Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Years Eve

I'm not one for New Year Resolutions.
January can be tough enough without adding the F word of fail
to my weak attempts at getting thin and fit.

However I have learnt a few things this year which I am happy to share.

1. God is everywhere.
I mean really everywhere.
There is no place where I am that He is not.
So every fear
Every failure
Any revelation I never knew
Is known
And felt
And understood...
I mean really understood by him.
Nothing without him.

2. I don't need to rush.
God told me this on Christmas Eve.
Take your time.
Be measured.
Deliberate.
I don't accomplish any more by rushing.
It just sends my anxiety levels rocketing.
He knows what I need to do.
Trust him.

3. Other people's opinions vary.
Enormously.
What they think has no bearing on anything.
Ooh that was a tough one for a recovering people-pleaser to hear.
You can imagine.
Ultimately
The only opinion that counts is God's.
And He often expects less of me than I expect of myself,
and certainly what other people expect.
I am a person of integrity.
It's between me and Him alone.

4. Rest.
I need it.
I don't function well without it.
I refuse to be one of those people (especially officers)
who wear their busyness
Like a badge of honour.
It's not big
It's not clever
And it's not God's best for us.
I will have Sabbath.
Often.

5. Love
I want to give big love this year
To my husband
My sons
My family
My friends
My 'flock'
And to those whom God places in my path,
Or I in theirs.

So there you go
My New Year's Eve ponderings.
Thank you for sharing my life this year.
May you be blessed and be a blessing.

Much love
Karen
x

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Emmanuel

He wept

And His heart?
It broke in two.

With every cry

Of fear
Anguish
Pain
Grief
Loss
Disbelief

And it breaks
Over
And
Over
For all eternity.

And His name?
His name shall be called Emmanuel.

Emmanuel.

God

With

Us.

And  them.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Surprise!

This is the first Christmas for several years that I haven't set out in search of Christmas joy.
You know that lament 'I don't feel Christmassy.'
So we grit our teeth, and try our best to make the feelings come.

This year is different somehow.
Maybe because time does heal
At least partly.

But I think it's because I'm learning to live in the moment.
The practice of mindfulness has helped.
And in that moment it's ok.

It's ok to feel happy
Or sad
Or tired
Or grumpy
Or full of beans
Or overjoyed
Or overwhelmed
Or....

It's ok.
Truly.

Stop
Breathe
Remember.

He is Immanuel
God with us.
Right here
Right now.

God with us may not change our circumstances
Our disappointments or frustrations
But He shares it
Feels it
Lives it.

Immanuel
The wonder of Christmas
That God left the splendour of his world
To get messy in ours.

He knows
He feels
He loves
Oh how He loves.

Immanuel

Thursday, 27 November 2014

On offering to help.

I often offer to help people.
I guess you do too.
It goes with the territory I suppose.

Often I'm not taken up on the offer.
And it ends with a
'You know where I am if you need me.'
And the ball is in their court.
And I can be satisfied that I've offered.
Sort of.

And then there are times when what I'm asked to do
Is not quite what I had in mind
And it kind of spoils my plans
And things don't really turn out as I'd hoped.

My favourite way of helping usually involves coffee
And cake
And a listening ear.

But sometimes...
Often,
It's not about me;
What I want
What I'd like
And more about just getting on with what's required.

I joke with the boys and say
'Just do it for Jesus.'
He knows.
He sees.
He understands we'd rather be doing something else.
And it's ok to feel that way.
Really.

I guess my point is I need to embrace the whole of my life,
My work,
for what it is...

A gift.

Even if some of it comes in the socks and hankies category.

'For everything there is a season,
And a time for every purpose under heaven.'
Ecclesiastes 3:1







Thursday, 20 November 2014

On writing blog posts

I've had a couple of people ask where my blog posts are.
The truth is I'm not sure.

These past months have been a time of healing
Discovery
Growth
Grace.

And the writing has been a bit side-lined.
Maybe because some of it is too personal to share publicly...
Maybe because God has been speaking to me so directly I fear ridicule or disbelief....
Or maybe in this season the writing is not as urgent as once it was.

Not because I don't have things to say
But because I have so much to say I don't know where to begin.

So here are the truths I see at the moment:

God directs our paths
Our days, our months, our years
In ways I cannot begin to comprehend
But am utterly in awe of.

God, who begins a good work in us, will bring it to completion.
Maybe not today
Maybe not tomorrow
But someday.

God can be trusted
With my children
My life
My hopes
My dreams.

God is the one who ransoms
Heals
Restores
Forgives.

He loves me.
Bigger
Better
Brighter
More fully than anything I can ask or imagine.

He's got me.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Light and life to all He brings

I don't mind it when the clocks change.
I quite like drawing curtains
Lighting lamps,
Candles,
Snuggling up.

Autumn can be the most beautiful season of all.
Clear blue skies.
Crunchy leaves just waiting to be kicked.
Brilliant sunshine.

It's the grey days I hate
Misty
Gloomy
Dull.

This year I have a SAD lamp for the first time.
I shine it on me for about an hour a day.
It is said to help mood
Food cravings
And general well being.

Time alone will tell if it helps.

In this time of darkness
I look for light.

Candles

Lamps

Jesus.

The light that brings light to everyone was coming into the world.

The light shines in the darkness
And the darkness has never put it out.

Never.

Light wins.

Jesus wins.

Always.

Forever.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I did it! All by myself!

It feels like a long and lonely road sometimes.
The road to recovery I mean.

There are things I am relishing as if they are chocolate-covered.
They make me feel fulfilled
And free
And like the me I want to be.

And then there is the other stuff.
The requests.
The 'would you mind?''s
And 'how about this?'
And 'Do you think you could?'
The tough stuff.

Not hard in itself
But I have restrictions
I have to.
It's the way of healing for me.

And sometimes I have to say No.
Because if I say Yes as I want to
The consequences are too great
The price too high.

But sometimes
After an initial panic
And anger 
And tears of frustration

The big picture alters
And I can.
Not because I need to be pushed.
Don't think that.
The truth is that most days are a battle.
But just because the situation changes.

Today was one of those days that my no became yes.
And I came out feeling epic!
And had chocolate tiffin to celebrate.

And the little girl inside me
The one with blonde, wavy hair
And freckles
So many freckles
She ran
and jumped 
and shouted at the top of her voice

"I did it! All by myself!"

"I am glad to boast about my weakness so that the power of Christ can work through me." 
2 Corinthians 12:9






Friday, 12 September 2014

On being a leader

We met up with some friends the other Sunday.
It was Bank Holiday weekend and our last Sunday off in a while.
We started laughing from almost the moment we met at the seaside.
Our children had fun.
We ate chips and ice cream.
Drank coffee and posed for silly photos.

It was a good day.

Over the last few weeks I've been thinking of how our friendship began.
We have ancient family links.
But that's not uncommon in The Salvation Army.

They came to our church on placement when they were training.
I think they wondered what they were coming to.
I'm not sure what they learnt in practical skills, 
Except that chaos in worship can be ok....
Sometimes.
Whether it's more polite to swallow or spit your coffee when someone says something really funny.
And maybe that it's ok to 'come as you are' in ministry.
No pretence necessary.

At the very end of their placement our world fell apart.
And it was then that the real change happened.
The supporters became the supported. 
The led became the leaders.
The guides became the guided.

They carried on regardless.

And when he realised I really did want him to come and spend some time with Chris, giving pastoral care, he did just that.
And she continued to send me love, and make me laugh through my tears.

I guess my point is that we need each other.
Ranks and human authority are irrelevant in the face of human need.

I preached last Sunday on my fear of September.
The fact that once you start it's full steam ahead until Christmas.
When I asked publicly if anyone felt the same I thought it was only me.
But privately?
So many kindred spirits.

Sometimes
When we tell it like it is
People are freed up to respond.
It brings release and often visible relief.
"I thought it was just me!"

And when we accept help,
concern,
compassion,
from those who we are supposed to be helping,
it can release them in ministry
in ways we never foresaw when all was 'well'.
But maybe God did.

It takes courage to be honest.
Vulnerability can be costly.
But in my experience it's worth the risk.
Authenticity is priceless.

So back to our friends.
God brought us together for 'such a time'
But the love and laughter will continue for years to come.

Every picture tells a story....






Friday, 29 August 2014

In quietness.

I left home for some quiet time with God this morning.
Ended up in a cafe.
Lovely coffee
Melt-in-your-mouth pain-au-chocolat
But 
SO MUCH NOISE.

I ended up taking photos of my very first 'Stumpy'
Turned out it was a flat-white.

And sending snapchats of a grown man wearing a crown...
(It was one of those days.)
And sharing very silly messages back and forth as a result.

It was fun.
Not what was intended
But fun just the same.

And God?
He was there too.

You know
'Quiet time'
Isn't always possible.

However

'I am always aware of the Lord's presence. He is near, and nothing can shake me.'
Psalm 16:8

Almost....

Friday, 22 August 2014

Acts of Remembrance

It's 2 years today since Dad left this world.
We decided as a family that we wouldn't make a big thing of special dates.

We miss our loved ones every day.
We talk,
Laugh,
And think about them.
And we thank God for them.

They left us a legacy of faith
Hope
And love in many forms.

On Tuesday this week we walked the Gower Coastal Path.
It has stunning views and is a place Dad lived and worked.


I found it quite emotional.
Spending time in 'The land of my Fathers'
Literally.
A pilgrimage of sorts.

As we laughed with friends,
Paused to take breath,
And wonder at the beauty of creation,
I thanked God for my Dad,
And my Grandad,
And my in-laws,

The truth is we miss them all the time.
I'm not sure time makes their absence easier.


I wish they could share in our lives now as the boys grow older.

I don't believe they can see our every move.
Heaven forbid!
But I think that somehow they know...



And are proud.



I guess our act of remembrance is carrying on.
Knowing they are in a better place.
Taking a day at a time.
Trusting the future is in God's hands.

Love you.
Miss you.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Thoughts on today 2. A postscript.

Yesterday I read,
God met me in the wilderness, gave me a microphone and said, "Speak"

I guess my version would be,
God met me in the wilderness, gave me a pen and said, "Write"

And after a few months where I couldn't find my 'pen', the words are flowing thick and fast.

Yesterday I posted about Iraq.
Feelings of helplessness 
Hopelessness.

Then in the early hours of this morning I learnt of the death of Robin Williams.
Rumours are he took his own life
After severe battles with depression.

There are a number of things that have struck me today.

My own battle with depression continues.
Today I picked up my repeat prescription of pills that don't take away the pain
But help me to function.

I also see a counsellor
Take as much space as I can
Practice mindfulness
And exercise when I can be motivated.
I do as much as I possibly can to help me live a normal life.
But the truth is sometimes it's not enough, and I crash.

Today there has been renewed calls for acceptance of depression as an 'illness'.
I won't dignify that with a response.
But I will say this
For every tweet I read,
Or radio presenter that says
If you're struggling call someone
I say no.
Not good enough.
It's really hard being a friend or aquaintance of someone who is depressed,
But if you are,
Please call or text them today to check they're ok as today's events may trigger unwelcome thoughts or feelings.
They won't mind.
But they will rarely make that call themselves.
It's too hard.

The other thing is
I wonder what Robin Williams would have made of the outpouring of love, loss and grief that his death has wrought?
Did he know how precious he was?

Maybe he did
But the pain was still too much to bear.

Tell those around you how much you love and appreciate them.
Speak that word.
Send that text.
Tweet it
Snapchat it
Get the message through somehow.
It might be a matter of life and death.

And finally...!
I posted yesterday that prayers for atrocities can seem futile.
I remembered today that while prayer is often our last resort,
It should be our first port of call.
So the post-it's are coming out!
All around the house
With Pray for Iraq on them.

Maybe set an alarm on your phone.
Every time you drink your coffee
Or visit that little room!
Pray
Pray
And pray some more.
That might be a matter of life and death too.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Thoughts on today.

Women are raped and men are being crucified.
Children beheaded
Or forced to flee.

And tales of people buried alive
And we watch 'distressing images' with everything tensed
As we don't know what's real anymore.

A Christian Holocaust?
Is that what's happening?
In this day and age?

And we pray
But words seem futile long before they've left our lips.

Help us Lord.
Have mercy.
Maranatha
'Come Lord Jesus'

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

On being spontaneous.

I went for a swim in the sea today.
It wasn't planned.
I left home early for a meeting.
When it had finished I fancied a swim;
I remembered I had swimwear and a towel in the boot;
The sea was about 30 miles away;
So I turned left instead of right and off I went.

Sadly, 
all wasn't plain sailing from then on in.
It took longer than I'd hoped to get there.
I couldn't find a parking space.
And the tide was out.

But as I set off down the beach,
wishing I'd stopped to buy beach shoes as the pebbles really hurt,
I felt quite proud of my spontaneity.

And then I faced my real moment of truth.

The sea in the UK isn't always the bluest
Or the clearest.
Talk about blind faith

As I hobbled over pebbles
I was thrilled to feel some sand.
But as the sand got softer
and began to squelch,
I'm guessing it wasn't so much sand,
But mud between my toes.

I gave up hobbling and swam.
Arms only as it wasn't deep enough for leg-kicks.
And I was off.
I'd done what I set out to do.
Swimming in the sea.

But then came the return journey
Through the shallows
The squelchy mud
(Bear hunt anyone?)
Then it got slippy.
And I found myself stood on a rock.
Not knowing which way was safest
Least painful
Less slippy.

Sound familiar?

Yes I enjoyed my swim.
But it hurt.
I was afraid on the way there,
And again on the way back.

It wasn't the most dignified of exits.
I didn't emerge like a goddess from the sea.
But I did it.
And lived to tell the tale.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand."
Psalm 40:2


Anyone fancy a swim?










Friday, 1 August 2014

Five Minute Friday: Begin

Write for 5 minutes.
No editing, over-thinking,
Just write.

This weeks prompt is: BEGIN

"There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He grew whiskers on his chin-egan
The wind came up and blew them in again
Poor old Michael Finnegan
Begin again!"

And there, my friends, lies the problem.
My mind is full of silly songs.

I sit on a Sunday.
In full view of the congregation.
The band play,
And I hear my Dad,
in my head,
singing silly made-up words
to well-known hymn tunes.
Thanks Dad!

It's so distracting.

And that
of course
is the real issue.

I'm easily distracted.
I haven't written much lately.
Life gets in the way.
Then I begin to wonder if I have anything to offer.
And so it goes on.

So here we go.
The writing begins again.
I took this weeks prompt as a command.

BEGIN!

OK!!

Anything you need to begin?
Again?

*cue music*


Sunday, 6 July 2014

On saying Farewell

I've always hated goodbyes.
As a child I would often cry when leaving grandparents,
Family friends,
Almost anyone.

The loss we have had in recent years seems to make it even harder.
Every goodbye is yet another loss.

For the past 12 months I have shared leadership of a Salvation Army corps.
Mike and Elizabeth were friends before,
But there's something about ministering together that binds you.

And as the months have gone on we have shared many things:

Good coffee
Prayer
Laughter
Coffee
Ministry
Hugs
Successes
Failures
Coffee
Cake
Prayer
Inspiration
Life
Love
Tears
Anger
More laughs
More tears
More coffee.

And you know when very different people just gel?

And accept each other
Learn from each other
Love each other.

Well that was us.

And this morning we said 'farewell'.

And tonight I am bereft.

These two took a chance on me when doors were slamming in my face.
They loved me back into leadership.
They became my greatest cheerleaders.
And I will always be grateful for their willingness to be part of God's plan for my life.

Please pray for Christian leaders everywhere who are facing change.
I'm very jealous that they are going to live by the sea!
And pray for those left behind.
That God will comfort,
Bless,
Inspire.

I know God is in all of this.
But please excuse me if I shed a few tears in the meantime.




Friday, 4 July 2014

Five Minute Friday: Exhale

Five minute Friday.
We write for 5 mins just for the love of writing.
This week's prompt is Exhale.


And....
Exhale

Breathe.

In
Out
In
Out

And I hadn't realised I was holding my breath.
But that's what I do when life happens
When I'm anxious
Afraid
Excited
Joyful

But breathing is good.
Some might say vital...!

And breath reminds us that life goes on
With every breath we inhale newness
Goodness
All we need for this moment
And this moment.
And this.

God brings life-giving breath
Over and over.
Creative life
New life
Love life






Monday, 23 June 2014

Today

The sun shines today.
The breeze is weak and leaves me wanting more.
Birds chirrup in the trees
And I wish I could see within the thick, leafy branches that protect them.

Sport is on today.
Men in black with whistles,
Or white coats and wavy arms,
Or in blazer with microphone
Keep order.
And I wish I could click my heels and be by the sea.

Life happens today.
Conversations and choices
Food and drink
Work and rest
And I wish I could hand over the reins to someone else for a while.

God is here today.
In the breath that I breathe
The words that I read
The life that is mine
And I wish.....
I wish I could know....

"TRUST ME"



Sunday, 8 June 2014

In the shadow.

I've been quite quiet on the blog lately.
You may have noticed.
Equally you may not.
It's not all about me after all.

I had thought about posting something from the Archives.
Until about 5 mins ago when I read
"Your story: What silences you?"

The truth is that my ongoing battle with depression,
or the black dog as it's affectionately known,
frequently silences me.

Not because of brain fog
Or lack of concentration
Or other symptoms of depression.
But more a sense of disappointment,
devastation,
maybe even shame,
that I'm in that place once again.

It's hard for me to accept that all the coping mechanisms I put in place:
The walking
The running
The quiet times
The trying to pace myself and not take on too much
The CBT
Have all failed me.
Again.

So here I am
Signed off sick.
Ordered to self-care
While trying to silence the voice of the enemy that says
I'm a failure.
I'm letting people down.
I'm in the wrong job.
Other people can cope, why can't I?

This is my story.
The real one.
The no-holds barred one.
The one in which the medical profession are beginning to wonder
if this is just part of my life that I have to accept.
It's been over 20yrs now after all.

Maybe you are a fellow-traveller?
Maybe there's part of your story that has been silenced?

I'm resting for now.
Resting in the shadow of the Almighty.
There's plenty of room under here.
I'm known
Loved.
Held.




Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Notes on bonnet-wearing.

I had a bit of an epiphany today.
You know those moments when the penny drops?
When things begin to make,
if not complete sense,
then at least a bit more sense than they did before.

Over the past few weeks my depression has been causing me quite a lot of difficulty.
My struggle with it has been well documented on this blog.
In conversation this afternoon,
 I was talking with a friend about a decision I was struggling to make.
I joked about the inner voices that were telling me different options.

As I told her what the strictest version of myself was telling me to do,
I suddenly had this picture in my mind
of me
In full Salvation Army uniform
Button-up collar
And....

wait for it....

Bonnet!

I know!

In other words, it was a flash-back to the version of myself that existed 20 years ago.
There is photographic evidence available on request...

It was the me with a huge sense of 'duty'.
The me that said yes to everything that was asked of me.

The me that showed up
stepped up
and spoke up.

And was quite vocal about those that didn't.
I questioned their commitment.

I've changed quite a lot since those days.
Thank the Lord for that.
I've learned that it's not about me,
but all about Him.

I've given lessons in how to say 'No'...
You start with your tongue on the roof of your mouth,
Just behind your teeth,
Practise!
It gets easier....

I've learnt that God,

Father,

isn't the one making the incessant demands on me.

And that self-care isn't self-ish
but essential.

I'll complain to anyone who'll listen about
'the glorification of busy'.

And yet....
Sometimes
It would appear that I don the uniform
the bonnet
the highly polished shoes and straight seams
(only in my head thankfully)

and I wag the finger
and use words like ought
and should
and why aren't you?

Now don't get me wrong.
There are times when my roles as
parent,
wife,
friend,
and Salvation Army officer
mean that I need to step up,
roll up my sleeves,
and get on with the job.

But maybe,
just maybe,
someone else could do it just as well as me.

And I need to rest in the presence of the one who prompts,
equips,
and strengthens.

It turns out God is much kinder to us than we are to ourselves.

Stop.
Breathe.
Feel His presence.

He knows...

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

On clearing away the brambles.

Gardening doesn't come naturally to me.
I think I may have blogged about it before.

A few years ago, 
my friend who is a keen gardener,
bought me some strawberry plants
and a special strawberry planter 
for my birthday.

I hadn't been very well at the time
and she knew that there was something about gardening that helps.

I duly planted them 
but didn't look after them very well
so we ended up with about two strawberries in total.
The planter has sat mocking me ever since.

Until today
when I filled it with fresh compost
and planted the strawberry plants
I'd bought at B & Q 3 weeks ago.



And that was it.
I was off!

With my gardening gloves
and my new compost
and my lavender plant.

Then me and my secateurs went to war on the brambles.
Why on earth did God invent brambles?
They wind,
they choke,
and they get everywhere.
And by 'eck their thorns hurt!

I have a camellia plant that my in-laws bought us when we moved in to this house.
It blooms every year about this time.
Beautiful pink flowers.
They don't last long but when they bloom
it's a poignant memorial of Chris's parents.

This year we've only had two flowers on it.
I'd thought it was budding,
but when I looked closer
the brambles were all over it.
And where I'd thought it was budding, 
it was just leaves.
Bigger isn't always best in the gardening world.


After removing some of the junk
I'm still hopeful for a few more blooms, 
but if not,
I know it will come again next year.

The analogies of gardening aren't lost on me.
Especially at the moment.
The importance of proper care.
Of  looking beneath the surface to see what's really happening.
And of course,
getting rid of the things that bind,
that catch us,
and strangle us in their grip,
over and over again.

After my efforts in the garden I was pooped.
So I lit some candles
drank my coffee
and spent some time 
thinking,
reflecting, 
praying.


Sheila Walsh writes
"Jesus didn't come to get you out of the pain of life,
he has come to live in you through it."

I want to be a beautiful,
blooming,
chamellia.
But life sometimes creeps up from behind
and threatens to choke me in its grip.

Jesus describes Father-God as The Gardener.
The gentlest,
most-careful
and tender remover of brambles.
We can trust His tender hands
until we bloom again.





Sunday, 20 April 2014

On not eating chocolate for Lent.

Yes you read the title right.
I haven't eaten chocolate since before the beginning of  Lent.
I know!
I'm as surprised as you.

Especially as it was the very thing I swore I wouldn't do,
the whole 'giving up' thing.

I commenced my physical, emotional and spiritual de-cluttering on Ash Wednesday.
And as the days passed and things were cleared away,
I began to realise I hadn't eaten chocolate.
Or drank diet coke/pepsi.

And what was more surprising was,
I didn't really miss them.
Not at first anyway.

As I was clearing away the stuff that crowds in on my life,
it was putting the things I relied on in plain sight.
When things go wrong,
when difficulties arise,
when life got tough
I'd reach for the cans and the Cadbury's.

Now don't misunderstand me;
I know there are much worse things I could be reaching for.

But as I attempt to lead a life in full reliance on God,
I became aware that I needed to make God my chocolate,
Prayer my diet coke,
And listening for his voice my comfort food.

And there you have it.
As I knelt at the cross on Wednesday night of Holy Week
the words going through my mind were
'Nothing but thy blood can save me.'

It's the blood of Jesus that saves me,
cleanses me,
heals me
and makes me new.

Nothing else.
Just Jesus.
His death.
His resurrection.

And as a daughter of the resurrection
I want to live free.
Free from all that holds me back.
Hoping.
Praying
Trusting.

Happy Easter!

(Now where's that chocolate...?)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Five Minute Friday: Glue

I love going to the cinema.
I don't really mind what film we see,
as it's the experience I enjoy.

The big screen.
My coffee.
Popcorn if the boys are with me.
Or a few snacks if it's just Chris and I.

I love films.
And I have a range of films I see over and over...
Mona Lisa Smile
Chicago
Apollo 13
The Illusionist

A few years ago I saw, 'A Joyful Noise'
Now, it's not the most original of story-lines.
A church choir is influenced by two strong women...
Enter Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton
who battle it out for the 'proper worship style'.
But the singing is fab!
Gospel music at it's best.

One of my favourite moments is when Queen Latifah sits at the piano
and sings 'Fix me Jesus'.
It moves me every time.
After all, who wouldn't want to be fixed?

Who wouldn't want their lives to be sorted,
their problems solved
and to live forever, good as new?

Today is Good Friday.

It's the day that Jesus takes my brokenness
my mess
my muddled existence
and he carries it with Him to the cross.

It's not glue that holds me together now,
it's blood;
The blood of the sinless one
who looked at me and thought I was worth dying for.

His death has brought me life.
New life in Him.
I'm fixed.
For today at least.

The beauty of the cross is it's timelessness.
And when I mess up
He stands waiting
Arms outstretched
Calling me
Loving me
Fixing me.

The Coppice
Accrington, Lancashire




Saturday, 12 April 2014

Five Minute Friday: Winning

"Are you winning?"
The same question, every Sunday morning.
For seven years.

It came from a retired man,
With a broad Lancashire accent,
Who had lost his wife,
And became a member of our congregation.

He asked it with a twinkle in his eyes.
There was I,
Mum to two very young,
very noisy,
very lively boys.
And wife to an equally noisy and lively husband.


And my answer was always the same,
"I'm getting there!"

My answer would still be the same 12 years on.
Though now I have another boy to add to the collection.
Turns out it was buy two, get one free!

And they're all still young,
noisy
and lively.

And I'm still winning.
Because I'm on the winning side.

This season has been tough at times.
Threats of relegation abound.
And the enemy attacks at regular intervals.

But I'm still winning.
I'm on the winning side.

As Jesus said
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart,
I have overcome the world!

BOOM!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Lent:Variations on a theme

A note to the Father

Reasons why I love you No. 10,001

You take me on these journeys.

You see me in my anger
my sense of injustice,
my muddledness,

And you suggest we go for a walk.

And I still feel cross,
confused,
questioning.

And you don't say much.

You just listen while I shout.
And you let me cry.

Then we sit in the silence


And we listen to the birds
And the wind in the trees
And I cry some more.

And gently you remind me of my tendency to want everything fixed
before I give thanks.

That because I want a solution to something,
I fail to thank you for all the other stuff

Like....

Coffee
Marshmallow clouds
Primroses



The wind in my hair
Light and shade on the ground
The radio
Birds dive-bombing into the water then using their feet like water-skis
Green hedgerows

And 'in everything give thanks' isn't another stick to beat ourselves with.

Because Ann Voskamp is right,
'Eucharisteo (thankfulness) does precede the miracle.'

The miracle of realising that no, life isn't perfect.
In fact it's far from that.

But in the muck and mess that often accompanies my life,
I can still find you.

You are in all

and through all.

Thank you.
                        

Friday, 4 April 2014

Five Minute Friday: Writer

It's Friday.
The day we write for 5 mins without stopping on a given prompt word.
Today's word is: WRITER

GO

I am a writer.

There you go, I've said it out loud.

No false humility.
Just facts.

I write, and people read what I write.
I guess this makes me a writer.

Today I have decided to write truth.

This was my week:

I have known delight at new beginnings.

Messy church was fab.
All generations working together to share the joy of Easter was heart-warming.

Costa is a great place to chat to stressed Mums with toddlers.

I have laughed.
Prayed.
Sneezed and coughed.
A lot!
(Sahara dust)

I have struggled at times this week
to believe in a good God who has our best interests at heart.
I made the choice to do so anyway.
I ate lots of shortbread yesterday.
These two things are probably related.

I have got angry,
really angry inside.
Thankfully, it came out as tears.
Lots and lots of tears.

Tears are good.
They are healing.

Here is truth as I understand it:

I am confident 
I will see the Lord's goodness
here
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13

How's your week been?

STOP



Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Lent: The Story so far

I used to use the story of a potato as a sermon illustration.
It was about a man asking God for some sense of meaning in his life.
He thought and prayed about it
Until one day he was in the kitchen,
And he heard God say

"What have you got in your hands?"

He looked down
And there in his hand was a potato.
His first thoughts were quite limited.
What can I do with a potato?
Chipped
Boiled
Mashed
Roast
Saute

Then

Potato printing
Stain removal
Peelings in the garden

And so he went on
Until,
legend has it
he wrote a book entitled
'101 uses of a potato.'

The beauty of sermon illustrations
is we never let the whole truth get in the way of a good story...

Of course we would never wilfully lie...
However:

Lent has been a bit like that for me so far.
You may remember a decision I made on Shrove Tuesday,
that every day of Lent I would de-clutter something
Physically
Emotionally
or
Spiritually.

You can read about it here
http://karensandford.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/taking-up-not-giving-up-for-lent.html

And the exercise has led me to keep on considering the question
What have you got in your hands?

What has God given me that I don't use?
It's brought me to the food-stuffs that inhabit the depths of my freezer
And dwell at the back of my kitchen cupboards.
The toiletries I stock-pile and keep for a special occasion that often doesn't arrive.
The books I haven't read.
The 'stuff' I buy on impulse.

And I've found myself taking time every day to just
stand
and stare.

Virginia Water Spring 2014















Seeing my life with fresh eyes
And a different perspective
can only be a good thing as far as I can see.

An English Springtime

Every day has brought something new.
A realisation that God is in this life I live.
Every little detail.
I have a veritable treasure-trove at my disposal.

It's Him.
All Him.

And just as a postscript.

This is my 100th post on this blog.
With every post I've shared something of my story and God's.
And how they intertwine.

'My life is hidden with Christ in God.'
I had no inkling of what that meant when I started.

Now I know.

How I know...

His grace
His love
His comfort
His blessing
His leading
His joy
His silence

Have all shown me that

'Earth is crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees takes off his shoes...'
(Elizabeth Barrett-Browning)

Reigate Hill, Surrey, February 2014

Looking forward to continuing the journey with you

My fellow 'seer'

My fellow 'shoe-remover'

My fellow-traveller.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Taking it up for Lent 2

Well that was an interesting week!

Last week you may recall I decided to spend Lent de-cluttering
Physically
Emotionally
Spiritually.

If you missed it,
you can read about it here
http://karensandford.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/taking-up-not-giving-up-for-lent.html

I have been
reading
thinking
praying.

Walking
running
playing.

I've taken warm baths;
mooched by the sea;
and spent 5 hours de-cluttering...

wait for it...

1 corner!

ONE CORNER!

Anyway.
I have also worked during that time
And been involved in ministry of one kind or another.

And on the whole it's been a good week.

I've heard God.

And enjoyed spending time with him.

On Wednesdays I do Parent & Toddlers.

After crawling through traffic at some ungodly hour,
then dropping Chris at the station;
I was on my way to the hall this morning
when I realised I couldn't do it.

I had nothing to offer.

Nothing to give.

Nothing.

We have a good team for Parent & Tots at Penge.
In many ways they don't need me.
And I needed a moment.

So I detoured for coffee
And porridge
And time.

I hid
worked
in the office for a while when I got there

But when I emerged
(for coffee again)
I saw one of the Mums was struggling.

She had suffered multiple bereavements a few years ago.
She knew I had too.

So we talked.

And she cried.

We spoke of the sustaining power of God.
We remembered that the valley of the shadow of death
can be long at times,
but we need fear no evil because God is there.

And we prayed.
In the middle of the clamor of little people,
we asked for God's Holy Spirit to fill her
with his strength,
his grace,
his comfort,
his peace.

She described me as one of the tokens of grace
that God had promised her in her grief,

But she was that for me too.
She understood.
No explanation required.

We ministered to each other as kindred spirits
united by shared experiences.

"And thanks be to God that He always...

Always...

ALWAYS leads us in triumphal procession.

And through us,

THROUGH US!

spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

In spite of everything.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Taking up for Lent.

How many pancakes have you had?
I only cooked about 20 this year
But I had one boy less at home
And no competition to see who could eat the most.

Tomorrow, I'm sure you know is the start of Lent.
I've seen plenty of statusses telling the world what they're giving up.
But you know I'm not sure that's what's required...

Is God glorified by us not eating chocolate?
Or whatever?
And isn't it something between us and God anyway?

Yesterday during my few hours retreat
I was encouraged to think about taking something up for Lent.
Last year I embarked on 40 days of feasting.
You can read about it in my archive should you so desire...
But the thing I keep coming back to is the idea of decluttering.

Those of you who know me well,
will know I'm not the most ordered of people.
And some parts of our house are full of clutter.

But I also think my life might benefit from a bit of a declutter too.

So here's the deal.
Every day during Lent I'm going to declutter something.
Either physically, emotionally or spiritually.
It will help me prepare my heart and mind for Easter.
A kind of Spring Cleaning for the mind as well as the home.

What about you?
Anyone fancy joining me?
At least this way we still get to eat chocolate!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Just do it! A postscript

I went to my home church today.
The Salvation Army world can be a very small one at times,
And oddly my son's girlfriend Megan, and her family
attend the church Chris and I left in 1991
to train for full-time ministry
within The Salvation Army.

Soooo
Today we went to witness Megan
committing her life to God as a member of The Salvation Army.

I sat in the congregation and looked around me.
There were so many there who had impacted my life:

The man who taught me to play trombone
The woman who had invested a lot of time in me as a teenager,
then as a young married woman.
There were the couple who had made us part of their family life.
We looked after their three boys,
Never thinking that one day we'd have three boys of our own.

There were people who had encouraged me,
Laughed with me,
Hugged me,
Prayed with me,
Cried with me.

Then there were my peers,
and those who I'd taught in Sunday School.
Youth that had spent time at our house
Laughing,
Crying,
Praying,
and just hanging out together.

They now have their place in the church.
They are the ones who teach the Sunday School,
Who lead the youth,
Who run the toddler groups,
And are part of the life and community of the church.

And so it continues...

And we never know...

What our time,
Our smile,
Our prayers,
Our encouragement,
will mean to others.

Megan shone today.
She glows God in a way that was beautiful to see.
Her vibrant faith was evident in every word she spoke,
In front of her family,
Her friends,
Her peers.

She said that we would never know what we'd done
to help her in her journey of faith,
that in many ways is just beginning.

So let's do it.

Let's chat,
And laugh,
And cry,
And encourage,
And pray for each other.

God has a way of using it all for good.

Just do it!

I remembered today,
the person that first encouraged me to blog.

When I reminded her
she made me laugh, as she'd forgotten.
Not that there's any reason she should remember,
Except...

One throw-away encouragement from her
has literally changed my life.

I didn't know if I could
Or should
write.

But her telling me to give it a go
proved to be the push I needed.
And here I am
97 posts later!

We never know where our words will lead.
So go on!
Make that call,
Send that text,
Have that chat.

It may seem inconsequential
or insignificant to you.

But your investment in that person
could change their lives forever.
Really.

Nothing is ever wasted.
The time and energy we spend on people
may not bring about the result we'd hoped for.
But we never know the impact we have.

So
To quote the Nike swoosh
Just do it!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Five Minute Friday: Write

Last Friday's prompt word was WRITE.

When I was preaching yesterday's sermon,
I realised I'd written a poem as part of it.

It's based on John 1
And as it's the first poem I've written for as long as I can remember,
Here it is as my Five Minute Friday post.

In the beginning, God.
Right here and now, God.

Creating everything.
Every person,
Every life,

You.
Me.

Every circumstance,
Every conversation
created by Him.

Nothing without Him.

In Him is life.

All life.
My life.
Your life.

Everything.
Him.

That life brings light.

And I know the darkness too well.
It walks the road beside me.

So bring me to the Light.

Let me see the Light.
Let me walk in the light.
Let me feel the light.

And that light?

The light shines in the darkness.

And the darkness?

Oh, the darkness...

It can never put it out.
Has not understood it.
Can never extinguish it.
Has never overcome,
overpowered,
comprehended,
absorbed
or appropriated it.

The Life-Light blazed
out of the darkness;
and the darkness
couldn’t
put
it
out.

So The Word,

Jesus,

wins.

Every time!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Five Minute Friday: Hero

Five Minute Friday.
The day we write for five minutes on a given word.
This week's word is HERO.

GO

My Dad was a Hero.
No, he really was.
His training session at The Salvation Army college was called
'Heroes of the Faith'.

What a title!
What a challenge!
What a legacy!

I met with colleagues this week for a time of worship.
We gave thanks for the life of our regional leader
who died suddenly from a heart attack last Thurs.

We sang our songs
We prayed our prayers
We told our stories of Peter.

We talked about his caring nature
His sense of humour
His ability to get angry graciously
His integrity

His love for God
His wife
His family
His people

We laughed
We cried
We gave thanks for this man of God
Taken from us at a time we wouldn't have chosen,
had we been given the choice.

A man of God
A man of faith
A hero.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Blooming Monday!

Today has been given the name Blue Monday.
But it will be forever known as Blooming Monday around these parts.

Today I have come clean to some of my closest friends
that the depression that comes again and again in my life
is lurking like a dementor at the moment,
And has been for about six weeks.

I hadn't told them because you can say what you like
Until you're blue in the face
Every time it comes again
I feel I've failed
That their high-maintenance friend needs them
Again
And I wouldn't blame them if they'd had enough.
Lord knows, I have.

But I want to tell you a few things about this
Blooming Monday.

No it's not been the best of days.
Yes things have gone wrong
Quite a few actually.

But I'm sat writing
Wrapped in TWO prayer shawls
That friends lovingly created
And prayed into for me

And I'm remembering that today...

I've seen the sea
And heard the waves
And eaten jam doughnuts
And been given beautiful flowers by the love of my life.

I've watched a film
And had dinner made for me
And my son has just brought me a cup of tea
With chocolate!

And as I feel the gentle warmth of the shawls
So the truth seeps into my soul

That I am loved

And cherished

And I will get through this
(Again)

And that God knows

And moment by moment
He has lovingly planned every inch of the way.

My trust need not falter though the path is steep.

So Blue Monday has been Blooming Monday
Not least because hope can bloom anywhere.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Five Minute Friday: Encourage

You matter.

Really and truly.

Every day of your life.
From the moment you wake up
whether it's with a "Good Morning God."
Or a "O God, is it really morning?"
You matter.

So if life is really hard at the moment
And you're wondering if it's worth it...

Or you're literally bouncing around
Full of the joys....

If someone has said something to you that has cut deeper than a flesh wound,
Or you did something with the best of intentions, and have been misunderstood...

If 'life's a bitch and then you die' is truly where you're at,
Please STOP

And breathe

And remember

That you are loved.

Look around you for your 'cloud of witnesses'
who will cheer you on,
or pause with you in the race while you rest and catch your breath.

Be encouraged.

God loves you above and beyond anything.

Truly.

If you're reading this,
then chances are you've been one of my cheerleaders in the past.

I'd like to return the favour today.

So as I write this, the prayer I pray for all of us is just this:

"May the God of hope
Fill YOU with all Joy
And Peace
As you trust in HIM."


Monday, 13 January 2014

A thank you.

I had my Officer Development Review/Appraisal today.
There's nothing like a spot of navel-gazing on a Monday morning!

It was my first since 2008 for many reasons.

It made me realise how fortunate I am
to have people in my life who have
loved,
supported,
and helped me through these past years.

Some have been there all along.
You'll know who you are when you read this.
There are not enough words to express how I feel about you,
My forever friends.

Others,
God has brought back in to my life
after a long absence.
It brought discomfort at first
as I came face to face with the past.
But we hung in there.
Your contribution to my life is immeasurable.

Others are 'virtual friends'
So-called because we have never met
Yet you have brought such blessing
And challenge
And solace to me
that it feels as if we grew up together.

And as I have been saddened at the loss of some friends
(See previous blog posts)

So I am grateful for those
who have come in to my life.

New friends
who have brought
light
and life
and hope.

God has a way of knowing exactly what we need
even before we ask.
Who knew....?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Five Minute Friday: See

"Earth is crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees
Takes off his shoes.
The rest sit around picking blackberries."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Lord help me to see today.

To see you in the world around me.

To see the truth in the eyes masked by a smile.

To see those who are bowed beneath their load.

To see the meaning behind the words in a text
And the pain lurking in a Facebook status.

To see the doorways I need to walk through
And the doors I need to close, because what is behind them is not for me.

Help me to see, truly see, with your eyes.

Help me to see you more clearly

Love you more dearly

Follow you more nearly

Day
By day
By day

Amen

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Morning moments.

I have a free day today.
Ish...

I had a frantic P.E.kit-needing phone call at 08.04am
But still...
For now
The candles are lit.
Jesus is here.
And I'm still.

And my mind feels like the inside
of an old-fashioned printing press.
The cogs are moving
The wheels are turning
And I imagine bells
And whistles
And probably steam.

And how do I get rid of that?
How do I call a halt when the workings of my mind feel physical?
When it feels like hard, hard work to calm it?
When being still is not just physical
but emotional
and mental?

We went for a walk yesterday
me and my man.
And we had one of our 'prayer-moments'
as we walked.
I prayed as the wind was howling
And battering us
Almost lifting us off our feet.

And as I prayed
for peace
and calm in our family life,
the song started.

The one in my heart that had spoken volumes to me
when I had no idea of how strong storms could be
And no inkling of life as I knew it being snatched away.

"Still.
My soul be still.
And do not fear
though winds of change may rage tomorrow....

God.
You are my God.
And I will trust in you
and not be shaken.

Lord of peace
Renew a steadfast spirit within me
That rests
In You
alone."

Ann Voskamp asks:
"Are you a Jesus-user?
Or a Jesus-adorer?

When who Jesus is overwhelms you
nothing that happens can overcome you.

Just be with Jesus
Listen to Jesus
Rest in Jesus
Wait for Jesus
Be loved by Jesus
Wonder over Jesus
Live through Jesus."

"Do you not realise that Christ is in you?"
2 Corinthians 13:5

Jesus.
Only Jesus.
All I am
And have
And ever hope to be.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Five Minute Friday: Fight

"Outside.
Now"

Is it only on Eastenders that people actually say that?
I can't imagine wanting to invite people to come outside and inflict pain on me.

But fight?
I know it well.
We are companions on the road.
Along with battle

And struggle.

Maybe that's just the way life is?

I know Jesus never promised it would be easy.
In fact he warned of the the opposite.

But with the warning came the promise
"I've won!!"

So at the start of this year
I'm ready..... ish.
We're in this together
He and I.

We're fighting for joy
And love
And peace of heart and mind.
We're fighting against
things that threaten to floor me.

And the really good news?

"I will fight for you.
All you have to do is be still"
Exodus 14:14

Ssssh!!!

Oh
(I'm whispering....)

And Happy New Year!