On emptiness

Today, I feel empty.

As I’ve become more unwell I’ve gone from having a fairly busy life to a very quiet one. There are lots of things I’d like to do to fill my time and my mind but my body simply won’t allow it. I used to enjoy my job, my friends and my ability to go out and do what I liked. All those things form a part of our identities. And when they are stripped away, I feel as if there is nothing left.

Emptiness is a feeling to which I’ve become accustomed. I often sit in my living room wondering what I’m meant to be doing. What is the point of all this? The BBC adaptation of ‘Wives and Daughters’ has one of my favourite quotes: “I try to say ‘God’s will be done’ but it’s harder to be resigned than happy people think.”

It’s ok to feel empty. It’s not pleasant. It’s not the way things should be. But it’s not necessarily sinful. The important thing is to remember and believe that you won’t stay empty. Our God is not a God of emptiness. He’s not a God of vacuums. He’s a God of cups that overflow and life lived to the full.

You may be looking toward this Christmas with a sadness or an emptiness. But know this: Jesus came down to earth, he emptied himself, he became nothing so that we don’t have to stay empty and so that we can be somebody. I don’t know when and I don’t know how but I can promise you that if you give God your emptiness He will fill you up in ways you’ve never dreamed. And if you give God your feeling of insignificance He will remind you that He loved you so much He sent His beloved Son so that you could bear the very name of Christ.

Emptiness is not the end. It may be part of our story but we have been given this emptiness so that when we are filled, we will know Love more deeply than ever before.

~~~~~

Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself,
taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him,
and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11 (NASB)

2 years

For most of my life I didn’t think I’d see a day of marriage let alone two years of it. It’s funny how wrong a person can be.

I was never into the idea of being in love but that goes to show how little I know about real love. Love is not about the moments that will move an audience to tears on a big screen. It’s not about the pre-packaged hearts and flowers. After all, the greatest act of love was a poor man dying on a cross.

This year, more than any before, I’ve seen the beauty of love that persists even in difficult and dark places.
The port, the PEG and having oxygen have been different challenges than we had before and yet David’s love for me has seen past those.
I can do less and less and simple things tire me faster but David has adapted to that. Instead of the active things he would like to do, he chooses a film or something that I can easily do. As he put it, ‘It’s ok because though I’d like to do something more active, I want to do what you can do.’

I’ve been blessed with a man who not only loves me but wakes up every day and chooses me. Jesus said that to find your life, you need to lose it. David’s choosing to love me is a giving up and a losing of his earthly life. My health affects so many things for us both. I was given CF but David chose it. And as we lose our lives, as we go through life with so few of the things by which people measure success, we find life in places we never knew it existed.

This year we’ve been able to count CF among our blessings. This year we’ve learned that God really does work through people who are weak. This year we’ve fitted our God-given roles that little bit better. This year we’ve grown-up in ways we didn’t even realise we could.

Our third year starts today and we trust and pray that, over the next 365 days, our marriage and our lives will yell ‘Jesus is King!’ louder than ever.

I love you, David.

For my Mummy

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.

Thank you.
I love you.

The joining of worlds

It feels like a clash of worlds.

It’s a beautiful day. One that sings the song of Life so loudly. It’s a day where the Creator’s love for us is perfectly clear. 
‘Look,’ He says, ‘See the happy children playing in paddling pools, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the birds having the time of their lives, smell the heady scent of the flowers in bloom. Here is my Love for you. Here is a piece of Glory for you. Here is Beauty in abundance. Here I Am.’
But inside my body, the consequences of sin make themselves known. I am ill. Even on such a day as this. My Life song stumbles out of my mouth with halting breaths, quietly and slowly. And the Creator’s love feels so far away. He created this body, this frail, weak thing. Why? What was the point? And in the silence, in the confusion and in the questions, the answer comes.
‘Look,’ He says, ‘My power is made perfect in weakness. Here is my Love for you. Here is a piece of Glory for you. Here is Beauty in abundance. Just for you. Here I Am.’
For all the joy of a summer’s day, I can bring a greater smile to my Father’s face. For all my weakness, I have a great task. I am loved. I am made glorious. I am made beautiful. And I will strive to see the Glory in my weakness. As easily as I can see the Glory in the beautiful day. Because it is given to me and asked of me.
It feels like a joining of worlds. The glorious day and the glorious task. Made one through the Creator who calls all things to glorify his Name.

The School of Pain

I used to go to a bright school
Where Youth and Frolic taught in turn;
But idle scholar that I was,
I liked to play, I would not learn;
So the Great Teacher did ordain
That I should try the School of Pain.
One of the infant class I am
With little, easy lessons, set
In a great book; the higher class
Have harder ones than I, and yet
I find mine hard, and can’t restrain
My tears while studying thus with Pain.
There are two Teachers in the school,
One has a gentle voice and low,
And smiles upon her scholars, as
She softly passes to and fro.
Her name is Love; tis very plain
She shuns the sharper teacher, Pain.
Or so I sometimes think; and then,
At other times, they meet and kiss,
And look so strangely like, that I
Am puzzled to tell how it is,
Or whence the change which makes it vain
To guess if it be Love or Pain.
They tell me if I study well,
And learn my lessons, I shall be
Moved upward to that higher class
Where dear Love teaches constantly;
And I work hard, in hopes to gain
Reward, and get away from Pain.
Yet Pain is sometimes kind, and helps
Me on when I am very dull;
I thank him often in my heart;
But Love is far more beautiful;
Under her tender, gentle reign
I must learn faster than of Pain.
So I will do my very best,
Nor chide the clock, nor call it slow
That when the Teacher calls me up
To see if I am fit to go,
I may to Love’s high class attain,
And bid a sweet good-bye to Pain.
~ Susan Coolidge
When I was little, I used to love the What Katy Did books where the above poem can be found. As with so many things, I’ve wanted to adapt it slightly so that it becomes more grace filled than reward based but there’s still a whole host of things that have been helpful to me and that I’m grateful for.
I love metaphors. I love pictures. I love different ways of understanding reality. And I love the idea of a School of Pain and Love. Because life is about learning. And I just can’t stop learning, even if I wanted to. The Great Teacher is everywhere. His lessons are all around. I can learn in the quietness and stillness of a sleepless night. I can learn in the hustle and bustle of a tube train. I can learn in the laughter and joy on my nephew’s face. And I can even learn in Hospital Room 16.
And that’s where I’ve been. On my own little intensive course. The Teacher sent me off. Away from the comfort of my home and my husband and into a new environment with new and harder lessons. I know I haven’t learned the lessons that He has for me. But I’ve made a start. My handwriting’s still messy. I still can’t walk in a straight line. And you should see the way I mispronounce words. But over the course of 16 days in Room 16, I’ve begun learning lessons that last.
I’ve learned that a hospital room doesn’t have to be a place of spiritual barrenness. I’ve struggled with that in the past. They are some of the places that I’ve felt most alone. But it isn’t good for people to be alone. And so God showed himself to me in Room 16 and I knew I was truly loved. I’m not a very emotional person, the emotional capacity of a teaspoon is the way my family often describe it. But I cried more than once because I knew that my Father was with me right there in Room 16. 
I’ve learned to give thanks for small blessings. They’re always there, these small blessings. Even if they come in the form of having an IV line in my left arm instead of my right. Or being able to bless people in little ways – nurses like to be smiled at, cleaners like to be chatted to, catering staff like to be thanked.
I’ve learned the power of prayer. I had an inbox full of emails from people saying that they were praying. Some of the things we were praying for got answered with a no. But the power of prayer isn’t just about getting a yes. It’s about being able to ask in the first place. It’s about the joining of hearts and minds asking that God’s will be done. It’s about the encouragement that knowing people are praying can bring. And it’s about the privilege of talking to the King.
I’ve learned to say thank you. My thank you prayers are often hollow. But I thanked God for the suffering and meant it. I’m learning the joy that comes with saying, ‘Your will be done.’ Joy can be found in the strangest and hardest of places. But it’s worth it. 
I’m not perfect. Far from it. So far from it that God sent me to Room 16. I’m grumpy. I’m ungrateful. My refrain is often, ‘It’s not fair.’ I’m short-sighted. Don’t be fooled into thinking anything else. God is love. And I’m the loved. Wonderful, crazy love.
I need to keep learning these lessons. I know I have many intensive courses in my future. It may not be Room 16 but it’ll be somewhere. And right here, right now that scares me. But the lessons I began to learn in Room 16 are true. They are hard. They are big. But they are the lessons that my God has for me. And I’m here, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face, learning them.

It gets harder…

It’s always a sign that things aren’t going well when the baby steps you take get even harder. Foetus steps isn’t a phrase and there’s a good reason for that! Marathons get harder and feel longer when you slow up.

Things took a turn for the worse in our house recently. It was pretty grim. It ended with a GP’s visit, a hospital appointment and a hospital bed. We found out a couple of days ago that if we hadn’t gone through the GP and had a hospital appointment, I would have been put onto a 5 week long waiting list. God never ceases to amaze.

And yet it makes me so ashamed that when God was sorting out my not having to wait for 5 weeks, I was complaining. ‘God, why am I so ill? What is this? Can’t we just have a year of marriage when things go smoothly? Ok, 3 months? Even better, just take CF away, Lord. I don’t want it. It’s not fair, surely you can see that.’ I’m called to trust in the small things and so often I’m blind and so often I’m ungrateful.

This little bout of illness has done two things, taken me into two phases.
The first is the realisation that life will never again be easy. I used to think it was. But I’m older now, a tiny bit wiser. And I know. I know when things aren’t going well. I know when life gets harder.
The second is the realisation that life will never be as wonderful as what’s coming. I watch people having babies and it hurts. Look at the King, Ruth. Look at his Glorious Kingdom. That’s where you’re going. Now go and have fun playing with the baby. I watch people playing sports and having fun and it hurts. Look at the King, Ruth. Look at his Glorious Kingdom. That’s where you’re going. Now go and have fun being a cheerleader. I watch people advancing in careers and it hurts. Look at the King, Ruth. Look at his Glorious Kingdom. That’s where you’re going. Now go and have fun listening to people’s stories and encouraging them.

There’s a reason we’re told that God does all things for our good. It’s because it’s true. And in tiny ways I’m being allowed to see this truth. Come and look through the cracks in life with me. Light seems brightest when it’s shining through a small crack. Walk into its glare and you’re dazzled. Better yet, sit down in the ray and bask in the warmth and light of our Father’s choices for us.

There’s a lot I can’t do. I can’t run, some days walking is hard. But I will outrun my illness. For now I can run metaphorically into the arms of my Saviour. I look forward to the day when I will physically run into Glory taking deep gulps of breath. And maybe even yell ‘Hooray!’ at the same time.

6 months.

New world, new people, new purposes. A lot changed six months ago as we said ‘I will.’ 2 little words changed us, changed our lives, changed our identities. And it’s a lot to get to grips with. Six months in, I still haven’t got it. Maybe it’s because I’m a slow learner, I’ll be the first to admit that. Maybe it’s because these changes are hard. Or maybe it’s because these changes never really stop still, never give you a minute to get used to them.

There have been hard changes. I always knew that would happen. I sat in a hospital room with a wall between me and my husband. A wall of physical pain and emotional pain with the question Why? written all over it in capital letters. I watched relationships change and knew that I’d never be able to get the old ones back. I had my daily schedule interrupted, my habits questioned and my property shared. Petty, perhaps, but still harder than you might think.

But I’ve tasted goodness in new ways. God pronounced his creation to be very good. And so do I. This thing works. We’re still babies. We can’t colour in the lines. We can’t look after ourselves. We can’t even walk without falling over. But we’re growing. We’ll never get there, whatever ‘there’ might be, but we’re noticing the growing and that counts. I believe in God’s grace now more than ever. I understand Jesus’s death now more than ever. I feel the Spirit working now more than ever. In just six months.

It’s funny how you think you know what’s coming and yet what actually comes is so different and so much more glorious than you thought. It’s funny how small our minds are. I’ve been given a glimpse of something more and something greater. I’m living this bride thing in a more tangible way than I was. And the beauty of it scares me. How can I do this? This bright, beautiful, wonderful, pure thing? And yet the very one who asks me to be his bride helps me to become his bride. I see love lived out in front of me and it helps me become lovely. I see purity lived out in front of me and it helps me become pure. I see strength and kindness and laughter and weeping and prayer and in those things I am changed.

It is a new world. I have a new calling. I’m to be a new person. I have a new person to die for and a new one to live for. I’m to breath a new breath of life and live it out. Here I am.

Thank you, David.
I love you.