Monday, 23 December 2013

In search of joy: 2

It's taken me a while to get to a point where I could write this post.
Last year I wrote here http://karensandford.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/in-search-of-joy.html
about being in search of joy.
But this year was bound to be different.

The darkness of last year's Advent was no more.
It wasn't the first Christmas without our loved ones.
The boys are happy.
I'm enjoying my new church and ministry.
Chris is fulfilled in his new role.
Christmas joy would be all around,
right?

Well actually...

The truth is that it's been harder to find joy this December than last.
And I write not to gain your sympathy
But because I'm reminded how difficult this time of year is for so many.

The race to feel "Christmassy" is well and truly on.
What will help us in our quest for that Holy Grail?

Carols
Parties
Carol Services
Christmas plays
Cards
Presents
Winter Wonderland?

Well none of them worked for me.
And in my prayers last week I felt God say,
"Stop trying to create Christmas. Just let it happen."

And as I sobbed for two hours solid last Friday,
(Thank you to the lovely lady in Chichester Cathedral who supplied me with tissues)
I read this:

"You don't have to work for the coming of the Lord
- you don't have to work for Christmas.
The miracle is always that God is gracious.
You don't have to earn Christmas,
You don't have to perform Christmas,
You don't have to make Christmas.

You can rest in Christ.
You can wait with Christ.
You can breathe easy in Christ.
Open your heart to the miracle of grace.
He will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord...

You always get your Christmas miracle.
You get God with you.
(Ann Voskamp)

And so that's it.
My Christmas thoughts.
I have Immanuel
God with me.

Incidentally the lights have really moved me this year.
And the impact of candles on deep darkness is not lost on me.
I am reminded that my healing is not yet complete.
It may not be, this side of heaven.
The darkness of depression often threatens.
But Jesus, light of the world, is God's gift to me.
He knows what I need.
I trust Him.

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas.
May you know peace...
may you know love...
and maybe...
just maybe...
a little joy!

With much love
Karen



Thursday, 5 December 2013

Let's hear it for the boys!

I had to bite my tongue today.
Hard.

I was in the hairdressers
And the lady next to me,
And her stylist,
Spent about half an hour
Talking about men.

Apparently the secret of her long marriage is pretending.
She pretends she needs her husband to do things.
She pretends she's not strong enough.
If she wants something to happen she plants the seeds
And pretends he's really clever to think of such a thing.

Half an hour earlier I overheard a group of women congratulating a poor, helpless workman
On his ability to multi-task.

Really?

Come on girls we can do better than that!

Now I know they're not perfect by a long stretch
But then neither are we.

Most men I know are decent human beings.
They love well.
They think for themselves.
They work hard to help provide for people who depend on them.
They may not always be able to multi-task, but sometimes I wish I didn't.

I'm not trivializing the reality for many women throughout the world
who are being beaten
and tortured
and downtrodden in a patriarchal society.
Who have no rights except those that men afford them.
We need to keep fighting that war on every front.

But we live in a civilized society.

I live in a male-dominated household,
And this is not what I want for my sons.

Women have striven for equality for decades,
But if the oppressed have become the oppressors
That doesn't make for a better world.

So come on.
Give them a break.
Let's hear it for the boys!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent: On feeling the fear

I went for an Advent Quiet Day today.
For guidance we were given the four songs of Advent.

Zechariah
Mary
The Angels
Elizabeth

They all sang praises to God.

Songs of assurance
Of faith
Of hope
Of trust.

But there was something else that I noticed today.
In every case
Fear preceded the song.
Fear preceded the blessing.
In every case they were told,
"Don't be afraid".

One of my hang overs from my illness and loss is fear.
I can still do ministry.
I can still lead worship.
I can still go into new situations.
But fear grips me.
I feel anxious
And tearful
And afraid.

But God reminded me today
That feeling afraid is part of what makes us human.
It brings the 'fight or flight' response in us.
It's ok to feel afraid.
I don't need to be ashamed of it.
But fear needn't cripple me.

God has already fought the fight for me.
When I am weak
He is strong.