Wednesday, August 31, 2011

31st August

Right then, today’s been a good day I reckon though I still succumbed to a few tears when on my Kedleston walk. But that’s all right as it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Anyway, this morning my son used his abundant youthful energy to re-felt my small shed roof… he did the much larger one a few weeks ago. I so much appreciate his help at the moment as I would find even a small job like that quite challenging. It would probably take me days to do the work of a couple of hours for a fit young man. And when I took a close look we rescued the vulnerable wooden roof only just in time, it certainly would have suffered damage given another severe winter like last year. I’ll have to get him painting both sheds next and that’ll keep them safe for another couple of years. But I suppose I feel a bit like my shed today. Currently safe and sound, but in a vulnerable condition and it’s the perfect time for renovation! I’m so glad I know the master craftsman, the one who shapes people’s lives with a perfect touch. Without the Lord Jesus at the centre of my life, guiding and caring for me, I would be totally lost right now. He is my all sufficient one in every way. And if I believed that Jane’s journey through life was ended when I scattered her ashes in the sea I don’t think I would want to continue with mine for a single day longer. But her life didn’t end then and I do want to live for as many days or years as pleases the Lord. My desire is to serve him, using whatever comes to hand day by day. I only live today because of God and for God’s pleasure I will live today… and tomorrow.

At least today I did not lose another grandchild in Sainsbury’s which has to be good. But I was thinking of the time Jane once lost me. I can’t remember exactly where though I think it was Philadelphia Airport, the one with the cool rocking chairs, and Jane and I were together in a queue to go through our checks after a flight from the UK. I was standing protectively behind her when suddenly a customs officer took me by the arm and whisked me off to who knows where. Our previous visit to the USA had been only a year or so after 9/11 when we’d learned to be strictly obedient to official requests and not to behave at all awkwardly. Anyway it turned out he simply wanted to take me through a much shorter queue which I did. But that left Jane quite shocked when she turned round to find I’d disappeared. From the other side of the control booths I was happily rethreading my belt and putting my shoes back on when I spotted this rather agitated lady refusing to go through customs until she’d found her husband. Boy did I get a telling off for leaving her after she eventually spotted me trying to go the wrong way back through the checking system. But interestingly she did make one observation when she couldn’t understand how, from a proximity of only a couple of inches, I’d instantly disappeared from the middle of the queue… for a brief moment she’d actually thought I’d been raptured in the return of the Lord! The Bible says very little about that event, certainly not enough to draw such firm and varied conclusions that so many do. But it does say something… one day the Lord Jesus will return to planet Earth, and whilst we may not know the day or the hour we certainly need to be ready for him. And be doing the things that please our Father in heaven.

Oh yes I’ve not forgotten my date with Jane. Unless I join her before then I’m gonna meet up with her at the rapture… can’t wait!

Isaiah 64:8 ‘And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

30th August

Now then, who’s a bad grand-dad? I was supposed to be child-minding today and had the misfortune to fail miserably by making the number one mistake, to be avoided at all costs… I lost my 9 year old grand-daughter! So there we were, less than 5 minutes into our shopping trip inside Sainsbury’s and already I was scooting along, wondering how quickly I could escape the place by throwing as many items on my list as fast as possible into my trolley. Suddenly my son appeared and noticed that said grand-child was missing… her older sister was with us tagging along as expected but no sign whatsoever of the youngster in either our aisle or the next one. So I left my son to search the shop whilst I nipped to the exit just a few yards away… just to make sure, and I did feel a little over-panicky when I realised I was scouring the car-park for any sign of a young girl being dragged kicking and screaming into a strangers car! Then I thought of phoning her mobile, but suddenly they all appeared. The rather tearful young lady was found by the cake counter, where else would she be? But she really wanted her mum for a hug not me or her uncle or even her sister. And a phone call to mum at work would not be enough… ah well these things come to try us. It helped when I told the story of her currently 6 feet 5 inch uncle once being left behind as a young 10 year old. We went to church for the normal Sunday morning and afterwards got all the way home before somebody realised we’d clean forgotten him! But then I had 3 daughters and a wife to share the guilt trip with me. So anyway, the always a favourite, home-made chips and Jaffa cakes for lunch sorted her out and we’re still the best of friends.

So is it possible for God to forget about us? Or is he quite simply a perfect Father in heaven? Sometimes I have to admit he does seem to be a rather remote figure, but over the years I’ve come to realise that that is absolutely always down to me and where I’m at. There have certainly been a number of times in the past when I didn’t really want to be too close to the Lord because that would have meant dealing with particular things that were not quite right in my life. And sometimes wrong attitudes, wrong thoughts and especially wrong actions can become comfortable friends and it seems tough to change them. So let’s keep God at arm’s length shall we? I’ve found that if that’s what I want that’s what I get. And whilst doing my own thing by indulging in my own ideas of what’s good is attractive in the short term, it always destroys intimacy with the Lord and that’s never good. I’ve found one important key to knowing God is to live a Godly life. And that means surrendering our ideas of what’s right to his perfect truths. The Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 are a pretty good starting point I reckon.

James 4:8 ‘Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. (NLT)

Monday, August 29, 2011

29th August

Today started off with me feeling rather stressed out, though I couldn’t really say why, but I certainly ended up with a bad head again. So I went for my walk as usual and that always makes me feel better. As it was trying to rain I used a slightly shorter 21/2 mile walk and that turned out well because it was new to me and most enjoyable, so much so that I followed on with another couple of miles through the woods again… who cares about a little rain! I’m quite impressed with how I can cope, but more than that it makes me feel really good. For me it’s a perfect stress buster, listening to worship music and reaching out to the Lord as I walk.

I used to love walking with Jane; starting with our honeymoon in the Lake District we enjoyed what must have been many hundreds of treks through forests, alongside picturesque rivers and up and down more than a few hills as well. And the thing about having such a special relationship is that we didn’t feel like we had to talk continuously whilst we walked. Sometimes we used the time to really work some things out, sometimes we said very little and simple enjoyed our walk. We were very comfortable in one another’s company. And that’s exactly how it is now I walk alone… except of course my point is that I’m not. The Lord is by my side, I know it; I feel his presence. I know his peace in my heart. He is truly my comforter in my time of need.

But as often as not we say very little to one another, which is ok as sometimes it’s just nice to have company and words are unnecessary. Other times I feel like I really need to cry out to him for his mercy, for his grace or maybe just to keep a hold of Godly peace when I feel troubled. Many times over the years the Lord has given me special insights, a gift of wisdom or a clear revelation of a course of action I should take, all whilst I’m out walking. It’s where I meet God. Though one thing is for sure, whatever the question, whatever the need, and wherever I am, he is and always will be there for me. And I will do my utmost to be there for him. Ultimately, our relationship with the Lord Jesus is all that matters and walking with him works for me.

Genesis 3:8 ‘When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.’ (NLT)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

28th August

I have to keep going forward, I know. There’s no point in looking back and dreaming of recapturing that which is lost. Those sorts of dreams are only any use in dreamland; they have no place in reality. But some days it’s pretty hard just standing still let alone moving on. So this morning I chose not to go to church, which is most unusual when given a choice, as I really value the people there. And I belong in the house of God. But this evening I wanted to be at another meeting saying farewell to a couple who were leaving to go live in Nova Scotia. So that meant I couldn’t be busy at both ends of the day… it’s too much at the moment. And that’s the way I have to live, quite simply trying to measure activity in order to prioritise that which is important.

Life is very trying as I make this journey through grief and I suppose I’m just dealing with the ongoing effects of trauma, caused by caring for Jane at the end of her life. All I know is that stress always triggers my ongoing ill health and I have to minimise it as much as possible. So if I have an opportunity to do something I simply consider how it makes me feel, and if I recognise any concern or tension about coping I then do my best to avoid it. But that’s not always easy.

And I’m still finding my daily walk through the woods to be a great stress buster, so there’s hope for progress in a very constructive way.

Hebrews 12:1 ‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’ (NIV)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

27th August

Today’s been really difficult again. I sort of hoped that the worst was over some weeks ago, but I was wrong. My whole being is just crying out with pain from the loss of my wonderful wife, I miss her dreadfully. It feels almost impossible to live without her by my side. We were barely ever separated for 40 years and the pattern for my life seems set in stone, everything I’ve ever done since I met her I’ve done with her blessing and agreement. I no longer have that, except in my imagination and that needs to be avoided. But how do I break what was such a good habit? And after so many years it’s completely ingrained. I really need a new life, a new focus. But how do I find that? I suppose it happens with a step, maybe a little one, maybe a big one, though in some ways I’ve already begun. Every day is already different as Jane is not here… she’s busy elsewhere and not able to contact me right now. I’m all alone in everything I do. I know it, or rather my mind knows it but right now my heart says something different. It has a big Jane shaped hole in it, it’s broken. But…

My heart is where I find my God
My heart is where it all begins
My heart is where I find hope
My heart is where I dare to dream
My heart is where I have a care
My heart is where I live to love
My heart is where I find my joy
My heart is where I keep my peace
My heart is where I store my treasure
My heart is where I find my God

Proverbs 4:23 ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)

Friday, August 26, 2011

26th August

It’s been another day of semi-isolation with my son being at work for most of the day and me having the house to myself. But I did feel the need for some retail therapy so I went out and bought a new weatherproof jacket designed for walkers… which is what I’m becoming. My previous coat was only showerproof, easily becoming waterlogged and I also got really hot walking in it, so decided to buy the proper thing this time. And it worked a treat this afternoon; although it was only drizzling when I was out I remained completely dry and not at all overheated. It’s obvious really and the most basic requirement for any successful activity… we need the right tool for the job.

And I’ve been thinking about dreams again. What are my dreams? What do I hope to achieve in my life? Every dream I’ve had included Jane, and so I’ve realised that I’m struggling to connect my heart to any future purpose or plan. I no longer have a dream or a plan for my life; I don’t know what I should be doing. More than that it struck me that everything I did, I did with the hope and expectation of Jane’s approval and that expectation is so deeply ingrained that I feel quite lost now. Almost everything I do goes completely unnoticed by anyone. Nobody knows or cares whether I do something well or badly. The continual encouragement I’ve lived with for decades has been replaced by pretty much complete silence. Of course I still get to spend some time with my kids and that’s always good but it’s not at all the same as the constant companionship of a loving wife, sharing and either confirming or correcting my every decision.

Obviously this is no way to live and as a man of faith there’s always another way of seeing things… I need the right ‘tool’ for this job. But at the moment the enormity of the challenge of my new life alone and without Jane feels too much to face. I desperately need to meet with the Lord. I need to know his minute by minute presence confirming or correcting my every thought and deed. I must learn to please him and him alone. I need a touch from heaven, the fragrant presence of the Holy Spirit leading me into all wisdom, granting me vision for life and the power to live it. Come Lord Jesus come…

 Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (KJV)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

25th August

Many years ago I read the book Catch 22 and whilst I can remember nothing much about the story I’ve certainly been living in the reality of it’s title today. So I need time out, some space, to help me recover from M.E., and yet I need to keep busy to avoid sinking into a pit of despair which exacerbates my health problems. If I allow myself to focus too deeply on my loss the headaches and heavy fatigue take too much of a hold, and yet it’s obvious that if I side-step my grief today it will only sit there waiting until tomorrow or next year or whenever. I have to find the right balance of engaging with the pain of my memories and building some sort of new life for the future. Today became rather intense as I allowed myself to revisit the trauma of the final weeks of Jane’s life. I know that I cannot carry that pain around with me forever; it has to be resolved in some way. Simply ignoring it won’t make it go away as it’ll just be buried in my memories. The passage of time presumably will ease the emotional rawness but for me that’s not enough; I do not want to be left with mental scars that I have to live with for the rest of my life. No, Jane was a gift from God, a wonderful blessing for me and I want her relational legacy to be only good.

Somehow I have to be able to visit these difficult memories and give them to the Lord, and perhaps that may take a number of visits to make certain I do not hold on to any pain or hurt. Jane had her professional training as an Art Therapist and over the years I had many conversations with her about this very process. More than that, on a few occasions she helped me work through issues with a clinical session, and although having one’s spouse as a personal therapist is not really ideal, I still found it very helpful. Using art as a medium to reveal the unconscious was a pretty powerful experience. She’s not here to help me anymore but maybe I’ll restart my own art work as a form of more general therapy. I used to find it very relaxing and engaging at the same time.

And then again I’ve always got my guitar and I love to play the blues, which I reckon are designed to brighten-up the saddest of times. Some suggest that the Book of Psalms might well be described as the original blues as they often link praise and lamentation together. They sometimes come with musical notation, but whilst I love the modern blues harp, I can’t quite see the Biblical harp and lyre let alone a psaltery playing a 12 bar in Bb!

Psalm 3:1-4 ‘LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

24th August

Despite struggling a bit with M.E. and a lousy headache I’ve enjoyed today. My youngest daughter came to visit and after printing off her wedding invitations we went for my usual walk together. And she loves to debate the ‘big issues’ of life, as do I. So for a couple of hours we eat then walk and talk through a variety of topics finding a good degree of unanimity which is good as we see things from quite different perspectives. As a Bible believing Christian I have a fairly straightforward world-view… determining to see everything through the ‘lens’ of scripture. But I believe it’s really healthy to be challenged sufficiently to give one’s preconceptions a little shake and make sure that what we believe is actually valid. That which is truly of the Lord is unshakeable, that which is of man’s understanding will, at best, always be open to question.

It seems to me that we have to be careful how we use scripture. Whilst I do believe it is the inerrant Word of God what we do with it is just as important as what it actually says. The Lord Jesus came in love and mercy to give his life as a sacrifice for the sin of this world. He came to serve mankind, not to rule and reign as a judge and king… not yet anyway. So for me there are some fundamental self-evident truths that I believe such as: the existence of God, the nature of sin, the substitutionary work of Christ and that we live in a God created universe looking to the future return of Christ. That’s just for starters. But despite my absolute assertion of these truths I don’t consider it my right or duty to coerce others to believe the same. The Bible may divide those of different opinions but it should never be used legalistically to demand submission from anyone. Compliance with Christian beliefs should primarily come from the work of God in our hearts and minds not from a message of fear particularly from those in authority.

The Lord himself had harsh words for the legalistic religious leaders of his time on earth 2,000 years ago.

Matthew 3:7 ‘But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’ (NIV)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

23rd August

Well it feels like I’ve been looked after today… and I needed it. This morning I took my child-minding duties off to Loughborough for a final visit of the summer to my daughter there. So again we had all four of the kids building blanket dens and getting nicely excited which made the job of entertaining them easy. Derby mum didn’t really want them staring at screens all day so she’s happy as well. My son-in-law popped in for lunch and it was good to see him. He seems to be settling in with his new job as area co-ordinator for the Church Urban Fund, and they’ve given him some very welcome extra hours to set up and manage their Facebook page. My daughter was busy unpacking after a weekend at the Green Man Festival where she had a great time with my 5 year old grand-daughter who survived some ridiculously late nights there. And they’re all off camping again to the Greenbelt Festival for the bank holiday weekend as part of hubby’s new job. I’d love to be younger and do all that sort of stuff again, but maybe I’m not that old and I do have a motorhome now…

And I’ve certainly fallen on my feet with meals at home. My son’s a great cook. Not so many years ago he would quite happily eat pizza’s every day for a week, indeed eating was seen as a nuisance  only needed to keep his strength up for clicking his computer mouse whilst playing on-line games. But not anymore, he’s decided he likes home cooking and this evening produced fish-pie followed by a giant-sized apple crumble. That’s two days on the run he’s got to grips with the kitchen and that’s fine by me. It’s all a bit random though as neither of us is experienced in the basics. So how long do you hard-boil an egg for? The internet has the answer to every question I reckon and Delia says 7 minutes which worked perfectly… though we ignored her rule that says before you boil an egg it must be at least 5 days old! We’re both waddling around feeling rather full now but that’s quite a nice feeling I have to say.

Matthew 6:25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?’ (NIV)

Monday, August 22, 2011

22nd August

I feel like the sparkle has gone from my life and I’m struggling to properly engage with anything… it’s as though I’ve run out of enthusiasm. Cognitively I know it’ll pass, but at the moment I feel pretty rubbish as I just cannot get to grips with living my life without Jane. I suppose the past week or two hasn’t been too bad but right now I’m back thinking of everything she meant to me and the person I became with her by my side. I feel like a young child who’s wandered off, got lost and doesn’t know what to do. And our poor cat seems trapped in the past as well. When I let him in, after being out, he’ll wander up to an empty armchair and stare for a while before howling. Then he’ll walk into the hall and look into our front room, which used to be Jane’s mum’s bedsit, as if he’s determined to find her there still. All I can do is keep feeding him premium quality cat food and try and stroke him now and again. I was child-minding my grand-daughters today so at least he had a female lap to sit on for a while.

Jane’s mum was 97 last week and she’s still struggling to get to grips with her new reality. She keeps asking the Lord why he took Jane and left her to live for a while longer. She doesn’t really want to live anymore. However, although there’s a waiting list she’s been offered a place in sheltered accommodation fairly close to where I live and that’ll put her back in connection with all her old friends when it happens. It’s a 1 hour detour each way for someone to pick her up to go to church at the moment and that’s no fun for the very small group of people trying to help her. I don’t see how things could have been done differently but it must have been so difficult for someone of that age being given one hour’s notice to leave your home of 14 years, losing regular contact with every single friend and then having your daughter die soon after. No matter how kind and caring Jane’s sister has been in taking her in it’s still all too much for her to process.

I just feel empty…  Oh Lord have mercy, come and fill my life with your loving kindness once again.

Ephesians 5:18-20 ‘Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (NLT)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

21st August

O Lord I simply want to thank you...
for your goodness to me in every area of my life
for the rich blessings of a wonderful family
for the privilege of living in a home I own
for placing me in a country of law and order
for your provision of everything I need to live
     for your Bible and it’s teaching
for your church as a family
for friends who care
for the way you care for me even when I forget about you
for the plan you have for my life
for guiding my steps
     for the love you’ve put in my heart
for the hope you set before me
for the peace of God which surpasses all understanding
for the joy within that strengthens me day by day
for the gift of faith that I might truly believe
for your presence wherever I go
     for your wisdom when I don’t know what to do
for your understanding when I don’t understand
for your forgiveness when I go astray
for your power that conquers every evil
for picking me up when I fall down
for being my friend
For every breath I breathe my God I give you thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ‘Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (HCSB)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

20th August

I’m beginning to get stronger. Having a 3 mile walk nearly every day at an increasingly brisk pace has to be doing me good, and I’m quite surprised that I’m able to keep doing it. Last year I tried swimming every day and before too long the muscle pain started, probably caused by M.E., and forced me to stop. It’s a frustrating condition and I reckon the jury’s still out on whether it has a physical or psychological root. I’ve simply found that stress or over-activity of a physical, mental or emotional nature causes me problems. But walking in the sunshine through the peaceful environment of the woods at Kedleston Hall is not at all a problem. Whereas it was my youngest daughter’s birthday today and we celebrated at her house for tea, and that was a really busy time. A few hours of noisy conversation, together with the excitement of a family guessing game left me reeling with chronic tinnitus, mild dizziness and heavy fatigue. I absolutely love being with my family and thoroughly enjoyed the time together… but I hate M.E.!

Whilst out walking I met some old friends from a church we used to belong to a few years ago. And they reminded me of an ongoing challenge I have to find a way to deal with in the coming days. Everyone Jane and I related to together is married and it’s weird trying to fit in now I’m single as I don’t feel like I belong. I’m talking socially, not church meetings for bible study and the like… they’re fine. So who are my peer group then? Do they exist? I suppose Jane had a couple of single friends that she always found time for but I always gave her space when she met them and I really don’t know them. Similarly I suppose there’s always been a couple of single guys I know but I can’t say we’ve got that much in common.

The only inspiration I have is through the example Jane set when she went to university. She seemed to meet some really nice people and I always enjoyed the infrequent times I met with them, both male and female. Most of them were obviously a lot younger but until we went to a wedding I believe they were all single, and after the course finished they did seem to scatter across the country if not further afield. Only one caring friend living fairly close by made it to Jane’s funeral, although condolences from others as well as university lecturers was massively appreciated. They were a nice bunch of people so it’s a shame I only knew them through Jane. And the real question is how can I learn from Jane’s example of making friends? Is it possible to find a way to bridge the age gap as most singles are way younger than me and my clubbing days started and ended 40 years ago! I suspect the answer has to lie in the area of shared interest, be it education or a hobby and if I were well enough to work that would be ideal. But talking and analysing is pointless unless I do something about it so I’ll have to get out there sometime soon. I may need time alone to sort myself out today but tomorrow is another story…

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (NLT)

Friday, August 19, 2011

19th August

I sort of grew up when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen. In good ways and in some not so good ways. I can remember being away camping with the Boy Scouts and it was there I learnt how to smoke cigarettes, so for the next 14 years I lived with that addiction. After a church meeting one evening someone suggested we all go to the pub and I had my first pint of beer… not a good idea for a young teenager, but no long term harm I suppose and I very, very rarely drink even a glass of wine today. I never thought about it at the time but two or three years later all my close friends were smoking weed and tripping out on LSD. I never touched anything like that. I kissed a few girls but that was all quite innocent whilst some of my young friends were certainly sleeping around. With the ‘freedom’ and rebellion of the 1960’s my life could have been very different. All I can say is that I believe that God was looking after me and whilst allowing me freedom of choice he still touched my heart to keep me from serious harm. And some good things did happen at that young age. I was a very active member of a Methodist Church learning to love that whole environment; I also learnt to play guitar and helped form several different bands. We used to earn 8 guineas a time playing in loads of church halls, scout huts, social clubs and schools. It was fun.

And I also learnt to pray which always felt good even though I was not a real convert to Christianity. It was many years later that I first invited Jesus Christ to become my Lord and Saviour and more fully understood what it meant to be a Christian. But after 29 years I still feel like a beginner…

I sometimes think that my journey through life is littered with traps waiting to ensnare me. As a young lad I certainly made mistakes and accepted some things into my life that were potentially very harmful, though basically I shied away from the more obvious dangers. But I am convinced that the Lord has been watching over me every day of my life, guarding and guiding me along a pathway of his favour. And never more so than today, in my time of greatest need, as I grieve the loss of the love of my life… my darling Jane. No matter how messed up my thoughts and sometimes actions get I live continually with the heavy presence of the Lord. I know that he is with me and will help me through this difficult time. My life will be restored.

Psalm 121:7-8 ‘The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.’ (NIV)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

18th August

I keep thinking that I could be rather more purposeful in the way I’m living. Maybe I could start work on my house, and I have a choice of several different mini-projects, mostly decorating, to engage with. But I really can’t face it with any degree of enthusiasm just yet no matter how desperate the need. And the garden has been pretty much untouched by me since last year; my son with just a little guidance is keeping things under control right now… but all I see are memories of Jane and the countless hours over 32 years that we enjoyed being out there. We’ve been camping, done loads of BBQ’s, had dinner parties and birthday parties and bonfire parties, enjoyed countless romantic evenings for two with a glass of wine and fine food, made music, built snowmen, had water-fights, painted pictures, entertained friends and family, had fun with children and then grandchildren, played tennis and badminton and boules and cricket and football and frisbee and rounders, we were once self-sufficient in fruit and most veg and even had it filled with flowers now and again. But Jane was most recently stirring me to construct a new patio area… she really wanted somewhere to sit part way down the garden in the shade and with some shelter. It all feels a bit much right now even just walking down the lawn. Maybe next year I’ll feel different.

And I have several opportunities to either serve or simply support my church in specific ways. Perhaps that might do me good as it’s something I really enjoy and consider important and that would put some purpose back in my life. But every time I come close to engaging again I find myself struggling, it’s as though I need a complete break from every responsibility. I gave myself so completely to caring for Jane that I feel completely burnt out with nothing more to give at the moment. For sure I will heal and in time I will be able to pick my life up again but not today. Maybe tomorrow. Though I do start feeling a little guilty for not supporting others in the work they’re doing; but I have to look at the bigger picture. My focus has to be on my own mental health and working through this season of grieving is the only responsibility I can cope with at the moment. But I am confident it is only for a season as I feel very different 3 months after losing Jane compared with say even a month ago. I am making progress and at times feel a lightness in my spirit once again.

I can’t remember giving myself exclusive attention since I was a teenager. I’ve never ‘done my own thing’ since then and just now I need time out. Whilst I can’t imagine remaining disconnected from all activity for too much longer I am determined to avoid any major decisions and pick up only short term responsibilities for a good while yet. And, as the Bible does talk about newlyweds giving themselves time to adapt to their new circumstances before becoming busy in other ways, I’ve been wondering about how long it might take to adapt to not being married after bereavement. I need to learn to be single again. I cannot have the special marriage I enjoyed become a ball and chain for the rest of my life. I have to learn to think and live differently and that takes time.   

Deuteronomy 24:5 ’A newly married man must not be drafted into the army or be given any other official responsibilities. He must be free to spend one year at home, bringing happiness to the wife he has married.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

17th August

I feel a bit like my hedge trimmer today. It’s cordless and doesn’t seem to hold it’s charge for very long. I’m going to try leaving it on charge for an extended period of time and see if that will help. I think that’s what I need as well. More time with the Lord. I made my prayer walk around Kedleston Hall again and that’s now becoming my regular exercise routine. I remember a few weeks ago I only managed the short walk and that was quite exhausting. Now I’m beginning to get stronger covering the longer 3 miles in under an hour without much effort, but I still notice the hilly bits. If I can keep doing this 3 or 4 times a week that should be a good first step to recovering strength and fitness after so many months of sitting immobile by Jane’s bedside.

But in general I still feel rather low which is perhaps not a surprise as I have to be real about what’s happened and what I’ve been through. But what is reality? Do I have to live with the so called experts’ theories on grieving? If so do I work through the 5 stage model or does the 7 stage fit better? But how can the apparently accepted stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance mean anything at all when I’ve yet to discern even a hint of the first three? All right, I suppose I may have gone through the denial thing as part of the spiritual battle before Jane died, but that would be peculiar now as my faith in Jesus Christ is at the very foundation of everything that I believe in. Jane is in heaven… period. I saw her die; she’s gone and not coming back until the Lord himself returns to planet earth. And that’s exciting! Also, I don’t understand what I could have to be angry about when Jane has been so wonderfully blessed and God is so marvellously present and at work in my life. And what could I possibly try to bargain for when both Jane and I have been given everything we need to live for eternity? The Lord himself died that we might live. But depression… maybe a little as I remember being horribly depressed before I met Jane 40 years ago and have often found this to be a bit of a weakness when faced with adversity. But that doesn’t make it right. It’s simply one of my many battles and can be overcome. Acceptance? I’ve known since the day Jane died I would have to move on, so what’s that all about?

Ok, so obviously this type of model may prove extremely helpful to many people and possibly, just possibly I’ll find myself recognising it fitting my life in the coming weeks and months as it’s still relatively early days. But I don’t think so. Indeed there is a much simpler way of seeing things. I believe that grieving is simply a way of saying goodbye and that may take a long while to do properly. But in essence the Lord is able to carry me through this season and he is working for good in my life… even today. The Lord is the source of all that’s ultimately important in my life not Jane, no matter how important she is to me.

Psalm 13 ‘O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

16th August

Another day of child minding; only this time I’ve managed to stroll through the day without any real effort and don’t feel too bad. The trick was to take them to my other daughter’s in Loughborough and get all four grand-kids together so they look after themselves. But it was a bit noisy, until they all disappeared upstairs to a bedroom and that was nice, as I had a quiet chat with my daughter. She’s off to the Green Man music festival this coming weekend and taking my 5 year old grand-daughter camping with her… very brave I think. She plays in a folk group and I think they are all going including another couple of young children whose grandmother seems willing to child-mind of an evening so that works out well for my daughters musical entertainment. My son-in-laws been given a family pass for Greenbelt Christian festival – he’ll have to work there - so they’re off camping again the following weekend as well. Every year I get nudged to go myself and the mix of music and creative arts does sound interesting so maybe next year… my last experience of a music festival was the 1970 Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Rock attended by 150,000. I presume they’ve changed a little since then… and so have I.

But I am trying to take a hold of what it means to be a single man again. And 1970 was the year before I met Jane which is my only point of reference… and I was a bit of a hippy. So the last time I had a haircut was in the spring and I’m wondering how long I dare leave it as a token step towards understanding what it means to be single again and only needing to please myself. Yes I know I live to please the Lord but I believe he put within me everything I need to become the man he created me to be. So what is on the inside that needs nurturing?

I’ve been trying to remember the key ingredients of my life at that time to try and identify those which might be part of my identity today. I spent most of my time at work, where I was a trainee Chartered Accountant, but that didn’t work out for me as the job was totally boring. I never did find employment that I particularly enjoyed other than voluntary work for the church over the following decades. So maybe that’s one lesson to remember, money has never been a motivating factor, I’m far more interested in people and especially the work of God. And as a teenage lad girls ought to have been on my mind. I suppose they were, but I only went out for a few months with one girl before Jane and she was a nice ‘Christian’ girl, but I really can’t claim that girl chasing was ever part of my life. And I’m quite sure it never will be. If the Lord has plans for me in that direction he’ll have to work a miracle to open my heart to another. I have to say though that the only real love of my life as a teenager was my guitar. And in a different way it’s still very important to me, I expect it always will be.

I’m not sure that trying to analyse things in this way is likely to get me anywhere but I have to start somewhere. My future is an empty book, with the Lord’s guidance and my obedience I intend to fill those pages with the story of a full and fruitful life. God is good and life is worth living!

Revelation 19:7-8 ‘Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honour to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.’ (NLT)

Monday, August 15, 2011

15th August

Ok, so I know I’ve overdone it. Not only do I feel exhausted but the headaches have started again as well, but it was worth it. A day out with my grandchildren at Shugborough Hall. I really enjoyed myself and refuse to allow bad health from stopping me from having such a privilege. And they did all the country estate things with 19th century characters… grinding salt in the kitchen, cleaning clothes in a dolly tub, ironing with a cold iron, making pancakes on an open fire, milking a wooden cow and playing with curds and whey to make cheese. But I was so glad of the road train to give a lift back to the car park. Jane would have loved it… but she’s a little busy elsewhere at the moment.

So I started thinking of Jane in a new way today. I realised that there have been many thousands of days when we were apart for at least a few hours, and maybe half a dozen occasions when either Jane or I went away for a few days on business. So then, when we were apart how did I feel? I obviously knew that we’d meet up again in due course and felt no concern at all. And as I was occupied with my own business I can’t see that I would even have missed her particularly. So today I know Jane is perfectly safe and occupied in a very special way with the work of heaven. And one day we will meet again, so as long as I keep my attention on today and don’t get too wrapped up in the next days, months or years of separation I’ll be fine. Today was a busy day, a good day and Jane’s simply gone ahead to where she’ll be waiting for me to join her sometime. That’ll be good, but in the meantime I have some business here on earth to attend to!

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

14th August

Right now I feel a bit rough which is annoying as I’ve had an encouraging day feeling good for most of it. I wanted to go to church tonight but being aware of the onset of Chronic Fatigue I had to rest at home. And that’s boring. But this morning I did make it and that’s where the encouragement started. It’s not unusual for me to cry during worship, but not today. I felt happy and I’m sure I began to smile which was at complete odds with a conversation I had before the meeting started. Although it doesn’t bother me, it’s not easy when someone asks after Jane’s wellbeing and I have to break the sad news. It happens, and today was fine, but some people just can’t cope at all and that gets embarrassing. I suppose some are terrified of death for any number of reasons and that’s sad because there is another way… in Christ, Jane remained totally at peace and even light-hearted right until the end. Whilst I know she fought to live I also know that she looked forward with total confidence to her future destiny with the Lord in heaven. There was never a hint of fear.

So, despite where I’m at, I felt really happy and later on went for my usual woodland ‘prayer’ walk. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has a whole raft of symptoms that affect me, but there is one that seems to undergird all the others, and whilst it fluctuates in intensity it’s always there. I’m talking about the ‘brain fog’ thing which is a bit like having a permanent dose of the flu… not being able to think or concentrate properly. Basically feeling grotty. It was over 3 years ago that Jane had her lung op to deal with a first secondary cancer growth. 6 months later new growths were then found in her other lung so we determined to seek the Lord with renewed determination. We prayed continuously and sought prayer from many different people as well as working through many medical interventions over the following years. And at that time God did supernaturally heal me of one condition as he did Jane but he did not heal her of cancer or me of CFS.

For about 5 years I suffered from a frozen shoulder after an accident falling down a ladder. Despite physiotherapy it remained painful and I found it impossible to lay on my left side for more than a minute due to severe discomfort… a sharp stabbing pain near my heart was quite disconcerting. One random night in a meeting I responded to a ‘word of knowledge’ about someone being injured falling down a ladder. I was instantly and completely healed and for the past 3 years have had no problem. Jane had a problem diagnosed as degeneration of the hips and likewise got minimal benefit from physiotherapy. She struggled at times to lift her legs over obstacles due to stiffness and pain. She was healed whilst simply travelling to ask for prayer and enjoyed freedom of movement sufficient to quite happily clamber over stiles or sea defences or whatever and I have photo evidence!

Also at that same time I had a lot of prayer for Chronic Fatigue but got no further than just momentary respite. Nonetheless a number of times I felt the ‘brain fog’ completely lift off me and the transformation in how I felt is really indescribable. I don’t pretend to fully understand the relationship between prayer and healing, but there is a difference between a work of healing, which is a process and a miracle of healing which is instantaneous. Both are of the Lord. All right then, my point… today whilst out walking, just for a brief moment, without asking or even thinking about it the ‘brain fog’ again lifted and I felt wonderfully joyful. Maybe I need to be praying about that again.

Exodus 15:26 ‘I am the LORD, who heals you.’ (NIV)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

13th August

Today’s been a good day. A bit of a slow start maybe as I had my first lie in for a long time, though I was still awake around 7.30am but chose to read for a couple of hours. So after generally tidying up I sorted the cat out as he still keeps howling and looking for Jane… and yes I still feel like that myself. But anyway I then managed a couple of hours working on my computer which is great for a Saturday morning. After lunch I decided to go for my regular walk through the woods at Kedleston Hall, and my son asked if he could join me, so that was a real treat and we had a good chat about where we’re at for an hour or so. It’s a privilege having kids who can be friends as well as family. He shared a little of the friends he’s made over the years in his internet gaming world. I’m not sure how it could work for me not knowing what people look like and never meeting them ‘in the flesh’ but he seems quite happy just using his headset regularly bursting out laughing sometimes in the middle of the night.  His gaming group has worked as a team for a couple of years and include a couple of Danes and a guy in the navy studying for a degree. I think there was a guy in the Metropolitan Police as well. It’s a whole world that I cannot pretend to properly appreciate or really understand more than just a very little.

Sounds a bit like heaven I reckon… not the internet, the not understanding bit is what I’m talking about! So what is Jane up to today? No idea. But it’ll be something good for sure. I wonder if she’s praying for us down here, I think she is.

Luke 16:19-31 ‘Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’ (NLT)

Friday, August 12, 2011

12th August

I’m beginning to feel a bit better today, gradually recovering from the M.E. relapse caused by over-activity last week. So this morning I was child-minding again and basically they’re old enough to look after themselves so I just do my own thing in another room. But I feel like I’m not doing enough for them especially compared to Jane’s organising last summer, so come next week I’m going to do the National Trust or English Heritage thing which they seem to enjoy. Nonetheless I got their approval today as I’d been shopping and managed to fluke buying just the right selection of snack food. I’m learning. And this afternoon I managed quite a long woodland walk for the first time since before my holiday and that felt good as it gave me time to think and pray.

Whilst battling not just to save Jane’s life but also to lovingly carry her through her illness I found it easy to cry out to God in prayer. There were certainly times when I ran out of steam and just had to switch off but basically I was in continual prayer for years. Since she died though I reckon I’ve become spiritually numb and whilst I do still pray there has been no real depth or passion. That’s understandable I guess as it’ll be a while yet before I come out of the shock of bereavement. And my emotions are all quite fragile with their focus upon the emptiness in my life. Something changed today though. Whilst out walking I found myself crying out to the Lord for his mercy and favour in my life. In one sense what I was praying for is almost irrelevant, it’s just that I was praying with Godly passion once again.

So what stirred my heart to prayer? An impossible request, the cry of a desperately lonely man needing just one more hug from his wife. It felt as though having just one more hug would give me the strength to persevere through whatever time I have remaining in my life. And there are those who tell the story of a return visit to heaven which I find a little weird but who knows…

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’ (NIV)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

11th August

I suppose I’ve been a little low today, certainly rather fed up. I didn’t feel like doing anything and so that’s exactly what I did… nothing. At least the builders finished my drive as promised and I’m quite happy about that. It needed doing many years ago and just needed the right company at the right price. I’ve sort of watched them doing 26 drives on my lane including immediate neighbours over the past couple of years and nobodies complaining so that builds a little trust. The amazing thing is that in two days I’ve not heard a single swear word and they’ve just been perfectly polite especially when asking for the compulsory and numerous cups of coffee. And they can’t half graft. Although I can’t pretend it was a big day’s work my son looked after me as well by cutting hedges and then cooking an evening meal for us both. That’s two days on the run including washing up so that can’t be bad, can it?

Some days I just have to find a distraction to be able to cope. TV is pretty rubbish as always and especially during the daytime so the most engaging thing today was parliament debating the street riots. I’ve watched a little of the mindless vandalism and theft on TV and it must be absolutely terrifying for the victims caught up in it. These criminals have no fear of retribution whatsoever, especially as police seem simply forced to soak up every attack without any immediate reaction. Surely that only encourages the violence to grow? But every post-war decade has seen street violence of one sort or another and it seems that our society has no answer to lawlessness.

Some years ago I came across the story of Evan Roberts and the 1904-05 Welsh revival. Apparently it started quite simply with him preaching a message to his church youth group. Within a week 60 people had responded and so he set about a larger tour of South Wales. Estimates suggest perhaps 100,000 converts to Christianity joined the Welsh church over the next year or so. In some areas whole communities were transformed almost overnight as the crime rate plummeted to zero. Magistrates were redundant. Coal mines reported increased output despite pit-ponies becoming disorientated due to the lack of swearing. Many public houses lost business or saw landlords converted and closed. Outstanding debts were repaid. Many disputes were settled amicably. Churches could no longer contain the enthusiasts and streets, railway stations, coal mines and student common rooms all had reports of people gathering to sing and pray. I heard one story of a criminal being escorted into court where the judge then preached the Christian gospel. Then the jury burst into song as the villain responded by repenting sincerely of his crime whilst the police escort applauded before joining in the song themselves.

Nothing is too hard for our God. I believe that the root problem in society today is Godlessness. The church today has a message of good news to share and a work of compassion to fulfil, but more than that we should be crying out to God asking forgiveness for our personal wrongdoing as well as the way we’ve allowed our nation to become so corrupt in so many ways. And maybe God will hear our prayers and answer with a visitation once again.

2 Chronicles 7:14 ‘if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10th August

I’ve spent the day making coffee. For builders. Well at least they’ve started work today, only 24 hours after their promised start time and hopefully the supposed one day job will be finished tomorrow. But they’re a friendly lot who’ve been working quite hard all day so I’m certainly not complaining and maybe this time tomorrow my drive will look an awful lot tidier. They discovered my drains were blocked and that was not part of their job remit, so out came my old drain rods to sort it. I reckon the smell will be with me for a while yet!

And that has me thinking of Jane… I wonder what heaven smells like, rather different I’m quite sure. I believe that heaven is not just a spiritual concept but also a very real physical place and that Jane is right now exactly the same person she’s always been, only better or should I say perfect. I know it’s simply imagination but I still feel so very close to Jane, we were truly one with each other for so many years and it’s almost as if the separation caused by her death is no barrier to that unity. Don’t get me wrong, many in a similar situation talk of their lost ones still being with them, they can sense their presence; I don’t feel like that. I know Jane’s not communicating with me and I have no intention of communicating with her. I know she’s not here, she’s living a very full life in heaven and I’ve no idea if she even has a window into the world of her loved one’s left behind. But in some mysterious way I do feel that I can imagine her new life in paradise and I find that a comfort as I care about her enormously and we shared everything. One day we’ll play a serious catch-up for sure.

So day one in heaven I have to believe that we meet the Lord face to face. Maybe there’s no passage of time as we know it so that could last a while… or not. And there’ll be some sort of welcome party with quite a few recognisable faces to reconnect with, as well as the angels and perhaps some seraphim and cherubim and… We’ve been to too many friends’ funerals in recent times and then there’ll be any number of relatives to share time with. I wonder sometimes about those who purposely reject Christ in this life how many might change their minds right at the end. For sure there will be those who refuse his mercy even when faced with the most awful consequences. So I reckon we’re gonna get some real surprises with people we meet and hopefully we won’t even remember the others… cause that could be really sad.

Then after the introductions, what next? God obviously created us to work, but what might Jane actually be doing? What happens in heaven exactly? How does the place work? It may be just imagination but I do see Jane very contentedly living in a country cottage surrounded by animals. Tending to a beautiful flower filled garden. There’ll be a stream with wild more secluded animals and birds nearby waiting to be glimpsed by the patient observer… and she is. The place will be filled with colour. Especially purple… her favourite. There’ll be a very special art room. And a kitchen geared to a king sized medieval dining room, complete with minstrel gallery. She’s still getting settled in with some hand-made furniture made by a particularly famous carpenter, but soon she’ll start work on some living art-work using the flowers from her garden a bit like a giant well-dressing thing. There are unoccupied outbuildings waiting to be used by musicians, story-tellers, dancers…

Genesis 2:15 ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ (NIV)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

9th August

I made a mistake today. After a few chores I started word processing a new project and then without thinking much about it had a little dig on the internet. I wandered around onto websites thinking of my childhood home, wondering what happened to some of the friends I had then. And the local paper has a bygones section with a photo back in the fifties of a class at a school near Jane’s childhood home. Although she wasn’t in it I still found it rather upsetting which was a bit pointless as my tears were probably more to do with nostalgia for a lost youth than my bereavement. But I can imagine her so clearly at primary school and then growing over the years to become the young woman I first loved. And the yearning to live my life again with Jane is so very intense, sometimes it feels as though I can remember every detail of every day for the past 40 years. My mind is absolutely filled with memories of Jane… and I have to stop, right now, because this is not helpful and indeed could become a trap. I refuse to live in the past, what’s gone is gone and it must stay that way. It can never happen again. I have to let her go; I have to say goodbye or should I say au revoir until the next life. I must look forward and keep my eyes firmly upon the Lord knowing that he will direct my paths and provide every good thing that I desire.

Psalm 37:3-5 'Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.’ (NLT)

Monday, August 08, 2011

8th August

Well it’s not particularly easy being back in Derby. My house is absolutely filled with memories of Jane and the 32 years we’ve lived here, as well as the shared possessions that fill it; but that’s not a major problem as I’m getting used to dealing with the sadness brought about by such reminders. No, my problem is working out what to do with myself. It was great being away with my family and decisions were easy, because as much as possible I simply go along with whatever suggestions others make. With such a large family it was sometimes a little over-busy particularly when I felt ill but I adopted a very simple escape route… headphones and an MP3 player! Anyway the whole thing was good because it was purposeful and engaging and I love my family.

But now I’m back mostly on my own I feel a bit lost… it’s as though all I have are household chores, decorating projects and maybe a few hobbies to develop. My life purpose has been caring, providing and building my marriage and family, alongside serving the local church and it’s corporate mission. Obviously in recent years the need to care for Jane became increasingly demanding and precluded any serious commitment elsewhere though my children are all adult and need very little from me. We also chose to step away from church responsibilities whilst fighting for Jane’s life. So I’m back with the blank slate thing again, my life feels empty and it’s more than just losing Jane, it’s like I’ve lost purpose, I don’t really know what I should be doing. It’s as though I’ve fulfilled my life purpose and need a new one. That’s a recurring thought I know so perhaps I need to do something about it… but what? And I’m not just looking for something to do; I need to know a fresh call of God upon my life, which is a privilege that cannot be presumed.

Today was sorted as I was kept busy child-minding my two eldest grand-daughters which was very easy as they’re so well behaved and because of that I‘ve decided to behave like a grandad rather than a responsible adult or parent and that makes decisions easy. Basically the kids ask for something and if I can I always say yes; so whether it’s “can we finish the Jaffa Cakes?” or even “can we visit another castle?” the answer is…

Matthew 28:18-20 ‘Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”’ (NLT)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

7th August

Well I reckon that was my best journey for a long time taking only 4 hours plus a 15 minute break to travel 218 miles in my motorhome, some of it in heavy rain and strong winds, and that can’t be bad. So I feel like that was a real blessing to end an absolutely perfect week. We’ve celebrated 3 birthdays, done the beach thing aplenty, eaten far too many chips, quite a few curries, an enormous carrot cake, shared the candyfloss, scoffed the knickerbocker glory and generally entertained all my grandchildren and children with a double exploration of a real life medieval castle as well as the bouncy castle, a swim in the sea, a paddle in the pool, a walk on the cliffs, a stroll on the pier and… said a very special goodbye to my lovely wife Jane.

Thankyou God you are so good to me, your blessings are far more than I deserve. You are wonderful, perfect in all your ways and I will serve you until the end of my days.

Matthew 5:4 ‘God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ (NLT)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

6th August

So then, another birthday and another visit to Dover Castle. And somehow it felt like a totally different experience and equally enjoyable. This time it was my eldest daughter’s celebration and she wasn’t around earlier in the week so we all returned to the castle again and I’m rather glad I joined English Heritage and got free admission. And we even managed to picnic with all 11 of us seated in the motorhome, and so I was glad of the driver’s individual seat and a pair of binoculars to look at houses in France as a distraction from all the crumbs on my nice neat floor. I don’t deserve grandchildren to even think of such a thing do I?

After a visit to the campsite and a quick vacuum we all went out for a meal and that was really nice. I was quizzed on our family history which I began to research a couple of years ago when my computer illiterate father started taking an interest in a long lost sister-in-law. His older half-brother was killed in action during WWII after being married less than a couple of years and he’d not seen her since then. A little searching found her still alive and with her second husband living in Portsmouth and that was good. But isn’t the internet amazing? Anyway I spent a happy couple of hours relating family history to quite engrossed children. Do they have Spanish ancestry, or French? Is there a Knight’s Templar commander somewhere back there? How does Charles II and a favourite mistress fit into the picture? What about the Wolverhampton Mander family leaving property to the National Trust and a set of apartments open for use by relatives? I suppose the evidence of agricultural labourers and fisherman is less romantic but more convincing but who knows?

Romans 8:17 ‘And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.’ (NLT)

Friday, August 05, 2011

5th August

And now I’m really exhausted. It’s an emotional thing of course as apart from a little walking and the usual chores I’ve done almost nothing all day. But it’s been such a special day and yes the sun shone wonderfully, so much so that we’re back to outdoor living again. We hit the beach at lunchtime and didn’t move until 7.30pm which for me is some sort of record. I’ve never had a BBQ on a beach before so that was fun… yes it really was! And I reckon we all went paddling at some stage or other and several of us went swimming which I don’t really understand, but it was certainly brave but I stayed firmly behind the video camera. It was a shame that my youngest daughter’s fiancĂ©e couldn’t join us as it was probably the perfect family outing though one other missing person would have absolutely loved it. Jane was certainly right at the centre of our thoughts for the whole day.

So after lunch we gathered near the sea and decided to collect stones to create a large heart shape. For the past couple of years Jane has been collecting hearts and we have them hanging in our living room. This was our way of giving her one more to complete the collection. Anyway we sat around the heart and remembered how special she was and a few of us said thankyou… for the smile she always wore, for the way she never judged anyone, for how she always listened, for all the fun outings with grandchildren, for making play-doh and reading stories. But how can I say thankyou for 40 years of perfect happiness in a few minutes. Eventually no more words were needed so I took Jane’s ashes into the sea and carefully poured them out… then for a very long time we just sat there remembering the wife, mother, mother-in-law and nanna who has gone to live with Jesus.

And suddenly I felt completely peaceful as if the stress of the past few months had been totally lifted off me. Though I felt relaxed I was also really exhausted and drained of all energy. But I feel that now I have done everything properly to say goodbye to Jane’s earthly remains and that feels good.

And tomorrow is my eldest daughter’s birthday so we have more quality family time to keep us busy… I need a good night’s sleep for sure.

Philippians 1:6 ‘And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT)