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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The expectations of a grieving mother on special days

Now that Mother’s Day has passed, I feel I can exhale. I have a little more breathing space (until Father’s Day which is another tough one). I posted on Facebook yesterday about how hard I find the run of ‘special (bloody) days’ I face. It feels like I’m charging at each one like it’s a brick wall and, by Mother’s Day, I simply go splat!

If I’m honest, I have always found ‘special days’ difficult. As an introvert who doesn’t like ‘fuss and nonsense’ I have developed an association with attention on me being difficult. Difficult perhaps because I don’t like letting my guard down. Difficult perhaps because I don’t like showing my emotions. Difficult perhaps because I’m simply protecting myself from disappointment or hurt…

My childhood, brought up in poverty, was still a good life and we appreciated what we had, but it doesn’t create much sense of anticipation either. Never expecting much, trying to ignore what others have that you don’t, being more thankful for a simple homemade cake than a big party and fuss, keeping a lid on your emotions…. It’s a humbling existence, which I’m not complaining about as I’d much rather have this than be the type of person to cry into my drink because I didn’t get the handbag I wanted.

Unfortunately, as a result, I find myself being irritable and grumpy on special days. I will brush off well wishes and shush people who try to be nice to me. It’s not something I’m proud of at all and I do try to be more open to accept love from others, even my husband and children, but it’s always with a tinge of feeling uncomfortable and wanting it all to be over! I will find myself deliberately busying myself with chores just to avoid the feeling that I must ‘sit down and be Queen for a day’. I clearly have no idea how to be kind to myself!

As I’ve got older and a heck of a lot wiser, I’ve realised I’m not a bad person for being like this. I’m just not the type of person to court attention or expect a big fuss. So, with any special day like my birthday or Mother’s Day I almost ‘vant to be alone’… as Greta Garbo once said.

The expectations of performing a role or being some kind of ‘perfect’, special person make me cringe. For me, rather than feel awesome, days like these always remind me of my failings… of actually not being a ‘perfect’ mother, or not being the ‘perfect’ wife. And then I make myself feel worse as I’m irritated at not throwing myself into it and enjoying some much-needed attention! Attention I know, deep down, I do deserve but just can’t cope with.

Recently, I’ve come down hard on my older children (disciplining your other children after you’ve lost a child is an emotional nightmare, but it’s proven to be essential and worthy of a whole other post, like this one).

I’ve been unpopular. I’ve heard my name shouted and horrible words said in anger. I’ve beaten myself up as I feel tired and emotional, always trying to hold it together yet always managing to give way to my frustration, all the while trying to work out if I’m disciplining as a caring parent or just taking out my grief on them. Failing, failing, failing….

Of course, I’m not really failing, but since Abi died, the expectations of special days adds yet more pressure to me.

Now it’s the same but harder still, as I feel the expectations of grief on these days, as well as on Abi’s special days. I want to hide from the world and get stressed about how I’m feeling. Due to how I am, I know it’s no one’s pressure but mine. I clearly like to beat myself up!

This Mother’s Day was tricky but also revealed a lot to me about why I am the way I am and what I am thankful for – and hence inspired this reflective post.

Continue reading “The expectations of a grieving mother on special days”

How I found faith in church after losing my child

Picture the scene: It’s Sunday morning. Our church holds three morning services. Early doors for the quiet ones, 9.30am for the traditional worshippers (organ and choir) and 11.15am for the ‘modern’ worshippers and those with children. With three children, you can imagine which one we go to!

We rush, ever on the side of being late rather than early. Our older children are dragging their feet, having been forced away from the comfy sofa and electronics. Our toddler is charging ahead, keen to get to the toys!

We enter to smiling faces from the welcome team, people who volunteer to say hello and help visitors when they arrive. The church is bustling, so much so that I think there must be an event on! There are familiar and new faces mingling together. The last of the coffee is being served and our three head straight for the biscuit barrel (a bit of bribery on the way!) and each choose one before taking their usual seats.

My hubby busies himself with coats and chatting to another dad about football. We are seated with other families with children, old and young, and new parents with babies in prams. There are also couples soon to be married seated somewhat nervously at the back, waiting to hear banns read. There are couples who’ve been married for decades, there are single people and friends sitting together. There is a pretty even spead of men and women, and the congregation includes people from many different backgrounds and heritages.

I take in the mix of people attending this service and it is pretty humbling and also uplifting- especially having read only a few days before how church attendance is dwindling as the elderly population die off! To see the range of ages was really encouraging. The people in this place were not ‘strange’ or ‘a minority’, they were there simply to be with like-minded people to worship the God of creation, to take time to reflect on their lives and situations. It didn’t feel ‘religious’, it felt natural.

Continue reading “How I found faith in church after losing my child”

A reflection on grief in the Bible

I wrote and adapted this old post of mine for the recent Service of Remembrance at my church earlier this month. This annual service is aimed at those have lost loved ones in the past year or so. Indeed, we attended during the year of Abi’s death and it was incredibly moving.

With memories of that, two years on, I was somewhat anxious about what to say. Preparing words of comfort for people at pretty raw stages of grief was more challenging than I thought. It’s easy enough online when people seek out the kind of words I write, but to stand up and speak about my view of grief was daunting. Continue reading “A reflection on grief in the Bible”

Having faith living in such a broken world…

I’ve been so saddened by recent events in the world, including in Paris, that I felt I needed to write about it and to be more vocal about my beliefs.

It started this morning when I read a Christian devotion someone had written online which encouraged those of us who believe in Jesus to talk about it and live our lives through Him.

Firstly, I tend to keep quiet about my deep beliefs because I feel people misunderstand me. But as I wrote this post, I realised that this is what I am doing, today, choosing to open up so that maybe some of what I share will be understood.

Secondly, when I attended church this morning, naturally we prayed for Paris and other parts of the world affected by violence, and sometimes prayer alone can seem so futile in the midst of such sorrow, but also there was an overwhelming sense of people coming together, uniting, in faith and peace, singing all the louder to drown out evil. And knowing the freedom we have to worship together at all was incredibly humbling.

Regardless of what you believe – and I expect many will already be heading for the ‘x’ button to close this post now that I’ve mentioned J already – if we all lived as Jesus himself actually taught us, this world would be filled with peace and love. It wouldn’t stop all bad things from happening – He never promises that! – but it would put an end to humans hurting each other. Where is the threat in that?

So, if you’ve read this far, here is my take on it.

When atrocities happen, to us, to others, people seem to get angry at God, yet when they come together in such unity and strength I always feels this demonstrates exactly how God is working. Predominantly people of no faith will rant and rage with passion about religion and ‘our God’ allowing us all to suffer and perish in the most horrible ways.

It’s undeniable that heinous crimes have been committed in the name of Christ and God, through the centuries. Horrible things have been done to people who follow a religion. But religion and belief in God are not the same. Religion is supposed to provide a system for humans to worship and share a common belief, which, as we humans like to meddle so much in things, we have used and abused in the name of power – we just love hierarchies, riches, control! Atheists have a form of ‘religion’ too, as others – that is, they all believe there is no God at all. It’s still a universal belief system and they have their ways to support their ‘faith’. And it’s important to remember that many major world atrocities have been committed with no reference to God at all.

Continue reading “Having faith living in such a broken world…”

Book review: Through the eyes of a lion, Levi Lusko

I was contacted by the publicist in Nashville, Tennessee, for the pastor and author Levi Lusko, to review a copy of his first book, Through the eyes of a lion.

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The press release said:

‘On December 20, 2012, five-year-old Lenya Lusko went to heaven while in her parents’ arms after a massive, unexpected asthma attack. With a ferocious personality and hair that had been wild and mane-like since birth, they called her ‘Lenya Lion’. But a few days before Christmas, Levi and Jennie Lusko had to leave the hospital without their vibrant daughter.

After Lenya’s death, Levi had to make a choice – one that anyone going through dramatic events has to make – to give up or to live. In Through the eyes of a lion, Levi explains why he chose to live, and not just survive – but live with the fire and passion that comes from acknowledging that there is more in this life than what can be seen with the naked eye.’

One afternoon, I had a few hours to myself so I decided to start the book. I couldn’t put it down! In fact, I got a highlighter out and highlighted sections that reached out to me most. I read the book in two sittings, which is pretty impressive as reading for ‘pleasure’ for any length of time has been hard for me since Abi died. I have only managed an hour at most. It even inspired this post which I shared about my faith.

There was much about the story which resonated with me. From the way Lenya died so suddenly. That her parents were with her when she passed. That she was one of four children. And that Levi encourages us to see life with fresh eyes – to see what has been invisible to us until now.

Continue reading “Book review: Through the eyes of a lion, Levi Lusko”

Thoughts of God and Grief – reflections on suffering

It’s been a while since I wrote about my faith. I’ve been somewhat stuck in a mental block of grief and anxiety. But I read a book the other day that resonated so much with me that I found almost an awakening. I will be reviewing that book in another blog post, but I found myself pouring out words of faith, words that have been muted up to now.

Writing about my faith isn’t always easy, mostly because I don’t want to alienate those readers who don’t believe the same. But I can only hope that my words spark some thought and continue to bring comfort. My religious posts are the least popular, I presume because people simply don’t want to know, can’t relate or dislike the idea they might be ‘preached to’. One thing I’ve learned about talking to bereaved people is not to talk about God! But if my words speak to one other grieving parent I will know it has been worth writing.

In the not too distant past, religion and belief played a key part of everyone’s lives. Life was fragile, death was a daily fear no matter what age. As we have developed ways of extending our lives and knowing more about how to keep ourselves healthy, we have settled into a frame of mind that is no longer fearful of our death and now more about enjoying life, getting pleasure from material things, chasing personal goals and aspirations.

We grow up believing that we will live to a ripe old age, that we have plenty of time. So we don’t need to worry about God anymore, we don’t need to think about ‘what’s next’. When death takes someone we love, we are surprised, shocked, angry that it could happen at all, and the trauma stays with us. Yet death is the most certain thing in any life. For every thing that lives will die.

We live as though death is an illness. We live as though death is an inconvenience. We live as though death is the end.

It’s not.

How can it possibly be? Continue reading “Thoughts of God and Grief – reflections on suffering”

How did Jesus feel about child loss?

My Bible reading is quite sporadic at the moment, but I have been rereading the gospel of Luke. One morning, I had some time to myself so I picked it up and began to read. It was the time in Jesus’s early ministry when he was healing the sick.

I read about the account of Jesus raising a widow’s son from the dead.

‘Soon afterwards Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd. Just as he arrived at the gate of the town, a funeral procession was coming out. The dead man was the only son of a woman who was a widow, and a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart was filled with pity for her, and he said to her, “Don’t cry.” Then he walked over and touched the coffin, and the men carrying it stopped. Jesus said, “Young man! Get up, I tell you!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.’
(Luke 7: 11-15)

The words ‘his heart was filled with pity for her’ jumped out at me from the page and repeated over and over in my mind. I continued to read but was drawn back to this passage. It was hard to digest any other words.

Continue reading “How did Jesus feel about child loss?”

Cornerstone – suffering, loss and… hope?

The words in the title might not seem correct together. How does hope fit in the same sentence as suffering and loss? But when struggling with the emotions that grief throws at me, I always try to remember hope.

Hope in life.

Hope in death.

Hope for us all.

Continue reading “Cornerstone – suffering, loss and… hope?”

Baptism blessings

On Sunday 26th October, we baptised our 12-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son and 8-month-old baby. It feels remarkably comforting and joyful to say this.

It’s been cleansing for me too, as I fell away from my faith for a number of years. It seemed to heal the hurt that I’d experienced, to dissolve the anger I’d once had with Church.

The day started well as all the children were well! The baby had a sniffle but I’d been praying for us and the godparents to keep well amidst the endless rounds of seasonal colds and tummy bugs, so I was glad we were all okay.

Continue reading “Baptism blessings”