Thursday, 27 December 2012

12 Days of Christmas...

It's been the first Christmas that I've really enjoyed since 2007....and the kids all had a great time!

We made up a song on Christmas day which represents our family and made us smile.....to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas"...try it out....





On the 1st Day of Christmas the Lord God gave to me...
- A hard working washing machine

- 2 different names
- 3 different schools
- 4 sets of in-laws

- 5 T E E N A G E R S

- 6 sets of bedding
- 7 family members
- 8 bikes to choose from
- 9 pets to start with
- 10 (our new bed time)
- 11 types of china
- 12 bins to empty

Quite catchy eh ?!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The snowman family

Webster/Mackay snowman family all ready for Christmas !









Following on from my previous blog, we're not really changing our surname (for those who weren't quite sure!) - it was tongue-in-cheek !!

This grief journey definitely includes a measure of madness but silliness is also permitted !!
The madness part feels very integral to the journey for me - and many people we've spoken to on similar journeys say the same thing….sometimes you really do feel like you're totally losing your grip on reality and/or your mind !!
As for silliness - well I'm probably sillier now than I've ever been (but not entirely stupid hopefully !!?) but there are many other changes too - I was told a couple of days ago that I'm a lot gentler than I used to be…that's good I think. I'm certainly damaged forever in ways that I can't fully explain….examples include :-
- I can't handle pressure like I used to be able to
- I have become hideously forgetful
- I lack motivation
- I emotionally overload without warning
- I avoid conflict like the plague
- I physically wince when I think back to hospice days
  etc
That's just some of the fallout….but thankfully I'm still very silly….(hooray!)….in fact, it's quite possible that my next blog entry may relate to the recently discovered Porridge Performance Index (PPI) - just a simple foodstuff you may think, or perhaps an uncanny predictor of the UK Economy?? Coming soon to a blog near you….(but only if you say please).

So….Christmas is less than a week away.  Presents are all purchased (but mostly not yet wrapped).
The dog has now recovered following his single-pawed advent chocolate and candy-cane raid of the christmas tree (he really was 'Dog Mess' for a couple of days!)

As a family it feels like we've been on a voyage of discovery afresh during the advent season….we've been listening to J John's short daily advent messages and following scripture union's advent story too (there's quite a few embellishments in the latter!) Then we've also been thinking on the Bible names of Jesus each day from our advent candle (see daily tweets!), and talking a lot about what it must have really been like during the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
The 'Christmas story' can be so unhelpfully familiar in many ways because of tradition, fairytale images on Christmas cards, school nativities (as cute as they are!), sentiment etc BUT the Bible account is a factual historical reality.

Most poignant for me so far this year is the scripture which recounts when Mary was told by the angel that "The power of the Almighty will overshadow you". This was Mary's encounter at the point when God stepped into history in the person of Jesus - the incarnation - the most significant event in the history of the world. That same truth that Mary was told is now true for all believers in light of the resurrection…the power of the almighty overshadows us….he is quite literally Immanuel ("God with us"). Through all of life's ups and downs and the huge storms which engulf us (or will at some point) , the Lord Almighty doesn't leave…He is an ever present help in trouble.   It is simple.   It is incredible.   It is true.   It really is great news and we choose to live in the reality of this at Christmas and every other day of the year.

Which just leaves us to wish you a very Merry Christmas…. we received the above HUGE and very lovely personalised Christmas card a couple of days ago with 7 snowmen on it....it's taking pride of place in our family Christmas display!

MERRY CHRISTMAS !
With love from the Websters/Mackays (aka Family Mess!)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Happy Families


It’s taken a while but I’ve come to the firm conclusion that we are 'somewhat unusual' as a family…….

On Sunday I was in tears at church (how novel !)....sometimes the 'weight' and all the memories that Ellie and I carry around in our thick skulls all the time for ourselves and our children can be so incredibly tiring emotionally….and as my good friend preached a message about Jesus being the "living water" I was tipped over the emotional edge. So up for prayer I went….

Then on Monday/Tuesday both Ellie and I were confronted afresh, in our discussions with others, with some of our memories which we’d really rather forget (but you can’t!) Talking about our journeys is definitely therapeutic, even if painful, and the people that we spoke to have had similar nightmare stories and tell us how helpful it is that we can talk openly. I guess that’s good, even if a little unusual….

The children are all doing astoundingly well really. One daughter has had to face the untimely death of a very young teacher at her school (just weeks after she gave birth to a child)….which plunged her back into hideous memories which are so difficult to deal with, as well as the sadness of the loss of a teacher and young mother that she so respected. Another daughter keeps getting referred to by the wrong surname….it's quite annoying (for me more than anybody else I think!!). To be clear, we have two distinct surnames in one family and they aren't double-barrelled, they just sit side-by-side. So we're not "Family Mackay" nor "Family Webster", but we are the "Webster/Mackay" or "Mackay/Webster" family. One family…Two names….'somewhat unusual'.   In the 21st century era of family breakups and step families it's not all that unusual I don't think, although how we got here is moreso!

So, for our 'somewhat unusual' family, Christmas is coming….and it's time for a little confession at this point – it’s the first Christmas since the nightmare of 2009/10 that I haven’t been either fearful about or detested it's imminent arrival.   I’m actually quite looking forward to it this year….Ellie is too. We are definitely forging a 'new normal' for our combined family with new traditions being established ("Chocolate Wednesday" being the current favourite) and we are all looking forward to Christmas morning stockings with 5 children posted at different points on the (very furry) carpet in our bedroom in our home. 
Ellie has already made Christmas cake (it smells delightful)….we're doing a daily advent chocolate hunt and nativity scene assembly, and using different bible names for Jesus every day when we pray at mealtimes….it helps us to remember the truth of the season.

So how do we tie up our 'somewhat unusual' family and the Christmas season? The answer is simple - we have decided to legally change our surname by deed poll to something which represents our uniqueness, our journeys and our challenges…so our new surname will be "Mess" (people can even spell it without explanation)….and to solve the christmas present challenge for another year, we are getting a batch of special "Happy Families" cards made….we will be “Family Mess”, with "Father Mess", "Mother Mess", 2 "Master Mess" cards and 3 "Mistress Mess" cards (and perhaps our pooch, Sam, can be "Dog Mess"?!). We will be the unusual family in the pack that is most difficult to get the complete set of…and the photos on the cards will be extracted from our wedding cake figures shown here. Christmas presents all sorted for another year. Surname trouble resolved. Hoorah!

Happy Advent !

Thursday, 29 November 2012

A letter...

Hey Lovely,
I know you can't hear me but as I keep thinking about what I'd say to you, I thought I'd put some of it down in writing…
 
We all really miss you and on the build up to days like your birthday, it can just be so overwhelming….I was really on the edge of the precipice some of the time for many of the days before to be honest. Sometimes I really want to curl up in a ball and hope the aching pain will all go away but of course that would really make no difference….so I just try to occupy my mind with something else…..
 
Anyway, I know that you are having a blast and probably laughing all the time and drinking cappuccino after cappuccino (is there coffee there ??!!)
 
I'd love to know what it's like to be able to actually look into the faces of Jesus and the Father….it must be incredible ! I guess my time will come soon enough and I'll find out for myself but it's a little mind-blowing! I'm so glad about the confidence that we have ….where the bible says that "we don't grieve as those who have no hope"…it's very reassuring for us when we are hanging off the precipice !! I talked to our daughter about that yesterday as she was having a bit of a sad moment.
 
Our children are doing really well….I'm a bit confused to be honest about what you actually know when you're in heaven - people who don't study the bible often talk about loved ones "looking down on us" but I can't find much biblical basis for that and I'm not convinced that it's all that helpful…..anyway, I've got 2 more children now…their Dad, Ben, died over 12 years ago and they don't really remember him - so now I'm being Dad to five children and my beautiful wife Ellie is being mum to five too….it's very busy and very noisy. You'd really like Ellie…she's a delightful Christian woman, she's the treasure of my heart, my very best friend, a top-class mum, and she understands the weirdness and pain of this journey (what more could I ask for?!).
 
It's funny but I have been thinking recently about what you must have prayed for when you were in your last days here and I'm quite sure that on top of your list would have been a fabulous Christian step-mum and wife.…thank you for those prayers my Love, because our Father has answered them in a way that is more than I could possibly have expected or imagined.
 
Ellie and I both delight in our five children but the journey has been so tough for us both and is still fraught with pain which can so often jump out without warning…. it must be so fab to be in a place where there is absolutely no pain, no fear, no tears, and no sadness!
 
I guess you've met Ellie's Ben by now - you can tell him that I'm doing the very best that I can for his children and I'm really looking forward to meeting him one day quite soon.
 
I used to describe you as being "the wind in my sails" - you still are but now it's in memory only….and Ellie of course has become the wind in my sails in the 'here and now' sense …. I still love you of course but I also love her too….if that makes any sense whatsoever ?!
 
A couple of weeks ago I was out cycling with guys from my club and we went past the place in Windsor Great Park where we scattered your ashes…it's on the downhill slope going into Windsor and as we approached that place I hammered it full pelt…I hit 65kph according to my bike computer….it was exhilerating for a few minutes and perhaps relieved a little of the angst that I felt in my heart approaching that place once again. I think the guys in the club thought I'd gone barmy but I waited for them a bit further up the road !
 
Anyway my love…..I'm glad you're home safe and sound and I'll see you there soon.
All my love, as always.
Craig
x

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Birthdays...

We've had two birthdays this week.

The first was on Wednesday....it would have been Karena's birthday, and, as has happened in the past, the build up to the day was worse than the day itself.

I heard from two of Karena's closest friends that they went out for coffee and cake in her honour on the day - a fitting tribute to my lovely wife.

For me, it was more of a "Beam-me-up-Scottie" type of day....so I wrote to her instead....(a bit odd maybe but seemed like an ok thing to do).

Our second birthday was my step-son's 15th.....in my opinion, he's an outstanding young man...and we enjoyed a huge birthday breakfast, lots of presents, take-away food, cake, family movies and sweets !    He got a sword amongst other things ..... it's a fencing epee so not quite as horrific as it sounds perhaps?!  I feel very privileged to be filling the 'Dad' role in his life even though of course I can't ever fill it biologically ! 
One day I will meet Jesus face-to-face myself and I will meet Ellie's Ben too - and I will tell him of all the joy that his son and daughter brought to our combined family.  That will be a good day.

One of the things you realise about this journey is that all birthdays have a measure of pain associated with them.  Because I love him, I feel so sad that my step-son's Dad isn't there for his birthday......as it is I feel delighted that this young man has been adopted into our family (and me into his), and I can now call him my son. 
My relationship with my step-children is a great reminder to me that as a Christian, I have been personally adopted into God's family - I am now a son of The Father, an heir, chosen by Him and called by name...all made possible because of what Jesus' has done.

Happy Birthday Son!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The mask

Sometime ago, I blogged about how on this grief journey, there is pain and angst just bubbling away beneath the surface, ready to totally erupt and overwhelm at a moment's notice….it hasn't changed, and to be honest I'm not sure that it's ever likely to.
 
The whole world changed for both Ellie and I when those that we loved (and the parents of our children) died, so why would either of us expect to ever return to any kind of 'normal' ?
 
Looking in the mirror though I realise I must seem fairly normal to onlookers (as 'normal' as I ever have been that is!), and it's only me that really realises the turmoil that can be behind the smile that I purpose to pull so often. 
Whether we like it or not though both Ellie and I wear a mask a lot of the time…a mask of 'normality', of 'coping'…but behind it we are never very far from the precipice of huge emotional pain….as we both got reminded of in different ways over these last few days (I'll spare you the details!)
 
However, for both Ellie and I, now doing our grief journeys together (and absolutely delighting in being together), we have an increasing sense that God has plans for us to be a part of binding up other people's broken hearts, and comforting others who mourn…..and helping others take off their masks too…
 
For us, the answer lies in what direction we're looking in….if we look backwards from behind our masks, there's just pain and heartache.  If we just look forwards it all can seem so daunting (but with some glimmers of hope of course), but when we stop for a moment, are honest with ourselves, remove the masks we wear…and then gaze upwards into the eye's of Jesus there's simply everything that we can possibly need….love, comfort, strength, compassion, confidence, hope, purpose and a future too. 
 
And so we will leave the last words of this blog to our master who delights in helping us take off our masks and meeting our real needs….
 
Isaiah 61:1-3ff (Luke 4:17-21)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour….to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve….to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.   They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour…..

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Chocolate pavlova

Today my oldest daughter got baptised.  It was a day of great joy and hugely emotional....this is her own story in her own words that she read out before getting into the pool......

"Hello Everyone!! I am 16 years old. I was brought up/ am being brought up in a Christian family with my mum, dad, brother and sister.  I became a Christian when I was four years old. Although I don’t remember much about that moment, I know that I was certain that Jesus had, very simply, died for ‘all the naughty things that I did’ – and at this point that was sufficient. As I grew up my faith in Jesus deepened and with it came a deeper love for him, which can only be explained by the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and the beautiful Christian friends and family placed around me!

However, even at the beginning of secondary school my life was fairly easy going. But on the 31st of December 2008 my life was completely turned upside down when my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Thus began the start of a hectic year, full of pain and sadness, but also of memories and laughter. One that left us (as a family) broken, drained and relying solely on the God to whom we all loved and followed. Yet, in December 2009 my mum was transferred to the Duchess of Kent palliative care unit.  Initially I was unaware of exactly what this meant, but shortly afterwards my dad and mum sat me, my brother and sister down with Sean, Liz, Amanda(my aunt) and as my dad began to read this passage from John chapter 14 my eyes filled with tears as I comprehended what was coming: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust also in me. In my father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am.’ My mum was on her final journey. Over the next couple of months I saw my mum grow weaker and weaker. I needed someone who would tenderly comfort me and remind me of the great glory that my mum was going to. Therefore, when my Mum died on the 12th of February 2010 I had to be absolutely rock solid in my faith. Because, if what I had previously believed was false, then my life was in a complete mess - but I stand today believing that my Mum is in eternal glory. I can say with confidence, ‘Death oh where is your sting?’ and, I know that, when I meet my maker I will also see my mum again!!! This assurance that I stand by meant, that as I began to grieve for my mum, through it all I have known the steadfast love of my saviour comforting me.
                Finally, even though I am very strong willed – which can be a very bad thing…., one of the most competitive people you will probably ever meet AND amazingly disorganised-don’t ask me to come anywhere on time!…..I know that with an on-going relationship with the Father, the Holy Spirit is slowly moulding and shaping me to be more like Jesus. I have realised this more at Newday this year where I have definitely encountered God afresh. I have learnt that our God is a mountain shaker and that He is best exalted in our weakness e.g. humbling myself and admitting that I am actually wrong sometimes - which my parents remind me of!  I have realised that He is always a good God!… I have also discovered that I don’t have to be in church or reading my bible or praying for God to speak to me. In fact, quite often, I feel the presence of God or have pictures whilst horse riding!!! AND I now have Ellie my new step-mum and Barnaby and Lucy, my step brother and sister. I know that God has placed them in our path and I love them very dearly… We are now a family of 7!!!
                So I have decided to be baptised today as a declaration of my faith – I know my sin is forgiven - and to show that my heart and life have changed as a result of the good news of Christ. This is an act of following the example that Jesus Christ set and commanded us to do also. I shall continue to pursue and serve Him for the rest of my life, held in his hands, until I, like my mother, kneel at the feet of my glorious King- what a day!"


After lots of tears, we all went back to our house and ate Chocolate Pavlova, amongst other things!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Widowed Young


Over the last few months, Ellie and I have been doing some bereavement befriending work for the charity Care For The Family...to help people like us who've experienced the death of a husband/wife at a young age.  They are a great charity and we feel privileged to be a part of what they are doing, if only in a small way. 
They've just published something of Ellie's journey on their website here. I won't add anything to it.....

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Words....

Words are amazing really….with our tongues we can encourage, we can curse, we can praise, we can criticise, we can love, we can hate….words can last a lifetime….  

This last weekend I had cause to remember some words that a young lady said to me about 7 or 8 years ago…they were words that I really needed to hear just at the right time which had so encouraged me….

The reason I remembered this was because Ellie and I went to see a house last weekend which is close to where we currently live; it's not on the market yet but is owned by the parents of the lady who's words had so encouraged me many years ago….the house and garden were great and would definitely suit us size-wise. 

At the end of the viewing we prayed with the owners asking for God's guidance for all of us in the next phase of our respective lives….I've never had an estate agent do that with me !  

Whether we will end up buying the house or not I don't know…. We did make a hugely discounted offer on another house a month or so ago which was turned down but which we'd have loved to buy and would have enabled us to help young widowed people with children who have been similarly bereaved to us; something both of us have a real passion to do…..

We will see what happens next.  One thing is for sure….  

Pr 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.  

What a privilege…to know that the Creator and our Father in heaven goes before us !  Yihhhaaaa !

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Consolidation

Well we’ve unpacked 80-90% of the boxes from storage…..Gosh, what a job!

We’re trying to think why we keep some of the things we keep…. We’ve got hoards of things that we’ve now got two (or more) of – lawnmowers, garden furniture, tools, breadmakers, mixers, pans  etc etc, and we’ve got so many mugs, plates/bowls and tupperware that we could open up a sandwich shop !
We’re trying to be ruthless and get rid of doubles (and triples!) and also stuff that just makes us feel sad when we look at it (hence giving away my tent)….so there’s lots of free-cycling, charity shop visits and dump trips….it feels never ending ! 
This week we’ve filled our big trailer with stuff to get rid of at a car boot sale…. we’ve got toys and kids games galore, cuddlies galore, books galore, board games by the tonne, musical instruments, dvd players etc etc….you name it, it’s in there. 
We’ve told the kids that we’ll go and have some fun and go out to dinner on the proceeds….with a ‘posher’ dinner available depending on how much money we make….the first level (£20 profit) is McDonalds….(it’s hardly haute cuisine eh ?!)  The only condition is that NOBODY is allowed to buy ANYTHING at the car boot sale however useful, cuddly or fun it might be (on pain of death!!)

It feels like a really positive time for us to be consolidating our things…at the end of the day it’s just stuff …it’s a bit strange though to be faced with box after box of things that we don’t really need and wondering how to sensibly get rid of it all without being wasteful.

If you need a shredder, iron, cuddly toy or inflatable bed etc etc etc etc – do give us a call !!

I read this yesterday -
Ps 23:1
The Lord is my Shepherd.  I lack nothing.

We've got everything we need.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Settling in & Moving forward...

It's some time since I've managed to write a blog….life has been busy and BT Broadband have been completely hopeless (latest expected install date is now 5th Sept !) so access to the internet from home is still non-existent. Oh well !

We have just-about settled into our new house. To be honest it feels a bit strange because it's not really our house (it's rented) so feels a little bit like we're in a holding pattern until we move again to something more permanent. It is a wonderful house for us though with a load of space compared to our previous place…we feel very undeserving and overwhelmed by it really, and actually having a bedroom to sleep in is simply wonderful!

We've been busy unpacking and also getting rid of things….the Duchess of Kent House Charity shop up the road think we're their best donor ever I think (even though part of me winces with memories of the hospice every time I go through the door)….we've also had a steady stream of people from Reading Freecycle coming to take things away which we can't donate to the charity shop.

The week before last we had all the children away for the best part of a week either at Newday bible camp or at Granny's so Ellie and I had some time alone…we didn't manage to get away properly this time because we still had to have the cats locked into the house due to the house move. They're out now though and haven't got lost ! Here's a photo of Tom on Removals Day! Ellie and I went out for days and even managed to order a brand new double bed (ie. One that nobody has previously died in).

Last week we went with some great friends to 'Westpoint 2012' bible camp in Devon. We all had a fabulous time even though it rained a fair amount. Highlight for me was listening to PJSmyth preaching on David/Jesus followed by communion - he was biblical, funny and inspiring all at the same time; communion at the end of the meeting was a very different style but the most God-honouring & Jesus-centred that I've ever been a part of…it was simply fantastic. Jesus is alive, one day soon I will stand in his presence… it's great to live in the reality of it day-to-day.

At the end of the camp, I gave our huge 11 birth tent away because every time I looked at it, it just reminded me of camping-days-gone-by with somebody very special, which can't ever come again. We'll buy a different tent next year.

For now though, it's back to work ….

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A spacious place...


So the house moving went logistically very well.... Removals men arrived to pack up house contents last Wednesday and delivered it straight to the new place on the same day, before coming back for the big stuff last Thursday.  Ellie's stuff then arrived out of storage yesterday….we've still got to get stuff out of the self-storage place but we can do that over the next few weeks. 

There were boxes everywhere…but due to some serious focus (on Ellie's part more than anybody else) we've cracked the back of it.  The children all did their own rooms which helped.  I'll spare you the details of the acres of dust and miscellaneous items discovered on the carpet of the house we left after everything was moved out !  Thankfully I had time to give the place a pretty good clean though.

We all returned to the old house on Thursday evening before going out to dinner to celebrate our house move….emotionally it was a strange one to be back in the empty carcus of a house which held so many memories….but I did hold it together (just about!)…we need to move forward as a family.  

Yesterday evening we had our first evening visitors in our new house…it was fabulous to be able to sit in a living room that we weren't going to convert into a bedroom the moment they had gone !

We feel totally spoiled by the whole house thing to be honest - the house is rented of course…but compared to the fairly cramped living conditions we've all been in for the last year, we have oooodles of space!!  

Two years ago when Ellie was being prayed for by a lady at a church she was visiting, the lady read a scripture over Ellie which she felt was a prompting from God - from Psalm18:19, "(The Lord) brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because He delighted in me"  

Prophetic words fulfilled….we're so grateful !!!

Monday, 23 July 2012

And so the clock ticks...

Time is a strange thing…right now we're waiting to move house and each day it feels like the moving day is never really going to actually arrive….but it will arrive, of course.
Last year on the run-up to our wedding, the experience was similar.
And then there was three years ago and the journey I'd rather not think about but which sits in my mind unchanging and torments me so often....

 .…tick tock….
We've agreed to rent the house we're moving to from 1st August (not quite signed on the dotted line yet tho) and will actually move in on 2nd Aug with our house sale completing on 3rd Aug, and all Ellie's stuff from storage being delivered on 3rd Aug too hopefully.

It will be a weird experience - I know that selling our house is only "bricks and mortar" but there are 11 years of memories wrapped up in the house move, many happy ones, some sad ones and some utterly hideous ones.

I've no idea what emotional state I will be in on the day we actually move out and can't really hope to predict it.  At the moment, I think I'll feel more relieved than anything but who knows ?!  We both feel fairly relaxed about the build-up to it (so far!).
We've booked the removal men to come and do a "full pack" so they will wrap, pack and move everything - so we just need to sit back and watch (Theory A). In fact on the 1st Aug when they come to pack I'm planning on going to work like normal for a half-day just to try and maintain my sanity :-)
Right now though we're busy either throwing things away or giving them away on freecycle. Anyone for a set of drain rods or a selection of old mobile phone chargers ?!?!

Time keeps marching on…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-7...
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away, :-)
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak.....

     
Roll on 1st August !...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Moving forward...

Well we exchanged contracts on our house on Tuesday 10th July !  Good news !
It was an emotional day as it would have been my 19th wedding anniversary…to be honest I was on the edge of the precipice for most of the day so when the phone call from the conveyencer confirmed that we'd exchanged contracts I toppled off the edge somewhat !  Put it this way… I left work early !!  

It's good though….we do need to move house!!  We haven't yet formally signed up for a house rental to move to but have verbally agreed to rent the house that we were originally going to buy subject to paperwork being sorted out (quickly!). 

We will be completing on our house sale and moving out on Fri 3rd August.   It'll be another roller-coaster-of-a-day I'm sure, but it is time to move forward….  

Phil 3:13-14 (The Message)   Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward - to Jesus.  I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Befriending, Bereavement and Bicycling

Long time, no blog....
Well this is a photo of the new rocket-bike....I've been promising myself a new bike for about 3 years and Ellie finally convinced me to go and buy it (for my birthday!)...it's very light which makes up for the fact that I'm a bit lardy :-)




So what's been happening?
Firstly despite multiple attempts at exchanging contracts on our house sale, it's still not happened - every day last week it was "going to happen tomorrow". It's been a comedy of errors really...and continues to be! To be honest I've been up and down in terms of peace in it all but seem to have finally given in and accepted that it'll happen if it happens (probably tomorrow!!) As it is we still haven't agreed a house rental anyway so could be homeless in a month !!

Two weekends ago we went along to the Care for the Family Volunteers day away...it was really good; as a charity they do fabulous work up and down the country with families. On the Sunday I was asked to speak to the Widowed Young Befrienders team which was a huge privilege and very emotional (It wouldn't be the same if I didn't cry when I speak !!). I spoke on being in a storm and Jesus walking to us on the water.

On Saturday just gone I went along to the Widowed Young bereavement weekend. Primarily I went along to see my befriendee who I've been talking to now once a week for the last few months.  Everybody there had a tale of sadness and pain. It's good to able to talk to people about their journey's and maybe provide some comfort in the midst of it...and certainly some understanding of their pain.

Tomorrow would have been my 19th wedding anniversary.

This morning, Ellie read this in her Amy Carmichael book :-

"This morning I was thinking of life as a voyage with no promise of calm seas. Then I came upon this in Psalm 89:9:'When the waves...arise, You still them'. No waves that ever were or shall be can overwhelm us, if only we trust these words."




Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Wedding anniversary

So yesterday was our very 1st wedding anniversary. 
It seems slightly strange at our age to be celebrating just a year of marriage but it's absolutely brilliant !  
 For our anniversary, Ellie got a pretty new ring, I got a beautiful wedding photo collage (photo of it here), and to top off the day I managed to keep a secret - a surprise evening of pampering at Nirvana Spa for us both.  It was soooo relaxing (and very quiet) !  
Neither of us can really believe that a year has passed since our wedding day.  The year has been filled with activity and busyness, some tears, some pain, some laughter, some memories, and a huge amount of change for everybody.  But, by the grace of God, we have come through it all…and a new unique family identity is definitely being established…slowly but surely. 

After one year Ellie and I are still sleeping in the lounge (we've progressed from the sofa-bed to the floor now !!) but we will be getting a bedroom soon as we have now agreed a house rental nearby starting from mid-July.  

At the end of our first year of marriage, we are grateful for : -  

- Our God - who never leaves us nor forsakes us
- One another - we treasure being together !
- Our 5 delightful children
- Silliness - there's a lot of it !
- Friends
- People who have faithfully prayed for us over years and who continue to do so on this journey that we are now on together
Plus :-
 - Me - My bike, and doing lots of miles through the berkshire/hampshire countryside
 - Ellie - Sam the dog...and their walks together.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Birthday !

Sunday was Ellie's birthday. It was great!
I had taken the children shopping last week and we'd all bought presents which they'd all then wrapped (with varying measures of success!!). Ellie had her presents in bed (aka: on the sofa!) with a cup of tea. I then did a special birthday breakfast, we all went to church, then we had a special birthday dinner, the girls made a special heron birthday cake and we then had a special birthday tea for a very special lady!!
Ellie got to relax through the whole day.

It's the first time for 13 years that Ellie hasn't needed to do any planning on behalf of her children in order to make the day special…. in past years her children have wanted to make the day special but, of course, they needed help to do so….this year, it was my privilege to lead our combined child flock through the planning and execution !
She had a lovely day and felt very spoilt. Ha !

A week or so after Ellie and I first spoke on the Care For The Family Widowed Young Support Weekend in June 2010, she phoned me just after I'd come back from food shopping at Asda (I'd been crying all the way around the shop!!)... It was a phone call that was to change both of our lives and the lives of our five children….these last few days I've been thanking God (through tears for a change!) for this beautiful woman, an outstanding mum and step-mum, whose faith is so inspiring to me. I also keep thanking Ellie for making that phone call!! The thing that most inspired me about this wonderful lady when we first spoke is that, at no point, did I ever detect any hint of bitterness despite the hideous pain of her journey…only brokenness.

 Looking forward to many more birthdays together!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Step-parenting....

16 years ago today I became a Father for the very first time.

It was a day that was to change my life forever.  My beautiful daughter was born weighing 7lbs 14.5ozs just 5 minutes into the day that she was due on [at this point I could make a cheap joke that it's the only time she's ever been on time for anything-but obviously I wouldn't be tempted to do that :-) ]
16 years later and I now have 5 children in our unique family.  I love them all to bits, and so does Ellie !!

I'm a dad and I'm a step-dad.
Ellie is a mum and she is a step-mum.

The word "step" comes from the old English word "steop" which literally means "loss".  There are many people in step-families up and down the country of course - we are not that unusual.  However in our situation the loss isn't caused by divorce, betrayal or any personal choice, it's caused by the death of a loved one.

The most encouraging thing I know is that God's family is a step-family too.  His family is made up of a jumble of different people from different backgrounds and experiences, uniting around their love for Jesus and for each other.  God's family also represents the creation of something new out of the brokenness and loss of the past.  It's a fabulous inspiration for our family!

This past year has been a huge learning experience, and has had many challenges, many tears, some failings and some great triumphs too.  Sometimes as parents we've felt like we're treading on egg shells and much of the time life has felt overwhelmingly draining emotionally....but slowly and surely we are evolving a unique family identity that is a privilege to both Ellie and I; shepherding the hearts of five delightful and precious children into adulthood.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Deep calls to deep...

In the summer of 2007, I had the privilege of visiting Zimbabwe.  During that visit I spent a day at Victoria Falls.  This photo does little justice to the magnitude of this awesome creation.
Overwhelmingly, my memories of the place were the absolutely deafening noise and the relentless roar of the waterfall....in one place I walked very close to the pouring water and the mist of water vapour in the air was falling like torrential rain - you ended up absolutely soaked to the skin - it was utterly breathtaking and very refreshing!

Today I've had a song by Matt Redman going round and round in my head.  It's a song based on Psalm 42.
There are many days when I feel like the person writing the psalm....feeling so utterly downcast (see last blog post for example!) because of the storms that life has dished out....
But I've sensed today through the words of this song and the words of the psalm a gentle heavenly reminder from our loving Father that he is calling Ellie and I into a deeper relationship with Him....and just like walking close to the waterfall, He is wanting to refresh us and for us to know the depths of His love in a much deeper, much more profound way than we've ever known before.....
Let it rain !!!

Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. 
6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar. 
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 
8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. 
9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Those who have hope...

I read this excellent blog this week .... (click here).  It's fairly long but is a very good summary of the biblical hope and confidence that I have, and also explains a little of the ups and downs of the journey.

A couple of months ago through Care For The Family, I met a lady who's husband had died young some years ago.  She described how, 4 years after his death, she completely 'crashed and burned' and couldn't even get out of bed in the morning.  Strangely it comforted me as it helped me to understand that the journey is really not straightforward, definitely not linear, and the days which feel overwhelmingly hard are fairly "normal".
Nowadays, it seems fairly odd to me to think back to my expectation that when Karena died, I would first fall through the floor, then gradually get better over time.  It's really not been like that at all. You don't "get better", you just gradually learn to live with it all.

The hardest part of it all for me, 2 and a bit years since the worst day, is just how emotionally draining the whole journey has been.  If you were to ask me how I am right now, I'd answer one of two ways - either "fine" (in true English fashion which is code for, "I really don't want to go into it"), or if I was being more honest I'd probably say, "I feel so emotionally drained, it feels like there's not much left of me".  Ellie gets it of course which is just great, and she's a simply outstanding lady, wife and mother !

So....the picture above was given to Karena by a very dear friend of hers on 15th Nov 2009; the message on the back of the photo reads, "Wait in hope for the Lord.  He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.  May your unfailing love rest upon us O Lord, even as we put our hope in You (Ps 33)....Dear Lovely Karena, Praying for you - for comfort and strength as you trust in Him...Love you lots....."

God was with her.  God is with us.  We grieve as those who have hope. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, 11 May 2012

All change....

So on Wednesday this week everything changed.
 
On Tuesday evening we vacated the house once again for yet another house viewing....Ellie has become a dab hand at cleaning the house top to bottom (poor lady!) in about 2 hours...she's been doing it every few days for lots of different viewings (but very little interest in buying)...so Tuesday was just another one (or so we thought!) 
The standard house viewing clear-up requires complete hoovering (you should see the daily dog-hair !!!), kitchen blitz, bathroom cleaning, and hiding stuff under stairs and in the boot of the car (washing, ironing, excessive coats & shoes etc), plus removal of all traces of the pets.... 
Ellie reckons she can do it all in a couple of hours now ! (Thankfully most of the viewings have happened in the daytime so I'm not around to help out much!)
So on Tuesday at 5pm we all piled into the car to vacate the house once again.  When we'd driven about 3 miles away we realised we'd forgotten something very important.....the dog!  We'd been so busy getting everything sorted and everybody into the car at the last minute that we'd actually left him at home alone to greet the prospective purchasers and estate agent.....This was not plan A!

It worked though - we've no idea how he did it but our lovely dog, Sam must have won their hearts because the following day we had an offer on the table from a Swiss couple who are buying it as a second home in the UK because they're over here so much with their work.  They have cash to purchase, no mortgage and no chain (apparrently!) 
Absolutely ideal !!
What a fab dog - we will be making him available for a small fee (a couple of Bonio's should do it) to anybody needing to sell their home....
All we need to do now is to find something to buy.....or to rent.....

Monday, 7 May 2012

We're a Special Family Day...


So Friday was our long awaited "We're a Special Family Day"...

We started with home made muffins and indoor fireworks :-)
We then had a family present (a board game).
We had Gruffalo plates, a Gruffalo table cloth, sparkly stars and Gruffalo badges!!  I wore my badge to work and displayed it triumphantly throughout the day ! 

After school (and work!), we had takeaway Pizza and a fabulous giant cup-cake (8" high) which was hollowed out and filled with smarties....it was very cool !!!

Then we spent the evening playing our new board game (one rule - no arguments !!!!)

We've all had so much taken away from us, but we've also all had so much given to us....Friday was a day of laughter and fun for all.

The following day, one of the children said, "I really like being in our family, we do really nice things together".

Stuff we're grateful for today :-
  • Jesus - our refuge, our helper, our comfort, our strength and our song
  • One another...ie that We're a special family
  • Pizza and Cake
  • Cups of tea
  • Shared memories
  • Laughter and silliness
  • Our bed (aka sofa!)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Plan B....

So today officially we have had to withdraw from the purchase of the house that we thought was going to be our new family home.

There were 2 significant issues resulting from the survey...one of them (roof sagging/strengthening works required) we might have been able to live with, but the other one was insurmountable - an additional layer of bricks on the outside of two walls of the original house for which there was no information available as to why it was built, when it was put up, how the problem was assessed etc etc.
The surveyor advised that it was extremely unusual unless there were issues which were being 'covered up' - in particular structural cracking/subsidence....anyway the current owners were unable to shed any light on the issue so we've elected to reluctantly pull out and go for plan B.  The thought of buying a house which we couldn't sell on in 5 or 10 years makes me very nervous!
The only slight problem is that we don't quite know what plan B is yet !! That said, we're very peaceful that we've made the right decision !

It's OK....Jesus is still on His throne ! So I'm going to watch Reading play at the Madejski stadium this afternoon just to have some fun....looking forward to seeing the victorious promotion boys do their thang (and Kingsley the mascot always makes me smile!!)

Have a blessed weekend x

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

God's handprints...


Sitting in Devon after 5 days rest...children playing in the garden. I'm reflecting on the wonder of the Easter message, a message of Jesus' victory and triumph over death...a message that Ellie and I live in the good of every day of our lives.

On our wedding day, Ellie gave me an album she'd made entitled "God's Handprints" which artistically recounted all of the scriptures that had so clearly spoken to us both through our journey together, and all the evidences ('coincidences' some would say) of God's hand upon us and our children and upon our relationship together. I brought it with me to Devon to remind myself afresh.

Here's one of them which kinda says it all really....

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Running the race....

Saturday's marriage time at the Olympic stadium was simply fabulous…permit me a little indulgence here…I was one of the first people ever to go over the finish line at the Olympic stadium!!…Well, when I say "one of the first"…actually I was 744th after completing the 5 miles in 36:23 I think it was - heho I don't think I'm going to make the cut for TeamGB but I did beat Sally Gunnell and Roger Black on the day :-)

Sunday was my 4th Reading Half Marathon - it was a hot day and I ran a pretty steady pace to finish in a good time for me (just under 1hr39mins).
The day's fun was sadly destroyed later in the day by the grim news that a man had died after completing the event…I found out on Monday that it was somebody from my workplace. Whilst I didn't personally know him, I confess to having "dropped off the precipice" a little knowing the pain that is being experienced by another family whose lives have now been turned upside down on a journey that they hadn't expected or signed up for.
My family came home from the event on Sunday with me. Sadly his family came home without him.

We must live in the knowledge that our days are numbered and that one day we WILL stand before the God of eternity. It's totally inescapable.

Heb 12:1-2
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Marriage time...

Each week Ellie and I have marriage time - a dedicated time when we go out together and spend time just talking or doing something we enjoy - just the two of us....no children in tow !
Normally it's on a Friday evening when our children are out....this week it's today because last night we had to spend the evening cleaning the house in preparation for another 4 house viewings today.

For today's marriage time, we are going to the Olympics together !
I'm running in the Olympic Park Run which finishes in the Olympic stadium, while Ellie cheers me on...and then we get time together enjoying the atmosphere and to have dinner etc etc. We are both really looking forward to it. I like to think that today I become an Olympian !

We both have so much to be grateful for....

- Each other
- Our unique family
- Five outstanding children
- Our faithful Father in heaven
- Our home
- Schools for our children
- Food on the table
- Our health
- Our families
- Our friends
- Laughter
- Memories

Saturday, 24 March 2012

"We're a Special Family" Day....

It's Saturday morning at 5.30am as I write. I've been awake for about an hour trying not to think about things but thinking about them nonetheless.....so in the end I gave up with the idea of sleep and just got up !

Sometime ago I wrote about the pain of the journey as being like background music...ie always there through every waking hour but sometimes the volume is much louder than others.....this week the amplifier seems to have been turned up a lot !

Mother's Day started the dirge.....I confess that I really don't know what to do with the day.

I have been very privileged to have excellent parents and my mum is "simply the best". My first mother-in-law is also an exceptional woman and I love her with all of my heart. My new mother-in-law is absolutely fabulous too (we all love visiting !), and Ellie's first mother-in-law is just lovely and has been such an incredible support to her and the children over so many many years.
So we have a lot to be thankful for and to celebrate on Mother's Day in so many ways!
The pain of the day, of course, is that two of my children can celebrate their mum, but three of them can only remember their mum and cannot speak to her face-to-face, they can't give her flowers or do special things for her. I personally find that so so incredibly hard on their behalf. Their mum was an exceptional woman who loved them dearly and I do celebrate that, but it doesn't take away the pain of absence. I miss her so much too but she's been taken away and I can't do anything about that.

So the dilemma for the day was - Do we try to celebrate Ellie as a mum (she's an exceptional mother), how does that feel for three of our five children? Do we do a big "In remembrance" thing trawling through photos which will just make everybody cry? Or do we just ignore the whole thing and hope it'll all go away because that will feel less painful?

So in the swirl of emotions we basically tried to ignore the day....after all, I figured, it's a man-made celebration anyway and lots of other people will be struggling too for different reasons.
It's taken me a week to realise that in all the pain, I never even sent my own mum a Mother's Day card (Sorry Mum- I do love you!!)

In June we will go through the same dilemma the other way around on Father's Day....it'll be another "Beam Me Up Scottie" day which we will choose to ignore.

So what we have decided to do this year is to have a separate "We're a Special Family" Day. We're gonna celebrate this on May 4th just because we can say "May the 4th Be With You" in true Star Wars fashion (I am still a little bit mad!!)
We will do something special then to celebrate our uniqueness as a family and all that God has given to us. Perhaps we will do presents as well as go out for dinner or something like that.

In all the pain and emotions, my experience is that God is ever present, and the Holy Spirit (aka The Comforter) is evidently with us helping us each and every step of the way. Thank God for that ! What would we do without Him?!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Housing....

This week's exciting news is that we've bought a house (Subject to Contract of course) !
It's a bit quirky... (rather like us !!)

Put a hopeful offer in on Monday (rejected as expected), and a revised slightly less hopeful offer on Tuesday with the clear understanding that if it wasn't accepted we'd walk away (and we would have done)....we'd seen two other possibles which would both have worked for us.....but what we've ended up with give us lots of rooms and lots of flexibility. Can't quite believe it !!
We took all the children to see it yesterday evening and they were all (understandably) excited. Just hope it all goes through now !

We decided to buy and sell as separate exercises to reduce stress levels so my house is now also back on the market....the good news is that the Estate Agents are doing an open house on it today and they phoned to confirm that they've got 18 different sets of people coming to see it. 18 !!!!!

Who knows....this time next week, maybe we'll have agreed a sale on this one too....now that would be an answer to prayer !

Friday, 9 March 2012

This week's highlights...

Oh what a crazy couple of weeks.....some highlights :-

- Ellie has been looking at new potential houses. 2 possibles that would actually fit us all in. One is quirky. I'm seeing it tomorrow. Ellie says it's fab !

- 'My' house is back on the market. Open house next weekend. Estate Agent phoned tonight to confirm that he's got 12 sets of viewings for the open house so far (gulp!)

- Ellie has become the mould removal queen. Amazing what chemicals and a strong arm can achieve....our current house just isn't designed to have 7 people living in it, 7 people's washing drying etc etc etc. Even the children have noticed the mould eradication and gleaming bathroom suite!

- Oldest daughter had interview for possible 6th form place at local grammar school...seemed to go very well !

- Children all fabulously well, doing lots of activities and very noisy :-)

- Got offered a job at another Engineering Contractor. Turned it down :-)

- Training for Reading Half Marathon and Olympic Park Run going ok (although I can hardly be bothered with it really!)

- Dog has settled down

- New family members (guinea piggies) settling in well

- Our To-Do List is totally out-of-control :-)

- Not cried too much this week !

- Glad February is gone...it's always gonna be an emotional roller coaster of a month!

Must dash....it's Special Friday evening and it's "Marriage Time". Taking the Beauty out for coffee some place !

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

What a Wally !

When Karena and I met, she had a horse called "Wally"…this is a photo of him. His proper name was "Woodland Bay Walter". He was a great brute of an animal…very strong and stocky, he measured 15-2 hands (that's about as knowledgable as I get about horses), and he had a very funny (and grumpy) character!

When we were first married (1993) Karena would often ride him out before work and I'd go with her ridiculously early in the morning (getting up at 5:30  ish).  I'd walk alongside her with  the stable's Alsatian dog.  Often at that time of the morning you'd see the sun rise over the horizon and see deer in the woods and all sorts of other wildlife…it was very quiet and absolutely beautiful (once I'd gotten over the shock and grumpiness of getting out of bed so early!) 

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Wally shortly after our first daughter was born because we couldn't afford to keep him…Karena (thankfully) wanted to stay home with her newborn daughter rather than have to go back to work in order to pay to keep him (it's VERY expensive!)   One of the things that was funny about Wally's character was that he knew all the routes that Karena would ride him on….and whenever he passed the halfway point and turned for home, his pace always noticeably sped up…sometimes he'd start trotting even tho he hadn't been asked to do so.  The reason for his abrupt change of pace was that back at the stables he knew breakfast was waiting !  

I am training (in a manner of speaking!) for the Reading Half Marathon (1st April), and was out doing a training run tonight….most of the time I'm not too bothered about my speed, but as I turned for home, like Wally, my pace noticeably increased …and as I did so I immediately thought back to "Wally" days as I ran…it made me smile and also feel sad at the same time.    

There's no telling when memories will assault you…every day in a myriad of ways, you get hit by them…the good ones are all tinged with sadness and pain of course.  I try to not let them drag me down; sometimes I fail dismally, sometimes I don't.   
Sometimes I wonder if people expect me to have "moved on", particularly since being married to the delightful Ellie, but in truth, you don't really move on from the hideous loss of bereavement…you just let it become a part of who you are, and your life continues in spite of the pain/heartache....and on days like today I go "down the pan".

Anyway, if you want to call me a Wally, please feel free to… cuz I am quite like him sometimes !

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Half Term....

We emerged from the sad anniversary weekend to half term week. The 14th of course was Valentine's Day which (to be honest) makes me cringe. Too many sad memories of buying an early Valentine's card two years ago because I wasn't sure that my wife would make it to the day...and she didn't, sadly.

Ellie gave me a beautiful Valentine card. She loves me :-)
Midway through half term week Ellie took the children down to see her mum in Devon. Kids all love it there and it's really beautiful...with loads of space to run around (which means we get time to really relax!!). I joined them all on Friday for the weekend after finishing work early. My Valentine's gift to my wife was ironing - 3 gigantic baskets (at least they seemed gigantic to me !) which gave Ellie a very welcome surprise as she considers the ironing to be "her job". Kept me busy too for the 2 nights that I was home alone. Didn't really know what to do with myself to be honest - being in the house alone felt very very odd....way too quiet !

Read this in my daily Spurgeon bible readings whilst down in Devon....
"In heaven everything is immortal, the crown unwithered, the eye undimmed, the voice unfaltering, the heart unwavering, and the immortal being is wholly absorbed in infinite delight. Happy day! happy! when mortality shall be swallowed up of life and the eternal Sabbath shall begin".

Love it ! Makes me want to go there right now! What amazing assurance we have in Christ !

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Great Sadness...



2 Years ago today.

On my mind....

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(Laurence Binyon)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms....I am going there to prepare a place for you...
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.
(Jesus of Nazareth)

I'll be glad to get into bed tonight.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Coming up for air...


Thanks to those who sent messages of remembrance and love to Ellie yesterday. 12 years since her saddest day.
I took the day off work, and Ellie and I spent it together; we held hands, we went for coffee. We went out for dinner as a family in the evening.

Ellie's house sale completed yesterday too...we're relieved about that. At least something good can happen on a sad day.

Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of my saddest day. I can hardly believe that it's two years. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago, in other ways it seems like yesterday.

So today feels a little bit like coming up for air.....I managed to burn off some nervous energy on a long run this morning, and buzzing in my mind all the way were the words, "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation" (Ps 95:1).

Buzzing in Ellie's mind is, "This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Neh 8:10b)

So tomorrow we will go to church as a family, we will worship the Lord together, and if you're there, it's likely to be me shouting the name "Jesus" at the top of my voice during our time of worship....after all, He is our rock, our salvation, our hope and our song.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A weekend away...

Last weekend we went to a "Care For the Family" training weekend for telephone befrienders as part of their work with those who have lost a partner early in life. At the same time, their Bereaved Parents team were also having a training weekend. There were about 50 of us in total...everybody with a hideously sad story of a precious wife/husband or child who has died. The weekend was emotional for us both, because inevitably talking about bereavement and your journey plunges you head first into the world of pain and heartache that you are so familiar with.

Care for the Family as an organisation do an outstanding work for families up and down the country, and Ellie and I met at one of their weekends arranged for those Widowed Young.
I also had a telephone befriender who I spoke to many times whose wife had died under similar circumstances to me back in 2002 leaving him with 2 children of a similar age to mine. It's a unique relationship really to talk to somebody on the phone who knows just how painful the journey is; somebody who's lived it and is still going on....

There are a lot of words we could use to describe the people we met - inspirational, humble, not bitter, hurt, warm, open, empathetic, able to laugh, able to cry. They all shared a common desire as christians with solid hope, to help others who are on the same journey as they are on (based on...2Cor1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.)

Being amongst these dear people we felt like we were standing on holy ground. I think we were.