Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Flourishing in the Wilderness

I have got a bit behind in my blog writing recently. Life has been Choca-block and it seems that every time I sit down to write, the baby cries, the phone goes or some crisis seems to appear. However I have taken the chance today as I sit in a coffee shop with a deliciously strong Americano to consider my next blog in the series of five things I have learnt in 5 + years of infertility. 

I am a wholehearted believer in God’s timing and I think it is great that this should be the next in the series as it is the name of my book that has been recently released (I certainly didn’t plan that when I wrote my first blog in the series early in 2019)

Through my five + years journeying through infertility I have often felt like I have been walking through a wilderness alone, dry and completely without direction. However through it all God has taught me so much about how I could not only survive in the wilderness but I could flourish. The only way I could do this was through having faith in God and his word.

God showed me a picture through a good friend and a prophetic man of God as we pondered on the verses of Ezekiel 47. Verse 9 in the message version says:

‘Wherever the river flows, life will flourish—great schools of fish—because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds.’

I wanted to flourish, I wanted to see life abound and so I actively sought ways in which I might flourish in the wilderness of infertility. God taught me so much and a while later God called me to write a book, and that is a whole other amazing story in itself!

I have been absolutely blown away at how God has used this book already to speak in to the lives of people going through many different types of wilderness. When I first put pen to paper I never expected God to move so powerfully. In fact I did briefly consider giving up! That was until whilst speaking at a women’s conference, someone prophesied over me about how God would bless people through the book that I was writing! I had only told Paul about it all so I knew it was a kick up the bum from God to get writing!!

The book has been out less than a month and in that time I have heard some amazing testimonies of how God has spoken to them through the words in the book. I don’t share this to blow my own trumpet, but only to bring Glory to God as they are certainly his words and not my own. I have had a letter from one man who had started to realise that he couldn’t start to love others until he truly loved himself and who has begun to flourish in an incredibly tough and arid wilderness. I have heard from a dear lady and prayer warrior who has come to realise the wilderness she is journeying through and is using the book to help her flourish even though she struggles with frailness and loneliness. I have had parents buy the book for children walking the road of childlessness and friends buy to support others through grief and despair.

I have always clung to a number of verses in Isaiah 61 and have had them spoken over me prophetically for many years. but as I sit here in the sunshine with my miracle gift of a daughter asleep beside me I know that all of his promises are yes and amen! 

So if you are going through a wilderness today, or know someone that is, may I suggest a little book, written by a broken women in the midst of her wilderness and discovering just how she might flourish in the living waters of God’s word.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendour"

P.s. if you do buy the book (which you can purchase from eBook and paperback here: Flourishing in the Wilderness ) and God speaks to you please leave a review or contact me, I would love to hear your stories and to pray for you as you flourish and thrive. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

The Lord Loves Lament

One of the most interesting lessons I have learnt in my 5+ years of infertility was about lament. Up until I experienced the sorrow of infertility, lament had been something I had not really paid much attention to. I thought that David in the psalms was a bit of a moaner and I had never really opened the book of Lamentations. But when I discovered lament, I found a whole new way to worship God and exercise my faith.

So what is lament? In simplicity it is a prayer to God for help and it comes out of a place of intense pain and suffering.  In my opinion it seems to be a forgotten form of worship, with Christians often believing that by acknowledging pain and hurt they are somehow being a bad Christian. However lament has a string biblical presence. Over 1/3 of the psalms are psalm of lament, many of the prophets lamented, (especially Jeremiah) and Job lamented over his situation. There is even a book of lament aptly named Lamentations. Interestingly Jesus too had moments of lament, particularly in difficult times like in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭26:38-39‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

I discovered lament for myself when I was in a dark place. As I searched the scriptures for someone I related to I came across Hannah and how she ‘poured out her soul to the Lord’ (see 1 Samuel1:1-20.)As I read of her I was reminded of somebody else who regularly poured their heart out to the Lord – David. As I started to digest the psalms I suddenly realised that the man I once thought was just a moaner, was in fact voicing the cries of my heart.  

“God, I’m crying out to you! I lift up my voice boldly to beg for your mercy. I spill out my heart to you and tell you all my troubles. For when I was desperate, overwhelmed, and about to give up, you were the only one there to help. You gave me a way of escape from the hidden traps of my enemies. I look to my left and right to see if there is anyone who will help, but there’s no one who takes notice of me. I have no hope of escape, and no one cares whether I live or die.”

As I started to explore lament in the scripture I started to discover more and more about who God is and what my faith, in the midst of a terrible situation, should look like. I came across one lament that I found powerful and whenever my heart begins to feel overwhelmed, I again ponder and on these verses in Habakuk. 

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

The biggest revelation about lament for me is that it requires faith. To see the pain and sorrow around us and declare ‘it is well with my soul.’ Takes faith even if you feel like your faith is far smaller than a mustard seed, and is a true act of worship. 

Writing this post on lament seems even more profound as the past couple of weeks have been tough. In my personal life and in the church I minister at we have been battling with sorrow, grief and loss. Today I will declare

‘Yet I will still rejoice in the Lord’ 

Friday, 1 March 2019

Community brings Courage

I have written about friendships and community pretty regularly on my blog and I’m writing about it again today as I feel it is so important in the discussion of infertility and generally in challenges people face.

One of the main words I would use to describe infertility is ‘lonely’. There were dark times I felt completely alone, that no one understood me, not my friends, nor my family and not even God! Thankfully those days were few and far between and I’m a sure that finding a community to share with has certainly helped with that. 

When we first started trying to start our family, pregnancy announcements and photos of happy new families didn’t really bother me too much, but as time went on it took more and more effort to be happy for others when they received what I desire. 

As the sorrow continued to wash over me, in honesty, my heart became harder. In self preservation, for my physical and mental health, I started cutting myself off from those around me who were starting their own families. As I distanced myself from them, I found myself more and more lonely, I couldn’t find anywhere that I really fit in. 

Through this time I had a handful of wonderful friends who were sensitive, empathetic and generally gorgeous but it was a struggle to find those who truly understood what I was going through. 

On the outside life went on as usual, but underneath I felt much like David in psalm 142 

 1-2 I cry out loudly to God,
    loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out all my complaints before him,
    and spell out my troubles in detail:

3-7 “As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
    you know how I’m feeling,
Know the danger I’m in,
    the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left—
    there’s not a soul who cares what happens!

I’m up against it, with no exit—
    bereft, left alone.
Oh listen, please listen;
    I’ve never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;

    I’m no match for them.
Get me out of this dungeon
    so I can thank you in public.
Your people will form a circle around me
    and you’ll bring me showers of blessings 

After a while of wallowing, I decided to try and seek out a community that understood and with whom I could share. It was at this point that my journey completely changed. I joined some online groups, took the leap to become prayer partners with other ladies in similar situations and started listening to some amazing podcasts. 

I started making friends with other women who were walking the same path and who knew how  I was feeling through the ups and downs of life. Proverbs 27:9-10 says:

‘Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.’ 

As I found community with people around me, this was exactly what happened. My soul felt refreshed and my heart became joyful again. As I took small steps in reaching out I felt myself able to have hope again and as I became stronger I listened to God and started to share my story. 

If you have ever read any of my blog posts you will know that there are three groups that provided me with a community of women both here and abroad, and I never like to miss an opportunity to sing their praises.

Sarah’s laughter podcasts was like having a best friend and a counsellor in my room talking truth over me. This podcast played a big part in God talking to me about adoption. There are some amazing stories and I would recommend it for anyone who is journeying through infertility or someone who wants to understand what their friend or family member is going through. You can take a look at the podcasts here: Sarah's laughter

Moms in the making group has been a real life line for me. They have a great Facebook group which is really supportive. The leader of this ministry Caroline Harris is not only talking the talk but is walking the walk too and is always full of encouragement. Through this ministry I have had some awesome prayer partners who are now friends for life and was part of an amazing online support group. It meant waking up at 1am to take part in the group (it is a US based group) but it was so worth it and it really helped me stay focused through a difficult time. You can get all the information about this lifeline of a ministry here: Moms in the making

Saltwater and honey are an amazing uk based ministry which completely changed the way I viewed my life, my infertility and my ministry. They have an amazing blog with real down-to-earth help and advice. They have also run Mother’s Day runaway services which have been truly special and spirit-
filled. I have also had the joy of attending two retreats with them which were jam packed with food, laughter, teaching and truth. I really cannot recommend them enough! Plus the saltwater and honey team introduced me to Brene Brown which I will forever be grateful for!! You can take a look at their website here: Saltwater and Honey

Community made all the difference in my life and once I had gain the courage, through community, to share my story I found that I really wasn’t alone. I discovered that not only was God there with me, but there was also a tribe of people cheering me on and supporting me in prayer. I also found that I had many gracious friends who I had distanced myself from, reach out and explain that they understood, they cared and that they still wanted to be my friend. This meant so much and I knew not all my bridges had been burned. 

So my advice to you today in whatever you are going through is seek out community. Your local church can be a wonderful place for this or it may be by finding community with a group of people going through a similar situation. If you are feeling on your own cry out to God as he is always with you and be brave in stepping out to find community. If you are not going through a difficult situation but have a friend who is, my advice would be to love the, love them even if they push you away and Continue to show love to them until they start to feel like the self again. As Galatians 6:2 says:

‘Love empowers us to fulfil the law of the anointed one as we carry each other’s troubles’ 

Friday, 15 February 2019

Marriage before Motherhood

It is rather apt that I have chosen to write this blog post now as Paul and I have just celebrated our six year wedding anniversary. I’m not ashamed to take this opportunity to share some of our gorgeous wedding photographs with you!

Although in the grander scheme of things six years married may not be a long time, through our marriage we have faced caring for my terminally ill mother-in-law and later seeing her pass away; navigating bringing up Paul’s three teenage daughters. We have lost jobs, friends, dreams and have also spent nearly all of our marriage trying to conceive children. 

Not only have we faced all these difficulties, but we have spent nearly four years working in partnership in ministry. So we not only live and socialise together, but we work together every day too and I am proud to say that it has never been stronger! I don’t say this to brag, but through some pretty big struggles we have learnt some really important truths. 

Throughout our marriage, our struggle with infertility has been one of the hardest things we have gone through and we have learnt so much. Our biggest lesson and one which we have tried to do from the very start is to put our marriage before our desire for our family…marriage before motherhood

 Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: ‘A rope made of three cords is hard to break’ we firmly believe this for our marriage and so when we started to realise that pregnancy wasn’t coming easily for us we agreed that it was in the Lord’s hands and we needed to focus on having a strong, God-centred marriage. We decided not to track cycles or any of those kind of things and just to make sure that we had a lot of fun trying to start our family!!! 

For us it took a lot of our stress away. We focused on enjoying our life together and the ministry God was calling us into. We have had so many adventures and have made the most of our time with just us two. This foundation has helped us to weather many storms and to rejoice even in the midst of deepest suffering.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some really really dark times. I remember one time, just after someone I know had a baby, I refused to come out from under my duvets for a couple of days. Paul very patiently made me cups of tea and firmly but kindly told me when enough was enough!

I also remember once firmly believing I was pregnant but continually getting a negative test. I drove to my friends house for advice and a good cry and managed to crash my car into a wall. After my friend had put me back together and spoke wisdom into my life, I had to tell Paul about the huge scratch down the side of our car! Paul was very gracious and saw the bigger of why I was struggling, he barely even mentioned the battered car in the driveway!

Through good times and bad we have chosen to have faith and make the most of what we already have rather than concentrate on the things that we desire. 

At our wedding we like many others had the ‘love chapter’ (1 Corinthians 13) read. The words are awesome and it summed up what we wanted our love for each other to be. Recently I was reading this chapter in the passion translation and I was blown away by the way it expresses love. (if you haven’t read the passion translation, do it! And if you haven’t read this chapter, take a look at the end of the blog post!) A couple of lines really struck me and I think it perfectly reflects what I have learned through our decision to put marriage before motherhood.

If you are in the wait for children or not, every marriage has its challenges and troubles. Today I would encourage you to work on putting your God-centred marriage first. In seeking a strong God-centred marriage you simply need to seek the kind of love talked about in 1 Corinthians 13. The amazing thing is that love doesn’t really come from your significant other at all, it comes from the source of that love…God! So maybe take the time today to read about this love and seek God for your life, marriage and for every trial you may face.

“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offence. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7, 13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Sunday, 10 February 2019

5 things I have learnt through my 5+ years of infertility

A few months ago our lives were turned upside down (in an utterly gorgeous and beautifully fulfilling way) when finally, after over five years of praying, waiting and believing we brought our beautiful adopted daughter home to her forever family.

It has taken me  a while to get used to the title of ‘mum’ and to realise that those aisles in the supermarket that were once too painful to walk down are now the ones I frequent the most! 

Having now settled down with miracle I have begun to ponder some of the things that God has taught me through our journey to grow our family. They are lessons that I am still learning daily and there are burdens that are still very real. I am painfully aware that 
although I now have the most perfect little poppet to call me mum, I have never seen a positive pregnancy test, never given birth to a baby and I’m still know as someone with unexplained infertility. 

Over the next few week I would love to share 5 things that I have learnt through this time. There are things that could help many people in many different situations and I pray it will bless you in some way. It also helps me share my testimony of how God has worked powerfully in my life and  acknowledge some of the little miracles along the way. As psalm 66:16-17 says: 

"All you lovers of God who want to please him,
    come and listen, and I’ll tell you what he did for me.
 I cried aloud to him with all my heart and he answered me!
    Now my mouth overflows with the highest praise"

The five things I will be sharing over coming weeks is: 

1: Marriage before motherhood
2: Community brings courage
3: The Lord loves our lament
4: Flourishing in the wilderness
5: God is good…All the time!