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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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?

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


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

We have this Treasure in Jars of Clay

We have this Treasure in Jars of Clay

Something Leah and I both really appreciated after she became ill, was for friends to share a Bible verse with us and to pray with us.

Thankfully we know so many amazing people here in N.Ireland, that we weren’t short of people who were willing to minister to us in this way.

Therefore during Leah’s stays in hospital in N.I. we usually received some kind of pastoral support on a daily basis and we loved this.

Bristol was another matter.

We were warned in advance that the only minister who would be allowed to visit us in the bone marrow transplant unit was the ‘official’ hospital chaplain, nobody else would be allowed in.

We were shocked to discover that the hospital chaplain only visited once a week.

Three weeks into our stay, her visits in the transplant unit were stopped, on the grounds of infection control.

I went through the official hospital complaints procedures, to insist on Leah’s rights to chaplaincy and I succeeded in getting the hospital chaplains redesignated as “essential visitors” so that her visits could be reinstated.

Sadly for us, a few weeks after this, our lovely chaplain left, to take up a new post elsewhere, so her visits stopped again.

Our minister from home managed to visit us in Bristol on one occasion, as did our church Family Worker, Leah and I appreciated this so very much.

The hospital staff in Bristol were amazed at this pastoral input from our church in Northern Ireland.

Notwithstanding all of this, by week three, Leah was seriously ill and we were seriously missing the pastoral support we were so used to receiving at home in N.I.

Leah and I were virtually in ‘lockdown’ in an isolation room on the bone marrow transplant unit.

We were fortunate that on the 31st July ’13 we were given an accommodation upgrade from a small pokey room that we hated (cubicle 4) to a beautiful, airy, spacious one, with ensuite facilities, that we really liked.

I couldn’t make phonecalls or ‘FaceTime’ as the noise irritated Leah when she was so unwell. The one thing I could do though was send and receive texts and emails.

I so very much appreciated the support that we received from so many people during Leah’s hospitalisations, by text, email, Facebook and private message.

This is one very helpful text that I received at just the right time:


Gradually it dawned on me that I had no choice but to be Leah’s ‘chaplain’ myself. This is a text I sent to someone else around that time:


As evangelical Christians in N.I. I think that we are too used to the easy life sometimes – we can choose from any & every type of church and denomination.

We could go to a Gospel meeting or Bible study every night of the week if we choose to.

Most major towns have well stocked Christian book shops.

Many of us go every year to conferences like New Horizon, Portstewart Convention, Focusfest, Mandate and many others.

When and how do we put all of this teaching into practice in our lives?

The Bible says in Hebrews 5:12 

‘You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.’ NLT

I had lots of devotional books with me that I read daily for my own benefit but at this early stage I wasn’t used to sharing any of this with Leah.

She had brought her own books with her but was now too ill to read them herself.

In early August Leah was so ill and so sedated that she could only listen and concentrate for very short periods of time.


I needed to pick out the most appropriate pieces from my own reading for sharing with Leah.

I was sort of nervous and self conscious at first, wondering if I was getting it right, but Leah was so appreciative.

Soon it just felt so “normal” and so nice, that every day, I read the Bible and some devotional readings to Leah and prayed with her. Leah was so “hungry” for the things of God, that even when I was having my own personal time with God, if she happened to be awake, she would say “read that out loud to me please Mummy.”

At times we as Christians can feel so very weak and inadequate, but yet God can still use us in the lives of others.

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7 

‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ NIV

Our very weakness and sense of inadequacy is what helps us to rely on God instead of doing things in our own strength.

I have learned many lessons on this journey, but if the truth be told, they aren’t lessons that I would ever have chosen to learn – or at least I wouldn’t have chosen to learn them in this way!


What if Your healing comes through tears?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

Bristol Children’s Hospital

On Friday 14th June 2013 Horace, Leah, Simon, Miriam & I went to Bristol Children’s Hospital for Leah’s first outpatient appointment there.

I faced this appointment with a mixture of fear and excitement – fear of the unknown, but excitement because this was the Centre of Excellence that had the potential to save Leah’s life. I knew that the day long appointment in Bristol would involve Leah & Simon having various tests & I imagined that the rest of the time would be spent meeting staff and having a tour of the facilities.


What I didn’t know was that we would spend approximately three hours with Dr C – the most amazing, most knowledgeable, most respectful & most compassionate hospital consultant I have ever met.

However, during this time he told us many things that we didn’t want to hear – about Leah’s diagnosis and prognosis. He gave us detailed information about the treatment Leah would receive and the short, medium and long term risks of this treatment & he talked about the possible genetics of her situation, which sounded scary.

Meantime Miriam was elsewhere playing happily with kids with bald heads and some with nasogastric tubes, with the support of a lovely Play Therapist.

I had asked for Simon to be excused from the discussion but was told that the law states that the marrow donor has to hear all the gorey details regarding the patients prognosis/treatment so that if the bone marrow recipient dies the donor will know that it was their illness/treatment that killed them & it was nothing to do with the marrow donation.

My husband took weak listening to all we were told and had to lie down while Dr C went and got refreshments for everyone.

My head was reeling.

Leah remained calm & cheerful throughout.

We had a short break for lunch & went to McDonalds.

The kids ate well – I felt ill & overwhelmed.

That evening at the airport I had an overwhelming urge to vomit – I wanted to purge my body of everything we had been told about this disease process that had taken residence in my beautiful daughter’s body and all that this implied for her future.

While waiting for our flight to be called I went off on my own for a short time & stuck earphones in my ears & put the song “Blessings” by Laura Story on continuos repeat.

She wrote this song after her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It is a song that brought both Leah & I great comfort in times of stress & confusion:


Thankfully the next day was “FocusFest” in Belfast and although I was very tired from two nights of very little sleep, it was so good to be there amongst hundreds of women worshipping & praising God & my soul was gradually restored.