Archive | July 2012

WORTH MORE THAN MANY SPARROWS…

I love watching the sparrows and other birds on my bird feeder. As I write I am sat at my dining table, watching them from my window. A while back I was having my quiet time, while watching the birds and I turned to my reading for the day, and this is what I read:-

‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’ (Matthew 10 v. 29-31).

We are so precious to God! If we trust Him, there is no need to worry. He notices when one sparrow falls – even we don’t very often notice that! When did I last see a sparrow fall? The Creator of the universe has a will for even one sparrow! How much more does He want us to trust Him with our lives? Remember…you are worth more than many sparrows…

NETS OF MERCY – CHAPTER THIRTEEN

In my mind I saw a picture of a field with blue sky overhead.  There was a long line of children, stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see.  At the front of the line stood Jesus and at either side of Him was a child, each holding His hand.  I wondered about this.  I thought, “The children holding His hands are alright, and those children just behind Him, but what about all those children in the distance who can’t see Him?” Suddenly, Jesus turned around to face the line of children.  As I watched, He gradually got bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter, until all the children in the line could see Him clearly…

April 2011.  I had recently had to give up my job and in spite of Paul having very little work and neither of us having much money, I was at peace.  I knew God was in charge and that He would lead me into the future He had planned for me.  The verse given at our wedding kept coming back to mind and I knew He held the future in His hands.

God was using me to encourage people through pictures He gave me when I prayed for them.  I loved being used in this way.  God’s calling is distinctive.  It is different for each person and He gives each of us a particular ministry that accomplishes through us something definite towards His goal.  It is a personal and precious trust.  No-one has precisely the same task and so preparation is different for each person.  God clearly understands what He is doing with each one of us.  That knowledge gives us peace and hope for the future.

‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.’ (1 Thessalonians 5 v. 11)

May 2011.  One night as I was praying in bed I suddenly felt Jesus’ longing that all people would be drawn to Him.  As the song says, ‘Lift Jesus higher, lift Him up for the world to see.’  And Jesus Himself said, ‘If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me.’

I had been reading a wonderful book by Francine Rivers, called ‘Redeeming Love’.  In it, Michael Hosea marries a prostitute (based on the story of Hosea in the Bible).  Michael is fiercely, passionately in love with his wife, but she keeps running away, feeling unworthy.  That night, I actually felt Jesus’ longing.

When Jesus said He would be ‘lifted up’ He was talking about the Cross, but Christians should be lifting Him up every day for the world to see.  We should decrease so He can increase.  We should be a beacon shining His light in a dark world, then people will be drawn to Him.  But we are so anxious to blend into the world and not stand out from the crowd.  I prayed that God would remove me from the picture and that people would see Jesus and not me.

Around this time I was finding that even the slightest negative ‘report’ about anyone made me boil inside!  I was beginning to see a change in me.  I was reading my journal one day from two years before and I couldn’t identify with the person who was ‘moaning’ about Paul in one entry.  It was as if I was standing at a distance looking at this person and I couldn’t recognise her in myself now.  I couldn’t imagine writing like that now or feeling those things in my heart.  How wonderful God’s grace is!  I actually found it very hard to read because it was so negative.  God in His grace and mercy was changing me and I was so very thankful.

That week I was preparing and painting our patio furniture.  One day as I looked out of the dining room window I could see our patio table and two chairs transformed!  There had been a lot of preparation involved.  They had been very dark and dirty, with paint peeling off and I still had work to do on other chairs, but the transformation was great!

Only a few days before they had been ugly, peeling, dirty pieces of furniture.  God had been and still was preparing me – sanding, cleaning, getting rid of dirt and He was in the process of transforming me!  And one day, when I met Him face to face in Heaven, I would be completely transformed!  Hallelujah!

I had been praying on and off for weeks the line in the song, ‘Break my heart for what breaks yours.’  He was answering that prayer.  Any negative report about anyone grieves the Holy Spirit and I was feeling just a tiny bit of what He feels when we hurt anyone.

September 2011.  I had just been sitting on the decking at our newly painted table, enjoying the sun which came out for half an hour.  I had been thinking over the last week or two about autumn coming and looking forward to the wild geese flying in formation.

I said to God, as I was sitting there, enjoying the sun, “Your creation is wonderful!  I am amazed when I see the geese navigating their way across the continents and the way they fly in formation.”  I felt God say, “The wild geese trust completely what I have put inside them.  Their ability to navigate comes from Me.  They don’t doubt what I have placed inside them for a minute.  I want you to trust completely what I have put inside you.”

When geese fly together they also encourage each other by honking!  When one gets tired, the others help him.  We need to trust God completely and use our gifts to encourage and help each other.

On 11th September 2011, I went to a Healing on the Beach Training Day.  The previous week I had gone to our Sunday evening service, which I rarely attended, and met the couple who lead our local Healing on the Beach team.  I had wondered whether it might be something God wanted me to be involved in, so here I was at the Training Day.  The first worship session was very noisy and loud, and I really needed stillness, then when the worship ended, the man leading the session talked about solitude, quiet and listening to God!  From that moment I relaxed!

It was an amazing day!  Towards the end of the afternoon, the Leader suddenly pointed straight at me, looked me in the eye, and said, “God is giving you a healing ministry.  You will have to dig deeper into God and when you do it will escalate.”  Then later on he told me that I wasn’t there by accident!  One lady vicar told me that God was already using me and to have confidence of that.  Another lady told me that God wanted to give me more gifts to be used to bless and win people for the Kingdom.  It was very humbling (and I actually find this quite hard to write, because I have absolutely NOTHING to be proud of.  In the Old Testament in the Bible, God once used a donkey to speak a message to someone!

Eventually I joined the Healing on the Streets team, which formed out of the Healing on the Beach ministry.  It was wonderful to be in the centre of town ministering to people.  God is so amazing.

We often look through a keyhole at the miracle on the other side of the door and forget the miracles in ordinary living.

I imagine I am standing at the edge of a river, looking across to the other side.  I can see wonderful things there, but I can’t get across the river in one huge stride.  God provides a bridge.  I can only cross the bridge one ordinary, obedient step at a time.  God said to me once, when I had been getting frustrated that I didn’t seem to be fulfilling my calling: “Do what I put in front of you!”  When I thought about it, it was obvious.  What God puts in front of us is usually ordinary, but those small, faithful steps lead to more – our heart’s desire.  If we are faithful with the little things, God will give us more.  It’s the only way to follow Jesus.

October 2011.  During our morning service one Sunday, a lovely picture came into my mind.   I saw a small child holding Jesus’ hand as they walked up a very steep mountain.  At the top it was jagged and narrow.  All the way up, the child knew that if she let go of Jesus’ hand, she would fall.  At the top, Jesus showed her a magnificent view.  In the distance she could see a wonderful sparkling silver sea, like no sea she had ever seen before, and above, bright sunshine.  Jesus said to the child, “That is your future.”

‘The path of righteousness is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the first light of day.’ (Proverbs 4 v. 18)

‘Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome.’ (Ezekiel 1 v. 22)

‘Also, before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.’ (Revelation 4 v. 6)

Pictures of heaven!

My dear child, I have been leading you step by step along rocky, muddy, slippery, sandy and straight pathways.  I will continue leading you every step of the way.  You see before you another step in the journey.  You do not need to know what is beyond this.  I will be with you.  I have promised never to leave you.  Be confident of this – I began a good work in you and I intend to bring it to completion.’

10th December 2011.  The first Healing on the Streets day!  We prayed for thirteen people in our town!  My daily reading that morning said, ‘Don’t set a limit to what God can do.  Today, God wants us to prepare for a new release in the work of the Gospel…’ and also, ‘Right ahead of us lies a work immensely greater than that which lies behind.  God plans for us unprecedented blessings.’

March 2012.  Paul and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary last September.  I love him more now than I did all those years ago on our wonderful wedding day.  We have been through so many dark and difficult times, punctuated by times of happiness and joy.  Our love now is not based on seeing each other through rose-tinted glasses; we love each other, knowing all our faults, with all the memories, good and bad.  He is still my lovely Paul and I will always cherish him.

This may be the end of my ‘book’, but it is not the end of my story.  Each moment, each hour, each day, is a new beginning and I know there are more exciting adventures to come.

‘…to love and to cherish, till death us do part…’

THE END (or the beginning…….?)

NETS OF MERCY – CHAPTER TWELVE

‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’  (Psalm 23)

‘I know your deepest desires.  I am working in ways you do not understand.  I am working all the time.  Slowly, the darkness in you is crumbling.  You asked me to remove your pride; this I am doing.  That is a part of the darkness that is crumbling away.  You will work for Me, I will work through you….You have had to go through these struggles; you have had to go through failure.  It is all part of the process of cleansing…..’

‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’  (Luke 18 v. 14)

‘My Word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth.  They make the crops grow and provide seed for sowing and food to eat.  So also will be the Word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.’ (Isaiah 55 v. 10-11)

May 2010.  One morning I was sitting at my dining table having my quiet time, and my daily reading came from 1 Peter 2.  But I decided to read on.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the first verse of 1 Peter 3!

‘Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.’

This kind of submission is the kind Jesus had.  Not being a ‘doormat’, but an inner beauty, that of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  The reason I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that was that the day before the words ‘Won over without words’ had been in my mind.

I had noticed a change in me for a while.  I didn’t react like I used to.  I was calmer.  Things didn’t hurt like they did.  God was doing something wonderful in me.  I had realised that without God I could do nothing, that my old self had died and I was a new creation because of what Jesus did on the cross.  I wanted to live as Jesus did, holding on to His grace and mercy.

That morning I went for my usual walk with Megan, our dog.  As I was getting ready it started raining.  I looked out of the bedroom window and the trees were blowing in the wind and the sky was grey and overcast.  I asked God to stop the rain but it continued.  Still, I decided, I was just going to wrap up and go!  I put my raincoat and wellies on and went.  When I went out it was still raining but there was no wind and it felt warm.  It was bright, and not long into the walk the sun came out and there was lots of blue sky! Just before that happened I said, “The rain is beautiful!  Thank you God!”  It was!  It was gentle and soft and the sun shone through the raindrops.  It was lovely!  It really was a beautiful walk.  Eventually, as I came back the rain stopped altogether and the sun shone brightly.  It was lovely and warm, and the rain sparkled on the grass.  Rain can be so beautiful.

13th May 2010.  I had a strong conviction all day that something hidden was going to be revealed soon.  It would be out in the open.  I had no idea what it was, but I believed it was about Paul and I knew that God had been preparing me for it.  He had been strengthening me inside and I was absolutely not afraid; I knew it would be alright, that God meant it all for good – for everyone.  I asked God to prepare my response, that it would be for His glory.

Three days later, on the Sunday evening, I decided to go to church.  We live seven miles from our church, so I don’t go in the evenings very often, but on this occasion, I really felt I should go.  The whole sermon, based on chapter forty of Genesis, part of the story of Joseph, was as if it was aimed directly at me!  After the service, I went up to our Pastor and told him.  He prayed for me, and again, God really met with me in a wonderful way.  The following day I was tired, but calm and at peace and I felt God say –

‘Heather, you don’t have to give me anything today.  Just receive.’

The following day I didn’t feel so good.  I felt that life was such a paradox!  Paul was really awful that evening and I was standing at the oven, crying my eyes out when he walked into the kitchen, saw me crying, made himself a cup of tea without a word, and walked out again.  I felt so scared and lonely and completely rejected.  I just couldn’t understand what was happening.

‘He maketh me lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake.’ (From Psalm 23)

I so wanted to be like Jesus.  I wanted to do what I saw Him doing and I wanted to never find myself enough, to draw on His strength and not my own.  I wanted to always tremble at myself, my human nature, knowing what it was capable of and always relying on Jesus.  I wanted to never get too ‘big’ but hide behind Him.  I prayed that I would love my Heavenly Father so much that I would be willing to do ANYTHING for Him.  I wanted all fear to be gone.  We have this treasure in jars of clay and I felt free when I realised I really could do nothing without Him.

‘Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.’ (2 Corinthians 4 v. 1)

A few days later I was feeling irritable again (and it was only nine o’clock in the morning!).  The verse from my reading was from Romans 6 about our sin being crucified with Jesus, and therefore not being slaves to it.  I realised that whenever I felt like that I had a choice.  Later thar morning, while I was out walking Megan, a praise song was in my mind.  It lifted me and gave me the power to choose not to be irritable!  I had the power in Jesus to choose LIFE!

18th June 2010. I had a heavy expectancy again that something that had been hidden for a long time would be exposed.  I felt it would be painful, but it would also be a huge relief.  It would open the way forward and bring me into freedom.  God had been preparing and strengthening me and I really felt it was imminent.  Again, I asked God to control my response to whatever this was and that it would be pleasing to Him.  I knew He had it all in hand.  I had no idea what the hidden thing was, but that didn’t matter, because God did.

1st July 2010.

“Lord, Paul’s arrogance, his cynicism, his neglect, his hostility, lay heavily on me like a massive weight.”

“Why are you wearing them?”

“I suppose I have been putting them on one by one for many years by bearing the results of them and by my resentment building up towards them.  I have worn them by my reactions.  His actions have been my reactions.  I have reacted instead of responded.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I take it all and nail it to the cross.  I crucify arrogance, pride, resentment, cynicism, neglect, hostility.  I crucify them all.”

“What do you have left?”

“I see a small, lonely, anxious little boy.”

“Do you think you could love him?”

“Oh yes!  I could love him.  I could take him in my arms and comfort him.  Yes, I could love him.”

“Heather, try to see that lonely, anxious little boy whenever you look at Paul.  Look beyond that other rubbish, because I took all that on myself on the cross.  I took it all, including the results of it.”

“I will try.  Help me to remember.”

“I will.”

“Thank you, Lord.  I love you.”

“I love you too, my precious child.”

9th July 2010.  Four days before, my daily reading was about the silversmith who refines silver in the heart of the fire.  It made me realise that is exactly how I had been feeling lately – that the fire had been hotting up, and the last few days and weeks I had hardly been able to stand it.

That morning, my daily reading asked, ‘Are you in the fire today?’  The Bible verse was, ‘No weapon forged against you will prosper’ from Isaiah 54.  I read the whole chapter and it was as if God was speaking directly to me!  The last words in my daily reading were, ‘Are you walking through a fiery trial today?  If so, you are not alone – God is with you!  Take courage!  When He brings you out you will know Him better, trust Him more, and have something to say that will make others want to listen.’

October 2010.  The hidden thing that God told me about a few months ago has been revealed…

It all started when a lovely neighbour of ours started chatting with me on our  street one day.  She was telling me about her life and spoke about her marriage of twenty-three years.  It sounded so like mine!  There had been so much frustration and misunderstanding.  I had felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall, or talking to a deaf person.

My neighbour told me, as I related this, that she discovered, after twenty-three years of marriage, that her husband had aspergers syndrome.  She said that she believed Paul had it too and she told me that the knowledge would revolutionise our marriage.

I started to do some research into aspergers syndrome, and as I read the traits of someone with the condition it was as if it was describing Paul.  Aspergers is a neurological condition, a mild form of autism, which means that someone with aspergers has no concept of non-verbal communication.  They can’t read peoples’ non-verbal signals.  They can’t imagine how someone is feeling very well, and can’t put themselves into someone else’s shoes.  They have obsessive interests and focus for abnormally long periods of time on one thing that interests them.  It is a social dysfunction.

I started to read books written by women whose husbands have aspergers and it was like reading about my own marriage.  Someone with aspergers is ‘in their own world’ and has very little concept of the thoughts and feelings of others.  They think logically and if they say something that is inappropriate they cannot understand how it could hurt someone or make them feel uncomfortable.  They don’t mean to be rude – they just say what comes into their head!  They think intellectually and often have a higher intellect and IQ than normal.

As I read about aspergers it was like a light being switched on over our whole marriage.  It explained absolutely everything!  It also explained why my reactions had been so wrong and why Paul withdrew for hours on end every day and why I couldn’t get through to him when I tried to tell him how I felt.  Any show of emotion or verbal attack overloads him and he easily gets sensory overload because there are so many thoughts going on in his head at any one time.  An outburst like that can drive him to shut himself away and completely shut down, in order to re-charge.

Social situations for someone with aspergers are a nightmare.  Even though they can talk at length about a special interest, social chit chat makes them anxious because they can’t read social ‘cues’, ie, when it is someone else’s turn to speak, body language or facial expressions.  They also can’t explain easily how they feel.

Now I know, it has transformed how I respond to Paul.  In this situation, knowledge and understanding are everything.  It will be tough at times.  Knowing he can’t easily give me the kind of emotional support I need or be able to empathise is hard, but he can learn from observing and I can teach him what I need and also learn his needs and how to respond to him.  The books were a lifeline and opened my eyes.

It felt weird at first, because it was like being married to a stranger, but now that my eyes were opened, I could see the vulnerable, anxious little boy that God showed me back in July and I knew that I loved him and that it would be ok.

The reason God hinted at this all those months before was so that I would know that He was behind it all and that He was in control….

 

NETS OF MERCY – CHAPTER ELEVEN

‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’ (Psalm 139 v. 9-10)

I laid on the bed in the strange room, looking out of the window at the darkness outside.  I wanted to be at home in my own bed where I felt safe.  I was terrified.  What was I doing here?  What if I never saw my home again?  I was thousands of miles from home in a strange country and I alone was responsible for my own and Chloe’s safety.

I thought of Paul.  What would he be doing now?  It was nearly three months since I had moved into a flat in Scarborough with Chloe.  Things had been getting worse between us.  I thought back to Chloe’s birthday in August.  I had tried to make sure she had a lovely day, but the black cloud that had enveloped us was there constantly.  Paul and Chloe were forever at loggerheads and I couldn’t remember the last time he had said anything nice to her.  It was as if I was married to a stranger.  I felt crushed and defeated all the time and on the morning after her birthday I woke up with a great weight of depression which lasted all day.  It broke my heart to see Chloe so upset.  “I want to leave here, Mum,” she told me.  So did I.  The weight I was carrying was becoming too much for me.  There was a constant oppression around us and I just couldn’t stand it.  So many times Chloe had come to me crying and there were times when I could have just walked out and kept walking.

“I wish you would move out!” Paul told me one day.  “I would never feel lonely if I was on my own!”

“Oh, Lord, get me out of here!”  I sobbed into my pillow.

One day, a friend from my house group rang me and told me she had a verse for me.  ‘Ask and it shall be given you.’  On the Wednesday, I led the worship.  I really didn’t feel like it.  The heavy weight I was carrying kept me feeling so low.  The theme of the worship was ‘Being Still’, but I had no peace.

Our friend offered us the use of her spare flat.  She owned a small block of flats in the town and she told me we were welcome to use it for as long as we needed.  Chloe and I discussed it together.  We had a dog who Chloe was very attached to, but no pets were allowed in the flat.  “We can’t take Megan, Chloe,” I said.  “How do you feel about that?”

“I don’t mind, Mum.  I want to go.”

The problems were all overcomeable.  That evening I opened my Bible and read:-

‘Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard; He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.  For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.  You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.  You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66 v. 8-12)

The day we moved into the flat I felt so guilty.  I felt guilty that I was happy about it.  It was strange at first getting used to the new routine, but Chloe said she was happy and we both felt more peaceful.  After a few days of being apart from Paul I began to have such a burden in my heart for him.  I started to pray for him from my heart.  I sat on my bed one day and prayed:-

‘Please, Lord, may this time apart change our hearts towards each other.  Please take away the anger and resentment.  I just want us all to love each other.’

I realised the day I left that I still loved Paul.  I came down the stairs carrying my suitcase and Paul was standing in the living room.  He had tears in his eyes.  “I do love you, Heather,” he said.  My tears welled up and my heart went out to him.  “I love you too.  It’s not for ever.”  I hugged him and as I looked into his eyes I saw an anxious little boy and I knew he did love us.

I laid back on the bed and looked around at our new bedroom.  The room had twin beds.  Chloe didn’t want to sleep on her own in this strange flat and nor did I.  Things were working out practically very well, I thought.  Chloe was happy getting the service bus to school each morning.  The first day she found the bus full of pupils from her school; I was grateful for that, and relieved.

One Sunday morning, not long after we moved into the flat, I was standing in our morning service at church and we were singing a worship song.  I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of God’s love wash over me.  I felt like a little child and God, my Father, was giving me a hug. At the same time, I felt a deep love for Paul, the way God loves him, and I sobbed and sobbed. The lady next to me handed me a tissue with a smile.

“Oh, Father, please bless Paul!  May he know how much you love him!”

We lived very simply during our time in the flat.  We had very little there.  No freeview on the television, only five channels!  Chloe brought next to nothing with her, but never once did she say she was bored.  We had fun doing her homework together and the time passed very quickly.  Each morning I walked to work, along the esplanade with glorious views behind me of the cliffs, and in front, the best view of Scarborough, taking in the seafront, beaches, and the harbour. In between a vast expanse of sea and sky.  I hoped I would never take it for granted.

Chloe never once wanted to go back home, neither did she mention her friends back in the village.  We only had to go back a couple of times.  The first time was a complete shock.  One of Chloe’s friends in the village invited her to his birthday party and I decided to stay at the house while Chloe went down the road to the party.  Paul was at work.  When I opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen I was hit by an emptiness I had never experienced before. It felt like all the love had been sucked out of our home.  I looked around the kitchen.  It smelled musty and felt so desolate, as if no-one had lived there for years.  It was almost ghostly.  I shivered, and looked around for something to eat.  I looked inside the bread bin and gasped.  I lifted out part of a loaf of bread that was completely covered in green mould.  I looked inside the fridge.  It was nearly empty.  All I could find were a few crackers and a bit of margarine.

I ate quickly, then went back out into the garden.  I needed air.  I suddenly knew that our leaving had sucked the life out of our home.  Our home needed us, but we needed a miracle to bring the laughter back into these walls.  More importantly, Paul needed us and we needed him.

It was soon after our visit back home that I decided to book a holiday for Chloe and me.  The only time I had ever been on a plane was on our honeymoon to Jersey twenty-three years before, and I had never been on holiday without Paul.

A few days later I stood outside the travel agents’ window and an advert for Tunisia caught my eye.  I had no idea where Tunisia was, but the price was affordable, so I went in.  Before I knew what I was doing, I had booked the holiday.  For weeks afterwards I felt alternately anxious and excited.  I went to the library and borrowed a book all about Tunisia.  I needed to know what to expect, what to do, and what to avoid!

For a couple of weeks, almost every morning, I had been reading John 14 and Romans 8, and two verses had stuck out.  I mulled them over in my mind, but they hadn’t really stuck.  One day, I sat on my bed reading the verses again, over and over.  Today I was going to claim them for myself as a present from my Heavenly Father.

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (John 14 v. 27)

‘The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.’ (Romans 8 v. 6)

I sat and pondered those words.  Was I going to let the anxieties of the world crowd my mind or was I going to let God control my thoughts, bringing life and peace?  I had a choice.  I decided to choose life.

During those weeks leading up to our holiday, we discovered that Megan, our dog, had been diagnosed with cancer.  She had a huge tumour on her leg and our vet said it was the worst one she had ever seen.  Another worry threatening to crowd my mind.  I so wanted this holiday to be a present from God and for it to be a lovely, relaxing break, followed by a wonderful Christmas back at home.  Even though I had chosen to let God fill my mind with peace, the worries and anxieties still found their way in.

Paul and I had taken Megan to  a specialist, who had done a biopsy.  He confirmed that it was cancer and even offered us counselling!  Our vet made an appointment for Megan to have her leg amputated.  The appointment was just a day or two before we were due to go on holiday.  Paul would be left with Megan to care for on his own…

A few days after the diagnosis, Chloe and I were enjoying a meal with some friends in an Italian Restaurant.  A lovely friend told me that this time next year I would look back at what was happening now and realise that God was in it, that it was all meant for good, and that I would be full of joy, knowing that it was all in God’s plan.  She told me this was a word from God to me.  I decided to hold on to that word and treasure it.

The next day, Gill from my housegroup, rang me to give me a verse.  She told me to look up Exodus 33 verse 4.  When I had made sure Chloe was safely on the bus to school, I sat down and read it.  It was this…

‘My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest…’

That sank into my heart and I knew it would comfort me in the days ahead.  This holiday would be the start of being released from my fears.  I had felt that I would never be able to do anything without Paul.  I had felt I would be useless without him.  I hoped this holiday would be the making of me and would give me a new confidence.

I remembered the time a little while back when I was bring prayed for, and the person who was praying saw chains falling off me.  I found myself stepping over them.  All these things were fitting into God’s plan for me, like a jigsaw.

It was the day of Megan’s amputation.  Paul had been giving her tablets from the vet to kill any infection and he had seen the lump slowly growing smaller.  I was at work the day the vet rang me on my mobile.  She told me she had Megan with her, but she couldn’t amputate a healthy leg!  Paul later told the vet, “Well, either you and the specialist were wrong, or we have had a miracle!”  I was so grateful.  Now we could go on holiday without that on our minds.

On 8th December 2009, Chloe and I set off for Manchester Airport.  We were to stay in a hotel there overnight as our plane left early the next morning.  We went to bed early, me feeling very nervous, Chloe as calm as anything!

We got up at three o’clock to get the transfer to the airport.  The taxi got us there an hour and a half later and we spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around the shops.  It was a new experience for both of us and we felt very excited.  When we had had our bags searched we got to the gate where our plane would be leaving.  As we waited for our plane to arrive I started feeling anxious again.  I was responsible for getting us to North Africa and back on my own!  North Africa!  Chloe was utterly dependant on me!  What the heck was I doing?!

When we eventually stepped on to the plane, I was shocked at how cramped it was!  We were packed like sardines!  The fear started mounting again but on the outside anyone looking at me wouldn’t have known.  I had to keep calm for Chloe’s sake.  When the plane took off I breathed deeply.  But I chatted to Chloe, keeping my fears from her.  I found I was sitting next to a lady who had been visiting Tunisia for twenty-three years, two or three times a year.  I read a magazine and we both had breakfast on the plane, but I couldn’t eat much of it.

When we landed in Tunisia, I had no idea where to go, so we just followed everyone else.  I was suddenly plunged into a strange world, and looking back, I don’t know how I did it on my own.  I believe God just carried me along.

The first night I laid in that bed in the strange hotel bedroom, and the fear that had been lurking in the shadows suddenly covered me completely.  What if we never saw England again?  What if I was stuck here?  What if we missed the flight home?  Everything seemed so alien and frightening.  I had been deposited in a place with a completely different culture where I knew no-one and I was responsible for everything.

Chloe had been given a Gideon New Testament and Psalms at school a few weeks before our holiday and we had brought it with us.  I asked her to read Psalm 139 out loud as we laid on our beds that first night.  She started to read, and those familiar words were like soothing balm, like a bit of home being deposited into this strange, alien world.  When she got to these words, I knew they were a message from God to us, and a wonderful promise:-

‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’ (Psalm 139 v. 9-10)

Made it to Tunisia!

I prayed, “Lord, please provide us with a friend we can pal up with who will help us through this week.  Please provide us with a mother and daughter so we will each have a friend.”  I felt God say, “I will provide.’

The next day we got up at six o’clock ready for breakfast.  We were booked to go on a coach trip to Nabeul Market and later, a wildlife park.  The coach pulled up at the door of the hotel at ten to eight and we had an hour’s drive to the Hammamet region.  On the way we stopped at a shop selling pottery and exquisite mosaics, models of camels and painted plates.  It was a Tunisian treasure trove!  We got back to the coach and drove on to the market, passing olive groves and white, box-shaped houses.  It was very flat, but with low hills in the distance.

It was the middle of December, and very hot!  Back in Scarborough, the snow was thick on the ground and they were having the worst winter for years!  Here, in Tunisia, Christmas seemed a world away.

It took us about an hour to get to Nabeul Market.  The tour guide on the coach was an historian and gave us lots of information about the places we passed.  I started to relax a little for the first time and even began to enjoy myself.

When we got to Nabeul, the driver parked the coach, and we walked down a street bordered by shops, cafes and orange trees, heavy with fruit.  The market itself was full of colour and noise.  It was just like the pictures I had seen in the tour guide.  Brightly coloured clothes, plates, jars, leather bags, shoes, and jewellery filled our eyes, and the constant smell of jasmine filled the air.  People were constantly coming up to us trying to sell their wares.  it was like being hounded by the paparazzi!  I haggled with one trader selling shoes over a pair of leather flip flops.  It was great fun, but Chloe hated it.  She didn’t like being bombarded with people and she hated the noise.

When we left the market, we went to a cafe where a man was selling freshly squeezed orange juice.  It tasted wonderful.

When we got back to the coach stop, we were waiting for the coach to arrive with a few other passengers, when Chloe and I got chatting with a mother and daughter.  We couldn’t believe our ears when they told us that they lived only a few miles down the road from us!  We found out they were staying in the hotel adjacent to ours, and we got on so well.  From that day onwards, we became friends and our holiday was transformed.  They insisted we spend lots of time together and my fears disappeared completely.  We spent nearly every day together.  God had answered our prayers.

The entrance to the wildlife park, which we visited with our new friends.

We found out that our new friends were on the same flight as us back to Manchester.  When we got to the airport at the end of our holiday, we discovered that our flight had been delayed by nine hours, which meant we would miss our train connection from Manchester.  It was amazing to find out that our friends had a car parked at Manchester airport.  They took us home – right to the door…..!

God is so wonderful!

 

NETS OF MERCY – CHAPTER TEN

‘Just think, you are not here by chance, but by God’s choosing.  His hand formed you and made you the person you are.  He compares you to no-one else – you are one of a kind, you lack nothing that His grace can’t give you.  He has allowed you to be here at this time in history to fulfil His special purpose for this generation.’ (Roy Lessin)

‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him…’ (Nahum 1 v. 7)

August 2009.  It was the middle of August and I was sitting at my desk in my own little room on retreat at St. Oswald’s Pastoral Centre in Sleights, near Whitby.  I had arrived at a quarter past two that afternoon and it was now nearly tea time.  I had walked round the beautiful gardens, ablaze with colour, set on a hill, with the most wonderful views over the Wolds.  I sat and read and explored the centre.  There is a library, a chapel, a little kitchen for use of visitors and a lounge round the corner from my room, even an art and craft room in a separate building in the grounds.  My room was tiny and consisted of a bed, a desk and chair, a place for my clothes, and a window with a view out to the most beautiful flower bed.

For the last few weeks I had felt as if I was in the wilderness (a familiar place – I had been there many times!).  I had hardly even read my Bible.  It was strange, after my experiences just a few months before.  I seemed to be so tired and tense all the time and I kept finding myself clenching my fists.  I would wake in the morning aching all over.  So I decided to book a retreat, on the advice of a good friend, and there I was, awaiting what God would do.  I went there just as I was, the only thing I had to give was myself.  I went with a mixture of anticipation, mixed with anxiety that God wouldn’t show up!  I knew He was there, though.  It was evident in the peace and beauty.

When I arrived at the centre a lovely lady showed me round.  St. Oswald’s Pastoral Centre is run by Anglican Nuns and they were so very kind.  There were no ‘Thou Shalt Nots!’  I was given freedom to do what I liked.  As I sat at my desk in my little room and gazed out of the window onto the beautiful garden, it felt like a custom-made little bit of heaven for me!  I had two full days ahead of me and, thought I felt numb and dry spiritually due to all the stress at home, I just hoped and prayed that God would meet with me there and bring peace.  I knew deep inside that it was a divine appointment.

‘In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (Isaiah 12 v. 1-3)

Every evening we had supper together in the dining room.  The guests all ate together with the Nuns.  The main meal there is at lunchtime.  Each mealtime there is lovely classical music playing all through the meal which creates a restful, peaceful atmosphere.  Every meal is eaten in silence.  My seat at the table faced on to the garden.  Outside the window there was a bird table, and each mealtime a squirrel joined us outside the window eating the seeds from the bird table.

The next morning I woke early – about five o’clock!  By six o’clock I could hear someone else up and about, pottering into the kitchen to make their morning tea.  I lay there for a while, thinking happy thoughts.  I got up around seven o’clock and shuffled off to the bathroom, got washed and dressed, then shuffled off to the kitchen where I made myself a cup of tea (another divine appointment!).  It was glorious that morning to open my curtains on to a gorgeous summer day and a riot of colourful flowers in the garden.  I was so grateful my room looked out onto that beautiful scene.

There was a door just down the hall from my room which led straight out onto that scene, and as breakfast wasn’t until half past eight I decided I would pop out there for a bit.  There was a bench in just the right spot to sit and soak up the morning sun.  One of the nuns had left a posy of flowers on my desk and as I got ready the scent from them was wonderful.  What a  lovely thought that I had the whole day ahead of me to do just as I pleased!  God was spoiling me!

I had my breakfast, then went out and walked my legs off!  I walked into Sleights (all uphill!) then to Aislaby and explored.  It is a very hilly place and I worked up a big appetite for lunch.  After lunch I sat in the garden in front of the wonderful flowerbed and read my book.  I spent the whole afternoon reading on and off.  It was so peaceful, and though nothing ‘sensational’ had happened I knew God was there and He was close.  He was there in the stillness.  He was there in the peace and tranquility.  He was showing Himself in His beautiful creation.  I just needed to ‘chill’.  I wasn’t going to fast, or ‘seek God’.  He knew I was ready and willing to listen if He wanted to speak.  I just wanted to be still, relax and wait.  But I found it so hard to just sit and listen for any length of time.

‘Be still and know that I am God…’

He is God.  He is in control.  He knows my needs.  Lord, I am here.  Do what You will.

‘My dear child, 

I know you want to know me better.  You have come away to be with me.

I sent you sunshine, I sent you flowers.  You felt the warm caress of my breeze on your face, but you rushed away.

My child, I love you.  I want you close.  Be still.  It is in the stillness you will find me.

Be still and find me.

Be still and know me.

Be still.’

God spoke to me and inspired those words as I read a poem I found in a book from the little library by the same lady who wrote the poem ‘Footprints.’  I had sat still that day but I realised I had not BEEN still.  Even though I had sat still, I had not done so for more than half an hour at a time, maybe once more than that.  And when I had sat still, my mind had been on other things, mostly the book I was reading.  So I knew I had been ‘rushing away’ before God had a chance to show His face or say anything to me.  It was such a contrast between the retreat and home, and it was taking me a while to adjust.

That evening I lay on my bed after supper and read the Song of Songs and Psalm 23.  Earlier on a verse had stood out from one of the Gospels.  Jesus was saying, ‘Come to me when you are thirsty and I will quench it.’  In Psalm 23 it says, ‘He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.’  I believed God was leading me to my source of water, and would quench my thirst.  The Song of Solomon described the kind of intimacy I wanted with God.  I wanted to know how passionate He was about me.

During my stay at the retreat I attended a short service in the beautiful Chapel there.  The simplicity and peace of the worship was lovely, and the words of the liturgy were so gentle and soothing.

I realised during my stay at the retreat that I had been using ‘props’ as a kind of security.  By that I mean that the things I had brought with me I used for comfort.  Things like the book I had brought, my mobile, even just sorting out my clothes.  It all distracted me and became things that I leaned on.  I knew there was nothing wrong with these things, and I found the book a real blessing, but it is when these things became more important than listening to God that I had to be careful.

When I didn’t have my book with me and I just sat looking at the garden, I wouldn’t stay long, but ‘rushed’ to do something to fill my mind.  At one point I even ‘panicked’ inside because I had nothing to do, so I rang Chloe, which I had promised to do every evening.

In the morning’s reading on the following day, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Take nothing with you for the journey; no stick, no beggars bag, no food, no money, not even an extra shirt…’  He sent them out after He told them that.  No distractions.

After breakfast, I went for a walk.  I had seen a lovely garden centre the day before but it had been closed.  So I walked there on another lovely sunny day.  I bought a few gifts and cards and then went into a little cafe and had a pot of Earl Grey tea looking over the river.  It was so good to just ‘be’.  It is no coincidence that we are human ‘beings’ not human ‘doings!’

As soon as I got back to the retreat it started to rain.  After a gorgeous home-made lunch, including a spectacular rice pudding, I went back to my room.  As it was raining I couldn’t go out.  During lunch the squirrel again had appeared at the window.  That little squirrel had meant so much to me. God was teaching me about simple things.  Childlike trust and dependancy.

That evening I read the whole of Esther – a lovely story, and a Psalm or two and just listened quietly to a worship CD I had taken with me.  I felt like God was giving me a hug and felt real peace.

The next day I was to leave.  I reflected on what the time away had given me.  It had been a balm to my soul and my spirit.  The beauty had been a delight to my eyes and the peace and stillness had brought calm.  God had taught me what ‘being still’ really meant and He had given me lovely memories which I would bring back to mind whenever I felt stressed, and the peace and stillness in those memories would bring calm.

God was also in the lovely ladies who lovingly prepared and served the beautiful simple meals.  The mealtimes brought a structure to the days which I had needed.  God knew everything I would need and He provided it.

I wasn’t unhappy to go home.  I had a new appreciation of it and I would take the peace with me and hoped it would stay.

‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Matthew 11 v. 29)

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (v.28)

I prayed I would find a retreat for my soul every day by coming to God and learning from Him.

*           –                *               –                  *

I had only been home a couple of days when the dark cloud descended over our home once again.  I woke up on the second day with a heavy weight of depression over me which didn’t lift all day.  Chloe kept telling me she wanted to leave and live in Cayton, a village a couple of miles away near her school.  I desperately wanted to leave too.  There was a constant oppression which I couldn’t stand.  A few days later, Paul told me he wanted me to move out.  He said all he wanted was to be left alone.  Paul and Chloe were constantly arguing.  If I sided with Paul, Chloe got upset; if I sided with Chloe, Paul got upset.  I felt like ‘piggy in the middle.’  Something had to be done.  I cried out to God, “Get me out of here!”

He did.

NETS OF MERCY – CHAPTER NINE

‘You are my precious child and I love you.  I am working in those hidden areas of your life which are so deep that you are unaware of them, though you are aware of the effects they are having now.  Don’t be afraid, child.  I will never give up on you.  I won’t give up until you are cleansed and healed from your hurts.  You are my precious, beloved child.  You are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I am with you.  When you go through the fire, you will not be burnt.  I will never leave you alone.  You are always with me.  You will be free, child, I promise.’

April 2009.  One day, as I was reading the book, ‘If only – moving from blame to forgiveness and beyond’ by David A. Seamands, I was reading about Jesus’ crucifixion at the point where, God, His Father, turns His face away from Jesus when He cries out, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’  I found I was suddenly very angry at God for doing that.  I tried to push it down because I knew it was wrong, but it persisted.  I realised that there must be some deep down anger against God my Father for hurts that at that moment I knew nothing about, that must lie buried and which I didn’t even know were there.  Maybe I was angry at God because He allowed them?

I knew that Jesus identified with my humiliations and fears, because of what He endured on the cross, but I had not realised that God my Father identified with them too.  God the Father turned away from Jesus at that point.  Because He turned away from Jesus on the cross I felt as if He had turned away from me at the times of my greatest need.  I knew in my head that this wasn’t true, but not in my heart.

My buried hurts had led to a lot of negative feelings against Paul.  I had struggled with this anger for so long.  Also, for a long time, as far back as I could remember, it’s hard to describe, but I hadn’t felt ‘free.’  It was like there was a blockage somewhere.  Even after very intimate times with God, afterwards, I was back to the old behaviour and I had always hated myself for it.  I had always had this nagging voice saying it was all my fault.  Like an weight, but at times, hardly noticeable – but always ‘there’.  I realised that it was a destructive root and I needed it pulled out.  There began a kind of excitement and hope in me that this was the means of my healing – at last!

The following Sunday, I went to church and asked two lovely friends to pray for me.  I cried a lot!  One lady had a lovely song she sang.   The words said that God my Father has called me by name and that I was His child.  I was HIS!  She also had a picture of a shepherd with a sheep on his shoulder, gently rocking it and singing to it.  I believe the song that she sang was the song the shepherd was singing.  The other lady, was stroking my hair and praying.

I knew the root had been pulled out.  I knew I was cradled in my Heavenly Father’s arms.  I cried that I was sorry I had been so angry with Him.  The friend who was praying for me said that it wasn’t my fault.  She also said I must place this burden at the foot of the cross, and I did.  I prayed that God would take it.  He had seen how I had handled it!  She told me not to take it back.  I didn’t want it back.

The friend who had been singing to me said that I would probably be exhausted when I got home.  I did feel tired, so had a rest, but a bit later, Paul, Chloe and I took Megan for a walk along the sea front, starting at the Spa, round the coast and up Holbeck Hill, stopping for a hot chocolate on the way.  It was a gentle stroll in the sunshine and was so lovely.

Later, lying on my bed, I felt tired out.  I actually felt sore, as if I had had an operation.  I asked God to pour His healing balm into the wound to heal it completely.  I rang my friends who had prayed with me from my mobile, while still lying on my bed and told them I felt just as if I had had an operation.  They were over the moon!  They advised me to fill up on God’s Word, to fill up the hole that was left.

Just like an operation, when something bad is taken out that shouldn’t be there, it takes time for the wound that is left to heal.  My lovely friend told me to be kind to myself.  All I wanted to do was just sit on my Heavenly Father’s knee and let Him guide and love me.

The next day, during the early evening, I plonked myself down on the settee and settled down to watch the Antiques Roadshow.  During one of the commercial breaks there was an advert for ‘Roundup’ – a weed killer!  It showed the weed being killed from the roots.  The slogan was, ‘Kill the root – kill the weed!’

That morning I had tried to read my normal daily readings, but I just couldn’t study the readings at all.  I had got to the book of James and managed a few verses, but I just couldn’t read any more.  It was a strange feeling, as if something was pressing on the sore part of me.  I needed something soothing, like a balm.  I read Psalm 23.  The night before, I had asked God to put a calming verse into my mind and the words, ‘He leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul,’ came into my mind.  Those last few words had a wonderful new meaning for me.  So I read Psalm 23 and it really was balm to my soul.  I didn’t need instruction at that time, just my Father God sitting me on His knee, stroking my hair and saying soothing words to me.

I had told Paul what had happened to me and he was lovely.  That evening he came home from work at teatime, and I knew he meant well, but he was rather ‘in my face’!  He really wanted to help and I loved him for it, but I couldn’t take any kind of pressure.  I just needed to receive from God and allow Him to heal the wound.  I tried not to be irritable, and felt momentary panic that I might have gone back to square one, but I knew without a shadow of doubt that God had done something wonderful in me and would continue to work in me.

‘The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.’  (Zephaniah 3 v. 17)

May 2009.  One morning I got to town early after dropping Chloe off at school.  After grabbing a take-away coffee, I sat on a seat overlooking Scarborough Harbour and sat silently listening to God.  I watched the seagulls soaring on the air currents, effortlessly.  A lady in our housegroup the previous evening had told us of when she was on the island of Lindesvarne and she was watching the seagulls.  It was windy, and some were struggling against the wind, but others were flying with the wind.  The birds trust the air currents completely and depend on them, resting on them and going where they take them.  Those struggling and flapping against the air currents are striving in their own strength, but those leaning on them and trusting them go where they take them and don’t have to strive.

This was how I wanted my relationship with God to be.  I wanted to be utterly dependant on Him, not struggling and striving in my own strength.

‘…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’

June 2009.  One Saturday I went to a New Wine Conference.  Mark Carey, the son of Archbishop Carey of Durham, led it and spoke on Luke 4 verses 1-15, about Kingdom Breakthrough.  At the end of the first session a lovely lady prayed for me and she told me that God thinks I am beautiful!  She said that when He looks at me, I am the apple of His eye and as she prayed I fell to the floor.  When I got up the lady said she had seen a picture of a wild, bubbling stream, going anywhere it pleased.

Later on there was a seminar on prophecy.  During the seminar we split into groups of four and three of us prayed for one person.  Then we swapped around, but I didn’t get a turn to be prayed for as we ran out of time!  So the leader of the seminar asked those of us who hadn’t been prayed for to go to the front and he would pray for us.  When it got to my turn he said I was a people person, (he called me an evangelist!)  He also told me that I had a pain in my lower back which he thought related to my work.  It was true!  I had been sitting on a high stool at work behind the shop counter and it had given me a pain in my lower back.  As he prayed for me, down I went again (I thought, ‘this is becoming a habit!)  When I got up, a man who had been sitting next to me in the seminar said he had been getting a picture in his mind of a fragile vase, easily hurt and easily broken.  He said I felt like I was that vase (true!) but that actually I was protected, as if I was totally wrapped in bubble wrap, but that it wasn’t restricting.  I had a freedom and strength that came from God.

He also said that I felt trapped as if in a spider’s web.  That I didn’t feel free or released.  He prayed for me and I saw chains around my feet!  He told me to take a step forward.  I took a step forward and actually found myself stepping over the chains!  He told me to take another step forward.  I did, and he said I was free of the chains.  He told me to walk in that freedom from now on.

‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ (Galatians 5 v. 1)

Another step on my journey…..

NETS OF MERCY – CHAPTER EIGHT

I dreamed I saw a stubby little plant.  It was planted in awful, pale, dry, sandy soil and it had no nutrients at all.  The plant had green leaves but it had stopped growing and had no flowers.  Then I saw a hand pull it up out of the soil and plant it in gorgeous, rich, dark, crumbly soil, full of nutrients.  Rain fell on it and it grew and produced lovely flowers.

‘…He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither…’

May 2001

‘LIVE IN EASTER!’

One morning I woke up and these words filled my mind.  As I lay in bed I asked God what they meant.  I felt in my heart God speak to me.  He said that when Jesus died on the cross that I actually died with Him, because He was bearing my sins.  When He rose again I rose with Him and He threw my sins far away.  At that moment I went from darkness to light, but He told me that sometimes I still lived as if I were in the darkness.  He told me that I am a child of the light and that I am on the winning side!  He said that, bit by bit, the darkness in me was crumbling, that is, all the things I didn’t like about human nature, and that when I die it will all be gone.  I asked Him about Paul.  I said, “Are you speaking to him as you are to me?”  He said, “Yes.  He is resisting at the moment, but I know how to get through to him.”

I asked Him about evangelism – when I would begin to talk freely about Him and He said that was one of the areas He was working on, but that because of my witness, many would come to know Him!

I asked Him about my hurts, resentment and anger, and He said He had dealt with them on the cross.  While He was speaking, I felt ‘lit up’ inside!  He told me that He would carry me through the rest of my life and into Heaven, and that He had prepared a place for me!

About the words, ‘Live in Easter!’ He said that I am on the winning side, victorious, but that I sometimes live as though I am deep in guilt.  He said He had overcome the darkness and that He has thrown ALL my sins away. He kept repeating that I am a child of the light.

When I eventually got out of bed I was so full of joy!  God had said that He would be with me!  He told me to hug Paul and when I did I said to him, “Let’s stop resisting each other and become irresistable!”  Paul hugged me back and I felt closer to him than I’d felt for ages.  I knew God was on our side and that somehow He would work everything out.  Somewhere in our future there would be a miracle.

There would be times when I would fall again, and there were still things in me to be dealt with, but God was to deal with them in His good time.

Later that day I was sat on the settee with a cup of tea watching ‘Neighbours’.    One of the characters had told his girlfriend a number of times to own up to something she had done and it hadn’t made any difference, so he thought.  But, unbeknown to him, something he said in anger made her confess to the person she had wronged.  Someone told him, “You have more power than you thought!”  I knew then that despite my mistakes, God had been filtering out the good influences in me and speaking to Paul.  My prayers had not been wasted or forgotten, and despite the fact that so often I felt a failure, good seeds had been sown.

‘You have found some of my promises hard to accept because you keep looking at your circumstances which seem to contradict them.  Keep focusing on my promises and gradually things will change.  My promises, though, do have conditions.  You must keep listening to me and do what I tell you.’  (Paraphrased from the book “My Dear Child’ by Colin Urquhart).

July 2011.  I just couldn’t understand it.  Paul had been home for a few days and a great cloud had come over me.  I was getting so hurt and angry all the time and getting back at him.  I felt as if God had left me (and for good reason – I didn’t like being with myself either!).  I knew I should be loving and kind to Paul, but I couldn’t seem to do it.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of being close to him.  I was so hurt by his apparent thoughtlessness and cutting remarks, and his lack of empathy, little knowing at the time how hurt and stressed he felt.  I prayed that God would step in, but I also felt I should be making an effort too.  Everything in me recoiled at that.  I felt like I was in a pit and couldn’t get out.  Looking back, God was bringing things to the surface so He could deal with them.

‘You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed…’

I cried out to God, “But why can’t I change?”  Why can’t I be what I want to be?  I agree that this is wrong, but you, Lord, are doing NOTHING!  Are you expecting me to do it all myself?  I can’t do anything without your help and your strength, but because I am so angry and resentful, you are keeping your distance!  Lord, I don’t understand all this.  I give up.  Either you sort this out or Paul and I, and the children, will continue to be miserable….”

‘If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.’  (Proverbs 1 v. 23)

‘….but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’  (Proverbs 1 v. 33)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’  (Proverbs 3 v. 5-6)

November 2005.  At the end of October we got a rescue dog.  Chloe had always loved dogs, so after thinking about it for a while, I finally gave in and we decided to go for it and buy one.  I drove to the RSPCA centre in Great Ayton and Chloe and I walked round the cages, looking at all the dogs.  There were some very sad cases there and our hearts went out to them, but none of the dogs really caught our eye.  Then Chloe spotted a dog being walked by one of the volunteers.  It was a medium sized terrier, of indeterminate breed, with a light, sandy, wiry coat and was very scruffy!  The dog turned to look at us, and we loved her at first sight!

When we got her home, for the first few days I was so down, and actually fearful.  She was making messes everywhere, she was getting me up at half past four in the morning and she couldn’t be left very long.  It was awful.  I tried to work out what my feelings were because they felt familiar.  I realised that I felt just the same as when I had a new baby!  ‘Doggy blues!’  Suddenly I was responsible for this animal and our lives would completely change.  I felt quite frightened of that thought and I was tempted to take her back.  I was also beginning to feel resentful because no-one (except Chloe) was helping me.  For the first few days I had to do everything – late night walks and early mornings.  I was exhausted and weepy.  Paul couldn’t understand at all.  He just told me, “It was your decision to get a dog!”

But looking back, I learned something important.  Instead of praying a self-pitying prayer (and I had prayed plenty of them!), like, “Please God, make everyone help me!”  I asked God to protect me from resentment and give me strength to keep going.  I actually found myself getting up early to avoid Paul having to!  Instead of getting mad, I was protecting Paul!  What was happening?!  But because I acted happy (sometimes when I really didn’t feel it) the atmosphere in our house began to change.  I was ‘acting myself into a new way of thinking’.  After a day or two of this, Paul started doing the night walks and began to grow very fond of Megan (the name our new dog had come with!).  The early mornings became as they should be (we bought an indoor kennel.  Megan loved it and stopped getting us up so early).  God actually began to use Megan to get me up at the proper hour for my quiet time.  The messes stopped and she was able to be left in the house for a few hours when we went to work.  I didn’t want to imagine what could have happened if I had given in to my feelings.

January 2007.  One night I had a vivid dream.  Paul and I were in a cave made of sand.  Its ‘ceiling’ was a thin veneer of sand but I could see the sea splashing above it. I knew if we didn’t get out it would soon cave in and we would drown.  I also knew that at the moment the sea above us was only about an inch or two deep and if I climbed up to that thin ceiling I could stick my head through it and find that the beach wasn’t far away.  But at the same time I felt afraid of putting my head through.  I also knew if I waited too long the tide would come in.  All I could think of was the sea splashing above me and fearing drowning if I stayed there.

A few months before this at a church meeting, during the worship, a picture had come into my mind of an open door.  That evening when I got home I had read in my daily reading book a Bible passage from Hosea 2 v. 14-15.

‘Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.  There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.’  (‘Achor’ means ‘trouble’.)

I knew God was speaking to me through the dream, but it wasn’t until I woke up feeling claustrophobic and a bit fearful that I got the meaning of it.

Paul and I were in the cave, which was our marriage.  We hadn’t been close for a long while and we were still arguing.  Climbing up and getting my head above the ‘ceiling’ involved humbling myself and getting over the fear of rejection that haunted me.  If I didn’t, our marriage would crumble around us and we would ‘drown’.  Little did I know that the beach I saw which was so close, was to be a discovery in the next few years that would completely transform our marriage.  I was also to learn what walking in love meant.

For the time being though I felt just like an illustration in my daily reading book of an eagle chick that was hatched by a chicken!  The eagle thought it was a chicken and behaved like one, but all the time it had strange stirrings inside.  When it saw an eagle soaring in the sky it realised what it was meant to do – and it flew!

March 2009.  During cell group one Wednesday evening, Gill, (who with her husband John, leads our group), suggested that we all pray aloud for five minutes.  While we were praying I felt the power of God.  This kept happening all through the five minutes.  Afterwards, I kept my eyes closed, wondering what was happening, but I knew that God had something planned for me and I praised Him all the way home!  If God was to use me, I had to want Him more than anything else.  He wanted me to stop focusing on worldly things and to focus on Him.  He wanted to sit on the throne of my life.  I thought this would be such an encouragement to people, because if God could use someone like me, He could use ANYONE!!

God waited until I got to the end of my own strength and realised that without Him I could do nothing.

‘My work IN you is preparation for the work I want to do THROUGH you…’

April 2009.  While these things were going on, Paul seemed to be getting worse.  He was becoming more and more cynical and kept saying very hurtful things, especially to Chloe.  At around this time I found one of his CDs on a shelf and something made me read the words inside.  I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  They were so scary!  It really frightened me that he was listening to this kind of stuff in our home.  Whenever I tried to tell him how I felt he would withdraw completely and shut himself away.

We were in a battle.  But I knew who was in control.  All I could do was pray.  Paul seemed to be full of bitterness and anger.  Chloe and I decided to stay at my parents’ home for a few days while they were away to look after their dog.  We all needed some breathing space.

I found myself praying that what was hidden in the darkness would come out into the light…..