I’ve recently found my head swirling with long forgotten thoughts, thoughts so deeply buried, so intentionally hidden that their surfacing has rocked me. It’s got me thinking about the solutions the world offers to help us cope with emotional and mental pain and then to consider how, as Christians, we might respond in these situations.

Memories from childhood are often a blur of loosely connected events, combined to create a recipe of flavours unique to each child, some sweet and some which leave a bitter taste. Even within the same family, memories are interpreted through the individual lens of each member, each affected differently by the events and people surrounding them.

Our present reality cannot be experienced outside of the confines of our mind’s childhood memories. Sometimes we subconsciously mirror our own childhood and other times we will seek to live in the opposite way, with the intention of breaking away from the past and living in a new and better way.

If our childhood was unhappy the world tells us that our past will forever disable our future. Modern psychology doesn’t fit Jesus into the equation; they just add adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) together and the number produced (0-10) will tell you whether or not you will have a happy and successful life. I’ve done the quiz and I know that there is hope beyond their prognosis.

The outcome for adults who have suffered many ACEs is a cocktail of mental health issues, addictions and physical ailments. Even with years of therapy, CBT and various drugs, the prognosis for such individuals is grim. There’s a better way though, a way which offers freedom from the past. It’s a way that Mary Magdalene found and we can find it too. That way is found through Jesus Christ.

Jesus didn’t just come to save us from our sins, but also to heal our wounds. ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’ Psalm 147:3, Jesus came, ‘to set the oppressed free’, Luke 4:18 and ‘He daily bears our burdens’, Psalm 68:19.

When we have gone through pain, we don’t need to suffer alone, but we can take our memories and ask Jesus to the heal the consequences of those experiences. He won’t just put a sticking plaster over them, but he will wash them and His love will gradually soothe them and heal them, so that these events don’t break us, but they become the conduit for his love to us and through us, to others. Our suffering, when put into the hands of Jesus transforms into something extraordinary.

Our suffering is never wasted; instead he uses it to shape us, to soften us and in our vulnerability we can honestly say that we are nothing without Christ. It is at that point of vulnerability that he can truly be glorified through us. It’s at the end of our healing journey that we see the beauty in what he’s allowed, for it is then that, ‘we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Practically speaking though, how do we move forward, when memories from the past begin to overwhelm us, and we feel like we’re drowning? With Jesus as our guide, prayer becomes even more essential, for in the darkness we must cling to the light, even if it seems to be just a glimmer. Sometimes we only have the strength for an arrow prayer, but, however small our prayerful offering, God hears and answers.

During my darkest nights, as I’ve lain awake with memories knotting together in my stomach, I have recited Psalm 23 over and over. One night recently I was doing this and I got up, opened my Bible, with the hope of some comfort and immediately fell upon Psalm 23. Yes, he was there during that night and as the Psalmist says, ‘he restores my soul’. There is no greater peace than the certainty of knowing that God sees you and cares about everything you’re going through. That morning I wept, as the feeling of safety engulfed me, safe in the arms of the One who saw everything and weeps with me.

He’s not just there for me, but for you too. If you are going through your own ‘valley of the shadow of death’, please know that Jesus is with you and he’ll get you through this. You aren’t alone.

If I can pray for you, please let me know in the comments.

Sending blessings to you all, Vicki

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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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We finally got round to having our anniversary family photo tonight. We’d done one in 2016, when we’d been married 15 years and I was keen to do one now, after 20 years, to see how much everyone has grown.

As today was also the second anniversary of us moving to Shropshire, the day had a very ‘anniversary’ feel about it. Christopher came home (he’s working on a farm 45 minutes away and lives there full time) and we gathered around the table for cake and a time of prayer, thanking God for all he has done, bringing us here.

Our evening devotions were about the Passover, which seemed very apt, as it was all about leaving one place to go to a better place, and it also reminded us that God commanded the Israelites to tell the story to their children each year, so they would not forget what God did.

On the day we moved here, God gave me this verse, ‘When the Lord your God brings you into the land…with…houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord,’. Deuteronomy 6 10-12. That same day, we arrived to find tomato and grape vines we did not plant, a house filled with furniture we didn’t know would be here, greenhouses filled with all the gardening equipment we would need and a bore hole we did not dig and we remembered the words of the Lord to the Israelites and how the same God was providing for us. He has continued to provide miraculously for us, with chickens and pigs arranged by the TV company, a cow in calf from the farm where our eldest son works and even a Christmas turkey from a neighbour. We will not forget the Lord our God, we will tell this testimony to our children, so that they will always know that they are here because this is where God led us.

So tonight we watched our programme, ‘A Country Life for Half the Price’, as we did last August 15th, not to be vain, but to reminisce over our old home and to see the journey we went on to get here. Read more about the miracles God did getting us here in the post, https://www.lifeinallitsfullness.blog/blog/farmlife/learning-to-trust-our-house-moving-testimony/

Over the weekend we have been able to use our property in one of the ways we had pictured. Our friends asked us several months ago if they could use the space here for their 50th wedding anniversary. At the time it seemed that Covid restrictions may prohibit it, but praise God they have lifted and the party went ahead.

What a joy it was to celebrate their anniversary with them and to see this home fulfilling the vision we were given for it. This home is not just for us, but for those whom the Lord brings to us, a home to bring delight to many and to use for the Lord’s purposes.

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After glorious sunshine this lunchtime, this afternoon brought several hours of terrestrial rain and hail. Our drainage system struggled to hold onto the water and the courtyard became increasingly flooded.

At 7pm Phil came in from an evening work meeting. I had hoped for a pair of hands cleaning up the kitchen, but a rather larger problem was needing his attention outside. As he’d left the office in the hayloft, he had been greeted by a newly forming lake in our courtyard. He immediately donned his wellies, waterproof gloves and heavy duty gloves and grabbing the extendable plunger went forth in battle against the elements.

He quickly realised that he would need to get his whole arm down the drain. He found a wire crate to settle upon, to prevent his entire body getting soaked and equally from preventing any excess water from finding its way to the drain. He soon discovered that this particular drain was not the only problem and thus sought out the source of the blockage. After gazing down our septic tank and 2 other drains, he discovered where the blockage appeared to be. Then came out his trusty extendable plunger, which he worked with for over an hour, to finally release the water which was backing up quite significantly.

This is not an uncommon type of task around this place. With bigger properties you get bigger problems! Old houses, animals and barns bring along many caretaker jobs. I always feel blessed to have a handy husband who is not afraid to get dirty.

Once the job was done he came in for a much needed shower and we had a slightly later than planned ‘at home date night’, with garlic chicken and sweet potato fries, yum!

What’s my day been like? Much less messy, and actually quite productive. I recently realised that my children did not know all the Ten Commandments, and I thought it was one of those things I should have taught them. So I came up with a plan to help them remember.

First we listened to this song https://youtu.be/OSXviJco41k over and over, whilst dancing away, in a slightly Greek wedding way! Once we had the song firmly stuck in our heads, Elizabeth found some pictures on the internet for us to colour, cut out and rearrange in the right order.

Once they had the Commandments memorised they had 1 Haribo and after cutting and sticking they got another 2. We will continue to practice them for the rest of the week and keep singing the song. Tonight I will go to sleep with the song dancing round my head, I wonder what my dreams will entail?!