Friday, 12 February 2016

Feb 10th and 12th...

February 10th and 12th come around with unceasing regularity (once a year, oddly enough!)....we've had a few tears this week.  It's now 6 years for me and 16 years for Ellie since our "Great Sadness".

I have recently read a really good book about a man who's mum, wife and young daughter all died in a car crash back in the early 90s called "A Grace Disguised".  His insights into the grief journey are incredible as one who has been there and done it (doing it) is a bit of a heart rending read at points but really helps as you realise that the emotional trauma you've experienced  - and continue to experience - even after years - is actually really very normal ! 
The book captured me in the opening page with the statement :-

"This book is not intended to help anyone get over or even through the experience of catastrophic loss, for I believe that "recovery" from such loss is an unrealistic and even harmful expectation, if by recovery we mean resuming the way we lived and felt prior to the loss...."

So I feel quite relieved that I have permission to not be 'normal' ever again and it's ok! 

As to news...I lost my job at the end of November and am still out of work.  Ellie and I have had a lot of quality time together since then just doing simple things like walking the dogs, sharing the housework, and most importantly, just having time to stop and think and review and pray (and drink coffee!).  Ellie has recently done a few days of supply teaching - which she really didn't enjoy at all, to be honest.  I now have two options in terms of work - which we are thinking and praying about - hopefully we will have a final plan of action in the next week.

That's it for now....

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A tribute (part 2)

It's been a long time since I have blogged...I don't really know why.  I have been meaning to write some summer memoirs but haven't quite got around to it.....anyway, I felt this one was particularly important.  (For Part 1, see blog posting from January 2014)
Here is my eulogy to my father-in-law that I spoke at his funeral on Thursday.


My first real memory of Norman was when I asked him for the hand of his beloved daughter, Karena, in marriage – I managed to get him alone in the front room of their house in Badger Drive in December 1992 while Karena “apprehended” her mother in the kitchen.  Karena and I had only been dating for about 3 months so it was all a bit fast….Norman’s response to my question was ‘unusual’…..he looked me in the eyes, looked blank, said nothing, then got up and walked out of the room… ….I nervously followed….he went to the kitchen and told his wife, Grace, what I had asked.  They quizzed us a bit (it was a bit fast!!!), and then they opened up some champagne !

Before the wedding day actually came, I got a brief talking-to/warning from Norman – he took me quietly to one side one day and basically said to me, “You’d better not mess this up, Sunshine!”  Norman was fiercely protective of his family – his daughters and his grandchildren in particular, and also his wider family.  For his daughters, he had always delighted in them both and would do literally anything within his power that he could do for them, he would give them anything he had that they needed, and Grace had to reign him in a bit with his extravagance sometimes – he loved them so very much and showed it in many different ways.

I can honestly say that from the moment that I asked him to marry his daughter, that Norman welcomed me into his family as a son….and in his thinking I became part of the family and was under his ‘care’ in the same way as his daughters were.   Whilst I never called him “Dad” to his face, that is what he became to me….somebody who I could always go to, somebody who I knew would watch my back, someone who I knew cared for me and for my family, and somebody who would literally give away anything and everything in order to help me or my children out if I really needed him to.   He consistently supported us as a family and I know that he prayed for us all daily. 

When my beautiful wife Karena died in 2010, Norman’s heart, like mine, was utterly crushed.  He was never really the same again….but in spite of the very real pain that he experienced then and with the passing of his own beloved wife last year, Norman, whilst quiet and broken-hearted,  remained strong in faith, and through tears I know he was confident  in the gospel of Jesus - that one day he would see his wife and daughter again.

On Sept 30th Ellie and I visited Norman in hospital after his fall.  Initially, whilst clearly unwell from his fall, he was able to speak and before leaving his bedside, I asked if he would like me to pray for him – his reply was, “Yes please”.  They were his last words. 

I prayed for him that the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding would guard his heart and his mind in Christ”, I prayed for God’s presence to be very real for him there in the hospital bed, I prayed that he would have confidence that God was with him.  

I didn’t actually leave the hospital…from that moment on, medically Norman’s condition deteriorated, and within a couple of hours he had died and been welcomed into his eternal home – into the place of great reunions, into the presence of God, into the presence of Christ, and he had been reunited with his wife and with his daughter – into the place where there is no sadness and no tears.  This is our confidence as a family.

2 Tim 4:8  “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”

So whilst today I have a heavy heart for the loss of somebody so dearly loved, I also have joy and confidence and hope too, because Norman was a believer in Christ, and he is now in his eternal home, and for those of us who are in Christ, we too will see him again one day.
Norman – Dad – we will miss you.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Easter memories

There have been many memories from the Easter season....two of my children got was a fabulous day.  In their words...

My name’s Lucy, I’m 16 years old and I’ve been in Reading Family Church for nearly 4 years now. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember so I can’t give a specific time and date for that first moment of understanding-it happened slowly over many years. Both my parents were Christians, in fact around the time I was born my Dad started training to become a vicar however he died suddenly when I was still very young.  While he met Jesus face to face, my Mum brought up me and my brother. We lived in New Malden mostly, and as a child I first discovered Christianity though bible stories I heard through Mum and at church. I started at secondary school there, which I hated, and moved to Reading in 2011 which was also difficult but through these things I came to know and rely on Jesus more personally.  I also gained a stepdad, Craig, 3 more siblings, Esther, Ben and Olivia and moved to a new school which I enjoy much more. My Christian life also grew.  I joined Reading Family Church, where I’ve had a great time helping with the 3-to- 5 year olds in “Stars”, attending the youth group and meeting and learning about God at the Christian Youth camp, Newday, in 2012 and 2014.  So, I’ve decided to get baptised today because I believe that Jesus died and rose again and through this washed away my sins. In the Bible it commands Christians to be baptised.  I want to be obedient to this and follow God’s will in my life rather than my own.

Hello, I’m Ben.  I grew up in a Christian family and I have been going along to church for as long as I can remember.  I am so grateful to my parents for introducing me to Christ early and now I have great Christian friends and role models in my life.  I would say I became a Christian when I was around 6 years old despite having very limited knowledge about who Jesus was and what he has done for me. Since then I have grown in my relationship with God but for me being a Christian hasn’t meant an easy life.  In 2008 when I was 10 years old, my mum was diagnosed with cancer. At the end of a horrible journey together, I remember sitting down in the Duchess of Kent House Hospice with mum, dad Sean and Liz and was told my mum was going to die. On the 12th of February 2010 she died but my faith in Jesus Christ makes me confident I will see her again when Jesus calls me home. My dad’s continuous trust in God’s plan for our lives rubbed off on me and my faith didn’t waver despite the incredibly hard journey I had to walk.  Looking back now I can see how right he was. Dad met Ellie and now I have a great step-mum along with another brother and sister bringing our family to a grand total of 7 people. So today I’m getting baptized because I believe I’m forgiven and as an act of obedience as I choose to pursue Jesus for the rest of my life.
Trying to cater for 50 people after the baptism with no kitchen and no cooker was a challenge....yes, the building work still keeps going on...but is now nearing completion (at last).  There has been a skip on our driveway since last July....we are looking forward to seeing the back of it in the next few weeks!  Recently I overheard Ellie reply to one of the children that the herbs were "in the kitchen behind the scaffolding poles".....the saga continues... 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Other worlds to sing in...

February...our least favourite month of the year....we are in the lead-up to our sad anniversaries and, as is normally the case, the time leading up to the anniversary, is normally worse than the anniversary day itself.  We've both been a bit "on the edge" this week....

On 10th February, it will be 15 years since Ben died
On 12th February, it will be 5 years since Karena died.

Neither of us can believe the amount of time that has passed - it seems like yesterday, and yet at the same time, it seems like a lifetime away since those horrors.
So many memories.

I'm reading a book by Rob Parsons at the moment called "The Wisdom House" and it's just brilliant....chapters are short and very easy to read with great nuggets of wisdom within the pages.  I read a chapter this week called "Other worlds to sing in" which made me cry (I just read it to Ellie and it made her cry too!)  Here's a quote from it about the calendar of our life :-

"The one I use is made up of boxes, and each has a date written above it.  Every day I am pulled from one box into one second past midnight, I am pulled through a door into the next box - and for the next 24 hours my life will be played out within its walls.  If I am foolish, or simply too preoccupied to reflect, I can believe that there is an endless supply of boxes waiting for me.  But there is not. And for that reason I must try to live my life in the present box, grasping the preciousness of this moment.  And this is vital, for although we may find it hard to grasp our own mortality...there is a last box. And this one has no doors that can lead me into the next day.  The biggest question in the universe is this : does that last box have no doors because it is just a coffin and death is the end ?  Or does it have no doors because death is a beginning and that particular box, unlike all the others....has no walls ?"

CS Lewis says it like this :-
"But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page:now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read : which goes on forever : in which every chapter is better than the one before" (The Last Battle)

I remember reading this to my daughter just after her mum died.  Great stuff in the midst of the pain of the journey!

Here's a photo of the house extension....things are progressing well but slowly !

Monday, 15 December 2014

Santa Christmas Carols...

Yesterday was a fun day....I had applied to do the inaugural Reading Santa Run a few months ago, primarily because it was a fund raiser for Duchess of Kent House (where Karena died) and also for the Alexander Devine Children's Hospice - both charities feel close to my heart.
Having got out of bed rather reluctantly in order to get there in time to register, I decided to run it full-pelt (is there any other way?) with the more serious Santas - there were 1000 of us in total.  I don't know my overall race position (top 30 or so I think) but I came across the line in a good time.
Even the real Father Christmas turned up which was nice - you can see him if you look really carefully in the photo.

Then in the afternoon, Ellie and I along with 2 of our daughters were singing in the choir at the annual Reading Family Church carol service at the Town Hall. It felt like a great privilege, was really enjoyable, and the wonderful truth of Christmas was declared in a mixture of traditional and contemporary styles, with Jesus birth, death and resurrection right at the centre of it all.

The Santa Run was brilliant fun, but singing "Fall on your knees" from the carol "O Holy Night" in a 3 part harmony made my legs buckle with emotion.

Merry Christmas !

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A great day....

My daughter got baptised on Sunday....this is what she said before she got dunked.....

"Hello, my name is Olivia and I am 14 years old. 
Throughout my life I have been brought up in a Christian family and have been in this church since it started in 2001. From an early age I was taught about Jesus and the significance of him dying on the cross for everyone who believed in him. When I was 5 years old I made a first time commitment to God in my bedroom. From then on, my faith and understanding of who God was grew, through being around other Christians, going to kid’s church on a Sunday and quizzing my Dad from the age of seven about some of the questions I had around Christianity.

Nothing really unexpected had happened in my life when I was younger, until one evening in 2008.  It was then that I found out that my mum had been diagnosed with cancer and was to go through a course of chemotherapy to make her better. From then on, I became used to mum feeling unwell and going in and out of the hospital every few weeks for chemotherapy.  

A year later, mum was moved to Duchess of Kent house hospice as her condition didn’t improve and it was there, a few weeks later, that my brother, sister and I were told that in a week or so mum would meet Jesus face to face.  In the dark days that followed I became more increasingly aware of God’s love for my family and I, and that when mum took her final breath, she would be with Jesus Christ in heaven.  
At 8 o’ clock on 12th February 2010, mum went through the gates of glory where she is now partying in heaven.
In the years that followed there was lots of crying and pain but I also had a great sense of peace over me as I knew where mum was.  I also have great confidence that one day I will meet mum again and like the 'picture' that God gave me a few months after her death, one day, I will run into heaven where she will be waiting for me, and I will pick her up and spin her around laughing.

Later that year Dad met the amazing Ellie at a bereavement conference where God showed us that he had more plans for our family.  A year later they got married and I also gained another brother and sister!  
In the years that followed up until now I have learnt more and more of Gods’ great love for me through events like Carroty Wood and Newday and despite the death of my grandma earlier this year, I have learnt and realise that God really does work for the best of those who love him.

I am getting baptised today as a declaration of my faith in Jesus, to be obedient to God’s word and the plans that he has for me in the future."

I am so proud of her!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mud mud glorious mud...

It's been quite a while since my last blog...I haven't felt like it much to be honest.

So here's an update on life in general...
We had a great family holiday cycling in Holland....we did a circuit around the country covering about 250km in a week.....the children really enjoyed it even though some got a little saddle sore at times.  A great memory!

We made up a song on the final day's longest tour stage(!) - you can sing along, to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey"

My buttocks are aching,
My muscles are sore,
But still we keep cycling,
Can't take any more!

The wind it is blowing...
Right into my face,
But still Ben and Barn'by
Won't slow up the pace

Oh Dad he keeps stressing
And shouting for speed
But we go in circles
When he takes the lead.

And so we keep going,
Tho' our bottoms are red...
We can't wait to get there
And flop into bed!

Our beautiful daughter Esther started at University in September - she seems to be thriving despite a tearful start (until we left the car park I think!)....we are so proud of her, she seems to have settled in really well, has been making new friends, exploring churches, and has joined the horse riding club.

Our two boys both did really well in their GCSEs and are now working (hard?) on their AS levels.

Our building work got hugely delayed, causing no small amount of frustration...long story was due to start at the end of July and after many unfulfilled promises and false starts, it eventually started about 3 weeks ago!  All looked fairly good until they found the drain problem....I have to say that when I was thinking about an extension, I wasn't really expecting this (photo taken this morning!).  It's been a long, stressful, sleepless and expensive couple of weeks trying to sort it all out!  I have to say (much to my surprise), Thames Water were brilliant with quickly approving the revised revised updated modified plans revision 6 (!) 
The builders have totally trashed the garden tho!  Hey-ho, at least I hadn't just turfed it :-)

We found the stress of it all quite hard to deal with, it's caused sleepless nights for Craig and migraines for Ellie.  We read this morning about simple trust (Psalm 131).  Nicky Gumbel writes,

"How does this total trust happen?  First, resign as general manager of the universe.  Stop trying to control everyone and everything.  Second, put your trust in God in the same way that a baby has total trust in a parent."

So, onwards and upwards...and looking forward as best as we can (over the mound of earth !!)