems, or work on speeches. I have been out of the loop for ages and I have lost my confidence, and the drive required to generate sufficient energy to push through to completion is painfully absent. I find that unless there is a genuine need for my efforts, or the inspiration to pursue something, it is an enormous struggle to motivate myself.

IMG_20170409_144630We are unschooling our three children, so whilst I am needed for a huge variety of things in the day to day of life – to be part of games, to make food, to help them with their ideas – whilst I am needed to drive us places, to encourage them, to answer their many questions, and I am definitely needed for many cuddles and kisses – which I thoroughly enjoy – I don’t have to work towards anything.
My kids are developing beautifully in their individual ways.  I love and delight in their company. They are not my project, they simply share my life and I theirs, and whilst mothering is definitely the hardest job I have ever done, it doesn’t feel like a job  – it just is the privilege of my life and I enjoy its flow.

The only thing that I was looking forward to last year was the arrival of another child into our family.
We were both delighted to welcome another gorgeous blessing into our hearts and lives, regardless of any natural sense of uncertainty and trepidation that comes with expansion, we couldn’t wait. This baby gave us a sense of moving forward, moving towards something.
But sadly she didn’t join us, instead bypassing earth and going straight to heaven.

She is safe, happy, fulfilled.
I am happy for her, and know that I will see her again. Truly.

But I miss her. A lot.IMG_20170406_122702

I feel empty and cheated, especially since I had a good four months of vomiting and exhaustion and general pregnancy woes, all for nothing. And now this week when we should have been in the chaos of birthing another family member, we instead had the ultimate anti-climax of no baby, just grief.
And we are not currently pregnant.
And I want to be. We both do.
Our family is incomplete, and whilst a new baby will not be Hope, I really want another little person to cherish, and to have that focus.
But here is the rub. My kids, my husband and my life are not projects.
I know this, and wouldn’t want to compromise the dignity of any of us by seeing us so.

Yet I am left feeling empty. WHICH HURTS.

A deep emptiness that only God can fill.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

I think that God has brought me to this place, gradually having stripped away all the things I feel that I flourish at.  Bringing me to where I have nothing to rely on but Him.
Don’t misunderstand me, he hasn’t sent bad circumstances my way. He is love. He loves me, but he will use them to bring about my transformation.

Not that I’m enjoying the process.
Actually I feel frustrated, confused and angry with him. But He can handle my anger.
He can actually see the whole of everything, whereas I can only see the equivalent to two feet in front of me.
The problem is my heart. My discontentment, my fear that I am too big for God to ever completely satisfy.  In which case He couldn’t really be God.
Which isn’t true.
But it still hurts badly.

Yet he is here with me.
I know His presence, His voice, and I have learnt to recognise the God whispers that drop into my heart  – He hasn’t abandoned me – I know he is close.

The man that has friends must show himself to be a friend, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

This is what dying to yourself must feel like  – anxiety, and the terrifying lack of understanding of how to keep breathing, how to make it right, how to get things back to normal. Knowing that I cannot do it.

Praising Him helps – Husbandman and I have enjoyed some marvellous praise sessions in the kitchen, which has lifted our spirits and brought us moments of peace.

If God has given me my talents and gifts, blessed me with the opportunity to learn and to hone my skills, if He has gifted me with any insight or wisdom – then he will use them for His purposes, not mine.
Crucifying all my hopes and dreams with Him is the only way forward. That and being honest with God about the disappointment and frustration. He will return to me what I have given up for Him.  But if not, I am better off without them.

“Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you.
“You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; Then My people will never be put to shame.…

Joel 2:25-26

Meanwhile, He carries me.

I have no idea what is coming next.
When or if I will have an acting project to dive into, when we will be blessed with another longed-for child. When this sadness and discontentment will shift.
I don’t know what I need to do. If anything.

My hope is in Jesus. And He will not change.

I still feel lost.
But God hasn’t lost me – and this makes all the difference.

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New year, new approach.

eustace narnia“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off….

Well, he peeled [it] right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .” Eustace Scrub, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

So we are here again. Christmas has come and gone, the decorations have come down. Aside from some lingering chocolate or christmas cake, the festive food has finished and most of us are secretly glad to return to a slightly healthier diet, with reduced booze and sugar content.
Another year has ended and a fresh one, full of hope and promise, has begun. We start dreaming about all the things we can achieve and the changes we will ring in.

It is tempting to start setting goals for the coming year, making resolutions and aspiring to transform from ‘lazy, selfish, unfit and slightly-heavier-than-I-prefer (insert own aspirations here)’ into ‘supermum-come-workout-guru-come-philanthropic-heroine (or whatever floats your boat)’, but it would be a recipe for disaster.
Either it puts me under tremendous pressure to succeed, and shame when I inevitably don’t live up to my expectations, OR my promises were empty (at best half-hearted), flippant and unintentional in the first place.

Because no matter how hard I try, by January 7th most of these resolutions have already failed. Supposing I even managed to get started, that is.

They all rely on my strength, my ability to make it happen, my vision of how I want to be/what I want to have/what I need to be to feel successful and appealing, in my eyes and the eyes of those around me, whether real or imagined.
The problem with this, is that none of it allows God to be God in my life. It is actually a way of trying to be God myself. But, at trying to be the one who makes it all work, I am completely inadequate.

There is nothing wrong with taking some time to reflect on our lives, our decisions, events and attitudes over the past year. It is good to look at things with the benefit of hindsight, to grow in wisdom and understanding of why things went the way they did, how they could have been different, and, crucially, taking responsibility for our mistakes and selfishness. But if we do this without allowing God to be the one to shine light into the dark recesses of our hearts, relying only on our vision, we will miss things. These are often the most important revelations about ourselves and our deeply rooted beliefs.

We are not the best qualified to undo bad habits and attitudes, and we are certainly not the best and swapping them for more godly ones. Only God is.
He loves us and has his glory and our best interests in the forefront of his mind at all times, which makes him best placed to bring about lasting change in our hearts and lives. If we will let him.

I am not urging you to abandon dreaming and speaking life over this new year, nor am I suggesting that there isn’t any need for discipline – if you are anything like me then there really is! But what I am saying, is that we need to spend some time reflecting on the perfection of Jesus and His wonderful example of life, the power of His cross and resurrection to break the slavery and addiction to ideas, particular people, habits and things in our lives and ask Him to change us inside out.

Because ‘New year’s resolutions’ when taken seriously, are actually about recognising areas where we desire to see breakthrough and setting our hearts to realise it.

It’s not about a flippant cry to ‘eat less chocolate or give it up altogether’ (for example), so much as it is a need not to be enslaved to eating habits which, rather than being life-giving, are actually developing our greed and selfishness and erroding our ability to exercise self-control.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It makes much more sense to go to God and ask Him what areas we are holding back from his sovereignty, asking him to show and help us hand it over to him.

For me, it’s keeping a regular daily prayer time. I talk to God every day throughout the day about big things and small, but I need quality time with Him to really deepen in our relationship, just as I do with my husband and children and friends. This is something I have never yet cracked for longer than a few weeks and despite walking with God for years, I still struggle with this.

However, the minute I say to myself –

“Right, I will get this sorted and every day at X time, I will have half an hour’s quiet time,” I may as well have kissed the intention goodbye, because I have put all the responsibility for success entirely onto myself, declaring that I am capable of seeing that I don’t fail.
Which, frankly, I am not.

Instead, I need to admit that somewhere within me, I am not desperate enough for God’s presence and regular quality time, that I still don’t see a daily, intentional quiet time as vital for my existence, growth and continuing wholeness. From this place of honesty I can ask God to change my heart.
It is only by His transforming my heart to hunger for Him more, that I will respond by seeking Him daily, passionately and habitually in this way.

True discipline comes in the process of being discipled by the one we are learning from and following. Yes, it requires our concious decision to pursue discipleship, as we are not forced to keep walking this path, but if we allow God access to those parts of our hearts we don’t even like to admit are there, He in His power and authority, and His deeply tender love will bring about permanent change. It may take slightly longer to see the results of this change on the surface, but it will last.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 1:6)

Unless our hearts change at their core, anything we do on the surface of our lives will be just that – surface, transient and ultimately false. But when we ask God to change us, He promises to keep going until the work is done, tenderly and with patience, kindness and gentleness – all fruit of His Holy Spirit – He resets our true north and as we desire what is good. We become more like him.

I invite you, whilst the year is still in it’s infancy, to ask Jesus to live in your heart, to be in charge of your life, all your decisions, all your hopes and dreams.

Like Eustace in the opening quote of this post, give Him permission to access the deepest places of your heart and transform everything which is not of Him, into a heart that beats with His dreams and passions .

Ask Him to give you His Holy Spirit to live inside you, and make you more like him – overflowing with Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. True Freedom.

Trust me, the cost is worth it – and you will find that you can still enjoy chocolate and wine, without being their slave.

‘…and ALL the time, God is good!’

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So last week was pretty full on.
Here’s a bit of a round-up.

Monday: We returned from north Yorkshire, having had an early Christmas weekend with my husband’s side of the family. It was a lovely weekend and a long drive home, made complete by our gorgeous son throwing up all over himself and his carseat. Fun. Cleaned up, cuddled and back on our way, we made it home in one piece, got the kids into bed and put up our christmas tree and some of the decorations. Feeling pretty festive- God is good.

Tuesday: Woke to a text message telling us that my sister-in-law’s waters had gone and her baby was on the way early.
This baby was diagnosed with heart complications in utero, and the doctors were uncertain how long he or she might live. We sent out our own messages for people join with us in prayer for the situation. Moved by the response.
God is good.

Wednesday: Through the power of prayer and good support, she went into a natural labour, and quickly delivered a beautiful boy, who was born early that morning.
God is VERY good.
He is doing better than previously thought, the condition didn’t immediately require an operation, but the doctors were still uncertain about his future.
I’m expecting and believing God for a full, supernatural recovery.
God is faithful, God is good.

Whilst we were waiting for news about our newest nephew, there were more dramatic occurrences in our house.
Our son decided to attempt to crawl down the stairs, bypassing both mine and my husband’s radar.
At nine months nearly, it was a little too ambitious an adventure, and he tumbled most of the way down.
He was fine, praise God, just a little shocked, but very quickly consoled by some ‘ mummy-cuddles’ and his entertaining big sister.
It’s a good job that little ones are so soft and give in to the floor so well, or it could have been much worse.
God is good.

Thursday: My husband was driving in the fast lane of the motorway, returning from work, when out of the blue, the bonnet of the car unclipped itself and slammed into the windscreen.
It did what it was supposed to, and despite smashing, held itself in position. With only his wing mirrors to provide vision, he put his hazards on, and when there was a brief gap in the motorway, was able to get safely across to the hard shoulder and stop.
Prior to this moment there hadn’t been any traffic respite, nor was there during the following hour. It had come at exactly the right time.
The damage seemed minimal, and my husband was unscathed, aside from feeling a little shaken up.
God is good.

We are down to one car, until the insurance company assesses the damage, and we are in a busy season of events. That said, we will more than manage. God always provides.

Saturday: My husband drove north to meet our nephew. He is gorgeous.
We don’t know the future, but we know the present, and our nephew is here in the present. He is alive, beautiful and a huge blessing to his family.
Despite feeling pretty emotional and alternately flat and hopeful, I will not choose mourn whilst there is still hope. I will not grieve whilst he lives. And I will expect a miracle of healing in this situation, because there is still time to see one. God is loving, God is good.

Returning home in our one car, again on the motorway, my husband heard a rattling in the under-carriage and was unable to drive above 15mph, which he duly did for about a mile and a half down the hard shoulder in the dark.
He was able to exit at the next junction, and from the warmth of a friendly pub, only had to a wait 25 minutes for the RAC man to fix the problem, which thankfully wasn’t serious!

That same evening, someone anonymously posted a card through our door. It was addressed to us, simply saying ‘with love x’ and contained £55 which pretty much covered our fuel. Amazing! We are very grateful.

My point is, that God is good, whatever the circumstance, and however much pain we are in.

It is not my job to make life happen. I can’t, but I can lay hold of God’s promises of life, speak them out in faith, and trust the results to the God who loves me. Who loves our family

I can hope, putting my trust in the character of my God, who promises to work all things for our good and for his glory. (Romans 8:28)
My God, who says that he loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and who loves my family. Who loves our nephew more than we do, and has a plan for his life (Jeremiah 29:11).

I can’t explain why some people live and others die. Why some people have testimonies of big breakthroughs, miracles and healings, but for others God seems not to get involved.

I do know that I don’t see all that far.
But that God has the vision of eternity.
That he is faithful, just, loving and good.
That he is deeply present with us in our suffering and feels it as keenly as we do. More so. Like a parent feels the pain of their child.
So I trust his sovereignty. I trust Him. I don’t have to understand, but I can ask him why. Sometimes I begin to understand a little better.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3)

Jesus came to earth, as a vulnerable baby, lived out life as a man to show me that he understands what it feels like to be human. That he knows my pain.
I am safe to hope in him.

For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” Psalms 91:11-12, 14-16 NKJV

Our nephew is still living, in fact he has improved, although not enough that it would be worth the risk of operating. So there is still hope. I am praying for continued improvements. I want him to have a long life.

Therefore I say, in the words of the psalmist –

”I  would  have  lost  heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord ; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”
(Psalms 27:13-14 NKJV)