Friday, 29 July 2011

Go back to sleep, please

Hello God.

Today has been one of those days that all mums of small children will be familiar with. Today started too soon. 

I am at my absolute worst when I'm tired. I love sleeping, and I'm very good at it. I also need a lot of sleep. Some people can function perfectly efficiently and affably on a few short hours of sleep but I can't. We are away from home at the moment and last night the children took an age to settle as they are a) in the same room, which is a novelty, and b) in a strange place, with strange beds, strange noises and so on. They then woke up once or twice in the night and needed more attention, and were up to stay at five o'clock.  That's 5am. 0500. In the morning. I was not best pleased.

Lord, it must be so much easier to be a mum if you are a morning person. My Mum, for example, was always up early; always up and washed and dressed and breakfasted before my brother and I emerged to bother her. I never once woke Mum in a morning or got told off for starting the day too early. Now, maybe this says more about me as a child if I never got up early but I can't believe that. All children get up early, don't they? 

Mine do. And it seems to be getting earlier, to my immense discomfort. 

Every night I go and see my girls before I go to bed. Every night I sit on the edge of their beds and say a prayer for them and I make a promise to myself to be more patient. To be less cross. To be smilier and less critical. Then come the morning it's all gone, poof, blown it before breakfast because they wake me up and I hate being woken up.

I suppose the answer is to go to bed earlier - but after their bedtime at night and after I've got them settled I have a precious couple of hours to do all the things that I have to do and all the things I want to do before going to bed myself. No matter how tired I am it seems to stretch to longer than it should and as a result I am in sleep deficit mode before my head hits the pillow. 

Moan moan moan. Complain. 

I think perhaps when the children reach adulthood and leave home I shall spend a fortnight in bed. Maybe that's when I'll balance the books. But that day is a long way away and I need a coping mechanism soon, please. 

I just want a tighter grip on my temper.

I am a light sleeper. I never used to be, or at least I don't think I was, but when the children came I learned to be woken by the slightest little noise. Bryan could always sleep through the girls' screaming but all it took for me was the little baskety noise that indicated that Elizabeth had wriggled free of her swaddling and was waving her arms and legs around and batting the Moses basket and I was awake. Not willingly awake, but awake. Praying that it might be some mistake, that she might miraculously go back to sleep rather than allow her thoughts to turn to an early morning snacklet, but she usually woke up feeling peckish. Awake. 

Now it's pretty much the same. I hear the whimpers that precede shrieks when there's a nightmare. I hear doors opening and footsteps on carpet when someone is out and about. I'm sure that compromises the quality of sleep, doesn't it?

So I've had a whinge. Got that off my chest. What can you do to help, God? Well,  if it was up to me, my first choice would be that you suddenly bless both my children with the desire to get a good twelve to fourteen hours sleep per night. Could you see your way clear to that? Please? 

If not, and I suspect you won't mess with someone else's body clock in order to please me, it'll have to be me, please. 

I'm not good at this. I am often tired and when I am tired, I'm not good. I'm not nice. I am grumpy and short tempered and narky. I don't like it about myself and I admire the opposite in other people but I seem to be powerless to change it. So, as ever, if I can't, please help me, because you can.

Help me to be nicer. Help me to understand that my little girls are up and raring to go when I am not, and  yet that isn't a character flaw in them. Help me to love them for their enthusiasm to start the day instead of trying to beat it out of them. Help me to respond with love and grace and patience even when I feel like the undead. 

Hmm. Sorry for the zombie reference; for illustrative purposes only. Not because of any strange unacceptable theology.

I'm being silly, but my problem is a real one. Most mornings my day starts when I am not ready for it. I try to have my 'quiet time' first thing in a morning because last thing at night I have a tendency to fall asleep if I close my eyes. If I am permitted to wake up in my own time (and I include with an alarm clock - not talking about the sheer indulgent luxury of a lie in - ooh, just imagine...), have twenty minutes or so to read my daily readings and have a little chat with you, I feel so much better. When my girls then burst into the room I can greet them with a smile. If I manage to fit in a shower and getting dressed as well - my cup runneth over, but that doesn't often happen, more's the pity.

I know that the answer is a combination of going to bed earlier, setting the alarm a bit earlier, teaching the children to have some consideration for other people and above all, changing my own behaviour in modifying my reactions. Keeping control of what I say. Not being Crabby Mummy every morning. 

Easier said than done. It might sound a little thing, but I still need your help. Thankyou that nothing is too small for you to be concerned with. I am fed up with my days starting wrong. I am fed up with starting the day with sharp words and criticism and complaints. I am fed up with the nightly transaction of looking at my children asleep; beautiful, innocent and guileless, and resolving to be nicer and then blowing it again before breakfast. 

Help me, Lord. Help me to gain control over my brain so I can sleep more quickly and more efficiently. Help me to give love when I feel more like being cross. Help me be a better Mum. 

I'm off to bed now. Better had, I think.  

Thursday, 28 July 2011

I don't know where you're taking me

Father God, I have no idea what you are doing in my life this year - all I know is that the year is barely half over and I have been to the top and bottom of my emotions already. I have been in wonder at the things I'm learning and had glimpses of you that I will treasure for a lifetime. I have been lower than I've ever been and felt so lost and so cut off from you that it was hard to breathe and I didn't have the first idea what to do. 

I am on some sort of fast-track to a different place and I don't know where you're taking me. All I know is that I am hanging on and I have more faith that you will take care of me than I had at the beginning of the year. I am not as wildly enthusiastic as I was a few months ago; more cautious. I am tired but I am not defeated; I am humbled and I have a better idea of the extent of the forgiveness that I have received. It's only a step forward - I have such a long way to go. 

So all this time life goes on. We saw Katy's consultant the other day and he's talked to the other consultants involved in her treatment and they've decided that the best way to proceed now is to operate again to try and excise all of her bump.  Since it's come back and they've finally made a diagnosis they've been talking about several possible treatment plans and every route to take has had potential problems. Long term drug therapy might result in damage to Kate's eyes or to her liver. Further surgery is problematic as her tumour is wrapped around one nerve and close to another two, but this is the preferred option. 

So they've told us that her surgery might take 2-3 hours and to be prepared for a hospital stay of 3-4 days. It's more involved than last time. If it recurs I'm told that there's no option but to explore drug therapy with or without its side effects. 

Lord, here I go again.  My little girl is going to have another ride on a bed, another needle in her hand, another anaesthetic, more painkillers, more dressing changes. This time the consultant tells me that she won't need to have a wound packed as he'll close it with a line of sutures.  He tells me that she won't need to have her stitches out as he'll use dissolvable ones. He tells me that it'll heal quickly because the bacterium will have gone. After all, her surgery was on 3 June and it's now the end of July and her last surgical wound hasn't healed yet because of the little bug that has beset us.

I can feel a knot in my stomach when I talk about it although her surgery date is still a couple of weeks away. I can feel myself start to get anxious and I remember the anguish of walking away from her as she slept in the anaesthetic room all over again. I'm not looking forward to it. Please take care of my Katy, Father God. I know that you will. I know that you will watch over her and over all of us. Any chance that you could do something miraculous before then so that surgery isn't necessary? 

How do I find the faith that can move mountains, so that such faith might move her bump?

So life goes on. We're in London at the moment and tomorrow we're going to have a day in London; the children are so excited. Katy doesn't need her horrid medicines any more so that's a good thing. We're going to meet up with some family and go to see dinosaurs in the museums, and see where Daddy works and go to the park and maybe a ride on the river. The children just love being down here. It's almost worth the long drive down the M1 with the children asking, 'Are we nearly there yet?' every thirty seconds. 

Are we nearly there yet, Lord?  Am I nearly there?  I can't tell because I don't know where you're taking me. I might have a long way to go or I might be nearly there; I guess there's a long way because every day I have a better idea of how far I am from the person you want me to be.

But I'm learning. I want to move on. I still want to be some use to you. It's joyful and painful and amazing. Every time you bring me through something, I understand a tiny bit more. Only a tiny bit. Another bit of the jigsaw is in place - but it's a big, big puzzle, isn't it?  A lifetime's work. 

I can't even begin to see the picture yet, I know that you can, and I know that if you've made it, then it's a beautiful, matchless, awe-inspiring picture. 

It's a privilege to be part of it. 

Psalm (of Helen)

I was afraid and alone and I didn't know how to find you
I wept and wailed and I was lost.
You came to find me when I had nothing
I cried out to you and you took my hand.
You drew me back to yourself.
I reached for you and you held me tightly
You held me in your arms and comforted me
You wiped away my tears.

I could do nothing but hold on and cry
You gently dried my eyes.
You are endlessly patient.

I lifted up my heart to you for you to wash it clean
I emptied out my life and laid it in front of you
Dirty and miserable
Full of sin and selfishness
Naked I stood before you, full of pain and shame
But you did not turn away.
I had nothing left to hide behind and still you loved me
I gave it all to you
I was ashamed at the state of my heart
But you washed it clean with your blood
And renewed me as your beloved child.
You forgave me.

(pause - to blow nose)

You took away my guilt and you gave me love in exchange
You took away the hurt and replaced it with acceptance
My only offering was my fear and bitterness
And yet you blessed me more than I can say.
You said that I could start again.

My Lord and my God
I know that you are there even when I can't see you.
When I wandered away, you waited for me
You never let me out of your sight.
You carried on loving me.

I will praise you until I have no breath left in me
Because you are the Lord and you reign in majesty
You are the Holy One and yet you love me
You are the only God and yet you are my Friend
I am your Child and you are my Father.
I am safe and I am loved
I can never begin to repay you for what you have done for me
You have set me free
You have a perfect plan for my life that fits only me
and I long to live the life that you want for me.

I will love the Lord my God all the days of my life
For I know that he loves me so much more.
I have seen your overwhelming kindness in my life
And I will not forget.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

Well, Lord, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and although I know that you were fully aware of it, this has come as a bit of a surprise to me, to be honest. I know that tunnels usually have light at the end of them, but this one has been unlike any other tunnel that I've been in. It's been darker and more unfamiliar and frightening than anything I've known before. The last few days have been dark indeed, and for a few days there I couldn't see even a speck of light in the distance.

Turns out the tunnel had a bend in it. The other side was there, and closer than I thought, but I just couldn't see it.

My God, what a few days it's been. I've been so down. Today I feel better; I wouldn't say I have a spring in my step, but I definitely feel a bit better. I sat here in front of my computer earlier on and suddenly thought, 'Do I feel better?'

Coffee mug halfway to my mouth, I stopped and considered it and to my surprise, it turns out that I did feel better, yes.

So what happened? (Do you want to say, or shall I?)

I've got to hand it to you; this prayer thing works. You answered my prayer and I can only thank you and thank you and thank you. I've been frightened and you came to rescue me. I was like a rabbit in the middle of a road and it felt as if I were paralysed in the face of a juggernaut coming to flatten me.

Five days ago I took hold of my life and decided that things were going to be different. I wasn't going to live in the shadow of fear and doubt and anger and dissatisfaction and half-heartedness any more. I prayed with some very patient, wise people and I committed myself to some pretty profound changes. Some of the stuff I was trying to get rid of has been troubling me since childhood, so it went pretty deep. So that was then.

The following day, as you know (because you were watching) I woke up feeling dreadful. I was so, so depressed that I felt knocked sideways and that hopeless feeling persisted for the next three days. Tearful and defeated, all the negative thoughts that I'd been trying to banish were back only much worse. Why did I think that this would work for me?  I couldn't do anything right. I was just a failure. I couldn't pray because I couldn't find any words. I didn't want to read my daily notes or look at the Bible and I very strongly didn't want to listen to the worship music in the car, which I usually find really helpful. I felt claustrophobic and panicky and I actually found it hard to breathe once or twice. And I couldn't find anything that I was capable of doing about it.

I didn't do anything at all to help myself until last night I managed to read out loud some Bible verses that I found in a book to help with exactly what I was going through. In floods of tears, again, I lay in bed and cried out to you and you heard me. I managed to pray a bit. Only a bit, but you really do take my meagre little offerings and honour them with riches, don't you, my God?

This morning it felt like dawn. I just felt lighter. Not euphoric, or ecstatic, but the misery had lifted. I feel bruised, but not mortally wounded, as I did. I feel vulnerable and a bit fragile, but not defeated. I am not defeated after all. You answered my prayer.

Whatever battle was going on in my head might not yet be over, but I know that I am on the winning team, and the darkness is receding. My Saviour came for me. I know this sounds dramatic, but it was. It is.

I don't know what it was all about. A wise friend of mine said that such an experience is like the death throes of the old ways of thinking; the negativity and fear that I'd renounced wasn't taking it lying down; the enemy wasn't going to give up easily. A tug of war was taking place and I was the poor unfortunate hosting the competition. Is that it? I still have so much to learn in this area. I feel so uncomfortable talking about it at all.

I don't think that I'm out of the woods yet; I have some pretty difficult things coming up and I don't feel particularly robust emotionally. Soon I have another appointment with Katy's consultant where we'll decide on her new treatment programme and I don't really like either of the options we're so far presented with. I need to be strong because if I feel like this I think I might cry on the nice man who's only trying to help us. I am stronger than I was a few days ago. What an eternity has happened for me in the last few days.

I don't want to go through that again.

The thing is, I have had a glimpse of something. If anything positive can come out of the awful way I've been feeling since last week (other than the obvious), it's that I've had a chance to see how appalling it must be to wake up every morning feeling this way, with no end in sight. Once I had spoken to someone who had done this before me, I was reassured that if I hung on in there, there was an end to it. The light at the end of the tunnel. I needed to stick it out. But what if there is no light? What if there's only unrelieved misery as far as the eye can see?

I had a chance to taste the darkness of depression. After my children came, both times I think I probably had mild post natal depression; the sort of tearful, exhausted, despairing gloom that perhaps many new mums go through. It was horrible; I didn't enjoy it a bit, but it was nothing on the scale of this. This was bleak, and after a comparatively short while I had a glimmer of hope when I was told that it was temporary. What if someone has no such assurance?

Not knowing how far you have to travel by feeling your way before light illuminates the path again, if it ever will? Feeling blind and fumbling along. Merciful Lord Jesus, bring the people I know about who are depressed out of their dark tunnels. I understand a little bit better how they feel and it breaks my heart. No-one can see the world through someone else's eyes, or think their thoughts, or feel their emotions, but I had a try at something in the last few days that just gave me an idea of what it might be like.

You know, the sense of being cut off from you was terrible. I was casting about for help - my closest friends away on holiday, my usual props - my Bible, my daily readings, my music just didn't feel accessible to me. You were too far to see, let alone reach.  I was separated from my Father. Is that how you felt as you suffered on the cross, Lord Jesus? How much worse it must have been for you than for me. The light of my relationship with my heavenly Father is like a little candle stub at best; it burns brightly or dimly, but it's small and insignificant in comparison with the floodlit, dazzling day of your communion with your Father. And because of us, because of me, that light was extinguished for a time.

How terrible must that have been for you? I cannot imagine the sheer weight of it. All I know is that for me, it was awful. I cried, and I was afraid, and I was desperate. My God, what you did that first Easter is huge, isn't it? Bigger than my imagination.

So I'm back. And I have learned. Oh yes.

I belong to you.

Thankyou for rescuing me. I'm glad to see the light again. Do you remember that some months ago I said, 'Show me what you want from me. Make me the person you want me to be.' Of course you do. Nothing gets past you, does it?

I think I can definitely conclude that you have been working on me, aren't you? Even I can see that I am not the person I was six months ago. I said, 'Bring it on!' and you took me at my word. And, I think, so has the other guy.

So here I am, bruised and tear-stained, but not beaten, and I'll say it again:

I am your child and the devil cannot touch me.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Injustice and the missing bun

Hello, God.
I'd be a rich woman if I had a pound for every time my children say (or shout), 'It's not fair!'  For example, today we baked buns together and the children each had their little bowl of mixture which made six buns.  Elizabeth gave one of her buns to Grandma, and ate one. Then she sneaked one of Katy's buns off the other side of the cooling rack and added it to hers so that they were even again. 

Unfortunately, owing to the greater mixing power of Lizzie vs Katy, Katy's cakes were easily identifiable as Katy's, being smaller and less risen. So Lizzie's new batch of cakes consisted of four beautifully risen buns straining at their paper cases, and one flattish one that looked suspiciously like Kate's. With Katy on her way to the kitchen to ice and decorate her buns, I extracted the purloined bun and placed it back with it's five siblings. 

Cue: wail from Elizabeth:  'But Mummy! It's not fair!'

Actually, it was perfectly fair. Elizabeth had snaffled one of her own buns (while it was still warm, very sensible) and had nobly gifted another to Grandma, who had an unaccompanied cup of tea (very laudable).  Sadly, her four looked quite lonely in comparison with Kate's six. Then my little Katy climbed up on a stool, assessed the situation, counted by jabbing her little index finger into each bun and immediately donated one of hers to make up the numbers on the opposing team. What about that?  

Round of applause for Katy, I think. Lizzie stopped crying and there was a moment's silence in the kitchen while Grandma and I gazed admiringly at our little peacemaker.  So they had each had five buns to decorate. Then round two began when Lizzie dipped her iced bun in it's entirety into the chocolate sprinkles leaving only one or two left that didn't adhere to the icing. 

I know. Scones a bit
overdone. Not many left
now though. 
Cue: wail from Katy: 'Mummy! It's not fair!'

And so on. You get the drift. But they're just kids, right? You wouldn't expect anything different from children, would you?  

I realise that I am no different. Maybe I don't give voice to it, and maybe it's more sophisticated than an inadequate number of buns, but I know that I am guilty many times a day of the adult equivalent of the 'It's not fair!' wail. 

Right, here we go. Just off the top of my head, from memory, so far today (and it's about four o'clock):

Why do I have to wake up when I want to stay asleep? It's not fair.
Why can't I hear out of my right ear still? It's not fair. 
Why do I have to fight with Katy about washing her hair/brushing her teeth/eating her breakfast/putting on her clothes? It's not fair.
Why do things keep going wrong? It's not fair. 
Why do I have to tidy up the girls' painting things instead of sitting here playing on my computer? It's not fair.
Why don't people leave me alone for five minutes to have a cup of coffee in peace? It's not fair.
Why are good people round me having a horrible time? It's not fair.
Why are you not doing what I'm asking you to do, God? It's not fair.
Why can't I eat a plateful of buttered scones without putting on even more weight when some people can trough through many of them and remain slim? It's not fair. (This one really isn't fair, Lord.)

And I'm quite sure that I could think of more. In fact I did think of more but I'm less than willing to drag them all out into the open. 

Which is why this morning's reading from the very wise A W Tozer made me think. 

'Christians who understand the true meaning of Christ’s cross will never whine about being treated unfairly. Whether or not they are given fair treatment will never enter their heads. They know they have been called to follow Christ, and certainly the Savior did not receive anything approaching fair treatment from mankind.'

Oh dear. It enters my head quite often. 

'He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth . . . neither was any deceit in his mouth.' 
Isaiah 53:7, 9

Oh dear. I know. This is the point at which the wind sort of goes out of my sails. It doesn't much matter if my little lot is 'fair' or not; it's trivia in comparison with the injustice that you suffered on my behalf, and yet you never complained. Not even a bit. Just imagine the scream that could have echoed down through the ages if you had yelled out, 'God! It's not fair!' from the cross. And it wasn't. Not a bit fair, because you didn't deserve to die, you deserved to be enthroned as King. You didn't deserve to pay the ultimate price, but I did. But you did it for me. You did it without complaining or whining or moaning. 

I'm so sorry. 

Tozer goes on to say:

'The man who cries “Unfair!” is not a victorious man. He is inwardly defeated...'

I suppose that's how I'm feeling at the moment, but I know that I'm not defeated for I have the victory in you. But the way I'm feeling at the moment isn't an excuse because I'm often pretty whiny about what's fair and what isn't. I wonder if anyone ever grows out of it?

Really? Oh. Just me then? That's disappointing.

'It is a certainty that Christians will suffer wrongs; but if they take them in good spirit and without complaint, they have conquered their enemy.' 

Oh here we go again. The enemy. I have so much to learn about the enemy. I'm reading books about the battle in and for the mind and I'm realising that so many of my thoughts aren't good for me.  The negative, the defeatist, the self-pitying, the critical, the resentful... all those type of thoughts for starters are not good for me. And the icing on top of the pyramid of destructive thoughts (like the chocolate on a pile of profiteroles) has to be the childish-sounding wail: 'But it's not fair!'

Help me with this one, Lord, because I often feel that life isn't fair. Indeed, that's what my Mum and Dad kept telling me as a child, and I know that it's true. It wasn't fair for you, was it? You came to love us and save us and show us the way to all that is good, and what did we do? We hurt you and rejected you and killed you. That wasn't fair.

So help me with this one, Lord. It seems a big ask to want me to take all these injustices in my stride - 'In good spirit and without complaint' - that seems a long way from where I am. One more in a long list of things that I can't do.

But you can.

When you know that I'm about to get crabby about things not going my way, remind me that your experience of the world wasn't one of perfect justice and yet you never complained. It might sound small but if my thought life is as important as I'm starting to think it is, then please help me to get a grip of all of these small things that add up to a big thing. I want to turn the negatives into positives and learning how to stop the wallowing will be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Standing still

Oh Lord. And so it continues.  Yesterday I decided I wasn't going to church this weekend and I was encouraged to go, so I did. If I'd known the passages that were going to be explored in the sermon there's no way I would have gone, so I suppose it's good that I went. I'm sure that there were things I was supposed to hear. 

I arrived at church feeling emotionally fragile (I seem to have felt that way for ages now, but the last few days have been like nothing I've ever had before in my life). The band was playing and I realised that the hearing in my right ear had gone completely and been replaced by a distorting noise a bit like static on a radio. (This happens to me sometimes - if you could see your way clear to healing this it would perk me up no end, but that's by the way). I was chatting when someone came to ask me if I was still ok to do a reading; I hadn't realised that I was supposed to be doing a reading. That's never happened to me before. I nearly didn't go at all; and how awful would that have been, just not to turn up on the day I'm down to read. I continue to amaze myself at how far removed I am at the moment from the control freak who has every day timetabled - I'm missing so many things. I'm becoming so unreliable and I hate it. Where is my rota?

So it turns out that the reading is the bit in John's Gospel about Jesus and Lazarus. 'If you had been here my brother would not have died...' and 'Jesus wept.' and then the resurrection of Lazarus. The sermon was about pain and loss and suffering and referred to the part in Revelation where God wipes away every tear.  Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven' was played, which is the sad, sad song full of grief and loss that he wrote just after his four year old son had fallen to his death from a high story window. My goodness, it was an emotional service. The atmosphere was definitely subdued. People carry around such pain, don't they?

Lord, if you needed to break me down a bit more, I didn't need any of that; I started to cry during the opening song, 'Here I am to Worship' and could hardly stop for long enough to scrounge a tissue or four from my friend next to me (to have come to church without any was uncharacteristically shortsighted as well; usually I can be counted on in times like this to have a bagful of hankies). 

The presence of the Holy Spirit moves me at the best of times and this certainly isn't the best of times. How much greater was the likelihood that today of all days I would start to cry?  I managed to do the reading but I don't think I sounded like me. It was very hard to keep it going and try to limit the voice wobbling. 

I know that you are in your heaven and all is right with the world. I know that you are in control, so the way I'm feeling has some reason behind it. I know (or at least, I hope - I believe) that there is light at the end of this tunnel. There is light at the end of this tunnel, isn't there,  Lord? 

I know that you are working on me and I know that there is a battle to be won. I don't flatter myself that I am so important that the fight is on an apocalyptic sort of scale, but I am aware that whatever my immature and skewed interpretation of the battle between good and evil, I am caught in the middle because this year for some reason I have felt that my relationship with you has been developing. 

Maybe it's because my smallest daughter is starting school in September and I am 'waking up' from the preschool years where time is at a premium and headspace is reserved for children and family matters only. I might have some time coming up and I might have the chance to rediscover something about me - make some choices for me...and I decided this year that I want those choices to involve you. I wanted you to show me what I could do for you. I guess that even though I am an amateur in these matters, this doesn't go down well with the opposition. Maybe that's why this year has been a year of climbing ladders and falling down snakes. Maybe that's it. 

Understanding doesn't actually help that much, to be honest.  Knowing that your leg hurts because it's broken and it'll one day mend doesn't stop you reaching for painkillers. I just wish there were painkillers at the moment. 

The reading last night on my little iPhone version of the works of Charles H Spurgeon was just for me, wasn't it?  He quoted Exodus 14:13:
I looked all over for a picture of
Mr Spurgeon smiling. This is
the closest I could find.

'Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.'

To paraphrase, he says that this is what God says to his follower (me) when they (me) are in 'extraordinary difficulties'. When I can't go back, and I can't go forward; when I turn about looking for the answer but no answer is to be found, then God says 'Stand still'. 

Alright then. 

Spurgeon tells me that other 'advisers' might tell me something different:

"Despair whispers, 'Lie down and die; give it all up.'"

But if I listen to you I should take courage and rejoice in your love and faithfulness. I haven't contemplated lying down to die, but I have definitely heard that 'give up' voice in the last couple of days.

"Cowardice says, 'Retreat; go back to the worldling's way of action; you cannot play the Christian's part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.'"

But if I listen to you, I cannot do this because I am your child, and I should not allow anything or anyone to divert me. I don't want to. I like who I am in you much better than I like who I am on my own. 

"Precipitancy cries, 'Do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.'"

"Presumption boasts, 'If the sea be before you, march into it and expect a miracle.'"

Not so sure about these two, as I don't feel much like leaping into action to do anything, let alone do something spectacular and daring. 

Still, Spurgeon finishes well by saying that if in doubt, I should stand ready for your next order like a soldier in an army, and it won't be long before I hear your voice telling me that it's time to go forward again.

'What, if for a while thou art called to stand still, yet this is but to renew thy strength for some greater advance in due time?'

So I am waiting. Still hanging on; I don't really see myself standing with much poise or patience, but I am standing still nevertheless.  I don't have anywhere to go and if I did I don't have the wherewithal to get there right now. So I stand and I wait and I am waiting for you to direct me. Actually I'm waiting for you to come and take my hand and lead me somewhere, but if you did just that I'm sure that you'd find me ready to come with you. 

I'm standing and waiting. 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Holding on

Lord God, today I feel as if I am clinging on to a tree as a wind tries to sweep me away. Holding onto a railing as a tsunami crashes against me. I'm holding on with all my strength and holding on is all I can do because my feet have been swept out from under me and my eyes are screwed up shut and my head is down on my chest. It's a good job I have something firm to hold onto. That's you.

I still feel pretty low today but the difference is that I have a better hold of what it is that I'm holding on to. I've been reminded today of your permanence, and the simplicity of it all; that I don't have to do anything, because Jesus did it, and does it. I just have to hang on. So I feel as if I've been reduced to the simplest, most fundamental thing; I'm hanging on and just trusting that you will win this battle on my behalf. I can't do it, but you can. 

So the voices in my head that say, 'You can't do this'; no, I can't. But my heavenly Father can. When they say, 'Why do you think you're special?' I can reply 'I am special because I am God's child'. When I hear that I can do nothing right I can say that although I am flawed, I am made perfect in Christ. 

'I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.'

Philippians 4:13

I can do this. 

I feel so much better knowing that it's normal to feel so bad after having made a stand. It makes sense with my limited understanding that if someone tries to stride closer to you that they would feel a hand on their shirt trying to pull them back. I feel as if there are a million hands pulling and pulling; a million voices reminding me of all my weaknesses and failures and difficulties and all the times that I've taken one step forward - and then two (or more) back. All the times I've given up. 

I've been thinking that maybe because I had such a fallow period in my life, spiritually - about fourteen years - maybe I have after all have got to this point in my life with the spiritual maturity of a toddler. Maybe it's all too much for me and I'm trying to run before I can walk, but it's not true. I certainly don't have the wisdom of someone who has many more years in this than I do, but I am not helpless and I just want to follow the Master.  You can see my heart and I know that you can find the grain of faith in me and you won't let me down.

For someone who is quite feeling-driven, this is really hard. I can't sleep. I'm waking up feeling low and dark and short-tempered and emotional and nothing is really helping. The only way that today is different from yesterday is that I spoke to someone today who told me it's normal; she's been through it and it was like this for her too. That has helped so much. I don't feel crazy any more. Just tired and weighed down and discouraged and fearful. My head feels full of cotton wool and my eyes are sore. It sometimes feels hard to get my breath. Nothing matters very much.

I'll go on clinging. The tears are not very far away today and I can't raise much enthusiasm for anything, but I'm trying to look beyond the storm and towards the rainbow. I know the sun is still there even if thick clouds are shrouding it. Or at least, I believe that the sun is still there. 

Lord God, come and rescue me. Again. Blow away the clouds and let me feel your warmth and stand in your light. Don't let the wind and waves sweep me away. I know that you won't.  I know that you're fighting for me, Lord. I know that there's conflict and I know whose side I'm on, and I know that you have ultimately won the war. I'm not doing very much right now except holding on and waiting for you. 

I am your child. 
I am valuable because you value me. 

Isaiah 43:2

'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.'

Amen. Even if I feel like I'm drowning.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Having a really bad day

Lord God, this is the first time since I started this blog that I can't really find anything to say. I suppose this is to be expected considering the state of my prayer life in general at the moment, but I have to admit that I've surprised myself by finding that I can't string some words together. I'm not usually lost for words.

I've had lots of interesting daily readings recently, but today I'm finding that inspiration isn't striking even by reading them back. Recounting the day's events wouldn't help as it's been a day completely devoid of positivity, on my part at least. It's the first day of the summer holidays, the children have played nicely (mostly) and Bryan is home, it's Friday night, but it's not helping today. 

I feel I've let you down, Father. I feel as if today I should be on top of the world because some wonderful things have happened to me in the last couple of days, and I have some great friends who have been so kind and generous with their love and their acceptance and their time; and above all I know that you are my loving, forgiving heavenly Father and I am your child. But I don't feel free and I don't feel as if I can get rid of the weight of stuff I'm carrying round. 

Today I've been short tempered and miserable. I had a cry earlier and thought that I might not stop but I had to pull myself together as I was in danger of frightening the kids.  I've forgotten to pick up Katy's new medicine today from the chemist despite my reminder system that has worked ok so far. What a terrible mother. Katy's tantrums haven't been anything out of the ordinary but today I've struggled to cope. I had to go outside earlier on because I thought my head would explode as she was shrieking so loudly and for so long. I got some gardening done this morning and Elizabeth has been lovely helping me shop this afternoon but my capacity for delight today is zero. I should be feeling happy and unburdened and light as a feather but I'm not; that familiar little voice in my head is telling me that I can't even get that right. Is there any wonder that I'm still a mile away from you? 

What is it, Lord? I believe the right things, I say the right things. I have renounced and I have declared and I have confessed and I have cried and I have prayed. I know that you are who you say you are and I want to be more like you. I don't want to struggle to keep up all the time. I don't want to feel destined to fail all my life. I just don't know how to give you all the rubbish in my life and leave it with you. I'm starting to think I'm going mad. 

I know that the negative voices in my head aren't real; or alternatively that they are real but they are not to be listened to.  They're lies. Some months ago I was feeling invincible and I asserted that there was nothing in the world or beyond it that could stop me from being who you want me to be, or stop me from winning the battle that is all around us, since I fight in your name. The following day I found a breast lump that the doctor thought was serious. It turned out not to be, but not until it'd shaken me profoundly. After that Katy had her operation that didn't work and one problem has followed another.  I haven't felt invincible since then, and it feels as if the day I asserted those things I was writing cheques I can't cash. I should feel invincible, because we have the victory in you, I haven't felt that confidence since that day. I've just been slowly sinking with the weight of  things on top of me. 

People have shown me how to overcome all this and it still isn't helping. I feel pathetic. I feel as if I can't even be honest about how I feel because it's getting silly.  There comes a point when people feel that they've helped all they can and there's something wrong with you if all their help hasn't helped, and I feel today as if that's where I am.  It's embarrassing to admit that people have talked and prayed and yet I can't seem to do my bit. Maybe there really is something wrong with me.

So, give me a hint, Lord. Is this hormonal, or am I just tired? The Holy Grail of the good night's sleep has eluded me recently, it's true, and since I've had the children I am all too aware of how a lack of sufficient sleep can distort things and make everything much darker. Maybe an early night and all will be well.

Is this the devil? All the thoughts that I have that bring tears to my eyes afresh each time; things like, 'You can't do this' and 'You can't get anything right' and 'why do you think this will be any different?' - they are not good thoughts. They are not your voice. How do you do that 'Take every thought captive' thing? I'm sorry - I can't seem to get the hang of it. 

I don't know how to. I want it to stop, because I can't seem to learn how to beat it myself.  I can't get control of it. I can't replace something that is obviously untrue with something true in time to stop the untrue thing from hurting me. I hear 'You can't get anything right' and although I can rationalise this and tell myself that it absolutely isn't true, in my life I have got lots of things right, there's a part of me that soaks it up and winces anyway.  It hurts me. If I don't believe it, why does it hurt? This is sounding increasingly bizarre, isn't it?  I need to get a grip. I'm going to stop.

Father God, I know that you can do anything, and I need you to do something here because I can't do it. I feel weighed down and I don't know how to shrug it off and leave it with you. I don't know how to put on the armour you've given me and I don't know how to use it in a fight. I know that you have the victory but I'm struggling to believe I have any chance of winning in this particular skirmish. Do I settle for just plodding along and being me? Just getting by? Meeting you in heaven and hearing, 'You could have done so much more?' 

Am I over-thinking this whole thing?  It's not beyond the realms of possibility that this whole thing is much simpler than I'm making it, but you know that from inside my head things don't look simple. I don't have to tell you how I'm feeling in order for you to understand and for that I'm so grateful because I don't feel as if I can explain properly. Just help me, will you? Tell me.

Well, I said I didn't have any words today. Turns out I found some after all.  Pity that none of them were particularly positive. 

I'm sorry about that too.

Monday, 18 July 2011

It's you

You are the whisper after rolling thunder
You are the spark of light in the dark
You are the flash of silver in the raindrops
You are the gleam of gold in my heart

You are the brightness in the dullest of days
You are the colour in the black and white
You are the breeze when there's only stillness
You are the stars in the sky at night

You are the rain in a parched landscape
You are the warmth when the north wind blows
You are the safety of a Father's arms
You are the flower pushing through the snow.

You are the harbour that my soul longs for
You are the signpost on the longest road
You are the safety on the storm tossed ocean
You are the carrier of the heaviest load.

You are beauty amid all that's ugly
You are the answer in a confused world
You are the focus when all seems blurry
You are the first and the final word.

You are the sunset reflected in water
You are blossom on a tree in spring
You are the rainbow in a rain-filled sky
You are the eagle on its outstretched wings.

You are strength where there's only weakness
You are sunlight after days of rain
You are healing where there's bitter hatred
You are peace after all the pain.

You are power where there's indecision
You are love amid all the fears
You are the song in the heart of the blackbird
You are the One wipes away all the tears.

You are the Lord, the King and the Author
You are my Saviour, my God and my Friend
You are the Father, the Son and the Spirit
You are the beginning and you are the end.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah...

Hello, Lord.
Today we had a sermon based around a song that was a particular favourite of mine when I was at University in Liverpool.  We listened to this album a lot and so I know the song word for word. Lots of memories - eating fish and chips out of the paper in the back of a car driving around Sefton Park late at night after one or two drinks (not the driver, I hasten to add), singing loudly; putting on makeup ready to go out with this song in the background; listening to it on my Walkman while strolling along the riverside. Not particularly spiritual memories (especially not the first one, I think), and also I suspect that a careful consideration of the lyrics was perhaps absent on those occasions as well. 

Joan Osborne: One of Us

'If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?'

'If God had a face, what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven 
and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?'

Matt was talking about the will - would you want to see, if it meant that you would have to believe; no choice but to change your life completely?  

I found it hard to put myself in that position. I tried to imagine it, but I couldn't get past a strong sense of awe and gratitude that I do know you. No, it was more than gratitude, it was a deep feeling of joy. Not the jumpy-up-and-downy type of joy, but something deep inside me that felt like heat. Like a hot water bottle in a cold bed in November. Like the first swallow of mulled wine on a winter day. Not emotional but solid. Reliable. Permanent. 

Well, you have lots of names, don't you? I know a few of your names and yes, one day I will fall to my knees in front of you and I will have the confidence to call you Lord, Saviour, God Almighty, Creator and King of Kings.  And by some inexplicable product of your grace and mercy you have invited me to call you Daddy and Friend. Me! Little insignificant me, given significance because you chose me and you cherish me and you want me to be all that I can be. 

It seems an amazing thing that one day I will indeed be in your presence and enveloped in your holiness. One day I too will be pure and perfect. Because you sent your precious son to die for me, I can one day come to meet you face to face.  

If God had a face, what would it look like
And would you want to see...'

I do want to see. Sometimes I can't wait to see. I don't mean that I am some sort of saint-in-waiting or that this life is so appalling that I can't wait to throw in the towel; when I thought I might have breast cancer a few weeks ago I realised how attached I was to this life and the people in it. But sometimes when I'm in church worshipping you and it all seems to come together and I'm in the moment it feels as if you've lifted off the roof of the church so that the angels can join in.

CS Lewis said:

'It's safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.'

Wow. If that's true (and surely it is, for it was said by CS Lewis), then it's an amazing thing. Me, pure in heart? Ha! But on the other hand - I know that when the day comes for me to tremble in front of you as I have nothing to hide behind, I can lean on your forgiveness through Jesus and not have to pay the unpayable price for my sins. I am more excited about meeting you than I am about all the baggage that I would leave at the pearly gates because I trust that it's all dealt with. There must be a holding bay there or something. But you said that you would wash me and I would be whiter than snow. So maybe there's a bit of me that's pure in heart?

So there's the odd occasion when I get one of those glimpses of you and the thing deep inside me - the joy, the warmth - it responds by reaching for you. Is that my soul?

'Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.'

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts, 1707. Charles Wesley reportedly said that he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.  As for me, I like the new tune better than the old one, and I like some bits of it better than others. These last two lines I love. This was the last hymn today and I by no means did it justice as my children were back from their groups, showing me their art and asking me when they could have a biscuit. I'm sure you will let me off the hook for not singing the closing hymn with the appropriate degree of reverence and concentration. (I like to picture you as delighted with Katy's picture and Elizabeth's whale as I was, and sympathetic to their need for sustenance as it was getting on for lunchtime.)

I know that your amazing love demands everything from me, and I long to give you everything. There was a time when I held it all back because I knew that I couldn't/wouldn't give you everything and so I thought it wrong to try to give you anything much at all. Of late I have realised that there's no point in waiting until I can do it all perfectly because that day will never come. I just lay in front of you what I have, what I can. Some of it makes a decent present but I am quite sure that the majority of my offering is far from worthy of you. It's all I have. I know that you love me as I am while wanting more for me, and that touches me in a way I can't express because if I am so disappointed in me much of the time, then how much more must you be, perfect Lord, and yet you still insist that I am your precious child.

Adrian Plass reckons in his book 'When you Walk' that you can see into our hearts and even our messes and botched up attempts at doing the right thing please you. He said:

'God looks into our hearts and and is pleased by an intention to do what we are told. He has learned to live with the scrambled means by which we attempt to be obedient.'

I do have times when I long to do what is right. I am no good at it because my impulses are to do the other thing, but at times I want to be the person you want me to be. I hope that you don't miss those little moments, so that you can see the intention in my heart before it passes. Before it gets drowned out by all the other shouty little voices that so often prevail. 

'What if God was one of us?'

Back to Joan Osborne again. Me being me, I have a problem with the grammar here, as it should, of course, as you'll know, be, 'What if God were one of us', (In case of doubt or desire, IF is followed by WERE) but I can overcome my disapproval in order to mull over the message, just as I did in 1996 to belt out a good tune with wild abandon and no thought for the neighbours in my student days. 

What if God were one of us?  Well, you were, weren't you? So we can't say that you don't know what you're talking about. We can't say that you don't have a clue what it's like to be a person, to be happy and sad, to laugh and cry, to love and mourn and suffer and die. I hold this so close to my heart, Father, knowing that you understand. There's nobody better equipped to understand than Jesus Christ when it comes to having a crap time. 

'For we do not have a hight priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we hav one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - and yet he did not sin.'

Hebrews 4: 14-16

Thankyou that you are not remote, distant, God-like in all but personality and presence. You came and found out what it was like to be the created, not the Creator. You didn't make for yourself a cushy little time on earth where you were treated as you should be entitled; you did it all the hard way. You let mere men criticise and condemn and reject you; you let us sneer and spit on you. You let us kill you, so that we might be free. You did that so that we could come into your presence one day with confidence and call you by your Name and look into your face. You were indeed one of us. 

Joan Osborne, at her most profound, for the last time:

'Yeah, yeah, God is great.
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah...'

Oh yeah, you're good. Oh yeah, you're great.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Old friends, new friends and forgotten friends

Today Elizabeth found out what class she will be in next year. She's going to leave the safe, warm, comfortable, nurturing environment of her year one class and spread her wings into year two. I'm hoping, of course, that her year two teacher might offer a safe, warm, comfortable and nurturing environment too, but leaving the classroom she's been in for the past year will be a huge wrench for me as her teacher has been exceptional and wonderful. Lizzie has come on in leaps and bounds, hasn't she? When I think of the diffident, fearful child she was a year ago it is a truly magnificent change in her. I must write a nice letter. 

But... they've split her class up into different classes and she isn't with any of her friends. They've done it by age, and so by an accident of birth my Elizabeth is off to Red class when all her close pals are off to Blue class. Down the corridor little sister Katy will be settling in to Purple class, but that's by the way. 

I have mixed feelings about Lizzie's segregation from her buddies; there have been some incidents this year that have upset her so it might be that away from certain children she might get a chance to be herself a bit more and not be in anyone's shadow, but at six it does seem hard to split them up from the childish alliances that they've only really recently managed to make. 

I can remember my friend from infant school. Her name was Tara. I wonder what she's doing now. I imagine you know. Does her nose still run all the time? Funnily enough I remember thinking she was great and being in awe of her, but I can't remember for the life of me what she looked like. I don't have the first idea what happened to her, but I do know that our age six friendship didn't stand the test of time. By junior school it was long gone.

So maybe I should learn from this not to allow Elizabeth's friendship ups and downs to worry me too much. Today she is a bit subdued because all her mates are in Blue class and she's in Red, but she's not devastated. She likes her new teacher and is feeling all grown up as she is in Top Class now. Next year she'll move to a different school completely, so she is indeed at the moment a Big Fish in a Small Pond. Her excitement is greater than her disappointment. It's my anxiety, then, not hers. Why do I put myself through it?

You should have seen the looks on the faces of the mums outside school as they compared notes on who's little darling was in which class and with whom. (Well, alright, you did). There were tears and scowls and smiles and jumping up and down (and from the grown ups too). We all just want them to be happy. It's just that we think we know best how to make them happy, not the teachers, not the headmistress, and in my case, not you. If you'd just consult me a bit more, maybe we'd all be happier? Or maybe not. 

Lord, you know how far Lizzie has come since last year. Please rain blessings down on her wonderful teacher who has been so encouraging, perceptive and loving this year and who took me on one side this morning to ask me how Elizabeth took the news and to explain that she'd watched her at a playtime in her new group and thought that she would be OK as she seemed happy and was mixing well. Lord, be close to my little girl and help her to know that she is so beautiful, so clever, so bright, so vivid, so interesting, unique. Very, totally, completely unique (ha ha). 

Thankyou for her brain and her vivacity and her curiosity. Help her to grow more and more in confidence in her own abilities and also in her own attractiveness. Help her to see that she is worth knowing. Help her to shake off some of the inevitable cruel comments that have wounded her. Let your flame burn in her so brightly that she lights up the room with all that she is. Help me to encourage her and not undermine her. Help me to rein in my critical nature and let her blossom, even if it does mean a lot of clearing up afterwards. 

Father, as we go into the school holidays, give us all peace and anticipation of the new school year, not dread. As Katy leaves nursery in a few days, help her to look forward to being at Big School and not fear it. Give Lizzie kindness and tenderness as she talks about school with her little sister and, please, Lord Jesus, in your mercy let Lizzie play with Kate once or twice at playtime because Katy is counting on it so much. 

And me. Lord, you know how far I've come this year in my battle with my inferiority complex in the gaggle of gorgeous mums at the school gates. I am so much more relaxed (though I do still a) feel more comfortable in sunglasses and b) try to arrive just as the children are coming out and dash off as soon as I've grabbed Lizzie). Thankyou for some lovely friendly people that I've met, and one friendship from twenty years ago that has been rekindled because of the school run. As I prepare to meet a whole host of new mums as Katy starts school, Lord, again lift me up so that I can rise to the occasion and not run away and hide. 

Don't let my girls be lonely, Lord. Show them how to be a good friend so that they might make good friends. 

You are the best friend anyone could have. Show us all how to be more like you. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Microscopic but annoying

I'm emotionally drained. I know that's a bit of a cliche but the phone rang a while ago after a day full of appointments, intense conversations, good news, bad news and confusing news and if it had been just one more thing that required concentration or detailed consideration then I would have been forced to arrange to call back tomorrow.

Katy had another appointment at the hospital today with a new consultant (General Medicine) that we hadn't met before and weren't expecting to meet, as we didn't know till 11.25 this morning that we had even been referred to General Medicine. We were expecting Paediatrics, Phlebotomy, Ophthalmology, ENT or Maxillofacial consultants, but General Medicine was a new one. Still, any doctor is a doctor worth seeing in the pursuit of a diagnosis for Katy and so we were at the hospital within half an hour from the phone call  despite having to collect Kate from nursery. She was about to have her dinner, poor little lamb, and it was something she liked too.

Anyway, the Gen Med Consultant told us that he knows what's wrong with Katy, so that makes him a very nice man indeed. It turns out that they have finally isolated the bacterium that's causing her bump to recur and it's not any of the enormous list of nightmarish conditions and diseases that it might have been. It's a germ. Not a condition or a syndrome. She could have picked it up anywhere as it's around in the environment. It isn't contagious. She was just unlucky. A bug. Microscopic but bloody annoying.


It is, however, rare, and the little clutch of doctors that know Katy's bump inside and out are now discussing what to do about it. Apparently it doesn't respond well to treatment and they need to consult current research. (I've googled it and there's precious little available to the layman so I do hope they have more helpful stuff in their library). Now that they have identified it they know which drugs they need to prescribe for her but she would need to take them daily for two years, and there is a theoretical risk of permanent damage to her eyes.  She's got such a little body; how can they know what big drugs might do to her if she's taking them for two years? I'm not liking this option that much.

Alternatively, they could operate again and this time (I hope) remove all of the offending tissue, not leaving any to grow back, and avoiding all nerves and other valuable structures in her neck which are perilously close to this growth. Sigh. I'm not wild about that option either, to be honest.

We're waiting and seeing. In the meantime I'm fielding a deluge of appointments for a wide range of different clinics that are arriving thick and fast in the form of telephone calls, text messages and letters and trying to work out which of them were made pre-diagnosis, and therefore are still exploratory and thus now unnecessary, and which are post-diagnosis and still relevant. I am on first name terms with the ENT secretary.

So where are we up to? I'm saying thankyou so, so much that my little girl doesn't appear to have any of the scariest diseases and conditions that she was being tested for. Thankyou that someone worked it out. Thankyou that something eventually grew on one of the little petrie dishes in a lab somewhere and that they could identify it. Thankyou it isn't life threatening. Thankyou that it seems as if her other organsa re not affected. Thankyou that people have got better from this before and treatments exist. Thankyou that we have doctors who can do all this.


I'm coming up to some 'please's now, did you guess?

Please can we have Katy getting better in an uneventful sort of way? Please no more complications, side effects or further disaster or distress? It's funny that in the light of drugs that might poison her or make her go blind, another operation seems preferable, when a few short months ago it seemed the last resort. Now I feel as if I just want this lump excised, efficiently this time, and with an appropriate margin, causing no lasting damage and minimal scarring.  The dressing changes scare me quite a lot, but even so...

Just make her better, Father. Give the doctors wisdom, confidence and skill. Give them compassion on a little girl who is only four and afraid of pain, sticking plasters, needles and nurses. Give them compassion on a Mummy who loves her little girl to the end of the world and who would do anything to keep her little girl from being afraid.

I'm hoping that this might be dealt with before her start at Big School in September, though I really haven't got an idea if that might be the case. It might be that they convince us that the drug therapy is the best bet and so we just plod on. Still too many unknowns for me to feel peaceful though it is a huge relief to know which little brute of a bacterium has been making our lives so miserable for the last four months.

Lord, thankyou for some progress.  Thankyou that Katy is so brave and that I have been surrounded by wonderful people at church and home who have prayed, chatted, hugged and prayed some more. Thankyou that you do listen to me even when I go on and on and get boring. Thankyou that you care about us and will never let us down.

Stay with us on this one a bit longer. Could do with a bit more of you, please. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Bedtime battles

Every day is such a battle. 

Here's an example.  Every night I go and look at my children when they're asleep. I've said before that some wise soul once told me to do this because it presses a 'reset' button after the day and indeed it does. On a pretty much daily basis bathtime and bedtime deteriorates in to a struggle; a battle of wills between me and the girls, and by the time I tuck them into bed there have, more often than not, been raised voices and harsh words.  I come downstairs with nerves jangled and temper wearing thin. That time of the day is such a difficult time for me. I'm tired and looking forward to bed, or I need them to settle so that I can prepare for home group or something else, and I'm just a mess of frustration and impatience. 

So I come downstairs and I do the evening things like set the washing machine, start the dishwasher, water the plants, put toys away and peel sticky tape off every surface (my girls are obsessed with sticky tape. You wouldn't believe the things that can be made with sticky tape). 

If left alone, these chores have a sort of therapeutic feel to them and by the time I have a cup of coffee and an opportunity to sit down, two things have usually happened. One, the sun has gone in, and it's no longer worth sitting outside, and two, I am feeling much more well-disposed towards my daughters. This is when The Guilt sets in.

My lovely Lizzie
On occasion I've even gone back upstairs at this point to say goodnight again in a more friendly manner and this has mixed success. Sometimes I'm too late with my peace mission and they're already asleep - too late. The Guilt has the upper hand. Alternatively, they might be still awake and subdued because of the palaver earlier and the dire imprecations that if they made so much as a whisper the wrath of Mummy would descend on them all over again. If this is the case, with a cuddle and a snuggle we can be happy with each other before we go to sleep. I like it when this happens.  

The third possible outcome is that I mistime my reconciliation visit with disastrous results. I enter the bedroom just as Lizzie or Katy is drowsy but not yet asleep and my arrival wakes them up again. With Elizabeth this means she will be cross and grumpy, compounding my guilt at being a Bad Mummy. With Katy this means that she will wake up again completely, launch into varied boisterous activities and require settling from scratch, a process which could once again reduce me to Snappy Mummy and start the procedure all over again. 

Beautiful Katy.
NB Barney by left ear
So I maybe don't go back upstairs and it waits until my bedtime before I go in and perch on the edge of the bed (trying to avoid a leg or a hand or a knee or something) and I kiss them and inhale that wonderful wonderful aroma of warm sleeping child. I whisper things to them and I sit with my hand on them and I pray for them. Sometimes it's a 'Lord, just look' sort of prayer full of wonder and gratitude, and other times it's a smidge more involved. I know that you know that it's nothing epic. At that time of night I don't have much in me. Recently, if Katy's been lying the right way I've put my hand on the bump on her neck and screwed up my eyes tightly and begged you to heal her. 

But that's another issue altogether.

What I wanted to say, Lord, was that I wish I could do better, I really do. I end every day looking at my girls and promising myself that tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow I will be much more patient, considerate, smiley, encouraging. Less critical, shouty, irritable. Usually I've blown it before breakfast. Katy hates having her teeth brushed. Lizzie has a wobbly tooth and is so incredibly protective of it that I have to brush her teeth through a gap the size of a keyhole. Neither of them want to get dressed. Katy can't have milk on her cereal because of her drugs and of course, the only thing she wants to eat in the world is milky cereal. Elizabeth doesn't want her hair brushed, Katy won't find her shoes. Throughout all this, of course, Mummy didn't want to get out of bed and wishes she were back there so isn't exactly the postergirl for a.m. affability. 

I know what I want to do but I don't do it. I know what I ought to do but I can't seem to control myself. I regret what I often do and resolve not to do it again but do it again I do. With discouraging regularity.

St Paul (himself) put it like this:

'So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!'

Romans 7:21-24a

There are so very many parts of my life in which this is true, but none so painful to me as this one. I hate that I am crabby to my kids so often. I dread that they will grow up thinking back to their tiny days with me as an impatient, critical, nagging mother who was constantly making threats and stalking off disgruntled at bedtime. Remembering me as the Mummy who shouts rather loudly when Barney goes missing at bedtime for the hundredth time, and then throws him at the wall in a temper when he turns up (under the pillow on which she was lying, grr). I blame tiredness (all the time) and their naughtiness or disobedience or a million other things but I need to be more patient. More giving. To let them be children and accept that they're not perfect, as I am not perfect. I do try to apologise, to say, 'Mummy shouldn't have said/done that; I'm sorry I upset you' but there's a limit to how many times it'll make things alright. 

I need to get a grip.

Paul finishes off:

'What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that it subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!'

Amen and amen. 

Forgive me for all the times that I make a mess of it all, Lord. Thankyou that you will indeed deliver me from all the bad things that I can't seem to help doing.

You need to help me with this, Lord, because I am just too short of sleep, short of tolerance, short of love, short of patience to do it myself. I want to look at my girls tonight and marvel at their beauty, their smallness, their innocence; resolve to do better tomorrow, and actually do better tomorrow.  Help me to stop doing the things I hate doing. Help me stop the anger, the impatience, the temper, the harshness and the criticism.

'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'

Galatians 5:22-23

I need all those things, Lord.  I can't seem to do it on my own. 


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Installing a hotline

I'm feeling confused. I'm wondering what to do. I have a couple of decisions to make and I keep asking you what you think but you don't seem to be committing yourself. 

Other people seem to be guided by you but  I'm not hearing you. I know people who seem to have some sort of hotline to your Divine Ear, and seem to chat with you in a talking/listening sort of way but I don't. Well, I know that you do communicate with me; I know that you do let me know your thoughts sometimes, but I've never asked you a question and felt that you gave me an answer.

Now, I am aware of my lack of insight here and this may very well be one of those Daddy/child moments where you are shaking your head in amusement at my failure to grasp how very much you do for me. Is this like my daughter saying to me,

'Mummy, you don't listen to me!' ?

I have my suspicions but the more I think about it the more I can't think of a time when I said,

'God, what should I do? A, or B?'

and you actually told me.

Is it always me asking the wrong question? Is it your modus operandi to simply stay quiet until I realise that the real question is something completely different? If so, can you let me know so that I can back off a bit and stop pestering you and stop myself from agonising about it? I have time sensitive decisions to make (or at least they seem time sensitive to me) and if you don't think that I should be concerning myself with either of the possible outcomes, then you could, if you were so inclined, save me the waking up in the night and wondering?

Go on. You know you want to.

I'm just not by nature a decisive person. I don't find decision making easy. You made me that way! I need to explore options, check out alternatives and have all the facts before I feel comfortable making a decision. If I have to make a decision quickly I invariably make the wrong one. But this time, like so many others, I'm asking you, 'Should I do this, or this?' and you're maintaining a dignified silence. Or some sort of silence, anyway. A wise silence. Is it that you think I can make this one on my own? Do you have confidence in me to do the Right Thing? Or are you testing me to see if I choose the Right Thing? Or is there no Right Thing and you don't mind which direction I go? Or is it all irrelevant and you know something I don't?

Now there's a daft thing to say. Of course you know something I don't.

Look, I know you do a good line in the hindsight thing. I know that so many times in my life I have seen your hand in the way things turned out, the decisions I made, the people you put in my way - but most of those are years down the line when events have played themselves out already. I don't want to be looking over my shoulder in a decade's time and saying, 'Ah. So that was what God wanted me to do, ' because quite probably, with my confidence levels right now, the next sentence would be, 'Pity I didn't do it.'

I'm floundering around throwing down fleeces, ('If such and such a person says such and such to me tonight in church I will do such and such') and waking up in the small hours wondering what to do for the best. I'm wondering what will happen if I just avoid making a decision at all; how many people will I let down, what will I miss out on, what will I do wrong? If I make the wrong decision, how difficult will it be to undo? I realise I'm dwelling on the negative, but what do you expect? I wouldn't be me, otherwise, would I?

I understand that the world will go on turning if I don't get it right. I understand that I could make a complete mess of the next year of my life and you would sort it all out without shouting at me. I know that I can rely on you whatever the outcome. I just want to get it right, is that OK?

Teach me to hear your voice, Lord God. Not just to see your majesty in the rainbows and sunsets and your creativity and beauty in the birds and the scenery, not just your comfort in the sleep you send for me and your love in my friends and my family. Help me to hear your voice of guidance. Give me more faith. Give me more perception. Give me more wisdom. More discernment.

More whatever it takes to install that hotline.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

You remain the same

Nothing has changed and so much all at the same time. This week I have been at the very end of my tether; just feeling so hopeless and miserable, and then since then there have been some little sparks of joy that can only have come from you.

I have had the chance to talk to several wise and supportive friends this week and I know that I have friends who are praying for me. Nothing has changed; Katy's lump is still there and growing, the doctors haven't got any closer to making her better; she still isn't eating properly and her tantrums grow more frequent every day, but today I am feeling better about things. And it's not because of the mystical Good Night's Sleep either as I was late in bed last night and early up this morning as war broke out in Elizabeth's room before 7am as Kate decided it would be a good idea to wake Lizzie up to tell her that she was making off with her Lego plane to turn it into a swing for Barney. 

So, here I am. Someone recently said to me that if you're going through hard times, find a song and hang onto it. This was easy for me as I have a song that chose me only a few days ago.

You are the voice of hope
The anchor of my soul
When 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 you the most high

You are indeed the voice of my hope, Father God. I don't know where I'd be without you. For every time I ask where you are when I need you, or wonder with frustration why you aren't performing miracles to make Katy better or solve my problems, there are two occasions where I know that I wouldn't want to be where I am without you. I know that you are the prince of peace, and where you are there is peace, so today I know that you are in my heart.

Where there seems to be no way, you make it possible, Lord. On Monday I was feeling so defeated that I didn't know how I was going to make it to the other end of the week, and yet you have blessed me with friends who have hugged and listened and advised and pointed me back to you. You have blessed me with spookily relevant Bible readings in my daily notes and you have comforted and challenged and spoken sternly. You have given me sleep and cuddles from my girls.

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

This is undoubtedly a storm in my life; the wind seems to have been blowing hard for a while and some days I've leaned into it and made progress forwards and other days I've let it blow me away. It's raining hard and I'm soaked through but on days like today I'm looking for a rainbow. I know that you won't leave me without one.

You remain the same. You are the same God who touches me to tell me that you love me. You are the same God who sent his Son to die for me. You are the same yesterday, today and forever. You are the beginning and the end. You hold history in your hand and you don't age or forget. You are eternal and you are everything. You are the same God who delights in me and won't let me fall. Why do I doubt it?

You remain the same; it's me that changes. You are constant, unchanging; it's me that blows this way and that and forgets and remembers and gets confused and jumps to conclusions. You don't change.

Through good and bad, yet I will worship. I will keep on praising you when the sun is out and when the clouds are low and threatening. I will hang on to you and evil will flee from me. I will trust you because you love me.

Thankyou for the little seed of joy you planted in my heart this week, Lord. Help me to water it and make it grow and not starve it until it shrivels up. Help me to take it with me so that I can keep myself going with it. Thankyou for my friends, my song and my family, even though they drive me mad at times.

I am blessed indeed to be your child, and I'm so grateful that you have endless, endless patience as my Daddy.

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