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.

Gypsy, Dreams and God Moments

 

‘Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’
Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

So, it’s that time of year when we were all supposed to make resolutions to be better versions of ourselves, and usually have failed miserably by this point in January. It has become such a standard expectation, that even when we don’t really subscribe to the idea, we still find ourselves having made half promises to be and do better, and then when we fail, brush off the disappointment with a ‘well I don’t really believe in making New Year’s Resolutions anyhow’. So why does it still seem to get under our skin?

I think that we have a God given desire to dream, to realise these dreams, and to speak them into existence. As we commit to voicing them, we in turn, become more open to receiving what we dream of, always supposing that we have surrendered any idea that we can ‘make it happen’.

I don’t know about you, but I am a natural control freak, I like the idea that I am in charge of my destiny and that I am both capable and determined enough, to bend the world around me into the shape I require. Yet experience has taught me that this is not so.

I can no more bend the world into the shape which suits me, any more that I can force someone to love or like me, or stop time. And if I really think about this, I wouldn’t want to. Just as I wouldn’t want to be forced but invited, I can only invite the world to join me on my adventures, only invite someone to know me, trusting that friendship may follow. If it were forced, then it wouldn’t last, and it wouldn’t be true, and at some point everything would come crashing down on me, and I would be left ineptly attempting to rebuild and sustain the wreckage.

However, I can learn to line up my thoughts with the one who does promise to hold me, who draws out the poison and allows my wounds to heal perfectly. The one who calls me to be part of an adventure, one far bigger than myself, for which I have been designed and designated a strategic role to play.

I can invest time, care and love into the relationships with which I have been entrusted.

I can learn to speak life and blessing over my time, my dreams and my relationships, and I can learn to trust – a really hard word which requires so much surrender and comparatively little tangible ‘doing’ – that what is good and best for me, and God’s glory, will come to fruition at exactly the right time, in the right way. This is sometimes SO hard to wait for.Gypsy 1

I went to see Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre in London at the end of November, and it blew me away, something which I find happens all too rarely. I watched Imelda Staunton give a heart-stopping performance as Momma Rose, and found myself wanting to remain there, in that bubble of theatrical magic, for a very long time. I also looked at the role, and felt my heart say “That’s mine, I can do that, in time. I want to do that.” Suffice to say, it has been a very long time since I felt so strongly about a role. Gypsy 2

My heart was moved by the quality of the show and performances, and by the subject matter – the dignity of people, and the desperate cries of mothers and daughters in pain and yearning to be loved, unconditionally. And I once again felt that deep desperation I used to feel all the time, especially pre-drama school, to be who I am called to be and to give life to the huge potential and unstoppable capacity to dream I have inside of me.

I have barely stopped talking about Gypsy since.
I received the sound track for Christmas, and when I missed the live showing, my wonderful husband found it on BBC iplayer and downloaded it for me, so I have had the joy of watching it again several times.

This has been both to re-capture and better understand something of what happened to my heart that night. Because it wasn’t simply the joy of seeing a great piece of theatre and a masterful performance, it wasn’t even the connection with a cry of brokenness that is international and sometimes overwhelming. But it was a God moment. Not the show itself, amazing as it was, but one of those moments when God pulls you up out of sleep, into a full wakefulness, and shows you something of his purpose for your life. When He reveals something deep in your spirit which either you never knew was there, or in this case, had had to allow yourself to let go of.

Like being pulled out of sleep at any time, it is uncomfortable and exciting and surprising all at once. I am feeling more alive, more tender and more emotional. That desperate passion which had been building over the past few months feels as though it has come to a head, and I am not sure what to do with it. I miss acting and working as an actress more than I can express, and yet have willingly laid it down in front of a God who made me that way, knowing and trusting that he will either return it to me better than I could have dreamed, or given me something even better instead.

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I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my children, and see the legacy which I am leaving written in and through their lives as WAY more valuable than anything I could achieve on stage or in film. I truly enjoy being a full time mother, and am committed to being a home educator because we are convinced that this is the best way forward for our family. I have never once missed working (or the hope of work), more than I have delighted in and willingly given my heart to spending my days walking alongside three amazing children, and helping them navigate what adventures and purpose they are called to. And I have repeatedly asked God to take away my desire for acting if it is not his purpose for me.

Yet it hasn’t gone. It has periodically reared its head, and now feels more present than ever. I can only assume that I still have acting adventures to come.

But I have no idea of what these are, how they will look, or when they will be. I have no idea how these dreams of acting, marriage, motherhood and home educating will work together, but I know the God who makes the impossible possible, so I am certain that He knows how.

Therefore my plan, if you can call it such, is not to try and bend opportunities and people into the shape I am dreaming of. But instead to hand all of this over to the one who is eternal and therefore knows the best time and way for all of this to occur. HE can shoulder all of the responsibility needed to see these dreams called into being, and I shall ask Him to keep my heart and eyes open to see the moments which need seizing, plus the courage to seize them. I will continue to live and walk in His grace, building my relationships and seeing my family grow. This is the only way I can find peace, so watch this space.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zecharaiah 4:10 (NLT)

Play yourself into the reality of your dreams

wpid-DSC_1595.jpgCreativity is one of those things we often get into a bit of a muddle about.
We assume that there are ‘those creative people’ who can paint, sing, dance, act, sew, write music and novels or design, decorate and throw amazing themed parties as creative, but somehow neglect to place ourselves in that category.

Oh, I’m not creative.” And
“I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” are phrases I hear a lot of people say to me. 
It’s NOT TRUE.

I am an actress and singer, and I write poetry and dance and re-organise the rooms in my house on a regular basis – so ‘obviously that’s why I am creative.
NOT TRUE EITHER.

We are made in the image and likeness of a creative God.
Full stop.
The God who created the universe, has written himself into our DNA, therefore, we cannot help but be creative. We reflect him in our creativity and in the way he gave us his authority over all of nature. We are beautiful. We are creative.

wpid-DSC_1163.jpg‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
                     So God created mankind in his own image,
                    in the image of God he created him;
                        male and female he created them.’
Genesis 1:26-27

We just need to get past our wrong thinking, stop telling ourselves we don’t qualify for the creative category, and understand that expressions of creativity are as varied as there are people. Because to be flowing in our creativity is to live in freedom.

To do this we need to re-discover (or sadly in some cases discover)
the joy and fruitfulness of play.

As children, we spend hours and hours simply playing and exploring the world, and through this serious and attentive play, we make huge discoveries about life.
It is through this process that we learn to problem solve and often come up with some highly original solutions to the challenges we face.

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Anyone who has spent some good quality time with children as they play, will have seen that the ‘answers’ they frequently come up with, are often utterly different from the ones we may have suggested.
In fact, if we are brave enough not to interfere, allowing them the space to find their own solutions, we may well learn something quite extraordinary about them as people; about an alternative way to navigate obstacles; and a sense of joy and humour in the approach.
They are hugely imaginative and wildly creative, which can lead us to a realisation that perhaps, we are have got very stuck in our thinking.

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So what, in the leap between childhood and adulthood, changes this?

Often it’s a sense of fear about getting things wrong. We no longer value or find anything like the same opportunities to play in our adult lives, and as we see the stakes rise in all of our endeavours, money, bills, family responsibility and relationships, we are left with little, if any, margin for error.
This fear that if we make a mistake, that the world (or at least our portion of it) will fall apart, renders us completely impotent, unable to move in any direction.

So we stick to what we know. Or stick to the status quo, convincing ourselves that as long as we don’t rock the boat, we will tick along just fine, and be happy.

And when, as is the case with becoming stagnant, we start to recognise the stink of discontentment – we convince ourselves and others that this idea of being fulfilled and excited by life, is a foolish myth. We convince ourselves that we have the problem on the inside, and that it couldn’t possibly be something on the outside needing to change.

How many thousands of us give up on our dreams, because life just seemed to throw too many curve balls and swallowed us up in it’s repetetive hum-drum?

We were made for SO much more than this.
Yes, God intended for us to work, because as you will have noticed, if we are continually idle supposedly free to do anything, accountable to no one, we become bored, and listless. And depressed and unfocussed, we are prone to making far more stupid and selfish choices with our lives, than if we were occupied in a worthwhile pursuit. wpid-DSC_1546.jpg

But God didn’t intend for it to stress us out, leaving us bored and frustrated. He never meant for us to put in hour after hour of effort, and get no joy in return. He is the God of LIFE. The word in Greek is zoe.
God breathed his zoe  Life into us, which isn’t the breath of mere existance, but of vitality and exuberance, power and enthusiasm.

The truth is that God designed us with a specific purpose to fulfil in the building of His kingdom, and He has written everything into our make up that we need to succeed. He never intended us to toil and drudge our way through life, living only on scraps of joy and inspiration.

‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.’ Genesis 1:28-30

On the contrary, God intended Adam (and Eve) to be fruitful and multiply – so they had to have plenty of time to enjoy each other enough to make a family.
And then they would need plenty of overflow in the food department to feed the nations that God had intended them to parent. They could hardly end up in the position of a lack provision, or be drained, depressed and disinterested, if they were to fulfil their God-given destiny.

No, God gave Adam and Eve work to do, so that they could have the privilege of participating in his plan to build and grow his kingdom on earth.
The only reason it became a stressful toil, was because sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, choosing to be in charge of their own destinies.
They claimed the responsibility of fulfilling them, and very quickly discovered that, cut off from the source of all life, they weren’t very good at it. They chose to put an immense pressure on themselves that God never intended them to have to deal with.

How many of us do the same thing everyday?

lnstead of getting angry with those who dare to suggest that dreaming, and pursuing dreams for life is a viable and good option – condemning them as frivolous, deluded and inexperienced in the ways of the world – maybe we need to look at where the anger or frustration is coming from.
We need to ask ourselves if we are trudging a path that doesn’t fulfil us. And ask ourselves why we don’t change it, what is it that we are afraid of.

We need God to show us the root of our fear, and then ask him to remove it and free us from it’s hold. He, through the power of the cross and resurrection has freed us from anything and everything that does not lead to life, but unless we allow him to work that out in us, by surrendering our control, we will not walk in that hard won freedom.wpid-DSC_0901.jpg

There is always a place to begin.
That may mean a dramatic change  – such as finally quitting that job which is depressing and making you ill, or doing something hugely bold to shake you out of your comfort zone – like a sky dive.wpid-DSC_0984.jpg

Or it may mean starting an art or photography course you always liked the idea of, but were too afraid to try. Or taking your shoes and socks off and standing in the rain for ten minutes. Walking through some puddles on your way back home to get dry. Or simply putting on a favourite piece of music, and dancing like a loon around your kitchen, in whatever manner best pleases you, regardless of what anyone might think. Just have some fun.

For me – I’ve begun songwriting again.
Not as dramatic as it sounds, but definitely exciting, I simply allowed myself to write a few of lyrics, as a beginning, and found that the words flowed.
I have always wanted to write and record an album, but have never felt that anyone would be interested. Despite knowing that I am an excellent singer and highly creative, and even that people generally seem to enjoy hearing my voice, I have allowed myself to only really sing at church, because I’m afraid of being rejected elsewhere.

Because of fear, I’ve been allowing the enemy’s voice to rob me of this dream – by getting me to believe that I am disqualified from it because I am a full time mother/out of the acting and performance loop/it is a closed shop and nobody wants to know. But these are not the life-giving words from the one who made me, but lies of the enemy.

‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ John 10:10

So, last night I spent a fantastic two and a half hours being creative with a new friend. He plays piano and writes music and lyrics, and I sing, write lyrics and can hear melody. It was collaborative and I went home buzzing. It was the first time we had worked together, but we had fun and made something with real potential and beauty.
I have some friends who have recently set up a record label. It has got to be worth calling them up to see if they are interested in any of my ideas.
They might not be, but what have I got to lose?

The joy I have had in these last few days, from teaching a talented young singer to release his voice (through playful, and what I can only guess he describes to his mum, as crazy but surprisingly helpful methods) – to getting to do a little bit of filming for a charitable organisation with whom I am involved –  to creatively jamming with someone new, has left me feeling more alive and more truly myself, than I have in some time.
All because I allowed myself to play.

So I challenge and encourage you to listen to that small, nagging voice inside that wont let go of you, and take a step towards one of your dreams.
And if you have to dig six feet under to find the dream you buried, it is worth the effort.

To allow our dreams to become a reality, we will often need to sacrifice in the short term, but only where appropriate and certainly not forever. The hardest challenge is not giving them up. And when you have a God who can dream bigger than you could even begin to imagine, you are in the best company.

‘But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” ‘ 1 Corinthians 2:9