A wistful emptiness

Anniversaries and birthdays of those no longer with us.

Today would have been Colin’s birthday. The date is etched in my soul forever. But what happens when the person is no longer here? For most people, it is just another date in the calendar- of no special significance. Yet for the people left behind, you are marking the date with the key person missing. There is no one there to open the cards and blow out the candles, There is such a mixture of emotions, sadness, thanksgiving, guilt and a longing for things to be otherwise.

Listening to other people’s experiences of loss, the guilt of remembering a significant date, is that other people think you should have moved on by now. As the years go by, in some ways, part of you does process things differently, but I think there is still a feeling of profound sadness.

In some situations of grief, feelings are exacerbated by the circumstances of a loss. Very often people choose not to talk much about these, as they can be distressing, and as a society maybe we need to make more space for people to talk more honestly about the messiness of it all.

At the risk of repeating myself, I find it hard to come to terms with what happened with Colin, as it was so unjust, and involved so much suffering, over decades. His head injury led to a long term degeneration through poorly controlled epilepsy. It was hideously painful to witness.

My consolation comes from my faith, that even in the darkest, most bleak and challenging days, God was with us. God blessed Colin with the knowledge that he was loved, even when nothing made any sense.

In psalm 86:15 it says: ‘You, Lord are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness.’

I understand when people question where God is, when something awful is happening in their life, the illness of a child, a gradual loss of faculties, a painful treatment. Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating.

Yet in the most tearful circumstances, there can be a moment of lucidity, a glance of understanding, a loving connection, that can be transformative. And the power of prayer to help find meaning and hope can never be underestimated.

I just want to write to encourage people to know no-one is alone, even when we have bad days, or when we question, or when it all seems too much. We need to find people we can trust to talk to, even if it is to say the same thing for 100 times. There are some days on which that is just what it takes.

Gracious God, on the outside all looks well, but You see into our hearts- the painful memories, the regrets, the lament- why did it have to happen that way, why did that loved one suffer so much? Lord Jesus, you understand us, for You suffered at the hands of others, when it didn’t need to be like that, and You come alongside us with compassionate eyes and cascades of grace. Holy spirit, lift from us our pain and grief, and help us remember the moments of beauty and trust and love, that transformed even the hardest times. And on days like today, bring healing and a sense of peace, Amen.

The joy of photographs!

Light and space!

Lockdown seems to be lasting a long time- what an understatement this is! We know it is needed, to get the rates of virus transmission down, but it seems a bit endless, well actually completely endless.

It is a time of hibernation- when we are in a dormant state, everything seems slowed down, and going out to walk in the cold and rain can lose its appeal. It would be easy to feel a little down.

I am so impressed by people who have taken up knitting, done an on line course and learned a new language in lockdown! Such amazing self discipline and focus are needed.

One thing that can be remarkably beneficial, is to open up some old photo albums. Electronically stored photos are good too, but don’t quite have the same feel. Everytime you turn the page, you find a plethora of experiences, journeys and memories. They are mixed of course, sometimes people look a bit grumpy, and other times a moment of pure joy is captured- a night out with friends, a family holiday, an unexpected fun day out. Looking through photos, I am reminded of birthday meals, talking with dolphins, that trip to Moscow, swimming at Florida beaches, sunsets in Cyprus. I am reminded of all the ways that I am blessed.

I would encourage everyone to look at old photos. They remind us of family and friends, times of being together. They remind us of places we have traveled too, and the experience of different cultures and landscapes. They remind us of the richness of the lives that we have led.

God has blessed us, He watches over us in days of heartache,  He gives us days of song, He inspires us with His word, He reminds us of beauty  even out of ashes. We just need a little reminding at times.                                

     ‘I will praise you, O Lord, with all of my heart’   Psalm 9:1    

Dear God, in lockdown, we often live much of our life within four walls, which can seem pretty claustrophobic. We cry to You to help us, when we feel hemmed in, and ask that You remind us of the freedom of your holy spirit. Lord Jesus, forgive us that we have short memories of the joys of past days. Give us patience, thankful hearts, and a desire to connect and bless others in safe but thoughtful ways. Thankyou that your love is never restricted, but is unlimited at reaching each one of us, wherever we are, Amen.

One step at a time.

Beauty all around.

I have discovered that I am not a very patient person. For some people, they will not be surprised to hear this. I often have ideas, a plan, and can’t wait to put it all into practise. I am enthusiastic!

God often challenges my plans however. I often need to rethink, to pray, to ponder, to consider what to do, and what is true to my identity as a child of God.

Over Christmas, I had covid 19. I tested positive, I talked to track and trace, I self isolated for 10 days along with my son. I am so fortunate it wasn’t worse, it was just like a bad flu, headaches, feeling achy, a lack of taste and smell, a cough, fatigue etc. It was very unpleasant, and lasted just over a week, until the symptoms started to lessen. I was relieved that it didn’t get worse, and as far as I know, that I didn’t give it to anyone else. I took all the precautions, I used my mask and anti bacterial stuff, and I am grateful that I am here. I so pray for others who have it, that they heal and have no complications.

I am so very thankful, but I do have low energy. I know I need to rest until I feel better. I am doing the essentials at work, and trying to self care. I am learning so much, for even a walk in the park leaves me exhausted, so I need to only do a few things each day. Things I took for granted, are not available to me right now.

And so I need to learn to be patient, to take one step at a time. I need to acknowledge that I rely on God completely, to give me energy, to guide my path, or even allow me just to rest. Resting can be restorative and peaceful, as long as I allow myself not to feel guilty over what I cannot do.

I remember the words of psalm 40:

‘ I waited patiently on the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry.’

I need to pray, rest, and at the right time, take a wee step forward, and then rest. I am blessed with lovely supportive, prayerful family and friends, with my encouraging dog, with food and water and a warm place to live. I try to use this time to dream, and read and listen to inspirational music. I seek to develop a more thankful heart, and to notice the beauty all around, and for God to teach me to be more patient.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, we cry to You for all who are unwell this day, with covid 19, with cancer or other conditions, chronic and acute. Lord Jesus, we thank you for our incredible paramedics and health care teams, doing an amazing job in hospitals and GP practices around the country. Plesse bless them, give them wisdom and stamina, to care for those who are sick and dying, and for their relatives. For those who are recuperating, please help them to pace themselves, to rest, to breath, to self care. Holy spirit of God, thankyou for the power of prayer. May we pray for one another, to show kindness, to provide practical help, to get prescriptions or shopping. We thanks You for vaccination programmes, and pray that they would protect the most vulnerable. Help us all to be patient, as we seek to keep well, and to make good choices that keep others safe. May we be patient just a bit longer, as we watch and pray, for we ask it in Your Son’s precious name, hear our cry we pray, Amen.