The Beautiful Peace of God

The Beautiful Peace of God

 

In August 2012 Leah and I went to Coleraine Congregational Church where Catherine Campbell was launching her most recent book: Broken Works Best. Amongst the invited speakers that night were Pat and Andy Cardy. I was familiar with their story as I had heard them being interviewed on the radio several times. The sound of their voices has always reduced me to tears, their story is so heartbreaking.

On the 12th August 1981 Pat and Andy’s nine year old daughter Jennifer left her home in the quiet countryside to cycle to a friend’s house nearby. Jennifer never reached her friend’s house that day. Her bicycle was later found thrown behind a hedge along the road. A week later Jennifer’s body was found, strangled and drowned, in a dam thirteen miles away.

In 2011, Robert Black, who was one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, was convicted in Armagh Courthouse of the kidnap, sexual assault and murder of nine-year-old Jennifer. Robert Black, who worked as a delivery driver, abducted and assaulted Jennifer before throwing her body in McKee’s Dam, near Hillsborough. Already serving a life sentence at the time of his trial for her murder, he was sentenced to another 25 years and told that he would be 89 before he would be considered for release.

That night when Leah and I heard Andy Cardy interviewed, he spoke with no trace of bitterness or anger. He described how God had ministered to him and his wife over the intervening years, giving them the grace to cope with their situation. He talked about the then recent six week trial and how he had looked into the face of evil – the last face on earth his darling little girl had seen – and how he had felt no hatred.

It had not always been this way, there had been a time when Andy had been angry, very angry, wanting to murder the person who had done this to his daughter. However over the years Andy had learned that hatred is much too costly – he had learned to let God be the judge. Robert Black had stolen the life of his darling daughter and had also destroyed the lives of many others; Andy had decided that he wouldn’t let this man destroy his life as well.

On our way home, Leah said to me “Mummy, you cried through the whole meeting.” This was true, I was so moved by what everyone had shared, but especially the Cardy’s. I had always imagined that losing a child must be the worst pain imaginable, but losing a child in the circumstances in which they lost Jennifer was to me incomprehensible. Yet, they were testifying to the all sufficient grace of God:

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. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

With the recent death of Robert Black on the 12th January 2016 in Maghaberry Prison, the Cardy’s are once again in the news. In this article on the BBC News website the Cardy’s are quoted as saying:

Mrs Cardy told BBC News NI that she feels no bitterness towards her daughter’s murderer and would have liked to have spoken to him before his death in jail in a bid to change his “wasted” life, that was full of “depravity”.

“As Christians, Robert Black could have had what I have and what Andrew has, and our whole family – that is just the beautiful peace of God,” she said.

“I have actually prayed for Robert Black that he could come to this and therefore, his life that produced no good could now begin to change. I would have loved that for Robert Black.”

Mr Cardy said: “I’ve often said that he stole the life from our daughter but we would not allow him to steal our lives. We were determined to live on and live on for the family that we had, but the hurt is still there.

“We miss Jennifer but we have to move on, we have to keep going.”

To me, those are amazing words. The Cardy’s have allowed God’s grace to work in their hearts to such an extent, that even in the most horrendous of circumstances, they experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

You Never Let Go

You Never Let Go

I have been going to Focusfest (a women’s Christian Conference) in Belfast almost every year since the time when it used to be held in a large tent at Coleraine University in the 90’s.

From over the years I have favourite speakers who I remember well, like Kay Arthur, Anne Graham Lotz and Lisa Harper.

There have also been some very memorable seminar speakers who stand out for me such as Professor Norman Nevin, Cathy Bell, Kathryne Cavan, Catherine Campbell and of course Valerie Murphy, who was also an excellent main speaker one year.

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One favourite year was 2010 when Christine Caine shared the platform with Beth Redman. Beth is the wife of my favourite worship leader/song writer Matt Redman. I was so blessed that year.

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Beth shared the story of her miscarriages and how God had helped her through them. Then she led all 3,000 of us in singing “You Never Let Go”. I will never forget that moment, I found it very moving.

I’ve never had a miscarriage, but the thought of losing a child in any circumstance, including through miscarriage, has always terrified me.

I remember coming back from Focusfest, telling my eldest daughters Rachel and Leah about how amazing Beth Redman’s story was and playing “You Never Let Go” on continuous repeat.

I think they got a bit fed up of my enthusiastic retelling of all that I had heard.

Neither do my family appreciate my habit of listening to the same song over and over.

This past year Christine Caine battled cancer and came out winning. Afterwards she wrote the most amazing blog piece, which I have read and reread. Click this LINK to read her entire blog post.

There’s so much wisdom in it.

One of my favourite bits is:

“The devil’s…….plan was to fill me with fear so that he could deactivate my faith. Fear cripples, immobilizes and paralyses us. It causes us to pull back from God instead of pressing in to Him and His Word, To speak doubt and unbelief instead of faith. To forget His promises, instead of remembering His faithfulness. To see the facts, obstacles and giants instead of the truth of His Word. To react rather than respond. Fear simply shuts us down, and when we are shut down we cannot fight the good fight of faith.
I had a faith battle ahead of me, and the real enemy was not cancer, but fear.”

Before we went to Bristol for Leah’s treatment, our church printed prayer cards for her.

The verse that Leah chose for these was Nehemiah 8:10

The joy of the Lord is your strength”

Leah chose to walk her cancer journey with the joy of the Lord in her heart, not fear.

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This Christmas I’ve had magnetic fridge calendars printed with a photo of Leah and that same verse.

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Everyone thinks that it’s a lovely encouraging verse and it certainly is.

The problem is that I know that this isn’t the complete verse.

I know what the rest of it says:

Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t grieve – it is essential to grieve our losses.

Grieving the loss of a child is an ongoing, lifelong process.

The problem is finding a balance.

One of the issues with grief is that it tends to keep us focussed on what we don’t have, so that we almost forget what we do have.

I swing between being devastated that Leah is gone, and being thankful that we ever had her in the first place.

I am, of course, thankful for all my other blessings too, like the blessings of family and friends.

It’s just hard to get everything into perspective when your heart is broken.

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On the 30th December 2012 Leah was interviewed for R.V.C.R. – Roe Valley Christian Radio, as part of a group from L.O.S.T.Limavady Outreach and Service Team. Here they are waiting to be interviewed.

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On this occasion Leah said that her favourite Christian song was “You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman.

Within 24hrs Leah had the blood test that was to change all of our lives forever.

YOU NEVER LET GO

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know you are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

(Chorus:)
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

(Chorus)

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

“I know the journey is too great for you”

“I know the journey is too great for you”

I don’t really have a plan to write on this “Journey” page on a regular basis, but some days the words just bubble up inside of me & overflow onto my iPad.

When Leah was battling with her illness I chose my words so carefully both for her sake & for the sake of our loved ones reading my posts, as I never wanted to take away hope or cause unnecessary anxiety.

Now there are days when I feel compelled to fill in the gaps & tell the story behind the story.

Some of you leave beautiful comments, saying that my posts are helpful.

I would love to think that the things that I share here could somehow be an encouragement to others in the trials of life.

Hopefully if what I have to say here is not helpful to someone then those people will vote with their feet (or fingers) & just not visit this page.

When Leah was first diagnosed she was given a gift of Rainbows for Rainy Days by its author Catherine Campbell who has buried two of her three children.

This book contains 40 devotional readings which we used in Bristol and then put on our bookshelf.

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When Leah was admitted to ICU we decided to start using the book again.

On the 6th January Leah was critically ill and I was reading out loud to her from this book before the doctor came to give her a general anesthetic followed by a bronchoscopy and a lavage.

Our scheduled reading for that day was Day 5 based on 1 kings 19.

I was normally very good at controlling my emotions in front of Leah but my voice quivered with emotion as I read Leah the following

God utters some of the tenderest words in Scripture to this broken servant – I know the journey is too great for you.”

The words seemed so relevant to Leah’s situation that I was overcome – concerned that these words might somehow have a deeper almost prophetic significance.

Leah was too weak to open her eyes but she heard the emotion in my voice and reached out her two arms and gave me a hug.

Yes, the journey was too great.

Leah said at the time of her diagnosis that God had a plan for her life and I believe that God’s plan for Leah’s beautiful life was fulfilled in the 16yrs and 16 days that she spent on this earth.

Although the emotional pain of losing Leah is worse than any physical pain I have ever experienced I wouldn’t bring her back because I know that she’s in a better place where her body is no longer broken.

Click here to visit Catherine Campbell’s website

Our God is a Great Big God

Our God is a Great Big God

Leah was more sedated this morning, her oxygen requirements were broadly similar to what they have been, kidney function slightly less good & chest X-Ray no change so today’s nice doctor ( one of my favourite) has decided to go ahead with a bronchoscopy and lavage under general anaesthetic.

They hope that this will enable a more definite diagnosis of Leah’s condition to be made & then they hope to be able to take her off all unnecessary medication and possibly increase the quantities of some medication that might help her.

Results from today’s tests will take 1 or 2 days and they don’t expect to make any major changes to her treatment until towards the end of the week. This procedure is very risky in someone so ill and she may or may not regain consciousness again.

I explained to Leah what was going to happen and then I read to her from Day 5 of Rainbows for Rainy Days by Catherine Campbell. I had some difficulty controlling my emotions & Leah reached out & gave me a big hug.

Just before they put me out of the room so as to set up for the procedure I put on the song “Our God is a great big God” & Leah proceeded to smile & do all the actions while lying there with her eyes closed.

“Our God is a great big God
Our God is a great big God
Our God is a great big God and He holds us in His hands………………………………..
He’s known me and He’s loved me
Since before the world began
How wonderful to be a part of God’s amazing plan.”