Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A crowd of witnesses

Today is only half over and yet I feel as if I've lived a week. I've not done much, particularly, but I'm ready for bedtime. 

I've been so down and lately I feel as if I'm sinking lower. All that boasting I did a month or two ago about the bad things in life not getting me down - well I don't think that's true any more. Today I feel completely defeated. I keep asserting what I know to be true; that you will never leave me because you are faithful. That I am a child of God and although that doesn't guarantee me a life free of trouble or pain, it does guarantee me a Friend who is closer than a brother who loves me and has a plan for me. It's just that I can't feel it; it's not helping at the moment.

This morning I battled with the girls at breakfast and manhandled them out of the house in time to do the school run (did you see Elizabeth so excited to go on a school trip and looking so grown up with her backpack? She is so beautiful and innocent) and then on to nursery. Katy went happily into her classroom and once again I had to make arrangements to bring her home early, only this time for a nice reason. It was Katy's lunch at her new school today. Elizabeth was disappointed that she wouldn't be there to show Kate what's what in the lunch queue but I think it was for the best. This is Katy's show.

Anyway, I'm getting out of sequence. 

I drove home after nursery listening to a song from my worship album, 'You are the Voice of Hope', sung by Lara Martin. I've heard it loads of times but today the words jumped out at me.

As high as the heavens are above the earth
So high are your ways to mine
Ways so perfect they never fail me
I know you are good all the time

And through the storm -  yet I will praise you
Despite it all - yet I will sing
Through good and bad - yet I will worship
For you remain the same, the King of Kings

Oh Lord I've been trying so hard. I've been trying to keep on praising you when I can't even find you. I've looked and listened and waited and I think I've been faithful but I've just about had enough. I'm tired and worried and things are still going wrong and it's getting harder and harder to find the glimmers of good things because most of the time they feel swallowed up by the avalanche of bad things happening at the moment. I just don't want to bother any more. I don't want to have to find the energy to make the effort. 

I'm worried about Katy. I'm worried at the speed the bump on her neck is coming back and the way that it looks and I'm worried that the doctors seem more worried about it than they were. I'm worried at some of the conditions and diseases they're testing her for and the implications they have for her long term health and development; worried about more surgery, long term intervention and treatment, stigma, scarring, how this will impact on her last nursery weeks and the start of school. I'm worried about the impact that it already has on her - she's in the room when the doctors discuss her and she's so distressed with the blood tests, dressing changes, poking and prodding. She can't go swimming and we've only washed her hair once in a month because of getting the lump/dressing/wound/lump wet. 

I'm afraid that something bad is happening to my little girl and I can't stop it. You can, but you don't. I'm afraid that this thing will have long term effects on her physically and psychologically. I'm afraid that she'll be self conscious because of a lump or self conscious because of a scar. I'm afraid that she'll have to have more blood tests and cannulae and anaesthetics and hospital stays. I'm afraid that I don't have the resources to keep on the way we have been. I just haven't the energy. I don't get enough sleep. I thought the end was in sight and all we had to discuss was whether the dressing was necessary any longer but no, the histology results were back and there were two consultants, not one, and they were much more concerned than in other appointments. The end doesn't seem to be in sight, yet over my shoulder I can't see the beginning any more either.

As high as the heavens are above the earth
So high are your ways to mine
Ways so perfect they never fail me
I know you are good all the time

You are good. Are you weeping with me when I cry about this? Does it hurt you too that your little girl(s) are hurting? Or are you trying to tell me to be faithful because good will come of this and it's all in hand? Your ways are not my ways indeed. You are a mystery. Why don't you say, 'Ah, look, she's one of mine. I won't let her baby get ill. I'll make it alright.'

You are the voice of hope
The anchor of my soul
Where there seems to be no way
You make it possible
You are the prince of peace
Amidst adversity my lips will shout for joy
To the most high

Without you as my anchor I'd be adrift indeed. I'm starting to feel annoyed that this is going on as long as it is. I don't understand why plaguing Katy can be good for me. I don't understand what harm it could do to cure her completely. Just like that. 

I dropped Kate at nursery this morning and drove past church, looked at my watch and realised that morning prayers would just be starting. I briefly considered going to join in and then drove past. Then I took the next right and turned round and drove back down, parked outside. I fiddled with my phone for a minute then went to the door. It was locked. I scuttled back down the path and got in the car again. Put the key in the ignition then noticed someone else going up to the church. So I got out and followed them in case they had inside knowledge of which door might be open. The minute someone greeted me in church I started to cry.

I didn't see it coming at all. I've been feeling miserable and last night I lay in bed with fear washing over me. I kept saying your name and then slept through a thunderstorm, it turns out. I was feeling low and tired and defeated but I didn't anticipate dissolving totally when I came into church. I thought that maybe joining in prayers (or just being there, actually) might just change the way my day was going. I thought that it might perk me up a bit. Might refocus me. I didn't intend to turn up for a counselling session or a cathartic cry.

Some wise and lovely people prayed with me today, offered practical help and listened as I offloaded a lot of speculation and anxiety, some of it warranted and some of it based entirely on ill-advised internet searches and long-buried fears. 

I came out feeling not much better but sniffing a lot more. Blew my nose. Came home and reapplied make-up. Picked Katy up from nursery and took her to her new school for lunch, which was lovely. I even had a long and constructive conversation with someone with whom I've definitely had my differences and usually avoid like the plague. It was strange to receive encouragement and reassurance from such an unlikely source. 

Katy loved her visit to school. She recognised a little girl in the playground and they ran around hand in hand and called goodbye to each other as they left. I am so hopeful that she won't be as lost as little Lizzie was when she started school. Different class, different teachers, different personalities. Same neurotic mother...

I came home and sank, again. I could feel the pessimism and fear setting in fresh. I switched on the computer and my daily devotional email was waiting for me.  

'What do you do when you feel like giving up? Everyone has that moment where they've been struggling with something - maybe a health issue, a broken relationship, financial problems, or depression - and they start to wonder if they have the strength to keep going because they just can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.'

Rick Warren: The Daily Hope

I suppose if I were cynical I could point out that with a readership of many many thousands it would be a dead cert that at least a few of those who received that email would indeed have been feeling just as you describe. So it might not be that you were speaking directly to me. Co-incidence. On the other hand...

Rick Warren goes on to speak about the part in Hebrews where Paul speaks of the great men of faith in the Bible; Abraham, Moses, David. And then the first verse of the next chapter begins:

RW:  'Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith ...'
What Paul is saying is that you don't want to give up because heaven is watching and cheering for you. That's encouraging news!'

Hebrews 12:1

The exclamation marks are Mr Warren's, by the way. I can't feel that animated about anything right now, let alone excited. But I concede that it interested me. At least I read it and didn't flick straight to Facebook. That's something, right?

So the Big Guns of the old testament are rooting for me. Really? Does everyone in heaven see what's going on with us stragglers back here on earth then? 

RW:  'Jesus tells us, 'Every hair on your head has been counted.' (Luke 12:7). God knows every detail of your life. He watches every breath you take; there are no secrets in your life. 
And it's not just God who's watching. Abraham, Jacob, Moses and all the other saints are there as well.'

Apparently so. Or at least, so thinks Rick Warren, a man who is clearly never wrong. Sorry, that was a bit facetious. But still, you used him to poke me today to wake me up and so he must have something to say that I should listen to.

A crowd of witnesses? Are they all looking down on me now and muttering to themselves and each other, 'She's whinging again. Lord - she's at it again.' They had much more to cope with than I do. You gave them huge scary jobs to do and their lives were downright difficult. Of all the saints that might be watching and listening to me now, my troubles are pretty minor I think. Is that it? I should be keeping on keeping on because they had it worse?

RW:  'How is this encouraging?'

Yes, I was wondering.

RW:  'When you feel like giving up, remember that people who have gone through much worse circumstances than you are watching to see how you are enduring.'

Great.  Give me a break.

RW:  'When you feel like giving up, remember that people are watching you and offering encouragement through their life stories of faith.'

I'm not convinced that that's encouraging. I am no Abraham. And now I'm even more paranoid about what people think.

It's no use. I'm not going to be taught anything in this state of mind, Lord, though I appreciate your word about feeling miserable. I'm determined to get an early night so try again tomorrow?

Elizabeth's home from school and she's shattered after a day building shelters in a forest and hunting for bugs. She found a centipede and an angry bee. She banged her head on a climbing frame and ate all her lunch. She was cross that I didn't put crisps in her lunchbox. She had a good time, especially when the bus driver took a wrong turn. She says that she didn't learn anything but then it wasn't about learning, it was about having fun, and then she sort of learns things by accident. I must tell her teachers that. They'll love it. 

Lord, I am too tired. Thanks for the people you put round me today, for the wise words, the prayers and the unexpected encouragement from unexpected sources. Thanks for the email, for my smiley girls and the cup of tea my Mum has just put down in front of me. I know that I am blessed beyond measure, but I just can't lift my own head at the moment. 

You were the one before time began
There's nothing beyond your control
My confidence, my assurance
Rest in your unchanging world

And through the storm - yet I will praise you
Despite it all - yet I will sing
Through good and bad - yet I will worship
For you remain the same
King of kings

I'm trying, Lord. How much longer? I can't sing much but I am offering you what I can. You still hold my heart in your hands and I give you my poorly little girl who is more precious to me than that. I am relying on you; that she is precious to you too. I'm so tired of keeping on. 

There's nothing beyond your control. Why aren't I comforted by that?

You are the King of Kings. I'm doing my best to worship anyway. 










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