Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Finding your tribe



I have seen lots of posts on social media recently about finding your tribe, posts like this one:



Being completely honest it has challenged me. Through our four and a half year journey through infertility I have lost many friends, distancing myself from people in order to numb the pain, hiding behind the shame that I may never be ‘good enough  to be a mum’ rather than being vulnerable with the people who knew me best. I’m sure many people in similar situations can identify.

However…

Recently God has been really speaking to me about community and has started to point out to me exactly who my ‘tribe’ is.  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (the passion translation) says:

'He has done this intentionally so that every member would look after the others with mutual concern, and so that there will be no division in the body. In that way, whatever happens to one member happens to all. If one suffers, everyone suffers. If one is honoured, everyone rejoices.'




As I started looking around me I started to see those people who shared in my sufferings, who pray through my bad times, not always know why I’m struggling and who rejoice in every victory along the way, whether huge or small. 

Through speaking out and reaching out in the ttc (trying to conceive) community I have found many of my tribe. I have a wonderful bunch of prayer partners from all over the world who I regularly chat to, pray with and do life together. It’s bizarre as I probably will never meet a lot of them (although I had the pleasure of meeting one prayer sister) but they play such a large role in my life and journey with the Lord.  I have also met some wonderful women from events in the uk that I have been to both speaking at and attending, they have been such a great encouragement to me. I have also found that in sharing my story, old friends who understand and may get it because they feel it too, have become new friends and distant friends have become close friends. 

So today my encouragement to that person who is reading this and feeling utterly alone is, take a step of faith and find your tribe. Look for those people who will support you in prayer, hold you accountable and share in all the ups and downs in life. If you, like me are praying for your miracle baby, then I have three fab things to suggest.

1. If you live in the North West, This Saturday, 17th February, a group of women are meeting at the StoryHouse in Crosby, Merseyside. It’s very informal and you already know someone who Is going…me! For more information check out their Facebook page.

2. There is a great group of supportive ladies over at the moms in the making group  on Facebook. There are so many ways you can engage including an amazing new online support group that runs twice monthly. It does mean being up at 1:30am to chat to America because of the time difference, however it is so so worth it!!  For more information take a look here: moms in the making

3. I would love to pray with you, send you snail mail, meet with you and become a member of your tribe! You can contact me through the blog or click on my Instagram on the right hand side of the screen. I would love to walk alongside you on your journey.

As Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

And on the seventh day... We Rest!


I am in the middle of an interesting week of training at The Salvation Army's William Booth training college. I have been surrounded by some amazing colleagues who serve, like us, as Territorial Envoys, running Salvation Army churches up and down the country. This is our third year at our annual seminar and this year I have been shocked to see some gifted pastors, who in previous year had been full of passion and zeal, looking exhausted. In conversation they have admitted that amongst other things, they aren't finding time to take their day off. 

I'm am passionate about keeping the sabbath, and seeing my friends and colleagues so tired prompted me once again to consider its importance to us in a society and job that never seems to stop.

We know that God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day he rested. Yesterday one of  our soeakers very briefly posed the question "did God really need to rest on the 7th day?" The answer of course is no, but he chose to rest, purely as an indicator for us to see how our rhythm of life should be. God modelled the behaviour that we should have, and time and time again in his word, it reminds us of the importance of Sabbath. 

Jesus was a great advocate of the sabbath as a rhythm of life. He understood the complexities of ministry, and the busyness of life. He certainly understood too that there is an ocassional time when our rest needs to be put on hold for a short while whilst we do the Lord's work. But above all he knew that rest was vitally important in mission and ministry. 

One verse in the bible I truly love, but truly challenges me says:

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" John 10:10 




I know when things have been particularly busy and I haven't been able to take my sabbath day  rest for a while, I have looked at my life and realised that it has ceased to be an abundant life. How can we possibly tell the lost to come follow Jesus and have an abundant life when all we ever do is 'sleep, eat, work, repeat?' As ambassadors of Christ we are called to embody an abundant life. And that includes rest! 

Any of you who follow me on social media know that I love putting up pictures, and on our day off I always try to post at least one picture that shows something of our 'rest.' Sometimes Paul (my husband) rolls his eyes at yet another picture, but I often reply: "How can we expect our flock to live an abundant rhythm of life with a healthy sabbath if we don't reflect it in our own life?" 

Some of my many pictures!!


So today - God is saying

'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to live lightly and freely.' 





Wednesday, 17 January 2018

finding joy in the struggle





"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" 
James 1:2-4

As you know, this year I asked God to give me a word to take with me through 2018, and I he gave me the word Joy. I decided to take some time to study what exactly Joy means and where we can see it used in the bible. The verse from James was one I came across immediately. At first I skipped straight past it, as I wanted my word to mean that everything in the next year will go great and that I might have a rest from trials and struggles. However, I soon felt the Lord lead me gently back to it. 

As I began to really get to grips with this verse, I started to question how joyful I actually am, and whether it manifests itself in times of trial in my own life. 

James calls us to consider it 'pure joy' in trials, or as the passion translation says:
" when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy you can." 

What a challenge! But James continues by saying that in times of great struggle, real growth comes, and in it we can learn so much about who God really is. 

It reminds me a bit of bread (bear with me!) When you bake bread after placing all the ingredients in a bowl, you don't just leave it, you knead the dough. The kneading activates the yeast, which causes it to rise. 

When we face times of trial, and we feel like we are being kneaded (is it just me that sometimes feels as if I am being spiritually kneaded!?!?!?) it actually activates our faith and helps us to grow so we can experience the 'good bread' as a result.


If we face times of struggle with joy, knowing that we will see good fruit (or bread!) - oh how that could renew our minds and help our relationships with others to flourish. 

I am blessed to have many prayer partners, most of them women journeying through infertility. This week, one of those beautiful women said something that profoundly challenged me. She talked about a huge struggle her family had gone through, where God miraculously intervened, and recalled how the trial had brought her family wonderfully close. She then reflected this on her own journey to be a mum and her marriage and she shared with great joy how there was developing a new level of closeness and intimacy in her marriage through the trials. 

Wow! 

Today my  prayer is that I might reflect that joy as struggles come and that the bread that is made through my trials may be good, wholesome, edifying and taste delicious! 




Monday, 1 January 2018

Saying hello to 2018



It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog. So much has happened in the past few months and if I’m honest it has been really really tough! As many of you know at the end of August I fell and broke my ankle pretty badly and after a lengthy operation, progress has been slow, painful, and both emotionally and physically draining. Although I have returned to work, I am regularly finding I can only do a fraction of what I was able to do before. 

However

God is good and I have learnt so much about God, myself and my ministry through it all. God has also been revealing to me where he leading me, and although it’s pretty scary it’s super exciting too. 

Over the past few days I have been considering the year ahead. In a lot of ways I will be glad to shut the door on 2017 and look to new possibilities. Don’t get me wrong I have had some truly wonderful moments in the past year. God has taken me deeper in my ministry, especially with women journeying through infertility, I went on an unforgettable pilgrimage to Israel and I have seen amazing answers to prayer. But it has also been filled with grief, depression and in the past week, yet another negative pregnancy test! 

However, as I have been praying into 2018, God spoke to me loud and clear as to where my focus should be and I have heard the same word over and again….JOY


I’m a pretty happy person, and I have been told once of twice that I always seem to have a smile on my face, but that isn’t really Joy. Joy is something beyond just happiness, it is not dependent on circumstance but is fully reliant on God. Joy stays unwavering in the face of infertility, insecurity and unrest. As Nehemiah 8:10 said ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ 

As I pondered Joy and what it may mean for the year ahead the Lord dropped this verse into my heart and as I sit with a blank page in front of me, I pray that this time next year I will have radical, grace-filled stories to tell about reaping in joy the harvest I have sown in sorrow







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/