When God unexpectedly showed up

Cancer had affected every part of his body. It had left him with a skeletal frame and little energy. After an unexpected fall it stripped him of all confidence to ever walk again and later take his dignity too. It was devastating to watch. My dad had always been up and about, the first to wake up and the last to go to bed. Always on the move, active, productive. Now he lay in his bed crippled by this disease. Despite all of this he kept telling us God was going to heal him but the doctors were saying otherwise. I had the faith the God could heal him. In every fibre of my body I know Go can switch things around and do the miraculous but things weren’t looking good. I felt angry with God. If He was going to heal him He needed to strengthen our faith, if He wasn’t going to heal him He needed to speak to us, give us the chance to say our goodbyes, give my dad the chance to come to terms with the truth that he was going home. It hurt me to see my dad barking up the wrong tree of healing, if that wasn’t for him. Wasn’t it better for him to spend his final days in peace knowing the King of King was waiting for him and his place there was already prepared for him?

In frustration and anger I crept down the stairs into the kitchen and got on my knees and began to pray, cry out to God in a way I had never done before! ‘Please God heal him, I want him to stay here with us.  But if it’s not your will, speak to him, tell him you’re waiting for him.  Please let conversation of healing stop and conversation of going home begin so peace in his heart will begin to settle.  He’s suffering Lord, I can’t bear to see the suffering.’  I cried and prayed from the deepest place of my heart and God met me there in my quiet broken place. I can only describe it as an anchor that dropped deep into my soul.  It steadied my emotions, my outburst, my faith.

As I walked back up the stairs I felt led to pray with dad.  I had the strength to pray for God to have his way.  We even managed to sing together.  We sang ‘Break every Chain’ by Jesus Culture over and over.  I desperately wanted every chain to be broken.  Chain of pain, chain of cancer, chain of disappointment, confinement, and hurt. 

The next morning when dad woke up the first thing he told me was that he was going home.  I couldn’t believe it, the transition to heaven had begun.

It was only 10 days later that dad’s health deteriorated significantly.  The last time I saw him I prayed with him and I sang the song ‘I surrender all’ with him.  It was the most painful moment of my life but God was present with us.

A few weeks after he passed away I was at Hillsong Conference in London.  Friends were surprised  to see me so soon after dad’s funeral but I couldn’t think of a better place to be.  A place that resembled where dad was  – were thousands were worshipping their Saviour.  It was emotional as every time we sang, I imagined my dad doing the same in heaven. On day 3 of the conference I was exhausted.  I never knew how much grief physically and emotionally exhausted a person.  As I considered skipping the last session and going home early I somehow convinced myself to stay.  I bargained with God in my mind that I would be there but not give anything of myself.  I just wanted to sit.  As the worship began I couldn’t even find the strength to stand but in my heart I felt God starting to whisper into my heart.

‘You were blessed with a great father for almost 40 years. I want you to remember that you’re the KIng’s daughter and in your time left here on earth you’ll experience the Father’s love in new ways.’

I wasn’t sure if God was speaking to me or if I was imagining it so with head down I began bargaining some more with God.  If this is really you speaking to me, demonstrate your presence and power to me in this place.

There were 10,000 people there that day but what happened next made me feel like I was the only one in the room, just me with my Heavenly Father.

As the worship leader led the service he stopped and said tonight we’re going to sing a few older songs that God’s laid on my heart.  First song was “Break every chain” – ‘What? That was the song I sang with dad” I thought.  God had my attention so I stood up.  Whatever God had for me I wanted it.   As hard as it was for me I lifted my hands in worship and sang that song for the first time since I had sung it with my dad.  That was enough for me.  God had convinced me he was with me and he loved and cherished me.  But in His generous love He gave me more.  We went on to sing the old school version of ‘ I surrender all’ – the same song I sang with dad the day before he passed but also the same song I had grown up singing with him.  It was so unusual for these songs to be sung – the worship leader said it himself.  This moment caught my attention in a surreal way.  God had unexpectedly showed up and demonstrated to me that He could see me and my pain and healing was important to him.  The King had lavishly embraced His Princess – an embrace I would hold on to for the painful months of grief  and healing ahead.

Christmas Letter to Dad

Dear Dad

I miss you so much. I didn’t think this was possible but I think maybe I miss you more this year than last year. It’s been so long now since you called me, since I heard your voice.

It’s Christmas time again. People are going crazy again with Christmas shopping 😂. You always left your shopping till the last day because you were so busy in the shop. I loved going into town with you to buy a last minute present for mum. We’d jump in the car, you in your dirty jeans from working hard over the Christmas season and we’d rush around Bedford town centre trying to find the perfect gift – one that hopefully mum wouldn’t exchange!

My favourite time of this season would be when you shut the shop, loaded the car with food, and you came home knowing the next day the shop would be closed, the rush of Christmas was over and we’d all be together. You were coming home. Home with us, to rest, relax, eat, laugh, sing, dress up as Father Christmas ❤️

Last weekend I had a dinner party at my house. We had 30 guests in total!!! I know 😊 …. the house was packed! Mel’s sis and family are over from SA so we had a little Christmas party at ours. You always loved a good get together. As the evening progressed I wasn’t expecting to feel this way but I missed you intensely. I felt like you knew the party was happening but you chose not to come along. That made me feel so angry and sad at the same time. It was like you had forgotten to come along, maybe no one told you it was happening? But no, they were just weird feelings. Truth is you’re gone, a fact I keep reminding myself of every day since you left.

I’m not sure if life will ever feel the same. There’s a huge hole inside of me that misses you much. I find myself looking for you every day.

But then I have to remind myself how much you loved Christmas. You’d wake up in the morning singing ‘Happy Birthday to Jesus.’ For me it was so cringeworthy 😂 but you genuinely sang it, grateful that this was when we remembered Jesus, Hope of the World was born. In the dark midst of my heartbreak and sadness, I can see the Light of the World. Because you introduced me to Jesus, I can face tomorrow. The grief is there but like it says in the Bible Jesus miraculously turns my mourning into dancing.

A few weeks ago I was at Judah’s Christmas Concert. You would have loved it. He was bouncing up and down while he was singing, just like you used to. You would have loved watching his little mouth moving along to the words of the song. As he sang ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ and sang the ‘Gloria’ part so passionately I envisioned you in heaven singing that with the angels……’Gloooooooo-oooooo-ooooria, Hosana in Excelsis …. loosely translated, means “Glory (to God), salvation in the highest. You would be belting that out!! Oh dad, one day I’ll be singing along with you. The thought of that makes me sooooo happy!

Till then, as another new year approaches, another full one without you I fix my eyes on the finish line, sharing the prize of Jesus with you but also fixing my eyes on the race I’m still running. My race isn’t over yet. You ran yours so well dad! You never gave up. So 2020 means living healed, living free, living whole.

Love you dad so so much, wish I could tell you that face to face

Your Favourite Daughter

Bex xxx

Comfort in the corner

She was just a figure in the corner. When I walked in to the consultant’s room at the Oncology Department at Addenbrookes Hospital I didn’t even look at her face. We didn’t attend this appointment to see her. We had come to this appointment to hear what the consultant had to say. We were aware that his words would impact the days to come. His specialist opinion would inform us of the reality we were facing.

We had come prepared to hear the possibility that dad may need to lose his whole bladder. We had come prepared to hear what life may look like without a bladder. We even came prepared to hear that the cancer was ‘mysteriously’ gone. This was what we had prayed for. This was what we believed wholeheartedly that God could do. We didn’t come to this appointment expecting to hear the cancer was no longer localised to the bladder. We were told it had spread and it was aggressive. This meant no surgery would get rid of it. As the consultant explained all of this information to us everything in the room became a blur, except my dad’s face. I saw the disappointment of what he was hearing hit him so hard that it looked like he was struggling to swallow all this heartbreaking information. It was just like an episode of ‘Greys Anatomy’ when that horrible cancer conversation takes places and as soon as it is said out loud, all other conversation that follows is incomprehensible information, all mumbled and confusing. Thankfully my older brother was able to ask the necessary questions, but me…. I was shocked. It didn’t take long for my heart to become so heavy, a lump to appear at the back of my throat and my eyes to fill up with tears. Then the tears began to flow continuously, I tried to be strong and stop for my dad’s sake but I understood fully what the Consultant was saying and I was not prepared to hear any of this.

Within moments I felt a hand on my shoulder. It wasn’t my dad, nor was it my brother. It was the lady in the corner. The doctors were obviously aware of what the impact of this news could be and a Macmillan volunteer was requested to be there to offer support. I can’t even remember what her face looked like. I can’t even remember if I said thank you. But her presence meant the world to me. Her presence was comforting, reassuring and even though she was a stranger I knew there was support available for not just the patient with the cancer but also the family members. Her presence changed that moment. Her presence was needed. She was Comfort in the corner.

Us fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support means others just like me and my incredible dad can get the support every person deserves. Cancer does not care about you but Macmillan do.

Please consider a donation today toward my 26 mile hike from Brighton to Eastbourne and let’s care for and support those living with cancer.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebeccanaidoo

Behind the scenes

Yesterday (Thursday) as I got ready to train for the 26 mile hike I’m doing on 8th June to fundraise for Macmillan, I thought ‘the last thing I want to do right now is go out training in the rain’ I was tired! I’d had a long day at work. My eyes, my mind, my legs were tired. Just as I thought those thoughts I remembered my dad’s voice as I called him the morning of his first chemo appointment. I’m sure he didn’t feel like going for chemo, but he did it anyway. He did it for us, our children, that he might have a chance to fight this condition and stay with us for longer. To spoil us, to look after us, to love us more than he had already. He didn’t feel like it but he did it anyway. Thursday’s training was the most emotional yet. I’ve been tearful for the last 24 hours, thinking about what my dad went through, what others are going through . We have no idea the pain people are going through.

I remember one day last year, it was probably this time last year when dad was at an appointment and the consultant told us the cancer had spread. There was nothing more they could do. As soon as I got the news it was like everything zoomed in on this information but within a few moments the reality of immediate life was also right in front of me. I had two hungry children in front of me with nothing in the fridge to cook. We’d run out of milk and bread so I couldn’t even make them something simple. Despite the huge blow to me after hearing this news I had to pull myself together and get to Sainsbury’s. As I pushed the trolley around the store my mind was foggy, I had no focus and I must have bumped trolleys with so many people. I had no idea what I was doing there. The simplest task of just putting a few things in the trolley for dinner that night seemed like it was going to take me ages and I was getting more and more frustrated. My heart was aching, in pieces, I was losing my daddy.

We don’t see it but there’s people all around us walking around in pain. They still have to go out and about and do day to day jobs. They still need to go to the shops, drop off their kids to school, take their car to the garage, think about cooking dinner, travelling to work, going to the gym. There are people carrying so many worries and fears. Maybe a mortgage payment they can’t afford, an unknown diagnosis, family issues, debt. It’s made me realise you never really know the pain someone is carrying so we need to try our best to extend kindness.

Research shows that when someone extends kindness to us, we are more likely to extend it to others. Even witnessing an act of kindness between two other people makes it more likely that we will be kinder in our subsequent interactions with others.

There are so many ways each day in which we can choose to extend kindness to others – smiling or saying “good morning” to strangers we pass in the street, reaching out to a friend we know has been struggling with something difficult, listening carefully in conversations and then responding thoughtfully, choosing to let go of resentment (rather than nursing a grudge), responding to another’s hurtful behavior by pausing and trying to understand what might be going on for him/her (rather than passing judgment or reacting with a harsh or hurtful remark), or simply remembering to ask rather than demand and to say “please” and “thank you.”

All really simple but kind gestures we can incorporate into our daily lives.

Be kind. There’s a lot of pain in the world that can be healed by our kindness ❤️

(If you can, please do consider a donation towards my 26 mile hike Im doing in June, thank you x https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebeccanaidoo )

The Unwanted Part of My Story

And just like that, he was gone.

I’ve tried so many times since the day dad died to write a blog but grief has hit me in ways I never imagined.  This was the part of the story I never dared to imagine, nor wanted to ever write about.  My dad has gone.  This had become a part of my story, a part I never wanted

As I left him the day before to get the train back to London, I had this feeling in my gut that this may be the last time I would see him.  I cleared the room and we shared a few moments together, just him and me.  I whispered in his ears how much he meant to me and I prayed holding his hand, and sang an old hymn we would sing together ‘I surrender all.’

I cried the whole way back to London, every place I went reminded me of dad.  The station car park where he picked me up and dropped me off for two years, all the cafes and restaurants we’d been to together at Kings Cross Station, the way he’d walk, the way he’d love to talk to people.

The next day I went to work but my heart was so heavy.  I knew that as every moment passed dad’s health was deteriorating and there was nothing I could do. It was a long dark day.  That afternoon I was just about to take Judah swimming and I got the call.

In one moment everything changed. A deep cry from the depths of my heart accompanied by a new acute pain rose to the surface of my life.  A new chapter had begun.

In the days that followed I struggled to believe he was really gone.  His presence felt so tangible.  It felt so right to believe he was going to walk in at any moment and say ‘let’s have some tea’.  The house felt empty without him.  How could one person carry so much presence?  How could we continue without his presence?  As one specific day progressed I felt the day get darker and darker.   I knew what I believed but I found myself questioning it all.  I questioned my faith, I questioned his journey for the last 18 months, I questioned heaven.  The more I questioned the heavier my heart became.  The more I doubted the more confused I felt.  I had never felt so alone and in the dark as a I did that day.  The next morning a friend came to visit us and he said something that literally lifted the heaviness off me.  He said ‘in God’s love, grace and mercy, He took your dad home.’ 

Something clicked in me – Dad couldn’t carry on in his suffering with cancer, so in love and mercy God took him home.  God’s grace took him to heaven, where he no longer suffers but lives healed and pain-free, happy and whole.  This truth literally set me free to have faith again.  It reminded me that I live by faith and not what I see, I live by what I believe and that’s what makes me as a Christian different.  I believe that my dad lived a forgiven life – forgiven by Jesus, and the forgiven live an eternity with Jesus.  This was my belief and this was what I was choosing to live by.  As a ‘forgiven’ child of God, I too would see my dad again.

I love that my dad is in heaven but to be honest sometimes that hasn’t helped my pain of missing him.  Grief is much harder and heavier than I imagined.  Loss is painful.  I find I carry it everywhere I go, every moment of every day.  It’s changed me and it’s invaded a lots of spaces.  I’ve tried placing grief to one side but that hasn’t worked.  It’s coming with me and on the way it will inevitably change me but as it does I’m aware this doesn’t need to be negative.  It could mould me into a better person if I allow it to.  I’m intrigued to see who this ‘new me’ could look like.  

This Saturday marks what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday.  We were supposed to be celebrating together – my 40th and his 70th.  He said we would put up a marquee in the garden and have a big party!  He loved a good celebration.  So I’ve pushed myself to write this blog in honour of him.  In honour of the life he lived and continues to live in heaven. The fight was never about cancer.  The fight was always for his faith.  Right to the very end he never let go of his faith.  He’s taught me life’s most important lesson : when the unwanted parts of your story unfold, hold on to your faith and never let it go.  God’s light will shine into the darkest of situations.  Even the unwanted parts of your story combined with faith can cause you to rise x

 ❤️ his hands were always ready to lift in praise to God, even at his weakest ❤️

The Wilderness of Cancer

I don’t know what it feels like to have cancer. For some its short, for some its long, for some sadly its terminal. Observing my dad, family, and others in hospitals over the last 18 months has taught me a lot.  One thing I’ve learnt is that the journey can be long and lonely.

Even in my own journey of being the ‘daughter’ there have been times when it’s felt long and lonely.  My relationship with God means I have this promise that I’m never alone, and I know that, but there can be times when you’re physically alone with God and you’re aware of that.   It’s been in those times that I’ve dug deeper than ever into God and my Bible.

Back in March I was having a ‘down week’. We all have them right?  Everything feels too much, life feels like a drag, you try to lift yourself up but you can’t.   My husband Mel was going out to speak at a youth event that Friday evening.  He really wanted me to go with him.  He just wanted me to get out of the house, be in a different place, do something different.  I love how he’s cherished me during this time.  I agreed with him that it would be good for me to go out, but for that night I’d already planned to have a devotion time with God.  A devotion time with God is when I set aside time, and it’s just me, my Bible and an expectation to hear God speak to me.  That might sound strange to some, but it’s become a normal thing I do in my life, something I look forward to.  On this particular evening Mel was going to be out with Malachi and I intended to put Judah to bed early, so I could make the most of the time I had.  I lit a candle – only because I like candles and started reading Isaiah 43.  As I read, some words literally popped out at me.  I love it when this happens!  This is how God speaks to me, it’s happened many times before.  I knew those were the words I needed to focus on that night.

Isaiah 43:19

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

That word ‘wilderness’ just grabbed me.  That was what I felt cancer was like, it was like a wilderness.  It felt like a wild, uncultivated land we were in, like a desert.  There weren’t always clear roads. There weren’t always lots of people around.  The beginning of the journey looked very different to the middle of the journey.  Its often in the middle of your journey that you feel most alone.  It can be the messiest, and most painful time.  Lovely people may begin the journey with you but because the journey is long they can’t always stay with you.  The middle can be the most frustrating part because you long for the end.

This doesn’t necessarily just apply to the journey with cancer.  It could be the journey of marriage.  That wedding day, the start of this new adventure begins with beauty, extravagance, fun, laughter.  But for so many within a few weeks of marriage, the middle of that journey can look so very different.  There may be conflict, differences of opinions, clashes, and again you find yourself in a wilderness, a place you’ve never been before.  More than anything you just want resolve, you just want to get out of that wilderness into ‘happier’ place.

The funny thing is, it’s in your ‘wilderness’ where you learn the most.  As I read that night I sensed God say ‘I will ALWAYS make a way in the wilderness.’   That was it, that was all I needed to hear.  In those nine words, He had me.  He had my full attention and the heaviness I felt that week just lifted.  He was always going to make a way in the wilderness for me.  The next morning I called my dad and told him, ‘Dad, God’s going to make a way, He always has and He always will.’  Next I called my brother and I told him the same.  ‘We don’t need to worry about the future’ I told him ‘God’s going to make a way.’  In my heart there was this confidence that rose, as I began seeing all the ways God had made a way for us already.

The time mum and dad were feeling lonely and their friends called and said they were bringing over breakfast for them – God made a way!

The time dad needed fluid drained from his stomach but the hospital had no beds available.  We prayed and within 10 minutes a bed was ready – God made a way!

The time friends from New Zealand ordered fresh scones to be delivered to my house because they heard my pain – God made a way!

The countless number of people who have turned up at my parents house to pray with them, to encourage them – God made a way!

The friends and family continually asking how I’m doing, the encouraging songs, messages, verses people have sent  – God made a way!

The 76 year old man who woke up and prayed ‘Lord send me someone because I’m lonely,’  but then thought of my dad  and decided he’d been the one to make the home visit that day – He walked into the house, barely able to walk properly himself, but sat with dad, encouraged him by reading from the Bible and praying for him – God made a way!

The time I sat at Colour Conference with 10,000 ladies, yet feeling alone and heartbroken with what was happening around me and then I got a text from a friend saying ‘where are you? Are you here? I need to see you and pray with you.  She ran towards me, baby in tow and we just sobbed together and cried out to God!  It was messy, there was snot everywhere 😂, but there was unity – God made a way!

He always makes a way.  In that middle of the journey, He makes a way.  Sadly instead of looking at all the ‘ways’ God provides, we focus on the result.  The result of resolve, the result of healing, the result of completion, the result of ‘happiness’.  Could it be that the ‘middle’, this wilderness is more about revelation?  It reveals who you are.  It may reveal insecurities you have that you never knew you had.  It may reveal deep hidden fears.  It may reveal a real need for God and community, and in turn you may see God revealed to you in ways you never imagined.

Could we be someone’s way in the wilderness?  If we know someone experiencing cancer, or some other kind of wilderness, maybe we could make a huge difference in their lives.  Here’s some ideas I thought of that most people could do:

• An encouraging phone call

• Visiting that friend or family member and just listening them.  Your presence can be worth more than you would imagine

• Baking them a cake or any other type of food   – food does bring happiness!!  Find out what their favourite food/ drink is!

• Offer to help in practical ways

• Don’t wait for the person to tell you what they need, try to think about that yourself.  They have enough to think about

• Take the person out for a coffee, or a night out, or even just a walk in the park.

• Bring laughter into their life – a funny card, watch a funny movie together, tell them a funny story

Whatever we do, we need to do something. There are too many lonely people out there that need us to be used by God to make a way in their wilderness.

Deep Calls to deep

It’s not easy writing about something so personal.  I initially thought it would be straightforward but it’s not.  This blog has taken me so long to write.  There’s been times when I’ve felt motivated to write but then sat in front of the lap top not wanting to type the words you’re about to read because it was too painful to process.

The last six to seven months have been tough. Towards the end of September dad’s health got worse.  He’d just had a great 6 weeks of good health, riding the buses in London, going to fruit and vegetable markets, riding a bike at Center Parcs.  It seemed like everything was going so well.   But then in a matter of 7 days we began to notice that some things weren’t right and dad began to feel really unwell.  He had noticed his stomach begin to enlarge and it felt heavy to walk around.  It soon began to affect his breathing too.

Upon a routine visit to see his Oncologist, she noticed how much discomfort he was in and sent him straight to A+E.  Those calls are the worst.  When you’re far away and you can hear that someone you love is in pain and struggling to breathe.  I can’t begin to describe how I felt.  Sick, is the only descriptive word I can think of.  I felt sick that my dad was suffering, sick that there was nothing I could do to help.  I felt like every recent call had indicated that dad was deteriorating, quickly.  While at hospital they drained 7 litres of fluid from his stomach.  Can you imagine carrying 7 large Evian bottles of water in your stomach?  All of us were shocked that dad had been carrying this much fluid.  The cancer was now causing irritation in his stomach causing this accumulation of excess fluid and it needed to be drained.

The next day after work I crashed on the sofa. I’d had enough, my head was full, my emotions were frazzled, I couldn’t function. My eldest son, Malachi (12) came over to me and just held my hand.  He didn’t say a word. In that moment he knew, mum didn’t need words, she just needed someone to hold her hand.  His sensitivity to my needs during this time has been unbelievable.   That weekend we had been praying together with dad and Malachi told dad that as we were praying he saw a picture of an umbrella.  He said he sensed God was saying to dad that He would protect Him from the rain.  He even picked out a verse from the Bible about God’s protection and told his Grandad ‘you see, this is what God is saying to you.’  I’m seeing this adversity shape my son into a young man who is confident in God’s love for him, regardless of the circumstances.

For a few weeks it felt like wave after wave of sorrow and despair.

Psalm 42:7 

Deep calls to deep

    in the roar of your waterfalls;

all your waves and breakers

    have swept over me.

Deep within me I knew I needed God and that was what my daily conversation with God sounded like.  I need you God, I need you God, I NEED you God!  It was crystal clear to me that I couldn’t walk this journey without Him. From the depth of my heart – I hoped it would connect with the depth of God’s heart and cover the depth of my family’s pain.

I’ve seen mum and dad cry out from the depth of their hearts.  I think sometimes when we cry out to God we also become sensitive to hearing his voice.  I’ll never forget the very first appointment we had with Dad’s oncologist.  They had told us to come prepared with questions.  That morning was a sombre one.  We were still just getting our heads around what was happening.  As I put breakfast together Dad walked in and said, ‘listen, I’ve got something to tell you all.  This morning I was praying and I asked God whether I should ask the doctor how long I have to live.  God told me ‘ I’m the one who breathed life into you, so I’ll decide when its time for you to come home. Why ask the doctors?’

We all stood there amazed with what dad was saying. He spoke with such confidence, trusting in the words he had just heard.  The depth of God’s heart had reached the depth of his heart causing a deep courage to rise. This meant even if wave after wave was to crash against our hearts, there was an impenetrable connection with God that kept us anchored in hope.

Deep calls to deep.