What is a mother?

Mother’s Day: We think of a mother and young child – it’s a classic image; but of course it’s only one of many ways that we experience ‘mothers’ and motherhood. Here are just some of the mother figures I could come up with:

  • House Mother in a Boarding School
  • Step-mum
  • Mother-in-law (or Mother-Outlaw?)
  • Adoptive Mum
  • Birth or Biological Mother
  • A neighbourhood ‘adopted’ Mum
  • The ‘mum’ of the friendship group (the sensible one who has tissues in her bag, a shoulder to cry on and chicken soup at the ready)
  • Mother Earth
  • The mother-heart of God – who longs to gather us in, like chicks sheltered under their mother’s wing

The whole concept of ‘Motherhood’ can evoke strong emotions. It may be that you never knew the woman who carried you in her womb. There is a disconnect there: a cutting off, a dislocation, a rootlessness, even rejection. 

…the egg from which we developed was formed in our grandmother’s womb…

It is strange to think that the egg from which we developed was formed in our grandmother’s womb…growing in the unborn child that would become our mother. There is such a deep sense of connection running through – or sometimes we feel at least that there ought to be. 

‘Motherhood’ may sum up for you a host of hopes unfulfilled. Something you imagined would always ‘just happen’, and for one reason or another, it has not come to fruition. In fact, often times, it’s something that was very carefully avoided – even feared – until the ‘right time’. For people who haven’t experienced this emptiness it can be hard to comprehend the depths of grief it evokes. The complex bundle of relentlessly regular cycle of hope and disappointment; the sense of failure or even (self-)blame; the questioning of identity – if not a mother, then who am I?

What about ‘Mothering’? 

After all, this day was originally known as Mothering Sunday? “Stop mothering him! He’s got to learn to stand on his own two feet!” It can bring to mind the so-called helicopter parents; the idea of the apron strings being firmly tied on; or even the umbilical cord not yet cut! Perhaps the phrase is redolent of over-protectiveness, or even cultivating dependence. 

Can you be maternal without being a mother? 

Of course! I was always very maternal growing up – despite being a younger sister, the role of big cousin came very naturally when there was something of a baby boom in the wider family. In fact, I was always the ‘mum’ of our friendship group – and still friends from the school gate, who aren’t really that close, will confide in me their heartbreaking dilemmas and worries. Someone to listen. Someone who won’t judge, or preach. Someone to comfort and hold. Someone to gently guide, inform or advise; or someone just to sit alongside. 

Carrying a child is only a very small part of being a mother – as many friends who have struggled with infertility; have adopted; or who were given up for adoption; and many who got pregnant just fine, but found the reality of having a tiny person entirely dependent on them completely overwhelming (not to mention the pervasive post-natal depression that may strike at anyone, no matter how sunny their character or strong their faith). 

Perhaps we grieve a mother who has left this earth (lost too soon, or even at a ripe old age – as someone said to me last year, their elderly mum having had a stroke – it doesn’t matter how old you are, you still need your mum) Wheyher or not you agree with that sentiment, I think there are certainly times when we wish we had someone to hold us, love and comfort us, even simply reassure us – and often the shorthand name for that person is ‘mum’.

Sometimes it’s more the case that we feel too keenly the imperfections, or absence, of parents still alive. My hope is that each of us will find someone around us to be a mother-figure; or perhaps a collection of friends whose sum total represents the family we would wish we had had. 

The Hallmark profit-generating shindig that is Mother’s Day is largely an artifice – with saccharine pseudo-poetry gracing a £4.50 card adorned with flowers – and armfuls of teddies, fridge magnets and fresh flowers at the ready. Yes, it’s a good thing to take time to honour mothers – but not all those who are mothers to us, are ‘mothers’; and sadly not all mothers are kind or even loving. 

My parents aren’t perfect and my biggest learning on this journey we call adulthood has been to learn to accept them as they are – and not to dwell on who I might have wanted or even needed them to be. They are who they are – and acceptance is a powerful and ongoing gift. I won’t buy a card whose words I couldn’t, hand on heart, say face to face to someone. Words are important to me, as a linguist I suppose that should be no surprise.  So, I won’t be a hypocrite for the sake of a retail event. I do however look for those things for which I can be truly thankful, and do my best to show my appreciation accordingly.

As a mother of one son (we would that there had been more children – but that’s in God’s hands and his timing), I recognise that however hard I try, someday my son will be disappointed in me – it’s inevitable. We joke that we’ve already put money aside for his future therapy! We are all imperfect and we’re simply doing the best with the resources we have available to us at any given time. Of course, the trick to finding a healthy balance of being a mother / mothering / being maternal – biological or not – is to recognise when things could be improved and go out looking for more and better resources for ourselves (professional support, advice, training, information, peer support), to do an even better job at this role we call ‘mother’. There are some great, free parenting courses available out there for instance.

Parenting: one long obstacle course?

My boy gave me the most wonderful card this morning – I was absolutely touched, but my reaction was also to say to him and my husband, “If I live up to even half of these claims, I’ll be doing well!” – I hope he knows I’ll always love and accept him – through my mistakes and his.

When reflecting on this subject I thought about the most famous mothers (famous for that title rather than just happening to have offspring) – I came up with two – so who you think came to mind ?
Mother Theresa – never a biological mother, though arguably (and I recognise that not everyone agrees with this) ‘mothered’ thousands of people.

And Mary, Mother of Jesus (likeness according to Leonardo da Vinci):

Let’s remember that Mary never asked to become a mother at all! It looked at one stage like she might be a single mother; she had to give birth in a strange place, amongst the animals, and away from family and friends. Then they had to flee to another country as refugees.  And later still her son clearly prioritised his God-given calling over his family. 

At a time when Jesus was persecuted and falsely accused, His mother and brothers were concerned about His welfare. They came to the house where He was residing:

 “A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:31–35, New Revised Standard Version).

 Although Jesus loved and respected His physical mother, brothers and sisters, His primary concern was for the spiritual family that followed His teaching.

http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/mary_mother_of_Jesus_18542.aspx

Not quite the picture perfect nuclear family!

At the end of her famous (or at that time, more accurately ‘notorious’) son’s life, He looked down from the cross and called upon his best friend, John, to take His place, and become a son to Mary, and to take care of her as his own mother, 

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Jesus saw quite clearly that being a mother or son had less to do with biology, than it had to do with relationship, respect and honour; love, protection, acceptance and care (by the way, ‘woman’ was a term of endearment back then – just in case that jarred with you too?).

So a few thoughts to end. Perhaps this mothers day, as well as acknowledging the person in your life you call ‘Mum’…

  • take a look at the others around you who share in those attributes – honour them with thanks as well. 
  • look at who you know – could you offer some of these qualities, possibly as a mentor or even spiritual parent, to someone who needs care and guidance?
  • send a note of kindness to someone for whom this day is hard – either because of the loss of their mum, a great distance between them, or maybe the grief of their own motherhood denied.
  • lift up in prayer those who have lost children or unborn babies. A mother who loses a child, whether she has more or not, will always be a mother – forever changed by this monumentous experience. 
  • recognise those, known and unknown to us, who may be a biological mother, but lack the skills and role models to provide their child with the qualities we associate with motherhood. Rather than jump to judge, as we all too often do, look to offer a word of encouragement or solidarity. Parenting is a tough job, and judgment just makes it harder. 
  • if you are a mum, be kind to yourself. You may not feel like ‘Best Mum in the World’ or ‘Supermum’ whatever that shiny new mug might say, but remind yourself- ‘this is what it is right now’. Tomorrow can be different. If you’re feeling ‘under-resourced’ or drowning, help is out there. The first step is to acknowledge it, and reach out for help. 

If all that sounds too much like hard work, of course, feel free to make a cuppa, pop your slippered feet up on the sofa, and enjoy these flowers from me to you. 

Leave me your own thoughts below and in the meantime, have a…

Happy Mother’s Day

If you liked this blog, I would love it if you would leave me a comment of encouragement and share it too. Thank you.



Pool or Mirage 

​Isaiah 35:7 “The mirage shall become a pool.” (NASB)

A platoon of soldiers was marching through the blistering heat of the Egyptian desert during the Second World War in desperate pursuit of water. Their guide was confident of where to find it, but suddenly one of the troops spotted a beautiful desert lake several miles away. It was undeniable. So despite the guide’s pleading, they hurried off course towards that beautiful water. Sadly as they approached, the lake grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared in the sand. It had been appearance without reality. They had chased a mirage, and we only know about this because it was recorded in one of the troops’ journal in his dying hours.

Are you caught up pursuing mirages, rather than the pool – keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus?

We’re bombarded with adverts promising happiness and fulfillment if only we acquire what they suggest we can’t do without.

Can you think of any potential mirages in your own life?
Sometimes even perfectly good things can end up being mirages. Phil Vischer, the founder of the children’s hit series Vegetales, went from being a multi-millionaire to bankruptcy when one of his distributors sued him. In Phil’s words: “If God gives a person a dream, breathes life into it and then it dies then God might want to know what is more important to the person—the dream or God… The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God. At long last, after a lifetime of striving, God was enough. Not God and impact or God and ministry. Just God.”

So much of that hit me hard. Think about it: the impact God wants you to have for him doesn’t come when you pursue impact – it comes when you pursue God.

This is a daily challenge to keep your eyes on the narrow path, avoiding temptation and other shiny prospects.

But seek first his kingdom<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23316A" data-link="(A)” style=”line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top; font-size: 0.625em;”> and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

Lord Jesus, please help me see the mirages for what they are, and to pursue the Pool instead of the mirage.

Tough times and tuning in

Flaming Christmas Pudding

From my list of posts on here I can see two things: that a year ago I had a number of pieces in draft, and that my last published post was in September. It’s been a tough time since then for lots of reasons and in some ways is at its worst just now, but I figure rather than ‘waiting for the storm to pass’, I must get back out and ‘dance in the rain’.

I didn’t consciously take a break from blogging, but having done so, I have decided to start back with some shorter blogs, pictures which occur to me when I’m praying or worshipping, or simply walking, doing every day things like washing up, tidying, driving, shopping, or playing the piano!

Tuner, radio, aerial

Tuning in?

The picture I’d like to share was one that came to mind when I was praying for a friend who has a very close family member in a hospice just now.

I’d love to say I was being super holy or spiritual, on my knees whilst fasting and praying…I was in fact standing in the queue for the checkout at a local supermarket, oh so glamorous I know! I started thinking that I’d like to pray for her – I didn’t know what the current situation was, but I knew the prognosis hadn’t been good the last time we spoke. So I wanted to be able to give her an encouragement of some kind, and to let her know she was in my thoughts and prayers.

I’m looking around, awaiting my turn at the checkout, and inviting God to give me some inspiration, and I see some holly on an overhead sign, and a picture of Christmas pudding forms in my mind’s eye. Great. That seems (a) quite likely just to be my brain telling me that Christmas is coming as it’s not an entirely unsurprising image to jump into my head at this time of year, in a supermarket! And (b) it doesn’t exactly seem too spiritual.

However, God does speak in mysterious ways, so I’m gonna go with it, so then I see the flaming bandy being poured over the pudding, and I can hear the oohs and aahs of the diners, as they watch the dancing blue flame transfixed in awe and amazement. Then swiftly followed by the ohhhh, when it peters out and is no more. A sense of disappointment and a wish that we could do it all over again, we don’t want it to be over.

I felt that this flame was like our life on this world. So captivating and sparkly, we get so engrossed in it, and yet…It is just the fanfare to the main event. The pudding is what it’s all about! It’s rich and delicious, multifaceted and complex, satisfying and substantial. The flame is ephemeral, magical even, but temporary and lasts no time at all.

My understanding of all this is that life on this earth is far shorter than we imagine, it seems like a ‘lifetime’ – that phrase we use to mean an unimaginably long time – but that this is just a foretaste of something far more significant still to come, that we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘this is it’. Both God and eternity are so much bigger than our human lives here and now, that it just blows our mind.

The best news is that eternity doesn’t simply start as the ‘afterlife’ when we pass from this mortal coil. But when we invite Jesus into our hearts, we invite the Kingdom, eternity itself, into our hearts too! We become citizens of heaven from that time on and we carry the Holy Spirit within us, as we are a new creation in Christ.

Isn’t it amazing what can happen when you take just a few seconds to choose to focus on, or tune into, God? He’s all around us, in us, speaking to us, will I make a little time again to listen today? Could you too?

I’ll be reminding myself to listen often, even when I’m busy, distracted, preoccupied, self-involved, or perhaps especially in these difficult times.

Defrosting hearts and minds

I love how in the kingdom of God, nothing goes to waste, not even the mundane household chores…like today’s special: defrosting the freezer.

image

One day I’m going to have one of those fancy freezers that just doesn’t frost up at all, but in the meantime, I found myself laughing out loud as God revealed his truths in this most dreaded of tasks!

It had got to that point where it was a pain to open and close the drawers as there was so much ice that it kept catching, and today I’d done an internet food shopping order and I realised it just wasn’t going to fit unless I dealt with it!

So…out came a spoon, a bowl, a hairdrier (to be used with extreme caution, since water and electricity don’t mix well!), and cloths and sponges – the tools of today’s trade.

The top layer was worst, so I started by applying the stream of hot air there first. I sat on the floor, hairdrier in my left hand, and spoon scraping off frost in the other, and the bowl sitting in the bottom ready to catch at least some of the drips.

By the way, for those of you who might have wondered why I don’t just empty the freezer, open the door and let it defrost into the reservoir at the bottom…? Well I did this once and the discovered, to the detriment of the laminate flooring, that the reservoir is no way big enough to cope with the melt water from that amount of ice (about 5-6 litres by my reckoning!).

The top layer was about 5 cm deep in places and it just seemed as though nothing was happening up top at all, so I ploughed on with the other layers. Who knew there could be such satisfaction when a huge chunk would suddenly come away?! My strategy was definitely to try and get big chunks off so that they didn’t all just melt and overflow (as per previous experiences). As I did so, it struck me how like evangelism and our own relationship with God this whole thing was (bear with me!).

You talk a little to your friends, neighbours, colleagues, about church, your faith, maybe even your testimony and if feeling really brave, actually mention Jesus himself! And you’ve taken the big step, a leap of faith…and then the result…? Nothing. Or apparently nothing at least. There’s no obvious evidence that anything has changed for that person as a result of opening the metaphorical freezer door and attempting to invite them in from the cold.

You try and drop some more hints. Maybe you go out of your way to serve and meet the needs of those around you in order to be Jesus’s hands and feet. Perhaps you even offer to pray for them. Still it appears nothing is happening!

Then one day, you pluck up the courage to ask them to an Alpha Course launch event – and to your astonishment, they say, ‘yeah, why not?’.

The iceberg has calved! See here for some amazing footage of what I’m alluding too!

Did you notice how in the video, there is little warning of the magnitude of what is about to happen? A little creaking, some groaning and small shudders, then suddenly there it is!

What I’m saying is that for whatever reason, we all build up these defences, barriers, logical and emotional arguments for not letting God into our lives, for not acknowledging him and for not listening. And I hate to say this, but this doesn’t end when we DO accept Him into our lives!

These barriers are like the ice that had built up in my freezer. In some cases I wonder if it is in fact permafrost – built up over years and years, even through the generations – through the lies of the enemy that we’ve inadvertently accepted; the beliefs we’ve built up about ourselves, about church, faith and God; the experiences that have shaped our values and then our beliefs.

The thing is, we know from climate change that permafrost isn’t so permanent afterall. And so it is with us. Even in those most inaccessible places in our hearts and minds, the warmth of the Holy Spirit can still reach. Just as He was hovering over creation as it was formed, so he dwells with us and around each one of us every day, whether we know it or not. God promised He would never leave us alone, and by the Spirit he makes good in that promise today. Once we have made our own commitment to God, not only is He with us, but in us and we are in Him – how incredible is that!

As I sat on the floor of our kitchen (getting a numb behind, and a tired arm holding the hairdrier up at that top level) I had plenty of time to observe the melting process. We tend to think that things melt from the inside out, and from that perspective it’s an awful long way to reach the heart when it’s buried deep below – how can we ever get through?

However, I discovered a few different things as things proceeded. Firstly, when you apply heat in one direction, crazily it affects other parts too! So today what I saw was that although I was pointing the drier upwards the parts below were benefitting from the heat too and were dripping away furiously.

For us what that means is, when we have a heart turned outwards, looking for ways to bless and serve others, seeking to witness to the good and glorious in our own lives, then although our attentions may be focused on one individual, it rarely goes unnoticed by others. How we ARE, is our best witness and is far more telling to those around us than the words we say.

I also realised today that when I put my frozen shopping in an insulated coolbag along with the contents of the freezer (as I wasn’t quite quick enough with my defrosting!), when you put cold things with other cold things, they stay cold for a pretty long time (there’s a whole other analogy right there). When there’s one thing set apart it in it’s own it will defrost relatively quickly at room temperature. When I thought about the Holy Spirit as heat, it brought home to me that God is at work all around us, all of the time, with or without us. The hairdrier is like our focussed and persistent prayers, bringing the focus of God’s warmth and love to bear in one particular place. God had already ordained that the heat would melt the ice – that’s physics, I just hastened the process in this case.

All in all, it took me a little over an hour to get the whole thing defrosted, but I think that that top part really only started to give way about 15 minutes before I finished – it really was stubborn! So much so that I did risk one of my posh sharp knives to cut into the ice in a couple of places. It was still too solid to lever any ice off, so I kept going, carefully, with the hairdrier! A few minutes in and I noticed that where the notches had been cut, deep Vs were forming where the heat had been able to penetrate much more deeply. I asked Jesus what he might be saying here, and what I heard was that those times when we really actively love someone, to the point of self-sacrifice, it goes deep to that person’s core in a way that nothing else does. It’s the ultimate in walking the walk; in picking up your own cross so that someone else may be blessed.

Lastly, in the process of defrosting, I noticed that having got much more to the heart of the matter with these notches, what then happened was that the metal that ran underneath was getting really quite hot itself – indeed much hotter than the air in the freezer was. It made me think that when we get ‘plugged in’ to God – when we dwell in His presence, we pursue Him by worshipping (upwards), by serving (outwards), by reading His truths in his Word and through prayer (inwards), we become ‘hot’ ourselves and not so reliant on heat applied externally.

Equally, when everything was finally ice-free and dry, I switched the freezer back on, and it was astonishing how quickly the elements frosted up as the water from the air surrounding them crystallised. What does that tell us (apart from the fact my freezer was still working!) – if you don’t switch the function of those internal elements from freeze to heat (which can only happen when we make that personal connection to God) then as soon as that heat is taken away, and the icy blast returns, that frost will come and in no time at all that ice will have returned with a vengeance, whether to our hearts, our minds or indeed both.

In my mind, it was no accident that the uppermost part was the bit that took the longest to thaw. My sense is that particularly here in the Northern hemisphere of our world, we seem so easily tied up in, and indeed blocked by, logic, reason, rationale and evidence – our minds get frozen in one particular mindset! Yet what about intuition, gut instinct, love, being moved emotionally, reacting to art, music, awe-inspiring nature – none of that is very logical, and at the same time we’d be lost, and undoubtedly less, without them. If we believe that God created us to be able to reason, then it stands to reason, that he would be able to address our altogether reasonable concerns if only we would just let him. Then He can share with us something of God’s utterly unreasonable and irrational love and passion for each one of us!

Where do all of these musings leave me? Well, I was laughing out loud at God’s sense of humour at using the defrosting of the freezer to teach me, but ultimately what I’ve taken away from it all is that God is all around us and at work already, that it’s my part in this collaboration to tune into what he’s already doing and pray it into being, call it down from Heaven, and focus my attention in the direction where God is leading me. Prayer does work, with persistence and patience, and pursuing God in the waiting (more on that another day!); and mostly when it’s working, it’s working on me! I came away deeply encouraged to continue pressing in personally, and keeping on keeping on with friends and family, even when it looks as though nothing is happening – perhaps especially when it looks as though nothing is happening.

By the way, did you notice how I only dealt with the iced up freezer once it became a pain? Funny how that is echoed in our lives…that it’s so often only when we are, or someone we love is, going though pain, whether emotional, physical, even financial, that we start to address what’s really going on beneath the surface. In fact it’s often then that we cry out to something outside ourselves; something bigger, greater, and more powerful. Something which can melt the ice which we ourselves have built up or allowed to build up, so often unwittingly, and which becomes our very own icy prison. At which point I can only thank God that he sent His Son to bring us true freedom.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 NIV)

When I think about it, this has really all come out of my heart and mind as I’ve been chewing over the teaching we’re so blessed to have had at Trinity on ‘Pressing in and pressing on’. So if you want to get plugged into the Lord, you might fancy popping over to the Trinity site and lapping up some of this great teaching! Enjoy!

Garden gems: Looking from the outside in

When you start tending and paying attention to your own garden, you notice what’s going on with others’ – what plants are thriving, what the snails are nibbling, where a shrub needs pruning or shaping, where a spot of weeding would be handy to prevent them running amok. How much easier is it to see these things clearly from the outside looking in?!

Having been stung quite badly by some rogue nettles in our garden (a childhood flashback of falling into a huge mound of nettles by a stream springs to mind !), I suddenly became aware of a substantial patch of nettles creeping through the rails of the local school, and then further down there was a bramble entwined with a bush. On another corner was a broken beer bottle with a lethal shard of glass, still attached to the circular base, pointing upwards and almost inviting someone to trip and fall onto it! And yet when you looked within the school grounds, they were well tended and neat.

I wasn’t sure whose responsibility these areas were where they spilled out onto the pavement, so I asked the school, who were rather incredulous at first as the council-sent gardening team had been only that morning, so surely it couldn’t be all that bad. The property manager said that nonetheless she would take a look, and that there was no issue with responsibility and the gardeners would do whatever the school asked them to do.

I was amazed and delighted that by the next day all the edges and the growth under the fences had been cut right back and tidied up, including the brambles and nettles (I’d dealt with bottle straight away rather than risk leaving it).

So what is the point of me telling you all this, is it simply a feel good story about if you don’t ask, you don’t get?? Well, not really. It made me think about how amazed the lady was who I had spoken to. Since her experience was that the gardeners always did what they were asked to do, they were clearly obedient and conscientious, so how could what I was saying be true? She could not be convinced without going to see for herself.

I reflected that it’s so much easier to look outwards than looking inwards, and even when I do that, I see what needs to be done *from my point of view*!

There’s a nifty model called the Johari window, which I make use of from time to time in coaching. Like many a management model, it is a four-box grid, looking at what is ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ about us, by self and others.

As introduced by Alan Chapman on the BusinessBalls website, ‘The Johari Window model was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles.’ (For such a long time I thought that Johari was an exotic name, to be pronounced like that femme fatale, Mata Hari…it turned out that the name had a much more amusing and in some ways mundane source: simply Jo from Joseph and Hari from Harry!)

Alan Chapman explains that there are four segments of the johari window:

1 – what is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others – open area, open self, free area, free self, or ‘the arena’

2 – what is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know – blind area, blind self, or ‘blindspot’

3 – what the person knows about him/herself that others do not know – hidden area, hidden self, avoided area, avoided self or ‘facade’

4 – what is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others – unknown area or unknown self

If we live in isolation, always viewing the world only from our own standpoint, how will we ever find out what is in our own blindspot? Secretly of course we want to be right, or at least believe that we’re right, all the time! To that end we’re not generally too inclined to seek out opposing opinions or even simply different perspectives – instead, like tends to attract like, and so we reinforce each other’s viewpoints. Then we take offence when our worldview is shown to be skewed, through our experiences, our upbringing, our families, our schooling, our nation, our language, our culture!

The thing is though, we are made to live in relationship with each other, in diverse communities and our lives are richer for the complexity that that often brings. We need those alternative perspectives!

To take a completely different example of what is unknown to us, perhaps you use Microsoft Office software like Word, Outlook, or Excel, or other bits of technology? The phrase I often hear from my colleagues when I ask what they want to learn is ‘I don’t know what I don’t know!’. Sometimes there’s a sense of, ‘There must be a better way of doing this, surely? Please, can someone help me?!’ Or perhaps, ‘I’m so frustrated! This thing is so RUBBISH! Why won’t it just do what I want it to do??’.

I wonder how many of us feel like that about life in general? We get to the end of our tether, thinking to ourselves, the way that I’m doing life, it’s just not working, it’s too hard, too unsatisfying, too soulless. I just don’t know how to get myself out of this hole, because I know I need to find a different answer, but I don’t know what that is, and sometimes I don’t even really know what the question is! Surely someone out there must know a better way!

When things are really, truly awful, even for those of us who aren’t quite sure about God – who he is, what he stands for, what he expects from us, what those followers of his are about – the bit that seems to resonate within us is that when we reach the end of ourselves, we can turn to the one who must know more than us. The almighty, all-knowing, omnipresent One.

In that moment of no longer having the answers, of having lost control, it is then that we finally admit – there are things that you know, that I don’t know; things about me…who I am, who I could be, what I could accomplish, what my purpose is…but above all you know the me that is loved so recklessly, so insistently, so sacrificially by You. For to be truly known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.

I wonder if you feel known? Or truly loved? Or both?

Can you identify with that sense of getting stuck in your own perspective? How do you stay open to other’s views? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

High heels and healing…Part 3: Not yet the end

So how has all this healing – of my ankle and my back –  been a couple of weeks on? You might be wondering if I’m still walking in that same healing and wholeness that I’d experienced so powerfully, with four lots of healing in six days flat…

Signs of healing
Now, as I’ve said before, retaining a certain logical and healthy scepticism, I wanted to keep an eye out for things that would tell me that I really had been well and truly healed, and that God really was moving beyond simply with me, and this is what I noticed:

1. As said before (in Part 2) going down the stairs no longer causing my knees pain.

2. When I went to pick my son up from his after school child care that Thursday, getting out of the car I instinctively was expecting to be stiff from sitting back in the seat from the drive, and almost braced myself as I went to get out, and then was shocked to discover that I could get out quite easily!

3. I measured myself against my son’s height chart, and having been 156cm, or 5ft 1.5″…in a very non scientific study, with a book and a wall chart, I now appear to be between 158 and 159cm…measured at the end of the day, when you’re supposed to be shorter – wahey!

4. As I got into the car the next day, I realised I could actually feel the lumbar support of the seat for first time, as previously it hadn’t reached sufficiently far into my back to make any difference, that was an odd sensation first thing In the morning!

5. Going to the cinema on the Friday night, at the end of the evening, I went to descend the steps sideways, as that is what I had taken to doing, even though they are only shallow steps, just to avoid the pain, and again, I realised I didn’t need to and just trotted down the, quickly and lightly!

6. On the Saturday, I did 8 hours of gardening almost straight through, with my Mum, and normally I’d have been almost crippled with the pain, but beyond the achiness you might expect, particularly when you’re not used to it, I was absolutely fine, so much so that…

7. …on the Saturday night, we went to an evening wedding reception, and I decided to wear my high heels I hadn’t worn for the best part of a year (see Part 1!) and people around me cautioned me to be careful and not to over do it – well, I took it easy, but I wore my 3″ heels, with no pain, dancing ceroc with my gorgeous husband on the dance floor, and I loved it!

8. That night I told my Mum about the healing I’d experienced, and offered to pray for her very painful arthritic toe, which was so bad that she had a burning sensation at night from the duvet on it…and the next day she said she’d had no pain, and had slept brilliantly which she hadn’t expected!

9. I wore heels to my church service the next day, danced all the way through the worship, stood up on stage and gave testimony, again being overcome by joy and laughter, so much so that the church and pastor were breaking out in laughter too! At the end of the service, as part of the usual ministry time, I had the opportunity to pray with a friend for a lady’s ankle. I haven’t heard the latest, but he was certainly bringing her new freedoms in her ankle while we were there. Then I had the opportunity to pray for another lady’s wrist, who then had an incredibly powerful encounter with The Lord and was healed immediately! I had so many people come to me at the end and since, to say they’d been so grateful that I’d shared what God had done, and that they’d been encourage, moved, inspired – praise God!!

10. On the Sunday afternoon I went with my family for an afternoon out at some beautiful local gardens and we walked, in the heat, for 2 hours, and my back was absolutely fine, even after the previous day’s gardening!

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11. My husband said to me on the Sunday evening, ‘are you limping?, and I admitted that I was, more with stiffness in my foot than anything, and I realised I was and that I was because of the orthotic I had been wearing in my left shoe for the last 6 months, which now that my foot was healed, was actually now pushing it into the wrong position! Into the bin with that then (it was getting worn, so needed replacing anyway, so perfect timing!)

12. I notice now that I can arch my back further backwards and recreate the pain and discomfort I was in all the time before, but which I just lived with and so was therefore my old normality, and I can tell you that it feels as though my vertebrae are being squeezed and pinched when I do that – ouch! I can’t believe that that was my daily reality and no wonder that previously after a 20 minute walk I would long to sit down as my back was so painful and uncomfortable, only to do so and feel everything creak back into position with a different kind of pain.

13. I remembered one time my trainer explaining that when the hip flexors were in proper balance with the hip extensors and the glutes, that there was much more freedom and rotation in the hips as you walk, and you get a more natural swing and a longer, freer gait…and that’s what I’ve noticed now as I walk – the stiffness has gone!

14. I was back at the gym this Monday and I office this time how much easier it was to do sit up crunches than ever before. I was able to go from being on a fit ball and hanging down, to sitting all the way up, which I couldn’t do before, and I was able to really able to work my core hard before my back and neck got tired first! (As a result, after just 20 reps, my abs were still killing two days later and hurt, in a good way, when I laugh!).

Plain sailing?
So, has it all been plain sailing? I want to be perfectly honest here because I think it can be so discouraging if things don’t go quite as you expected for you, and it appears that you’re the only one – not entirely. I’ve had a couple of moments where my ankle has suddenly hurt, but I’ve prayed, and kept going in faith that it has been healed, and the pain has gone – and besides no one is getting me out of my heels now!

In terms of my wrist (see Part 1), I’m now waking up much more rarely with numbness in my hand in the morning, and the clicking has gone completely, so I’m praying that The Lord continues the work that he’s doing there and brings that to completion in his perfect timing. Both of my wrists have been a bit sore with all the digging and lifting I’ve done, so I’m just trying to be a bit wise there, and keep asking The Lord to reveal his truths to me, and press in for full healing.

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I also turned a bit awkwardly whilst gardening and my left knee was really uncomfortable, and in a different and much more sudden way that the previous pain, but again I’ve kept going this with listening to and observing my body, and noticing how things have been on the stairs, and God willing, that pain too seems to have gone again. My back has been brilliant. My hamstrings have been pretty tight, but I figure that getting healed doesn’t negate the need for a good bit of stretching, especially if you’re being physically active – and I think doing over 24 hours of gardening after the last 10 days, as well as going to work and looking after our boy, probably just about counts!

God’s Glory
I’ve taken from all of this that God is very much on the move, and it’s not just about one place, but about catching the fire, and fanning the flame, sharing the light and the heat with others (note that we’ve been singing along to the Big Start 2 CD in our car, ‘this little light of mine – hide it under a bushel – NO!’, and it has stayed with me all week!). It’s not so much my testimony, as my simple witness to God’s incredible grace, power, goodness and glory, and I cannot keep that to myself. I am a broken person in a broken world, but God’s love is so deep, I know he can and has overcome all of that brokenness., so I know that this is not yet the end, by any stretch of the imagination!

So, how about you. what do you make of all this??!

Have you been able to acknowledge your need of the King of Kings to bring healing and restoration in your life? Would you dare to believe that He would have good gifts for you, even if these might not be exactly what you are looking for?

Have you stepped out as yet in the full authority of Jesus given to you as a believer? Could you seek out his presence and his face today? What burdens will you bring today to the Lord, who delights over you with singing (isn’t that a wonderful image?!)?

And lastly, what are your experiences of healing?

 

High heels and healing…Part 2: The middle

Walking out the healing
In the next few days after my amazing time in Cardiff and Cwmbran, and after trying out my previously dodgy ankle out at the gym, I was literally walking out my healing: testing and checking, checking and testing, and being constantly surprised by the lack of pain!

At our cluster (a bit like a church small group) on the Wednesday night we watched a Robby Dawkins teaching DVD on Deliverance, but the first part that we watched was more about stepping into our Kingdom authority, about being intentional and expectant for God to move, and about us stepping out in faith and taking a risk in order to the see the power. I found it so inspirational, and had such fun sharing my testimony of what God had been doing in my body that week! I was fired up!

The Mariners Church and the Kingdom of God
Thursday came around and a couple of us from work go fairly regularly to the lunchtime Communion Service each week at The Mariners church in the Gloucester docks, close to our office. As I only have a half an hour lunch break, I decided to go for the last half an hour of the 45 minute service, as that would be better than missing out entirely. I arrived in time to hear a great word about the kingdom of God being like a seed planted by a farmer,which just spoke volumes to me:

Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 NLT)

He was talking about how there’s a mysterious aspect to the kingdom, whereby we might be able to plant the seed, even water it, but the germination and growth of a seed – for instance an oak coming from an acorn – is something marvellous and amazing! He spoke of how there are times when we are called to plant, and there are times when the timing is such that we need to sit back and wait, and allow it to grow…until once again our input is required to harvest the fruits of the crop.

I listened to the talk, and with the previous talk from Ashley Collishaw at Trinity also in my mind (where he had talked about seeds constantly falling from heaven, and us needing to put out our hands, receive and nurture them, particularly with respect to healing), I felt that it was right to press into, and water the seed of healing I had already been given that week.

Seeds, Trees, Growth

What beautiful things grow out of such tiny seeds – apple blossom in our garden

Getting a bit of prayer
At the end I asked my friend from Mariners to pray for my knees, and explained what had happened, and how my trainer from the gym had said I should get my knees prayed for, so that I could run properly and without pain! I said, “oh, and while I’m here, you may as well pray for my back too, as I did 4 hours of gardening yesterday and it’s pretty achey and sore now!”, so she did!

We started off praying in the usual way, waiting on The Lord, and asking him to heal my back and my knees. My friend, I’ll call her S in case she doesn’t want to be identified on here, gave me words and pictures that she felt The Lord showing her. The most key of these was that she saw a plumb line hanging down, and felt that The Lord was aligning me. As she prayed, I found myself kind of rocking slightly side to side, almost wriggling my lower half as I sat on the pew! Not my usual reaction when I’m prayed for, I must say! I wasn’t sure what The Lord was doing, but just as earlier in the week, I was absolutely sure he was working.

Another word from S was that she felt that the Lord was tilting my pelvis, well I was amazed. Why? Well, she had no way of knowing that I have had ongoing, relatively low-level, but irritating back pain for as long as I could really remember, and certainly since my teens. I had been diagnosed as having a hyperlordosis, which is an exaggerated lower curve of the spine (your spine is supposed to be a gentle S-shape, but mine was not really so gentle in my lumbar region!); this meant that my pelvis had an anterior tilt (leaving my stomach tipping forwards and my bottom rather akin to a duck’s!), not good for my core muscles. S also explained that the Lord was showing that my knee issues were directly related to my lower back, something I had suspected, but not known for sure.
The back issues meant that it was hugely painful to press on my sacro-iliac area, the area you rest on if you lie on your back and pull your knees up to your chest (there’s another Pilates exercise I used to do in class that started in that position and then you rolled from side to side, and it used to bring tears to my eyes with the pain), or place your hands either side of the very bottom of your spine. It had also meant that I had had problems with my hips for about 8 years, had had sciatica, then had had knee problems and finally my ankle issue (as previously related here).

After a few minutes of praying like this, with me just receiving from God, and S listening and relaying what Jesus was showing her, as well as both of us laughing and giggling as The Lord worked, an exercise I used to do when I had done Pilates many years previously sprang to mind. It was called the roll-down and you stand against a wall, and very slowly roll your vertebra down, one by one, as far as is possible, until you are hanging down from your hips, with your hands near your feet. I felt that I needed to go and do this!

S said to go for it, and that also she felt that The Lord just wanted me to let Him do to my back what he needed to do, so up I got and found a bit of flat, available wall against which to stand. The first time I did the roll down, it was pretty similar to how it had always been, in that the top half of my spine was fine, but the lower half tended to move as one with very little flexibility, and having got to the upside down position, my fingertips just about touched my toes – I’ve got pretty good flexibility overall so that was expected. I was still wriggling and shimmying my lower back and hips, and it felt as though the Lord was freeing something there, and I was still laughing! I seem to recall saying that it was just as well that I didn’t mind being a fool for The Lord as I must have looked so silly, but I just didn’t care! The next time I did it again, I found that I could get my hands very nearly flat onto the floor, something I’ve never ever been able to do, and my legs were still very much straight and against the wall!

While I was doing this, S was still praying all the while, and was getting pains in her knees, where The Lord was showing her my pain, it was quite bizarre really as at the time I had no pain there, but as she described it, it was exactly where I would normally feel it, especially when going down stairs. My back was feeling better and better, and in testing out my knees, I squatted down to the floor several times, and lo and behold, no pain or nasty crunching or clicking! I felt I was pretty much there, and S said, that she just felt that there was a spot on her left side, near her hip/in the glutes where there was still pain, I wasn’t noticing anything in particular, but when I pressed where she indicated it was indeed extremely sore, and I realised that that was the spot where it would get really tight and painful, when the Iliotibial band or IT band was tight and sore. That was the area I’d been told I had had a problem with, back when I’d become almost immobile with sciatica back in 2005…and it had never completely gone away as a issue since. So we kept on praying, and that soreness went too, just being left with a very slight ache, a bit like the memory of a bruise.

I found that I wanted to stretch my arms out, as I stood against the wall, and as I stretched, I felt my chest and spine opening out, and it felt wonderful, I closed my eyes and felt like I was spreading my wings so that I could fly! S had the same word again of being aligned with the Lord’s plumb line, and also that she had the sense that through the work he had done, and was doing, that he was making me taller. Well, being only 5ft 1.5″, and that 0.5″ is very important at my height, I was particularly excited by this!! 😉 And it made perfect sense, since if you imagine a strong curve being flattened out into a shallower curve, the overall height is indeed longer!

Back to the ‘ranch’
I practically skipped back to the office with a huge smile on my face!! I got back to our office building and as usual walked up the stairs to the first floor, only this time, I got to the top, and then walked up and down the last section three or four times, just so I could test my new knees out, it was incredible! I the past I would prefer to take the lift down as it was so uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst on my knees, and yet now they were pain-free!

I went through our big open plan office, and saw one of my friends who knows the Mariners, and with an enormous grin, I said, you missed out on a most fantastic time over there today, and then I couldn’t help but laugh out loud! The joy of The Lord was poured out on me, and would not be contained! I’m usually a pretty joyous person, but this was clearly too much, as she started laughing as well, she asked what had happened, and I laughed and said,’ oh, the Lord just healed my knees and back that’s all!’. By this point a couple of her colleagues were starting to stare inquisitively, so somewhat embarrassed she said, ‘Go away! People are staring!’, all the while laughing herself! I continued down to my office at the other end of the floor, still chuckling away to myself and unable to hide the beam on my face.

I got back to my office and managed to restrict myself to simply saying that I’d had a great time over at the church today. Anyway, I still couldn’t stop smiling, chortling, humming away…, and eventually, catching the infectious laughter, my colleague (who describes herself as an atheist) said, ‘come on then, tell us what has happened that was so good!’. So I did! Well, my three colleagues were a bit incredulous, but curious and pleased for me too, and were amazed when I told them about testing out my knees on the stairs! I noticed in the course of the afternoon, that where I had additional lumbar support on my chair, I no longer needed it, and indeed it was almost a bit intrusive.

I couldn’t stop smiling all afternoon, there may even have been a little bit of singing of ‘Oh happy day!’, which my colleagues know that I sing, much to their amusement, either when very happy, or very tired and in need of a pick me up!

Blessed to be a blessing
At the end of the day, I went back to see my embarrassed friend, and she said that she’d been really struggling badly with IBS that afternoon so I said why don’t we just pray straight away, which we did since most of the others had by that time gone home. I saw a picture of an old ship’s rope, which was stiff and immovable, and which had hardened with knots of knots. As we prayed Jesus’ power to loosen it, she felt it just relax, so much so that she was laughing as the release came! I went home from work, dancing down the stairs, and still feeling as though I was indeed flying!

Ship's rope

Ship’s rope

 

High heels and healing…Part 1: The Beginning

Happiness in high heels
Two Sundays ago saw me standing up on the stage in our church, almost doubled over with joy and laughter telling everyone how it was that I was now wearing my high heels (completely pain-free!) for the first time in over a year!

How did I get to this point? As a friend said, the only place to start, is at the beginning…

My precious friend*
It all started with a beautiful friend of mine from the school gate, whose husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January of this year; being told that he had a couple of years to live was a huge shock, but come mid-June his condition deteriorated considerably. He was admitted to the palliative care unit on the Tuesday, told he had two weeks to live; then getting even worse, was told by the Friday that he had a couple of days. Of course his wife was devastated, and was at home with a 5 year old and a 10 month old wondering how on earth things could have changed so drastically. My heart was totally broken for them, as individuals and as a family. I prayed. A lot. With them, with our school prayer group, on my own…and I felt that I just had to do everything that I possibly could.

The Cwmbran Outpouring
At around the same time, I started to hear things about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happening at Victory Church, in Cwmbran in Wales. I realised that I desperately wanted to go there to pray for my friend’s husband. Why would it make any difference to pray there, you might wonder? In some ways I wondered the same, but as a friend of mine described it…it’s is a place where, in the same way as there are some places where you get all four bars of signal on your mobile phone, the reception there to receive and hear from the Holy Spirit is very strong! I felt I had to give it a go.

The first weekend of July, we were booked to see some good friends of ours in Cardiff, and on enquiring and finding out that Cwmbran was just 20 minutes down the road from them, I knew we had to make it work to go there! We left our very understanding husbands at home to put the children to bed, and we headed off to the industrial area where Victory Church makes its home, unsure of quite what to expect.

I like to maintain what I would call a healthy scepticism. The Word calls us to weigh and to test prophecies (1 Corinthians 14:29), and in the same way, I felt that I should approach this outpouring by testing what I heard and saw, as well as being aware of what I felt. We are called to have a balance of the Word and the Spirit, and this saying I’ve heard in church before sums it up well,

Too much Word and not enough Spirit and you puff up (in the sense of pride). Too much Spirit and not enough Word and you blow up [you are not grounded]. With the Word and the Spirit together, you grow up. (www.enduringword.com/commentaries/4204.htm)

With all this in mind, and thinking too of Todd Bentley and the Lakeland, Florida revival, and the confusion surrounding that, I went to Cwmbran with an open and enquiring mind to see what percentage of what was being experienced there was truly God, and what might, however inadvertently, be of man.

The evening started immediately with worship, even as we were walking in, and within about 20 minutes I had tears streaming down my cheeks. It wasn’t the words of the worship, or even that the band were so emotionally charged and amazing musically…it was heartfelt and sincere, but there was no whipping up of the crowds in any rock-stylee way. I felt the Holy Spirit just breaking my heart for my lovely friends from school, His sorrow that my friend’s husband does not yet know the depths of Jesus’ love for him, and then Him showing me the immense grace and mercy he has for us all, including both of them.

As we worshipped, my sorrow was replaced by relief and a clearer focus on the Lord – even while many around me were bouncing up and down, dancing, shouting for joy, singing at the the top of their lungs, hands stretched to the heavens and generally giving their all to worship the Lord – it was as if he had taken my cares upon his own shoulders and left me with a new lightness and calm.

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The calm stillness of Madrid Cathedral

I had heard, generally, of people being healed physically purely through worshipping the Lord, and so having released my friend and her husband into the Lord’s perfect hands, I was in a position to hold open my own hands to receive from God for myself. I asked Him to heal my ankle.

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The story of my troublesome ankle
Last July I was rushing to get to the gym, and in taking off one pair of shoes and trying to put on my trainers, I twisted my left ankle and rolled it inwards. Being sure the initial pain would go over quite quickly once the shock had worn off, I continued to the gym and did my workout. I took some advice and gave myself the dreaded ice baths for it and dosed up on anti-inflammatories, but to no avail. I was assured that being a soft-tissue injury it would recover on its own, probably within 6 weeks.

I was not convinced since the whole time that the ankle wasn’t getting better, I was acutely aware of having had a similar injury some 10 years previously, again rolling my foot inwards, which is apparently very unusual. Having done it again indicated a probable weakness in the ankle – either pre-existing, or caused by both the trips.

By September I had completely give up wearing high heels (prior to that I had worn them occasionally, but for short periods only, like evenings out, and with great pain). Flat shoes were purchased, much to my husband’s chagrin! Physio was booked. Six sessions of private physio later, fortunately provided through my work, and things had first improved and then got significantly worse – worse even than the original twinges and catching pain. That was not what I had bargained for! So, I took some more advice and tried to see a physio leg specialist through the local hospital. He wasn’t available for a while, so I was seen by another lovely lady there. I did the exercises, and there was still stiffness and pain, and not a lot of improvement. She suggested I might be better off with a wedged orthotic on that side only, and that did provide some relief, but without eliminating the issue altogether. She did also suggest I try some wedged shoes, and hoping that this could at least be an answer to my reduction in height, I did have a go…I managed about 10 minutes at work – involving walking up a straight corridor to the kitchen and back – before giving up in pain and defeat and being in agony for the rest of the day. It is safe to say I was not a happy bunny :-(.

I had had quite a bit of prayer over the months, with various words given to me indicating possible roots, people were giving me encouraging pictures and yet still I had awful heel pain in the morning, stiffness first thing, then an intermittent and unpredictable catching pain which was like an electric shock up my leg, so sudden and disabling as it was, and the rest of the time a bit of an ache. One benefit at least: it got me out of running the Mummies’ race at our son’s first school sports day, as he declared, “Mummy can’t run. She’s got a poorly ankle”, said in a very serious voice! Ritual humiliation averted!

A new work and perfect peace
Anyhow, having prayed that evening at Cwmbran, I didn’t notice any of the possible signs of healing, such as heat, or tingling, no movement of tendons, muscles or bones in my foot, but somehow I had a quiet confidence that Jesus had done a new work in my ankle.

When the call went out to come forward to receive prayer, I was one of many who did so. There was a real sense of The Lord releasing joy to many who were there, and there was much laughter and excitement. I really wasn’t feeling it for myself, so I asked The Lord, am I holding back from you simply because I don’t want to surrender control? He showed me, that as before, he speaks joy over me and has done so for many, many years (it was the first prophetic word given to me!) and that like an unbreakable stick of rock, I have the word JOY running all the way through me, and it is unbreakable, because ‘the joy of The Lord is my strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). He then showed me that at that time it wasn’t so much joy that he was pouring out on me, but his incredible peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), and, ‘”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”‘ (John 14:27 NIV) – and I felt most wonderfully serene and rested in his presence.

By 10pm, having been there since about 6pm when we were queuing outside to get in, we decided we should head home to our families, even though in many respects the party was only just getting going! We left with church volunteers who were staffing the doors, gazing open-mouthed at a lady who had apparently not been able to walk since birth, and who was wearing those heavy looking medical boots, which I imagine are provided to give support and perhaps to deal with uneven leg length? It looked as though she had a wheeled walker with her, but when we left, she was on about her third lap of the room, taking big strides, albeit somewhat awkwardly, with someone holding her hands out in front of her (while they walked backwards), and she looked delighted!

cropped-100_2999.jpgWhen we got back, I think the guys were expecting us to be pumped up and overflowing with the excitement all that we’d seen and experienced, but in fact we were really quiet and calm, as we both, I think, felt very peaceful and we were reflecting a lot. As an extrovert, who usually likes to process a lot externally, I think my hubby was somewhat surprised at me, and he even thought we were both a bit subdued! I guess the peace of The Lord can do that!

Healing: a double measure
The next morning, I got up and my ankle felt undeniably felt better. Still being with our friends in Cardiff, and with the husband of the household pretty sceptical and wary of the gifts and manifestations of the spirit, I was cautiously and quietly optimistic about my ankle. It felt strengthened and stable – previously my balance on that side had been dreadful! As I went down the stairs it felt strong and pain-free, hallelujah!

We went with my friend and her children to her church, Cardiff Vineyard, and all the time my excitement about my ankle was growing. I kept checking and noticing all the time how it was feeling. We got there, and after the worship there was a time of listening to shared words and testimonies, and a young woman there explained that she had previously been an Olympic-standard archer, but through injury her wrist tendons had been ‘shattered’, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant really, but it sounded horrendous! She stood up and explained that the week before, she had been prayed for, and her wrist had been instantly, completely and miraculously healed. One of the things which had so saddened her was that she wanted one day to be a mother, but hadn’t been able to imagine holding her baby in her arm, as it wasn’t strong enough either to hold an infant or to do anything with that arm once the baby was in her good arm. It really resonated with me as I’d developed something called ‘mother’s wrist’ (or the less catchy but more specific, ‘de Quervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis’) in both my wrists after our boy was born and I had wrist splints for months and months. My wrists are so much better than they had been back then but still weak and still I was getting pins and needles, and numbness most mornings in both wrists. My left wrist had been prayed for in January and had been completely healed; now I was holding out for total healing in my right wrist too – greedy I know!! As I’d heard that testimony, and having heard a talk at Trinity just last month about testimony being seeds of God’s promise which we can receive for ourselves, I stood up for prayer at the end and asked for prayer. The most obvious thing for me to test after I’d been prayed for was by rotating my wrist – previously it had been clicking. After praying it was still clicking, but again I had the quiet confidence that Jesus was going to do something!

By Monday, back home, my wrist was no longer clicking and all pain had gone! I couldn’t believe it, as much as I had been waiting in hopeful expectation, it seemed too much to be true for both my ankle and wrist to have been healed!

Putting my limbs to the test!
I went to the gym as usual (a glutton for punishment!), and met there with my trainer. Working with him is a luxury I allow myself as he has been the only person really over the last few years to have been able to help me to exercise without pain (in my feet, knees, hips and lower back, never mind my wrists!). I don’t think he would mind me saying, he is fairly sceptical of healing by God, so he was interested but really not completely convinced by my tale of my ankle being healed! He certainly put it to the test, getting me to do interval training of shuttle runs up and down the gym. The thing I noticed the most was that I wasn’t even thinking about being careful about how I placed my foot down as I did the turns at each end, and I could really roll through my whole foot as I ran! On the other hand, my knees were creaking away at the end of a tough session, and that was what was preventing me from doing more. I always worry about really damaging my knees in a way that means that I’m set back rather than advancing in my fitness, not unjustifiable given my past history of injuries! We finished the session with him saying to me, ‘well, you’d better get some prayer for your knees now then!’. If only he’d known what that would start off…!

 

* With thanks to my lovely friend at the school gate for allowing me to share a little of her story

Modest beginnings

Crochet with light JSAKWound perfectly into a neat ball.
Waiting to be worked into something new,
Something lovely.
The feel of a new, soft skein of wool.
Anticipation bubbling up.
Excitement at what might be.
A tumble of ideas chasing through mind,
Imagining,
Wondering,
Forming,
Possibilities.

A design is chosen,
The crochet hook comes out,
The work begins,
Perhaps with some trepidation:
Will it turn out as beautiful as I imagine, as I hope?
Will I be able to do it?
Turn this plan on paper into something real and tangible?
It starts.
Slowly at first.
The foundation chain must be set in place.
Count the loops, and count again.
Get this right and the rest will follow.
Get this wrong and forever we’re wondering why things are askew!
The foundations: not exactly exciting,
In fact, barely seen,
But, these modest beginnings should not be despised.
Indeed they are essential.

Great works do not simply spring up ready-made,
They come from small things started long before.

Like a seed.
Huge potential packed into such tiny space.
Alone it is not much to speak of.
Alone, a ball of wool, is…just a ball of wool.
It needs the hand of a creator to bring it to life,
To design it, to form it,
With love, care and attention.

An acorn falls from a noble oak,
What will fate will befall it?
To be eaten by a squirrel?
Its goodness unpacked and nibbled for fuel?
Or perhaps it will be buried,
And left, forgotten, to rot away,
Returning in time to the earth?
Or will it fall in fertile soil,
Protected in the cool shade
Primed for germination,
At just the right time.
Its hard shell softened and broken through
Just enough to allow that tap root out
To draw moisture and nutrients
From all around.
That potential needs water,
And warmth
And light,
And time,
To grow little by little,
Into a mighty oak.

IMAG0310And that wool?
Well, as stitches were shaped, that neat ball unravelled.
It was messy at times;
Little knots formed
Seemingly of their own accord;
Tangles occurred
Seemed impossible to solve.
Yet, somehow, with patience and faith,
Those snarled up threads were tamed –
They unravelled under the guidance of a delicate touch,
To then take their turn in the pattern of this creation.

How these stitches are formed is yet mysterious,
Even though fabricated by my very hands,
I cannot quite fathom it.
The first part of the work is nerve-wracking,
I’m holding my breath to see if it will work.
So much hope,
Such expectations,
It’s daunting.
Then I get into my stride,
Going great guns,
I get a little too confident,
I make mistakes.
Do I plough on regardless,
Or stop and undo?
I pull out those stitches,
See that curled wool,
Looking forlorn, awaiting redemption.
I keep going,
This time I concentrate,
Pay more attention.
I find a rhythm.
It goes well.

Then…I get fed up, disheartened,
It seems to be taking forever.
My wrists are sore,
My back is too,
I’ve done too much,
Pushed too hard.
I am downcast.
And yet I must keep on.
When will I see the finished article?
Will it be all that I envisioned?
I keep going some more.
And some more.
It is a slog.
But with the end vividly in mind,
I press on towards the goal.

Suddenly I’m almost there!
I slow down, want to cherish these last few rows.
After all, I’ve become fond of this work,
Some of me is bound up in it.
I don’t really want it to end.
But on the other hand I just can’t I wait,
To see it all finished,
What a delight.
Plans realised,
Dreams come to fruition.
And there is.
It is done.

There was a small beginning,
A perfect package,
A little bundle of potential.
Then came the plan,
The design took shape,
And a journey was begun.
It wasn’t easy,
I made mistakes,
I learned much.
What not to do!
There was pain,
There was despair.
There was hope renewed.
A push to the end.
A finished article.
Imperfect in places,
But beautiful nonetheless,
And created out of my hands.
I am the creator.

And I am pleased with my creation.

2012-12-22 18.57.532012-12-20 11.15.44Ripple baby blanket - first crochet project!