Looking Back, Looking Forward

Goodbye 2012 alias ‘Another Year of Struggle’!

 

Yes, that would summarise this last year, though there were some good things; indeed, some wonderful things. Nonetheless, ‘another year of struggle’ is about right. But does a true Follower of Christ have the right to expect anything different? I might want less struggle, but if I truly believe my life is not for my own glory, but His, then maybe struggle is par for the course. I don’t know.

 

‘I was determined to learn the difference between knowledge and foolishness, wisdom and madness. But I found out that I might as well be chasing the wind. The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts.’ Ecclesiastes 1:17,18 GNT

 

Too right.

 

Anyhoo…

 

January 2012: we’d not long moved to a good-sized end-terrace in a Northern village. We’d begun attending  a nearby church, and were making friends. New Year’s Eve was spent at a church friend’s house with the children. We all felt so welcomed by that church. Work for Frank was a mix of two part-time jobs. Financially, we were better off than we’d ever been. I was part way through my first Open University course. I was driving the children 40 miles a day to and from school, and occasionally driving Frank to work as well. Frank gave the New Year’s Day message at church.

 

February: I had a very vivid dream one night, woke up and realised I had to go to the police about what had happened to me in childhood. A couple of weeks later we visited a Christian community for the first time, meeting some wonderful people. There, I learned that I was worthy of love. A surreal, reality-shattering experience. For the first time my heart, as well as my head, began to understand the unbreakable love of God, and its power to hold and to heal a broken, discarded thing like me. ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’ as Wesley extolled.

 

March: I spoke in church for the first time on Mothering Sunday. It went down really well and I realised that yes, I have a gift for speaking. A few weeks later I spoke about Compassion UK, which was also very well received. I began to wonder what I was supposed to do with this gift… God had been prompting me to speak for quite some time, and I’d not really had the belief in myself to actually go and do it (plus, it’s not easy to put oneself forward when life has taught you otherwise).

 

April: Mum and Dad came up for Easter. An ideal time to broach the subject of my  intentions of going to the police. I knew I couldn’t talk about this over the phone, or in a letter; it had to be face to face. They were upset, but promised to support me. Kudos to them. My sister also promised to support me, and moreover, said without doubt that she thought it was the right thing to do. Kudos to my sister. My close friends agreed.

Also in April, I had an exploratory op to see if I had endometriosis, or anything else. They found nothing except ‘cells in the wrong place’, which were blasted by a laser. Took weeks and weeks to feel better.

 

May: I finished my first OU course (hurrah!). I then contacted the police. Took them several weeks to interview me properly, which was a rather agonising wait. We also went camping in our trailer tent for the first time, on one of the coldest weekends of the year. It was below freezing and we may have been suffering mild hypothermia by the time we decided to call it quits a day early. Our spring bank holiday break was much better. Prince stayed with his grandparents and Frank and I took the girls to the Midlands for a week. We made good use of the trailer tent and had a fab time, culminating in a lovely dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

 

June: I was finally interviewed by the police. It took about four hours in total. Harrowing is probably the right word. Cathartic, too. The tapes were sent to the police in the area the crime occurred, for them to start investigating.

 

July: The ex-husband managed to get a solicitor, who managed to contact me saying he was seeking ‘supervised contact’ and a separate letter advising us to ‘consider mediation’! Thanks to my ever-wonderful sister-in-law, who is in the legal profession, we were assured that this was highly unlikely to happen, and that the mediation letter was a standard letter. Frank and I were disgusted that a convicted paedophile can be allowed to even do this much, and cause such distress, at the expense of the victim’s family and of the taxpayer. Let’s just say my estimation of the British justice system was not improved by this experience. Our solicitor, whom we had to pay an arm and a leg for, was also less than helpful, totally failing to see why we would indeed be more than a tad concerned by even the suggestion of ‘mediation’, let alone the mere thought of ‘supervised contact’. This was indeed a dark time. We realised we were still too close to where the ex resided and needed to move. Frank began applying for jobs in other areas.

Also in July, I visited the Christian community again, for a weekend that promised healing, with my mother. She is not a believer but benefited from the experience and fell in love with the place as much as I had. I came away with a definite sense of something that had been in my mind for some time – namely, that I am being ‘called’ to ministry, especially with broken people. I also went along to the Celebrate Recovery European conference, which was a great experience and very inspiring.

 

August: I learned I had achieved a very good score on my OU course, and was much encouraged by this. I applied for the next course. We visited the Christian community’s summer holiday extravaganza, this time bringing two friends, who also fell in love with the place. We spent a fortnight in the trailer tent at the end of August, during which time Frank was interviewed for a new job, with better prospects and more pay, which he was subsequently offered. We had prayed for doors to be opened where it was God’s will they should be opened, and closed where they should be closed. We trusted.

 

September: Frank handed in his notice and we said goodbye to our friends. At very short notice, over the course of two days we viewed several houses to rent and chose the best of those that were available and affordable. We moved on 28th September. I spent 29th September in bed, utterly exhausted.

 

October: Frank began his new job, all seemed to go well at first, but I hardly saw him as he was working so hard, with unpaid overtime at every opportunity. My mother came up to stay for ten days, to help get the house sorted. This was invaluable! The girls started at their new school.

 

November: Frank was constantly stressed. The new job was not what it was described as during the interview process. Despite the contract being for 60%, he was working so many hours he was jeopardising his other job and leaving me with little support. I was constantly stressed, because Frank was so busy and unable to help, and because the local authority were dragging their heels over sending Prince to school, despite the fact I’d contacted them well before we moved. They refused to do anything until after the move, and they even tried to suggest sending him to mainstream school, despite the fact he’d been at special school since Year 1. They didn’t offer anything in lieu of school, either, so it’s just as well I didn’t have a job of my own, because I’d have been sacked. Insanity!

Prince finally started school in mid-November, nearly seven weeks after the move. During that time, I was isolated, because Prince’s behaviour was ridiculously difficult (understandably – he has autism and had just been totally uprooted!) and he refused to leave the house most of the time. I began to feel depressed. One evening, Frank came home and said that he needed to resign, that in the long run he’d be better off than carrying on. They were expecting far more than he’d been led to anticipate. I agreed. We knew we’d be left with a severely restricted income.

 

December: I began volunteering at Toddler Group and Foodbank, and enjoyed making some interesting acquaintances. Frank’s last day came and went. I resolved to set aside a daily time for writing, with Frank’s support and blessing, and to call myself ‘officially’ a writer. We enjoyed a week together before the school holidays. My family stayed for Christmas. I handled Christmas dinner very well, with nary a flutter, even if I do say so myself.

 

 

Dear Kay, who acts as landlord on our behalf, and is my dearest friend, was called back to her native Australia just before Christmas with the news of her father’s serious illness. I haven’t heard from her since. Very worried, and praying for her. I hope she might have the chance to read this and know how much she is loved. Between Frank, Kay and Ginny, I have known the best of love and friendship. Other friends, far and near, have offered their prayers and their friendship. I have never known such kindness and I am very grateful.

 

Still feeling very isolated in our new town, and disheartened at everything seemingly going pear-shaped… again. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But deep breath forward, best foot up, chin in… Chin chin, old boy!

 

Are we about to give up? No. Because unlike popular belief, I don’t believe God is a variant on Santa and His gifts are sometimes contained in ugly, painful boxes.

 

We’re waiting to see what happens. God is good, even if we’re feeling rubbish. I’m looking forward to more writing, and to my next OU course, beginning in February. Frank is looking forward to picking up some teaching hours here and there to add to our income. The upside of him working from home is that we’re enjoying having more time as a family, and as a couple. He’s my best friend. I love having him around 😉

 

These words have been echoing in my head, as we enter 2013. I pray them for all my readers, too:

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
    and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
    as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
    I will not be afraid, Lord,
    for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

You prepare a banquet for me,
    where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honoured guest
    and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
    and your house will be my home as long as I live.

Psalm 23 GNT

Amen.