The Struggle

The Struggle

Two weeks ago I added ‘studying’ and ‘work placement’ to my already rather full schedule. Since then I have really struggled emotionally. My emotions are screaming at me to give up, that this was a crazy idea. My head is simultaneously reminding me that this is a door that God has opened for me and that I went into this really believing that it’s what I’m meant to be doing. To be fair, it’s only for three months – how hard can that be?

For the past year I’ve worked only three days per week and the other two days have given me space to grieve. Without that space right now I’m struggling – big time. Work isn’t the problem – I love my job, it’s everything else that I’ve added on, albeit temporarily.

Add to that the fact that this time two years ago was when Leah’s illness really took a turn for the worse. The last weekend in September 2013 started off well. Leah was looking forward to a planned meeting on the Monday with our lovely consultant, at which we had been promised that we would be given a date for booking our flights back home to Ireland.

Leah’s boyfriend Nic had flown over to spend the weekend with us. This meant that I had some time to myself – a rare occurrence – I had spent it cleaning and bleaching with another oncology Mummy, getting a house ready for her and her little boy to spend a few hours outside the confines of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. She’s Irish too and we had enjoyed the ‘craic’ together. Devastatingly, her gorgeous son Caiden died in similar circumstances to Leah in October 2014.

Then, on the Sunday night, Leah told me that she was passing blood in her urine. So, on Monday, instead of our consultant giving us the dates for booking our flights home, he readmitted us to the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.  Leah went on to develop a new complication every month until the one at Christmas/New Year that finally claimed her life.

I’ve cried a lot today, whilst wishing that I could use the time to focus on the E-learning that I’m supposed to be doing for this training course. I’ve really found that ‘time management‘ is not one of my strengths since Leah became ill and died.

Then on a shelf in my room I spied a book that I bought recently but hadn’t had time to read. It’s called “When the Hurt Runs Deep” by Kay Arthur. I heard Kay Arthur speak live a few years ago and I loved her energetic style of Bible teaching. She devised the Precepts Bible Study method, I was a regular attender at a local Precepts Bible Study until Leah became ill.

I started reading her book today. On page 73 Kay quotes Psalm 139:13:

Psalm 139:13 (AMP)

For You formed my innermost parts;
You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb.

Kay says that God knows the exact sperm and the precise egg that comes together to make us who we are. This stopped me in my tracks. Leah was conceived while we were having investigations for secondary infertility. Every month we longed and prayed that I would get pregnant. I went for prayer via the “laying on of hands” from those whom God has gifted in the healing ministry. Yet, God in His sovereignty allowed Leah to be conceived with either an egg or a sperm containing a mutated gene that would one day lead to her receiving a diagnosis of myelodysplasia with monosomy 7 caused by a GATA2 deficiency.

Then on page 77 of Kay’s book, I read a passage of Scripture that Leah and I used to read frequently. It brought us such great comfort. Leah’s illness separated us at times from most of what we held dear in life, so we tried to focus on the one certainty that her illness could never deprive us of – God’s love.  

Romans 8:35-39 (NKJV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Then Kay Arthur writes “No hurt is so strong that it can separate you from His love. Your hurt is not intended to drive you from God but to God.

Kay Arthur

Kay’s words remind me once again of the true source of my strength, of the only way that I’ve made it through the past two and a half years – by trusting God and leaning on Him. It isn’t easy and it’s not going to be easy but I just have to keep on going.

Just as the Israelites were told in Exodus 16 to gather the manna (heavenly bread) daily, so I also need to meet with God on a daily basis so that my soul receives the nourishment that it needs to survive and hopefully even to thrive.

Or, to once again quote from my favourite worship singer/songwriter Matt Redman, I must abide in Him:

Abide With Me

I have a home
Eternal home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first
You know our pain
But You show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me
Abide with me
Don’t let me fall
And don’t let go
Walk with me
And never leave
Ever close God abide with me

There in the night
Before the cross
Before the nails
Alone You prayed
You met us in our suffering and bore our shame

O love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go

And up ahead
We’ll weep no more and sing for joy
Abide with me
We’ll weep no more and sing for joy
Abide with me

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