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.