Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30th November

So there we were standing on the platform at Loughborough Railway Station. It was a few years ago when Jane and I decided to take our daughter on a day trip to London using a bargain rail deal. Normally I’d simply drive there, for convenience and also cost. But suddenly I had a new and for me unique experience. The warning that the next train would not be stopping, and that we should stand back from the platform edge, just didn’t prepare me for the intercity monster that seemed to explode upon us! Travelling, presumably in excess of 100mph and only a few inches from the platform it totally dominated, leaving me rather amazed that this was a normal event. But at least it disappeared as quickly as it arrived, which is not quite the same as the express event that arrived to unsettle my equilibrium today. It stayed awhile and though it’s gone now I still feel a little shaky.

This morning I managed a bit of a lie in again and that seems to be beneficial health wise. In due course I travelled to visit my daughter and both grandchildren in Loughborough… not the station this time. A nice benefit of the national strike was that my grand-daughter was at home and I had a really nice time for a couple of hours. Not so good about my uncollected dustbin though. So apart from the ‘normal’ M.E. headache thing I actually felt quite good about life, indeed almost happy. On the journeys, both there and back, I indulged in my number one favourite activity… thinking about life in heaven. It was triggered by a very simply little thought… I wondered what Jane was up to right now in heaven. How would she be spending the day, who would she be spending time with and what is it really like there? Obviously I have no sure idea, as I have no real knowledge of heaven other than in my daydreams, but I do have a lot of knowledge about Jane. I know how she thinks, I know what she likes to do and surely she’ll be more her true self in heaven than she ever was able to be on earth. She enjoyed colour, she loved animals and caring for people, she loved to pray and she loved Jesus. Oh yes, she loved me as well. And our family.

So when I got back home I still felt quite happy and found a single letter, with a handwritten address on it, waiting for me. I wondered who it might be from given the unusual lack of print but ignored it for a few minutes whilst I sorted the house out. When I opened it I found nothing but consideration and an opportunity to engage in a nice idea. But instantly and quite unexpectedly the high speed express exploded in my emotions and that was it for quite a while. Six hours later I still feel shaken up. Strange how grief takes hold isn’t it? Ok, so the letter was from the local funeral parlour and was quite simply an invitation to write a personal message on a ‘star’ to hang on the Christmas tree in their reception. They organised and presumably sponsored a memorial church service a few weeks ago and I can only applaud their work and kindness… but it was just too much for me to cope with today. This will be my first Christmas for 40 years without Jane. I don’t want to do it. I will, to be with my family. But it won’t be easy.

Isaiah 9:6 ‘For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

29th November

It’s been a very quiet day again. The normal chores, a little decorating and my good deed of delivering Jane’s mum to her old folks group. That’s about it. So why do I have to have a headache? I’m managing my activity levels very carefully, I’m trying to engage with a pacing program using swimming and walking, and still I feel ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. No matter how hard I work at it I can’t seem to make real progress. The only thing that has consistently helped over the years has been spending a lot of time outdoors in the sunshine. And that’s in short measure at this time of year; it’s been rather gloomy all day! Maybe that’s just how I see things, although relatively speaking I don’t feel too bad, so that’s something to be grateful for.

Everything within me wants to tackle my ill health and also my bereavement journey head on. I’m ready to leave this stage of life behind. I’d love to get back to work; find a job to earn a few pounds maybe, but more likely engage with voluntary work again. Either which way I need to meet people and do something useful, I’m really not suited to spending so much time on my own. But every time I push myself I just get more and more ill… CFS is a rubbish condition. I only recover with complete inactivity and that’s no way to live for long! So I measure activity and stop before I’ve done too much, and that works up to a point. But my plan at the moment is to gradually increase exercise, mostly swimming, and get as fit as possible. Because of my health I get free swimming at the pool so I’ve got no excuse, two or three visits a week should be good enough I reckon.

But striving towards recovery wouldn’t help. It would just cause tension and any stress is a big no-no for CFS sufferers. So my real focus is the Lord, embracing his peace and entering into his rest. I have to trust that at the right time he will restore my health. The NHS has no real answer… tranquilizers, cognitive behaviour therapy, pacing, activity management and the like. I’ve done all that and indeed continue to work with all bar the pills but I’m still ill. So I’m in God’s hands for sure and there’s nowhere I would rather be. I’m asking him for opportunity to serve once again but without Jane I already feel stretched. She looked after me wonderfully for many years with gentle encouragement and making the house nice. I mended and made things, she cooked and cleaned, though I did fight for control of the hoover whenever she got it out. I just never thought to get it out in the first place. I do now though and I never realised how much she did until she had to stop. Which is exactly what I have to keep doing…

Hebrews 4:6 ‘So God’s rest is there for people to enter’ (NLT)

Monday, November 28, 2011

28th November

I feel a lot brighter today after a really good night’s sleep. And the weekend was particularly engaging so I feel a lot happier. Then today I feel as though I’ve enjoyed a few good things already. I was too busy yesterday to watch the final Grand Prix of the year, so after avoiding all news channels for 24 hours, I enjoyed a very relaxing lunch break with BBC iPlayer. I’m not overly enamoured with the BBC for selling out F1 to Sky next year though! So I’ve limited my work to a few household chores building strength to get on with decorating through this week. The eternal optimist, that’s me. Anyway first thing this morning I spotted a thief at work in my garden.

Now when I bought this it was labelled as a bird table. Should I complain that they didn’t call it a squirrel table? Maybe not, as a few seconds earlier there were plenty of Coal Tits enjoying my seed and peanut offering. Squirrels may be a little greedy and they’ve certainly damaged my ancient apple tree but they’re such an amusing little animal that you have to like them. I do anyway.

And also this morning I went swimming, completing the usual 20 lengths without any effort whatsoever. Most encouraging. But unfortunately I paid little attention to a fairly large gentleman with an unusual side effect from his particular swimming technique. No splashing as a warning, he simply created a bow wave. And as we passed by one another I happened to have my mouth open and swallowed far too much water… yuck! But did I learn my lesson? A few lengths later the exact same thing happened, which left me with slight indigestion through the afternoon. At least I think it was the pool water but it could have been an overdose of chocolate biscuits after a lunchtime fry up.… either way it’s obviously my own fault for not being careful. Sometimes too much comfort food can leave us rather discomforted can’t it?

Funny how life never works out as we expect it… in 1973 I took a ‘temporary’ job just to enable me to move back to Derby and get married. My previous employment had relocated 30 miles away to Leicester, I didn’t want to live there and commuting after 9 months was becoming tiresome. Somehow, despite numerous attempts to leave, the temporary became permanent. Come 1999 I was most unhappy, seriously stressed with the working conditions and praying continuously for an escape. I got it in the form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which was certainly a better option than the heart attack I could see coming. Looking back I think I must have been insane to have stayed working there so long, but at the time I just wanted to look after my family. But at least I was able to be at home to look after Jane in her final few years. And neither of us saw her early death coming at all. I just wanted to grow old with a beautiful woman who was also my very best friend, my soul mate… my lovely wife Jane. And now I can’t.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve been robbed. Maybe my own foolishness or lack of bravery to try something new caused my work problems. Maybe I didn’t pray or work hard enough to see Jane healed. Quite possible. But then again we live in a world that is certainly not perfect, and everyone else has comparable problems. I’m not alone in my discomfort for sure. And we learn and grow from making mistakes don’t we? Unless I’m swimming that is. Ultimately though I remain totally convinced that the God of heaven is watching over every tiny detail of my life, and my Bible says that he keeps count of even the number of hairs on our heads. It also says that in this world we will have many troubles. So the real question is… what is our response to the challenge of trouble when it comes our way? Do we trust God? Can we still honour him despite life’s challenge? I intend to, no matter what, but more than that I really am an eternal optimist and put all of my hope in the Lord because he is able… maybe I still have time to find that ‘perfect’ job and reach out to the Lord for healing so that I can do it. And maybe there’s another beautiful woman who’d be patient enough to learn how to be my best friend again. Ok that’d cause complications in heaven but for sure there’d be no squabbling when we all get there! But all I really want to do is honour the Lord and step into whatever he has for me…

Song of Solomon 2:15 ‘Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming! (NLT)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

27th November

Well today’s been a bit of a yawn. Certainly not boring, but I didn’t get to sleep until around 3am so I’m rather tired in a sleepy sort of way which makes a change from just feeling ill. I put myself out for a good deed though having offered to do the dad’s taxi thing at 1am for my wonderful eldest who deserved a night out with friends. And that makes me feel useful, which is good. Unfortunately I had to get up for the early morning church service at 9.15am and that really was pushing myself, but I made it… just. The two duplicate morning meetings thing seems to be working quite well as overall numbers are well up which is encouraging. Anyway it’s been a good day so far.

My youngest daughter came for lunch and that’s always nice, as I was able to spend an engaging hour discussing the Lord Justice Leveson enquiry into media practice and ethics. So should those in the public eye be held publicly accountable for their very private behaviour? I tend to think they should. But should the so called tabloid press be allowed to sensationalise, exaggerate and often invent stories without being called to account themselves? I think not. But what possesses us to take an almost perverse pleasure in reading the gory details of apparent misbehaviour anyway? I really don’t want to hear about it, not in detail anyway as it makes me feel very unclean. And I can’t really imagine the circumstances needed to cause me to buy such a publication.

But there is a world of difference between the excellent journalism exposing the parliamentary expenses scandal and the very public and destructive intrusion into the McCann and Dowler families. Neither of these quite innocent and tragically bereaved sets of parents has even faced prosecution, nor been convicted of crimes related to the loss of their respective child, and yet all sorts of horrible things were done and written for the sake of newspaper sales. To me financial compensation and a public retraction is not enough and neither is a criminal conviction for a lone reporter or two. I’m pleased one of the worst offenders has had to close it’s business but there ought to be a change of culture right across the board. No matter what recommendations come out of this enquiry that’s not going to happen any time soon.

But the fact of the matter is that we all without exception have a private life that we would at best be embarrassed and more likely horrified to have exposed in a public arena. Despite my good intentions and firm resolve, I know that my most private thoughts and probably some of the things I have done over the years are really not fit for a public airing. And though my life may have been lived within the law - apart from the occasional slip over the speed limit when driving - I ought to be living to a higher standard. I hate myself when I’ve just been cut up on the road and all I can think of is how I can return the favour at the next junction! I worked in sales, giving financial advice over many years, with time constraints which demanded that I learn to control conversations to maintain focus. I have no right to use those skills today, manipulation and control should have no place in my life, but long term habits are sometimes hard to change. I no longer have time constraints or an employer to determine my agenda, I can chill, it’s ok for others to talk about whatever they want. And Jesus says quite clearly that even just looking at a woman lustfully is seen by God as bad as actually committing adultery. Averting my eyes is a battle I’ll face for the rest of my life when confronted by the seductive and immodest sensuality of the Godless society we live in. God’s way is not our way, his thoughts are not our thoughts and he commands us to live perfectly as Christ Jesus did. Of course we can’t do that, we all fail, but it is something we should all be working towards for sure if we want to please him. And in his strength, step by step, day by day we can make progress. Sometimes one step forward, two steps back, but ultimately with perseverance and his grace we can get there. Sin has no claim upon my life, it’s power is broken through the work of Christ.

Luke 12:2-3 ‘The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!’ (NLT)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

26th November

So all of a sudden there was Jane, walking around and talking in a completely normal way. This morning my parents came to see me and as we sat talking they mentioned that they’d never been to Calke Abbey, a nearby National Trust stately home type of place. And I recalled the time we took my eldest grand-daughters there, just last year, when they made a bird box as part of some sort of craft activity day. Without thinking it through I fished out a DVD, I’d made at the time, and set it to play without even considering the title ‘2010 with Nana and Grandad’. All I was looking for was my young grand-daughter determinedly wielding a large hammer and persevering with a very stubborn nail. Quite suddenly though there was Jane presented in a very casual way looking extremely fit and well and enjoying the kids. And surprise, surprise I enjoyed seeing her! No tears, no upset, nothing like that at all. Not then anyway though right now I can barely see my laptop screen and my pizza’s almost choking me as I try and control the tears. So this morning it was fine… for a few minutes until my eldest also called by and she couldn’t cope at all. I turned it off. But I was really encouraged that I could handle watching it without any real problem.

After 6 months of almost continual tears I’m making progress. I will remember Jane as the person who brought joy into my life every day I knew her. The first time we met she smiled the most wonderful smile and I was hooked. I’d say she smiled her way through just about every challenge that ever crossed her path… it’s certainly how I remember her. She enjoyed life. I wish I could… one day I will, hopefully very soon. But not so much today despite the little encouragement. I miss her smiles. They always made me feel welcome in her life.

Numbers 6:25 ‘May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.’ (NLT)

Friday, November 25, 2011

25th November

Well that was a smart move. I’ve had a rotten day, feeling really low and severely ill with Chronic Fatigue. I really wanted to finish cleaning the exterior of my motorhome, but couldn’t manage more than a quick spray around the front with the ‘Back to Black’ stuff. And my good intention of having a long walk in the countryside was limited to a much shorter walk to the local shops. I tried to engage and failed miserably as I just felt too exhausted and a little dizzy. When I’m that ill I avoid driving. Anyway come early evening I had to make a decision about an evening out that I’d been invited to. My friend runs a film club at the local church and this evening he was showing ‘The Kings Speech’, a movie that is well reviewed and one I’ve not seen before. But 45 minutes before the start time I felt horrible and even my appetite was all messed up, though I forced a bowl of soup down. So I sat there sinking deeper and deeper into depression and succumbing to heavy fatigue and then determined I had a simple choice. I could go to bed and crash out with a book, even though it was only 6.30pm and I’m often awake until 1am nowadays. I may feel exhausted but that doesn’t mean I’m sleepy. Or I could place one foot in front of the other and somehow walk 300 yards to the local church. So that’s what I did and thoroughly enjoyed myself, so much so that I feel like a different person right now. And I even managed a portion of chips with curry from the local chip shop on the way home… this is the life, I’ll be strolling down to the pub next! Or not… it’s been a couple of years since Jane and I were able to do that and although I don’t claim to be teetotal, I can’t recall having any alcohol at all this year, and hardly any last year either. I do enjoy a glass of wine but I’d never drink on my own anyway.

Colin Firth was impressive as King George VI, and apparently his daughter our Queen approved of the movie so I presume there must be some semblance of reality in it. And King George was portrayed in an admirable way as a man struggling with the challenge of unexpectedly becoming monarch, whilst dealing with a serious speech impediment. What struck me was his perseverance through difficulty, and how his passion for doing the right thing helped him face up to the fear of failure when he needed to speak publicly. So I reckon I can find encouragement in his example of how to live. I need to persevere through the challenge of bereavement, I will get through this most difficult time and I will move on. And I am passionate about doing the right thing by my God, despite tripping myself up over and over again. One day I will stand and walk forward rather more successfully than at the moment, as it sometimes feels like one step forward and two steps back. But I do feel completely at peace despite my failings and I have complete confidence in the Lord who is working on my future right at this very moment.

Lamentations 3:26 ‘So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.’ (NLT)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

24th November

Still tired and struggling with motivation. But at least I understand why I feel like I do and know enough to avoid accepting it as inevitable. Although I feel obligated to tell it like it is when writing this blog, that doesn’t mean I’m not fighting hard to change. I will climb out of this pit of depression and despair; I will keep my eyes fixed on the one who can transform any problem. Jesus is able to bring victory over any challenge, all my hope is in him and I trust him completely with my life. And really it is all down to him, I have very little reserve strength, but what little I do have I use to make sure I’m in a good place with God. So that means looking after myself in every which way I need to. Despite being an M.E. sufferer I determine to remain as fit and healthy as I possibly can, so I try and eat carefully as a vegetarian, buying substantially organic food. And I am seeking to build a regular walking and swimming routine into my weekly schedule. A healthy mind is a real challenge with the ‘brain fog’ of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’, but I still challenge myself with Sudoku every day and read quite a lot, seeking to avoid the dumbing down effect of too much TV. Spiritually I start every day with a Bible study I bought for my Kindle a few weeks ago, and that always makes me think, as I never accept any other person’s ideas without proper consideration. And I live for most of the day in an environment of worship courtesy of my mp3 player and a sound system. But all of this is just a foundation to enable me to ‘get out there’, I have no intention of allowing ill health and depression to confine me to the cloistered life it could easily become. I love meeting new people, I love encouraging folk to live a full life in as healthy a way as possible. But the greatest privilege is in being able to share of the wonderful work of God in my life and helping others to reach out to him for themselves.

Romans 10:13 ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

23rd November

I do feel tired. I mean really tired, it’s the M.E. problem I guess as I wake up each morning feeling totally exhausted, and everything aches. But I can’t give up living. So apart from the normal household chores I had a second attempt at washing my motorhome. It’s not the sort of thing you can just take to a carwash and I’m not so sure about my pressure washer causing damage to trims and even paintwork. That leaves me with a sponge and extendable brush which is rather hard work when you’re already worn out. Yesterday I managed the cab area and today I went climbing, perched rather precariously on the top of my step ladder trying to clean the roof without breaking anything! At this rate it’ll take all week to complete, but there you go, this is my life at the moment. Bathroom decorating doesn’t seem to get a look in. Maybe next week.

My retired friend stopped by at lunchtime and that made me feel a little better. Taking my eyes off my own problems has to be good, at least as an engaging distraction. I always enjoy a vigorous discussion about the work of God in our lives, our local community and the church. And although we barely touched on the subject today, the nation of Israel and the Middle East is always of major interest when trying to work out what’s happening in the world. It seems that the UN has passed more resolutions relating to Israel than any other nation and perhaps even all other nations combined. Strange really when you consider the size of the place… a little larger than the Canary Islands, a similar size to Wales and they don’t make the news very often do they? So why is the place in the news almost every single day? Surely that country, with all it’s failings, cannot be compared with the monstrous inhumanity, manifestly prevalent in so many other countries, which attracts no more than passing attention. Although I am by instinct pro-Israel I don’t feel qualified to defend the behaviour of the country as I don’t know enough about it. And for sure I don’t see it as a Christian nation nor from what I’ve heard are the majority particularly Godly in morality. So in one sense the people are just people and not much different from any other population group, apart from one simple fact… the Lord has chosen them to be his people. Not their choosing but his. That’s what my Bible says anyway, and it’s good that so many individuals are responding to his call upon their lives. But you’ll find no other people group written about so extensively in Scripture where over and over again the nation of Israel are called God’s chosen people. And over and over again as they rebel against God they suffer the consequences, even being scattered without a homeland for a couple of thousand years. All bar a small remnant anyway. But when they yield to his will and align themselves with his intentions they are blessed and gifted more than any other nation. To deny that, surely, is to deny the truth of Scripture being the Word of God. I can’t do that. For me, attacking Israel‘s right to exist in the Biblical land of their forefathers is on a par with attacking God himself. That’s foolish and ultimately pointless. And Jesus is Jewish isn’t he…

Romans 11:25-26 ‘I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22nd November

Ever so slowly I think I’m managing to climb out of the pit of depression I’ve jumped into. So, I’m just a tiny bit brighter today. Visiting my daughter in Loughborough always makes me feel good though she had me crying for the first time in a couple of days as we talked about her mum. She’s been thinking the same thoughts as me, about how unreal the permanence of Jane’s passing seems. It’s impossible to get to grips with the fact that she won’t just walk back into our lives at any moment; she was in many ways much larger than life and made both our lives so much richer. And my daughter needs the kind of support that a mum could best bring right now. Her husband has been told he needs treatment for a small hole in the heart that he was probably born with. He’s a rugby playing giant of a man, very strong and very fit and it’s hard to imagine he has a serious problem, but that doesn’t sound like a minor condition that could be ignored to me. Jane was the prayer warrior when it came to our kids… I trust she still is!

O Lord have mercy upon my life and my family. Forgive me for allowing darkness to invade my thoughts when I should be living in the light of your wonderful love. You are truly all I need to live a full life, so all of my hope, all of my trust is in you and you alone. Serving and honouring you is my heart’s desire so help me to please you my God. Watch over my life and my children and grandchildren, Lord keep us for yourself and Godly purpose; restore my health, heal my son-in-law, bless my kids in their places of work and my grandkids at school and playgroup. Jesus may you be lifted up in our lives, let your kingdom come and your will be done, here in this place on earth as it is in heaven… Amen.

I’m off out now to my church house group. I’ve been asked to play a couple of worship songs so that’ll keep me out of mischief… maybe!

Romans 8:34 ‘Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also praying for us.’ (NIRV)

Monday, November 21, 2011

21st November

I feel like a real misery. Today’s been so very slow and I still feel down. I’ve never bothered about the weather much as I spent most of my working life using my car as an office, so I got used to the wind and the rain and the snow as well as summer sunshine… whatever, I could live with it. But right now the days are damp and dull and I find them totally uninviting. As is my empty home…

But I am so very blessed that I feel the need to confess the good work of God in my life. I can’t say it enough times that I have 4 special children who are each really good friends not just to me but also to each other. I love to hear about them meeting up together. And my grandchildren always have a smile for me. My wider family have also gone the extra mile in reaching out to me in different caring ways as well. So my health may be impaired but that only slows me down, it doesn’t stop me from doing most things I want or need to. I do have a nice home with a large garden in one of the leafier city suburbs and it is mortgage free. I was never unemployed and worked for 31 years before very early ill health retirement at age 47. But my employers gave me a very nice pension... after a little ‘persuasion’. My car works well, as does my motorhome. I own all the gadgets I’m interested in. I have a really nice guitar with a choice of amplifiers.  I attend a Bible believing church that accepts me as I am, but more than that I value the teaching and their good works as being pretty much spot on. As a former worship leader, corporate worship is very important to me, and they’ve got something very special happening with all the different teams they use.

I have history as well, with a lifetime of wonderful memories. I loved every single day that I was with Jane, and despite the many challenges that we faced, as all do, she made me completely happy. There are many things that we never did together, but there are far more that we did do and for that I am grateful. Our focus was always upon building family at the expense of career with greater financial reward, and I would not have it any other way. I’ve also been privileged to be asked to serve the church in different ways and have many special experiences to look back on. I loved my time building team as a worship leader, and was particularly fulfilled in the pastoral work of leading and for a time supervising house groups. The creative challenge needed in working as a lighting technician, playing as a musician and creating audio special effects in church theatre was great fun as well. We once put up a marquee for several days on a city park where I was able to lead worship as well as rather unrehearsed rock and roll… a nice challenge, and a nice memory. Then I remember being amazed at finding myself being asked to work alongside some very significant Christian preachers who worked on the global stage. Reinhard Bonnke may have preached to congregations of a million or more but I once shared his platform as part of the worship team when he visited Derby. And Derek Prince had to have someone in the back stage ministry team as a member of his support team didn’t he?

So today I feel completely insignificant and side-lined from all responsibility. And it’s easy to see myself as a bit of a loser. But that’s nonsense, what I achieved in years gone past demanded nothing that I could not do today. Indeed with the passing of time and the associated experience of overcoming all manner of difficulties I reckon I’ve learnt a thing or two that could help in any task set before me. The reality is though that true success is not measured by our achievements be they large or small in worldly terms. All that matters is that we do the things that our Father in heaven is asking of us. ‘Yesterday’ he asked me to care for Jane. Today he asks me to care for myself and the recovery I need to make. In due course he will set me to task once again and I will seek to serve in whatever ‘lowly’ or ‘great’, private or public way that he asks of me.

Psalm 51:12 ‘Give me back the joy that comes from being saved by you. Give me a spirit that obeys you. That will keep me going.’ (NIV)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

20th November

So I’m back home now and it doesn’t feel too bad. But really the whole of my life is worse than any bad dream I ever had, and I suppose you could say I’m surviving on some sort of auto-pilot… going through the motions without a great deal of enthusiasm. This can’t last, for sure, I won’t allow it! Life is for living, there are things to do and people to see. I will pick myself up, though I have confidence that if I can’t do it the Lord will. The journey home was a struggle, as along the M5 and then the M42 I had to fight off the tears that threatened to force me to park up somewhere. It’s quite a challenge forcing myself to stop thinking about the most emotionally challenging event of my life. How can I ‘forget’ that my wife has died? I know the answer to that question; the problem is that I keep ignoring it by living in the past rather than the present. Jane is not dead. Yes she died, of course, May 24th around 10am… I was there, I watched her take her last breath, and I felt her heartbeat gradually fade as I held her hand. We held her funeral and in the summer I scattered her ashes in the sea. But the truth is that today she lives with Jesus Christ in a very special place called heaven. And I don’t. Despite an incredibly caring and close family I’m all alone. Heartbroken and completely bereft, I feel lost and don’t know what to do. I know I have to move on but that seems impossible at the moment, it’s just too hard. So I force myself to keep doing the ‘right things’ in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day again but with the knowledge that the day after probably won’t. They say, whoever they are, that for men the average time of recovery from the initial shock of bereavement is from 9 months to a couple of years. I can do that. But much longer and I think my heart would truly break, it really can’t be healthy living like this. I need somebody or something to brighten up my life again as the light is growing dim at the moment.

My very special eldest daughter came ringing the doorbell within ten minutes of my arriving home this afternoon. She came walking from the local school where my granddaughter had been playing football, they were absolutely frozen. So it was good to see them and nice to be able to turn the heating up to thaw them out. But we talked of Christmas and how sad it would be this year, and she shared her ideas for most of my family to be together on Christmas Day. I’ve always enjoyed Christmas, though I detest the commercialism and the unwarranted worldly excess that could easily overshadow this remembrance of one of the world’s greatest events… the miracle of Almighty God, the creator of the universe laying aside his majesty to become a baby boy. Born an outcast and seen as illegitimate, a refugee, in a country occupied by a most brutal invading army; then forced to flee to another nation when threatened by the extermination of every young child in the area. Quite a challenging start for the most influential person who ever lived. The child who became the man who split history into two - BC or Before Christ and AD, Anno Domini which is Latin for ‘The Year of Our Lord’. He inspired the permanently best-selling book of all time, The Bible; spanning millennia and really the whole of human history, past, present and future in it’s pages. And of course he is The Saviour of the World… Jesus Christ.

Now I’m beginning to see more clearly again… and I'm just a little brighter.

Luke 2:3-7 ‘All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He travelled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.’ (NLT)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

19th November

I feel horribly alone. And quite wrongly I feel unwanted and un-needed by anyone… that’s a lie and a deception from some dark place, I know, but nonetheless that’s how I feel. I came away to escape from everything so why should I be surprised at such thoughts? But my home is filled with memories of life with Jane and I just had to take a breather. It seems that everything I see and everything I do reminds me of the life I’ve lost, I hate being a single man, I was born to love and care for my wife. That was God’s call upon my life, and now it’s not, I have nothing to do any more. No one needs my love, not as a husband anyway. And pretty much I feel as though nobody wants anything I have to offer. Now the weekend campers have arrived and the site has filled up again, so for most of the day children have been playing in the play area, and the memories come flooding back of Jane’s limitless patience. Pushing young children on swings until they wanted to stop… she never would! Out of season campers are often retired, and they’re mostly old couples still enjoying life together… and that’s all I really wanted out of life. Just to serve the Lord with my wife by my side until I grew old. There’s always a few older singles around on campsites at this time of year. I can see one tired middle aged man looking like he’s way overdue for a haircut and wearing rather creased clothes and muddy boots, buying a newspaper that he’s not going to read, and a portion of chips that are most unhealthy and taste foul. Somehow I have to see myself differently I know. I am a child of God, chosen for his good purpose, more than a conqueror, destined for eternity to honour the Lord.

Ok I’m depressed and that’s not helpful. Or healthy, I’ve just been reading about the dangers of ill health or worse suffered by the recently bereaved. Stress pains are a problem I used to suffer from regularly some decades ago; and this last year or two, including this evening, I’ve noticed just a hint again. I wonder if it’s possible to at least take a break from grieving, I think I have to. There’s no rule that says it has to last for years, maybe 6 months is premature but I really need to start having some fun again. I’ll have to get out of the house more when I return home. The joy of the Lord should be my strength. But keeping hold of his peace is the challenge of the day. Somehow I’ve lost my focus; I need to see my life as God sees it. I’ll travel home tomorrow morning and make one more effort to be positive and strong. I will get through this, don’t know how though... but God does.

I reckon a long cold drink of pressed fruit juice and a nice piece of Walnut Cake will take away the memory of those terrible chips… maybe the chest pains were just indigestion!

Ephesians 2:6 ‘And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (NIV)

Friday, November 18, 2011

18th November

For sure the best part of today, so far, has been the time I spent in prayer. Actually that was the only totally productive activity I engaged in, though it was for only very short periods of time. I don’t feel like I’m very good at praying, perseverance seems rather short lived and my prayers are certainly not at all eloquent. Oh yes, I can do the prayer meeting thing and speaking in front of several hundred people is no problem; I can string a few words into sentences which are quite passable in the ‘rankings’ of spirituality. But whether those prayers are truly a reflection of the heart of God is a completely different story. I’ve been in so many meetings where people like me seem to dominate the times of prayer without allowing the more polite attendees space to speak. And yet, I’ve observed that on many occasions these are the folk who’ve really been listening to the Lord and when their few words are spoken, perhaps right at the end of our time together, they seem to touch upon something that could only have come from the very throne room of heaven. So over the past year or two I’ve redoubled my efforts to keep my mouth shut and my ears open when thoughts spring into my mind about contributing publicly. Basically I want to serve the Lord’s agenda, not mine.

And truthfully, I feel completely broken. Yes my heart has been ripped open, but more than that my whole way of life has irreversibly changed. I feel aimless. Each day is an ordeal as I strive to occupy my time with distraction after distraction, trying in vain to avoid engaging one more time with an outburst of grief. And when I pick up more meaningful activity, such as my decorating project or work on my laptop, I find my heart just isn’t in it. I struggle to focus and then I disengage. So today I resumed my internet trawling thinking about so many others in exactly the same situation as myself, and wondering if I might find some solace in their writing. And up to a point I did, it’s so encouraging knowing that I’m not alone in how I’m feeling. But, and it’s a big but, the unavoidable emotional engagement with a well written story of another’s bereavement is far too painful unless in very small doses. It seems true what they all seem to say… unless you’ve been there you don’t really know what it’s like.

Sometimes the stories are far too close to home. I was reading one today and as soon as I’d finished I felt like I was about to explode with tears again. And I find those times far too draining so instantly reached for my quick fix distraction… a very childish Chrome App called Bouncing Balls! It demands enough concentration to soak up undesirable thought patterns and works well when I’m fighting off the tears. They always give me a headache if left unchecked.

But the real result today was that on several occasions I was driven to my knees in prayer. And though my words were few they for sure came from the heart. The presence of God touched me in a very special way, I felt as though the Lord was shining a light into my life, a light that will show me the path that I must walk along. And he was further along the pathway than me, so to follow the path all I have to do is follow the Lord. But some days that is easier said than done…

Psalm 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.’ (NLT)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

17th November

So then, today I got my camera out and that’s how I’d like to tell my story…

I woke up and looked out from my bunk and saw the morning mist. It was like a shroud obscuring my view. And it seems to me that everything about my life has been clouded by the loss of my lovely Jane. Even after 6 months I miss her so very much. I’ve been crying on and off all day…

But then, as I broadened my vision, I realised that the sun was just beginning to make it’s mark on the new day. And the mist started to lift. More and more, whenever I look carefully, I see the hand of God at work in my life. I’m always impatient, I know, I want everything all at once, but I can see the first sign of a new hope. When the Lord transforms our lives he often begins with hope, and the certainty of hope is a cornerstone of God’s gift of faith. And faith can move any mountain.

When the sun came out I headed for the hills. Climbing higher and ever higher, seeking the summit. The path was steep, my legs and lungs protested just a little, but I continued with no real problem. My daily training over the past months has paid off; I am strong and well able to cope with such a challenge. And my walk with the Lord over the decades prepared me for the greatest test of my life… caring for my wife as she fought her battle against cancer. Now I’m ready to ‘conquer’ the next challenge. Grief is for a season, I will not allow it to cloud my future with negativity. The blessing that Jane was in my life is all that I will take forward, that and a confidence that I can handle whatever challenge life sets before me. In God’s strength of course!

But I feel just a shadow of my former self. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. God is changing me, preparing me for the totally different life that I must now live. I can no longer be the person I was. I believe a healthy marriage is such a caring, sharing relationship that over time you reach a wonderful unity which trusts and loves completely. For the foreseeable future I’m solo… that feels weird, but I have to embrace it as I can no longer live as if I were married.

Now I know that the Malvern Hills are not exactly mountains, they’re more picturesque than anything, but even with well laid pathways they still provide a 9 mile challenge. I’ve yet to make that distance in one go and today I walked to the British Camp. But it was the first steps from the car park that were the steepest and most challenging. As I got higher the route got far easier and indeed the final few yards to the summit were a simple stroll, although, as is often the case there are several crests that prove to be just stages on the way to the top. And in life there’s always going to be the next challenge, in one sense we never arrive, we’re always on a journey. But it’s nice when the uphill struggle eases a little and we can just stop for a while to enjoy the view.

From the top I looked towards the sun and captured this rather unnatural camera flare. And that has me thinking of my faith journey with Jesus Christ. The more I look to him for direction and purpose in life the more he reveals himself to me. I believe in prayer. I believe in the supernatural power of God and maybe, just maybe he’ll intervene in my life sometime very soon and change it for the better one more time, in a way that defies natural expectations!

Exodus 15:26 ‘I am the Lord who heals you.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

16th November

Well today I had a good sit down. And that’s really all I’ve done, apart from a couple of very short walks around the campsite, just stretching my legs and servicing the water tanks. But I am enjoying a nice Tikka Masala, totally organic and vegetarian as well! So now I’m feeling quite proud of my cooking abilities… I fried mushrooms and a pepper whilst simply throwing a sliced leek in with the rice as it boiled away. The cheat was the ready-made sauce, but it’s so good my home-made version just doesn’t compare. In my eyes, considering my starting point of complete ineptitude a couple of years ago, it’s as though I’ve climbed Mt Everest. Not just cooking the curry, that was actually very easy, but cooking any edible meal is a major achievement for me. And the nervousness, bordering on ‘fear’, of doing anything in the kitchen has well and truly been consigned to history. Can’t say the same yet about the washing up…

Sometimes I just have to switch off from everything. The thought of any pressure, even perceived from probably non-existent ‘expectations’ that others could have, is just too much. As is the list of jobs to be tackled around my home. So putting myself into almost complete isolation, by travelling, is beneficial and very helpful in getting my head straight. Anyway today I needed to crash out and that’s exactly what I’ve done. Maybe tomorrow I can pick up my activity a little, I can see the Malvern Hills from my campsite and tomorrow morning looks sunny enough to tempt me away from my heating. And I’ve brought my old guitar as well as my art materials so I could really get creative… or not, let’s take one step at a time. I’ve found living without the pressure of conforming to a plan, at least during this difficult season of life, to be the best way to get through each day. As much as I can I basically do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m privileged to be able to do that, not being tied down by any responsibilities such as a job or even voluntary work. I can’t live like this forever though; it has to be just for a season.

I find giving myself attention really difficult, I almost feel guilty. Even writing this blog, which is basically focussed totally upon me, feels almost obsessively self-centred at times. Sharing the minutiae of my everyday life, whilst being a necessary reflection of the day’s journey, sometimes is a bit weird… who on earth would be interested in what I had for tea? But I do find it helpful to write myself into a place of understanding where I’m at, and how I’m coping with this journey through grief. I suppose I could have written a personal and private journal, but I’m not sure if I would have the self-discipline to maintain it every day. So let’s go public, and, who knows, there may be others who need to know that they’re not alone in suffering the loss of a loved one.

Despite the pain of loss I do want to confess as loudly as I can… when we walk with Jesus Christ the fear of death is totally broken. And despite my lack of training, I was able to successfully care for my wife through that most challenging of ordeals, providing palliative care in the home, and it was only through God’s strength that I could do this. I miss my wife massively, but I have absolutely no doubts about God’s hand of favour upon my life. More than that I believe he could have healed her, but in his wonderful wisdom he chose not to. I don’t understand that, but I do accept it as being ultimately for good. And now I live with hope; hope of a changed future, walking in a different way, with new relationships and with new purpose. I’m certainly looking forward to all that the Lord sets before me!

Hebrews 13:5 ’I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

15th November

So I decided to keep it simple by avoiding the rather longer journey. I quite fancied a few days in Cropton Forest on the North York Moors, but I felt so very tired and decided to return to the always peaceful Hanley Swan near Malvern. So that’s where I am. It’s not quite the right time of year for trekking through a forest but maybe next time. And after only a few hours I feel like I’m beginning to relax again so that’s good. But I did have a moment this afternoon. As I was setting up my new Wi-Fi connection I allowed my mind to wander, and that was a mistake. I started to feel nostalgic, a real strong sense of missing something… Nottingham City Hospital! It makes no sense but I keep on thinking about the place, the people, the wards, the clinics, the different departments. We spent so much time there over several years that it sort of felt like a second home. Perhaps it was the highly emotional experience of fighting the battle for Jane’s life and one focal point being the hospital; and that’s left a major imprint upon my memory. It was, I suppose, simply part of my life. As was Jane. And now she’s not, not for the foreseeable future anyway.

So this afternoon I had my sad moment and then I decided that feeling nostalgic about a hospital was pretty dumb. Actually, allowing nostalgia about anything is not a very good idea. Why would I want to go back to anything that’s in the past? Why revisit yesterday’s battles? And surely, whatever the pleasures of the past, they cannot compare with God’s blessings as I walk into the future. He makes all things new, and my life is daily changing for the better, as I continue to walk with him into whatever he has for me. And the wonderful thing is that despite my failings, and despite the depths of grief that sometimes completely overwhelm, I do have the most wonderful sense of God’s presence. His incredible peace is quite overwhelming, I have no doubts about his favour, and I have no fear for the future whatsoever. My God is with me, of that I am totally convinced, and he will carry me through the challenge of bereavement into a beautiful future.

Romans 8:35 ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?’ (NLT)

Monday, November 14, 2011

14th November

More of the same today, and all it took was a flight of stairs, the few steps I climb every day. So even though I had a really good night’s sleep, I still woke up absolutely shattered. But that’s how M.E. is unfortunately, and it’s a bit random as for part of a day I can be quite dysfunctional whilst later on I might be able to walk for several miles quite happily. And it’s obviously stress related for me. Anyway first thing this morning I used my downstairs shower and needed to return upstairs and the stairs were a real struggle. One step at a time with a rest half way… and that was where the memories kicked in. All I could see was Jane, attached to her oxygen tubing, and persevering with the steps by sitting on each one, for quite literally 5 minutes at a time, trying to avoid the slightest effort which would cause breathlessness. At the top I would pick her up as gently as possible to help her to stand again. Her suffering without complaint was immense. And then I remembered the broken tooth she lived with for her last 5 months, as a visit to the dentist was quite impossible. Then I started worrying about not feeding her properly in her final couple of days. Was she really hungry even though unable to eat? I keep getting myself upset for no good reason. Thinking thoughts like this is totally pointless and completely irrelevant, especially considering Jane’s present situation… living a life of perfect health, in perfect surroundings, with perfect company and having perfect understanding of all that’s important. I have to try harder at seeing Jane as she is today rather than as she was whilst suffering.

I don’t know if it’s just a form of fictional escapism or not – as the Bible has little detail - but I still find it really helpful to simply think on the wonders of heaven and the life that awaits all those who belong to Jesus Christ. The life Jane’s living at this very moment. It must be quite a big place, given the variety and number of people living there. What do they all do? What is Jane doing? What about the heroes of faith that we read about in the Bible? Wonderful musician and song writer, that he is, I can’t imagine a mighty warrior like King David simply sitting on a heavenly cloud playing his harp! Surely any meaningful life includes the adventure of exploring the unknown.  I wonder what there is to find in some of the hidden corners of heaven. Surely we won’t be left to our own devices when we first arrive there. There’s no loneliness in heaven. So who’s looking after Jane? Keeping her company? I’m thinking of the Book of Ruth where we read of the foreigner Ruth being cared for and responding to the faith of her mother-in-law Naomi, after they’d both lost their husbands. A beautiful and inspiring story and both these people are in heaven today. I wonder if Jane’s met anyone ‘famous’ yet? But fame for sure will be applauded in a totally different way in heaven, as there is only one worthy of all praise… and his name is Jesus! But unless he’s taken his stepdad’s advice and learnt how to delegate, there could still be quite a queue to meet Moses though!

Romans 8:18-23 ‘Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.’ (NLT)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

13th November

I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. But brokenness is supposed to be a Christian virtue, so I guess there’s no disorder. Just a lot of pain… coping with a broken heart. I can’t live like this all the time though, as it’s really not much fun. So how on earth do I move on? I don’t see how I can, as I’m running out of emotional resources. I don’t feel like I can cope any longer. But maybe I’m asking the wrong question. If there is no earthly answer to a lost love, how do I find the heavenly one?  My God says that he will meet all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Today I need healing of a broken heart and today I need strength just to carry on with this journey of life. All I can do is keep reaching out to the Lord in prayer, standing on the promises of the Bible, and I must persevere. I will get through this, although I really can’t see an end any time soon. But I live with hope as a cornerstone of faith and I know the love of God has changed my life in every way, so there has to be an end. I will make a completely new start and the more I can let go of the old the better it will be.

And today has been so very painful. But I have persevered, and this morning I did go to my church meeting in Derby City and I was blessed again. For the second week in a row I unexpectedly met an old friend. The guy today was around when Jane and I became Christians way back in 1982, and he was just passing through. But it was good to catch up a little. Then increasingly through the afternoon, despite the distraction of a Brit winning F1, I found myself sinking and starting to cry quite a lot. I’m really fed up of this. I picked my guitar up for a while and that sort of helps and my son cooked fish-pie which was nice but come early evening I had to do something to get out of the house. I didn’t feel able to cope with meeting people I knew so I went along to the evening meeting at Trent Vineyard in Nottingham. There must have been 700+ attending and having a great band to lead the relatively youthful congregation it was all nicely distracting. Until they played Matt Redman’s ‘10,000 Reasons’ which is a track I’ve cried with far too many times on my Kedleston walks… and this evening was no different. But at least in the anonymity of a large crowd I was left to my own devices, which is what I wanted.

I'm thinking tomorrow I may start to prep my motorhome and if the weather’s not too bad I’ll escape to the hills again. Maybe Tuesday, let’s see how I feel then.

Psalm 34:18 ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ (NIV)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12th November

Another tough day. But sometimes, I guess, you just have to dig your heels in and decide to stand against the negative thoughts that could be so damaging. I am determined to remain positive about my life and about my future and I will embrace every good thing that’s set before me with enthusiasm. And the real battle is in my mind. I cannot deny the real challenges brought about by the difficult changes to my life. But neither should I deny the power of God to overcome those same challenges. So for every earthly problem, there is a heavenly solution. More than that, there is a heavenly blessing that more than compensates for earthly loss.

Now, my wonderful wife has died after a horrible and prolonged battle with cancer. She endured tremendous suffering over some years. But she was instantly and completely healed as she stepped into eternity to enjoy a new life in paradise in the presence of Jesus for ever. That makes me happy… very happy.

And I miss her massively as she is the love of my life and has been a marvellous companion over almost forty years. I can’t imagine life without her, I feel empty and a little lost. But God is love, and he will never leave me or forget me. So really my life continues to enjoy perfect love and the wonderful companionship of the Lord. In his presence there is fullness of joy!

I don’t know how I can cope without her. She was a perfect support for all that I did, encouraging every decision I needed to make, with a perfectly complementary wisdom. The Bible says it is not good for man to be alone and he made Jane a ‘perfect’ companion especially for me. And now she’s gone and I’m alone again and I don’t like it! But I’m not alone, or without support and guidance, as the Holy Spirit is my perfectly wise teacher, leading me step by step into the future as I reach out to him. I know the presence of God and I trust in his power to overcome every challenge.

Jane was good for me. I trust I was for her, though in a different way obviously. But the goodness she brought to my life has ended; she taught me how to care for the young and the old, and the outcasts of society, and the sick and the needy…  she was always provocative, challenging me to do more. Now I have to do the ‘right thing’ all by myself. It’s time I grew up I suppose… so that’s good, as long as I do.

I’m not sure how to find the right words… Jane was unique, as we all are, and can never be replaced in my heart or my life. She’s gone to a better place of course. But I haven’t and maybe won’t for some time. And my problem at the moment is that I no longer have a wife and everything within me says that I need one. I long for the intimate conversation that only such a close friend can share, I loved the challenge of yielding personal desires to a shared life, and it was always so very fulfilling making someone else happy. At the moment I have very little interest in doing anything for my own personal pleasure, everything feels rather meaningless. I don’t know how to be single and I don’t want to be single. But it seems I have no choice, as I haven’t the remotest idea how to go about finding another wife… I’m forty years out of practice! And I'm carrying baggage. So I have to learn to seek the Lord in a rather different way. Right now he is my sole companion on my journey through life. And everything I say and do, indeed every thought needs be purposed for his pleasure, my goals need to be his goals, my interests need to be his interests. And I don’t find that easy I must admit. I think I keep getting off track. It was much easier having Jane to talk things through with and then we’d encourage one another to ‘get on with it’.

Sometimes I feel like ‘giving up’, and then I remember that I haven’t got anything left to give up. So somehow I just pick myself up and simply get on with learning how to do the ‘right thing’. Jane did that whilst she was dying. I can do that whilst I’m living. I can ‘see’ her in heaven this evening, on her knees praying for me…

2 Corinthians 10:5 ‘we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ (NIV)

Friday, November 11, 2011

11th November

Today has been an almost non-event. Apart from a short and very easy excursion to retrieve my daughter’s artwork from yet one more gallery I’ve done almost nothing. Just the absolute minimum of daily chores as I am totally exhausted. And it feels like something rather more than the obvious Chronic Fatigue; I believe I’m simply worn out living with the stress of grief. The whole thing feels like a very bad dream that just goes on and on, it’s totally unreal, and at the moment it seems like there’s nothing on the horizon to really look forward to. I enjoy my family, of course, but that’s not enough. I need to rebuild my life from top to bottom as everything is turned upside down. Everything I’ve done for forty years has been in the context of a close and ultimately sacrificial relationship. I gave Jane everything I had. And now I’m left with nothing. I don’t know how to live without loving a woman; I don’t like making decisions without giving preference to another. I really enjoyed sharing everything and asking very little for myself, and I actually believe that was my God given calling… to be a good husband and father. And now my kids are all grown up and are more like best friends than children, and my wife has died, and my life feels empty. All the things I was any good at and enjoyed have gone… I was a good husband, I was good at raising young children, I was a good honest Financial Advisor, I was a good worship leader and I was a good small group leader for my church. I’ve enjoyed much of my life and miss nearly all these things… not sure about the Financial Advisor thing, but I do miss going to work and meeting lots of new people.

And I’m still young at 59. I could easily have another 20+ years of relatively active life, I refuse to give up. I have my eyes open, looking for a way to move on. I’m preparing myself physically with swimming and walking most days and my last medical concluded my diet was healthy. I like to think I’m getting myself ready for something, although I have no idea what. But it’s clear that I need to let go of my recent past; I need to be healed of the trauma of providing palliative care in the home and the subsequent bereavement. Life is getting easier, I know, but days like today are just a bit too much to cope with. It’ll pass, tomorrow’s a brand new day and anything can happen then…

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ‘Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.’ (NLT)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10th November

On and off all through the day I’ve been thinking about Jane. That’s pretty normal I suppose, but I have been trying to keep myself busy, and therefore distracted, in order to limit my ‘downtime’, as it were. Nonetheless I’ve been wondering, again, about what Jane went through in her final few weeks of total dependency, mostly upon me, for all her personal care. She was basically unable to do much of anything for herself. And because my love for her was so complete I gave her my all, trying to make her as comfortable as possible. But really, it was over some years that our lives ground to a halt as we focussed exclusively upon our faith journey, persevering in prayer, whilst working through almost every medical intervention offered. And some that weren’t; as when the NHS ran out of options we worked with a private nutritionally based treatment… funded on a charitable basis. And I was always the one in our family that everyone turned to when something broke. If I couldn’t mend it or find a work around I’d usually see about a replacement. I saw myself as a ‘Mr Fixit’. That’s what dads do don’t they? So now I feel a failure at not being to ‘mend’ Jane when she got ill. I know I shouldn’t see myself that way, but that’s how I feel today. I had over 5 years to sort the problem and I couldn’t do it. Did I pray enough? Did I ask the ‘right people’ to pray? Was there something I could have done that I didn’t? There’s no way of answering any of those questions, I have to trust that the Lord led us through every step of the journey and his will was done. But that’s not always easy. And I do believe I did make Jane as comfortable and as ‘happy’ as humanly possible, as did our family who are incredible examples of loving kindness.

It’s obvious that it’s me that needs mending at the moment. The sad thing is that Jane with her training in Art Therapy would have been ideally situated to help me, but she can’t now. It seems that I’m down to self-help. Guilt is a very common step in the bereavement journey. And in my mind I know that I gave Jane everything I could, nothing left over. But in my heart I just miss her so very much and that leaves me feeling so sad that sometimes I can’t think straight, which is why I feel guilty of failure when I shouldn’t. In actual fact I should really see myself as a great success. Despite my own personal health challenges, despite the most impossible challenge of palliative care in the home, love won through! The peace of God fills my life as much today as it did whilst I cared for Jane. His presence and favour is with me in a very special way each and every day… he is everything to me. And he has his goodness set before me tomorrow, for sure.

In my meanderings into ‘blog world’, just this afternoon, I came across a U-Tube link which says it all. I don’t claim to be an American Country fan, but the message fits my thoughts today perfectly… though it gave me a rather soggy pizza after crying through it again this evening!

Martina McBride -  ‘I'm Gonna Love You Through It’

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ‘Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

9th November

Now then, today I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, in a relaxed sort of way. So I’ve been feeling quite sad and my goal is to try and avoid really sinking into depression. Anyway that meant a nice chain of activities to keep my mind occupied, together with some sense of satisfaction that I’ve not just wasted the day by crashing out with a book. But that can work as well. I’m getting fed up with feeling sad and it’s time now for me to start picking myself up. It’s almost 6 months since I lost Jane, and whilst the grief journey would be expected to continue for a good time yet, I reckon I ought to become a little more stable sometime soon. And really today I’ve done nothing that exciting, a few household chores, some decorating and then food shopping. But that took me through to lunchtime and I felt pretty good so I went for my 3 mile walk through the woods again. Only it was rather muddy and trying to rain, so very different from last month’s record breaking weather! For sure though, the weather is just not an issue, I love being outdoors, simply walking in beautiful and so very peaceful surroundings… apart from the occasional wild animal kill that is. Today it was a rather gruesome pigeon, but that’s nature I suppose and a real reminder of how difficult life can be.

I worked for around 30 years in the world of financial services. For nearly all of that time I was employed in that fast moving, target driven world as a financial advisor, and whilst I loved meeting so many wonderfully friendly customers I don’t think I ever really fitted into that job. At the time, it was simply a job I could do with fairly average performance – I genuinely think I was too honest and stubborn to be a high achiever, I ignored product targets - but it paid my bills. Actually my company pension still does. Maybe I ought to be careful what I say, but the reality was that much of that industry, as far as I could see back then, was built upon deception, manipulation and out and out lies. I hated being submerged in that world and trying to chart an honest path was always challenging, especially when some of the corporate training on achieving goals bordered on the demonic. Today I have a clear conscience regarding my own work, although I’ve lost touch with long term investment performance since I left. We pretty much all use insurance, mortgages, pensions and other investments at some time or other and they can be very useful products when sold properly. A number of times over the years I was able to pay out substantial insurance claims to people after major loss and that was always satisfying. I once had a female client burst into tears when I informed her of an investment maturity that she’d expected to be quite small… and it wasn’t so small after all! I loved meeting people, whilst hating much about the industry I worked for at the same time. And despite many attempts over the years I was never able to move on, and I still get the occasional bad dream… though not for a couple of days now.

The Bible gives us a glimpse of how life can be very different. Indeed that’s the life that Jane is living in heaven right now. A life without deception, without malice and without cruelty of any kind, and the power of lust and greed is broken as we embrace the power of goodness found in Jesus Christ. He calls us to a life of Godly love, where we honour him above everything. And we’re called to treat others as we would treat ourselves. Basically evil of every description is forbidden entry to heaven. And the call upon our lives is to share just a little bit of heaven with the world around us. We don’t belong here, we belong in the Kingdom of Heaven. All that we endure here is temporary, one day earthly pain and discomfort will end for us all. The big question though is… what next? For me my walk with Jesus Christ is everything, and I have complete assurance that he will receive me to himself when my turn to step into eternity arrives.

1 John 5:11-13 ‘And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

8th November

Yes, I still feel rather grotty today. I woke up with a headache and that’s lasted right through the day, aside from temporary relief using painkillers. But I did manage another 20 lengths or so swimming and that was encouraging, as was the news that my daughter has 2 drawings accepted into the Tarpey Gallery Open in Castle Donington. She must be good as competition for these events is always quite strong. And now I’m reminded of the always delightful ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2005) with a wonderful Donald Sutherland playing Mr Bennett, despite the somewhat out of place 21st century sparkling dentistry. I’m thinking of the scene where his daughter, Elizabeth, surprisingly informs him that she does, after all, love the supposed villain Mr D’Arcy; and he’s not the person everyone thinks he is! It’s the specific and quite memorable quote “If any young men come for Mary or Kitty, for heaven's sake, send them in. I'm quite at my leisure” that works for me right now. I feel like my children are currently getting blessed, one after the other… a new job, a wedding and so far this year two Gallery acceptances for my daughter’s art. Now I just feel like sitting back, waiting on the Lord for his special and quite personal blessings to continue into all my children and grandchildren’s lives. Maybe a prayer or two will help, but anyway, I’m so grateful to God for his favour and so pleased with my kids for their hard work. I truly feel quite at my leisure!

Raising a family, especially a family of four as I have, is obviously challenging and often hard work. But there does come a time when you let go and allow them to become the people they were created to be. That’s not always easy, but as they move into adulthood it becomes increasingly obvious that some things are just not my concern. Basically if they ask, I’ll give an opinion but otherwise I would rarely, if ever, seek to interfere. It just doesn’t work, when they have very strong ideas of their own which are probably much better than mine anyway. I’ll always take a general interest, especially about their wellbeing and what they’re up to, of course, but hopefully I’ll behave myself and keep my hands off their lives otherwise. And surely that’s how it is with our relationship with the Lord… he never forces his attention upon us, we need to ask. He’s set before us everything we need to live a fully successful life, all the information and understanding are quite clearly revealed in the Word of God. True wisdom, applying to every area of life, can readily be found by reading the Bible. Of course familiarity is needed to find your way around it, but in truth just about any question can be found answered in there somewhere. And when we get really stuck for an answer to a problem we can always ask him directly. Prayer works!

And now that God has finished the work of providing everything we need for life what is he doing? He’s certainly not worrying about me. Anxiety has no place in heaven, and the power of all evil is broken, it has no claim on my life. My destiny is secure, I’m on my way to heaven and I’m walking with the Lord through this journey of life. So even on the days when I falter a little in my walk he still holds me securely in his grip. Nothing can wrench me from his presence and ultimate purpose. My human failings certainly cause me to struggle on this journey through grief, but God knew all about them before he first created me. And he is bigger than any of my problems. Indeed he is the answer to all of my needs and as I determine to take pleasure in him, he will surely give me the desires of my heart...

Genesis 2:2 ‘On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.’ (NLT)