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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Reflections on Women And God Weekend



Last weekend I had the privilege of attending and serving on the team for Women and God weekend (or WAG weekend!). This is a weekend conference run by The Salvation Army with 300 women of all ages learning what it means to live a life sold out for God… And what an amazing weekend it was

For me the weekend was full of service, ministry, knock-you-off-your-feet God moments and coffee! On Friday morning before the ladies arrived, we took time to pray over names, situations and words from God, and this set the tone for the spirit-filled weekend ahead.  

I had also been asked to lead a seminar/workshop on the Saturday afternoon entitled ‘Grace Through Adversity.’ Based on Psalm 34, we talked about the importance of sharing our stories of how God has moved in our times of difficulty. I took some time to share my story of grace through adversity and my walk through infertility. We had a chance to reflect on those things we have been through. We shared Isaiah 61:3 and exchanged our ashes (written on wooden hearts) for beauty (the word of God.) 


It was a beautiful afternoon. I had joked that my mum would be the only person to turn up. It was said in jest, but it really was a fear of mine. However, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up and the stories that were shared with me throughout the weekend. 




The weekend really blew me away. I couldn’t understand how little old me could be used to speak into the lives of such beloved women of God. The I realised it wasn’t little old me, it was big old God drawing close to those women who have sought Grace through adversity, 
and it was him who was telling them that they wouldn’t be defeated by what they face. I was 
reminded of one of the verse we had looked at in the seminar from psalm 34:

‘The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain and he is always ready to restore the repentant one. Even when bad things happen to the good and Godly one, the Lord will save them and not let the by defeated by what they face.’ 




My time spent with these lovely women was so blessed and through it I saw chains broken, testimonies  shared and I got to make some great new friends! 

The weekend was utterly exhausting but overwhelmingly amazing, and throughout week, as I have been recalling conversations with people and wonderful moments, my heart isbursting with thanks and praise. 

As I was writing this post I opened my bible (the passion translation of course!) and I found my ‘price tag’ given at the weekend, on it was written:

“My passion is to be consumed with him” Philippians 3:9 
This is my own prayer from the weekend, and I pray that it will be the prayer of every WAG as they reflect on the weekend


Friday, 27 April 2018

The Coffee and the Cross Stitch - Hope Renewed




Throughout my journey of infertility I have learnt so much. I have learnt that he holds me in the hardest time, I have learnt that he if faithful and will provide you with the love and support that you need to endure each trial. I have learnt that his timing is perfect, even when I just don’t get it!! However one thing I have really struggled with through this time, one small word that holds so much power, that small word is HOPE.



In my darkest days I have failed to see any hope at all, and on my easier days I have simply been too afraid to have hope in case I might get my hopes up in order to have them dashed again by the familiar sight of a negative pregnancy test.

The bible verse Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” was so true in some of the areas of my life, and although God was doing amazing things through my story and in my life, I still felt I was lacking in hope that God really was going to give me a child.

Last October, a beautiful sister in Christ and a fellow Infertility Warrior introduced me to a song called ‘Get your hopes up’ (you can check it out here: Get your hopes up  ) As I listened to it and let the word wash over me, I became aware that I had been too afraid to get my hopes up! Don’t get me wrong, in some areas of my life I had great and abundant hope, but I felt like I had shut the door on my hope for a baby.

Fast Forward a few months and in an online support group for women waiting for their miracle babies, some of the women shared how the have bought things for their yet-to-be-conceived children and how it had helped to give them hope. This both delighted me and scared me (!) and I was struck that I needed to exercise my faith in order to walk with more hope.

So, the next day, as I was walking around the local supermarket I saw a beautiful cross stitch for a nursery and I decided that I was going to get my hopes up and buy it! As I placed it on the conveyor belt I felt like a bit of a fraud! I half expected the cashier to stop me and tell me to put it back!!! However she didn’t, and I took it home and put it in my prayer room until I had the courage to open it and start sewing. This I did and I slowly started sewing the pattern onto the fabric. 
For me it represented faith – It represented a hope renewed.



A couple of weeks later, one dreary Saturday afternoon, I made a drink for my parents who were staying over for the weekend. As I tidied up the kitchen, I heard the familiar noise of a drink being spilled, and I ran into the living room to see my cross stitch, the symbol of my hope covered in boiling hot coffee!!!
After the usual rush to clear the table and contain as much of the spillage as possible, I stopped and looked at my sewing. It was completely and utterly ruined! The person who had spilt the drink was absolutely mortified and had no clue about what the half sewn piece of fabric meant to me. But in that moment, the devil had a chance to whisper lies into me ears. He told me that is what you get for getting your hopes up and not to do it again!!

I must admit that I struggled with this. Was it a sign? Was I really just being silly?

However, God is so good, and the following week in conversation with someone talking about the future and children, they turned to me, looked me in the eyes and said “Get your hopes up, Get excited, it is coming and it is coming soon!” This struck me deep into my core and I declared, in that moment 
I will get my hopes up!

Currently I am waiting for a new cross stitch to arrive, a bigger and better cross stitch, a declaration that God is able and I will get my hopes up in him, for he is a faithful God. The following is a verse of scripture that I have declared over myself for many months and today, if you are struggling with hope, for whatever reason, I pray this will permeate into your heart and become your prayer today too!



 "Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!" 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The pink rose of Mother's Day



For those of you who have read my previous blog, you will know some of my feelings surrounding Mother’s Day and my decision to not only attend church but to share in the service on that day. I wanted to share with you how it went and how God spoke to me in a beautiful way through it. 


As part of the service we wanted to provide a space for grief and lament as well as a space to celebrate. We had a display of white roses on our mercy seat (the place of prayer) and as we played a beautiful song people had the opportunity to take a rose (or as many as they wanted) and place it in a vase to represent a person/opportunity that they remember on this day. It was an absolutely amazing, spirit filled moment. 


As a celebration of the mother figures in our life we gave everyone a red rose. In the morning, as I was preparing the roses by attaching a bible verse to each rose, I found one rose that didn’t seem to be as ‘attractive’ as the others. The stalk didn’t seem as strong as the others and the petal on the outside had a mark. It didn’t seem to ‘fit in’ with the rest. I was going to throw it away, but I felt the Lord say:

‘Don’t throw it away,I see the flower, I think it is beautiful, I think it is good enough and I know who will receive it.’ 

So I attached the bible verse and put it amongst the others.



Towards the end of the service, I explained that everyone could take a rose at the end. As we Sang the closing song ‘the voice of hope’ – I felt arms around me and one of the beautiful women in church presented me with a rose. After the meeting I looked at the rose and realised that the rose I had been given was the rose I had almost thrown away before. I felt God say to me that he knew that especially on this day I can feel sad and broken, he knew that I often feel that I am not good enough to be a mother…I feel like that rose, I don’t ‘fit in’ 

 I then felt God remind me what he had spoke to me before he said:

‘I see you, I think you are beautiful, I think you are good enough and I know what is in store for you.’ 

Wow!






When I returned home, I put the white roses from the service along with ‘that’ red rose on the mantel piece. It looked stunning. As I sat and looked at it, something caught my eye. On the end of the mantel piece was a silk pink rose. My stepdaughters had given me it the day before as a Mother’s Day gift along with lots of other goodies. 



I found this pink rose profound. It spoke to me of the blessing of my three stepdaughters. The mix of red and white. Red for the celebration of what they have brought to my life, the love that I both have for them and receive from them and the countless blessings I receive from them. White for the sadness of not having them with us every day and having to ‘share’ them 

I found this pink rose spoke to me about my journey through infertility. White for the grief and lament of never having that miracle baby and of another month passing by without a positive pregnancy test. Red for the celebration of sisterhood, of women who pray for me and journey alongside me, for the support of women who grieve in my losses and celebrate my successes. Also red for the amazing things that God has done to make me fruitful in a time of bareness. 
I found this pink rose spoke to me about Mother’s Day. White for the grief of another Mother’s Day without a child to call me mum and for the sorrow I see in the faces of so many women. Red for the amazing things that God has done in and through me in order to encourage other to see him in a difficult day. 

Today I pray that you might recognise the pink roses in your life. 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Why you will find me in church this Mother's Day


Mother’s Day is approaching. For some people it is a time full of joy and celebration, for others, however, it can be a horrendous time full of sorrow and pain. I fall into the second category. For the past few years, as we have been ttc it has got harder and harder. 

For a while, as a single woman Mother’s Day was tough as it reminded me of a future I wasn’t sure that I would have. Then when I met Paul I suddenly became step-mother to three teenage girls and it brought a whole new dimension. Mother’s Day at church was filled with conflicted loyalty for the girls and a reminder that I wasn’t a real mum! I remember one year, one of the girls going to get me the obligatory ‘Mother’s Day gift’ whilst another having stern words with her that I shouldn’t receive a gift as I wasn’t really her mum and that their mum was at home expecting a gift. The whole while I felt terribly guilty that I had put everyone in such a position, happy that I was seen in some way as a mum and sad that the children felt so conflicted in their appreciation of me. 

As we have journeyed through infertility, Mother’s Day has got tougher till eventually I stopped going to church altogether on that Sunday – and that’s pretty rough considering I’m the minister! However over the past year God has really been working on my heart and this year not only will I be sitting (somewhat vulnerably) at church but I will also be preaching! 

In my walk through infertility I spent a lot of time cutting myself off from those around me who were celebrating motherhood, it just seemed to highlight my hurt and failures, but last year God changed my heart and encouraged me to consider Romans 12:15 ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.’ I was pretty good at mourning with others but struggled to rejoice when people received what I so desired. 



On my trip to Israel last year God showed me how I was missing out on so many blessings by having my focus on the wrong thing. I remember standing on the Sea of Galilee as the worship song ‘it is well’ played and sensing that God had so many blessings to lavish on me, I just had to reach out and take a hold. This started a real journey of transformation in my life. 

A few weeks ago as the cards started appearing in shop I got that familiar knot in my stomach as I felt feelings of failure, insignificance and grief. As I considered what Mother’s Day in church might look like for me I felt God challenge me. He reminded me of what his church should look like. Colossians 3:15 (the passion translation) says: 

‘Let you heart always be guided by the peace of the anointed on, who called you to peace as part of his one body. And always be thankful.’

As the body of Christ – his church – we are called to be peace. What a beautiful thing it would be if his church brought peace to those who struggle with Mother’s Day. If instead of opening wounds of hurt, grief and trauma, the church poured a healing balm upon them and gave them space to lament in order to find the perfect peace that only God can give. 

God reminded me that when the widow offered the last of her food to Elijah, God provided abundantly more and triggered a miracle that brought glory to him. By attending church and trying to provide a place of safety for those who find Mother’s Day hard it may seem like giving a little offering to God, as sacrificial as it may be for me. But I know that It will be seen and honoured by God, it will reach out to others like me and who knows what miracles may happen! 

Last year I attended a beautiful service at Liverpool Cathedral called Mothers Day Runaways, designed for people like me who find Mother’s Day tough. The people involved practised this lesson of offering a place of peace for those in turmoil and it was a beautiful thing. God moved so powerfully and as I look to the service this year as my time to lament and grieve, I know God will minister to each person there. 



This year I look to Mother’s Day in a different way. I still feel sad for what could have been, and the longing for the day when I will celebrate being mum, but this year I brought myself a beautiful Mother’s Day gift so I won’t feel forgotten and I have vowed to try and spread peace on a day that for some people is filled with fear, and I can truly say in this situation ‘it is well with my soul.’ 


My beautiful necklace from The knotted Nest on Etsy.


Today if you are looking to Mother’s Day with dread, I see you, I know it so well and I understand. I would love to pray for you so feel free to drop me a message and I pray that this will be your experience:

“Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super abundance until you radiate with hope.” Romans 5:13 





Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Finding your tribe



I have seen lots of posts on social media recently about finding your tribe, posts like this one:



Being completely honest it has challenged me. Through our four and a half year journey through infertility I have lost many friends, distancing myself from people in order to numb the pain, hiding behind the shame that I may never be ‘good enough  to be a mum’ rather than being vulnerable with the people who knew me best. I’m sure many people in similar situations can identify.

However…

Recently God has been really speaking to me about community and has started to point out to me exactly who my ‘tribe’ is.  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (the passion translation) says:

'He has done this intentionally so that every member would look after the others with mutual concern, and so that there will be no division in the body. In that way, whatever happens to one member happens to all. If one suffers, everyone suffers. If one is honoured, everyone rejoices.'




As I started looking around me I started to see those people who shared in my sufferings, who pray through my bad times, not always know why I’m struggling and who rejoice in every victory along the way, whether huge or small. 

Through speaking out and reaching out in the ttc (trying to conceive) community I have found many of my tribe. I have a wonderful bunch of prayer partners from all over the world who I regularly chat to, pray with and do life together. It’s bizarre as I probably will never meet a lot of them (although I had the pleasure of meeting one prayer sister) but they play such a large role in my life and journey with the Lord.  I have also met some wonderful women from events in the uk that I have been to both speaking at and attending, they have been such a great encouragement to me. I have also found that in sharing my story, old friends who understand and may get it because they feel it too, have become new friends and distant friends have become close friends. 

So today my encouragement to that person who is reading this and feeling utterly alone is, take a step of faith and find your tribe. Look for those people who will support you in prayer, hold you accountable and share in all the ups and downs in life. If you, like me are praying for your miracle baby, then I have three fab things to suggest.

1. If you live in the North West, This Saturday, 17th February, a group of women are meeting at the StoryHouse in Crosby, Merseyside. It’s very informal and you already know someone who Is going…me! For more information check out their Facebook page.

2. There is a great group of supportive ladies over at the moms in the making group  on Facebook. There are so many ways you can engage including an amazing new online support group that runs twice monthly. It does mean being up at 1:30am to chat to America because of the time difference, however it is so so worth it!!  For more information take a look here: moms in the making

3. I would love to pray with you, send you snail mail, meet with you and become a member of your tribe! You can contact me through the blog or click on my Instagram on the right hand side of the screen. I would love to walk alongside you on your journey.

As Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

And on the seventh day... We Rest!


I am in the middle of an interesting week of training at The Salvation Army's William Booth training college. I have been surrounded by some amazing colleagues who serve, like us, as Territorial Envoys, running Salvation Army churches up and down the country. This is our third year at our annual seminar and this year I have been shocked to see some gifted pastors, who in previous year had been full of passion and zeal, looking exhausted. In conversation they have admitted that amongst other things, they aren't finding time to take their day off. 

I'm am passionate about keeping the sabbath, and seeing my friends and colleagues so tired prompted me once again to consider its importance to us in a society and job that never seems to stop.

We know that God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day he rested. Yesterday one of  our soeakers very briefly posed the question "did God really need to rest on the 7th day?" The answer of course is no, but he chose to rest, purely as an indicator for us to see how our rhythm of life should be. God modelled the behaviour that we should have, and time and time again in his word, it reminds us of the importance of Sabbath. 

Jesus was a great advocate of the sabbath as a rhythm of life. He understood the complexities of ministry, and the busyness of life. He certainly understood too that there is an ocassional time when our rest needs to be put on hold for a short while whilst we do the Lord's work. But above all he knew that rest was vitally important in mission and ministry. 

One verse in the bible I truly love, but truly challenges me says:

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" John 10:10 




I know when things have been particularly busy and I haven't been able to take my sabbath day  rest for a while, I have looked at my life and realised that it has ceased to be an abundant life. How can we possibly tell the lost to come follow Jesus and have an abundant life when all we ever do is 'sleep, eat, work, repeat?' As ambassadors of Christ we are called to embody an abundant life. And that includes rest! 

Any of you who follow me on social media know that I love putting up pictures, and on our day off I always try to post at least one picture that shows something of our 'rest.' Sometimes Paul (my husband) rolls his eyes at yet another picture, but I often reply: "How can we expect our flock to live an abundant rhythm of life with a healthy sabbath if we don't reflect it in our own life?" 

Some of my many pictures!!


So today - God is saying

'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to live lightly and freely.' 





Wednesday, 17 January 2018

finding joy in the struggle





"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" 
James 1:2-4

As you know, this year I asked God to give me a word to take with me through 2018, and I he gave me the word Joy. I decided to take some time to study what exactly Joy means and where we can see it used in the bible. The verse from James was one I came across immediately. At first I skipped straight past it, as I wanted my word to mean that everything in the next year will go great and that I might have a rest from trials and struggles. However, I soon felt the Lord lead me gently back to it. 

As I began to really get to grips with this verse, I started to question how joyful I actually am, and whether it manifests itself in times of trial in my own life. 

James calls us to consider it 'pure joy' in trials, or as the passion translation says:
" when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy you can." 

What a challenge! But James continues by saying that in times of great struggle, real growth comes, and in it we can learn so much about who God really is. 

It reminds me a bit of bread (bear with me!) When you bake bread after placing all the ingredients in a bowl, you don't just leave it, you knead the dough. The kneading activates the yeast, which causes it to rise. 

When we face times of trial, and we feel like we are being kneaded (is it just me that sometimes feels as if I am being spiritually kneaded!?!?!?) it actually activates our faith and helps us to grow so we can experience the 'good bread' as a result.


If we face times of struggle with joy, knowing that we will see good fruit (or bread!) - oh how that could renew our minds and help our relationships with others to flourish. 

I am blessed to have many prayer partners, most of them women journeying through infertility. This week, one of those beautiful women said something that profoundly challenged me. She talked about a huge struggle her family had gone through, where God miraculously intervened, and recalled how the trial had brought her family wonderfully close. She then reflected this on her own journey to be a mum and her marriage and she shared with great joy how there was developing a new level of closeness and intimacy in her marriage through the trials. 

Wow! 

Today my  prayer is that I might reflect that joy as struggles come and that the bread that is made through my trials may be good, wholesome, edifying and taste delicious!