I was listening to my Dad’s sermon from last week (listen to it here) on Jesus’ voice being like the roar of many waters and he said this:
‘In Revelation ch 14, you hear the roar of many waters…. which turns out to be a multitude of the redeemed… Those who, though powerless themselves, have been rescued and established by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s almost as though the voices of the redeemed get caught up in the mighty history-shaping voice of the Lord Jesus Christ when they sing His praise as the Slain Lamb. So, if you feel like you haven’t got a voice and you’d like to be part of the roar of many waters voice then the best thing you can do is sing a new song of praise to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. And as you sing a new song of praise to the Lamb who is worthy then your voice will become part of a multitude voice joined with Jesus’ which sounds like the roar of many waters. And since Jesus’ is a history shaping voice, maybe your little water droplet in His many-waters, glorious voice will be that contribution to taking the universe to where it’s meant to be.’
That sentence, in that paragraph, struck me as amazing. And then I remembered that a couple of years ago I named my blog One Little Drop. At the time I just thought that it was a nice thing to call my little drop in the ocean of the internet (I know, I know, really not profound), but now I realise that this tiny slice of web-space, this particular song of this particular redeemed, Jesus-serving person, is part of my contribution, part of my little water droplet in Jesus’ many-waters, glorious voice.
Because: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’
Amen and amen.
My Dad is jumping out of a plane on Wednesday 17th July to raise money for the CF Trust. Cue the jokes.
‘If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.’
‘For sale: Parachute, only used once, never opened, small stain.’
‘What’s the difference between a bad golfer and a skydiver?
One goes, ‘Whack! Awwghk!’, the other goes, ‘Awwghk! Whack!”
Anyway, if you fancy shoving some dosh at the CF Trust and helping to fund research to find a cure, Dad’s giving page is here.
I find lots of different things hard. But one hard thing that keeps coming back, time and time again, is the hard thing of beauty.
The other day a nurse came into my hospital room, saw our wedding picture which I had on the wall and commented on how different I looked. It was a throwaway comment. But it’s one that I went into the bathroom and cried about. It’s one that I just can’t get out of my mind. Because it’s true. On our wedding day I did look different. CF didn’t affect me in the same ways as it does now. One month after our wedding I picked up MRSA, got a lot more ill and things have changed hugely since then. I’ve been on antibiotics which yellow my teeth, I’ve moved from osteopenia to osteoporosis, when I’m on IVs my hair starts to fall out, my skin gets dry and more translucent, my back hunches over more and more, a reaction to an anti-sickness tablet had far-reaching effects and the list goes on. And then I have the PEG, the port and oxygen tubes which are all external reminders.
I look in the mirror and see Cystic Fibrosis. I see the difference from my peers. I see who I used to be and the changes that make me who I am now. And it hurts so much. So many small things, stripped away. Making me ever weaker and realising all the more my need for a God who sustains and strengthens in different ways.
God is an artist. He sculpts and creates us. But I’ve come to realise that God is an artist who specialises in mosaics. Beautiful things made out of broken pieces. The breaking is hard but slowly, piece by piece, we are refashioned into something more interesting, more faithful and more beautiful.
I certainly feel that way. I’ve been broken many times and in many ways. But as each hard thing, like a rock, breaks down yet another part of me that I thought was good or pretty or useful, I see God picking up the pieces, reshaping them and rebuilding me.
I struggle to learn this lesson. Every now and then I hear a comment or glance in the mirror and all the sad, ugly feelings come rushing back. But this is just another step in the upside-down Gospel journey. What seems like weakness, is built up into strength. What seems like failure, is success far greater than this world can imagine. And what looks like ugliness, is transformed into beauty.
That’s the truth. And even the truth itself is beautiful.
– My lung function has come back up a bit. It’s not yet as good as it was when I came in (since I didn’t come in because I was ill but because of the PEG procedure) but it’s not too shabby at 23%. Lots of things are relative, aren’t they?
– My muscle pain is, with a few minor exceptions, a thing of the past.
– The exercise physio said that ‘for such a little thing, you are very strong.’ Yes, I am a bit too pleased about this.
– A nurse came into my room today, saw a verse that I had on my whiteboard and told me she was a Christian too. We then chatted for quite a while and it was simply superb. I now have a bit more of a Christian nurse’s perspective and she has more of a Christian patient’s. Win!
Not so happy things:
– I’ve picked up an infection around the PEG site which is a) painful and b) very annoying. The doctors don’t seem to be that bothered by it and ‘are sure it will be fine.’ Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.
Because of this, it looks like I’ll be staying on here until Monday.
– The weather is not good for me. Close, muggy warmness in Central London combined with a hospital room with no air flow (and because I’m in isolation I’m not even allowed to have my door open) gives me the rather unpleasant feeling of being smothered for most of the day.
– The PEG is still part of our lives. That hasn’t got any easier.
Spiritually, emotionally, physically, things continue to go up and down at an alarming pace. But, as I was reminded by my nurse, we serve a God who never changes and is always our God.
I love the Message version of Psalm 42:5.
‘Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.’
Amen and amen.
Sometimes life doesn’t make sense.
My relationship with God right now is a crazy one. In easier days, I come to Him composed and with my well worded prayers. But in days like these, I come crying and questioning. It’s raw and it’s real. And actually it’s just hard. It’s hard to understand and it’s hard to be glad that God’s picked us out for these particular tough times.
Picture book Christianity is easy.
When life is good it’s easy to be grateful for the lovely things you have. Of course it is.
But it’s when something hard comes that your grateful muscles really have to be used. At first, because you haven’t used them much before, it hurts. It hurts like crazy. How can you truly be grateful for something so hard? But the more you use them, the stronger they get. It doesn’t make things hurt any less. It doesn’t mean that hard things are suddenly a breeze. But your grateful muscles become a powerful part of your weaponry. And the grateful prayers that seemed so hard at the beginning come more naturally now.
When things go wrong and are rubbish and hard and sad, I’m quicker now to say thanks. Thanks for the hard things. Thanks for the closeness to you that they bring. Thanks for trusting me with hard things and growing me through them.
That doesn’t mean I’m not confused. I often can’t see the point of the hard things for ages, some I still have no idea why we were given them.
But faith is full of upside down things. It’s confidence in what we hope for. It’s assurance of what we don’t see. And I think that it’s also gratefulness for things that don’t make immediate sense.
Like all of my muscles, my grateful ones are very weak. But God’s been giving them a good workout recently. David and I have both felt the burn of trying to be grateful even when we just can’t see why. We’ve failed many many times but the Lord is forgiving and our training continues.
Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. But our God takes the confusion and the pain and uses them to make us stronger. Now that’s something to be grateful for.
Back in hospital.
Back being ill.
Back with things being tough.
But to be honest, though my heart sank when I realised I was getting not so well again, a tiny bit of me felt relieved. You see, I really do struggle spiritually when things get easy and nothing kills my love of gospel like a smooth life.
I’m not trying to be super pious. But these feelings excite me. Perhaps this is what walking along the road of James 1:2 looks like. Maybe this is what it means to count it joy when I meet trials of various kinds.
There’s a part of me that loves the easier life and not a day goes by when I don’t wish for a ‘normal’, healthy, 2.5 children, live long with my husband set up. But the thing is, if I really, deep down, want things to get easier, I know I should just stop praying that we become more faithful, more loving and more like Jesus. And if I look at it that way, it becomes so obvious.
His way is best.
Simple as that.
When you respect and love someone a great deal, it’s hard to put into words what you feel. But I think it’s worth a try anyway.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to hear that your baby has a disease, and not only that, a disease for which there is no cure. I’ve heard stories of children with CF whose parents haven’t loved them as much as their siblings, have divorced because they couldn’t cope with having an ill child, or worse still, abandoned them. Those stories make me incredibly sad. And yet, they make me realise just how blessed I am.
From day one, I have been loved fiercely and never left doubting that love. And it’s a love that has been expressed in so many ways.
I’ve been there as hard decisions have been made in Godly ways.
I’ve watched Mum fight for me when doctors got things wrong.
I’ve spent days in hospital rooms with Mum stroking my back, holding my hand, watching Aladdin for the umpteenth time, listening to me ramble on about nothing, crying with me because things just seemed too hard this time and simply being there for me.
I’ve phoned up time and time again as a young bride with yet another housewifely problem.
I’ve had her come round, give up day after day, to cook and clean for us because I had no strength or breath to do it myself.
I’ve seen her love my sisters with the same unwavering love.
I’ve watched and learned what it means to be a Godly wife and mother.
And I’ve heard the words ‘I love you’ again and again.
Darling Mummy, you are Godly, beautiful, kind, serving, brave, admirable and just lovely.
Truly, you surpass them all.
I love you.
I long to change the world. I want to be that person who does something large and wonderful and because of that thing, life is better for many people. I hear stories of heroes and want to be like them. I feel inadequate because my world is so small and my influence so tiny.
But greatness isn’t just found on the battlefield or in the charity hospital or in the giving of millions of pounds. Greatness is found in living rooms across the world. It’s found in the prayerfulness of the old lady. It’s found in the perseverance of the chronically ill. It’s found in the joyfulness of the weary parent.
We make a huge error by assuming, by teaching, by living the lie that greatness is only found in fame and recognition. Greatness is found in the smallest of places, in the weakest of people, in the lowest roles. Greatness is found in service. Greatness is found in prayer. Greatness is found in our Lord Jesus. His is the ultimate story of small places, weak people and low roles. And yet, on that Friday evening, on a cross that represented shame and poverty, Greatness made itself known.
I long to change the world. And I can. Here in my tiny flat, my prayers change the world, my love for my husband changes the world, my faith changes the world. It may seem insignificant but our God never looks down on the small things, instead He loves to see them.
Our God calls us to greatness, right here, right now. Let’s start small.
Today I got dressed and put a load of washing on. That’s pretty much it. Because today has been a bad day.
Today has been a day where the tightness in my chest feels like it’s suffocating me. That’s probably because it is.
Today has been a day where everything has been hard. It took an age to get dressed and another age to trek backwards and forwards to the washing machine with the tiny armfuls of clothes I could manage. All the things that good housewives are meant to do have been left undone. The house is messy, the kitchen surfaces dirty and it’s pizza for dinner.
Today I have felt useless.
It takes a complete reversal of our world’s view of things for me to feel like I mean something. There’s a reason that the elderly, the disabled and the unborn get ignored, or worse, treated as if they’re less than human. I’ve felt it. I’ve met people who don’t value me as much as they would a ‘normal’ person. I’ve conversed with people who would rather not walk with someone if it meant they had to walk more slowly. I’ve read articles by people who think it would have been better if I had not been born.
For them I am useless.
But you only have to take a quick look in the Bible to find that Jesus came for the lame, the blind, the elderly, the ill. Jesus spent time with those people. He cared for them in real ways. The gospel is for the ‘useless’ of this world. And if Jesus came for those ‘useless’ people then they can’t be all that useless after all. If Jesus came to create a kingdom and He chose the ‘useless’ people to fill it, then they must mean something to Him.
In the world’s sight, I may be useless but in my King’s sight, I am precious and I mean something. And that’s what truly matters.
I find that there are lots of hard things about being ill. But the one that creeps in and gets me just when I think I’m doing ok is the ‘being different’ one.
In churches there are groups and boxes. You can fit into the children box, or the youth box, or the married box, or the single box, or the mummy box, or the blokes who go to the men’s breakfast box, or the women that work box. But where’s the box for me? Sure, in one way I fit into the married box but in that box there are the young married with careers, then the married with children, then the older marrieds. All the sub-boxes. And I feel left out. Where is the box for people who aren’t like other people?
The little voice in my head is good at showing me my differences.
You don’t have a career.
You don’t have children.
You don’t have the things normal people have.
You don’t fit in.
You don’t belong here.
But that’s where the little voice in my head is so wrong. The church is for people like me. It’s for people who don’t fit the mould. It’s for people who feel as if there’s no box for them. The church is one big box labelled ‘People Who Don’t Fit.’ And Jesus is right there, the most Doesn’t Fitter of all.
Show me a normal person and I’ll show you someone with problems, someone who isn’t like anyone else, someone who at some point has been left out. I’ll show you someone who Jesus made a box for.
Being different is hard, there’s no getting around it. But once you realise that we’re all different, once you realise that Jesus is different, it’s not so hard after all.