Luke 12: 4-34 – Jesus’s advice about worry

Yesterday, I posted on my grief blog about the anxieties I feel whenever illness visits our family. How, since I lost my eldest child suddenly, my life is spent constantly hovering over the anxious switch, never knowing whether to brace myself for the worst happening again – and I’m very aware that just because I have lost one child does not reduce my chances of losing another. I try not to let the anxiety dominate my life now, but in times of pressure it is hard.

As if in answer, today, I read Luke 12 and there was much in it to encourage me that I wanted to examine:

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

 

When Jesus speaks here he comes across as somewhat aggressive and, if I’m honest, not that comforting! Yet, when I read the tone of his voice, I get a sense of that parental frustration I have with my own children. It’s that assertive reassurance that we all do, to try to fill our child with confidence – because we know it will be okay. ‘Oh don’t worry, there’s no such thing as monsters’ or ‘You’ll be fine!’. Jesus knows exactly how it will be, but teaching that to people who don’t know is not that straight forward!

In verse 4, Jesus tells us quite clearly that if we are going to worry about anything we should be worrying about God. The ‘fear’ of God is such that we should not be scared of him, like a demon or monster, but actually fear that we are doing right by Him. That our lives are lived to love Him and He us, and that in fact our bodies and our lives here on earth mean nothing compared to this eternal relationship.

Yet Jesus¬†immediately says, God knows every hair on your head, and loves you and values you far more than any other creature. While our souls are the most valuable¬†thing, our bodies and lives are also important to him. Jesus is trying to tell us that God is looking out for us in every way, so therefore we don’t need to worry.

But worry we do!

It took me a long time to read this section without getting irritated or feeling guilt for my own worry. In misunderstanding the message, I read it¬†as though my personal worries were not important, the anxiety that I couldn’t control was my fault and that my worry was sinful. But that’s not the case at all.

Jesus never told us to not¬†worry about stuff because there’s nothing to worry about. He¬†doesn’t¬†deny what we feel, he’s actually acknowledging the fact that we can’t help but worry about our lives, our health, our loved ones, our finances and jobs. He’s telling us not to worry despite the fact there is so much to worry about. He’s teaching us that we don’t need to worry about these things because God has our backs. He is the one who will provide¬†for us after we die as well as today, not our clothes, jobs¬†or money.

Jesus then goes on to tell the Parable of the Rich Fool. This is the story of a businessman who created a successful business and had become very wealthy as a result. He received admiration from people around him and most likely felt very important.¬†However, Jesus describes him as a ‘fool’ – and pretty much a ‘failure’!¬†The man assumes he has a long and happy life to live, with his success, but he had never considered what was¬†beyond this life (v.20).

His life was focused entirely on himself, on his success. The word ‘I’ or ‘my’ appears 11¬†times (vv.17-19). He thought he was worth the same as all he owned but he¬†failed to understand the way to be truly rich. He was not ‘rich towards God’ (v.21).

Jesus then goes on to talk about worry in more detail:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27¬†‚ÄúConsider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28¬†If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you‚ÄĒyou of little faith! 29¬†And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30¬†For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31¬†But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We think we have worries today, but our worries haven’t changed all that much since Jesus said these words¬†– food and provision, what we wear or how we look, wealth and status, being a success or a failure, ‘having it all’ – we are still wrangling with many of the same anxieties today. Jesus is telling us that, while these things aren’t bad (God ‘knows you need them’) we are so distracted by them¬†that we forget God, we forget the very essence of life and how to achieve true fulfilment. Talk to anyone who has found faith, and they will tell you that God fills that ‘void’ they have been seeking all their lives. The ‘thing’ we feel as though something is ‘missing’ or there is ‘more to life that this’. Fulfilment comes through Him.

Like anyone else, my personal anxieties tend to¬†slip into the material elements of life – wanting a nice home, cars, to look good, money to spend on pastimes and luxuries, but they don’t define me either. My deep anxieties relate to the fear of losing someone I love and the fear of feeling my¬†heart ripping open again. A bigger problem perhaps, but also something that God has hold of.

I read a lovely story the other night to my daughter, which explained this very simply:

If you put a silver coin into a matchbox, and then squeeze the matchbox in your hand, what happens? The box breaks but the coin stays the same.

If you were to burn the matchbox in the fire, what happens? It would turn to ash, but the coin would not be damaged.

Now, which of the two items is more valuable – the box or the coin? The coin of course.

Adapted from A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God, Patricia St. John.

Our bodies are like the matchbox, it can look any way on the outside – be a ‘posh’ matchbox from a luxury hotel or be a scruffy cheap box from the local shop – it can be pristine or a bit battered. The coin on the other hand is stuck in silver. It is precious and worth infinitely more than the matchbox. The more we look after the matchbox, the longer it will last but the coin represents our soul, that’s the part that will live forever. That’s the part we need to look after most.

Far from calling us all to sell everything, wear rags and donate all we have to the poor, Jesus is saying we can have wealth and comfort, we can look good and wear nice clothes, we can use our money to do things for personal pleasure, so long as our focus is on God and the love and care of others. The businessman only cared for himself, his worth, his status. The only person benefiting from it was himself. Jesus asks us to seek God in every area of our lives and then the worrying will stop and the true joy of living will start.

As the saying goes ‘You can’t take it with you’… so, what will you take with you when it’s your turn? A silver coin, or an empty box? We need to work on refocusing our lives to God first, and then the rest will follow.

Fight or flight – coping with illness as a bereaved family

My personal anxiety is much better these days although¬†I’m still on a minute dose of anti-anxiety drugs just to help me through the first months of having a newborn should it suddenly increase with my hormone surges. It seemed sensible to do this, keeping any risks to baby to a minimum but allowing me the scope to get a bit of extra support if I need it.

Pregnancy and the birth of a new baby are always exciting and a reason to celebrate. A rainbow baby is an absolute blessing, there’s no question about that. The rainbow baby is treasured in a way deeper than another child. Not loved more I should add, but the joy of that child’s life is remembered by the parents and family as it reminds them of joy and hope after the most painful loss, or losses, imaginable.

But the joy is a double-edged sword as post-traumatic anxiety always threatens to spoil the fun!

The very fact I have already lost a much-loved child and much-wanted pregnancies puts me in an anxious state of mind, fearing having to go through that kind of loss again. Not fearing about them breaking a leg, or falling over, but fearing they will simply not be here anymore.

It’s an odd and unsettling feeling. It’s not the same as general parental anxiety. It’s not the same as an overprotective mother who might stop her child from climbing a tree or going out to play for fear they might get hurt, it’s not saying ‘be careful’ for the umpteenth time that day, it’s a deep unnerving knowing that at any time they could be gone. Forever.

We try hard not to¬†overly protect our other children. We let them play out, we encourage some independence, we encourage bravery and trying new experiences even when they feel anxious themselves (and all we want to do is wrap them up, close the curtains to the ‘nasty’ world and stay home). We know we have to do this, to enable them to live as full lives as possible.

When worrying turns into anxiety
Anxiety is always there for us. The anxiety switch is ready to turn on at any moment. We can¬†go from normality to are they/we really OK in an instant. Will this common illness turn into something traumatic? Will they wake up this morning? The anxiety surrounds sudden loss, which is understandable considering Abi’s sudden death from a brain haemorrhage. The anxiety is the fear of life changing in the blink of an eye.

The ‘fight or flight’ reaction, commonly known as something we have inherited from our ancestors to save us from harm, is still very real for the anxious grieving parent. At times of pressure, I found I have conflicting thoughts – one part¬†of me says ‘Ignore¬†it’ or even ‘Run! You’d be better off alone than worrying about this’, another part says ‘Don’t mess about, get them to a doctor’ and ‘Let’s fret about everything bad that can go wrong’. It can be very hard to think clearly.

We’ve had some nasty seasonal illnesses¬†(which¬†added to the worries of my son’s illness earlier in the year). Things I could handle pretty well in the past, but now I have to work overtime just to keep myself from going over the edge with worry, especially knowing with children how hard it is to read the signs sometimes, how one illness can mask another. It’s more exhausting than ever to know what to do for the best. With our NHS system on overload, we are conscious not to clog up¬†busy¬†waiting rooms¬†with things that we can treat at home, yet invariably we’ll find ourselves taking them down, just in case (I try to avoid using Google to diagnose us seeing as every symptom seems to relate to something terminal or life-threatening!).

What are the chances…?
Life has become a game of chance. Abi’s illness was one of those ‘million to one’ scenarios, so¬†it’s hard to say now ‘the changes are slim’ when we’ve been one of those million.

The other night, my son sat in the car and simply said, from seemingly nowhere, with tears in his eyes, “When did I last see Abi alive?” He has been talking about her a lot lately.¬†I said it would have been the day she had her brain haemorrhage.

“Brain haemorrhages are really rare aren’t they, Mum? So why did Abi have to get it?”

I admitted I didn’t know why and that I often think¬†the same. Why her? She was our daughter, their¬†sister! Like us, he misses her. He knows¬†it is¬†very unlikely he’d get it too, he knows¬†it was Abi’s ‘thing’, but being exposed to death at such close range so young makes the fear of death very real for us all.¬†We think about death more often than most. And, after¬†the viruses have¬†passed, the post-illness anxiety lingers much longer.

 

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“I still miss her.”

Our children are most vulnerable to anxiety as their perception of the world changes, we already have their fears to ease, let alone the fear that death may come to them again at any time. Of course it will, because, like it or not, death is the most certain thing in life, but I am sad for them already knowing we will have to face loss again some day.

Faith in God has been vital to our comfort and it’s not to be underestimated. My children are always asking about heaven, Jesus and how it all fits together.¬†Yet we also have to do what Jesus said, live life like a believing child, not a cynical, bitter adult. Be honest about our feelings, when we feel sad in grief, happy, adventurous, scared…

For example, literally minutes after having an emotional but straight forward chat about missing Abi, my son was building a pretend toilet out of his two-year-old¬†brother’s bricks and laughing at his idea.¬†It’s not to say his feelings about Abi were insignificant or made him feel uncomfortable, far from it. He said what was on his mind, it moved him, he processed it and then moved on to the next thing.

I admit that I struggle to be the same. As I watched him play with the bricks for a while my mind was still deep in our conversation. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to help him talk it through… but he’s done that, for now it was enough for him. He didn’t need to wallow or grieve. He didn’t need to be clung tight and watched. He just needed to express his fears and emotions.

He worries about death a lot, which is normal for his age, and I’m more ready than ever to answer his questions. I also admit that I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I do try to tell him is that worrying about death will not change the fact that we will die, and that even though everybody worries a bit about dying, we need to work hard to try to enjoy the days that we have and make the most of our lives rather than allowing the worries to control us. It’s harder than it seems when you’ve seen death like we have.

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The siblings as they were. Abi united them.

As I reach the last few weeks of my pregnancy, when I hope to welcome another daughter into the world, my mind is filled with excitement, fear and worry. Aside from the usual worries that most mothers have about the birth and if baby will be okay, I am thinking about the long-term pressure of life. This will be another person we, essentially, have to keep alive, another person to worry about, another person who relies solely on us to keep her safe and well. At times, it seems such a huge responsibility! A lifetime of worry!

Despite all this, I feel, as a family, we are doing pretty well. We are laughing and living as best we can, and there isn’t much to be done about these anxieties, they are part of our grief now, and I hope that it reduces as time passes. But I really wanted to record the mixed emotions that arise every time the ‘panic button’ is pushed. I’m sure I’m not alone!

Here’s to, hopefully, a healthier spring and summer!

 

The Listening Life

This is such a moving and inspiring post from a bereaved mother who is walking through her loss with Jesus. Inspired writing!

My Journey:

Today when walking down the corridor at work, I bumped into the specialist in paediatric palliative care who was enormously helpful to us in organising Leah’s end of life care.

Straight away I¬†felt the pangs of heartache, as my heart was transported back to the 14th January 2014 in Belfast City Hospital. I silently asked myself ‚ÄúMust it always be this way, will there always be pain triggers waiting round every corner?‚ÄĚ Then I remembered hearing recently that every event is actually 20% fact and 80% perception, so I started talking to myself in my head about how blessed we were to have had the support and expertise of this amazing woman and how much her input meant to us at the time. Within minutes I was feeling more positive.

A couple of hours later I was going down the corridor and I met her again. She…

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Psalm 127: God is the answer

In my weary, 8-month pregnant, sleep-deprived state, the weekend doesn’t appeal. As the chores mount up (and are harder to get through as bending and lifting becomes an effort), the children fight over what (irritating) TV show to watch all the while creating even more mess and work, the husband idling after a stressful week and still recovering from illness, three work deadlines to meet by Monday, worrying about finances and things I need to do but physically can’t… etc… I ask God to be my focus and I immediately get the amazing Psalm 127.

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In the midst of life’s distractions, it’s easy to succumb to the pressure, the sense of simply being overwhelmed, worrying about the future (I would hide under the duvet, if it wasn’t so uncomfortable to lie down with my aching pelvis!).

God has shown me that, without Him, there’s no point. That He’s made me to deal with this, and more!

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God has always provided for us. He’s guided the growth of my business. He’s given my husband a stable job. I need to put the effort in and use the brain He gave me, but He always provides the opportunities for me to provide for my family.

But I also need to allow myself to switch off and rest. To not worry about the provision, to trust that it will come. To be mindful of what – and who – I have now, today.

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Each of our children are blessings – the ones who never made it to birth, the ones who didn’t stay, and especially the ones who test us more than others. It’s not their fault they create physical and emotional work. It’s not my fault I’m too tired to deal with it all at times. They are not there to be worshipped and pampered, but to be moulded and shaped with love and healthy discipline, given space to find their feet within a loving home.

Having another (fifth) baby is scary at times too, as I consider how I’ll cope, or not, with all the other pressures in my life.

Yet this is God’s miracle and I must cherish it. I know we are truly privileged and I must try to ignore the practical stuff to see this, to see that I won’t always feel this tired, this weary.

I must find a way to see the many blessings through the few trials. And God is the answer.

God on Mute: When God seems absent

I’ve been reading God on Mute for Lent, which ended at the weekend. There is much in the book¬†that has both challenged me and opened my mind to understanding unanswered prayer in ways I’d never considered before. The book looks at various reasons why God might not appear to answer our prayers – in the time we want, the way we want or why we want them.

What is clear is that, even when he is silent, God hears our every prayer. Every song, praise, outpouring and simple ‘Jesus’ or ‘God bless’, He hears it all, but answering all those prayers the way we expect is quite a different matter.

I wanted to reflect on Chapters 10 and 11 from the book, Exploring and¬†Engaging the Silence, which explores why, at times, God might choose to be silent. I don’t mean listening to prayer and answering it later or in a different way, but actually withdrawing from intervening in¬†our lives.

When Jesus became an atheist
This part of the book reflects on the theme of Easter Saturday, a holy day that is vastly overlooked and understated. Easter Saturday is the time when Jesus was dead. When God was silent for him and for the world. He went down into death like any other person. God was gone.

Jesus, effectively, became an atheist. The resurrection was to follow, he knew that, but he also knew he had to go through the pain of Saturday. The Saturday expressed the despair and utter hopelessness of death without God, without heaven, without love. Nothing. It was a period of agonising waiting.¬†In many ways, we are all now living this Saturday, while we wait for the joy, peace and grace of tomorrow’s paradise. It’s a concept¬†I often reflect on in my grief.

Jesus cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’¬†as he was dying. Words also written in the Psalms (Psalm 22:1. 16-18).¬†Not only did he feel the physical and emotional pain of all sin, but even worse, the total absence of God, his father. Jesus’¬†words expressed the feelings we all feel at times – of doubt and a collapse of faith. Yet, at his hour of most need, his father had to step back.

I just read¬†this moving article by Joey Feek’s husband about how in the months leading up to her death she painfully but determinedly distanced herself from her young daughter in order for her daughter to create a stronger bond with her husband, which would benefit both her daughter¬†and her husband in their grief after her death. You can only imagine the strength it took for her to do that when every fibre of her being would want to hold her child every minute until she couldn’t anymore. God felt this too, as he left his son to die, yet He knew it had to be this way. We, even 2000 years on, still find it¬†hard – with our human minds – to fully comprehend this seeming deliberate withdrawal of love.

Growing into spiritual maturity
What challenged me was what the author, Peter Greig, describes as moving on from the ‘infatuation’ with God to a mature relationship with Him.
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If God is so good, why do we ignore Him?

Something that’s always bothered me is why some humans believe in God and others don’t. Where did it go wrong? We are I believe mostly good people, trying to raise our families and live our lives well, so if God was so instrumental to this why aren’t the churches packed with worshippers?

Since diving full on into a life with Christ, my Bible reading has ramped up and I relish learning more about God and Jesus. It really is true that the more you read, the deeper your faith grows.¬†But… if someone told me this¬†a few years ago, I would have been more than a little sceptical.

Like many, I would have thought:”Yeah right, they only want¬†to brainwash me with their religion. Who has time to read the Bible when there is so much else to do? Give me OK magazine any day! And why go to church? If God loves us all, He’ll know I’m fine as I am and will love me whether I bother or not. We’re not all meant to be pious martyrs!’

Yep, pretty cynical and, if I’m honest, I was brushing¬†it off because I didn’t have time in my life for God, I didn’t find church very exciting, I didn’t understand much of it, I’d had some bad experiences and I simply wasn’t ‘holy’ enough…¬†so I just didn’t go there.

I considered myself, for most of my life, to be a Christian (of sorts), someone who (mostly) believed in God and felt a sense of something special when I went into a church (which became more¬†as a tourist or spectator). I’d look at Christians and feel a bit envious that they had something I didn’t, that depth of faith that I seemed to be lacking, yet also I’d be very wary of them….

But all that changed when my daughter died and I found God waiting patiently for me.

Just as an atheist struggles to understand why anyone would believe in God, once you have experienced God you look at people who haven’t¬†and wonder why. Why don’t they feel this? Why don’t they see what you see? They are missing out on so much deep joy! It really does make you want to spread the Word!

But the thing is, people don’t want to be saved.

Right from¬†the beginning, Genesis, since the Fall (yes, I totally believe all that about Adam and Eve) we have turned away from God. God gave us free will, which in the main we love and make use of, but it means¬†He won’t interfere to turn our hearts towards Him. He’s no wish-granter, but it’s a bit like the idea of¬†a genie¬†where you can have whatever you wish for but he can’t make you love someone, including himself.

And early in¬†Genesis, we start doing our own thing and losing touch with the creator. So much so that God sends the flood to wipe the earth clean! Then, in Exodus, God is obviously involved with his people and communicates to them through Moses and others and numerous signs. Time and again they go to him then it’s not long before they seem to forget. Forget how powerful and loving he is. Forget the creator! If he’s not there, right there, performing miracles or some other wondrous act, he’s forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind! And just like children, once we are left to our own devices we usually get up to no good!

I imagine it to feel, to Him, the same way we do when¬†our children grow up,¬†gain¬†independence and not need us any more. Some children stick around and keep in contact with their parents, often or occasionally. Others don’t. In God’s case, many¬†of his children have¬†said, ‘See you later Dad, we can do it by ourselves, that is, until we need something so we’ll pop back just in case you can help, or we’ll blame you for everything and never speak to you again!’

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A picture of health

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This is a picture of¬†Abi and me on holiday in about 2011. I love the health and happiness radiating from BOTH of us in this picture. Of course, there was never any sign that Abi would have a brain haemorrhage two years later but what struck me when I saw this was not Abi particularly, but me. This is how I remember Abi, but it’s not what¬†I think of when I see¬†me.

While I was never overweight, I had worked hard to get myself fit after having three children. I was caring about myself for the first time and it shows. I felt confident, happy in my own skin, mentally calm…

Since Abi died, I feel like a bleak shadow of that former me. My skin appears greyer, my eyes tired, my fingernails are chewed and sore, my body unfit and neglected…

I stopped exercising as it brought on palpations when¬†my anxiety took over. I didn’t see the point in loving myself anymore. I failed my daughter, why should I care about myself?

I am now tied into a pattern of compulsive eating, because food is my only comfort. I’ve gained weight (obviously being pregnant twice in 3 years has something to do with that!). I’m not one to worry about my weight but I know my pattern of behaviour is not healthy, physically or mentally. It’s almost self-destructive. It’s a common trait of the bereaved.

I posted on my faith blog, By His Light, yesterday about how I mourn so much harder when life is tough. When there is illness, overwork, stress and anxiety. When parenting challenges me to my core and being fair or consistent goes out of the window. I feel more tearful as the pressures mount and miss Abi terribly.

I withdraw at times like this… because I need the solace. I want to build a wall around myself where I can just hide under a duvet and wallow… for a while, until it passes. I don’t want others to see this vulnerable me, I want them to see only the me I know… and like.

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Of course, I can’t do that. I have three children to look after, a home and business to run. A husband who needs his wife to keep it together. A baby growing inside me who needs to be nurtured.

So I turn to food as my pick-me-up, several times a day. It helps for the briefest moment so I’m back again in an hour or so. I feel excited by food. Yet I’m starting to feel the discomfort of the weight (not least the baby pressing on my lungs)… I suppose it represents, physically, the emotional weight of grief.

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Breathe deeply in faith

I’ve realised that it doesn’t take much these days to break me. I always mourn my daughter harder when life feels tough…illness, sleep deprivation, anxieties, parenting challenges all set to chip away at my weary soul.

Women, mothers, hold up so much. We carry so much burden to alleviate the physical and emotional burden on others. We keep things ticking. Our minds work at a thousand paces. Yet we are human too.

I pray for patience¬†then sin with words. I pray for peace¬†then sin with angry thoughts. I feel I should be more. Be calmer, milder, more accepting but that only seems to create the opposite as I fail to live up to my own expectations. I’m not happy with my behaviour. I beat myself up. I’m irritable. And perhaps worst of all, I feel desperately alone. Pressures God knows I don’t need.

Today, I prayed a psalm of thanks which fell open in my Bible. I then prayed for God’s help, again. My prayers feel selfish but I poured it out to God in the brief moment I had without a child’s demands. I opened my Lent book, God on Mute, by Peter Greig, and read this quote…¬† Yet again I realise that, in prayer, I don’t need to search too far or for too long to find comfort and guidance just to…

…breathe deeply in faith.

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A Christian funeral

I attended a funeral this week of an inspiring lady from my church, ‘D’. Her death, while expected in some ways due to the leukaemia that had taken over her body, was a shock to her family and friends nonetheless.

She and her husband are both committed Christians and have done a lot for the church in their lifetime. However, the funeral wasn’t so much about their depth of faith, but was about how ‘D’ had lived her life and the impressions she made on people. We learned how she was the kind of woman to make the most of every day. How she was always challenging herself. How she used her creative talents to benefit others. How she was involved in community work and selflessly reached out to support young and old. All the while raising two children and being a dedicated wife, grandmother and homemaker. She had lived a life many of us aspire to, but did so without self-congratulation or pride, but humbly and modestly, and with an awesome dose of humour! She dealt with her illness with great courage and dignity.

It spoke volumes that the church was full of mourners and there was standing room only for some. While not originally from our village, all ages and people from all her life attended. A testament to who she was. A much-loved person who gave more love in return. I had only known her relatively briefly, a few years, and we socialised at church events. But there was much about my own relationship with her that made me feel a connection to her and such sorrow at her death.

She first introduced herself to me at the first church service I attended after my daughter’s funeral. This kind-faced couple approached me and she told me how they knew something of our loss, as they had lost their eldest grandchild in similarly sudden and unexpected circumstances at a similar age to Abi (who was 12 when she died). Ever since, they always made a point to say hello or to have a chat whenever they saw me. While there were periods where I didn’t see them for a while, I felt welcomed as an instant friend and there was a genuine sense of care and love about them.

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Having the courage to believe

This week, I attended my 8-year-old son’s parents’ evening. Like many parents at this time of year, I was keen and somewhat¬†nervous to see how he was getting on.

In the past, before my eldest child died, I was guided a lot by the grades my children achieved. Abi, my eldest child, always did very well. Effortlessly getting good grades due to her natural affinity to the school system and learning. My second child was similar; a good all rounder with a creative flair. My son has found learning at school harder to adjust to. As one of the youngest in his class, he was at a slight disadvantage to his peers. He’s bright enough and loves maths, but he’s not keen on writing or reading in a structured way. He tends to worry about getting things wrong and will simply ‘switch off’ when he can’t handle something. Yet he’s happy and his confidence in himself is growing all the time.

When Abi died, my perspective on many things changed. Everything seemed insignificant… of course it was… but it was such a big thing to adjust to that no one warned me about. I suddenly didn’t know what to care about anymore. But as their routines didn’t stop, I needed to somehow find a way to continue to support my children’s schooling. Our children need to see that we care about all the things they do.

Three years on, I’m in a fairly happy place with this now; my focus¬†centres on my children’s overall happiness and wellbeing. The grades don’t really matter. Clearly, I see the value of learning essentials such as English and mathematics, but I’m not fussed about¬†them achieving the ever-pressured targets set by the government. I firmly believe in a rounded education that includes sports, arts, faith, hobbies and just plain old having fun.

It was something the teacher said that struck me the most about his progress. He was sat at a table with¬†his peers and they were talking about God and Jesus. Everyone except my son said they didn’t believe in Him, they made jokes about Jesus and giggled about it. It wasn’t a deep theological debate this was just 8-year-olds having a chat. But my son went against their opinions and admitted he believed in God, and he said this with simple and honest courage in his convictions. The teacher noticed this and commented on it to us.

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