Sitting with anniversaries.

Such a long time ago….

Today would have been our 28th wedding anniversary- I loved our wedding day, with all the dreams and possibilities that it held. You don’t realise how young you were……

It would have been easier to not think too much about all this, but I have chosen to sit with it for a while. In the midst of the sadness of Colin’s death, I am thankful for the years we had, for our beautiful son Andrew, and for all the adventures, and the places we visited, the friends we made.

Since Colin died, just over four years ago now, I tried to honour his memory, by writing about his life and publishing his poems and writings. ‘Love song for a wounded warrior’ was published two years ago. I was so grateful for the opportunity to do this with Handsel press.

Yesterday, I had a gentle booklauch for a second book ‘ Love songs for healing and hope’ a collection of blogs, reflections from friends and resources about grief and faith. I am so thankful for those who have prayed for me and encouraged me in this, those who have written, and for those who attended on zoom. It is a book I hope might be supportive to those struggling with complicated grief and trauma. This morning I feel peaceful that I have tried to honour Colin’s memory, and to find some kind of purpose in what has happened.

I love the idea of Love songs. The psalms are full of people singing praises to God. In Ephesians 5:9 we are called to ‘ sing and make music in your heart to God’.

I have been listening recently, to the beautiful song ‘How can I keep from singing’ which contains the lines ‘my life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentations. I catch the sweet, though far off song, that hails a new creation. Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music singing. It finds an echo in my soul, how can I keep from singing.’

There is this beautiful truth that God’s melody is heard in eternity and through creation, and that it evokes within us an answering song. Sometimes it can be the wind in the trees, or a feeling of being loved. When we are broken or grieving, God sings to us a soothing lullaby. When we are in tune, it can be a harmonious melody bring inspiration, healing and hope.

I am thankful for God’s great faithfulness in the midst of our story, and my prayer is that we all experience His tender care and love in the midst of the vicissitudes of life. May we each hear His song, even on the most poignant of days…….

Gracious Father, Creator of this varied and wonderful world, thankyou that You are with us in every season of life. You grant us times of joy, love and dreaming. And in darker, more painful times, You still whisper words of strength and peace. Your holy spirit is always at work, and we are thankful. Your song is the most inspiring thing we will ever hear, and it is the soundtrack to our lives. May we always take time to listen, to regain perspective, to immerse ourselves in your abounding love, so we can indeed find healing and hope, Amen

Speaking your story!

Dear friends, my new book ‘Love songs for healing and hope’ comes out this Friday. I am still amazed and humbled that this could be true. I have a copy in my hand, which is a tangible reminder that it is real!

The book in mainly composed of reflective blogs, which tell something of my story, as I journeyed through grief and trauma after my husband’s death four years ago. He was a veteran who suffered from longstanding health issues after an injury on active service. His story, at times through his own words and poems, is recorded in ‘ Love song for a wounded warrior’. Colin wrote primarily about his experiences in Northern Ireland.

‘Love songs for healing and hope’ tells more of some of the longer term effects of sorrow and trauma, and their impact on my every day life as a widow. I also speak of some of the resources that helped me in my journey, my Christian faith, music, prayer, supportive friends etc. I invited some friends to share something of their stories also, and what helped them in more difficult days, and I am so grateful to them all for their honesty and inspiration. These stories are also included in the book.

At times it seems too hard to speak out. I feel a bit vulnerable. Yet it helps me, if anything I want through, might help another human being. That gives me strength and motivation.

A story that inspires me from.the Old Testament, is that of Esther. She lived in fear, and had to make difficult decisions, but ultimately she felt compelled to risk her life and speak out, to try to safeguard the Jewish people. I am not risking my life, but I admire her determination to do what she believed was right, even when there were many reasons to desist.

For all of us, it can be hard to know our story, never mind to speak it out. But it is holy ground listening to one another’s stories together, and learning and being encouraged.

May we all listen to one another, with patience and kindness, so even the most tentative has courage to speak. May we cry, and laugh and learn together.

Gracious God, we thankyou for people throughout history who have spoken out, whether in decisive historical moments, or in the smaller decisions of daily life. Lord Jesus, in You we see the love and truth of God, Your Word brought both challenge and mercy. We speak but in tiny echoes of yours, but we offer what we have, and pray that you would use this to bless, encourage and strengthen. So help us all speak out our stories, and may they inspire and bless, in Jesus’ name, Amen

Ps if anyone is interested in coming to the booklaunch this Friday evening at 7.30pm on zoom, please email me at woundedwarriorfg@gmail.com – thanks.

Surviving on caffeine, sugar and prayer!

Too much?

Recently, I have been thinking about health issues, how to have energy, and to be as well as possible. I am not a great cook, so it can be hard to eat healthily! I have been known even to burn a boiled egg……..

I have noticed that over the pandemic, I have had some bad habits. Especially when I have felt low energy, I have turned to comfort food, chocolate and coffee especially. They have kept me going (along with prayer). I enjoyed them, and at times caffeine kept me awake, chocolate made me feel better.

However in recent days, I have questioned things. I have started to eat more vegetables, and more protein. And some one said to me that caffeine doesn’t give you more energy, it just uses the energy you have more quickly- hence the slump afterwards. I have found that really helpful.

So for the last two weeks, I have eaten less artificial sugar, and much less caffeine. It felt a bit strange at the beginning, but I have tried to persevere. To my surprise, I feel much better. I still have a long way to go, but feeling healthier is a big plus. I still have to work at conserving my energy, but it is better. The occasional treat is still fine, but I needed better balance, and more disciplined choices.

I remember the words from 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 ‘ Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy spirit, who lives in you, and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a price. So you must honour God with your body. ‘

Sometimes we are preoccupied with so many things, we forget to look after our body. It is such a miracle that it works each day! But anything we can do to help it, is a help- exercise, rest, sleep, health eating, self care. We have been given such a gift, the gift of life itself. May we never take it for granted.

PS I have tried to ditch the caffeine and sugar, but I am keeping the prayer!

Gracious God, You are our Creator, and we are created in Your image. Each breathe we take is a miracle, each thought can be a blessing, each action an act of love. Lord Jesus, by your grace, You bought us with a price. Help us to realise afresh that we are precious in Your sight, and not to squander the health we have by not taking care of ourselves. Holy spirit, keep us from temptation, and reveal to each of us, how to look after our body, mind and soul, and to make decisions to be as healthy as is possible. Thankyou for the gift of life each day- may we treasure this, in Jesus name, Amen.

The coming of the Holy spirit!

A tangible reminder!

I really appreciate Pentecost, and the reminder of the power of the Holy spirit, to cleanse and refine, to strengthen and to inspire. We need the holy spirit so much in our lives.

Last weekend was so busy, but God kept speaking to me of his spirit, as I kept encountering pigeons. These are not exactly the same as doves I know, but I kept meeting them in different places. It was like God has been reminding me that His Holy spirit is at work in so many different ways, way beyond my imagining.

Recently, as the covid 19 restrictions have lifted a little, I have been able to reconnect with different individuals and communities. It has been so heartening to see first hand the great work different groups have been doing in the community, and to remember that there is still so much good in the world.

I am so grateful for God’s holy spirit at work, comforting people, guiding people, inspiring art, dance, singing, meditations and so many creative ways of expression. The holy spirit stirs up the people of God to express the love of God in so many beautiful ways, even in the midst of heartache and sorrow.

One of my readings today was from psalm 89:1 ‘ I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord ‘and that gift of thanksgiving and praise is so powerful. When we sing of God’s goodness, then we sing this melody out to the whole world and to each generation. This is one of the ways the Holy spirit works, not just at Pentecost, but every day. My prayer is that we all find our own way of singing about the steadfast love of the Lord, so the whole world can also join the song.

Gracious God, Father, Son and Holy spirit, thankyou especially for Your Holy Spirit this day, and for the way your Spirit works to challenge and to cleanse, to comfort and inspire. Forgive us when we have lost our way, and our hearts have been hard. Soften our hearts, that they might be tender hearts of flesh, full of love for You and for others. When we are hurting, bring healing, and in time may we trust again. Lord Jesus, may Your spirit help us to hunger for your word, and to seek Your will, and to use our gifts of creativity for You. May we be open to see your holy spirit at work in our midst, so we might marvel, hope and praise You every day, for Jesus’ sake, so the whole world might hear of Your transformative love, Amen.

Love songs for healing and hope!

Coming out on 24th June 2022!

Dear friends, I am excited, thankful and slightly concerned, as my new book ‘ Love songs for healing and hope’ comes out at our book launch on 24th of June on zoom at 7.30pm!

I have really enjoyed blogging in recent years, and wanted to share these with people who are grieving, or struggling with life. The blogs don’t have all the answers, or indeed any answers. However I hope that in speaking of my experiences, that might help others who also find life hard. We seek to hear God’s beautiful songs of love, even in the midst of heartache or challenge.

The idea came for this, as ‘ Love song for a wounded warrior’ about our family trying to support my late husband Colin, seemed to have left the story unfinished. The book ‘Love song for a wounded warrior’ was to honour my husband’s life, to publish his writings, and to raise awareness of the issues that veterans face in civilian life, in Colin’s case, particularly his struggles with epilepsy and trauma from his military days. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to do this, and am grateful especially to my editor and publisher Jock Stein, of Handsel Press, for his patience and understanding. It felt however that this left the story incomplete, so I wanted to write about what trying to work my way through complex grief looks like.

‘Love songs for healing and hope’ is a book of resources to encourage others. I am especially grateful to ten friends who wrote of their stories, and what gave them strength, so that we might learn from their experiences. In a time of pandemic and isolation, to be part of a community of encouragers, who share their insights with honesty and grace, is such a blessing.

I will speak more of this at the booklaunch on zoom on 24th June at 7.30pm. If you would like to be part of this event, please email me on woundedwarriorfg@gmail.com. Copies of the book, cost and postage, are also available from this email address from 24th June.

All proceeds from this book are going to two inspirational charities. One is ‘ Quiet waters’ a Christian counselling charity based in Falkirk, who offer counselling and support to all. The other charity is Richmond’s Hope, who offer bereavement support to young people from the ages of 4-18. As a society facing up to the impact of covid on our collective mental health, supporting charities that work in these important fields seems crucial. ( the book is priced at £15).

Thankyou to all who have prayed and been so supportive. I am aware that everyone’s experience of trauma and grief are very individual, so this might not be for you. However I offer it as a resource for those facing life changing situations and difficulties, in the hope it might bring encouragement and healing. May God bless this intention, and may this small offering in some way be used for blessing others.

Gracious and Eternal God, we are so grateful for your faithfulness and strength, for your goodness and mercy. We come to You with our stories, mixed up experiences of delight and sorrow, bewilderment and thanksgiving. Lord Jesus, thankyou for all that has been good, and thankyou for being especially close to us in darker days of pain and tears, for You are always near. Give us courage to tell our stories, even when they are raw or unresolved, and to encourage and bless each other. May your holy spirit take this humble offering, and use it to bless, strengthen and bring healing, in Jesus‘ name, Amen.

Learning to accept ourselves as we are!

Space to be……

Ever struggled with who you are? I am so aware of the things I do wrong, and the things I am just not good at. There is a long list, and it is so exacerbating. At times I think it would he good to be some one else, who is more kind, has a better memory, can think of the right thing to say……

There are so many choices just now, as restrictions lift a little. I am trying to work out how to be. What things from the pre pandemic world do I pick up again, and what do I leave behind? What choices do I make now, knowing that these decisions could bring new patterns of life. Maybe I am overthinking. It is good to have any choices at all.

We are all having to think about being more ecological, careful with money and energy and fuel. We are trying to work out a balance between moments of quiet, and times with people. We are trying to keep one another safe, but also to be able to live. We are seeking balance…

I love the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:10 ‘ by the grace of God I am what I am’ . I am reminded that even with all my flaws and weaknesses, I am made in the image of God, and somehow to be at peace with this. This takes a lot of work, to forgive myself, to let go of who I would like to be, and to ask God’s holy spirit to keep making me more like Christ. We can only surrender to God, not to fret over the past, and to ask God to fashion me in His likeness. I pray I am receptive to His bidding.

Gracious God, forgive us when we see ourselves with such a critical lens. We want to be self aware, and open to change, but also able to affirm the good. Forgive us when we have a negative self perception, and worry about what others think. Lord Jesus, somehow you love us as we are- that’s all that matters. May this help us find grace and healing. Holy spirit may we learn self acceptance and peace, and may we always be open to listening and growing more into the likeness of Christ, and to following your call, Amen.

Inspiration and tragedy

Van Gogh

I had the privilege of visiting the ‘Van Gogh’ Alive experience in Edinburgh with a friend today. It was an immersive experience of the artistic development of Van Gogh, featuring many of his most well known works on enormous screens, with some meaningful quotations from his letters, and some evocative music. I feel as if I have been to France and back in a day!

I love Van Gogh, and visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam a few years ago. Seeing the colour and textures of his paintings was inspiring and deeply moving. Van Gogh led such a troubled life, but had such insight and a perception of the beauty in the ordinary- in the lives of miners and peasants. The intensity of his later work- his stylised use of colour to portray nature, from sunflowers, to open fields, to his famous ‘starry night’ is unsurpassed.

A quotation from him that I resonate with goes as follows: ‘ the fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore’.

Van Gogh was brought up in a Christian family, and for a while saw himself as a missionary. Then his connection with the church loosened, but his deep spirituality remained. He saw beauty everywhere, and understood the intrinsic relationship between art and love. Even when he was in pain, he still journied on.

A projection at the exhibition

Van Gogh’ s incredible creative gifts were never recognised in his life time. Despite the efforts of his brother Theo, he had very little to live on. He battled with ill health, which from the descriptions, sounds like epilepsy. He experienced intense mood swings, from exhilaration to deep depression, and he died tragically age 37.

He is such an inspiring figure, because he battled with darkness, yet appreciated the light. He felt frustrated, but found solace in the stars. He had nothing, but was ecstatic about the colours of a flower. He was belittled, but he appreciated any act of kindness. In the midst of his struggles with depression and sorrow, he noticed the exquisite beauty of his surroundings, and was always curious and attentive.

Another quotation of his is ‘ I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.’

In the midst of his many flaws, he experimented with form and vivid colour, and did something extraordinary – he demonstrated the ethereal dimension of ordinary days, in a way that now the world can never forget. He was a courageous pioneer, who followed his heart, even when no one else believed in him.

I think his example gives us courage to follow our dreams, even when they don’t make sense to anyone else. Jesus followed his purpose to demonstrate the love of God to the world, even though he faced opposition and sorrow. May we too walk in the light, and humbly seek to fulfil our calling, whatever that might be.

Gracious God, your world is immeasurably beautiful and varied. Forgive us when we are in too much of a rush to notice. Thankyou for artists and musicians and writers who enlarge our appreciation of our world. Lord Jesus, you remind us that nothing is impossible with God. Help us use our creative gifts and talents, even in our flawed humanity to somehow share love and inspire others. Holy spirit, take our weaknesses and brokeness, and somehow inspire us to live richer and more attentive and appreciative lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen

The power of the movies!

Downton Abbey!

Today I went back to the cinema! I hadn’t been for such a long time, and I had forgotten how much I missed it. When the world is bleak, a little healthy escapism can bring delight.

I saw ‘Downton Abbey: a new era’ which was a good story well told. The sets were elegant, the characters so charmingly familiar, and it felt quite endearing. Some of the dialogue might have been a little chunky, but it was sought to examine the theme of endings and beginnings, and was definitely a ‘feel good movie’. And Maggie Smith, was as usual, excellent!

It is a timely reminder of the power of film, story, music and dance to stimulate thought, to inspire the imagination and to feed the soul. During the pandemic, we have been more limited in our opportunities to enjoy art and drama and music. It is liberating to be able to begin to engage just a little once more, and hopefully to encourage all involved.

I remember the words from Philippians 4:8′ fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable, right and pure, lovely and admirable. Think of things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’

It is good to make space in life for things that inspire us, a wonderful song, a film that we enjoy, a book that opens our minds. There is so much that is good and enjoyable in the world- it is good to choose to appreciate and savour it.

Gracious God, there is so much which troubles us in the world just now. Help us to take time to escape when we need to, to something which can make us smile or which we can enjoy. Lord Jesus, you shared in meals with your friends, you went to weddings. Remind us that it is ok to enjoy things. Holy spirit, thank you for creativity in film, word and music. Inspire us, and replenish our spirits though the artistry of others, and though this heal and strengthen our souls, Amen

Spiritual refreshment!

A fountain of life!

I have so appreciated being on holiday with Andrew my son, visiting beautiful friends. We have been in St Augustine, where it has been warm and breezy. Gorgeous bright days.

One day I found a little courtyard in the old town, where there is a quaint fountain, with a constant stream of sparkling clear water. The sound alone was refreshing, listening to the splash of the water bouncing off the surfaces. It was mesmerising, and so peaceful.

I have been so very busy, that now just taking time to listen and to be still was such a relief, and a joy. I remembered Jesus’s words from John 7:37: ‘ whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within them’.

This was a powerful reminder, that God places these streams of living water within us his followers. But sometimes we disconnect ourselves from our Source. Or we allow barriers to get in the way- guilt, fear, shame, worry, doubt, grief – and they stop the flow. We lose our vibrancy and sparkle, and love becomes a trickle in a muddy pool.

It has been a helpful reminder, to seek to lessen the things that separate me from God, my sin, my forgetfulness, my perpetual rushing about. I ask that together with God, and guided by His spirit, that the streams might flow more abundantly once more.

Gracious God, thankyou for that gift of streams of living water flowing through the lives of those who place their trust in Jesus, so these streams of love might touch the lives of many. Forgive me when I block your love by my selfishness and closed heart and mind- dissolve these away i pray. By the power of your holy spirit, open up my life to receive your living giving spirit, and then to enable that stream of water to flow into the lives of those around me. May we all be channels of that sparkling and refreshing stream of grace and love, for Jesus sake, Amen

Space to be- even at the airport!

Making space in the crowd!

I recently have had the privilege to travel. It has been so good to visit wonderful friends, and I am so blessed.

However the journeying process was challenging, especially some of the baggage checks. The queue was busy, and you had to put your stuff in plastic trays to go through the scanner. But to get the plastic tray on the conveyor belt, you had to make a space, and basically that meant pushing some one else’s stuff out the way. For a while, I chose not to do this, but as time went by, all that happened was that everyone else pushed passed. I would have been there for the whole day, if I didn’t choose, very reluctantly, to push away a tray on the conveyor belt to make space for my tray.

This sounds like such a trivial thing, but it became enormously symbolic. In order to live well, we all need to have space to be. It didn’t harm anyone to put my tray up, but what it did, was release me to get on with my journey.

In the Christian life, we desire to love and serve others, and this is such a privilege. We take up our cross, as Jesus says in Luke 9:23. It is a great choice to make, but sometimes the danger can be that we burn out. We are so busy making space for others, we do not have space to be, to pray, to receive from God, to play, to enjoy. We need good boundaries, in order to be well enough to love and serve others.

Our holiday with our amazing friends is such a blessing, and it is a wonderful time to reflect, and to rediscover the importance of space and beauty, prayer and connection. God reminds me that he calls His children to enjoy Him and His stunning creation, and to know the comfort, healing and guidance of His spirit.

Sunrise!

May we all find space to be, to take time to heal, to rest, to find perspective, to start again.

Risen Lord, we desire to take up our cross and follow you. Sometimes the load is heavy, and we are worn down. Holy spirit, whisper your words to us, that Word from God in season, that we need to hear. Creator God, help us find space in our lives to come and rest with You, to receive Your love. May the things of this world not crowd You out, or diminish Your voice. Teach us to prioritise, to have space to listen, to heal and to find restoration and peace. In your Son’s precious name, Amen.