In my dream I saw a man setting out on a journey. He had a very large, heavy rucksack on his back and was wearing stout walking boots. He set off down the road, full of confidence. When he had walked a few miles, he suddenly came upon an obstruction in the road. He looked up and saw that it was an enormous wooden cross. It completely blocked the path so that he couldn’t get through. To the right of the cross was a tiny door. The man crouched down and opened the door and through the opening he saw people dancing, laughing and partying. They looked so happy and contented, and he longed to join them. He bent down and tried to get through the narrow door, but the huge rucksack on his back prevented him from getting in. He tried to remove the rucksack but found he couldn’t. He tried many times to get in through the door, but failed each time.
Finally, he gave up in despair, slumped down to his knees in front of the cross, and put his head in his hands. All of a sudden, a man came up behind him. The man looked up and saw Him smiling down at him with eyes full of love. He bent down to the man and gently lifted the burden from his back, then He offered His hand. The man took it and together, they bent down and walked through the door…
‘ “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ‘ (Matthew 11 v. 28-30)
The lights are off, the children in bed and I sit alone in my room.
One small lamp gives a gentle glow. I’m alone again with my Creator,
The Creator of me, the Creator of the universe.
He loves me, He really loves me.
He talks to me, I talk to Him.
I listen, I fall asleep.
He watches over me in the darkness.
It was March 2000, early Spring. The snowdrops were the first to announce the good news of hope and as I walked through the village and felt the warm sun on my face, my heart felt full and it felt really good to be alive! Our village is dressed in its finest in the Spring. Daffodils are everywhere, and then, later, the trees that line the main street are full of beautiful pink blossom. It is as if the whole of creation is singing in harmony with its Creator.
As I walked, I noticed the stalks of the daffodils. The tops were bursting with the promise that something beautiful was soon to emerge, like a crysallis pregnant with the promise of a beautiful butterfly. All of creation was brimming with hope.
This had been a strange season in my life. Beautiful times with God, feeling His closeness, listening to His comforting words, running parallel with the ups and downs in our marriage, and the accusations in my head, telling me I’ve ruined everything again. I felt as if I was on a carousel, going round and round in circles. When would it all end? And how did it start? How was I to get off the carousel and start being all that God intended me to be?
What I didn’t realise at the time was that I wasn’t really going round in circles. All these things that were happening were not wasted. God was working everything together for good.
God had given me wonderful promises, and there would be more to come, but I wanted them NOW! I had asked God for patience, but unfortunately, when He answers a prayer like that, He tends to put us in situations where you have to be patient!
I felt at times like the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness, but there had been many oasis moments, from which I would emerge refreshed and ready to face another day. God was on our case, and He was to prove it in amazing ways!
When Chloe and I got home from our walk, I put the television on too early for Chloe’s Teletubbies and saw ten minutes of ‘Kilroy’. There were people on there who hated themselves because they thought they were ugly. One woman, however, bravely spoke up and said, “There is only one thing that can help! The love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit!” Kilroy immediately took his microphone away and cut her dead. He said, “Please, no letters!” I cried inside for those people because this really was the answer they were looking for and I hoped and prayed they would come to know the truth for themselves.
Later, when Chloe was having her nap, I began to read a book I hadn’t opened for years. The book was titled, ‘My Dear Child’ and was written by Colin Urquhart. As I read, God really spoke through the pages. For the first time in my life, I felt I really KNEW God’s incredible Father love for me, not just in my head, but in my heart. I sobbed for an hour! Every word in that book was as if it was written just for me.
I had been frantically trying to show God’s love to people, but I couldn’t do that without having received His love for myself. I needed to allow myself to rest in His love and not feel guilty about that. It is not a selfish thing. It was the greatest need in my life! He loves it when we pray to Him, but it saddens Him when we don’t stick around long enough to get an answer from Him. He wanted to speak intimately to me and I realised just how well He knew me and watches over me every moment.
Just as I love each of my own children with my whole heart, God loves us with all of Himself. He doesn’t split His love up into millions of pieces, giving one piece to each of His children. He gives us His whole heart! He showers us with mercy every day so that He can keep working in us, despite our mistakes! Imagine that!
I was so grateful that God had been so patient with me. Just as I never gave up on my own children when they were naughty, so God, my Heavenly Father, would never give up on me. How wonderful! He wanted to do big things in me!
God’s timing is so perfect. If I had read that book when I first got it, I wouldn’t have been ready for much of what God said through it. God had been working in me and preparing me. My eyes had been opened to God’s incredible love for me! I had been listening to the enemy for far too long and it is the enemy who makes us feel a failure. God only gives us love.
‘…strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you.” ‘ (Isaiah 35 v. 3-4)
30th March 2000. That morning I saw on the television a caterpillar on a leaf. Imagine such an ordinary looking ‘bug’ becoming a beautiful butterfly! What a wonderful hope that God could create such a beautiful creature from such an ugly one. A creature that could spread its beautiful wings and soar high in the air! What a wonderful picture!
‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.’ (Luke 1 v. 45)
2nd May 2000. I went on the bus to town and the driver was really miserable about something. Someone commented about it on the bus. I paid my fare, folded up Chloe’s pushchair, hoisted it into the luggage rack and sat down, lifting Chloe up onto my knee. I decided to pray for the driver quietly and I asked God to touch him somehow. I asked that when I got off the bus, he would smile. He didn’t! He seemed really angry and irritable. The next day, the children and I went to the dentist, and on the way back, lo and behold, we had the same driver! We clamboured on to the bus, pushchair and all, and I saw that he was still very irritable. When I asked for a single to our village, and half fares for the children, he visibly sighed and I could feel the anger in him. It was awful. As we drove along, I prayed for him again, also praying that we wouldn’t crash! The mood he was in, he shouldn’t have been responsible for a bus-load of people! I was on edge for the whole journey! But thankfully, he drove exceptionally slowly.
When it was time for us to get off the bus, I grabbed Chloe by the hand and managed to grab the pushchair with the other and lift it onto the floor. I was thankful we were all still in one piece! I turned to the driver as we left the bus and said, ‘Thank you very much!’ as usual, and I couldn’t believe the transformation! He was literally beaming! How incredible! God is amazing!
I am so grateful that our Heavenly Father cares about the little things. That afternoon, I was about to vacuum when I discovered that the bag was full. I couldn’t remember where I had put the bags. In our hallway we had a large chest, and something told me to look in there, so I did, and found, not only the bags, but Chloe’s bottle that I had lost ages before!
A few days later, I went for a walk with Chloe to a local farm where there is a public footpath. It was perfect May weather and we had a lovely peaceful walk. Our village is surrounded on all sides by fields and all along the walk were peaceful scenes, blue sky, sheep in the fields, ‘green pastures.’ I reflected what a contrast it was to the streets of South London. Taking in the scenery was like drinking in pure, clear water. On the way back I asked God, “Please let me see a white dove!” (It had to be white!) All the way back I pestered Him, “Please let me see a dove!” I had never before seen a white dove in the village in all the years I had lived there, and I had done that particular walk many times. We got to the main street and suddenly, I looked up, and there, flying above our heads were not one, but three doves! They flew round and round us for about half a minute, then flew off!I just stood there in the street with my mouth open! I hoped afterwards that no-one had been watching!
Of course, for the following few days, I started to doubt that they were doves! What if they had been pigeons? Then one night, in the early hours of the morning, I had a dream. I was standing near where I had seen the doves flying over. Someone was standing next to me, and brought my attention to the sign at the corner of the cul-de-sac a few feet behind me. It read, ‘Dovecot Close!’ Now I had lived in the village for eleven years, and not only had I never seen doves before, I had not realised the significance of that name!
One day, a friend, Gill, who I have mentioned before, took Chloe and me to Castle Howard where we walked around the grounds. It was another glorious Spring day and my heart was full of gratitude and praise. The gardens at Castle Howard are so beautiful, especially Ray Wood, where the rhododendrons and azaleas were breathtaking. Around each corner there was a new ‘treasure’ to find! I marvelled at God’s wonderful creation and the fact that He is preparing a place just for us in heaven which will be even more beautiful!
As we walked down a hill and saw the lake in the distance, the words, ‘He leads me beside still waters,’ came to mind. It was all so peaceful and lovely and another sign of hope for my future.
A couple of weeks later, God spoke to me through Chloe. I was in the kitchen washing up and she came running up to me, full of excitement. She held out a scrap of paper for me to look at and she explained in her own words what it was. I dried my hands, and took the piece of paper from her eager hand. On the paper was a picture she had been drawing. To the uninitiated, it would have looked like scribble, but to Chloe and me, it was a work of art and I told her so. A few minutes later, she came back and told me (by making a noise like a lion), that it was a picture of a lion!
‘Lord Jesus, I give you my gifts. To you they are very precious and you turn everything I give you round for your glory. Thank you that you always encourage me, even when I think I have nothing much to give. Amen.’
On the last day of June, 2000. my parents, sister and I went to see Eric Delve who was preaching at our church. He preached a very powerful sermon, and at the end, Beverley, my sister, went forward for ministry. She asked me to go with her, and we both made our way to the front of the church. We stood there for a few minutes while Eric prayed with each person in turn in the line. When he came to Beverley, he laid his hand on her and prayed for her, then he turned to me! I had not gone forward for prayer – I had only gone to the front to keep Beverley company, but he told me the Lord had a word for me. He said I was bearing burdens from the past of sins I had committed. The Lord said, “I am the burden bearer. Let go of your burdens. Your sins are forgiven! YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN! I think, rather than walking back to my seat, I skipped! It was just what I needed to hear! God is so good.
All these little stories from that year, and more, were God showing me that He was there, guiding me, even during the times when I was unaware of it. I wrote each one in my journal to remind myself of this truth when the going got tough. I was still getting angry with Paul over things I shouldn’t and Paul didn’t seem to be able to show any empathy at all whenever I felt hurt or angry. When he was stressed he would come out with such hurtful remarks, and I would retaliate. I knew deep down that something was terribly wrong, but I had no idea what it was. I was so sad that Paul had stopped going to church and angry at myself because I thought I was partly the cause of it. Psalm 55 really summed up how I felt at the time:-
‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship, as we walked with the throng at the house of God.’
“Oh Jesus!” I thought, “How long before Paul and I enjoy sweet fellowship again?”
Verse 22 comforted me:
‘Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.’
3rd July 2000. 2.45 am. ‘Is the pathway to God still there? Yes! It may look different, but it’s the same route. There will be dangers along the way, but God will keep you safe. And your Father will be with you.’
A word of explanation! The evening before, we had all gone for a walk to our local caravan park and the children had had a lovely time playing in the playground. On the way back, Paul told me of a dream he’d had. When he was about twelve years old he used to go with his Dad to a youth club held on a Friday night at their church and they walked home late at night. The path they used to walk on was surrounded by trees then. It had changed beyond recognition since that time and was now built up. Late at night there were drunks about, but they never got attacked.
It was a quarter to three the following morning (night?!) in bed that God put into my mind the interpretation of that dream. During that night I felt His presence, comforting me, so strongly. Until about half past four in the morning I praised, prayed and thanked Him. God never gives up on anyone and I knew He wouldn’t give up on Paul.
During those hours a thought came into my mind that there was someone in our church who needed to be freed of a bad habit and was bound by it. I had absolutely no idea who it was. Romans 8 verse 15 came to mind. It was, ‘I have not given you a spirit of fear but of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” ‘ I asked that if that was from Him, He would give me an opportunity to share it in the morning service the following Sunday.
A couple of days later, while I was thinking again of what God seemed to be saying, I saw in my mind a picture of a chain. Every time we indulge in a bad habit we add another link to the chain. God seemed to be saying that He wanted to break that chain. He wanted to come alongside and encourage, to replace the habit with blessing.
Three days later, on the Sunday morning, the Youth were leading the service. For the first hour I sat in my seat, wondering whether I should mention what I believed God had told me. Then a young man from the church gave his testimony, including how God had helped him with a drug habit. Then another young man gave the sermon, and he kept mentioning how bad habits can get a hold of us and how God can heal us! So, then, when an opportunity came, I went to the front and shared what God had told me. At the end of the service, several people went to the front for prayer. I hadn’t a clue what was going to be spoken about, but God did! This was what I wanted! This was how I wanted to live my life. I longed for God to use me to encourage people and I wanted to speak God’s heart to His children.
God was stirring my heart. He was showing me that He wanted to use me in this way, but He was also to bring me to my knees and show me, gently and graciously and lovingly, that without Him I could do nothing. He needed me to die to myself. This was to be an exciting, challenging, emotional, wonderful, and testing period of my life….