Miracles Do Happen

40 years ago, I entered this world. I was born, yes, but I was also put on one side to die. Put in an incubator, I was not expected last the night and the doctor (who had been prevented from going to church, that day) was understandably more concerned with saving my mother, than me. I have found my father’s letters of muted communication to my grandparents. He did not want to worry them but he did say it was hard. I catch the undertones of worry and the relief of crisis passed.

However, if it wasn’t for him, I honestly wonder if I would be here, 40 years later. He talked, occasionally, to me of this dark day and how it was one of those significant instances when he knew God was with him. What did he do? He went away and prayed. He hadn’t the strength to pray alone so he prayed with two others, a priest and his wife. I’m so grateful he chose to pray! God hears us and he answers.

My father then slept a deep, replenishing sleep and phoned the hospital when he woke. “It is a miracle! She has survived,” were the words he heard. That was me! From day one, I was impacted by the powerful, prayer-answering God and the desperate cry of a worried, but praying Papa.  The mysterious lump on my head had disappeared. I had survived the night. My mother was recovering well, too.

Miracles do happen! And today my praying heart turns towards Zimbabwe. I am living proof of the miraculous happening in that nation (one life at a time). 40 years on, my best birthday celebration would be to see the beginning of a peaceful process that liberates that beautiful country and her beautiful people into new life, rebirth – a renaissance of what it means to live lives in reconciled relationships and free from oppression; lives that grow and build for good purposes.

Hope is high! Faith is fertile! There is a longing to see love flourish. Our eyes are watching for the miracle to unfold.5c4d41b063a2b88ba856ab7c9f6f6448

Rise and shine, Zimbabwe. Your time has come. You can do it! We’re rooting for you.

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Church Life, Reflections, zimbabwe | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wide Open Spaces

“Let’s go for a walk, today” he says. “Okay” says I.

Once again my husband decides on a fitness programme for me. Its time to take me in hand. From past experience, him acting as my personal trainer never lasts much more than a week and causes much hilarity. Before, I remember collapsing in a fit of giggles from which there was no recovery, as I attempted a number of push ups. Another occasion it was comments from Boffin that was the demise of my sit ups, while Tim tried to encourage me to continue.

This year, it was a remark along the lines of as I am approaching the big “four oh”, muscles degenerate with age if not used and so he wants to help ensure I get plenty of exercise. He doesn’t want a flabby wife. Well, you can imagine that laughter that provoked! But it almost had us wrecked before we started. A swift “I love you no matter what” saved the day.

Last year, we had found great treasure in the making memories on family walks to say nothing of the privilege of exploring outstanding terrain. And once again he took us to an outstanding place with amazing vistas.

 

Posted in Family Life, Photography, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Songs for the Soul

We’re sat watching and washing in beautiful sounds of worship. I can see our ragged souls being ministered to and mended after a week lost to crisis management. I am very proud of our youngsters for how they have responded and coped with uncertaintity and to see how they love their sister but now the storm has passed. These last two days have been peaceful, bolstered by beautiful weather and a visit from my mother. This was on our walk with her around the hill last night.20170525_203318 It is much needed peace to process all that has passed, to allow our bodies to catch up with sleep and our minds to return from the edge of anxiety. It is no surprise that, as I watch our youngest soaking in the music, I should feel weepy. I think where she was this time last week and to look at her now it is as if nothing has happened. She is so unique yet uncomplicated. The simplicity and patience with which she bore her malady was touching. She couldn’t remember her Dad’s name and yet she never forgot to thank the nurses for the kindness they showed her. Watching her listening, now, has the same impact on me as this photo I took of her meeting her new cousin today.

20170526_191358I have learnt a lot and am full to the brim with gratitude. Her diagnosis was one that some people take a long time to recover from, if at all, but others, like her, make a full recovery. I don’t think she is just lucky! I am convinced she turned around so fast as a result of the hundreds of people praying for her; people close to home and far away. These people are our faith family who have loved and carried us through a tough time and without their support, we wouldn’t be strong.

I have time now to watch, wonder, and be grateful.

With a few days of just ‘us’ all together, celebrating life and being family – a few beautiful days! – we’re making the most of our moments together. We are listening together, playing together, laughing together, enjoying being together, having full English breakfasts together, sitting in the morning sun together, drinking tea together, chatting and, at the end of the day, will watch the sun set together. We want to savour our quality moments and remember them.

In it all, the sound track that plays in the back of my head is an echo of a refrain from Elevation Worship’s song ‘Do It Again’. It captures my attitude to God.

You never failed me yet

And I never will forget

Posted in Family Life, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conversations with Boffin

I picked him up from school and began the winding journey home that I have become very fond of. We have experienced the splash of autumn colours, the ambush of acorns, cold mornings, grey skies, followed by the beautiful sunrise perfectly timed to rise over the hills as I return from dropping pupils off, to the lambs appearing in the frosts and now fresh new leaves are unfurling and the days are warming. It is a lovely journey in the morning and the smiley bus driver always waves. Coming home in the afternoon is a little more tedious. Boffin is always keen to get home. However, on this particular day, as soon as I had collected him he leant forward and rustling in his school bag, produced a letter. Uh Oh, I thought. What now?

“Mum,” he said, “When is our family holiday?”

“In a couple of weeks.”

“No, the Christmas one.”

“It’s over Christmas”

“Yes, but what are the dates?”

“Erm…from Christmas eve.”

“Oh”.  He was quiet for a bit then so I had to prompt him.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “We have the opportunity to go a Geography field trip to Nepal.”

“Nepal? Wow!”

“Yes, Mr Geography Teacher is organising it. I’d like to go but we have to get our names on the list and our deposit in as quickly as we can.”

“That’s exciting, but the big question is how much does it cost?”

“£500.”

“£500?” I was shocked. “Are you sure?” £500 to Nepal sounds pretty amazing. I’m thinking of the outstanding study opportunity that the Himalayas will provide for these youngsters. Meanwhile, Boffin is flapping the letter around in his hands and I glance across. In bold type, underlined the heading reads Geography Trip to Naples. Aah! Slightly different!

Oh well! We all make mistakes.

Posted in Creative Communication, Family Life, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Heralding Spring

I was supposed to be in Chester discussing a Book Event, but an early text this morning postponed our meeting to a later date and instead I find myself at liberty to write and reflect. With my human rock, also known as my beloved husband, far flung across the seas this week, I am more reflective than normal. Good health comes from breathing in and out. Life flows and ebbs through periods of busyness and rest. I never sleep so well with him away, so tend to read a lot while he’s gone and here’s the parody while I sleep less: time to read I associate with rest and reflection.

I’m reading a beautifully written novel that I have both loved and hated. It’s been a long time since I have read something that I have put down and left in disgust and then gone back to because it is such a work of art. I am also naturally curious to know what happens next. In fact, it is very rare that I ever stretch out my reading of a novel over more that a couple of days, but this I have been reading on and off for a while and I still haven’t finished. My disgust has come because the writer encapsulates human nature too well. I don’t want reality in my fiction (well actually, I do!), but I am both unimpressed and impressed when I find it so finely captured and poetically portrayed as here. Can you hear the wonder in my voice? This chap’s a genius and I hope he doesn’t mind me quote his eloquence.

“After the war of course it will be like the starting of spring, which is always so brilliantly sudden. The leaves will burst back onto the trees and close the gaps between the branches and we shall be startled – shan’t we? – as we are startled at the end of every winter. We shall think: oh, I had quite forgotten there were three livable seasons.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave)

My response when I read that was “Wow! Yeah”.

I have spotted catkins and bullfinches. I have stood outside without my coat on in the evening and listened to the blackbird heralding spring coming. I have seen snowdrops and some confused daffodils out and about. And I have noticed the sun arrive early and delay its departure to give us a little more time to think. It lifts my spirits and I celebrate with wonder, yet again! It gets me every time. I always find spring a surprise and it shows, as I have written thirteen posts tagged spring, within the last six years of keeping this blog.

There maybe more snow yet. I might be celebrating in haste. It’s not quite the end of winter. Miss Puddleduck tickled me, on Monday, when she was asked by her speech therapist what word she associated with ‘field’. “Mud”, she said! It will be a while before we see new growth in our mud.

Meanwhile, we have been enjoying the new growth in our youngsters. I noticed it particularly as Longshanks came home for a short break, just catching Dad before Dad flew to the States. There’s ‘spring’ in his step and he’s beginning to blossom on the path he has chosen. He brought the freshness of his humour and fertilised everyone else’s which made our car journey discussions quite hilarious. Boffin is as sparky with his ‘sarky’ comments as his older brother, but particularly shines when there’s another sharp mind to bounce his quips off. Our discussions filled me with laughter and “Wow! Yeah” moments of knowing that these kids are shifting. They are growing wiser. There were so many glimpses of beautiful blossom in their hearts and minds. Our discussion ranged from life, church, people, gender, politics, relationships, religions, to “What would you say if I was very different from who you think I am” questions and consolidated in my assurance it would be okay. I love and respect them for whoever they are. Love is a decision and so is our self-expression. I have chosen to love them unconditionally and they are free to make their own choices. My hope for them is that they will find the best and, however they express themselves, always put God and others before themselves. We laughed over the “Oh here we go!” moments as the boys teased my preacher approach to expanding my thoughts. I was left feeling so blessed by the pleasure of their company. They’re such fun to have around.

We went out one afternoon, in celebration of us all being together (minus Dad, of course), to sample a new independent coffee house that has just opened and we had intended to browse the shops after, with the possibility of spending Christmas vouchers. But somehow, as ones unique and true to ourselves, we got distracted by a three-storey antique shop. When we walked back to the car, we were without new school shoes for Boffin nor had any of the store specific vouchers been spent. Instead, we had a pair of white crocheted cotton gloves and a silk top hat. Last time Dad went to the National Prayer Breakfast, Longshanks got himself a ferret. This time he got himself a top hat. I swear he has spent equal care in, initially, looking after both. Mind you, he didn’t have to make a cage for his hat. It already came in a perfect, old hat box. Should I clarify that my boy is not batty? He needs a top hat for the work he does! He taught me that silk top hats were last made by some brothers in France and are no longer manufactured. He knew he’d got a bargain and had enjoyed the barter he’d engaged in to get it. Lots of banter followed over who in the family was permitted to touch the hat! It was all very satisfying.

Miss Puddleduck just asked me, “Mum, are you a writer?” And for once I didn’t hesitate to say “I am”. That’s a first. But I’m in my spring and I am looking forward to some more fresh, clear days working on novel number two. After a change of plan today, it feels refreshing to oil the cogs, sit down, spill out my thoughts in words and reflect a little on the things I treasure. They are growing up.

20170201_083232.jpg

We have to capture the moment and I hope the farmer didn’t mind me running across his soggy field, this morning, to take this. I didn’t mind ruining my shoes to get it! Spring is coming!

 

 

Posted in Church Life, Family Life, Parenting, Poetry, Politics, Reflections, Rural Wales, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anxious Thoughts

It is interesting that the beginning of a new year now excites me. It never used to. It is interesting that I now anticipate potential as a new year unfolds instead of fear. I don’t know why I have had time to think about it this year, but I have. Perhaps it is because this year my anticipation and excitement is so great!

Yet, I remember the mixed emotions of Christmas when we were first married and when the children were small. They were lovely Christmases full of beautiful moments and memories, but in the background sat a slither of darkness for me and this year I have remembered it. I used to dread stepping over the threshold leaving an old year behind and entering into the new. Those were the days when irrational fear was such a familiar part of my life that it didn’t take much for my emotions to be erratic. It was residue from childhood; a childhood with an outlook that dreaded the future. My childhood was wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, but a wonderful childhood doesn’t mean being exempt from ghosts and we all have our own battles to fight. One of mine was with irrational fear. I have had years of learning to identify the roots of it and I won’t bore you with those details. Suffice to say fears wouldn’t let me sleep at night and would have me paralysed and shivering in the dark. Irrational? Yes. I am not talking about the anxious worries that make me cranky, although there were, have been and still can be plenty of those too. But the sort of fear that affected everything, my feelings and my body. This sense that began with a thought and crept over the back of my head. It would make me freeze and shiver. It absorbed me completely. I had no control over it except to avoid triggers for certain thoughts. Those were the days when global and national news would dramatically affect my mental and emotional sense of well-being, so I never engaged with the news. I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t read it. I didn’t watch it. Those were the days when anxiety would cloud my perception; the days when a racing heart would wake me in the night with a fear of something undone or something about to happen; or the days when a sense of impending doom would hang over me for no reason.

Thankfully I have always been surrounded by good people who would never let me wallow in self pity or give in. While they understood, they have always encouraged me to overcome. They have encouraged me to fight back and not allow irrational fear to be something that is just managed but ever present in my life, nor have they ever let me use it as an excuse. That attitude was one that boosted me in actively going to God and seeking His answers, His deliverance. It has been a journey. The attitude of those around me is one that has tenaciously helped me fight and overcome. When first married, and annoyed by how battle weary I was, I asked God ‘why’. Why do I have to fight with this? I feel so vulnerable and I hate the conflict. I found my answer in Judges 3:1-3.

 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.

I understood that He was teaching me to fight. Now this year, I suddenly realise that that battle is won. Yes, it has taken time. There have been marked moments of deliverance that I can recall along the way. I live today in complete liberty and actually have done for years now,  (except, of course, when I try to diagnose a mysterious malady using Google!) but for some reason as we have crossed into a new year I have remembered how it once was. Today, that irrational fear so familiar in my childhood is nowhere near my heart. As I remember, I can cite several moments of conflict where, with God’s Spirit, we cut the ties that gave fear a right to be in my life. We reclaimed specific territories where fear had been king, such as by welcoming the light of Jesus into my life, the obedience of being baptised, learning to worship God first, learning to stand firm (Luke 21:19), learning to take the offensive in prayer instead of just the defensive by taking hold of the authority we are given (Luke 10:19). There have also been other people who have come alongside or moments of realisation that have helped me uproot and throw out the identifiable weeds that choked me. Then on the toughest of days simple practical wisdom was enough; such as during post-natal days – days in which I would be grasping for strength just to get through – I was told sleep and reading my Bible was my best remedy. And it was. Together these moments contributed to wholeness.

Learning to overcome…always learning a pattern of life that changed me, learning to live with the presence of God as my constant, not my ‘go-to’ in emergencies. I am still learning. There are new territories to overcome.

When I stop and think about it now, I find this liberation is, in truth, quite amazing. I am so excited (genuinely excited, not a talking-myself-into-a-positive-mindset excited) for the year ahead. I can look ahead without fear. Once upon a time I could not, without shivering!

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here Endeth the Lesson that was 2016

What an exciting, intense and joy-filled year it’s been. When I stand still and look back, my view now, in comparison to the beginning of the year, is very different to where we began the year.

These are some significant moments that come to mind, in no particular order. There will be plenty of significant moments I have forgotten to document too, as my boys like to remind me, I can be very absent minded!

Incredible spring flowers came out all at once and we had a stunning, colourful and fruitful autmun.

In parallel we saw the lives of those around us flourish, blossom and produce fruit. Nothing delights me more!

Our Chester church refurbishment completed and, with a team of fabulous, servant-hearted folk, the coffee shop opened. Also the church celebrated its 40th birthday and continues to go from strength to strength.

Longshanks had to brave the sitting-in-rows-with-unkown-people experience at a tertiary college while having exam papers thrust or whipped from under his nose. He sat his first ever academic exams. No mocks prepared him.

Tim commented that one of the highlights of the year for him was the beautiful family walks we did in the summer, exploring more of this stunning country. They were very special. There was one occasion where I encouraged an off-the-beaten-track exploration which everyone complained was boring, until we came around the corner to the open-mouthed wonder of an enormous cave. None of us had ever seen anything like it!

Tim helped in another successful Welsh Assembly election campaign that meant by the time the Brexit referrendum reared its ugly head his campaign battery was dead. We watched from a distance and were saddened and surprised by the unwise commentary and fierce disagreement of friends, whether they were loathers or remoaners.

After 14 years of being home educated, Boffin started a traditional school education, in September, and entered into a new world. The initial month was a culture shock but he has found himself doing very well academically. Now more acclimatised, he is loving it as we hoped he would and is thriving. His Head singled him and his friend out for their outstanding drama performance at the school carol service.

Meanwhile Longshanks, once exams were over, spent the summer flexing his wings, travelling great distances, and – through the kindness of others – has been working mainly on the ground with teams of horses and ponies, learning lots. He has now begun an equine apprenticeship down in south Wales. It was something he was very ready for and we’re excited to see him enjoying a new way of life. This has been so significant to our family dynamic as he is the first to fly. It has made me reflect a lot on nostalgia, family, the exciting adventure of growing up and very grateful for the choice we made to home educate.

We took some time out to go and do the tourist thing as a family. At the end of October we explored London together,  including the London Eye, Charlie and Chocolate Factory in the Theatre Royal and the Tower of London. Apparently this was another of Tim’s extra special moments of the year.

In August we had taken time to enjoy being with extended family and 29 of us took over the beautiful Pentrenant Hall in mid-Wales.

I had the opportunity and privilege of playing at the launch of the AOG Worship Album in May, which was amazing. I also, just this last term, began teaching peripatetically in a local school. This has been possible with only the girls continuing their home education.

Miss Friendship amazes me! She is so diligent and approaches everything with meekness. I think that is the right word to describe it. She has this remarkable trait of tenacity and determination to overcome any obstacle in life, yet she is always gentle and kind. She’s ended the year by passing her music theory with a distinction which was the result of cycling over to the next valley regularly for her lessons in music theory and violin. She also bravely preached her first sermon to 300 young people at the beginning of the year.

She and Miss Puddleduck loved the BDS junior camp in the grounds of an amazing manor house in Herefordshire. It was a summer camp with sunshine filled days. The girls learnt lots especially Miss Puddleduck, for whom lots of things suddenly fell into place and really made sense. Miss Friendship worked hard to get our Little-Legs McDuff driving during the summer months, too, and finally succeeded.

Miss Puddleduck’s specific language impairment is obviously here to stay but we felt we had a bit of a break-through with her therapist finally tailoring her therapy to fit specifically both Miss Puddleduck and our education objectives – this after I had explained how much her speech and language difficulties affect her literacy. Miss Puddleduck’s speech has blossomed and she really blessed me by opening a recent church service in prayer. I thought of Moses and was reminded how sometimes the bigger the obstacle to overcome the more evidence of God at work.

Other moments of significance were an educational trip to Israel, for Tim which he found amazing and really stirring. And of course my first novel was published in 2016, Elin’s Air, written under the pen name of  Emily Stanford.

We also attended four weddings this year. Each was very different. I had the scary responsibility of being the official photographer at one of them. This turned out to be a real joy and such fun to capture. Another wedding was filmed by the BBC and an amazing day in every way possible. Another was so uniquely true in character, essence and quality it epitomised the bride and groom themselves. But at the last one, which was a beautiful winter wedding and outstanding in so many ways as well, a gentleman I chatted to for a while commented. He said, “If you don’t mind me saying, your lives seem to be very full and selfless.” I am not sure about the selfless bit but they are certainly full of adventure and excitement! 

Tim caught me smiling to myself the other morning. “What are you smiling about?”he asked, so I explained that I was looking forward to more adventures in 2017. But within the hour I had realised that 2017 isn’t going to be about adventures. They’re sure to happen however that’s not the focus. I know 2017 is a year full of promise and amazing things. I also know it is going to be a year of tumultuous challenges. I know that global politics will continue to rock the boat and surprise our sense of security. I know that the philosophy of human nature, as told by social media and reactionary journalism, will continue to annoy me. I know I will see my children grow up, become wiser and more fruitful. I know we will see the church grow and get stronger too. But overall, I know that 2017 is going to be a year about dying to self and seeing more of Christ’s life in us, through us and expressed into the world around us. That will be the greatest adventure!

Posted in Church Life, Family Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment