Day 20: Imprinting

I woke up the morning after my poetry writing without the usual clouds of darkness over me. I felt an inexplicable joy. I sent my husband a text saying that I was missing him. I went to church. I worshipped. I returned home and gave my husband a card with two words written in it …..”I’m in”. A profound change had taken place.

Today I want to share with you the post I wrote a few days later on this blog.

“Last month my commitment was to try to walk as close to Jesus as I could. I told a friend that I was trying to lean in so close that I would ‘leave an imprint’. What I have learned in the past month, and in particular the past week is that I am already imprinted on God’s heart. He knows and understands me, like no one ever can or will. He understands even the bits that puzzle me about myself. On Thursday morning I read these words in my Celtic prayer book, and they describe me in the most extraordinarily accurate terms.

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It was a day on which I needed the reassurance that it was ok to be me. That my dynamic, erratic, spontaneous, radical, audacious,committed, incoherent immaturity which leaves me unable to cope with institutions or settled things but which always hopes for our society to be better because we know God, has been seen. I don’t have to switch off one bit of me, I can be contradictory and confusing and passionate, and God will take me on the journey with him.

In leaning in I am not imprinting on him, but he is leaving an imprint on me. Gently, delicately, amazingly.

At some time I will write a post which sets out the events of the past week – the events of God’s workings in my life, but not today. I’m still trying to take it all in. What I do know is that God has spoken so clearly to me that there is no denying the words or the message.

I have hope.

In the very first post on this blog I wrote this :

“I have hope because of a God who loves me. I have hope because in Jesus he understands pain, and sadness, and loneliness and heartbreak. I have hope because he makes beautiful things from dust. I have hope because already he is bringing change that I could not have foreseen. and I have hope because no matter what the outcome is he will never stop loving me. I love that God is not limited by our linear time or thinking. I need a big God. I need an incomprehensible God.”

He has shown me this week that he is outside of time. He has shown me this week that he can change our hearts in an instant when we invite him to do that. He has shown me that there is a source of joy which makes no sense but is utterly life-giving. He loves me. He is big and incomprehensible and I know that I am weak and sometimes floundering , but so long as I keep leaning in, he will leave the imprint.

I resisted choosing hope as my word for the year, as it seemed, well, too hopeful.

But it chose me. Thank God.

Lights in the darkness 

p.s  I am tired. It turns out that truth and vulnerability are exhausting but I will endeavour to finish this series. I hope that by writing of these real and difficult things you too might see that there is hope in all situations. x 

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Day 19: Is God enough? Can he be ?

Thanks for joining me here. In case this is your first time on my blog I should give you a little background. The series I am writing is a narrative of the journey I’ve been on since an extra-marital relationship on my part brought to light the brokeness in my marriage. I’ve been walking through the past year holding on to the word Hope.  Today’s post is about a day where God gave me words that changed everything. Grace.

I ended yesterday’s post as I drove to spend a weekend with a friend. Part of my plan for the weekend was that together, we could try the creative activity that was the focus of my Lent course for that week; to write some bible blackout poetry and found poetry. I had hesitated to try this alone, as I was worried about what God might say to me if I allowed myself to open up to the Holy Spirit in that way. Poetry touches my soul in deep and inexplicable ways and poetry had been shared by myself and the other. I wasn’t sure I wanted to ever explore poetry again in my life.

My friend had been a cloud spotter for me that morning. Our friendship went back to our teen years at school. She had known all the parts of my journey. She’d seen me through the time, ten years previously, when I thought my marriage was over. She’d visited me in the years when I couldn’t leave my home because of a sick child. I had sent her frantic emails from the other side of the world when I’d had the life shattering conversation with my husband. She knew my heart. She still loved me.

She told me where she spotted the clouds – where she saw God fulfilling his promises to me. Being with her allowed me to begin to peel some of the protective layers away from my deepest places. It prepared me to allow God to speak to those deep places.

With some trepidation but also anticipation I sat down with my bible. The idea was to find a passage and read it through praying that the Holy Spirit would speak through the words. Then to read it through, underlining any words or phrases that stood out. Next to add any other words from the passage which linked or joined those underlined. Finally to black out all other words.

I found a passage in Kings which I’d never read before, about a king’s recovery from illlness. I began to pray and read and poetry formed. What I wrote was this:

 

Sickness depart

Plucked up and removed

I have rolled up my life.

Night.

Help. Bring an end.

Weary Looking upward

Lord, my security. Sleep.

Lord these things live

Life, spirit, hope, faithful

Living thanks I make known they faithfulness.

Sing. Recover.

Those words spoke to me. They acknowledged the desperate cry of my heart to just finish things, but they also brought me to a place of knowing that there was still life, and God was faithful. The last line felt like a promise.

The next part of the exercise was to free write five or six pages immediately, prompted by the blackout poetry. It was as if my emotions and words and prayers were unlocked and my pen covered pages in my scrawled script. When I felt I had reached the end I had to read through those pages and underline six phrases or sentences which stood out to me. They were to be numbered according to the order in which they appeared in my pages and I then applied a numbered system to create a poem from them.

As I re-read what I wrote it fell into two parts. The first was my ‘complaint’ as with the book of Job. It was an outpouring of my longings and my despair. My inability to believe that I would ever recover from this pain. My reticence to trust anyone ever again. My hope that one day I would find joy again in a number of very specific things. The second part was God’s answer to me. It was the longer part. It spoke to the deepest places.

I read it hesitantly to my friend. We cried and thanked God for answering my cry.

I doubt that I will ever share the words I wrote on those pages with anyone else. They were deeply personal and felt like a love letter.

I will however share the poem that came from them:

Is God enough? Can he be? Wait.

Shame has suffocated and blinded me. Breathe great breaths of life.

I will never hurt you, neglect you, diminish you or shame you.

Come close to me; you will learn to trust love again and you will sing again

Shame has suffocated and blinded me. Breathe great breaths of life.

It will shine with the radiance of all that is touched by my beauty.

Come close to me; you will learn to trust love again and you will sing again.

There is no shame in singing.

It will shine with the radiance of all that is touched by my beauty.

I will never hurt you, neglect you, diminish you or shame you.

There is no shame in singing.

Is God enough? Can he be? Wait.

 

Lights in the darkness.

I have linked this post with #givemegrace over at Lisha Epperson’s community. The words I was given on that day were grace to me in abundance

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Day 18: Bent to the ground with my face between my knees – terrified and trusting

I wrote the journal excerpt below, on a day in March – one year exactly since the evening I’d first spent time alone with the other. I wrote it because I was scared that I was going to make choices that were not, in the eyes of myself or others, the choices that I ‘should’ make. I felt that knowing what others would think ought to help me make the ‘should’ choices, but I didn’t think I could do that. I could’t imagine remaining in a marriage for the rest of my life where I felt so lonely.

‘I know that people say you (God) can change things and I know that’s true. I also know our will has some part in it. I don’t know if it’s my will obstructing the path of change or if this is just a situation that you are leaving to me to come to decision about with you beside me. I feel like I’d be failing so many people and my desire to be liked and to please can’t take that. And yet this spirit crushing way of life can’t continue. Maybe I need to see my life with very different eyes? So maybe that’s my prayer today – that I will see my marriage, my family through your eyes and that I will be open to my heart being changed. As I write that I sense a physical constricting as if I’m protecting my heart from pain. I think that’s what it comes down to. I’ve had too much pain and I want it and the potential for it to stop. I have no idea what to do.’

The verse printed on the top of that page ?

‘Then ask God to come closer to you. God will get as close as you will let Him.’ James 4: 7-8 ( paraphrased)

The next day I read the story in 1 Kings 18 v 44 and 45 about the occasion when Elijah has told King Ahab that there will be rain, but he sends his servant to look for any sign of a cloud. A cloud that will indicate the fulfilment of God’s word, as it was God who’d promised rain and an end to the drought which was afflicting the country.

I’d read that story and told that story many times. I had never before noticed what we are told about Elijah’s physical placement when the servant was looking for clouds. I think I’d always imagined him to be standing indoors, or sitting somewhere recovering from his epic encounter with the prophets of Baal. Maybe someone was serving him food or drink.

No. Elijah was ‘bent down to the ground with his face between his knees’.

I knew what that position meant. In the previous weeks I had found myself on the floor of various rooms in my house, doubled over, pressing into the floor, as sobs wracked my body and the physical pain which the emotions caused me to feel made me want to disappear into the ground. I couldn’t get lower physically in my posture, and I couldn’t find a way to become more invisible. Bent to the ground with my face between my knees was me at my most broken, hurt and helpless.

Elijah was terrified. He was terrified that God wouldn’t keep his word. He was alone, isolated and scared. He couldn’t actually raise his head or open his eyes to look for fear he would be let down. If no rain came it was likely that King Ahab would kill him. His trust in God would be broken. The stakes could not have been higher.

Seven times his servant went to look for any sign of a cloud. I could feel Elijah’s rising desperation and yet he did keep checking. He persevered in hope. He waited; he wanted to trust, despite the seeming lack of fulfilment of the promises.

Then finally – a cloud as small as a man’s hand was seen.

The relief.

Through that story I realised that I could both trust and be terrified, and that I needed to keep asking my ‘cloud spotters’ to check for rain clouds. I needed to know if they could see God acting when I couldn’t even bear to look. I needed to ask them to tell me if He was fulfilling his promise to me.

Of course I recorded these thoughts in my journal. It shouldn’t have been any surprise to me that the verse pre-printed on the bottom of the page was this:

‘The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving towards all he has made.” Psalm 145:13

That night I drove to collect a friend for 48 hours of time together. As I drove I had a phone conversation with my brother in which I told him I was still sure the marriage was dead. I didn’t realise that I was about to spend the weekend watching the rain clouds appear.

Lights in the darkness

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Day 17: a day when the use of expletives proved to me the reality of God

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who knows my way.”

Psalm 142 v 3

Those were days of a faint spirit. It was a time where I felt uncertain about whether I could commit to my marriage again. Yes, I was still there but I was never far from calling time on everything. I knew that my uncertainty was creating and encouraging a fragility about all our interactions, but I didn’t feel I could do anything else. I didn’t feel that I was at a point where I could, or had to, make a decision and I just hoped that I’d know when I had got to that point.

I would guess that it is always true, that when someone forms a relationship with someone outside their marriage or partnership, it is because they are missing things within their established relationship. Very early on I had identified a number of those defecits which the other filled for me, and I for him. One of the things that I knew I needed to do, for my own well being, was to get those defecits filled from ‘safe’ places. I knew that they couldn’t remain empty; my need for them to be filled was just too great. I kept asking God to do it and I also looked at ways I could have those needs met safely. As I moved through those weeks I noticed the whispers of God showing me that I was understood and He knew how to communicate with me in ways that would mean something to me. Music connects with me deeply, and someone wrote two songs for me. I was gifted unexpectedly with flowers – the beauty of cut flowers has always inspired me and filled a space in my heart. There were countless kindnesses which made me feel seen and known and loved. I needed interaction with people, I needed new and different, I needed actions coming out of passion for social justice causes, I needed activism and enthusiasm. I needed fun. So I organised a fundraising coffee and cake morning for a cause I cared about, I invited people into my home, I arranged to do a charity sky dive.

But doing all these things from such a broken place was almost more than I could manage. The coffee morning worked well – but the physical act of interacting with people for two hours left me shaky, tearful and crushed as I realised the physical and emotional toll which the previous months had taken on me. I was not who I used to be. I felt pathetic. A friend held me as I cried.

The next day I wrote this in my journal as I reflected on whether I really was as pathetic and weak as I was perceiving myself to be: ( warning: strong language)

‘I had years of unhappiness and sick children and then I was loved by someone who I loved, and then he left me and hurt me and lied about me and I don’t love my husband but I’m staying because I think I should for the children and for him and it feels selfish to break things up and I’m depressed, and I’m working and I’m supporting other people and I’m looking after children and I’m trying to restore myself and I’m trying to keep exercising and eating. It is fucking amazing that I am even getting up in the mornings.

And that tells me that God is real and present and that I have strength because of that and because of who He made me to be. And I hope against hope, or maybe because of hope, that there are no right or wrong answers apart from the truth of knowing God and trusting Him.’

Even then. Lights in the darkness.

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