Legacy of love.

Today is the anniversary of the booklaunch of ‘Love song for a wounded warrior’. I am so grateful for all who have been so supportive, prayerful and understanding to our story. That has made such a difference.

I started writing Colin’s story because I was journalling. I have kept a prayer journal for many years. When Colin became too unwell to complete his writings, I wanted to use my writings to give context to his words, to try to explain that they were fragments of his experiences, because over time to lost the capacity to relate his memories. I hope to eventually feel a sense of completion to have honoured his wishes in this way. Thankyou to all of you for helping me do this.

One of the things I learned about Colin’s complex military traumas was that he felt better when he told his story, was heard and understood. He felt alive telling stories about his experiences, whether it was a critical incident or a car bomb. And so there is something so powerful about sharing something of your interior life, and being heard, even if just by one person.

For me, Colin has left a legacy of love. He showed me what courage looked like, humour in the face of distress, defiance against the odds, faith in no man’s land, in a bleak and desolate territory of nothingness.

So, now I have to ask God to continue my healing, and remind me of my purpose to let these experiences enable me to in turn support others. I want to use my legacy learnings for good in the world. God is guiding me through this process, and I am so grateful. One of my learnings is that I really enjoy writing, and I want to continue this, at least for this season. I think I want to write some more contemplative pieces also, so there might be more variety in what I offer.

In the ‘Four Quartets’ T S Eliot wrote ‘ in my end is my beginning’. The circularity of life cycles is striking, and I pray that for all of us, in the midst of grief and painful endings, new buds and new life will emerge.

I often go back to the words of Jesus in John chapter 12:24 ‘ I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’

This helps me make sense of life, for sometimes dreams, familiar ways of thinking, even people have to die. But in the mystery of all things, there gradually emerges new life and possibilities.

For anyone struggling with trauma, fear and grief, I desire healing and new possibilities for you. It is a difficult road, but our Saviour walks with us, and we explore the legacy of His love forever.

Gracious God, You know all things, You love us, and redeem our life from the pit, and crown us with love and compassion. When we are in that dark pit however, we grumble and complain and cry out to You, for we feel scared and alone. And through the cross, Lord Jesus, You offer us cleansing, and forgiveness and acceptance. You embrace us with the blanket of your love, and keep us safe. May we humbly receive your grace. Give us courage to tell our story, and to find our healing. May your holy spirit help us honour legacies of love, and use our learnings and insights to he an encouragement and blessing to others, Amen.

Transforming wounds into scars.

Wounds of trauma.

There is a quotation from the American military leader Douglas MacArthur ‘the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of battle.’

This week, I witnessed the aftermath of a road traffic accident, where a car hit a cyclist. The cyclist, a young man had a gash to his head, and was bruised and on a state of shock, and taken off in an ambulance.

Seeing his injuries, got me in touch with that feeling of what being wounded can feel like, the initial surprise, feeling faint, the pain, the blood. It is such a debilitating thing, where you feel helpless and vulnerable.

For many people, including veterans, our wounds are not just physical but also emotional and psychological. Past traumas can stop you functioning, as powerful memories replay in your mind, paralysing you, and stopping you function. Triggers, which bring buried memories back, can cause reactions which look random, but which are part of people’s coping strategies, and these strategies then often become part of the problem.

How can these wounds be healed? If it is a bodily injury, a wound needs to stop bleeding, for it to be cleaned out, and then for healing to take place. Wounds can be prone to infection, so sometimes they need to be cleaned out again, for ointment or antibiotics to be used. The healing can be itchy and uncomfortable, but eventually a scar is formed, at first looking angry and raw, but eventually fading.

For emotional and traumatic wounds, there is a similar process. There are practitioners in traumatic therapies, that can help people acknowledge the terror and the pain, and start the journey of cleansing, forgiveness and healing. The book ‘ The body keeps the score’ by Bessel van der Kolk demonstrates the range of possible neurological and community based programmes that can help.

In parallel to this, as a Christian, the balm of Gilead comes to mind. In Isaiah chapter 1 verse 6, the prophet describes a broken nation: ‘from the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness, only wounds and bruises and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.’ In a similar situation in Jeremiah in chapter 8:22 the prophet asks ‘is there no balm in Gilead?’ This balm was an aromatic and antiseptic medicine, to bring healing. The balm is often interpreted as the soothing and restorative love and presence of Jesus Himsrlf.

To transform wounds to scars, is a surprisingly raw and long process. It can involve prayer, the transformative healing power of Jesus Christ, and an understanding and loving community around you. It can involve wise and sensitive trauma therapies which allow the wound to be cleansed, and for deeper and lasting healing to take place. The scars will always remain, and they are not something to be ashamed of, but they are part of our story.

Gracious God, as a world we are so broken, and we hurt and are in pain – so much violence and cruelty. Lord Jesus Christ, thankyou that You are the wounded healer, and that You come alongside us, and remind us of the scars you bear. May Your Holy spirit guide us to individuals and communities that are supportive and wise. May despair and darkness never overwhelm us, for there is always forgiveness and love and hope. May the oil of Gilead flow, and bring healing to all haunted by traumatic pasts, to transform open wounds into healthy scars. May we all be channels of your grace and peace to others, Amen.

In memory of Colin.

Love Song for a wounded warrior- first anniversary of publication!

This week, it will be a year since the publication of ‘Love song for a wounded warrior‘ a book aimed at telling the story of the late Colin Gardner, to publish his poetry and writings of his time in the military, and to share something of his experiences as a civilian coping with disability and trauma.

I am so thankful to everyone who has shared this journey with us, with grace, patience and prayer. I am so thankful for those who have listened and shared insights. I am so thankful for people who have become more aware of the plight of veterans, who often just can’t come to terms with what they have been through, and who struggle profoundly.

The book ‘ Love song for a wounded warrior’ is available by contacting me directly, or through Amazon. It costs £10, and all the proceeds are split between the Coming Home centre in Govan, and Epilepsy Connections. So far, over £3,200 has been raised, so thankyou again. There is purpose in raising money for these two excellent charities, so others might be supported.

One of the outcomes of this process that I did not understand when I set out, was the privilege of getting to know a new online community interested in this theme. It has been a real joy to hear your stories and we all seek to support each other. It feels like a healing community, gathered under this umbrella.

I found it very difficult to share our story- it was too intensely private and personal. A song that really helped me was Mandisa ‘s ‘Born for this’ based on the story of Esther. The idea is that there is there are times you feel compelled to speak, even if you are not invited, you don’t have the floor, but you feel you need to stand apart from the crowd, and find courage to speak.

This story is a tough read. Colin’s experiences were harrowing, and for us as a family trying to help him find the support to find peace, it was messy, frustrating and often bewildering. In the midst of it, our Christian faith gave us strength, and there were many poignant and humerous moments!

I am really humbled by people’s responses, and would encourage all of us to have the courage to speak, even when we feel hesitant or if feels painful. Much prayerful discernment is needed, and talking it through with the people closest to us, and listening to God. Sometimes however, we just can’t remain silent…..

Over this anniversary week, I hope to blog a few times about some of the themes of the book, and why I want to raise awareness. As a Christian too, I want people to have freedom to be able to express the messiness, heartbreak and trauma of life. Life is often tough, and we need to be real. Hopefully this encourages others to realise that they are not alone.

I am inspired by Psalm 45 verse 1- this is the New Living translation: ‘ beautiful words stir my heart I will recite a lovely poem about the King, for my tongue is like the pen of a skilful poet.’

I am not a skilful poet, but I do want to honour God, by telling our story, and the difference that Jesus has made in our lives, so that it might encourage others in difficult and painful places.

Gracious Father, You are our Hiding Place in life’s storms, and You keep us safe. Lord Jesus You understand the ugliness and sadness of our stories, and You are with us, holding us in your love, forgiving our doubts and rebellion, and reminding us of your presence, even in the darkest places, when we feel alone and afraid. May your holy spirit always guide us, to reveal when we should be silent, and when we should speak, and may all our stories be a blessing and encouragement to others, Amen.