Trouble

Mama has the tea ready when I get there for prayer group and Bible study first thing in the morning. I have on the socks that the woman with five kids and stage four cancer knit for me. This is always the first thing – to go right into the throne room of God wearing nothing less than your aching prayers…

Mama, she hands me a mug of steaming tea – apple cinnamon – and tells me it’s Psalms 107 this morning and could I read the chapter right out loud? Read it because it’s manna, and you’ve got nothing to give if you haven’t gathered, and you have to gather word manna at daybreak if you’re going to gain from it the day long. Read it because it’s your very life, and why live emaciated? 

…hadn’t Spurgeon said it? ‘There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health, except to be sickness, and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health. It is a good thing to be without a trouble, but it is a better thing to have a trouble and know how to get grace enough to bear it.’

~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1 (NRSVA)

Ann Voskamp at her beautiful best this morning as I listened to her read from the book of devotions drawn from her first book, One Thousand Gifts. Ann is the first person who taught me that you have to be broken to be mended. Before that I was just broken. And lost. And thinking that there must be something wrong with me, something deep in my soul – a stench that attracted trouble like a bluebottle to decay. Ann showed me that, contrary to my beliefs, the true beauty of God, the love of Christ, was found in the very midst of decay. It turned everything on its head and I began to see the world, the Church and Jesus with fresh eyes. How then can I not give praise? How can I be anything less than thankful?

No more let sorrows grow

Hold the child and hear Him crying,

No more let sorrows grow

He knows my troubles…

~ from the song My Troubles by Andrew Greer

Seven: Thoughts on Married Life

It’s been a little over seven years since I first met my husband. I was 32 then. How young that seems now! My dear Frank was a youthful 41. When I look back, when I consider the woman I was then it is almost like I’m remembering the life of someone else, so far have I come from that ill-used, halfling creature. It amazes me to think that Frank saw beyond all that jagged brokenness and, more than that, he loved me just for me. He rescued me. I was about breaking into a million sharp shards and this wonderful man didn’t run in the opposite direction when he found out my past, he didn’t even scarper when my then 10-year-old autistic and ADHD son attacked him when he babysat the kids for an evening, for the first time. Frank phoned me when I was in the middle of dance class and asked if I would come home. I confess I didn’t think it was all that bad and wanted to stay (single parenthood not giving me much opportunity for anything). Ten minutes later he called again and I realised that I needed to go home. His voice sounded polite, but strained. Here we go, I thought. I braced myself.

As I walked in the front door and saw Frank’s face, and then took in the fact that he was covered from head to toe in Vaseline and eczema cream, I knew for sure it was over. Who would willingly stay to become the step-father of a child who didn’t sleep, destroyed things and attacked you? Who would willingly desire to be the husband of someone as broken as me? Who could possibly think that we, the kids and I, were worth it? Also, at that point I had had not only the awful, abusive first marriage and the ramifications of that individual’s crimes, but a few months before had fallen for someone – a lovely Christian man – whom I thought felt the same only to find out he didn’t. Ouch. So I had wrapped my heart tightly inside me, to protect it. I had not let myself feel anything other than a moderate attraction to this new man, Frank, who stood before me as I stepped into the hall.

But the rejection never came. Instead, the very first thing he said was “you know that I love you, don’t you?” And I – well, how do I say this? – I began to unwrap the tight bindings of my heart. I can’t say he swept me off my feet or romanced me. Everyday life with two very little girls and a son with ASD meant that we stepped into (grim?) reality straight away. No time for all that lovey-dovey stuff. He stayed. And he loved. I grew to love him, and I also grew to love the ‘me’ that he saw – because I can tell you for sure that I did not even like myself, let alone love myself, and I didn’t see how anyone else could.

So I would like to thank God for answering prayers I never even uttered, and I would like to thank Frank. For being Frank. For being a man of God and a man of compassion and a man of so many other things that will remain unnumbered. Not a day goes by that I don’t tell him how much I love him. I am truly blessed! This post is for my husband. Thank you.

Flashbacks

In 2015 I went through EMDR. It was excruciating, but I saw tremendous improvement in the months that followed. I was told right from the beginning that it was not a cure, as such, that everyone responds differently and that ‘wellness’ occurs at varying degrees.

Lately I have been experiencing flashbacks. They are quite intense, but in a different way to those I endured before EMDR. Often these flashbacks are not related to overt violence or threatening situations. They’re usually about all the ways in which I was manipulated and coerced.

People often don’t realise that coercion is actively abusive, but in many ways it is equally as damaging as the more obvious kinds of abuse, and may in fact be more destructive *because* it is less easily identified. Coercion and manipulation work in such a way as to make the victim feel he or she has no choice. Coercion attempts to make the victim a willing participant. In certain situations this coercion is also known as ‘grooming’.

Sometimes it is as if I experience the situation all over again. It makes me sick. Nausea and a goose-pimply feeling of horror and disgust wash over me. At that point all I can think is: ‘I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.’

But my faith is my rock. As the flashback lessens and common sense drips back in, I tell myself that it is a sin to hate. Hatred eats away at you, making you permanently miserable; no room for love. My God says to lay all my burdens on Him. My Jesus stretched His arms wider than the earth on that cross.

I pray, “Lord, I can’t help feeling that I hate him, but I know you don’t hate him. I give my hatred and I give him over to You. Seventy times seven. To the power seven. And then some. Please keep him away from my family and from anyone else who is vulnerable. Don’t let him hurt anyone else. If you can reach his heart, I pray that you do. You tell me to pray for my enemies so that is what I’m trying to do. I don’t know what else to do but to reach out to you. Seventy times seven. And then some.”

I write because this is my testimony of what faith actually looks like – not pretend faith that avoids the nasty stuff. Life is hard. But God is always good. God is ALWAYS good.

Privilege

It is a privilege to be able to pray on behalf of a fellow human being, a fellow child of God. It is a privilege to know that God allows us to be part of something in which we could never otherwise participate. I pray regularly for various groups and individuals all around the world. They struggle, as we all struggle, all the while unaware of the Light that shines through them, and of the Light that helps others, including me, to see God’s glory in the dust and strain. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of prayer.

https://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=tKjUoE2fack

I have come to realise, recently, that my illness may prevent me from doing the things I long to do for God (as if any of us can do anything for God!) but that doesn’t mean my life on the periphery has any less use for Him. Prayer is something I can do even while resting. God has a use and a purpose for each one of us.

May it all be for His glory. Amen.

 

Marmite Wars (and Other News)

Tesco bans marmite from its shelves! The attention-grabbing headlines reflect a wider truth which is, funnily enough, exactly what any sane voter could see would happen. I voted ‘remain’ because to leave the European Union is likely to benefit the few at the expense of the many. There are some very undemocratic processes within the EU that need reform, but our departure throws out an infant blue whale with the proverbial bathwater. The pound depreciates. Food prices rise. No sugarsnaps*, Sherlock. More on this from the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/2c651be2-9228-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923

*’sugarsnaps’: my word of choice. Polite yetersnappy.

*******

In other news, I continue to use the KonMari method of decluttering, along with the Sidetracked Home Executives method of home management. The household is becoming more organised and orderly, albeit at a slower pace than I would like due to my health (and certain messy members of the family who shall remain nameless). My lovely Fluff, now aged 13, has really taken the ideas on board and has been very helpful. I’m so proud of her. Her attitude to everything has changed for the better lately. Hurrah!

I’ve begun studying Data Analysis again with the Open University. It’s going well but I need to be extremely careful to stick to a schedule of study, housework and rest because if I don’t it will all fall apart (again).

My dear mother-in-law was poorly and ended up in hospital for a week but is back at the care home now. I think the dementia has progressed, but she is very well looked after. I’m going to crochet a cuddly animal for her, because often she needs to be comforted in a very basic way and what better than something to snuggle with? I’ve been crocheting away like mad, lately, ready for Christmas as money is a bit tighter this year (and because when I finally decluttered my craft stuff I found a huge stash of yarn). I’ve even been to a sewing class where I’m learning to use a sewing machine 😀

Prince has had a resurgence of the pain that made him stay off school for six months (from December ’15 to June ’16), so we have an appointment at the pain clinic for the beginning of next month. He asked me yesterday if I was praying for him. ‘Of course!’ was my reply but I was so touched that he thought to ask. Please pray, if you’re so inclined, that we get to the bottom of it quickly? His life is hard enough with the inevitable, near-constant anxiety that autism brings. 

How’s life where you are? I’d love to know.