Velvet Bags and Repair Kits

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Today I have a rather amazing story to share with you. Another story of God.

A week ago I was really struggling with memories of the other. I didn’t want them. I remembered a previous time in my life when I had some memories I didn’t want to have to hold in my mind. They were memories of the very traumatic birth of one of my children. It was a terrifying experience and although we both survived I found that for weeks afterwards every time I lay down and closed my eyes all I could see were flashbacks of the birth. As a mother of a new born I was desperate for sleep but the memories stopped it from coming.

One night in desperation I lay crying in my bed with my baby sleeping in a cot next to me, and I said ‘God just take away these memories. Erase them from my mind. I don’t want to have them. I want them gone. I can’t bear them anymore.’ At that moment I saw very clearly in my mind a really beautiful velvet bag, and saw my memories placed inside it. I sensed God telling me that my memories were actually very, very precious because they were around the miracle of my child’s birth but that He could place them within beautiful protection. I didn’t need to see them, instead I could see the and feel the soft bag which was holding them. That night I slept without flashbacks.

The next morning a parcel arrived in the post. A gift for us on the birth of our baby.I read the card and unwrapped the present.

It was a velvet bag. Inside was a photograph album.

I wept. 

It was such a precious and tangible reminder to me of the reality of God’s love and protection and provision that I have never been able to put any photos into it. I keep it as it is, and I know that for me it contains all the memories which were once too painful to view.

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Last week I cried out to God again in desperation. I wrote in my journal ‘I want another velvet bag. I just want the memories to go ‘.

God answered my prayer but not by giving me what I was asking for.

A few days before I wrote that journal entry I had written about Kintsugi on this blog. The ancient Japanese art of repairing broken things with gold so that they are made more beautiful in repair. I saw in that, an illustration of what God is doing in my marriage.

Yesterday I met with a friend and she had a gift for me. I opened it and almost wept.

Her gift to me was a Kintsugi Repair Kit.  

She had read my blog last week and was amazed I’d mentioned kintsugi because a number of weeks ago a work colleague  had approached her and started giving her information about it. She had no idea what he was talking about. He’d thought that she had asked him about it, but it was someone else. My friend had never heard of kintsugi before, however it intrigued her and as she found out more about it she came across the Kintsugi Repair Kit, made in another country. She felt that it would be the perfect gift for me and so weeks ago she’d ordered it to be delivered. We’d never talked about kintsugi. She had no idea that it held any meaning for me.

I realised as I held that gift in my hands last night, that God is not giving me a velvet bag for the memories of the other. They aren’t to be carefully protected. They aren’t beautiful and important. They are to be let go of in the way that my mind does all the time, with names and faces and places and things I can’t quite recall.

Instead I am to go forward, repairing with gold, the marriage I have. The marriage which contains a richness of memories and which will create many more. It’s about putting off the old and on the new.

God is so gentle when He shows me things.

I have been brought this week to the realisation that my desire to protect the memories and not let them go was not His desire.

I know that His desire is for the gold paint to be applied to all the cracks so that our brokenness is made beautiful.

Every day a story of God. Every day a story of grace. 

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this post in linked with Lisha Epperson and the #givemegrace community

and then he laughed at me

‘Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.’

Ephesians 6 v 13 The Message 

Take all the help you can get. All of it.

A couple of morning this week I’ve woken up and wondered when will the battle be over? Will there come a time when the devil does not exploit my weaknesses?  Will there ever be a time that I gain some ground without something pushing me back or knocking me off my feet?

I think the answer to my question is that unless I leave the battle and surrender to the enemy then it’s going to be life long. If I want to live loudly for Jesus, if I want to fly his colours in places where they’ve not been seen before then I’ll be on the hit list for a while longer.

I choose that. I choose to stay and fight.

Which means that I really need to heed these words of Paul.

Take all the help you can get.

In the past that help has looked like turning to the bible daily for words to guide me, prayer, attendance at church, christian leadership in partnership with others.

Now it looks very different, but its breadth is making me stronger. I’m still utterly reliant on the bible. I pray, in as much as I turn my heart, my mind, my eyes to try to see God wherever He is, so that I can hear what He’s telling me. I let people know about the battle. I no longer think I need to look like a soldier who’s doing really well. Often I’m on the ground reeling from another blow, but I want to get up again, and others help me back on to my feet. I’m not a lone fighter. I’ve a community of women with whom I share life and words and images, and all of them, in their differing ways, in their wide interpretations of scripture and religious traditions, keep telling me that God is good and He loves me, and He loves that I’m still in the fight. I can’t tell you how much that helps.

This morning I identified a new source of strength. It’s one I’ve been using increasingly in the past year but this morning, as it totally transformed a battle ground into a meadow with flowers and laughter I realised just how powerful this weapon is.

Last night, I once again had a dream which featured the other heavily. It was my subconscious playing out some of the issues which have caused me anxiety and negativity this week. I woke and had to keep telling myself that it was a dream and not reality for quite a few minutes, before I began to really believe it. Usually when I have dreams involving the other I don’t share them with my husband. Sometimes I make vague references to ‘bad dreams’ but no specifics. I reached for my bible and as I read the words in Ephesians I laughed as I read that our battles are not with flesh and blood.  I know that mine are with dreams and thoughts in my head and I identified my dream as a new battle being waged.

So I told my husband about the dream. I told him the detail. I told him how it had made me feel.

And he laughed. He laughed so hard that he almost cried. 

I should say at this point that he does have an ability to laugh at the most serious things I tell him, and it’s not always been a wise move, but actually my incredulity at his laughter slowly changed to a smile and then a laugh as I saw, as he so clearly did, just how ridiculous and therefore funny the dream actually was when held up in the morning light to a man who has lived through the worst days of the battle and still chooses me and chooses God.

It took away all the power of that dream. Instantly.

Today I used all that I had available to me.

I used every weapon that God has issued to me.

I used the weapon of my husband and his laughter and his love for me, which was able to be used in battle once I’d put on the belt of truth. 

We will win the battle. We will be standing at the end.

real life, real mess, real hope

So here’s the thing. I don’t want to be consumed by negative things. By negative influences, events, people or circumstances. And yet, some days I find myself slouched on the floor watching my space fill up with negativity, after a door left ajar allows it entry.

I don’t like the person I am when I’m there. Once the door is open everything rushes in, and I have difficult getting up from my slouched position to close it.

I become frustrated. I’ve been doing ok. And then Bam. I’m right back in a bad place.

Yesterday this happened to me. It was horrible. Almost unbearable. I began to feel things creeping in to the room which  placed distance between myself and my husband. It felt like the bad old days of dishonesty and having a mind that was always thinking of someone else.

But I did something different, something which I didn’t do in the past. I told people what I was feeling. I told them what was going on for me. I told them that I was feeling pulled by negative things, by sin and by destruction and that I hated it, but I could feel it gaining a hold on me. I wouldn’t show them my face because I was ashamed. But I did show them my heart. I told them that I needed them to tell me something. Not the lines about ‘you know you shouldn’t’ or ‘this really isn’t good’, or ‘not after all you’ve been through’. I needed them to tell me what they know of me so that I could remember. So that I could get up off my backside and close the door. So that I could stand up straight, lift my gaze, lift my heart, and say, ‘I do not choose to be consumed by these things.’

I needed them to tell me where they see the Spirit of God working in me and changing me and living in me. I needed to be reminded that we are more than conquerors, always.

They did that for me. And they told me not to hide my face. They said I should never be ashamed in their presence.

This morning I woke and I knew that the door had been closed. For this moment anyway.

I wanted to share this today for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so that you know that even though I am still married 16 months after facing up to all the mess with my husband, there are still days when suddenly everything looks as messed up as it ever did. If you are experiencing similar things don’t beat yourself up about it.  I’m told this is quite normal. It’s a long process. A daily journey.

Secondly, I want to say that shame should not stop us from sharing with each other what is going on in our lives. I’ve written about this before, but it was shame that stopped me from telling the people who love me what was going on in my life in the past, and if I had told them, maybe much brokeness could have been avoided.

Sometimes we just forget who we are and what strength we have.

No one else shut the door for me.

I did it, but I did need people to tell me that I could.

Rough seas

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‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

Jesus asked this of the disciples in the boat with him when the storm came and they feared for their lives. Before doing anything about it Jesus first asked them this question.

I’ve written about this before but I so quickly forget all that I know of the goodness of God and His faithfulness to me.  The disciples of Jesus forgot , even though Jesus was with them all the time and they witnessed the most extraordinary large scale miracles regularly. Jesus knew how forgetful we are and so even set up the visual reminders at the last supper, so that every time they, and we, ate bread and drank wine together the participants would remember what he’d told them.

I know that today is a day with potential for me to forget the goodness of God. To become overwhelmed with the human situations and thoughts and feelings and responses and look for solutions. I fell asleep last night writing letters in my head to several people,  all the while knowing that I was flailing in the wind at situations far outside of my control. A little like the disciples in the boat. What could they do against the wind and the waves that threatened their very existence ?

They could talk to Jesus. And He could remind them of all that they knew of Him.

And then He calmed the storm. 

So I am taking the advice of the Psalmist,

‘Whoever is wise, let him heed these things

and consider the great love of the Lord.’ Psalm 107 v 43

If you know the details of my life right now you will know that it might seem a bit difficult to consider the great love of the Lord.  It’s not though. I don’t quite understand it, but despite circumstances I am profoundly convinced of the love of God. No, I don’t love the very difficult things that I am living with right now, nor do I think that they are somehow mine because of the ‘love of the Lord’. But there is solid ground under my feet. I shared a photo of myself this week with  friends and they thought I looked pretty rough. Exhausted, sad, worn. I could see that too when I looked at the image, but in fact I didn’t feel that bad. Somehow my soul is comforted and protected. And that is God’s love. God’s great love.

I am beginning to wonder if the storm to be calmed is not the external storm of circumstances but the internal one of my soul and mind and emotions?

So this morning I have been to a service of communion, I am listening to The Messiah and I plan to sit in sunshine later. I will try to remember that flailing at the storm is useless and as I remember the great love of the Lord, and realise I’m daft to still be afraid, I will watch Jesus stand beside me and tell things to settle down.

Today, as every Sunday, I am linking with Lisha Epperson and the #givemegrace community.