Whose Hand are you holding … ?

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Apparently you can estimate a woman’s age quite accurately by looking at her hands! Mine are fairly small (I can only fit the tiniest marigold gloves!) and aging not too badly, despite a bit of sun damage. They fit nicely into my hubby’s much larger ones, quite enveloped in fact, which is a nice secure feeling.

As children we naturally hold onto our parents’ hands especially when we could be exposed to danger (busy roads perhaps) or in unfamiliar situations, and this continues ~ for some of us longer than others, depending on our feelings of vulnerability and need for independence. Later we may hold a lover or spouse’s hand as a sign of our closeness and partnership with them, or reach out a hand in friendship or to comfort someone. Conversely, there can be negative connotations such as: ‘she needs a lot of hand holding’ when somebody takes time to settle into a new job perhaps.

Life is busy just now, we have just had an offer accepted on a house, we have plans to let one out, my hubby thinks a job change/semi retirement would be a good idea!, if achievable. Work is busy and 2 of our 4 animals have been unwell this week plus I have just bought a newer car as my existing one will not go through the next MOT (it needed welding last time!) Things can seem overwhelming but I like the fact that God’s hand is available to hold onto:

Isaiah 41:10 says

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

and in The Message:

Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

That firm grip is what I need. Can honestly say I’ve felt guided by Jesus step by step in recent days as I have endeavoured to pray about each and every significant thing and ask for His help. It won’t mean complete perfection or the easiest of circumstances every time but it does mean I can trust the outcome completely into His hands as He keeps hold of mine and I know that whatever He has planned for me will come to fruition and there will be blessing, whatever my feelings or circumstances may try to say.

Signs of Spring …

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 Local snowdrops 

The time of my birthday mid -February, is also the time where chinks of light start to appear in the dreary Winter curtain that has been enveloping everything. Such a relief! I always think, as the damp, dull days and short duration of light (made worse by the British insistence with putting the clocks back) are not my favourite season. All of a sudden (it seems) there are tiny crocuses popping up on the lawn and banks of snowdrops in the lanes. The days are getting slightly longer and driving home in the dark is no longer a given. 

 The quality of light is greater and sunshine stronger and  more prevalent, and that’s always a good thing as sunshine is God’s anti-depressant! (serotonin levels in the brain are naturally boosted). I can start to imagine summer holidays and returning to the sea which I love, exploring beaches with Alice, eating cream teas in cafes with lovely vistas along with my hubby and meeting up with distant friends.

This year, Spring for me hints at new starts. We plan to move house and I always find this exciting. I’d also like to get back to singing again as my appetite was whetted being in a Christmas choir. We are also at the beginning of Lent and the path to the cross, then Resurrection morning, the great victory of our faith. So as these next weeks unfold I am looking out for new opportunities and making plans, as the signs of Spring continue to energize and uplift me.

 

No Chameleons here please …

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I’ve been thinking about how easy (or not) I find being who I really am in social situations.  We all like to fit in, but I think being authentic is best for our mental health and self esteem. I realise that sometimes I make changes according to who I  am with and may adjust my vocabulary when in conversation in order not to make others feel uncomfortable. Can we always be ourselves/genuinely authentic or must we employ the artifice of the chameleon?

St. Paul talks about being all things to all men, I see this as making adjustments in ourselves so we relate to others in the best possible way. There are people we are naturally drawn to and with whom it is easy to be ourselves with, I find that I seldom have to think too much about what I’m saying to them and can share very freely, secure in a mutual acceptance and understanding, we just ‘click’.

Social media has unleashed a whole new social circle in many of our lives. I am no longer part of any forums, although these used to mean a great deal to me. The first one I joined in 2004  was to provide support and friendship between women trying to conceive a child later in life … that said there were few actually childless women as most were seeking to have a further child with new partners! However for a time this provided a sense of support I didn’t find elsewhere. I have also joined a couple of faith-based forums which were not for me a success: either lacking in depth or too many ‘heavy’ issues to be comfortable. And in all the common denominator seemed to be that nobody could cope with differences of opinion and certain characters sought to dominate. I have made a few lasting connections through social media but nothing particularly close. I also wonder how genuine we were all being?

Real life friends and contacts are more valuable as there is greater authenticity. You cannot hide because you are not faceless, the clues are there in demeanour and tone of voice. Old friends mean shared history and for me this becomes increasingly important as I age. New(er) friendships can develop if we share a world view/faith or have a lifestyle in common. 

It takes courage, but I am going to take a look at myself over the coming weeks and see how well I maintain my real sense of self in my everyday life, I really don’t want to be changing my (true) colours just to blend in!

 

 

A Voice is heard in Ramah

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As of now I could have had three children, my eldest would be 18 perhaps in her first term at University, I like to think she would have been a girl, she was to be called Lydia, her sister Orla at 13 might be a mix of  emotions, on the cusp of growing up but still clinging to some girliness  … while 10 year old Joel would enjoy annoying the other two and being the family comedian …

These 3 children represent my 3 known miscarriages and readers must forgive me for ‘Disneyfying’ them, their names are what I would genuinely have called them (and what I clung to through the years I battled to have them). It wasn’t to be. It’s not that I think my life would be radically different now had they been born, we would probably live in a similar way: beliefs, preferences, jobs, home, pets and so on but it would doubtless be richer, far more complex and much more expensive!

 Being denied a child has been the biggest challenge to my faith and will always be a regret I will carry until the day it ceases to matter. I have no answer to those with faith who seem to want to ‘find a reason’ my prayers weren’t answered. What I do know is, life sucks very often in this world and there ARE no answers … I also find it tedious when others assume I didn’t want children, or see benefit somehow in not having them! It’s a painful and silent minority to belong to and not made any more comfortable by ignorance or misunderstanding. 

So does God feature in this post? actually yes as He prompted me to write it. It began with the title from Jeremiah 31:15 when I felt God wanted me to be open and like Rachel, express my grief about this subject. Not self indulgent, factual … this is what it’s like. God is letting me walk this road and (to borrow a powerful example from a godly lady speaker I recently heard) it’s like He’s saying in reply to my kicking against my situation: I’m not interested in what others have got or in what they’re doing, I want you to follow Me.

Coo big ask Lord, ok I haven’t got a lot of choice but will give it a go … as graciously as I can (which won’t be always). But He can be trusted and I glimpse Him in the situation as I learn to trust Him more: whenever I remember that this life is short and temporary and I have eternity to look forward to (and this does restore perspective to most things!), when my husband reminds me we will have 3 children in heaven, when someone acknowledges the maternal in me and values it, when I realise it’s more fun not to be conventional. All these things and more are like God shining His light into a dark place, and while weeping may endure for a night, I truly believe that joy comes in the morning … (Psalm 30:5)

Home and family … some thoughts

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This did not start out as a blog post initially, I was asked to share some written thoughts on this topic recently by someone at church, so decided to include them here too.

Few words can be more evocative than family or home, they can both conjure up strong memories and emotions in all of us. We are all part of a human family, both in the sense that we all belong to the vast family of humanity, plus in a more personal sense we are all descendants of a particular set of people. In recent years there has been a huge interest for many people in tracing their family tree and finding out where they came from. Popular culture endorses this by for example,  programmes such as Who do you think you are? There is great fascination in discovering our ancestors and if we are lucky enough, encountering the real people behind the old photographs in the family album, through the personal stories passed on by older relatives. How amazing to find out that the curly hair came from this Aunty or that a several times Great Grandfather came originally to this country from France.

We are mostly all part of a family currently, whether close geographically or not. Not all families are harmonious, some are estranged, others have their ups and downs but are devoted to one another. There are families formed by adoption, both official and otherwise. We can all remember where we grew up and for some the place will always seem special, there are also fond memories of holidays, weddings, graduations and of babies being born. These events connect us throughout life.

God invented family and in His word there are countless references to home and the family unit. God is Himself part of the divine family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all inter related yet unique and distinct in each Person. When we become a follower of Jesus we join God’s family, one that transcends all barriers of race, language, education, social standing or geography. It’s the only family where not only are we a member for life, but for eternity. As in all families we will need patience, and the ability to forgive, show empathy and understanding, but we have the unique reward of fellowship with each other and the ability to pray and worship together which are so precious.  Jesus also says He has made a home for us in His Father’s house and one day all who know and love Him will be welcomed there.

With such a sense of belonging and eternal security, for me that’s the best family of all to belong to!

Grabbing hold of God

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In October 2008 I went on a silent retreat to Holy Island off the Northumbrian coast. This was something of a watershed experience for me. It caused me to think deeply about my faith and subsequently set off to explore new pathways before rejoining a more familiar one, but in a more committed way. It was a significant and memorable five days. Even the contrary UK weather was kind and the island  lit with Autumn sunshine as we enjoyed the beautiful views and the open spaces where you could walk, explore, meditate and pray to the sound of seals just off the coast and sea birds wheeling in the sky above.  Holy Island is a thin place which is a Celtic term for somewhere the boundary line between heaven and earth becomes gossamer thin. I am told another example of this is at Ffald-y-Brenin in Wales where I have yet to visit.

 I am gradually learning to be more aware of those moments  when that instant of connection to the Spirit happens and suddenly feelings of negativity or insecurity are overcome and we can become   “sure of the things we hope for, … certain of the things we cannot see..”   (Hebrews 11:1 GNB) There are times when even in very difficult circumstances when things seem bleak, that we can receive a touch from God which pauses the pain we are in.

We don’t have to be in a special place but anywhere at all for a glimpse of heaven to break through. Just last week after a busy and quite draining day at work, feeling tired and in need of a spiritual uplift, I attended an Aglow meeting after being given a flyer from a lady at Church. The speaker was Maureen Sims, a lady whose story of moral and spiritual transformation through Jesus was astounding and very inspiring. My first impressions were of a little, ordinary lady with rough edges, but as she spoke, the work of the Spirit in her shone like a jewel and I was hanging on her every word, totally energised and encouraged by God. Afterwards I asked her to pray for me which she kindly did. 

So I am looking out for more opportunities to grab hold of God and to take the time to let these instances nourish me and hopefully encourage others through me. Somehow I think as I am more able to recognise them, so I am more likely to come upon them!