Friday, 13 October 2017

Baby and infant loss awareness week




This week is officially baby and infant loss awareness week and through Facebook I have seen many interesting ariticles, posts and videos suggesting how we can support the many people around us who have been affected by the tragic loss of a baby or infant.





Through my journey of infertility I have walked alongside many women who have had the joy of pregnancy followed by the tragedy of loss. I have seen how many have suffered in silence, afraid of what people may think and unable to deal with the awkward conversations that may ensue. I have seen the pain on anniversaries and important dates and the fear that further pregnancies may be opening their heart to further loss.

Grief causes many emotions and I know this week many precious women are remembering times of great darkness. This week, as I have prayed for those women in my life who have experienced the

 great pain of grief that comes from losing a baby I have been reminded of how much more God cares. You see the bible talks a lot about grief, and there are some beautiful verses that show how, even when we feel completely alone in our grief, God is there alongside us. 




The bible is also really good at showing how lament can help us deal with the emotions of grief and see that there is hope in God. It reminds us of what God has done and  helps us to look to the promise of the bible. Psalm 77 is a wonderful psalm of lament as the psalmist battles to cling to hope in the midst of great grief and loneliness. As I have meditated on this scripture I have prayed hope on every parent who, this week, feels the pain of grief and thinks of what might have been.

On Sunday 15th October I will be lighting a candle in a wave of light, standing in solidarity with those parents who have lost a precious miracle of a baby. I will  be lighting a candle as a sign of hope that God cares and will be close to the broken hearted. 

This year, however, I will also be lighting a candle for me. You see I have never had a positive pregnancy test, so I have technically never lost a baby. But for me, every month comes with a wave of grief. Grief for the baby that I long to hold in my arms, Grief for the life that never was and grief for what could have been. My candle will also bring hope to me that God has it all in control, that regardless of the grief in my heart, it is also a song of lament that reminds me of all the great  thing God has done in my life, and gives me hope for the adventure to come.

So today I ask, will you join the wave of light on Sunday, let’s stand together in hope and remember those who are grieving 





Thursday, 5 October 2017

Keeping Dreams alive in Captivity





One of my absolute favourite verses of scripture is Jeremiah 29:11. It was the first verse spoken over me when I became a Christian and has been one I have clung to in many seasons of my life.


In July this year. It started to crop up everywhere. Every book I read, every sermon I listened to and every word spoken over me pointed at this verse. After a while I got the God-hint, started to study around the verse and God started to really speak to me.

At the time Jeremiah wrote the famous verse, people had been exiled to Babylon. They had been deported against their will and were living in a foreign land amongst foreign Gods. In the letter her sent to the elders who were living in in Babylon, he instructs them to set up home where they were. He told them to marry, multiply and to pray for the well being of their captor. Jeremiah 29:7 says this:

‘Pursue the well being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf; for when it thrives, you will thrive!’

Jeremiah tells them that they will remain in Babylon for seventy years, then they will be restored to Jerusalem. IT was then that the beautiful verse was spoken. God had a plan for hope and a future for the people, but it would only happen after their time thriving in captivity.

God really spoke to me through this passage. I felt him say to me that at this moment, in parts of my life, I am living in Babylon. It is not a place I have chosen to be in and at times it can look pretty hostile, but I must make use of my time there. He told me to pray into the situation and make the most of it so that I might thrive, especially in the ‘Babylon of infertility.’

Only after thriving in Babylon would the people see God’s good plans come to fruition, and the same is true for my life. As I realised this and submitted to God my Babylon life, I found proverbs 16:3 to be true.


Not long after this, God placed a pretty exciting dream in my heart. One that would help me make sure my time in exile would be a fruitful one in which Gods name would be praised and people’s lives transformed.

However day to day life can so easily take over our God-given dreams, and I soon started to doubt that I had really heard correctly. The dream would take time and commitment and I really didn’t feel I have the time to spare. It would also take strength and tenacity to push the dream forward and I didn’t have that strength.

A short while later, as I was speaking at a local ladies conference, one of the other speakers, who I has never met before, prophesied the same dream over me. I was blown away! I had also recently had my diary drastically emptied after breaking my ankle, so I had an awful lot of time on my hand. Sometimes our dreams seem too big when we look through our own lenses. We forget that:

‘God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!’ Ephesians 3:20

God has given each of us a dream and if we commit to God he will bring it to fruition. In order to explore God’s dreams for our lives we need to listen carefully to the voice of God. We need to respond to God with the cry – “Here I am – Send ME!”

We need to ensure that trust is at the centre of our journey. We must trust God and his unfailing love for us. We must trust in his word that we find in scripture and draw strength from it. We must also trust that God wants to use us because we are good enough. Above all we must trust in God’s grace.

‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’


So today, in those areas of life in which you feel you have been exiled, commit to praying that both it and you will thrive. Trust in the dreams that God has given you and remember you are are good enough.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Alone

Over the past five weeks, as I have been recovering from my broken ankle, I have Spent an awful lot of time on my own. My husband has taken over the running of the house and the running of the church along as caring for his sometimes grumpy wife, so in reality he has very little time to entertain me!! 


Through my recovery there have been times of bliss as God has drawn close to me and I have got to know him better. 

There have been times of great excitement as God has birthed dreams in me to bless many.


However

There has been time of frustration when I just can’t get up and do something simple like make a cup of coffee.

There has been times when I have felt Completely and utterly alone. 

If I’m really honest there have been times when I have battled with feeling of unworthiness and misery. Psalm 13 1-2 seems to sum up what I have felt at my worst! 

 “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
 How long will you hide your face from me?
 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭13:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Sometimes in our lives we can really struggle with issues of loneliness and as a woman struggling with infertility it, in some ways, become a part of my life. Infertility often means we are excluded from the ‘club of motherhood’ and often the shame and intimacy of the issues means we can feel alone and forgotten. 




The bible is full of people battling with loneliness and  longing for a connection with someone . In fact Jesus was no stranger to the feelings of loneliness and misunderstanding that we feel. When Jesus came to earth many people didn’t understand him, in fact they despised him. His disciples (his closest friends) often didn’t ‘get’ him and he was often frustrated that he was misunderstood. 

When he was hanging on the cross, dying, he was well and truly alone. Even God had abandoned him. At the moment he cried, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He understood a loneliness beyond what we can comprehend. 

When I feel as if I am in a pit of loneliness, I try to remember that Jesus completely understands me. He has felt exactly as I feel. 

Another amazing thing about Jesus (there are so many amazing things about Jesus!) is that when he came to earth, he came as Emmanuel – meaning God with us. He came, died and rose again so that we would never be alone. 

On the days when we feel alone and at the moments we feel incredibly isolated and forgotten, we must remember that God is always with us. 





If you are struggling with loneliness in infertility or childlessness I would love to pray for you. Please contact me and share your story and I will commit to praying for you on your journey.

Also I would love to direct you to some groups of people who have made me feel understood and part of a sisterhood. Below are a number of links to groups and organisations for you to connect with. 


Moms in the making – an amazing faith based page, group and blog, full of encouragement and hope. They have an awesome Prayer partner system too! 
http://in-due-time.com

 Sarah’s laughter – a Christian based organisation that has amazing podcasts that will touch your soul.  They also have support groups across America and an amazing online group I am a part of.
http://www.sarahs-laughter.com/


Gateway women – a lovely online community where you can discuss all sorts of issues relating to childlessness. They also have local meet ups to find a sisterhood of women in the same boat. 
http://gateway-women.com/

Saltwater and honey - a beautiful blog about faith and infertility. They have recently run a retreat which was amazing. 
http://saltwaterandhoney.org/




Sunday, 24 September 2017

Be still.....and know that I am God!





I have always loved this verse of scripture, and in my mind it often conjures up images of mountain tops or views like the picture above.  It has convicted me to practice the Sabbath properly and to take a break from the business of life in order to meet with God.

However

In the past few weeks it has taken on a whole different meaning to me. Four weeks ago, whilst away in Herefordshire for a couple of days, I fell down one tiny step and broke my ankle pretty badly. After five hours in surgery and a lot of plates, screws and wires, I was told that I am unable to bear any weight for six weeks. I have to keep my leg elevated and pretty much unable to do anything!

Those of you who know me will know I am always on the go. Our church centre is a very busy one and I am often seen running around in business. I am at my happiest when I’m out in the countryside with Paul and my two dogs, so this period of enforced rest has, at times, seemed impossible! At present I am unable to do any of these things, my life is looking very different!

God has a great way of getting his message across, and over the past week or so, the same message been popping up for me…. ‘Be still and know that I am God’

One morning, after hearing this message again, I got very frustrated. I exclaimed to God ‘I am most certainly still!’ I felt in my spirit God say, ‘But do you really know I am God?’

Even in my time of stillness I have begun to fill my time with all sorts of things, the TV, internet shopping, reading magazines etc. But was this really what God was asking of me?

I came to realise that this time of stillness, is a great opportunity, an opportunity to really come to know God. An opportunity to go deeper in him, despite the circumstances I find myself in. God is taking me on a journey. A journey of faith, a journey of stillness and contemplation, a journey to really know who God is.



A couple of days ago as I was reading the book ‘Dejunk’ by my good friend Gary Lacey. It is an amazing book, well worth a read, (it can be found by clicking the link:  https://garylacey.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/dejunk.html?spref=fb)

As I read the book, I was completely struck. It says this:

‘In fact, I knew God was speaking.

“Just stop.”

“Be still.”

“Stop doing, stop worrying, stop summarising, stop day dreaming, stop feeling bad, stop hurting”

Just stop.

I felt the yearning of a God who loves us to the moon and back.

I felt his longing for us to connect with and hear his heartbeat, hear his voice, feel the feelings, experience what he is experiencing. He desperately needs us to hear from him’


So this Sunday morning, as people are getting ready to go to church to hear from God. 
I am here, in the stillness and seeking that I may know God better.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Retreating and Encountering God

Saturday was a really special day for me and a day of great encounter with God. I travelled from sunny North Wales to Coventry for a retreat day with other women who are walking down the road of childlessness and infertility.

The devil had really tried to stop me going, so I knew it was going to be a good, God-centred day, but I never expected it to be such a beautiful day where I would feel so loved from the second I stepped through the door.

It was a day with a Myriad of emotions. Each one made me feel more accepted and taught me something of the character of God. I share them today in the hope that they may bless someone who may be feeling grief, loss or loneliness or may be searching for a community who understands, they are out there and God will lead you to them

Companionship
It was amazing how in a room full of strangers I could feel such a community with those women. We weren’t all just sisters in Christ, but we were all fighting similar battles, with similar struggles and all looking for people who will help us feel understood. It was amazing to be told you are not alone, and know it to be true!

You see God made us for relationship. He wants us to do life with each other. That is why the early church proved to be successful. As acts 2:44 says
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.”
‭we are called to journey together, to share our ups and downs and walk the road alongside each other, and with every step we take, God will be right there with us, smiling as we support each other.



Relief
A surprising emotion for me was one of relief. As I listened to the story of Lizzie, she articulated some of the battles she faced so beautifully and I felt the relief of knowing that someone else has felt that too. In society, and even church, those who are journeying through infertility are so often alienated and feel alone, but there was a great relief in shared experiences.

That morning, as I sat in the chapel clinging to my holding cross, I was able to let go of feelings of guilt and failure that I had carried for some time, and I felt the love of Jesus wash over me as the music playing beckoned me to:

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father's arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ



Grief
There was time in the day where grief was discussed and shared. This was a beautiful tie. To understand what grief was and to be told that the grief we felt was ok.
It’s OK to grieve for the life that might have been, the things that never were and the loss that we feel.

We tasted the bitterness of saltwater and remembered the grief we all felt.  I felt God’s comfort and as I looked to the cross I was reminded he is no stranger to grief and I felt the assurance that he grieves with us all.



Joy
The day was surprisingly full of joy. As we shared together with people who ‘get it’ we shared in joy as we made connection, swapped stories and found people who could truly say ‘I’ve been there too!’ We were reminded of Romans 12:15

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”
‭‭
After we had tasted the saltwater, we then tasted the sweetness of honey and thanked God for the joy and laughter that is also experienced along the way.

Unrest
For me, another thing I experienced was an discomfort in my spirit as God spoke to me. As a minister in The Salvation Army, I have people in my church and in the wider denomination who are also experiencing the pain and grief of childlessness and infertility. I have been placed in a position where I can influence not only my church, but The Salvation Army as a whole. Over the past few months God has really been guiding me to consider what this may look like and has kept reminding me of that famous verse in Esther 4:14:

And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?”

As I ponder my beautiful day with such a gorgeous-inside-and-out women, my heart is full of gratitude, joy and excitement. Gratitude that I was able to share in such a special day, joy that I am not alone and excitement at what God is going to do in the days and months ahead.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Dream Big


Sometimes God wants us to hear a message from him so much that he will use people around us to hammer the message home, and this week, God has certainly been trying to talk to me as I have heard the same message four times from completely unrelated people!

Last week, a couple of the officers (ministers) from a Salvation Army church in South Wales came to spend the day with us. They came to see what takes place in the church my husband and I are officers at, and to discuss some of the ways we deal with the challenges we face. Our friend’s corps is very similar to ours and we had a lovely morning discussing how God is transforming lives and making messy situations clean again.

But what really struck me was their big God-inspired vision. Even though the vision was costly (both financially and personally they were making giant leaps of faith and God was honouring them. As I sat and listened to their passion and enthusiasm, I felt God say to me “Dream big.” This really challenged me, but as so often is the case, life got in the way and the message was forgotten.

A couple of days later, I was sat having a cuppa with a lovely, prophetic woman of God in our church, and she said that God had been speaking about vision and dreaming big! (I’m not sure if they were her exact words…but you get it…dream big!) I shared with her what God had told me days before and started to ponder what this may mean.

Over the weekend another member of the corps, over a cup of coffee, and in the middle of a completely irrelevant conversation, turned to me and said ‘Alice, you need to dream big, you never know how God will answer your prayers and make it happen.’

Then the very next day a key leader in our corps (church) turned to me in conversation and said ‘We need to start dreaming big’




In our church, this is something God is really challenging us about at the moment. Sometimes we can become so wound up in issues such as finance, numbers and manpower that we don’t dream big. We lose our faith in the fact God is bigger than it all as we try and work our our big dreams in earthly terms. There is a verse that I come back to so often when I find myself in this mind set:



For me, on a very personal note, this has become a huge challenge for me. As I considered this in my own personal and spiritual life I came to realise that there are big dreams that I have put in a jar and locked away. Dreams that I struggle to believe will come to fruition, dreams that are simply too painful to recall and dreams that the devil has told me that I will never see come to fruition, and foolishly I have believed him!

Today I am flinging the lids off those jars and I am placing my big dreams in the hands of the one who can make it all happen.


There are some exciting times ahead. God is leading me in some new direction in my ministry and I cannot wait. So friends, today I say dream big! Dust off those forgotten dreams and dare to dream them again...

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Worrying in the waiting

Soon Paul (my hubby), Lucie (my youngest stepdaughter) and I are going on holiday. Now, I’m one of those strange people who love planning a trip away almost as much as going on the holiday itself! I know, I’m a control freak!!

I have loved finding the place to stay (complete with hot tub!), organising day trips, cleaning the house ready to go, packing for myself, the dogs and Paul, etc etc etc!

But

So quickly the joy of planning and preparing can become the ties of worry and the bonds of anxiety.
The fun I have had planning have given way to worries about worming the dogs (really!?!?!) panic about when and how we will pick up Lucie and anxiety about making the house tidy for mum and dad house sitting (even though I know my mum doesn’t care and will tidy up for me anyway!) and so many other little things that have brought me down and exhausted me.

Whilst pondering this, my mind turned to the road I am walking through infertility and once again I realised God’s goodness to me.

You see Paul and I have always been pretty laid back through it all, even though there have been tears, tantrums and duvet days. Also because of our situation of unexplained infertility without the possibility of any further investigation through the NHS (due to my three wonderful step children), God has taken away much of the planning and control that can easily become worry and anxiety.

Yes there are days when it does consume me and yes I can quickly become tempted to control the things I can control, but God’s word says he has got it sorted and that’s good enough for me!

I love the gospel writer of Matthew and the way he captures Jesus’ perspective on worry, and this week, in a moment of panic and anxiety, I was reminded of some of his words. I was walking the dogs along a cycle path in Chester, when I noticed a sparrow following us along the hedgerow. As the sun illuminated its feathers, I marvelled at its beauty and I felt God say “I love you even more than this.” I remembered the words in Matthew 10:29-31




So today, whatever you are waiting on, planning on or worrying about, remember he loves you so much more than the sparrow and he’s got it sorted!