Medication in the sock drawer.

The illogicalities of grieving.

There are just so many anniversaries in life. Just when you have worked your way through one, along comes a other.

Today is three years to the day since Colin’s  funeral. Some of the memories are still so vivid, the people who came, the sound of the singing, the positioning of the coffin. My son Andrew and I are so appreciative of all the people who were so supportive and prayerful at this time. It was such an expression of care, at a time of pain and loss.

Going through times of grieving is so complex, even after three years. I think other losses in these years exacerbate the process. One day you think you are feeling a little better, another day you suddenly hear a piece of music or a letter comes in the mail, and it brings waves of unbidden emotion.

There is little logic in it. As the grieving person, you begin to realise that you are not only missing the person, but also your old way of life together. You also begin to realise that habits you adopted, especially to support a loved one who was unwell or disabled, are no longer appropriate.

An example of this, was that one of the conditions my late husband had was epilepsy. This meant that anytime we went anywhere, the first thing we did was check we had his medication with us. If we were going abroad, I would have it in my hand luggage as well as the cargo hold, just in case. It is drilled into my head to take Colin’s medication everywhere I go.

So this is not working for me now! I need to retrain my brain not to think of this. But it is very hard. And so my confession today is that I have kept some epilepsy medication in my sock drawer, just in case. Just in case of what, I don’t know, but it it just one step too far to dispose of it. In my head I know this is ridiculous, but my heart just doesn’t want to let go.

So when people say they are still struggling with grief, even three years on, please be kind. The multilayered significance of the loss of of the person, their life, their life together, and a way of living, is so hard to articulate. There are so many decisions and accommodations that you make in life, that then have to be relearned. It is a slow, laborious process of reformation, but God strengthens us and gently leads us forward, for He shows mercy to the sorrowful.

‘God heals the broken hearted, and binds up their wounds.’ Psalm 147:3

Gracious and Eternal God, we give thanks that You understand our hurts and sadnesses and convoluted thinking. Lord Jesus, thankyou that You are gentle with those who are sorrowful, and heavy in heart. Holy spirit, help us to become unstuck from repeating old ways that were so important in the past. Lead us from grief and old patterns of thinking and being, so we can find healing and freedom to be our true selves. Amen.

Healing memories.

Resting in sunshine.

Am so grateful for the glorious weather, and the chance to travel early this morning to Fintry Bay in Millport. It was so very peaceful.

As a result of all the restrictions I haven’t been across for over 6 months. Even just getting on the ferry was emotional, the excitement of being on the island after all this time.

Colin’s ashes are scattered on the island, so it was a special pilgrimage to go back. And I remembered many events from the past, some difficult, and some connected to the island hospital, which were a bit mixed! Everyone was lovely, and I was so grateful for their care for Colin.

However the beautiful and healing thing, was that everytime I turned a corner on the island, good memories came flooding back- Andrew making sand castles on the beach when he was small, all of us playing football on the grass, Colin cheating wildly at crazy golf, walking the dog, getting soaked in torrential rain, having lovely meals together, and just watching the sea in all its majesty, ever changing colours and moods.

Of course, we went cycling as well. Colin had poor balance, but once in the early days, he managed a wee cycle, and the pride on his face that he could cycle faster than his young son! We have a lovely photo of that moment- it was much cherished, because he was so pleased to be able to do something with his son. So often his disability made that difficult. To be able to do this just once, was a treasured memory.

Being on the island today was poignant. At the beginning of the day it was misty, and I couldn’t see the hills of Arran. However the mist started to lift as the morning warmed up, and then ‘the sleeping warrior’ emerged in all its splendour, and things felt peaceful. Colin is at peace.

I am so grateful for memories that remind us of family, friends and pets on the island! Much fun, some adventures even. We were all able to go a couple of trips on the paddle steamer ‘the Waverley’ and Colin loved this, though I was always worried he would fall off the gang plank! He never did. And so I have a deep sense of thanksgiving for all the joy even in uneven times.

Creator God, thankyou for the gorgeous nature of your creation, the ever changing azure colours, the salt smell of the sea, the call of the seagull. It so tells of your glory. Thankyou Lord Jesus for the opportunity to remember, and to notice particularly the fun and the beauty, and to find healing and peace. Holy spirit for all who mourn and still struggle, please lead them to memories that can bring assurance and even smiles, and places that bring peace, Amen.

Rays of light in times of heartache.

Sitting with the dying.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my husband’s death. Somehow I thought that things would be easier. I have so much to be thankful for, but it is still a time of deep sorrow and difficult memories.

My husband was invalided out of military service because of a blow to the head which resulted in epilepsy. As the years went on, the seizures became more poorly controlled, and this brought degenerative damage to his brain. He was defiantly independent, and tried his best to work through traumatic memories from his service, but as the years went on,  he became less able. When he needed 24 hour care, he was admitted to a care home, where they took excellent care of him.

My son, myself and the dog visited regularly, as did other family and friends. However after another 4 years, and a broken hip, he was very weak, and had infection after infection.

And so many times I sat by his bed, with the doctor telling me there was nothing more they could do. All that was left, was to make him comfortable.

So many people sit by the bed of a dying loved one. And we know it is a privilege, time to play beautiful music, to express the things most needing to be said. But is is also exhausting and distressing, watching them gradually become weaker, less able to swallow, the morphine level having to be increased.

At times Colin was restless and agitated, at other times more subdued. At times he knew what you were saying and could respond, with a smile or wave. At times you could give him a little raspberry ripple ice cream- a favourite, and you were rewarded with a wan smile.

It was heartbreaking watching him becoming weaker, shrinking in front of me. On some days, there were rays of light through the window that landed on the bed, bringing him warmth and comfort.

And these rays of light spoke of many things. I was thankful that he was comfortable, and well cared for. I was thankful for family able to visit. I was thankful of the presence of Jesus in the room, ready to take him to be with God, in that moment Colin was ready.

Yet is still hurts- not just Colin’s death, but all the years of suffering he experienced, recounting traumatic stories, and having seizures. All the times when he was frustrated and despondent because of his limitations and disabilities. All the years of behavioral issues, of carers and hospital admissions, and the toll it took on his loved ones.

In the last two years, both Colin’s parents have died, and that just adds more layers to the trauma and grief.

I pray for all carers looking after a loved one, but especially those sitting at the bedside of a dying relative. I pray for the person not to be in pain, for loving and attentive care, for words of love to be shared, and for a peaceful passing.

And I am thankful for loving family and friends, who prayed for us and supported us, and for moments of humour in the midst of sadness. I am grateful that I have been able to honour Colin’s memory by telling his story, and to raise awareness of the plight of veterans. I am glad we could raise money for charity- for the Coming Home centre in Govan, and for Epilepsy Connections in Glasgow. I am thankful for all these rays of light, and hope and love. But it still hurts….

Eternal Father, You know what it felt like for your precious Son to die on the cross. You know what we humans go through, when we sit with a loved one who is dying. We are anguished and sorrowful. Lord Jesus, thankyou that You are there too, with an invitation for people to place their trust in You, and find their eternal home. And that your holy spirit enables us to say our goodbyes, and to find peace. Help us as mourn, to honour our loved ones, and then when we are ready, to find our healing, and new direction. May rays of light always fall across our path, 🙏Amen.

The book about Colin’s writings and poems, and the story of his life is called ‘Loved song for a wounded warrior” and can be purchased by contacting this website or on Amazon. All proceeds go to the two charities mentioned above. Thankyou.

Opening old wounds.

The cry for mercy and reconciliation.

Watching some of the riots and violent disturbances on the streets of towns and cities in Northern Ireland this week, has been deeply disturbing. They have brought back memories from the Troubles, when there was much sectarian violent conflict between catholic and protestant factions- knee capping, intimidation, shooting and car bombs.

Commentators and journalists have talked of different causes for this recurrence of violence recently- poverty, provocative words from political leaders on all sides, and the provisions of the Brexit agreement. These are all in danger of reopening old wounds.

My late husband served in Northern Ireland as part of his military career, and his experiences and memories have always reminded me of the price that is paid by all involved in violence- the traumatic memories and the risk of PTSD, as well as the physical injuries. The cost of conflict is so very high and long term, for all involved, and for their families.

The Christian community at Corrymeela, along with many others, have called for people to stand against violence, to show civic courage, and to work towards tolerance, dialogue and reconciliation.

The Corrymeela comment and prayer can be found here. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10158341299392547&id=76350897546

May we all do our best to work for justice and peace, so that the violence will diminish, and for peaceful but effective ways to be found to support vulnerable and anxious communities. May we pray without ceasing, for peace. Lord, have mercy.

‘ God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.’ 2 Corinthians 5:19

Gracious God, You long for all people to be reconciled with You in Christ, and also with one another. Forgive us for all the times that we fight and squabble. We pray especially for Northern Ireland, for the violence to stop, and for there to be a will to find a peaceful way forward. Lord Jesus, we know that for many, old memories and hurts are resurfacing, and old wounds being torn open. Forgive us. We give thanks for Corrymeela, and for all who work for peace. Holy spirit, bring lasting healing to all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Broken, beloved and blessed!

Resurrection in the garden!

I adore Easter Sunday! I used to get stuck at Good Friday, as I contemplated Jesus on the cross dying for my wrongdoing, saying ‘Father, forgive’ even in the darkness and pain. The love and amazing grace of our Lord still humbles and astonishes me every day.

However, I have also learned to appreciate the difference resurrection makes, as I think of the women at the tomb, and the words of the angel ‘ He is not here, he is Risen’ Luke 24:6. The power of these words are breathtaking.

I am going to focus on Mary Magdalene, someone who knew Jesus well, who was described as having ‘ seven demons’ in Luke chapter 8. It is difficult to interpret exactly what that means, but at the very least it means she was troubled or even disturbed. But Jesus healed her, and she became his devoted follower.

So in many ways, Mary went through a time of brokenness, when she was upset, mixed up, distressed. And Jesus helped her find peace. But when she watched her beloved Lord be treated so cruelly, mocked, whipped and beaten, she must have felt so distressed once more, for it seemed that their dream of working for the kingdom of God on earth had died, and their hopes were in smithereens.

In John chapter 20, we have a narrative where the Risen Jesus speaks directly to Mary, and calls her tenderly by her name. And she tries to cling to Him, but he says it is not the time, for he must ascend to His heavenly Father. The whole encounter between them however, speaks of Mary being beloved to her Lord. She is loved and cherished by Him. There is such a depth of beauty in these words, that reminds us that this woman, who was once troubled and seen as an outcast in society, was now accepted and valued.

So Mary was broken, beloved and then blessed. She went to speak to the others, with reverent excitement and enthusiasm saying ‘ I have seen the Lord’s. She has witnessed a miracle, and feels blessed and ready to share what she has seen with the whole world.

This spiritual journey is so relevant to all of us, for we are all struggling or broken without God, but then spending time with Jesus brings healing and an experience of the depth of God’s love, that is life changing. And we are blessed so richly, that we are motivated to go out and share our story.

In these days of resurrection, and reflection on the Easter story, may we all find hope and healing and love, so we can travel from brokenness to wholeness, from estrangement to belovedness, from alienation to being blessed. God desires the best for our lives, so may we be open to all He has for us to receive.

May we pray ‘ Risen Lord, as you appeared to Mary, please come to each of us, call us by our name, remind us of your healing power and purpose for our lives. We may have gone though dark days of illness, trauma or grief, but You are still here for us. Speak tenderly to us in our brokenness and tears, and remind us that we are beloved, treasured by You, and that You want to bless us. Holy spirit, may we be healed and blessed, so we in turn might be a blessing to others. Empower us to do your will, and be a channel of your peace in this world, Amen.

A dark day of weeping.

A cascade of tears.

Yesterday was Good Friday, always an emotional day. To think that some one could love me enough to give their life for me is so much to take in, never mind that that person is the Son of God.

To read the narratives of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas in the garden, of his trial in front of the high priest, Herod and then Pontius Pilate, and then the crowds shouting ‘crucify’ is heartbreaking. And then it gets worse, the taunting and mocking of the soldiers, the spitting and jeering and beating, the crown of thorns, Jesus carring his cross, and then dying on that blood soaked wood.

And the words that Jesus said ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ Luke 23: 46, and then breathed his last. I was just so moved by the scene, with his mum Mary, the women, his disciple John all present. Jesus was surrounded by love and prayerful tears, even in the midst of his agony. They watched him commit his spirit to God and breath his last.

And something of the meaning of these words struck home, as I remembered the memory of my late husband breathing his last. The sacredness of that moment, the events leading up to it, the helplessness all came back into focus. And I wept hot tears for Jesus, for Colin, and all with those remembrances of sitting at the bed of a loved one. These moments of eternal significance  stay with you for a life time.

It is so hard to finish preparing Good Friday worship, when you cannot see the page in front of you because of your tears. Sometimes the flood gates open, unasked for, as you catch a glimpse of the rawness of grief once again, and that collective grief of the world, sorrowing over loss and pain and sin and violence. It gives a deep sense of the love that motivated Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and to open the way to eternally for all who place their trust in Him. And it brings clarity to that sense of the depth of sorrow of those round the cross, accompanying Jesus in that last journey.

Grief is like this, you are thinking that you are getting stronger, and then out of the blue that wave of pain and sorrow overwhelms. It is also a sense of loss that connects with the losses in all humanity, and is so very dark.

The idea that we grieve so much, because we have the privilege of experiencing the richness and fullness of love makes sense. In many ways to feel such pain, is the cost of love, and so it is a privilege. And after tears in the night, eventually comes the comfort of the dawn.

Gracious Father God, we cannot begin to understand your distress at seeing your precious and beautiful Son so cruely mistreated at the hands of others. Lord Jesus, even in your darkest moment, You demonstrated love and grace, and trusted your spirit into the hands of your Father. May we know too that sacred moments of life and death are held in Your loving and compassionate hands. Even in the midst of our tears, Holy spirit, help us not to fear, but to trust and find peace, for You are faithful. Thankyou Jesus, the Lover of our souls, Amen.

What is life about?

The big questions!

As a teenager, I remember wondering what life is all about. People talked of leaving school, maybe going to college or university, having a family, retiring, travelling and then there was a pause…..    Then we were face to face with our own mortality.

I was searching for answers, and used to wonder if there was a God, and if so what would that God be like, how could I find out. After many questions and discussion and pondering, I came to faith at university, and it was amazing. To look at Jesus’s life and ministry, touching those with leprosy, challenging the corrupt, showing tender love to the vulnerable, teaching about forgiveness- that His life revealed the character of God- that blew me away- a God who stands up for truth and justice, yet stoops to pick up the weary- it made perfect sense to me, and still does. The purpose of our lives is to learn to receive Christ’s love, and then share it with others. God’s  love is my anchor and Jesus’s teaching and way of living his abundant love poured out for all. And the Holy spirit revives my soul when I am empty, and strengthens me when I am struggling, and inspires me to imagine a better world, and how to do a tiny part to partner God in this. What a privilege.

‘ We love because He first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19.

Every day, Jesus teaches me more about love. Henri Nouwen’s concept of the wounded healer seems central, that somehow through the cross, we find forgiveness and healing, and that through the woundedness of our stories, God can also touch the lives of others.

I so want everyone to know how much they are loved. Whatever your struggles or wounds or difficult memories, Jesus wants to bring healing and wholeness. It is often a process, and can involve many stages and twists and turns, but having Jesus with you makes everything better.

Accompanying Colin, watching his struggles as a veteran, with his head injury and ptsd symptoms and difficulties, meant I learned so much, about prayer, and love and holistic therapies that helped him. He still had such a tough time, but finding prayerful and sympathetic people along the way, made all the difference. And so I am grateful.

For now, I wonder what road God is calling me on, as I want to use what I have learned to support others. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that to connect with others seems the greatest privilege in living, to show grace and care, in the same way as God cares so beautifully for us. May we learn to trust Him more.

Dear God, Your ways are so much higher than ours, and we can struggle to understand life. We have so many questions. Lord Jesus, on the cross, You show us the true nature of love, to be willing to lay down your life for others. Thank you for all who show such love for others, people in the medical profession, people who are carers, people who serve at home and abroad. Holy spirit show us our purpose in life, and inspire us to live more closely to our Saviour, and to serve others with the abundant beautiful love that You have shown to us, for surely this is why we are here, Amen.

Painting and dancing!

Free style painting!

Today has been a lovely, dry, spring day, and I decided to paint a wall in the garden. That sounds quite normal, but I had my music on as well, and was listening to the Christian band Hawk Nelson- songs like Diamonds, Parachute and Never let you down. They are such great songs of faith, I couldn’t help but dance. I think I had too much paint on my roller, and I ended up a bit painty,  as did the grass, the bush and one or two other things. I think it was quite creative, but rather messy.

Next month will be the third anniversary of my husband’s  death, and it occurs to me that I still feel guilty for dancing to a song. Some one said it was ‘survivor’s guilt’ that you feel it is not fair to enjoy music when your loved one can’t. It is a way of thinking that is hard to let go.

The grieving process is so lengthy and so complex. You think you are coping with one thing, and then something else starts bothering you, or worse still, something from the past you thought you had worked through, comes back in a new form. It can be so disheartening and exhausting.

Every day, we have to choose once again how to live. We are often sad, or struggling with difficult memories. Yet I believe that part of the healing process, is how to learn to be thankful to God all over again for each day of life. And sometimes that means laughing hysterically, or being still for a long time, or dancing when you are painting! God wants to set us free from grief and sorrow, even just for a few moments. Whatever we are going through, may we all know these moments in life.

We remember God’s promise in Isaiah 61:3

‘ to all who mourn in Zion, God will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.’

Let us pray, there are so many reasons we may feel sorrowful- illness, the strain of the pandemic, the death of a loved one, and it can feel that the weight of heaviness and darkness will always hang over us. Lord Jesus, You remind us that from the pain and suffering of the cross, came forgiveness and new beginnings. Holy spirit bring healing to us, so that in moments, we might have hope and so we can still dance for joy in your presence, Amen.

The beauty of nurture.

Mother’s day.

Today being mother’s day is a very emotional one. I am so fortunate to have my beautiful mum, but have lost my mother in law. We owe such a debt to mums and loving patient adults who have helped form us and guided us along our way.

I was so privileged two years ago to attend Bessel van der Kolk’s conference on trauma in Boston. It helped me understand so much about trauma, attachment, neurodiversity, body work and different ways of exploring healing for those who are suffering and traumatised. As a lay person, I have so very much to learn.

In the midst of all the technical neurological and psychiatric therapies, a recurring theme was really simple and profound, because what is at the core of it all is the power of love, to create a safe space for people to feel seen, listened to, valued, cherished. Healing can then be explored in different combinations suited to each individual, when some kind of trust can be restored.

It was so exciting, yet so deeply challenging in a world where many feel abandoned, ignored, abused and mistreated. How to be supportive and prayerful, for that broken part within each of us is so difficult. How can we let God tend to that uncertain, hurting child within?

Listening to stories of the power of good attachment in the earliest years of life, reminded me of the vital nature of good nurture. To support babies and toddlers, to feel safe, and loved, to they can learn and play, can strongly influence children to grow into more contented and peaceful adults. We know this as people, but the scientific data regarding brain formation that confirms this is astounding.

In 2 Timothy chapter 1, we hear of the positive influence his gran Lois, and mum Eunice had on this young boy, in this case passing on their faith to him. It equipped him for his years ahead.

May we know that the choices we make, the attitudes that we have, the love we show, can make such a difference for all around, and especially for babies and children. As we give thanks for mothers’ day, may we encourage one another to nurture and love and play with the babies and children in our midst! By doing so, we are building a healthier society.

Let us pray, Father God, You love us all with a perfect and generous love. Lord Jesus, You delighted in having children around you, and their curiosity and playfulness. Forgive us, as a society, when we let babies and children down, when they feel unsafe and unheard. Holy spirit, teach us more about how to love and nurture babies and children, and our inner child too, so we can be healthy and whole and at peace, Amen.

Spring- the breath of life

Breathing deeply, finding peace.

The days are lengthening, there are crocuses on the ground and buds on the trees. Although there are still some rainy dismal days, there is also a feeling of greening, and of spring.

These are still such anxious days, and I am learning more about the importance of breath. We all know breathing is good! But there is so much more to it than this.

In the fresh air, our intuition is to breath deeply and slowly. We appreciate the air coming into our lungs, that it shows us down, and helps us be more in the moment, at peace and attentive to our enviroment.

There is so much science to this- that slow, deep breathing reduces anxiety and feelings of panic, that it helps us relax, brings more oxygen to the blood, and releases endorphins. Breathing in should be deep and measured, and breathing out even more slowly. This calms the parasympathetic system and the vagus nerve, and brings a feeling of deep peace. So many practices of Christian meditation reflect the importance of this type of breathing, even from thousands of years before. It is an ancient and healing practice.

Exploring practices that help bring healing to people who are anxious or traumatised, seems so very important in today’s age. Whether it is the use of breathing techniques and trauma informed care in schools or medical settings, it seems such a beneficial and holistic tool to offer. And in churches also, maybe we need to learn more from ancient Christian practices of meditation, to enable us to be more fully in the presence of God.

In Job 33:4 it says ‘ the breath of the Almighty gives me life’ and this is not just giving us the capacity for life, but also quality of life and spiritual awareness. The modern worship song ‘ Sound of our breathing’ by Jason Gray, captures something of the rhythm of our breathing, and of God’s breath within us.

Let us pray: ‘ Eternal God, You breath Your life into this world, into every human being- may we notice and cherish this gift. Lord Jesus, when we are stressed or anxious, help us to slow down, and breath deeply, and exhale slowly. Holy spirit, bring us your healing and calm, shape our lives, and enable us to live more fully for You, Amen.