Saturday, 31 March 2012

Crowded with you

Hello, God.

Your old friend CS Lewis said this:

'We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.'

I think this is true. I don't have a big brain, and so I can't quite get my head around it, this thing about the Creator of the universe who is so unimaginably huge that holds the galaxies in his hand, yet wants to know me. Wants to share in the minutiae of my life. In the same way I don't really grasp what it means that you are everywhere.
I saw you.

You are...everywhere

The thing is, I have noticed that some days I have eyes that see you and some days it's as if I'm walking round with my eyes shut. Some days you're everywhere and others you're nowhere to be found. I've come to realise that the former is true, even on the other sort of days. Sometimes I want to see you and my eyes and my mind is open and ready and eager to experience you, and then there are the times when I have my eyes screwed shut and my fingers in my ears and I'm shouting 'lalalala' rather than risk bumping into you. It doesn't mean that you're not there, though. 

And when I do see you all around me, I realise that the days when I ignore you are days when I miss out on so much. 

Hairy Caterpillar
This week we've had unseasonably warm weather. I had the opportunity to sit in the garden and do nothing because my older daughter was home from school poorly. We saw a dozen different types of bird on the bird table and splashing in the bird bath and we saw ladybirds and caterpillars and the most enormous bumble bee I have ever seen in my life. Spring is appearing all around me and in the last seven days the bare brown branches of trees have a haze of green on them. The magnolias have budded and blossomed and the leaves are starting to emerge. Shoots of plants that I'd forgotten about are starting to push through the heavy soil that desperately needs a bit of a dig. The grass was cut for the first time this year. The greenhouse is clean (ish) and I have packets of seeds that I'm looking forward to sowing. Soon, when the risk of frost is gone I'll pot up my bedding plants and wheel out the big yucca again and the front of the house will be in its summer plumage again. 

It's not just the signs of Spring that make me think of you. This week has not been a great one for me and yet you have been close by my side and I've been aware of you. Even at the moments that I've been least loveable, I have known that you have loved me. 

On Tuesday night my daughter Elizabeth told me that she didn't feel as if I loved her. This was after a particularly explosive bath and bedtime where we were all upset and angry but it hurt me very much. I cried and cried. I felt like an utter failure as a mother. The next day and the next, Elizabeth was poorly and we got to spend lots of time together. She needed her mummy and I was only too pleased to be needed. On Friday Lizzie made it back to school, a little pale and wraith-like, perhaps, but it was her class assembly and the last day of term before the Easter break so I said yes. 

We went to see her assembly and it was lovely. In typical Lizzie fashion she hadn't told us what her part(s) were in the assembly and it turned out that she read some bits, held up some pieces of work and then was the dove that left Noah's ark and came back with the olive branch to show that the waters were receding. She was a beautiful little dove in her pretty summer dress doing a fluttery dance around the 'ark'. 

I was very proud. 

Healing indeed. I hope I don't drop the ball again too soon. 

You are indeed everywhere.  In the darkness and the light. In the colour and the shadows. In happiness and misery. In success and failure. 

You're there in the Spring blossom and you're there when a child is sick. You're there in the middle of the night in the bathroom and you're there in the sun in the back garden. You're there loving me when we are ashamed of ourselves and you're there loving us when we think we're doing alright. There's forgiveness and acceptance and love. 
Thankyou for being there.


for my family
for healing - physical and emotional
that Spring comes after Winter
for bumble bees and hairy caterpillars and ladybirds
that dead things come alive again


that there's nothing I can do to make you love me more
that there's nothing I can do to make you love me less

Lord, keep my eyes open. The world is a darker place when I can't see you. Keep me looking and finding and noticing. 


Thursday, 29 March 2012

The joys of motherhood

I have slowed down, God. 

Once again, I've had to cancel some things and change plans and it's actually been alright. 

Yesterday was one of those days where my heart goes out to a poorly little one as my Lizzie was ill with a tummy bug. She is usually so energetic, never still, always doing something, interested in everything, constantly on the go, but yesterday she just was.  Not like her at all. 

So she lay with her head in my lap, or Grandma's, and she dozed a little, but mostly she just lay. I stroked her hair and read her stories and held her when she was sick. I whispered to her, and kissed her and cuddled her. She's usually too fast moving to be much in favour of snuggles and so it was a treat, to be honest, to sit still with Elizabeth. She wanted Mummy, and that, too, was a treat after the debacle of the night before. 

My little girl was poorly and we spent a day together. I couldn't make her better and neither could the doctor - though we've had the palaver of getting a stool sample up to the surgery so that they can determine which evil little bug is making her sick. That was fun. The joys of motherhood. 

My poorly Elizabeth
Actually, the joy of motherhood is sitting with your little girl's head on your knee or on your shoulder on a bench in the garden on an unseasonably hot day in March. We read fairy stories and a bit of Enid Blyton (what a trip down memory lane that was) and we played I-Spy and we sat quietly. The night before I'd hit the bottom of the motherhood experience; the sense of utter failure and defeat, and then yesterday and today I got to claw it back a bit. Maybe make up a bit of ground. I'm not sure who needed who the most these last two days but I think it might have been a close thing. 

Today Liz was much improved though still a pale, thin-looking wraith with no appetite. We went to the supermarket this morning and she made my shopping list and ticked off items for me. We laughed that the list appeared to say, 'hairy-way' instead of 'hairspray'; for a six year old this was hilarious and I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this joke. And you know what? Every time she asks me if I need 'hairy-way' I will joke back. I promise. For as long as it makes her laugh, I will make the effort. To make her smile. It won't be long before she doesn't laugh at my jokes. That laugh is precious. 

In the shop a kind lady on a promotions desk gave Lizzie a tiny pot of ice-cream and she even grated a smudge of chocolate on it and added a strawberry when she heard that Liz was recuperating from a tummy upset. Elizabeth was tempted enough to eat it and declared it delicious. The most wonderful ice cream ever. 

Beautiful Lizzie
We bought a tub to bring home. A winner every time. 

Afterwards we went to the coffee shop for a drink and I'd have bought her cake if she'd wanted it. She was helpful and thoughtful and lovely company and it was good. I love her so much

Thankyou Father. Thankyou for healing after hurting. 

I'm not sure if I overlook Lizzie sometimes. She's the older one and the attention has been on Katy, I think. Katy is smaller, more affectionate, more vulnerable in some ways. Or maybe that's just how I see her because over the past twelve months she's had surgery twice and more appointments at the hospital than I could count. She's the one we're worried about all over again and we're psyching ourselves up for more appointments, blood tests, scans, treatments, surgery. Maybe Lizzie gets left out. I didn't think so but maybe she does. Maybe Katy is the baby and Lizzie the more self-contained older sister. I don't know, but I worry.

Oh dear. 

It's so hard, God. It's so hard to anticipate all these needs and respond to them when I'm so tired and when my head is full of so much stuff. I have two small people who depend on me for so much - physically and practically and emotionally and spiritually, and I have a horror of letting them down. What scars will I leave when I do let them down, which I'm certain to do. I let Elizabeth down the other day and she let me know about it. I feel that the last two days have been a gift to bring us closer again and I will always be grateful for that. 

But I'd rather have not got it so badly wrong in the first place. 

I am not a perfect Mummy, and neither are my girls perfect children either. I know that. They are so different from each other, and so different from me. They're not going to do everything the way I want them to, no matter how much I want them to. I don't want to try to make them into something that they're not. I just want them to grow up knowing that they are loved, that they are special. That they are capable and valued and unique and loved, just as they are. I can't do it on my own. Bryan and I can't do it between us. We all can't do it, all the family and friends and church together. We need you. 

You loaned me my two girls to look after for a while. They are your children. You don't have grandchildren - we are all your little girls and little boys. You think I can do this job, or you wouldn't have given these two beautiful little people into my care. You seem to think that I can do a good enough job. I doubt it sometimes, but whether I do or not, the job still needs doing.

Please give me again what I need to make sure that they grow up ok. Please heal them of any hurts that are planted in their little hearts. Don't let anything negative thrive in their minds, Lord. Cleanse the two of them of any ideas that might damage them in any ways. Protect them from doubt and insecurity and jealousy and fear. Lord God, who knew each one of them even before they were in my tummy, mould them the way you want them to be so that they won't have to unpick years of worry or confusion or rejection in the years to come before they can be all that they were made to be

Help me, Father. 
  • Prop me up when I don't have any more energy. 
  • Give me patience to stop the exasperated sigh when they spill their drinks or their cereal or the paint. 
  • Give me grace to smile when I feel like snarling. 
  • Give me self-control to keep back the cutting words when they're too silly for my grown up way of thinking and my sense of humour is AWOL. 
  • Lord of compassion, give me wisdom to find the right words when I need to correct them without crushing them. 
  • Prince of peace, show me how to break up a fight with justice when there's no earthly way of knowing who was in the wrong. 
  • Show me how to comfort a child who has been pinched, or pushed, or cheated out of the last biscuit. 
  • Help me to forgive, and show them how to do it too. They're going to need a lot of practice. 
  • Give me buckets and buckets of love so that when my tankful comes to an end I can run on your reserve supply. 
  • God of mercy, give me the grace to hug a child who's covered in vomit because they need a hug and it can't wait until they're bathed.
  • Show me how to bring joy and contentment into their lives instead of dissatisfaction and envy.
  • Creator God, help me to show them the wonder around them; to see you everywhere. To teach them that the world is a beautiful place, not a scary one.
  • When they wake in the night with unnamed fears or needs give me the grace to soothe them even when I'm desperate for sleep myself. Even when it's the fourth or fifth time that night.
  • When the world is too much for them, help me to help them cope. Show me how to build them up, not demolish them. How I long for my girls to have more confidence than I've had, to be comfortable with themselves. Not arrogant or boastful, but at peace
  • Give me understanding when I can't work out what is needed. 
  • Lord God, equip me to show my little girls the way to find you for themselves. I'll never ever do that when I shout and glare at them. Light of the world, help me to shine brightly, not bring darkness and shadows.
  • Help me to quiet the insistent, selfish little voice that constantly complains, 'But what about me?'
  • And anything else I need that I've left out. I could go on forever but I need to get to bed tonight. 
Above all, save me from thinking that I have to do all this on my own. 

The prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair; hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, 
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

Amen. Oh yes, amen. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Evening, Lord.

Blimey. It never rains but it pours, hey. As Shakespeare said, 

'When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.' 
Hamlet Act IV scene 5

Is there anything in the Bible along those lines? Possibly Proverbs? I'll look into it. 

We've got an appointment to see the new doctor who'll be looking after Katy over at the children's hospital next week. In the last few days I've had appointments with doctors, nurses and dentists and I feel a bit as if I'm falling apart. In a physical, literal sort of sense. Bits of me don't work properly. Last night the children behaved badly at bedtime and I confess, so did I, in a angry and shouty sort of way, and we all ended up in tears. Katy crept onto my lap and whispered 'Sorry Mummy' and we had a cuddle. Lizzie handed me a note that told me that she knew in her heart that I didn't love her.

I went to pieces. It was late, I was very tired, it had been a hard day. I wasn't feeling well. My tooth ached. The children were being horrible. 

My oldest daughter told me that she thought I didn't love her. She said that she could see it in my face and she could hear it in my shouts. 

I don't think anything has hurt me so much in a long time. It took my breath away. A tidal wave of feelings overtook me. Intense emotional pain. Guilt. Despair. Shame. Fear. Self-pity. More guilt. I had been so angry with them. They wouldn't listen. More bath water ended up on the floor than in the bath. They wouldn't be still so that I could brush teeth. They wouldn't get into their pyjamas. They were silly, then they fought with each other. I narrowed my eyes and I glared and I shouted. We all cried. Katy came for cuddles and Lizzie hit back. 

She hit her target, I think. I didn't know what to do. I struggled to find words. Me! I talked with her and I hugged her but she wouldn't look at me and just kept saying, 'It doesn't feel like you love me.' Then she asked me if I'd mend a toy that she'd broken earlier. She didn't want to talk about it.  

Lord, does she really not know that I love her? I'm so, so sorry. She and Katy are the most important, most precious things in my life. I've said to them over and over how much I love them, that I love them even when I'm cross with them. I've said I'm sorry for shouting and I've told them that Mummy doesn't always get it right. What am I to do when they are impossible? I know, not shout. Not throw the towel on the floor. 

Sigh. I need to pull myself together. I know that she's six, and perhaps she doesn't understand the power of her words, but nevertheless, they broke my heart. I know the difference between conviction and condemnation and I'm still working on which this is. Both, perhaps. I know that I should have had more self control, more patience, more kindness. But I love my girls to the end of the world. I have never, ever, felt like such a complete failure as a mother.

She told me that she didn't think I loved her

I have tears welling up just thinking about it. 

So after a terrible evening full of tears and worries and regrets I went to bed. Best thing to do. I read a bit of a book by Max Lucado about Easter. It's called He Chose the Nails: What God did to win your heart. It has a chapter in it that tells a story of a young girl who turns away from her father to go her own way. It speaks about rebellion and how we have all at some point rejected your love. 

It made me think.  

Now, this is where I don't know if you spoke to me through the few pages of this book that I read last night, or if my imagination was working overtime, or if I'm even making any sense, really, but it occurred to me that I might have hurt you just like Lizzie hurt me

Have I ever told you, 'It doesn't feel as if you love me?' 

All the time. 

Recently, I've been asking (or rather, not asking, as I haven't really been talking to you that much, have I?) whether you love me enough to look after my Katy. I've wondered if I can trust you if 'your will' might not be to my liking. After all, you do allow people to die, don't you? People who love you lose people they love, don't they? Bad things happen to good people, don't they? 

So I know that I have doubted your love. Perhaps I never stamped my foot or wrote you a hurtful little note, but you knew it was in my heart. 

'It doesn't feel as if you love me.'

Sometimes, it doesn't. 

But, like me with my beautiful little girl, maybe it doesn't mean that you don't. 

So what is there to say? 

Lord, I don't know if this analogy goes any further; Lizzie and Katy had been badly behaved at bedtime and I lost my temper. I don't think that you're punishing me for something with all the stuff that I have on my plate at the moment. Health issues, Katy's health issues, (and now Lizzie's health issues, as she's been home today with gastro-enteritis, poor love). Yesterday I had done some nice things for people. I'd been helpful and thoughtful and done my best. I wasn't looking for a disaster at bedtime. Katy's been having nightmares and I'm a bit sleep deprived. I was vulnerable and I lost control and it all went wrong. 

Lizzie didn't feel like I loved her. 

Poor darling. I do. I do. I love her so, so much. But life doesn't always permit me to smile and let it go. Her behaviour was terrible. I shouldn't have shouted, but I didn't deserve that little note, did I?  

I don't always feel as if you love me

Are you saying, 'I do. I do. I love you so, so much'?  Do I have the power to hurt you, God? 

I'm so sorry. You shower me with blessings and I doubt that you love me. Things don't go my way and so I become petulant and spiteful. I might wrap it up with more sophisticated phraseology but what I mean is, 

Sometimes I don't feel as if you love me.

I know that you do. I just want to feel it more. I like feelings. I like it when I feel you smile at me. I like it when things go my way. 

Elizabeth likes those things too, and I love to give them to her. There's nothing I love more than to see her happy little face and feel her affection and make her happy. There really isn't. But she's unlikely to get them when she's naughty. 

Now I don't mean that I'm proud of the shouting and the towel flinging and the angry face because I'm not. It wasn't good. But I wonder if I'm just as bad. 

Father, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for hurting my little girl and I'm sorry for hurting you. 

Make it alright, will you, Lord? Please? 

I wrote Elizabeth a note last night. I said I'm sorry that we were cross with each other and I'm sorry I shouted. I said I'm sorry she didn't feel I loved her but that I do love her so, so much. She didn't mention it but I know that she read it. Today I spent much of the day with my arms wrapped round her as she felt poorly. I held her when she was sick and I sat with her when she was in the bathroom ill with cramps. I have stroked her hair and read stories and kissed her over and over. I would go to the end of the earth for her. 

You sit with me when I cry in my sleep. You give me strength to wait for my daughter when she is in surgery. You have touched me with love when I needed it most. I shouldn't doubt you. 

Lizzie knows that I love her. I'm sure she does. I will try harder to make sure that she doesn't doubt it.

I know that you love me. I'm sorry if I hurt you. If it was anything like that note last night it hurt an awful lot. 

I have forgiven Lizzie.

I hope that she has forgiven me. 

Forgive me

Thankyou for second chances. And the ones after that. 

Heal us, Lord. Heal us when we hurt each other. 


Friday, 23 March 2012


Good morning, God.

I had a glimpse. A moment. A wake-up call.

I realised something.

The other night I watched a film by Louie Giglio and it was called 'Indescribable'. It was amazing and it was about you; about the work of your hands. About the planets, the solar system, outer spiral arms and galaxies and universes and things. It was very scientific and the numbers and distances and so on were mind-blowing - at least they were for me - as you know I am in possession of a mind that is very easily blown when it comes to numbers of more than a few digits. 

The film featured photographs from the Hubble space telescope and the point was this:

I am Very Small.  
You, however, are Very Big.

I am tiny. As Louie Giglio's talk progressed, I got smaller and smaller as I had a little glimpse into the immensity of the place I live. How much is 'out there'. I am very, very small. Insignificant. 

And then there's you. Vast. Enormous. Vocabulary doesn't touch it; it can't begin to cover the hugeness of you.  You are this big (holding arms wide, wide open) and I am this small (holding thumb and forefinger very close together).  There. That's about it, only my arms would need to be much, much longer, and my ability to hold my fingers apart without touching would need to be far better. 

It turns out that space, or what we know if it, is rather large. This is what I have been told:

Light travels very fast. It travels at three hundred thousand kilometres per second. It would take one and a quarter seconds for light to get from earth to the moon. Eight and a half minutes for light to travel from the sun to earth. This is because the sun is much further away than the moon. It's about one hundred and fifty million kilometres away, in fact.

1. The Whirlpool Galaxy
If I could travel at the speed of light (apart from being able to break up fights between the children before blows actually landed, which would be quite useful), I could travel from one side of our galaxy, the Milky Way, to the other side but it would take one hundred and fifty thousand years. That's one hundred and fifty thousand years travelling as fast as light can travel, and that's fast enough to get from here to the moon in one and a quarter seconds.

So a hundred and fifty thousand years, travelling at an inconceivable speed, to get from one side of this galaxy to the other. And, it turns out, we think that there are other galaxies out there as well as the Milky Way. Round about one hundred billion other galaxies, as far as we know. And in each one the scientists think there might be around one hundred million stars. So if there are a hundred million stars in our galaxy, and there are perhaps a hundred billion other galaxies, then how many stars are there? A hundred million times a hundred billion...I have no idea how many noughts that is.


But not immeasurable by you. You made it. You arranged it. And you know each star by name.

There are more stars being made every second. You put them in their places. Just where you want them.

A hundred billion. I don't follow the numbers too closely as my brain can't handle them. I can get a grip on numbers of up to about 72,000 - I pick that number as that's the number of people who came to the Live Aid Concert at Wembley in 1985 and I gazed at the pictures of the crowds in awe for quite some time. Wembley Stadium, full to bursting, held 72,000 people. I know what that number looks like. If someone tells me, 'Imagine four Wembleys, or six, or ten...' I can keep up for a while in my imagination before it throws in the towel.

That's how soon I'm out of my depth when I'm thinking about big numbers and you. Because you hold all this in your hand.

'Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.'

Isaiah 40:26

So, there are millions of billions of stars, and galaxies beyond the far horizons of our dreams (to quote YFriday*), and yet you know each star by name.


The dictionary has things to say on the subject of big. I'm still half attempting to get my head round it, aren't I?

VAST (adj) [v'ast/v'ahst]
def: very large, wide in range.synonyms: all-inclusive, astronomical, boundless, colossal, endless, enormous, eternal, great, huge, limitless, immeasurable, immense, infinite, massive, tremendous, unlimited. 

That's you.

Where distance and time meet. You are infinite, unlimited, eternal, immeasurable.

And yet you love me.

Maybe it doesn't matter at all that I can't grasp it. It's irrelevant. Your majesty doesn't depend on my understanding. And so what if a glimpse of such wonder brings me to my knees? That's where I'm supposed to be. If I was supposed to understand, I would. You'd have made me that way. I am a creature and you are the created. Me asking 'Where are you?' is like a goldfish saying 'Where is the water?

Sometimes you open the great doors to heaven a little bit and a shaft of light comes out and I get a glimpse that something wondrous is within.  In half an hour of wonder this DVD that I saw showed me how small I am in a vast and breathtakingly beautiful universe, and it showed me how amazing it is that you should care about the minutiae of my life. How amazing it is that you listen to me. How amazing it is that you sent your Son to come and live among us and most astounding of all that he died so that I could live.

'What is man, that you are mindful of him? The son of man, that you care for him?'

Psalm 8:4

2. The Pleiades
We think that we are big and clever and we talk about power in terms of rulers and prime ministers and presidents and leaders of industry. Financiers. We think of power as money, influence, decision-making. Leadership. Statesmanship. How mistaken we are. How small and insignificant we are. How weak and powerless.

You said to Job:

'Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the belt of Orion?'


Can we rearrange the stars? Can we change anything at all, really? Can we bluster and shout, or plead or wail and make anything different? Not really. All we can do is build bigger and bigger telescopes and peer through them at your glory and you very graciously show us a new thing now and again. You wait there, smiling, for our new technology and then reveal something breathtaking, secure in the knowledge that we can see only the very pointiest tip of the iceberg.

'If inclined to boast of our abilities, the grandeur of nature may soon show us how puny we are. We cannot move the least of all the twinkling stars, or quench so much as one of the beams of the morning. We speak of power, but the heavens laugh us to scorn.'
 C H Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

You can do all things. You are bigger than our minds can imagine, and yet, while you want me to appreciate how small I am in the immensity of space and time, you don't show me my smallness to crush me. Instead, you lean down to tell me that you love me. That you know me inside and out and have done since before I was born.  Before I was born, you knew me and you knew all that I would think and do. All my hopes and dreams and fears. You care.

I think you want me to glimpse your power and your size so that I'll know that there is nothing so big that you are not bigger. There's nothing that I can't trust you with.

It doesn't matter that I can't tell how big you are. It doesn't matter that I can't follow the maths, or understand the physics. It doesn't matter that our telescopes are inadequate.

You are Big Enough.

Bigger than I can imagine. Bigger than I can dream. Able to do more than I can conceive, and with a perspective on things that is perfect. Nothing is out of sight or unknown or in the shadows. You created light. You are the Father of Light (James 1:17). Nothing is hidden from you. I need fear nothing with you at my side because you are everything.

You are the beginning and the end.


Always out of reach even for someone who likes words. I can try, but I'll never reduce you to words on a page.


And I can say that I know you. It amazes me. You love me, and so tiny as I am in the eternal scheme of things, I am important. I have significance because you think that I am worth caring about. You are my Father.

My God.

Image 1:

Whirlpool Galaxy (M51A/B or NGC 5194/5). Credit:NASA/ESA

Image 2:

A color-composite image of the Pleiades from theDigitized Sky Survey
Credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech

YFriday: Great and Glorious CD 2009, Absolute UK

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Pure joy and relentlessness

It's a beautiful morning, Lord.

The sun is out, the birds are singing, the magnolia buds are looking fat and pink and full of promise against the blue sky. The children went off to school happy as they're having their 'Mini-Olympics' today and are allowed to wear sports clothes for the day, and I have a little time to potter on my computer and check in with you. 

Two things have happened. Possibly three, but I need to work it out in my head and then I'll decide. 

(*actually, more than three.)

Magnolias in Spring
I walked back from school today and the world seemed in vivid colour. I put my headphones on as I walked and I chose a song that I like. However, as I put the iPod in my pocket, it jumped to another track. It was 'My Troubled Soul (Praise the Mighty Name of Jesus)'. This song has resonance for me as I've long been a worrier and I do believe you spoke to me through it some time ago. 

'My troubled soul, why so weighed down?
You were not made to bear this heavy load
Cast all your burdens upon the Lord
Jesus cares, he cares for you'.

(2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music / EMI)

I am so often weighed down and at the moment my anxieties are particularly burdensome. I've gone on and on about my worries so I know that you're aware of them; I know that it isn't your plan for me to stumble about here trying to carry something that's too heavy for me. How come I can't leave them with you when I do believe that you are there waiting, and I can trust you?

'...and all your worrying won't help you make it through...'

I can't make Katy better. I can't do anything on my own - I rely on you for every breath. I do indeed need to trust again in the promise of your love. 

'So I will praise the mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord the lifter of my head
I will praise the rock of my salvation
All my days are in his faithful hand'.

Lord, you really did lift my head. This morning as I walked back I noticed the magnolia buds against the blue of the sky. I noticed little green shoots on a bare hedge just starting to come to life again. If I hadn't looked up I would never have seen them. 

little green shoots of Spring
Lord my days are in your hand. So are my little Katy's and those of everyone I care about. I switched the computer on and a daily devotional by Max Lucado was in my email inbox. He was talking about just this. Everything is in your hand. It's under control. You've got this one. 

There's no point in fighting and kicking and objecting. 

'Trust again in the promise of his love'

It seems to be something that I need to do over and over again. I think I do trust you, then I realise how knotted up with worry and confusion I am and then you gently remind me and I understand that I've taken it all back. All the responsibility. All the heaviness. I can't stop Katy's illness. I can't even look after her as completely as I'd like. Only you can do that. Only you are all-encompassing. Only you will never let us down. It's only you. 

'I will praise the rock of my salvation.'

There's so much more going on this morning. I read a Bible verse first thing on my phone and I confess that I pressed the little 'next' button quite quickly because it wasn't what I wanted to hear. 

'Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.'
James 1:2-4

My initial response was 'Ha.' And I don't mean I laughed in a happy sort of way. Who can think to themselves, 'Hooray! Things are going badly at the moment! Praise the Lord! My life has come crashing down around me!'  Who? 

I don't get this one. So I pressed the button and found another verse that was a bit more to my liking for the day. I forget what it was. Perhaps that's significant.

But about an hour later a friend sent me a text with this very verse. She said, 'Courage and strength, my friend.'

Trials, yes. Joy? No. Testing of my faith? Seems likely. At this point I know that it would be perfectly possible to say that I don't understand why this is happening to Katy and I don't think you're being fair. But I can't do it without you. Where would I go, if not to you?  What shall I do, if not persevere? What choice do I have? 

Run away? It's tempting but it's not an option. Go to bed and refuse to move? Yeah, right. Also tempting, but I can't do that either. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. Courage and strength. Yes please, give me courage and strength. 

Next in my eventful little hour was yet another little touch from you via technology. You are a God who moves with the times, are you not? 

I was browsing on the computer and I read the blog of a friend of mine who lives many miles away across the sea and yet I feel as if I know her. She is my sister in you. We're family. She pointed me to you this morning.

Dwelling in the House: Relentless

'Over the last few months, God has been teaching me about belief in the face of
unyielding circumstances.
Faith boils down to this: do I just believe in God - 
or do I believe God?
You see, I've got some stuff in my life that is not.
More than once, I have cried out in prayer, 'Lord, this situation won't end. It is relentless!'
His answer:
So am I.'

(Ginger, December 2010)

This made me sit back in my chair. Well, actually it's a stool, so I didn't sit back as such, but I straightened up and took my hands off the keyboard in a sort of 'pause' moment. 

Katy's lump is back and now there are two. This disease seems relentless. The surgeon told us that if he hadn't got it all, it might come back, and getting it all was difficult as the tumour was wrapped around a nerve in her neck. He must have left some. And it started growing, relentless. Slowly at first, perhaps it was a little stunned following four hours of surgery attacking it. It hadn't been beaten. Slowly, determinedly, then picking up pace, but relentless. 

So are you. You are bigger than the universe, let alone bacteria. You are bigger than anything, and our troubles are so small in comparison that they should be nothing to you, and yet you reach down to reassure me. You reach down to hold Katy's heart so that in church on Sunday when our Rector asked, 'Who will let Jesus into our homes?' Katy's hand shot up and she said 'Yes! Open the door!'

The illness might be relentless, and so are you. You won't give up on us, will you?

You cannot be beaten.

I might not understand why or when or anything much at all, really, but then you tell me that I don't have to understand. Just trust. 

Trust again in the promise of your love.

I have lots of stuff in my life that is not trusting you. Help me parcel it up and leave it in front of you. Leave it with you. 

Thankyou for lifting my head to see the magnolias against the blue sky. 

Thankyou for good, good friends who have wisdom to share and for obedience to you when you prompt them to share it. 

Thankyou for your word, and I'm sorry I sort of snorted at it this morning.

I'm struggling a bit with the 'pure joy' part. 

Help with this would be gratefully received. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Your love is the anchor

Evening, God.

I don't know where I am at the moment. Either up or down and not very much between the two. I suppose it's to be expected but I'm not that keen on the roller coaster feeling. I didn't realise that we never got off the roller coaster last year when Katy's neck looked to be healing well and the consultant at the hospital discharged us. It turns out that it hadn't stopped after all. It had paused back at the beginning but the seat belts never clicked undone and it was so still that we didn't notice. Now we're off being dragged along and I don't want to do it again.

Got to stop being so maudlin. Onto more cheerful things.

The other day was Katy's birthday party and we had sixteen children at a local soft play centre for a disco and games and food and climbing and sliding and lots of noise. Katy had on her Batman T shirt and thoroughly enjoyed being Queen Bee. She danced with abandon and blew out her candles and it was lovely. No sign of any worries. I wonder if they're lurking, things she's heard from the doctor or from me that are planted in her mind ready to grow into something.... but there I go again. I'm trying to be positive.


She's opened her presents and waved her musical magic wand and shared her new Barbie doll with her big sister (a bit) and now she's sitting on the sofa with Peppa Pig as the exertions of the weekend seem to be catching up with her. Thumb in mouth, eyelids heavy. In church on Sunday she asked me at 11.40 am how long it was until bedtime.

I'm finding positive hard.

Forgive me, Lord. I'm struggling to find words today.

A list is called for. Always seems to fill a gap when I'm short of joining words.

Here we go.

Good Things:
  • Elizabeth nearly doing the crab in her second gymnastics class this weekend and so triumphant.
  • Katy walking along the beam (low to the ground) all on her own and so triumphant.
  • Daffodils. May have mentioned them before but I just love daffodils.
  • Good cup of coffee. Like this one. (Scraping the barrel here).
  • Friends. I am truly blessed with friends who care. (Not scraping the barrel here).
  • You. You're the only thing that never changes. The only thing in my life that's permanent and unshifting and solid and always there. 
In church we sang Brian Doerksen's song 'Faithful One'.  I cried. 

'Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you're my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again'

You are faithful and you are unchanging. You are the only thing that is steady enough to cling onto. Lord, I sometimes hate being so helpless. I can't make my daughter better and I can't do anything about so many situations that upset me. I just can't heal and I can't mend and I can't break down barriers. You can do all these things. It mystifies me when you can and you don't. 

But I depend on you. A large part of me doesn't want to because I want to get along by myself. I want to have the answers and I want to be self-sufficient. I don't want to have to surrender control because without it I feel at sea. I feel insecure and uncertain. They've told me that Katy's ill again and every fibre of me wants to make her better. To make it go away. To say, 'No, we're not having this.' To go to the counter and complain and say that we won't put up with this.

But I can't. All I can do is open my hands and depend on you. 

I feel a bit like a child beating my hands against your chest and crying and wailing only to run out of energy and collapse  into your arms and sob. I can stamp and I can ask you, 'Why? Tell me why?' but you don't have to explain yourself to me and you won't. 

Will good come out of Katy's illness? I don't know. Will you see us through it? You did before and you will again. Why? Because you love Katy and you love me. You love our family. Will you be with us all the way through? I know, I know. I know you will. 

'You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is the anchor
My hope is in you alone'

You are my rock. I'm clinging on again. Last year I did a lot of clinging. A lot of waiting and holding on and there were a lot of tears. It was a year where I found you in a new way at the same time as going through some of the toughest times of my life. I fell over again and again and you did indeed lift me up. The storm raged and you did indeed hold me fast. I said that I was adrift - well, you were my anchor. Without you I'd be lost in the ocean and it wouldn't be long before I could tread water no longer and I'd sink. 

You are my anchor. You show me where home is. You keep me afloat. You stop me from drifting. You are secure and faithful. 

Where else could I put my hope? My faith is so small, sometimes. I know parents right now who are going through agonies with their children who may not survive the illness they have. I know Mums for whom Mothers' Day was acutely painful since they are no longer a Mummy to anyone, or for whom motherhood just won't seem to happen. I am so blessed with my two wonderful girls. A husband who loves us. A Mummy of my own for whom a card and chocolates on Mothers' Day just isn't enough. 

I have so much to be thankful for. But still this song started in church and my throat closed. Tears started. 

You are my rock in times of trouble.

I've got trouble again, Father. I need you. I need a hug from my Daddy. I need a good night's sleep. I need to think clearly. I need to hold onto the anchor. 

Lord, I'm sorry if I'm going on about this. I'm just going to say this and then I promise I'll try to focus elsewhere. 

Heavenly Father, heal my little girl. Take away any worries that she has that she hasn't articulated, any half-formed thoughts or confusion that she might have. Make them go away. 

Heal her physically and emotionally and spiritually and any way that needs healing. Leave no scars. 

Don't allow her to sense fear or anxiety in me. It isn't me who's ill. It's not my neck, my lymph system, my body. She doesn't understand that when people hurt her with needles or even sticking plasters that they're doing it for her own good. How frightening must it be to be small and have such trust; depend on your all-powerful parents and then find that they don't stop the bad things from happening after all? Even when you scream, 'Mummy, make them stop! They're hurting me!'  I didn't make it stop and I can't now. I let them take blood and I let them dress her wound but my littlest girl didn't understand. What a betrayal.

Be with my Elizabeth too, Father. I don't know what she thinks about all this. She's kind and tender and vulnerable. She understands more and more as she gets older but she's only so small and having a little sister who's poorly must be so hard to cope with. Last time she was beside herself with worry about her little sister and spent hours making get well cards and pictures and kept asking if Katy was alright. Lizzie is a worrier. She gets anxious and stores things away to worry about (I wonder who she gets that from?). Please place your hand on her and take away anything bad that's planted in her mind or her heart. Don't let it grow and take hold. 

Please don't allow us to focus so much on Katy that we don't notice Elizabeth's struggles. Make sure that Lizzie knows how special she is as well as her little sister. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and perception to know what needs saying and when. And what should go unsaid. 


Be there, Lord. Come into the middle of all this and bring peace of mind. Circle Katy, Lord. Keep darkness out and peace inside. 

Thankyou for all that you've given me and for the assurance that you will never leave. 

Lord of all, I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Renew my strength

So, God.

It seems we're back to where we were a year ago, when we found the lump on Katy's neck for the first time. In my diary for twelve months ago, it says, 'Found bump on Katy's neck. Went to Dr.'

This year it says, 'Found two bumps on Katy's neck. Went to Dr.'

I am a master of understatement. In those few words lies seven months of uncertainty and worry and pain. That first time we went to the doctor mildly concerned about a lump but blissfully unaware that  that it was anything to worry much about. The doctor would sort it out. Medicine. We hoped that it wouldn't taste as bad as the flucloxacillin Katy had put up with for tonsillitis and that was pretty much the extent of it. 

We didn't realise that we were starting on a roller coaster that took us through countless hospital appointments, drugs, scans, needles, two operations, dressing changes and more appointments. We learned a whole new vocabulary of anatomy and physiology and which-nerve-serves-what. 

Discharged late last year with a neat scar healing well and no bump. 

Breathe sigh of relief.

Didn't last long enough. 

We've found two new bumps and the doctor thinks that the old problem is back. In two places this time. Insult and Injury.

So here we are awaiting an appointment at the Children's Hospital instead of our local District General and a new Consultant. New reception, new clinic, new nurses, new snack bar. Some distance from home. Notoriously bad car parking. 

Katy so far hasn't been forthcoming about her take on this but she has consistently surprised us all with her grasp of situations and so she probably knows exactly what's going on and is storing it all away. She sat on my knee for the whole of yesterdays consultation with the doctor where she will have heard us talk about treatment options and operations and hospitals and so on. It's so hard to know what she makes of it but I'm waiting to find out. Some bedtime soon she'll ask me and it breaks my heart that I won't be able to tell her it's nothing, that Mummy and Daddy will make it better. It's my job to make it better. To make it go away. To make sure that nobody hurts her and I can't. 

I couldn't last time and I can't now. I had to watch while they hurt my beautiful little girl. 

It broke my heart.

So, I would love to know what's going on, Lord. Why this is happening. I know that if I ask 'Why us?' the counter is, 'Why not us?'  I know that bad things happen and I know that the sun shines and the rain rains on us all. I just wish I knew why you don't make it go away. You're our Heavenly Father, aren't you? I know that it hurts you when we hurt so why don't you stop it happening again, please? 

I suspect you've been asked this question before. 

You could make these lumps vanish right now, poof, just like that, if you wanted. I will never understand why you don't. It's not me that needs a miracle, it's Katy. I'm not asking for me. Well, I am, I suppose. But she's only five. Only just five. Could we please not do this again?  We did it once and I didn't like it and I don't want to do it again.

I had a moan to a wise friend of mine the other day and I said, 'I can't cope with all that again.'  She looked at me for a long moment and then asked me what it looked like, me not coping. I realised what she was saying. If I've done it once then I can do it again. What choice do I have? If Katy needs hospital appointments, blood tests, surgery - then I'll bring her through it again. I can't do anything else. I'm her Mummy. It's what I do. I cope.

What I meant was that it frightens me to think about doing it again. I know how hard it was. I know how much sleep I lost, how painful it was. I remember the tears (hers and mine) and the anxiety and the awfulness of the anaesthetic room. How small she looked. How afraid. How afraid I was. We all were. 

I know that people go through much worse. I know that some people lose their precious little ones. I know that our situation is better than many and for that I am so, so thankful.  I know that you are there. I know that you will walk with us and hold our hands and lift us over the obstacles and that you'll be there, faithfully, awake when we sleep, watching over us. I just don't want to go there again.

So here it is. 

'But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.'

Isaiah 40:31

Holding your hand
I hope in you. That's me. I need new strength. I'm all out of the sort of emotional energy required to do this again. I thought it was finished. I'm all out of the physical sort of energy required to drive to a hospital in another city and find a parking spot and make appointments on time and hold Katy still for blood tests when she's terrified and screaming. I'm all out of all of it. 

Soar? That implies freedom and grace and lightness and happiness. I can't imagine it. I'm stuck down here. Heavy. Weighted down. I am weary and I am fainting in the face of what I'm called upon to do. 

But I hope in you. You never lied to me and you won't lie to me now. If you say that you will renew my strength, you will. If you say that you will give me so much more than I'll need so that I can soar when all I can hope for is to plod, then I believe you. I'll take all you have of that. 

I'm going to claim this promise now. That and all the others where you say that you will never leave us. That you will always be there. 

Needing you to hold my hand.

Healer, heal my Katy. 
Comforter, comfort us all. 
Counsellor, show me what what to do. 
Father, hold my little poorly baby close in your arms.  And me too.  
Friend, come with us wherever we have to go.
God Almighty, be in all of this. 

I want to be an eagle so badly but I feel like a mole. I'm buried. I'm in the dark. I can't see. 

Just give me light for the next step. You always have, haven't you?

'Those who hope in the Lord...'


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Here comes the sun...please

Did you see what happened this morning, God?

It couldn't have been a greater contrast from yesterday. And that's a good thing.

Yesterday at 6.20am I was rudely awoken by the sound of conflict in one of the girls' rooms and it turns out that someone wouldn't surrender the fourth wheel for a Lego model they were making saying that it wasn't fair that one person should have all four wheels. This hadn't gone down well with the other, who didn't have it in mind to create a tricycle, but some sort of moon buggy or something that required a wheel at the end of each axle. You'll note that I'm not giving names to the combatants in this little drama, but the truth is that I'm not entirely sure who was in which corner. Only that it was 6.20am, the alarm wasn't due to go off for another hour, and I Like My Sleep.

I refereed as best I could, which means that I was probably a bit shouty and a bit narky and definitely squinty. Then I got back in bed and put the pillow over my head. By getting up time I had a headache and the children were cross and the morning had the odour of one that wasn't destined to go that well. The rest of the day wasn't brilliant either, and by the time I went to bed, having discovered the second of two suspicious lumps on Katy's neck, it had nosedived further. 

Today I heard the children up and about and it was a blessed 7.30am. If I'm allowed to wake up on my own I go into the day in a whole different frame of mind. By the time I was showered and dressed (and still miraculously unmolested by small people), I was feeling reasonably positive, but a bit heavy of heart after the previous evening's events. I went in search of the children to brush their teeth. 

Not my favourite job. Lizzie is much better these days but Katy hates having her teeth done and she makes it very difficult.  It's like brushing them through a letterbox. A wriggling, complaining letterbox. But that's by the way.

I called them from the landing and there was no response. This is not unusual; they often 'don't hear' me call them at teeth time. So, feeling gracious, I went in search. I got almost to their bedrooms when a little head popped out of Katy's room and Elizabeth informed me that they couldn't come just yet, they were busy. 

Busy dancing. 

Elizabeth and Katy have just discovered The Beatles. Elizabeth's favourite song is 'Yellow Submarine' and Katy's, until this morning, was 'Ob-la-di Ob-la-da'. The song they were dancing to was 'Here Comes the Sun'.

Here comes the sun...
I love that song. It's possibly my very favourite Beatles song, though I have a habit of changing my mind according to whichever track I'm listening to at the time. It must be a close thing as I adore 'Penny Lane' as well; Bryan was living in a flat in Penny Lane in Liverpool when we met. We stood at the window and watched a rainbow in that flat in Penny Lane. We watched films on a tiny black and white telly and drank cheap red wine in that flat. Nostalgia...

I'm getting off the point. 'Here Comes The Sun' was playing and the children were dancing around the room. Katy had her eyes shut and her hands in the air and she was wiggling and gyrating and skipping. Elizabeth (with the slightly better rhythm of a nearly-seven year old) was grooving away and they were both laughing and singing along.

'Here comes the sun 
Doo doo doo doo
Here comes the sun and I say
It's alright...'

It made me smile. And for someone who'd got up with the gritty residue of a poor night's sleep worrying about Katy and her new lumps on her mind, smiling was good. 

'It's alright...'

For Katy it was alright - she was smiling with joy and singing the 'Doo doo doo doo' bits at top volume. For Lizzie it was alright because she was falling about laughing when Kate lifted her hands above her head because her nightshirt rode up and she could see her bottom. 

It was alright for me too.  It was not a moment for insisting on oral hygiene as a matter of urgency.

'...and I say it's alright...'

I shimmied into the room and joined in with uncharacteristic abandon until the end of the song and then it was time for teeth brushing. (The next track was 'I Am The Walrus' and I'm not entirely sure that it lends itself to dancing anyway). 

I just wanted to tell you about it because it was one of those moments. One of those little special, precious moments where you wish that life had a pause button. Strange for me to experience many of those moments before breakfast, and that's another reason that I think it was from you. 


My daughters laughing with delight. A cheerful song with a message about coming Spring. 

'Little darling
It's been a long, cold, lonely winter...'

Spring is almost here. The sun is coming.

The Son is coming. Easter is only a few weeks away. 

'Little darling
The smiles returning to the faces...'

The three of us were smiling. Dancing. Worries notwithstanding. With morning teeth. 

Thankyou for a little message. 
Thankyou for a moment with my girls that I won't forget, even though it only lasted for a minute or two. 
Thankyou for the sun, which indeed has made a brief appearance today. 
Thankyou for music and inspiration and the capacity to find a spark of joy in our morning routine.

Thankyou for a little bit of relief from the anxiety of waiting to find out what the story is with Katy's neck. 

Thankyou for reaching down and giving me a hug when I needed one. It changed my day.

'Here comes the sun.'

Amen, Father. Yes please. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Time will tell

Evening, Lord.

I am not panicking. 

I am trying to hang on to what I know and not speculate on what I don't. I am not going to editorialise or exaggerate or go off on a disastrous trip into fear and anxiety.

I'm not. I don't want to. Don't let me.

We've found another lump on Katy's neck. Actually, two lumps. The second one I found today at bath time; well, Katy did. She told me, 'Mummy, when I put my head on one side I think I can feel a bone. There's a hard bit on my neck, but it's not another lump.'

My heart did a little fluttery thing.

Nearly two weeks ago we found a lump, a little slippery thing about the size of a large pea, just below her scar from surgery last year. At some angles I could see it but others it disappeared. Nothing like her Special Bump from a year ago but since we only found that when it was big, who knows how it started out?  I took her to the doctor, who said that it felt like an enlarged lymph node. In any other child the doctor would be sure it was a lymph node, nothing to worry about, happens all the time, and after all Katy had had a chest infection two weeks prior to the appointment.

But this is Katy who had surgery twice last year because of a tumour on her neck and the surgeon thought he'd got it all but time would tell...

I'm praying that time isn't telling. Not telling us this story, anyway. I don't want to hear it. 

So the doctor made us another appointment for two weeks hence, and that will be the day after tomorrow. Today we found another lump. So that makes two. So the first one is still there and now there's another. Both within an inch of her scar. 

Please, God, don't let this be a recurrence of her thing from last year. Please, please please, just take away the lumps and let her get on with growing up. Let her get on with learning to read and playing in the playground and going to parties and jumping in the swimming pool and laughing and fighting with her big sister and having tantrums and being the sweetest, cleverest, quaintest, most affectionate, perceptive, infuriating, funny, most beautiful little five year old girl in my world.  

Lord, I'm struggling with fear again. That same shard of something sharp that seems to stab at me and make it a bit hard to breathe. I'm sitting here and I keep breathing heavily - a big sigh every few minutes because I'm fighting against panic or anxiety or depression or all three. My head is full of static since I saw and felt the second lump on Kate's neck earlier on and I'm trying to turn down the volume enough to hear you over the racket. 

Here's what I know.

Katy has two new lumps on her neck. No, she has two lumps on her neck that we haven't noticed before.

You love Katy. 

We have an appointment with the doctor in two days time and she was confident a couple of weeks ago that the (then single) lump was nothing worrying. 

You love Katy. 

The doctor thought the lump would go in two weeks.

It hasn't. In fact now there are two. 

(See what happens? You know where I'm going with this.) Stop. 

You love Katy. 

I don't know what these lumps are. 

Might be nothing. 

It might be nothing, mightn't it? Please?  A rogue lymph node or two? Maybe Katy's going down with another infection of some description (but by this I mean a sore throat, or a cold, not anything weird and unusual). Come to think of it she was a bit brittle and tired today. But that could just as easily be explained by the fact that she and Lizzie were up just after six this morning despite being told to go back to bed for an hour.

Lord, I should stop this. I should stop surfing the internet for information about recurrences of Katy's Special Bump because I'm frightening myself. Last time the surgeon told us that if the lump did recur we should consider drug therapy but it might be for more than two years on a combination of powerful drugs that are usually contra-indicated for use with children. List of side effects (including liver failure and blindness) as long as your arm. Well, my arm, anyway.

I'm off again. My head is full of operations, blood tests, hospital beds, anaesthetic rooms, needles, bandages, dressings, fear, pain, worry. The heartbreak of not being able to stop it hurting. How brave she was last time. 

We thought it had gone away. Lord Jesus, please don't make me have to tell my little girl that it hasn't gone away.

You love Katy more than I do, even though that's not an idea that I can grasp. You love her so much that you died for her and you have promised to look after her no matter what. You also love me and you know how prone I am to worry and fear and stupendous feats of anxiety and jumping to conclusions and my tendency to pessimism. 


Lord, let me know that you're there. I know that you are because I know that you never leave me, but just now, let me feel your arms around me. As I go in to see Katy tonight on my way upstairs I'm going to sit on the edge of her bed and lay my hand on her little sleeping body and I'm going to lift her to you. She doesn't belong to me anyway, she is your child, just on loan. I'm asking you to protect her, keep her safe, don't let anything bad happen to her. 

Bring peace on this house, Father, and on us all. I'm praying that you're there, shaking your head with a wry smile and muttering, 'Here she is all worked up over a lymph node or two.'

I trust you. I trust you to bring good out of any situation and I trust you with my little girl. 

It's probably nothing, isn't it, Father? 

The story so far:

My anxious heart (4 April 2011)

My brave girl (4 June 2011)

Needing my friend (23 June 2011)

Microscopic but annoying (14 July 2011)

My brave girl II (19 August 2011)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Created to create

Hello, God.

I have a friend who writes poetry. I have laughed and cried while reading her poems. She inspires and moves me; the heartfelt beauty and economy of her words often leaves me without words.

I have another friend who sketches. Another friend can create amazing things in the kitchen with an instinct for which I have profound admiration. I have neighbours who paint in watercolours and my friend's sister in law produces and sells breathtaking oils. An old friend at church revealed lately that she is a skilled artist. I have a painting of hers that brings me pleasure every time I look at it.

Stained glass,
Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire
Other people I know knit and stitch, design greetings cards, sew cushion covers, create carpentry marvels from reclaimed wood, beautiful original jewellery, wall hangings and textiles, intricate original shoulder bags, soap, manage bees and make honey, produce jams and chutneys until the tables groan under the weight of the jars. It's years since I have bought my marmalade anywhere else.

A friend across the sea creates scarves out of old T shirts, arranges beautiful new mantelpiece displays with the season changes and has a gift for inspiring photography. Today I saw a man who makes marvellous things out of glass and gold leaf. A lady who upholsters and restores. I saw lovely stained glass in a church I visited.

We create. We seem to have an instinct to create.

I've been thinking recently about your glory. The way I see you in the natural world - in flowers and sunsets and birds and the weather. The way you open my eyes to notice things that I might simply walk past. It struck me earlier that the people around me reflect you as well, and not just the people that I love. People have a desire to create. You gave that to us.

I'm sure that it doesn't have to be arty/crafty type creating that we do; I know people who can welcome, who can reassure, who can create a warm and positive atmosphere just by being there. I know people who can choose words with such ease and inspiration that a chat with them is a blessing. I know people who can tell a story, sing, dance or make me laugh. They can take nothing and make it something. It's creativity just the same. 

We create. We make things. We produce. We are made to bear fruit; on many levels.

Not least the breathtaking piece of delegation that is having a baby. Creation indeed. Sometimes I stand with my husband and stare at our sleeping daughters and smile, 'We made that!' How did we do that?  How did we make something so precious, so beautiful, so perfect?

We are creative because we are made in your image and you are the Creator. A wise friend today suggested that we are co-creators in the world, as the world is something that you began but is not yet finished. You handed us the means to change things - to add to the world. To contribute. To make it different for having lived.

I love the idea that I might create something that changes the world slightly. Something that adds beauty, or inspiration. If someone smiles as a result of what I've done - and it doesn't need to be anything monumental or eternal, just a fleeting smile of amusement or recognition or appreciation. A flicker of insight. A spark of an idea. A laugh. I know that nothing goes unnoticed by you, Lord - I know this because you created the crocuses and snowdrops and daffodils that are lifting my spirits this Spring and they are the most ephemeral of flowers and yet you lovingly made them for such brief glory. Something doesn't have to be permanent or long lasting to have value.

I watch my daughters draw and paint and colour and I watch them make wonderful imaginative things out of paper and sticky tape. They snip and stick and pretend and build and design and it comes easily to them. They don't doubt that they can do it. They have confidence that they can put down on paper their ideas and they love making. If we don't have the materials they need they are quick to improvise. They are full of hope and confidence and creativity.

Sometime in the future someone might say that their dinosaur doesn't look like a dinosaur, or a clumsy art teacher might give them a 'D' for the still life fruit bowl they laboured over and the idea might creep in that perhaps they're not such a good artist as they thought they were. Likewise a music teacher might not pick them for the choir and they quickly conclude that they can't sing. How come all children can sing without inhibition and present their pictures to us with pride and confidence that we'll know what they are and yet by adulthood so many of us can't sing and can't draw?

Life beats it out of us. Dancing. Making up stories. Imagination. By the time we arrive in adulthood we have hangups and chips on our shoulders and we are too self conscious. My friend who writes beautiful, heartfelt poetry finds it hard to let people read it. Another friend shows me a painting and tells me she doesn't think it's any good.

You are like I am with my children. I show you my creation and you bend down to me and you take it from me and hold it to the light and you turn it this way and that and you smile and marvel and your eyes are full of pride and pleasure that I brought it for you. Made it for you.

I create.

I have the instinct to create. I'm sure that every last person who says that they don't have a creative bone in their body just haven't looked in the right place, or else they have forgotten how to find it. Whether it's cake decoration or restoring vintage motor bikes or gardening or flower arranging or dry stone walling.

I love the way that you open my eyes to see the beauty in your creation. Help me always to see the beauty in our creations, too. To see the Creator in everyone. To appreciate our God-given yearnings to make and build and add and embellish. It's beautiful.

It's an offering.

One of your
As I write this a daffodil is lolling over the top of the screen of my computer from the vase in front of me. Your handiwork. It is perfect in every way. Crisp and bright and delicate and yet robust enough to push its way through the hard earth in March. Triumphant. Singing of Spring.

You are the Master. I look at you and I look at the world around me and I realise my offering is small and imperfect, but then I remember you crouching to receive it with the delight and love of a Father and I am inspired to make you something new.

Because you made me that way.

Just for you.

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