Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Promises, Blessings and Miracles



Last week I spent a few days away on a New Wine Christian conference for Women and Leadership. The accommodation was excellent, food superb; the speakers were challenging and the worship was amazing.

On Friday morning we began our worship time by singing

Give Thanks to the Lord,
our God and King,
His love endures forever… 

with the chorus
…Forever God is faithful
forever God is strong,
forever God is with us,
FOREVER

Immediately I was transported back to another moment in time when I sang those words with gusto.

It was exactly 6 years earlier as I drove to church for one of our regular community breakfasts. It had been raining a bit but the sun was trying to shine and as I drove and sang the most beautiful rainbow appeared directly over the church where I was headed. And I thanked God for all his promises, his goodness and faithfulness to me. God indeed is VERY GOOD.

Little did I know that 2 days later my husband would die unexpectedly from a heart attack.

The song we sang next was Everlasting God

                Strength will rise as we WAIT upon the Lord…
                …You are the Everlasting God
                You do not faint
                You don’t grow weary
                You’re the defender of the weak
    You comfort those in need
                You lift us up on wings like eagles

I couldn’t believe the song choice, although why should I have been surprised by God? This was a song we had played at Andrew’s funeral but it’s been a long while since I have stood and sobbed rather than join in with the singing. Instead I listened once more to the words of promise, those comforting words that God is with me all along. That rainbow was a foretaste of God’s amazing faithfulness as he has provided for my needs and never left me through these years.

However faithful God is, it is WAIT that has been my word for this season and it has lasted soooooo long.

While the boys have grown, moved schools, taken exams and in the case of oldest son even gone off to university I have remained STUCK, still in the same house, which hasn’t sold. I’ve been frustrated, resigned, motivated, let down, energised, demoralised and through all the ups and downs I WAIT for a new season to begin.

A few years ago I was at the New Wine summer gathering and God gave me a glorious reminder that he was still with me and had many blessings in store.

You can read about it on my own blog, or hear the interview or even get the book.

I thought my life was about to turn around from that moment but years later still I WAIT.

So often I have felt that I am on God’s pending pile, someone He will deal with tomorrow because there are so many other situations in the world that hold His attention.

Of course God’s not really like that and He has made me promises that there are blessings to come and so I hold on to them and WAIT a little longer.

At this conference I shared a room with someone I’d never met before. When I checked in my room-mate hadn’t arrived but by chance or God-incidence we happened to be sitting at the same table for dinner.

“Do you need a miracle?” She asked.

“Ummm, I don’t know!” I was hesitant. We all dream of having our prayers answered but was a “miracle” a bit excessive for my needs.

“Oh well I got this sense earlier in the week that I should buy a bottle of perfume called MIRACLE for whoever I was sharing a room with. But if you’re not sure perhaps it is for someone else after all.”

And so we left that conversation there and turned our attention back to the delicious meal before us.

Later that evening we shared a few stories but I knew I held back. There was a time when I would have started  by saying I was a widow but I’ve come to a place where I don’t want my loss to define me, I still wear my wedding ring, although I went through a phase when I didn’t.  I am learning to tell less of my backstory as new chapters are being written. In lots of ways I am moving on.

Besides saying “I am a widow” is a real conversation killer as people struggle to find the words to say back.

However the next day, sometime after our most meaningful worship time, I found the opportunity to share.

The words and tears came tumbling out. And the real issue at the moment is not the grief or singleness but our mini mansion of a 7 bedroom house, in its own grounds set in just the wrong location, an area in the North East where houses, particularly of this magnitude are just not selling.

This year I have had 2 serious offers on it, I even instructed a solicitor to get the paperwork started and I dreamed of finally moving and starting a new life somewhere more manageable, closer to church and my friends.

Both buyers pulled out and I am faced with the prospect of a future here on my own. One son is already at university, the other has started A levels, these next two years will fly by and then what do I do?
 
“You do need a MIRACLE!” Said my room-mate. “I should have trusted my conviction.”

She produced a beautiful bottle of sweet smelling pink perfume in a shiny box full of promise.

There was a story to her purchase; running late, she only just made it to the shops in time with 2 minutes to spare but there was the perfume on display in front of her.

MIRACLES are meant to be, divinely ordained to happen at just the right time.

And I know for sure my MIRACLE is on its way, too many things are pointing in the same direction and some things I can’t share here and now but one day I will…there is so much more to this story and that's just the bits I know about, God's overview of proceedings is like a rainbow encircling the whole.

And just to make sure I don’t forget, guess which song is currently getting a lot of airplay on the radio with a brand new version by Simple Minds and KT Tunstall…



Yes God I am listening, still waiting for now, but I have a lot more hope in my heart that this season is almost over and the fragrance of MIRACLE will one day fill the air.

( I have scattered old blog posts throughout this and here is one final thought on fragrance - a short story called The Musings of Martha.)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

November Days are full of Words



November days are full of words
Falling like leaves upon the ground
Lifeless tumbling
Crisp and brittle
A scattering of ‘sorry’s
Words with little sound

November days are full of words
Gathered together, held so tight
Tear stained letters
Sympathetic
A source of heartfelt comfort
On a damp dark night

November days are full of words
A mountain high, too high to climb
Fearful, fragile
Doubtful, daunting
Stepping forward, reaching up
Leaves the past behind

November days are full of words
Sink deep within, becoming one
Covered over,
Wrapped, enfolded
Nourished, growing, life revealed
New journeys begun

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Where the music takes me...





I thought I was such a rock chick dancing along to Def Leppard’s Animal. Thursdays were student night at the Hungry Years Nightclub. And that was the tune guaranteed to get everyone on the dance floor. “And I want, and I need, and I lust – Animal” 

Hang on a minute - I never knew until google that “lust” was in the lyrics. I was searching for love…

It was the late eighties, I was a student, probably a very naïve one, the only time I invited a boy back to my room for coffee, I really meant coffee! No lust whatsoever!

His name was Rob, I’d been eying him up all year across the dance floor or over breakfast – we were in the same halls of residence so he would have been sat three tables away and not directly opposite me with just a bowl of cornflakes and piece of toast between us.

It was nearly the end of the summer term, practically my last chance to find that elusive boyfriend before going home for the holidays.

We’d been to the ‘Years, as we used to call it, and somehow we ended up sharing a taxi home. It was probably Katie’s idea, she was also in our halls of residence and not afraid to talk to boys like I was.

So I made him coffee and we may have even swapped phone numbers and addresses but this was the era before social media and mobile phones; he never did get in touch.

Summer came and went. When we returned to the Hungry Years the music had shifted. It was all S Express and Pump up the Volume.

I spied him once more across the dance floor but by then he’d caught the eye of another girl. I think she was Scottish but where I got that idea from I’ll never know. But she certainly was a wee fresher who stomped in time to the beat. “Mini Stamper” was the moniker I gave her in my head as I glared in her direction.

Rob was captivated “I got the hots for you” as the song goes but I’m not sure if he ever looked longingly over in my direction again. Perhaps she made better coffee!

By the following summer he was all forgotten as a group of us sat on Brighton beach listening to Eternal Flame by The Bangles. By then I fancied Mike or was it Jon… If only either of them would notice me!  “Say my name, sun shines through the rain… I don’t want to lose this feeling.”

But even those flickers of fantasy turned to dying embers, the flames weren’t really as eternal as they promised.

A few years passed and then you came and turned my world around. As Whitney warbled I will always love you I knew I’d found my one and always. You were nothing like the boys of before. They were boys of summer, merely for a season.

But in the end so were you, but you were like autumn, forever.

And If I can’t have you, I will always have our song.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

STUCK, SILENT & STUBBORN



I feel STUCK in so many ways…

Firstly as I stare at this blank page in front of me I wonder how I am going to fill it. I’m trying to catch my ideas and pin them down but they fly off in all directions.

But I know deep down that writing may be profitable, it will help me align my thoughts and perhaps allow me to move forward.

The biggest sticking point is, as it ever was, the house!

If you had told me when Andrew died that I would still be living here five years on I truly would have wept.

I love my house dearly, it is our forever family home but circumstances have changed to a point where it is no longer fit for purpose. It far exceeds adequate, therefore I desperately need to move to somewhere smaller and more manageable. It is more of a burden than a pleasure to live here.

I was out shopping yesterday and when I returned home I checked my mobile, I never hear it ring if I am out, and discovered I’d missed a call from the estate agent.

Calmly I put the kettle on and made a cup of tea before I rang them back.

“Was it still possible to be moved before Christmas?” I pondered as my mind raced ahead imagining a potential buyer had found the money and was ready to proceed.

Of course it wasn’t anything as exciting. They were updating their records and wanted my email address. Sounds to me like they were bored in the office and made up something to do to pass the time.

The housing market is as dull and dreary as a wet Wednesday in winter!

I receive Bible readings as an email every day and some days I even open and read them! 

Yesterday’s was called “Get into place!” Well how could I resist reading that one?

I desperately want to know where I should be and what I should be doing. To be honest I am STUCK in a rut in more ways than one, so aware that there is more out there that I have yet to grasp or comprehend.

‘Get into Place!’
18 November 2015
‘There was not a man to till the ground.’
Genesis 2:5 KJV
The Bible says, ‘The Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.’ At the beginning of creation God caused a mist to come up from the earth and water the ground. Up until that time there had been no downpour from the heavens. That’s because there was nobody to do the prep work and ‘till the ground’. There’s a spiritual lesson here! There are things God has planned to do, made provision for, and desires to do – but He won’t until you ‘get into place’ where you can receive what He longs to give you. The blessing is there, safe in God’s keeping. The need is there, persistent in its pain. But the blessing can’t come until your heart is in the right place for God to act. Right now you may be enjoying a ‘mist’, but you know God has more for you. You’ve a frustration that causes you to say, ‘Why am I not further along?’ Rather than blaming people and circumstances, you need to pause, look up, and ask, ‘Lord, are You waiting for me to get into place?’ When you ask that question, be prepared to hear the answer and obey it, even if it means rearranging your priorities and paying the price to receive what God wants you to have. What does He want you to have? Not a mist, but a downpour! He’s willing and ‘able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us’ (Ephesians 3:20 KJV). But first you must ‘get into place’.
                                                                                         Word for Today -18th Nov 2015

The answer in the text above is predictably to take your burdens to God and pray “are You waiting for me to get into place?”

Of course place is not just geographical, if it were I would be stuck until the housing market picks up, which as it stands could be FOREVER!!!!

I do need to come before God and ask what He would have me do but I find praying on my own so difficult and I confess I don’t do it often enough. I honestly can’t remember the last time I really poured out my heart to God with my own personal petitions.

It’s been five years since Andrew died, I feel my life is STUCK, every time I get proactive trying to move my life forward it feels as if a door slams in my face.

I have come to equate each slam of the door as a sign from God I should WAIT. The timing is just not right. One day a door will open but not now. I keep taking the wrong turn and trying the wrong door handles.

I worry if I really pray that heartfelt prayer God will be SILENT. I will get NO answer and still be here treading water and waiting for the echo of the final door slam to die away….

So I dig my heels in and shake my STUBBORN head. It's better to bury my head in the sand than cope with the painful silence.

This is obviously how it has to be, if God wanted my life to be different He could change it!

I’ll admit it’s not a great attitude.

As I see it I have 3 choices.

I could sit and wait forever until something gives, all the while feeling sorry for myself or I could run around chasing my tail trying to make things happen and getting more and more frustrated in the process of busyness.

But somehow I’ve got to choose option 3 and fit God into the equation and ask Him properly what I should do instead of second guessing His great plans.

It sounds clichéd and stale. I'm sure I've written this before....

This week’s Open the Book school assembly was a story called “A Long Journey” about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.

No wonder my own story sounds clichéd, I am not the first person to walk in circles, not listening properly and being STUBBORN. Ignoring the good things God has provided and moaning instead.

My wise friend told me “God is our hope and He will keep you SUSTAINED until the time is right.” 

Of all the words I’ve highlighted today beginning with S – maybe SUSTAINED is the best.

It doesn’t mean an easy life or that everything will go your way but SUSTAINED is a soothing word. It keeps you going when times get tough.

Maybe that’s what I need to remember at this time.

I need to make time and space to really seriously pray, believing God will listen. Perhaps he will be silent but maybe if I listen hard for more than 5 seconds I will hear something that will keep my going and lead me a few steps further on so I am in the right place to receive His promised blessings.