Monday, 16 January 2017

Despites and yetis!

It is the early hours of the morning; the world sleeps, all is silent and yet in the midst of the night hour the tears fall. 6 years ago today was to be the day that I would tell my parents that we were expecting; the plan was to go to church and then drive up to have lunch with my folks.  I remember the day so clearly.  Here I am 6 years on knowing that day was one of the worst of my life. I walked into church expectant, excited and looking forward.....I left church worried, anxious and headed to hospital.  My plans for the day thwarted.  I remember walking into hospital and being asked simply what was wrong. The hospital allocated which desk you check in at dependent on the severity of what was wrong. I was handed a note for the most severe end of the reception booths and seen within moments.  I hardly sat down before I was seen and then ushered to a bay in A&E.

The memories of that day seem etched into me, the days after where more medical things happened which left me bound to the first floor of our home to be near both bed and bathroom. It was tough to live through and tough to look back on.  The year that followed was so dark, I look back and think I survived rather than lived that year. A shell of a person, my head vacant and yet consumed with grief at the same time.

I sit here in the early hours of the morning reflecting on what happened but hand in hand with gratefulness to a faithful God.  The last few weeks have been tough; memories how twice in our lifetime early January has been full of expectation, morning sickness and ginger nut biscuits! Yet here we are 21 years married, two confirmed pregnancies and no kids....... And this is where the rubber hits the road...... Do I chose to live in a 'what if' environment, do I live with a comparison mentality, do I handle the fact that sometimes life just sucks with bitterness, acceptance or something else!?  

'Despite' and 'yet' have become special words for me. I can't alter what has happened in our lives; the loss, the disappointment but I have to learn how to handle this in order to live each day.  There is no easy way.  The other Sunday I felt slammed by a phrase written down in front of me regarding disappointment; the tears rolled despite my desperate attempts to keep the 'I am ok face' up; it didn't work...... The tears came thick and fast - how do you handle disappointment when every single day you live with the consequences and impact of that disappointment?  I don't have the answers BUT I really want to download what I do know. Your situation may be different to mine, your disappointment may be different, your 'life just sucks sometimes' moment may be poles apart from mine but perhaps, just perhaps, this may help.......

1. Yeti number one! Praising God anyway. Habbakkuk 3 v 17-18 sees the author write about the lack, the disappointment, the situation and then declare the 'yet'  - I often say in my head have a 'yeti moment!' The 'Yet I' will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.'

2. Don't leave it at the door! What do I mean?   I will try to explain- don't put your stuff down at the entrance to the place of worship just to pick it up again on your way out. It isn't easy to do but somehow it is learning to stand (or huddle in a heap on the floor!) in worship with the pain, disappointment, tears and all the rest of it  rather than leaving it elsewhere.  When life sucks worship becomes a choice - it is saying with the Psalmist 'I WILL seek your Face Lord' (Ps 27:8).  There have been times when the situation is in front of me and rather than leave it at the door to collect my baggage on the way out I have actually had to step into all the stuff and praise God anyway. At this point I discovered that it is possible to bring a sacrifice of praise in 2017! Sacrifices of worship have not become extinct!  I can tell you those moments when the sacrifice of praise has been the hardest I have felt like it was a sweet aroma and despite being tough initially as I have pushed through, looked up and praised then God has really blessed me. Nothing new here - look at the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8) she pushed through (quite literally) and as a result of her faith, tenacity and taking the situation with her to Jesus she knew His touch  and His blessing!  Believe me when I say if you enter the place of worship leaving all the trouble and difficulty at the door then you will only pick it up on your way out.  There is no 'baggage claim' area here - take it with you, take your burdens into His presence, let your sacrifice of worship be sweet and let Him take those burdens. Remember His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30)

3. Despite. Praising despite is powerful. Praising in spite of your situation moves the focus from your situation to the God you are praising! Worship is for Him and about Him.  

4. Don't worry about it not being all sorted.  What do I mean?  Well Psalm 40 talks of being lifted from the miry pit and our feet being set on a rock.  Sometimes some of the miry pit is still on our feet (see my other blog post for more on this) - it is ok.  God knows - Scripture doesn't say that He set my feet upon and rock and everything is then perfect.  Nope it says that He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a new song to sing.  What we learn in the pit changes the song that we sing.  Honestly if I hadn't have been through pain, loss, disappointment, depression my song would not have been the same....... I have seen what it is to meet God in the depths and have it change me.

5. God doesn't alter. One of the wonderful truths that is very deeply precious to me is that God doesn't alter, shift or change.  He is not moody.  He doesn't get weary. I don't wake up wondering what sort of temperament He is in today, whether He is going to be happy with me or if He is in a good mood.  He is steadfast, true, unchanging in His love and faithfulness. He is totally consistent and constant.  Let Hebrews 13:8 become deeply precious to you; never let go of this fact - don't give doubt a millimetre. Hold on to this truth with both hands and don't let it go!  It will see you through the darkest of days.

6.  On the worst of days when you can't see a way through hit the 'Yeti' of Lamentations 3v21-24 where the author despite the previous 20 verses of 'worst dayness' declares 'Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."'  The Yet I call to mind is so valuable in the tough moments.  If you are feeling like you are hitting rock bottom then I encourage you to read this passage in The Message version - it helped me no end!

7. God turns things around!  From the opening of this blog you can tell that the realisation things weren't right happened at church six years ago.  There is no easy way to tell you in that morning the very place of God encounters became a place marked with loss.  Yesterday, 6 years later, I walked into church feeling broken, worn down and empty.  Yesterday for me to praise was a choice, I had to make myself raise my hands, I had to encourage myself to look up, I had to tell myself that God was worthy of my praise despite how I felt.  It was hard work to start with - distractions a plenty, mind wandering, focus dithering and then it got easier as the words pierced my head and my heart with wonderful truths that made the distractions fade into the background in the light of what God has done for me. At the end of the service I turned to Malcolm and said '6 years ago I walked into church expectant and left empty and anxious; today I walked into church empty and anxious and leave full.' Both of us teared up - the truth of that is a stark one for us but God blessed us yesterday in worship and through the word.  The preacher had mentioned the phrase 'whatever the Lord says to do' as Mary had said to the servants when Jesus turned water into wine.  In the middle of the night in 2004 - 13 years ago now - Malcolm and I got in the car to go to hospital knowing that my pregnancy was not going right and I turned to Malcolm and said 'whatever Lord.' It has been a prayer we prayed in the worst of times and one that we have prayed knowing that He won't let us down.  To be reminded of that prayer at this time of year astounds me.  God used that sermon yesterday to minister afresh to us.

8. Choose truth. This is another yeti which I have had to take hold of and whilst not word for word in Scripture the principles are there.  Some folks don't get that we can still love God and still worship Him despite what has happened (and that is ok that they don't get it; it really is our personal journey). However one thing that I have heard repeatedly is that what we have been through is a punishment from God.  The truth is this - God authored salvation, Jesus died on the cross, He took all of our sin, Jesus cried out on the cross 'It is finished' just before He died  - He didn't cry out 'It is partly done' or 'it is nearly finished'.  No!  The work of Jesus is 100% complete. The debt is paid in full.  God is a Just God!  He is a God of Justice.   Therefore He cannot punish the same sin twice.  The Yet I here is to choose to remind yourself of the truth and not listen to the niggly lies that can be seeded.

So we begin our sad-a-versary knowing this anniversary is littered with precious moments from God along the way.  We will cry today.  We will laugh today.  We will struggle today.  We will rejoice in being together today.  The 'despites' and the 'yetis' help us to lift a sacrifice of worship today.  And we lay hold of truth that He is a good Father, a Just God, the faithful One - He won't let us down, He is not in the business of abandonment, He is faithful, true, loving and worthy - Indeed whatever the 'life sucks' moment is for you - hold on to Him, even when your grip feels like it is just the tiniest tip of your fingers hold on to Him because for sure He is holding on to you, He won't let you go! I end this blog post calling to mind and therefore I have hope; His mercies are new this morning.  Great is His faithfulness therefore I WILL wait for Him and while I wait I will be caught praising despite it all......


Unknown said...

Love you guys - you really are such an encouragement and inspiration xxx

Clare Atkin said...

Wow! Powerful words there. Much love to you both xx