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I have really felt a sense of joy now and then over recent days, which has been welcome. I am making progress, but this morning I had a trigger that overwhelmed me. It weighed on my heart like a millstone. I have started helping in the toddler group at my new church. As we set up and then prayed, I felt suffocated with grief for all that I had lost. I missed my old group and the fellowship I had with them. I missed being known. I missed all the people I served with. All their names were in my heart. All that served the coffee, precious ladies that I caught up with over the hatch. I missed the mums and carers and grandmas. I loved all those I served with, and at that moment in time the hole in my heart felt unfillable. I began to quietly sob and had to escape. I know my life will be hard for months and months to come. 

There will be no easy fix. It’s a season I have to go through in order to get to the other side. There is nothing that can be done; it can’t be fixed or mended. As I write, I am quietly standing in a quiet spot in town and thanking God for smart phones. I can pour my heart out as I write, which helps me to put my emotions back in their proper place. 
Later in the morning, I talked to a mum from Morocco. She was telling me how hard it was to settle. I was able to see how bereft she must have felt and I was able to express that to her. At the end of the session she came and found me and hugged me. Empathy is often born out of pain; I learnt this morning that no difficult situation is wasted. 
Two steps forward and one back. We go on in God’s strength. 

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Galatians 5:22-23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I have been reading through Galatians this morning, and I have been reminded of the beauty of living with Christ in view. God is so kind and generous in the way he enables us to respond to one another by  his Spirit. 

 That simple list seems at first glance to to be such an easy thing. And it is easy to react like that with those who please us, those  we get on with, and those who make us feel safe.

These verses become less easy when we are hurt, under the cosh, and offended. I was struck also by these verses in Ezekiel which reminded me that any goodness we have is a gift. 

In  Ezekiel ch 36 :25 God says to his people,

 ” I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees.” 
Praying that the Holy Spirit does his work in our hearts today, enabling us to go God’s way; being kind to those who have hurt us. Not avoiding or giving the cold shoulder to those who have offended us. Reacting with gentleness and kindness in the face of unkindness.
We need Gods help, it goes against our natural inclination. But God is willing and able and He loves to pour his grace on those who want to go his way, for his glory.

Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. (Psalm 25:12)

It’s so easy for me to become discontent when I remember what has been lost.  I’ve had beautiful reminders this week of my former life. Lovely people I’ve  caught up with from my church family that I’m now separated from.  But although I’m parted from them physically, we are one in Christ. Grace reigns and forgiveness is running over, and my church family that I’ve been torn from are actually still there and will always hold a huge place in my heart. Sin has been committed, consequences remain but grace and mercy covers it all. 

God is an amazing God and his generosity knows no bounds. I am realising that I have been hiding because of shame. It’s hard to find contentment when life becomes disappointing and our self worth comes from our goodness.

I don’t want people to know we’ve blown it.  I have been relying on my own works without really realising it, and as a result  I have been overwhelmed by failure.

Praying that God releases me from this mindset today, and gives me a liberty and freedom which can only come from his grace. Sin is subtle and dangerous, and can be couched in spiritual ” speak” but it’s not from God. I pray that  in the days to come the shame will lessen as I learn to accept and be liberated by that grace. 

Every miracle started with a problem. 

I have a screen saver on my phone which says “every miracle in the bible first started with a problem.” So countless times every day this is what I read. As I look back in the gospels and see all the miracles that Jesus performed, this statement is indeed correct. Jesus’ miracles are all about people in dire need and overwhelming despair.

They are about the dead raised to life, the blind seeing, and lives that are completely smashed and ruined by demon possession. We also see people who are treated badly and counted as nothing because of their physical disabilities, and the dreaded leprosy which separates loved ones. In all of these huge problems we see the power of Jesus smashing through it all. He loved, and had compassion on all people, and sorted the problem when humanly speaking there was no solution.

As I look at phone and reminded that every miracle started as a problem, I know that God is the same God and can smash through our problems when we see no way forward.

This weekend is a painful one as churches are meeting together where we live. We have not yet met people face to face after my husband’s fall from grace and I have hunkered down, got out of bed late, talked to a wise friend and my husband went to church with a heavy heart. Shame is an awful thing. We know that there is forgiveness at the cross, but facing people know us feels too much.

I felt for my husband and texted him, asking him if he was ok. His response was: “the sermon is on psalm 32!”

This is what it says:

1 Psalm 32:1-11 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding-place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

We were wonderfully reminded once again that God loves the contrite, and we felt his kindness to us in orchestrating this passage on this particular weekend. We often feel that we need to continue to be punished for something that God has forgiven. We often find it hard to accept the outrageous kindness and grace of God, in delighting to show forgiveness. Praying that God’s miracle of grace smashes through our problem and all its consequences, so that people will be amazed at God’s power and grace, and believe. What a wonderful saviour we have.

When we are overwhelmed 

“But my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is is made perfect in weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”

(2 Corinthians 12:9)

There are many situations that I feel overwhelmed by. Sometimes it’s just getting up in the morning. Sometimes it’s the thought of having to find work after the trauma of the last months. I feel overwhelmed in the night when I wake up because I have a knot in my stomach and can’t remember why. I have been overwhelmed living in a new place. I’ve struggled in a new church and I am finding it hard to connect with strangers when I feel disconnected and grief stricken.

My heart hurts as my children go on this excruciating journey of working things through, and I have felt pained, and been in agony for them.

I am totally overwhelmed.

If my faith is real, God will eventually see me through. I may feel that my situation won’t right itself, but I know that God is using it to teach and to grow me.

So, I don’t need to fear, but I do need to trust in the one who knows it all. All I can do is take one day at a time and rest in the knowledge that I will get through this because his grace is sufficient and his power is perfect in my weakness.

Back to the cross I go.

Yesterday was an atrocious day. I felt bitterness in my heart from early on, and it went unchecked all day. It almost felt like I was feeling the full force of hurt and betrayal for the very first time. At 2:31 am, I had not slept a wink. The full force of bitterness was marching over my heart and taking up residence. Bitterness was occupying my heart like the enemy in war time.

In the small hours, I opened a book of daily readings at April 16. The book is called “a year’s journey with God” by Jennifer Rees Larcombe.

The verse was:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.”

She says:

” as Christians we feel we shouldn’t let things wind us up so we ignore the internal grazes and bruises and even pretend to ourselves that our hearts are not crushed by disapproval or unkindness or ripped open by betrayal. When Jesus said he had come to “mend the broken- hearted”, surely He was promising to heal these wounds, but I honestly think He can’t do that without our willingness to forgive the person who has hurt us.”

I have a close friend who often says to me, ” back to the cross you go then!” I have had to come to this place over and over again. When we let bitterness reign we allow Satan to take up residence in our hearts and minds and it produces nothing good and opposes all that Jesus says is right.

The longer I leave bitterness, the harder it seems to hand ownership back to God. This causes strife and bitterness. I was robbed of joy yesterday, and in the early hours of this morning, and I found myself wondering if I had a relationship with God at all. I felt blackness and despair which was too awful to describe.

To react well when we are feeling hurt is nigh on impossible. Reacting with ill grace is our natural bent. Sin from the beginning of time has manifested itself in blame and sulking. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent.

Sadly, very early on, we are often aware that we are going down a wrong path. We know how outrageous our behaviour is, and how unkind we are being, but getting off that road hurts our pride too much, so we doggedly stay on it. The results are never good and never worth it.

So the advice from my friend is key : ” back to the cross we go!”

Paul says in Romans 7:19

“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”

I am finding this process exhausting and overwhelming, but thankfully the cross is never barred and God’s mercy is ever present to draw upon in our time of need.

The importance of right identity

“What do people think about us now?” Is a thought that I often obsess over..

This is a very dangerous path to go on, especially if you have a sensitive disposition as I have. The right question to ask is this: “Does my identity lie in the opinion of others or is my identity in Christ?

And if like me, the opinion of others has mattered too much, we are left completely overwhelmed when our circumstances spiral downwards.

If my worth is measured by our achievements, or our popularity, what happens when failure looms large?

I now find myself in a situation where everything has been stripped from us and I am floundering. God is humbling me and what a hard lesson this is to learn… To fall from grace has hit me hard and has made me think about where my identity truly lies.

And yes, without really thinking about it my identity has been anchored elsewhere and not completely on christ. And now I feel like I’m drowning.

God is kind in all he allows, every trial is for our ultimate good no matter how harsh it appears. I’ve been stripped bare and have nothing left apart from christ. Losing our reputation has made me feel like an outcast, a second class citizen, but that’s my perception and not the truth.

God has taught me much about myself through this trial. I value the opinions of others far too much which is why I feel so crushed and overwhelmed.

The truth of God’s word is clear, we have no goodness, no attributes that we can call our own…. Anything good can only come from christ, and the wonderful news is that even though there has been spectacular failure, we are forgiven and restored in christ. Others may look down on us for many years to come, but we will look up and find our worth in him, having that confidence to know that all is well because christ has taken our shame. We are just as loved and accepted no matter how spectacularly we’ve messed up.

Where else do I want my identity to lie? It’s madness to put it anywhere other than Jesus.