Our house is ever changing. Walls being knocked down and new ones being built. Frankly it looks a mess. We’ve peeled wallpaper, ripped down ceilings, taken up floorboards and taken the house back to its bare bones. We have a vision for the beautiful home it will be, but right now it’s hard to see that. Part of the house is seemingly finished, but still it is a work in progress. There are always pictures to go up, curtains to hang and finishing touches to add. With 11 people living here we also make a mess and create dust, it all requires constant work.

All this stripping back got me thinking. It’s rather like what God does in our lives. He allows us to go through tough times, times when it feels as if we are so raw, when the pain is so deep it feels like you can barely catch your breath. How can our loving Father allow us to go through that?

I know He isn’t distant from our pain, for His Word explains how He feels it too. I was meandering through Acts recently when I came across fresh ‘manna’ for the day. Saul had famously met with Jesus on the road to Damascus and Jesus called out, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I wondered why he said that when Saul was killing Christians, not Christ? I realised that when something is causing pain to one of God’s children, they are causing pain to the body of Christ and thus to Him. Upon reading this verse I was taken aback as I contemplated the level of pain that Christ must feel each day as He carries our burdens. Pain is no longer ours to bear alone. Christ really does carry it for us.

How in reality can we give our pain to God? It is a question I have been asking of late. Phil has a gift, he lives in the moment and let’s go of the past, or just forgets it. I don’t find it so easy. I have the memory of an elephant and I never have an empty mind, generally I am like a computer with too many tabs open. The tabs have recently been overwhelming me, as many of them were too painful to open. I asked God to show me how to let go and gradually I’m learning. I am choosing to follow the advice given in Philippians 4:8, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’. I realised that much of my time was being spent focusing on the wrong things. I was focusing on my sadness and the grief and in doing so was finding myself anxious and low. If I am to truly to heal, I need to follow God’s advice and be careful what I think of.

I am so much happier this week having spent my days listening to gentle music, reading the Bible to myself and the children, knitting, sewing and writing. In some ways it just feels like the self care the world would administer, but God thought of it first. God knows our human frailties and has an answer for each of them. The answer to leaving our troubles in God’s hands? Turn away from thinking about them constantly and fill our minds with pure and lovely things and watch Him melt away the pain, as He takes it from us.

One day I won’t feel so raw and I will have strength to think about Dad’s death, but for today I need a break and God, in His goodness, has shown me how to find one.

I wasn’t sure what I would write tonight, only that writing was what I must do. I hope that someone somewhere needed to hear these words. If I can help in any way, please feel free to drop me a message.

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Many blessings to you, Vicki

Storm Arwen hit our smallholding hard near the end of last year. I was just reeling from the news of my Dad’s sudden death when an enormous storm rolled in and took down 7 of our trees. It seemed to be a physical reminder of the inward storm I was experiencing.

Phil and the older children went outside to assess the damage in the evening and already we’d lost some trees. We braced for the night ahead and prayed that nothing would damage any people or our home. We have around 100 trees here, so we were ripe for the picking as the wind gathered momentum.

Naming storms is a fairly new idea, I suppose it sort of personalises them, although it doesn’t make them any friendlier! In many ways though I am thankful to Storm Arwen, for she taught me a lesson.

We woke the following morning and peered out nervously from behind the curtains, the winds were beginning to subside and the full damage was laid before us. We all went back outside to see what had become of our trees and property. It looked fairly shocking, trees blocked the driveway and the area by the barn was a huge tangle of branches. It was Saturday morning and it quickly became apparent that we would have to undertake some serious work if we were to get our bus out to get to our usual weekend activities.

I was so grateful that it was the weekend and the older children were all at home. They worked with Phil to move the trees and make a way where there had previously been no way through.

I suspect you can see how God was starting to speak to me through this. I was still so raw from my Dad’s sudden death and I could see no way through the pain, but God was showing me. He gently demonstrated that the strength of my family, which he had given me, were going to help me find a way through my emotional storm.

The following weekend the family team got to work turning the fallen trees into logs. The chainsaw rang out all weekend, as a great pile of useful firewood was created. These trees had stood for decades and yet through their loss we were to be warmed and cared for, their loss was not in vain.

Again God was reminding me that he will always bring good from our pain. For he promises in Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

After Christmas we still had branches scattered around which were too small for firewood. After much consideration Phil decided to buy a chipper. We have so many trees that we felt that it was a worthwhile purchase. The chippings will go on our flowerbeds and in our compost bin to help keep our waste aerated. Nothing will be wasted.

God is so good, he continues to gently lead me through the pain of grief and He’s using His creation to help me understand how he works through the storms of life.