My One Word 2016

My One Word 2016

Genesis 41:1When two full years had passed….”

Joseph had been betrayed by his own family, wrongly accused by his employers, then let down by his fellow prisoners…….and two full years had now passed, during which time Joseph continued to be wrongfully imprisoned. Yet, the surrounding verses in the book of Genesis make it clear that Joseph continued to live an honest, upright life and never wavered in his trust in God.

The story of Joseph has always inspired me, (I wrote previously about Joseph here), but today the verse ‘two full years’ caught my attention. I have never before noticed that there was a two year gap between when Joseph’s ‘friend’ the chief cupbearer, was released from prison and the time when he remembered Joseph’s kindness to him and spoke up on his behalf so that Joseph also was released from prison.

I knew that there was a time lapse, I just didn’t realise that it was as long as two years. It must have felt like a very long time to Joseph, stuck in prison with no letters from home (they thought that he was dead), no emails, no texts, nothing. How hard it must have been for Joseph to keep his faith and trust in God and to continue to believe in God’s plan for his life, but apparently he did.

This week marks two years since we said goodbye to our beloved Leah. There has hardly been a day over this past two years that I haven’t cried and mourned as I yearn for Leah’s presence in our lives. I have struggled at times to believe in God’s plan for my life. The emotional pain has frequently felt overwhelming.

Around this time last year I wrote about the My One Word challenge and said that I had chosen the word HOPE:

I think that HOPE has been a fitting word for 2015. I think that I as a person and that we as a family have made progress in the areas that I had hoped for. Over this past Christmas and New Year, we have had some lovely times together with the people that we love, always being mindful of Leah’s absence and the legacy of her beautiful life.

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We ‘celebrated’ Leah’s 18th birthday on New Year’s Eve, by lighting eighteen pink heart shaped candles and getting together with friends and family. We planned to light the candles at her grave, but a very strong wind ensured that didn’t happen, so we lit them at our house instead.

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For Leah’s anniversary this coming weekend we are hosting Sunday lunch for our large extended family at our house – approximately 45 people. The last time that we hosted a get together for our extended family was for Leah’s baptism. Leah absolutely loved these large family get togethers, so this feels like the right way in which to remember her.

My one word for 2016?

CHOOSE

Choose this day whom you will serve……but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Victor E. Frankl (1905-1997,  Holocaust survivor)

Leah taught me an acronym for HOPE:

Hold
On
Pain
Ends

So I thought I would make an acronym for CHOOSE:

Certain
Hope
One-Hundred-Per-Cent
Okay
Support
Encouraged

I’m CERTAIN that whatever 2016 holds, that God will be with me, giving me grace and strength. Matthew 28:20

We do not grieve as those who have no HOPE. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

When I’m fully committed to something, I try to give it my ONE-HUNDRED-PER-CENT. Colossians 3:23

It’s OKAY to have bad days and to feel like giving up sometimes. Matthew 11:28

Without the SUPPORT of family and friends, I would never have made it this far. Philippians 1:3

Despite all the sadness and the heartbreak, I feel ENCOURAGED that God isn’t finished with me yet! Proverbs 3:5-6

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The Playground Incident

The Playground Incident

Recently when listening to adults talking to me about some of their adverse childhood experiences, what has really stood out for me in their story, is how their distress was compounded when the significant adults in their lives didn’t provide the nurturing that they needed at the time.

This was either because the parent was not emotionally available for whatever reason, or because the parent simply did not believe the child regarding the situation that the child was distressed about.

I’ve thought a lot about this.

These adults are very traumatised because of what happened to them as children. I can’t help but wonder how much less traumatised they would be, if at the time that the adverse event was ongoing, a significant adult in their life had nurtured them through the situation, even if it was something that they were powerless to change.

It is so difficult to watch our children struggle.

If it’s something that we genuinely cannot change, then it can be easier to look the other way and have ourselves believe that our kids are doing fine – after all, they’re “only kids”!

Last week’s “playground incident” involving my youngest was not resolved as quickly or as easily as I initially hoped.

It required a lot of ongoing nurturing on my part.

It was complicated by the fact that she ended up being off school sick, so then she couldn’t go to school to resolve it and everything escalated.

A few years ago I’m not sure if I would have had the emotional capacity to provide nurturing to the extent that I have provided it this past week.

In years gone by, I think that I used to be in too big of a hurry to jump in with my quick fire solutions. I thought that every problem had an obvious solution.

Through Leah’s illness and death I have learned that there are many situations in life that can’t be fixed, or can’t easily be fixed.

I have learned that sometimes the kindest thing that we can do for someone, is to not try and pretend that we can fix things, but to verbally or non verbally communicate: “I feel your pain, I care and I’m here for you.

Thankfully, with the help of an amazing teacher, everything appears to finally be resolved and the smile has returned to my little one’s face.

I will continue with a bit of extra nurturing, just to be sure.

I’m also thankful to those adults who entrust me with their stories, because I’m learning so much.

I just wish that I could start and raise my children all over again though, now that I’m older and wiser!

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Lost or Found?

Lost or Found?

Our church on a Sunday morning has about 150 hundred people and isn’t especially crowded. However if Horace and the kids go in and sit down before me I can never find them and have to ask one of the stewards to help me locate them!

At New Horizon the other night a friend who hadn’t seen me since long before Leah died, toured the tent of 2,500 people, before the meeting started, looking for me, because someone had told her I was there. She searched the faces of every row, every block, until she found me imbedded in the middle of a row, half way down a crowded block of seats. She beckoned me out and enveloped me in her warm embrace.

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Her tears mingled with mine, as she expressed her sympathy over the death of my daughter. As a mother of four children herself, her heart aches for my loss.

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The Bible says in Romans 12:15 that we are to ‘weep with those who weep’. It always comforts me to know how much others care and that they are praying for me and my family circle.

The actions of this friend also reminded me of our Saviour and how He searches for us too. In the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15 we read:

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

We can be ‘lost’ in so many different ways – lost in sin, lost in our sorrow, lost in our emotional pain, lost in whatever has taken over our lives and has caused us to turn away from God.

The Bible tells us in Luke 19:10

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

No matter how lost we are or why we are lost, Jesus is looking for us. He loves us so very much, He died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins so that we can know forgiveness and assurance of everlasting life. No matter how awful our circumstances, Jesus can give us peace in our hearts.

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I hope that I never have to replicate this lovely gesture though. If I can’t find my husband and children in a crowd of 150, I would never be able to locate a long lost friend amongst 2,500!

Later that night at New Horizon we sang this amazing song by Rend Collective, Leah’s favourite band. It really blessed me.

We are more than conquerors

When my hope and strength is gone
You’re the one who calls me on
You are the life
You are the fight
That’s in my soul

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne

Rescue Me

Rescue Me

Leah is gone from our lives 6 months today, so last night I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a while – I watched My Sister’s Keeper with Miriam, my youngest daughter. The last time we watched this film was with Leah, before she became ill.

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I’m glad that Leah’s illness and suffering wasn’t prolonged like it was portrayed for the girl in this film.

Leah was unwell for just over 12 months.

I’m glad that I never had to make any difficult ethical decisions either.

I’m especially glad that when Leah was in an ‘end of life’ situation, that God gave me the grace and the strength to let her go and hand her over to her Heavenly Father.

When Leah became critically ill, I was able to talk to her about the possibility of death.

Leah would never have felt that death was a forbidden conversation topic, although of course I was praying for a miracle of healing as that is what I wanted most of all.

This time last year we were packing to go to Bristol. It was a time of fear and excitement.

More excitement than fear to be honest, because I really believed that through prayer, a bone marrow transplant and the amazing expertise of the haematology staff at Bristol Children’s Hospital, that Leah was going to recover.

Any fears I had at that stage, were fears of the “unknown” rather than fears of Leah not recovering.

This is a photo taken of Leah, Miriam, and I, as we were leaving the house to go to the airport to fly to Bristol on the 21st July 2013.

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We had been told that Leah’s chances of recovery were 70% and that sounded quite good to me.

Recent research that was revealed to us since Leah died, would suggest that someone with Leah’s constellation of symptoms and her specific genetic mutation, only has a 50/50 chance of survival.

I’m really glad that we weren’t told THAT when she was alive. It’s important to hold onto hope and it’s easier – though certainly not impossible – to hold onto hope with a 70% survival statistic than with a 50% survival rate.

So what have I learned in the past 6 months?

I’ve learned that when Leah first died I was too numb/busy/exhausted to really understand the extent of my loss.

It’s only as time goes on that I’m realising how wide, high and deep is our loss.

I’m learning that emotional pain can be relentless.

I’ve learned that small unpredictable things will often cause me to fall apart quicker than the big predictable things – catching sight of one of her favourite foods on promotion in the supermarket often reduces me very quickly to tears. Since she was a toddler Leah loved shopping and invariably accompanied me on shopping trips – now I shop only out of necessity.

Sometimes I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a great abyss of emotional pain and grief.

However I’ve also learned that sadness and joy can coexist in my heart – I’m not sad all the time – there’s many happy moments too with family and friends and I definitely haven’t lost my sense of humour.

I’ve learned that I know some amazing people – people who have surrounded me and my family with their loving support on this sad and painful journey.

I’ve always been a very independent person but I can’t be so independent any more – I rely on emotional support from those around me a lot more than I used to.

I’ve discovered first hand the value of counselling – sometimes my weekly counselling sessions feel like an oasis in the desert – a safe place where I can talk about anything that I need to talk about.

I’m learning more about my relationship with God too – some things I’m less sure of and other things I’m more sure of, but I couldn’t get through any of this without Him.

I read my Bible every day and I use devotional readings, but I still find prolonged prayer difficult.

I continue to find worship songs the easiest way to connect with God and they often become my prayers.

The song that I have recently been listening to on ‘repeat’ is “Rescue Me” by Selah – the lyrics are amazing because they echo the cry of my heart:

Deep is the river that I have to cross
Heavy the weight on my shoulder
I have discovered how great is the cost
Of trying alone to cross over
I try and I try but the current’s too strong
It’s pulling me under and my strength is gone
Don’t leave me stranded

Rescue me, my God and my King
Water is rising and I cannot breathe
Wrap Your arms all around me and
Carry me over, carry me over
(Rescue me)

There is a bridge that is easy to cross
While all of our burdens are lifted
Peace is the land that is waiting for us
Lord, give me faith to believe it
Cause I’m in a storm but I’m willing to fight
I’ll overcome and I will not die with You by my side

Rescue me, my God and my King
Water’s are rising and I cannot breathe
Wrap your arms all around me and
Carry me over, carry me over
(Rescue me)