I thought it was time for another ‘Life Lately’ post.
Right now, I’m sitting in my living room with a fire lit, Jamie the dog curled up on my lap, a pile of books, a cup of tea and my favourite playlist. I put new batteries in the fairy lights in my lantern, so they are sparkling away in the corner. I’ve been praying, and there’s a well of gratitude in me that’s been building up all day.
It sounds idyllic, even sickly, but the last few weeks haven’t been all sweetness and light. In fact, life’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, with some very low points. What I’ve found though – in the midst of tiredness that aches, emotion that makes no sense, with the weight of decision making and spells of confusion and despair – is that God is good, all the time.
I know that maybe people will read this and question the goodness of a God who can watch the events in Paris with no apparent intervention. Some people may think that the statement ‘God is good, all the time’ is an audacious and ridiculous thing to say, given the evil we’ve seen, not just in Paris but elsewhere, too.
But I think that it’s especially in these times when darkness seems to be prevailing that we need stories of hope and light, glimpses of humanity at its best not only at its worst, insights into a God who might just be working in our messy world after all, just not in a way that we expect.
So I want to tell you a few stories from my last few weeks. Sitting comfortably?
Some of you may have read my previous posts on our journey with unexplained infertility. It’s been a journey of ups and downs, of battling between hope and despair and feeling our way through decisions about treatment and adoption. Recently, we had to make the difficult decision about whether to go for IVF or whether to abandon treatment and wait at least 6 months to apply to adopt. We feel strongly about adoption already, and are thinking we will adopt in the future whether we have birth children or not – so it came as a bit of a shock to both of us that we felt it right to give the IVF a try. Everything has its time, and it seems that for us, there’s going to be another season of treatment after all. At first, I fluctuated between fear, depression and doubt as I tried to process it all. I was scared of the injections and operations, scared of the possibility of pregnancy after so long trying, scared that I’d made the wrong decision, scared that I would let people down whatever I decided, scared of it not working and our hopes being dashed again. The fear made me doubt pretty much every decision I ever made in my life. I started to teeter on the edge of emotional meltdown, to ask introspective, irrational questions about the point of living and the value of my life and achievements. It sounds dramatic, but that’s the way it was for a few days, warts and all.
Fortunately, this particular story doesn’t end there. In fact, it didn’t even start there. It started years ago, before Andrew and I were born. Ever since, God’s been watching over our choices and experiences, weaving his goodness and grace into our broken, beautiful lives.
Anyway, in the last fortnight, you would not believe the support I have experienced. Friends have prayed, let me cry, painted my nails, asked me questions, teased feelings out of me, listened to the ridiculous flood of my emotion-charged thoughts and taken care of me. My favourite Psalm says ‘I say of the holy people who are in the land, ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’‘ That has been so true for me.
Psalm 30 says ‘weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’ One night, I went to bed mournful and low, but covered in the prayers of my friends, and I woke up a different person. 1 John 4:18 says ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear’, and 2 Corinthians 3:17 says ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.‘ The overnight change I experienced was evidence of these things. Peace took fear’s place in my heart and I was more free than I had been in years.
Strangely, it so happened that I had been asked to run an assembly at the school where I work on Remembrance Day, the theme being Peace. I was drawn to the story of the Germans and Brits who sang carols and played football together on Christmas Day in the midst of World War One. Peace can be found and made in the most horrific and devastating situations, not just in the minor turmoil of my heart.
A while ago, a friend prayed for me. Sometimes when Christians pray, we believe we get pictures to encourage each other and give insight into our situations. She had a picture for me. It was a funnel, with water spiraling down through it – an image that lacked control or hope, all the water flooding down, down, out of the funnel into nothingness. But, she said, you have control to turn it around and use it like a megaphone instead. I didn’t understand it fully at the time, but now I believe that the first image was about the despair I felt, the out-of-control feelings and the general sadness of our infertility. And I believe that the second image was about this, now – me, sat here by the fire writing about how God has been good to me and taken care of me.
In a a world where evil feels increasingly out of control, we have the power to turn our situations into opportunities for grace and love. Opportunities to react in a different way – a way that speaks compassion, hope, peace. Shane Claibourne tweeted about the events in Paris:
#PARIS the whole world is grieving w/ you. And the whole world is watching. Show us how to respond to evil without becoming it.
Meanwhile, I’ve been doing all the usual, mundane things – working, reading, listening to music, seeing friends. We had a fireworks party at our place, went to a Nostalgia Quiz on the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, celebrated a family birthday and had friends over for dinner. Life is good and rich whatever its sadnesses and troubles.
I’ve been reading a few books at once, but the one that has really captured my imagination is The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, lent to me by a friend. It has given me a whole new picture of what the real Jesus was like. A man who disappointed and baffled many of his contempories, He came into a time and place of conflict and extremism, when most Jews thought their Saviour might be a warrior or diplomat or something in between. Jesus failed to fit into these human expectations, carving out his own way, a way in which he insisted on maintaining people’s power to choose what they believed, a way that was humble and gentle, a way that shied away from glory, a non-violent, vulnerable way. I can’t recommend this book enough.
I’ve been listening to Young the Giant. I just can’t get enough of their music, especially their first album. Their voices are pretty much perfect and I love the way their songs are put together.
There are some great blogs around at the moment, and I love the new look and direction of Nishaantishu. Her Hawaii posts are great escapism.
I’ve been doing a little re-think of my own blog, too, so you should find it a little simpler to navigate, with a new About page, and you might notice more changes in the next month or so. If you haven’t already, why not click (in the sidebar) to follow me by email?
I think that’s it for this little round-up of my life lately. I hope that all you lovely readers are doing good, wherever you are! x