Father’s Day this year will be bittersweet. I am delighted to share it with Phil, thanking God for the amazing dad he is. We’ll eat yummy food, share cards and make him lots of cups of tea. Marzipan will feature highly, as that’s his favourite, along with lots of hugs. Phil is everything a father should be, loving, patient, kind and a great example to us all of a faithful man living out his God-given calling of fatherhood.

I’ll reflect on the amazing gift of a relationship with my Heavenly Father. He is steadfast, merciful and ever loving. Without my Heavenly Father I couldn’t do what I do, I would just be a shell. I know there have been many times when the Devil has whispered in my ear how I’m not worth it, I should just be invisible, it comes from a place of painful childhood memories, but then God….He tells me of His love for me, He tells me He created me, ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb’ Psalm 139:13. He reminds me He had called me for a purpose and He tells me I am His masterpiece, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’ Ephesians 2:10. He rescues me when I start to sink into that valley of lies which draws me in, the lies whispered in the darkness. I only have to turn to Him and He’s there.

This year I’ll give an extra prayer of thanks for my father-in-law. He’s a steady, faithful man who loves me as his own and continues to support us as a family.

This year will throw up strange emotions. Never have I had a Father’s Day without Dad. Earlier this week I realised it was Father’s Day this Sunday, and after working out what we would do for Phil I started thinking what I should give Dad. Then I remembered. Dad’s not here, he doesn’t need a present, a card, a phone call or a visit. He’s happier than ever, our Heavenly Father has him safely in His hands. Dad loved gifts, they were his love language. He had so much stuff I struggled to think of what other item of clutter I could bless him with! Whatever I bought he was happy though, he just loved to know I’d thought of him. He never let me forget a particular Father’s Day when I was four years old. I had told him, a few days before the day, that we had bought him a surprise pair of trousers! His gift may not have been a surprise when Father’s Day came round, but the humour of the gaff made him giggle for decades to come.

Losing a parent is never easy. The yearly celebrations always throw up memories, there are birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter, the anniversary of their death. These days punctuate the year preventing me from ever completely letting go, burying the pain (I know that’s not right) and moving on. I can almost pretend most days that he’s still here. I sadly was rarely able to see him, but I knew he was only a phone call away. I often think to call him, when we have family news to share, and then I remember he’s no longer here. The realisation steals my breath, tears well, but I move forwards, grief hurts too much. I bury it before the pain consumes me and sucks me down. If I dwell on it I start to remember Mum too and then thoughts of childhood, painful memories, insecurities all surface. The children will see and ask questions, I don’t have the energy for gut wrenching tears, a shoulder shuddering snot fest of memories is not scheduled in my day and so I hold it and hand it to God.

How do you grieve when you’re busy? I’m not sure there’s a right way. I’ve been working through grief for 30 years and I’m no expert. I do know that God sees my pain and He heals.

This Father’s Day will be a celebration. We’ll spoil Phil and remind him how much he’s loved. I will remember that Dad is now at peace and I will focus on the joy of his last minute salvation. I’ll choose joy, as there is so much to be joyful about.

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Several years ago I was struggling with anxiety and low mood. I knew there was a deep seated reason and yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem. God had already begun to help me with some of my anxiety issues, which I have written about in https://www.lifeinallitsfullness.blog/blog/faith/why-do-i-wear-a-headcovering but there was still a churning in my stomach that needed settling and so I prayed.

God led me to a book called ‘Unexpected Healing’ by a lady called Jennifer Rees Larcombe. I would highly recommend her books to anyone, but this particular one was the one I needed to read at that moment. This beautiful Christian woman had been through deep trauma, she had raised a large family and had found Jesus in the depths of her darkness. I knew there was much I could learn from her.

I love to fill my mind with testimonies from Christians who have walked the hard roads before me. I always see that it is in the darkness they seem to find they are closest to the Lord. It’s these testimonies, which are to me like a continuation of the Acts of the Apostles, they are the modern stories of what God is doing today.

Our God is very much alive and active and wants to be involved in our lives, on the good days and in the depths of our pain. Sometimes we need to find ourselves, like Jeremiah in the bottom of a well, or like Jonah in the belly of the big fish, in order to realise we need God above everything.

So how did the book help me? Well, other than it being a hugely encouraging read, it led me to the healing ministry of https://www.beautyfromashes.co.uk/ . I contacted them and arranged to visit them for the morning.

What a treat it is for a busy mum to take time out to just be with the Lord. Phil dropped me off and then took all the children to a local National Trust property, leaving me wondering why the Lord had called me here and what he planned to show me?

It was a lovely peaceful home and I was welcomed in and offered a drink whilst I waited. This ministry, maybe a little like our home here, is a place of sanctuary for those who need a rest and who want to take time away from the crowds, to just be with God.

I had asked if I could receive some prayer ministry and so a couple of lovely ladies took me into a quiet room and they helped me to dig deeper and uncover the deeper reasons for my anxieties. They encouraged me to picture myself in the bottom of a well and then to ask the Lord how I might get out of it. The well represented my pain and as I sought the Lord I received a picture of the well and when I looked harder, I could see diamonds embedded in the sides of the walls. Those diamonds were God’s light and the footholds and handholds I needed to escape the darkness. As I took hold of the diamonds I heaved myself out from the depths of the well and I found myself released into the light.

The diamonds were also a timely reminder that God’s help is there, we just have to stop panicking long enough to see it. Diamonds are also a reminder that beauty is often created when we are under pressure. God knows exactly how much pressure to apply to refine us, but he never breaks us, the pressure also strengthens us, as we learn to lean on God. I’d like to say that was the end of that and I have felt better every day since. There is some truth in that, but it was also just another step on the journey to finding Christ on a deeper level.

There were many tears that morning as we prayed through painful memories, but the tears were needed to begin my healing. Memories were churned up which I had long since buried (something I have a gift for) and once out in the open I could ask God to heal the pain those memories brought.

I have a great ability to look fine. When asked how am I am, in the same way as many of us do, I say I’m fine, but it’s not always true, is it? Many of us aren’t fine, many of us are in pain, that churning pain of stress, anxiety and depression. Mental health issues are now acceptable to be spoken about in our society, but secular answers are only part of the solutions.

We have a God who wants to enter into our pain with us and help us through it. He’s not a distant God who sits on his throne watching us suffer, he is love and he cares about the pain we are in. I do believe that prayer is the key to unlocking the pain trapped inside many of us. Sometimes that prayer is more easily done with someone else supporting us, whether through counselling or through a friend, but it’s well worth prioritising it, both for our peace and for our relationship with God.

The more I share, speak openly and pray through the challenges I have walked through, the nearer I feel God is. It’s like the barrier between God and me is one I build when I lock away my pain, rather than taking that pain to him.

I would really encourage anyone reading this, who is struggling, to find someone to begin that journey of prayer with. If there is no one, pray anyway, God will hear you and he will show you how to find his diamonds of his love in those dark places.

Sendings prayers and blessings to our readers both near and far.

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Community is something we have learnt to treasure more in a post lockdown world. The Amish community are put on a pedestal by many, an ideal that many people aspire to emulate. In reality none of us really want to live without electricity and a car. I am also aware that the picture postcard version of the Amish is not the whole story, but I do feel there are some lessons we can learn from them.

I’ve recently enjoyed watching a documentary series about some eager Brits who tried their hand at Amish living. I felt quite inspired by their community spirit and the massive achievements made when people pull together as a team. Some people even think we’re Amish, but let me clarify that we aren’t!

We’re simply Christians trying to live in the way God has called us to live. I believe God has a plan for each of his children and it is unique to them. There are Biblical principals though which help us to live a joyful life. One of those is the church community supporting one another and that is something the Amish seem particularly good at.

With that in mind I came up with an idea to develop relationships within the church community whilst helping our vegetable garden to grow. With the help of the children, I have managed to keep on top of growing the seedlings and the greenhouse, but planting them out, digging in the muck and weeding was way beyond my physical resources. So I asked my more physically able friends if they would enjoy an afternoon gardening followed by a barbecue, which I could manage to pull together. Lots of friends came along and we had such a lovely afternoon, full of nourishing conversations and much work was accomplished. The children ran and played, whilst the teenagers and the adults worked together. I was shattered afterwards, but a lot was achieved and it’s definitely something we’ll do more often. When the apple harvest comes we’ll need enthusiastic pickers and juicers and then then they’ll be the muck spreading later in the year. I’m sure I can come up with many working parties to draw us all together 😊.

Since then we have also been blessed to have visitors to stay with us. This week we have 7 friends staying and they are such a huge blessing to us. Again our vegetable garden is thriving due to their hard work and our children are having a fantastic time as they run around with one another, under the watchful eye of a particularly gifted young helper.

God clearly knew I needed the rest and has sent me so many wonderful helpers. I’m really not a very gifted vegetable gardener, and Phil is too busy with the animals, the building project and his full time job to get digging. The children help to a great extent, but the older ones are busy with schoolwork and jobs away from home and so that leaves us somewhat short on muscle power. Without friends we would sink, but then God knew that and made us part of his body, one which I am privileged to see working.

The Amish know the value of teamwork and it’s something our culture has lost. Most people live in relative isolation, exacerbated by the lockdowns of the previous two years. The gift of community has been eclipsed in a world of individualism and fear. It didn’t happen intentionally, but small changes in society have gradually stolen the old ways of working together.

We don’t have any plans to run a commune here, but we can embrace aspects of community living, and in doing so draw people together in a world that is falling apart.

We pray that God may continue to use our home for his glory and we delight in those moments when we see the vision he gave to us, of people working here together, unfold.

Sending blessings to all our readers near and far.

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