Blessings

A spider busily weaves his web over the glass as the sun shines through the pane, lighting up the windowsill. The crackled, peeling paint doesn’t look shabby in the sunlight. It looks somehow blessed – as if the light shining on it gives it new character; makes it beautiful. In the distance I can see dark clouds. Rain is probably moving our way, but right now the sun is shining.

Sometimes folk say, “aren’t I lucky?” and their Christian brother or sister nods sagely and says, “ah, but are you lucky? Or are you blessed?”. I know what they mean, and I know they mean well by pointing out that God is the giver of all things, but aren’t we blessed in the good times and in the bad times? Do we really believe that the bad times are because God withholds His blessing? Should we go around during the good times praising God for His blessings, but not in the bad times? Doesn’t that make it seem as if God favours some (i.e. those He has ‘blessed’) more than others? Isn’t that the same lie that underpins the prosperity gospel? Isn’t that the same lie that says I can earn my way into God’s favour?

The world is good. The world is bad. Life is good. Life is bad. I don’t understand why some suffer so much more than others. I do know that in suffering we can learn more about God, and more about our dear Jesus and His Passion, than we ever could without suffering. We’ll never know the whys and wherefores in this life. Ecclesiastes tells us:

For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…

Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4 (NRSVA)

I am thankful for all the seasons of my life. I am thankful that when I desperately needed help, the hands and hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ were there for me, especially those in Celebrate Recovery. Without Celebrate Recovery I wouldn’t be here now.

Carry each other’s burdens and so live out the law of Christ. ….

Galatians 6:2 (NRSVA)

Thank you.

I don’t know why I continue to be so surprised at all the good things that we have been granted in the past few years. Why am I surprised to not be suffering for the first time in decades (I don’t consider this illness as suffering – far from it)? God is good. God is always good. But when life is good we must never become complacent. We must love our suffering neighbour all the more, all the more. As Ann Voskamp says, all is grace.

This song is not written about God, but it’s the one that makes the most sense to me today. It also serves a dual purpose of saying thank you to God, and thank you to my beloved husband, who has shown me God’s love with such generosity and patience through the good times and the bad. I hope you like it, too.

 

Reblog: Little and Nothing

********

I think this is why broken people seem to respond to God in a way that others can’t. Whether their brokenness is self-inflicted (by which I mean they have made poor choices) or whether life has just been too cruel, when you’re brought so low that there’s nothing left, you realise how much you need God and how you can’t even stand up without Him. This is why Jesus’ words in the beatitudes are so wonderfully true, although they seem counter-intuitive.

I’m sitting typing with my new Open University textbooks beside me, just about to begin the next module in statistics and probability. The more I learn of statistics, the more I realise how little statisticians actually *know*. But I still fall in love more and more with the numbers and the ‘truths’ they demonstrate. In a way, this mirrors my spiritual life. I’m making no sense(!) but I thank God for all that I have been through because it’s only in darkness that you can see the light. I don’t ask for more suffering and I don’t desire more suffering, but I know that without the suffering I wouldn’t know God and I know that my deepest desire has always been to know Him.

Lord, You are everything. Fill my nothing.

‘You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Isaiah 26:3 (Amp)

Contemplative in the Mud

Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal

To be little in his sight is not enough; we must be nothing – this is the foundation upon which he would build… The greater our annihilation, the loftier the building he erects thereon.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

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Fiery Darts

‘Fiery darts’ is how Paul puts it. Abba Anthony described being tormented by demons while he was in the desert. Teresa of Ávila talks about snakes and reptiles and ghastly creatures prowling and snapping. On these days, when my nights are filled with nightmares and general nasty stuff, I wake to the ugliness of unrelenting flashbacks, a barrage swift and sharp, just like those fiery darts. They claw at you. I can even smell the ‘event(s)’.

 

When I went to the Celebrate Recovery conference in 2012, the founder of Celebrate Recovery, John Baker, spoke of those so broken that the only thing they respond to, the only thing they can do is to sing songs of worship. Here again is another paradox, another moment when God turns the world on its head. I remember that Thérèse de Lisieux says that, although we are so small, we possess a God-given dignity. She also wrote:

 

‘My will is to endure, by Love,

The Darkness of my exile here’

 

So then, it is love that makes me choose to get up from this table, to do the things I need to do, in love, for my family. And I will lift my head and sing praises. Because God is good. And God is always.

 

Thérèse looking pensive

Thérèse looking pensive

You can read more about Thérèse here: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/meditations-on-little-way-epilogue-dark.html

 

Abundance and Forgiveness

We have moved house a lot over the past few years, for one reason or another. This has meant a change of schools, too. When we moved in 2012 the local education authority took nearly two months to put Prince into school. Apparently they had to decide that he needed a special school (despite his previously having been in a special school since Year 1). Initially they even suggested I go and look round the local secondary school(!). Four months after Prince started school, Frank’s job fell through and we realised we had to move. It was good timing and God timing because we moved closer to Frank’s parents and within a month or two Frank’s dad began the cycle of hospital admissions and discharges, and we had to arrange care for Frank’s mum, whose dementia was severe enough to warrant 24-hour supervision. So we moved here, which meant another school change for poor Prince. This was a very difficult thing for him to do. People with autism find change difficult to cope with and he spent the next 11 months detesting his new special school and trying to think of ways to leave. This included, he confessed, trying to be so naughty that he would be permanently excluded. Being autistic, his idea of ‘very naughty’ was actually very mild, bless him, and as I was going through yesterday’s reading from The Little Way of Lent I recalled what Prince had said.

I wonder if sometimes we too do the same as young Prince, especially when we’re hurting or damaged by life? Do we push the boundaries to get God’s attention?

Why is my life so awful if you really love me, God?

Do you love me now, even after I’ve done that?

I’ve been there. I even did my own version of Prince’s ‘trying to do something very bad’ because I had such little sense of self-worth and didn’t believe I was worthy of love. In hindsight, it wasn’t ‘very bad’, it was probably something which happens fairly regularly, fallen as we all are, but I thought at the time that it was dreadful. I saw myself as the same as Peter, denying knowledge of Christ when he’d sworn his love just hours before.

I think this is probably a similar thought process to self-harming, in whichever medium that manifests itself. I know from Celebrate Recovery that self-harm occurs in as many different ways as there are different people. There’s the obvious physical act of cutting or hurting oneself, and then there are addictions and alcoholism, but hurting oneself can also present as bad relationships (or a string of them), eating too much, eating too little, self-sabotage (wanting to achieve something but doing things that prevent you from achieving it), even poor hygiene. We can become so distressed that the reasons we do things are not clear even to ourselves and we continue the destructive cycles that make us miserable. Sometimes we hurt those around us too, either deliberately or as a non-intentional effect. Sometimes, when we have been badly hurt, we even push people away, never letting anyone close. We push them away before they get the chance to hurt us, or we deliberately hurt them because we are confirming how horrible we are and how unworthy of love. Sometimes it’s all so complex that we don’t know where the pain begins and we end, or the other way round. It’s like that quote, attributed to Einstein, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’. The cycle of pain and hurting is insanity.

But there can be different results. Healing can and does take place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rather wary of those who claim to have been ‘healed from addiction’ instantaneously, as addiction is much more complicated than just the physicality of it (although I have never met anyone who claims to have been healed in this way). For the vast majority of us, healing takes time. Years. Decades. Maybe we never fully reach the place of healing until we reach heaven? I don’t know. But I do know that if we’re prepared to be open to God, He can and will use the years of destruction and change our ashes into beauty, give us resurrection joy in place of suffering and death. It takes courage – more courage than anyone who has not been through it can imagine. The courage to get out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other is enormous.

Then there’s forgiveness. What if you, like me, know that you could never and will never do anything anywhere near as awful as that which has been done to you? I mean, we know that all sin separates us from God, don’t we? But what if what you have experienced has been so, so awful that you don’t know how you can ever get over it, or how to even begin to forgive?

It has taken me years to get my head around this, because I thought that God ought to keep a tally card or something… Doesn’t justice mean that ‘bad people’ get punished? I grew up being taught that the criminal justice system was there to protect the ‘goodies’ from the ‘baddies’ and that if someone was guilty of a crime they would be sent to prison. But it doesn’t mean that. ‘Not guilty’ is not the same as ‘innocent’. There are so many, many victims of crime, like me, who will never see earthly justice. But is our earthly justice the same as God’s justice?

Is this grace?

The answer, if I’m not afraid of looking at the truth, is no. Horrible things happen every day to people who never deserved them and there are no straightforward answers. No easy answers. No answers at all, really, just choices; choices we make every day, step by step. My choice – only by grace – has been to seek healing, to live in a manner which searches for God in all things, and to share His abundant grace. This is the narrow road. It ain’t easy.  I make mistakes. I fall. God picks me up. Forgiveness is something I have to do repeatedly. Each time I ask God to take care of it because the hurt is too big. I cling to Him like I’d cling to a lifebelt in a stormy sea. Crumbs those waves are big! Without Him I might drown. So I cling all the harder. And, with Jesus, I’m ok. I hope you can say the same. As I write I pray for those who are finding it hard to find the value in anything any more. Maybe you feel like you want to give up. Maybe you’re so, so angry at all the injustice – all the pain, all the hurt, all the fighting, all the tears. I won’t tell you ‘if you just trust Jesus everything will be fine’. I won’t because that’s a lie. But, one step at a time, you can learn to walk again. He will be your guide for each step. He will be a light in the darkness. He will be your hope.

 

‘Of everything Jesus taught, the admonition to “forgive your brother from your heart” is perhaps the most complex. The pain of injustice and the feelings evoked by being wronged touch the depths of our humanity… Feeding resentment makes forgiveness difficult…

‘When God’s mercy reigns in us we can acknowledge wrongdoing for what it is without becoming a slave to its effects. Forgiveness from the heart does not overlook accountability and it does not require that I let someone who has wronged me back into my life. Jesus doesn’t expect me to open myself to repeated injury or ongoing injustices, but He does ask that I forgive, that I pray for those who hurt me… Forgiveness from the heart is freeing because the pain of the wrong no longer controls my life and no longer suffocates my relationship with God and neighbour.’

‘Humility and hunger for God are synonymous.’

From The Little Way of Lent

by Fr. Gary Caster

‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.’

Psalm 25:4-5 (NRSVA)

 

Thankful Not Thursday

Christine over at Glory to God blog, has a weekly ‘Thankful Thursday’ where she, and sometimes her children, list all the things they are thankful for. I think this is a lovely idea and something I would like to do with my family.

I first learned about the importance of being thankful when I went through Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step programme along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous but for all of life’s ‘hurts, habits and hang-ups’. It changed my life. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for CR. Would I even still be alive? I don’t know. I was in the deepest, darkest pit and I just felt like I was sinking. However much I struggled the despair was like a swamp – the more I struggled the more it sucked me down. I prayed for God, if He cared about me, to rescue me. I wasn’t convinced that He did care about me at that point – I mean, I knew it all intellectually but I had been through so much that I wondered if God somehow desired me to suffer. My friends at CR stepped in – and stepped in abundantly. At the weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings we journeyed together, forging bonds that can never be severed. It was not only the healing nature of the programme which was so amazing, it was also the deepest, most profound fellowship one can ever experience. I am in awe at what God did through those meetings!

So, as I say, I first learned about thankfulness as part of Celebrate Recovery. I think at the time I was still so very sad that being thankful was a good thing to practice. It helped me begin to see a glimmer of hope. About a year after leaving CR I had the opportunity to listen to Ann Voskamp read her book ‘One Thousand Gifts’. I’m glad I had the audiobook as well as the book itself, as some of Ann’s language is both colloquial Canadian and poetic in nature, which I found hard to read. With Ann’s voice, and her intonations as she intended, the text was brought to life. Once again my life was changed. I have followed Ann’s blog since last year. It’s great – always challenging, but always genuine. Sometimes it’s a little too saccharin, but there is so much by way of Truth that the odd saccharinity (I invented a new word haha!) is insignificant. I have been trying to learn the discipline of thankfulness (to ‘cultivate the attitude of gratitude’ as my old CR friend used to say) ever since.

When you have lived so long on the receiving end of the lies and the barbs of the enemy, it can be a slow process. But I like Christine’s idea of Thankful Thursday, in which the whole family can participate. I think the King children could do with learning how to recognise the things in life with which they are blessed. I told my little Chip this morning about the idea and she was excited (it doesn’t take much with our Chip, bless her). I told her how thankful I was to have such a helpful little girl (she had brought me a cup of tea) and how thankful I was for her smile (this little child’s smile is like sunshine). The smile grew even broader and she leaned in to give me a hug.

“I’m thankful for my lovely Mummy!” She announced. Later when I took her to school we agreed how thankful we were for the bright sunlight and the clear blue skies.

“I’m thankful that Fluff is coming home today!” said Chip. I laughed and said I wondered how long that would last… Chip grinned and changed the subject, “Mummy, what is 692 divided by 2?”

 

So, here’s my list of things for which I am thankful:

My husband, Frank, who takes care of me on days like today when I need to rest.

Frank working from home, and how hard he works to take care of all of us. He’s my hero.

My three lovely children, who are all beginning to grow up.

My friends – I had a lovely chat with my best friend last night when she phoned, and I really enjoyed seeing Joy the other day, too.

Blue skies and spring time!

Being able to sit here with the French doors open and a blanket wrapped round me.

The miniature daffodils in the window box, heads bobbing in the breeze.

Blossom buds on the tree – not quite in bloom but soon will be.

Listening to audiobooks so even when I’m really tired I’m not bored.

Finally selling the in-laws’ house, which means we can all move on a step, emotionally and practically.

My dear mother-in-law who, despite her loss and the dementia, remains her sweet, sweet self.

My dear sister-in-law, whom I like to describe as ‘just like Frank, but even nicer’ 😉

Our new cleaning lady! With Frank’s hard work we can afford a cleaning lady and I no longer have to feel rubbish when I can’t do something because I know that I can ask her and she is glad of the work.

Being able to rest – despite the tiredness of days when I’ve overdone it (I tried moving some furniture yesterday – big mistake, but no use crying over spilt milk), the rest is as much a rest in spirit as it is physically, and I believe this is a God-gift.

book

‘I do not give to you as the world gives.’ 

(John 14:27 NRSVA)

New furniture – we were able to take several items of furniture from my in-laws’ old house, including dining chairs, a sofa bed, a table, a rattan chair and two bookcases. We are bursting at the seams with books and although we are slowly going through them and giving unwanted books to charity, a bookcase is much better than piles on the floor…

A new blender – our cheap-as-chips blender (which didn’t blend properly) broke, but two days later I found one in my in-laws’ old house that had hardly been used.

 

So many things I could write, but I’ll leave it there because I’m tired now. What about you? What are you thankful for?

 

 

Boredom, Inconstancy, Anxiety

Our true condition? So says Pascal, according to Foster’s book ‘Longing For God’. As a person who has seen the innermost parts of people through Celebrate Recovery, and through my own life with all its ups and downs and struggles, I give a resounding YES.

 

“The problem with scepticism is that we never make decisions.” Richard Foster, Longing For God

 

So thankful for audiobooks! What a brilliant book.

Mighty to Save

When I heard one of the founders of Celebrate Recovery speak, he made the comment that when choosing music for the weekly meetings’ worship time one had to bear in mind several factors: the music had to be appropriate and reachable for the CR attendees. He also said something which has stuck in my mind ever since:

Some people, when they come to Celebrate Recovery, will be so damaged that they will only be able to reach God through songs of praise.

It sounds counter-intuitive, yet I know that at my darkest times, the sacrifice of praise is one of the most moving and deep experiences a soul can experience. I nearly added humbling, but by this point you’re on your knees begging for mercy.

It is interesting that sometimes it is the most broken who truly experience humility. Yet we’re all supposed to be humble.

We’re going through some very difficult things right now, or I should say, I am. By proxy, my family are.  Praising God is a way through. I understand now when the psalmist refers to going through anguish, yet praising God and singing of His glory. Julian of Norwich says that prayer is the ‘deliberate and steadfast action of the soul’. Praise and worship are the same.

Be blessed.

Some Things to Share

My grandfather was an alcoholic. My family are still in denial about this, but I lived with him for six months and you don’t get through a bottle of whisky a day (conservative estimate) and not have an addiction… but there we go. My family maybe has a history of being in denial about bad stuff? Not a judgement, just an observation. Anyway, we aren’t the only ones, which is why the first bit of Celebrate Recovery is ‘Stepping Out of Denial into God’s Grace‘.

 

I have friends who are recovering alcoholics, or have family members who are recovering alcoholics. I also know that someone who follows my blog is going through this sort of thing, and is facing the situation with such courage and such grace (as if she doesn’t have enough to deal with already!). You know who you are and you are in my prayers – and when I say that, I mean I have a list, and if you’re on the list you’re gonna get prayed for, and I know God answers my prayers.

 

So saying, I came across these two posts and wanted to share:

 

For alcoholics and the people who love them

 

The crucial question you probably never ask

 

God shines all the more brightly through the brokenness. Stay strong. I think you’re amazing.

 

Blessed… are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 5:3 (Amplified version)

Why I am Not a Survivor

In the Beginning

People try to put labels on you from the moment you’re born, it seems. Have you noticed? Some of them are benign: ‘healthy’, ‘thriving’, ‘girl’, ‘boy’. For some the problems begin at birth. What happens if the child is not healthy, or has ambiguous genitalia? Already the labels are out of kilter.

I had some nice labels attached to me when I was an infant. I was loved and treasured. I lived in one of the world’s most prosperous countries. As I grew a little older, I heard the words ‘gifted’ and ‘clever’. My mother at one point went as far as getting the prospectus for one of the local prep schools, to see if I might earn a scholarship, but decided against it because I was already thriving in a happy little C. of E. school. I was given books and toys at Christmas and birthdays which subtly reflected this notion of ‘clever’ and ‘gifted’: a microscope, a typewriter, an encyclopaedia, ‘The Book of Answers’, a gyroscope, the junior version of Trivial Pursuits…

Labels

‘Gifted’ is supposed to be a pleasant one. Yet it placed expectations and pressures onto my malleable little mind. Somehow my sense of worth was in being ‘clever’. I grew up believing that all I had to do was to be more intelligent than anyone else, work hard, and life would be all right.

‘Victim’

Although at the time I didn’t know I bore this label, I became a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Later, when I learned that I was a victim, I tried to ‘tell’… No one listened. I had to ‘tell’ numerous times before anyone actually took me seriously. No one in authority took me seriously, however, which is why it was never investigated.

Just over a year ago I was praying for answers to why I was still held by such terrible remnants of the past, as if they were woven and wrapped around me as a mummy is wrapped for burial. One night, after a particularly vivid dream, I woke and there was the answer – or part of it. It suddenly dawned on me that no one had listened when I had ‘told’ and why the **** had no one listened?! despite me trying to ‘tell’ several times (which was in spite of threats to my life from the abuser… do you know how courageous it is for a child to speak out when there have been threats on her life?).

Twenty years ago my parents went to the police, who never even spoke to me. Yet I was pretty sure they would now. Things have changed, thank God. I have changed. I am not afraid. I now await the results of their investigation. I pray for justice.

Twenty Long Years

Back then, I received counselling and therapy, which helped. Yet somehow it missed some vital, and I mean vital components. The label of ‘victim’ still seemed stuck to me, as if stamped like a brand across my forehead. It was synonymous with there being something innate, something within me, which was not quite right. My mother would speak about me in hushed tones to her friends as if I was ‘troubled’. I don’t know why she did that. And I never saw anyone get angry about what had been done to me, except my father, who was so torn by grief that I didn’t know how to discern the tumble of emotions he bound within himself so carefully, but with such fragility. Yet when I think of such things being done to one of my own children, or anyone’s children, I am angry enough to burst. I could kill. Gentle little me! Is it just me? Am I somehow more aware, because of what I have been through?

Going back to the past: at first, I tried to tell other children. Twice. Once in school, to a group of girls, and once to my best friend. No, three times; I tried to tell at my youth group summer camp too. I also tried to tell my mother…

And I was sent to a psychiatrist. This is not to say my parents didn’t believe me, but they didn’t really know what to do.

Yet why did they still let ‘him’, the abuser, be part of the family…? It reinforced, over and over and over, that it was me who was at fault. Me who was screwed up. I recall one day, after having ‘told’ my mother, having used the words ‘sexual abuse’, that she took ‘him’ and me to a village tea room, where we had afternoon tea and scones… How very pleasant. How very Orwellian in its screwed-up Englishness.

You couldn’t make it up, frankly, could you? I mean, who the **** hears their 13-year-old daughter say, “I was sexually abused by so-and-so” and subsequently treats everything and everyone as normal??? 

No one tried to find out what had happened. And the abuser was still allowed free access to our family home. I was raped for the last time when I was 14. I had tried to ‘tell’ several times from the age of 12.

It took two years for it to finally stop. Two more terrible years. Why? And how could it possibly teach me anything other than ‘Sandy’s the one with problems’. Tut tut. Whisper, ‘It’s a shame, isn’t it?’

Sandy’s the problem. Sandy’s got something ‘wrong’ with her. A ‘troubled teen’. I was sent to a school for ‘troubled teens’ (though I was there ostensibly because I’d missed out on schooling due to illness). The head teacher, instead of trying to find out what my problems were, decided that I was ‘middle-class’ and therefore couldn’t have problems (at least, this is what I deduced) and on one occasion told me about a former pupil who was raped at knifepoint. I was bewildered. Should I reply with “I was raped too. Many times.”? Was it a competition to see who had been hurt the most? What on earth did she say it for? I could not reply. As I perceived it, it was said to make me feel as if I was attention-seeking, with little or no reason (I had not disclosed details of what had happened to me by that point. I was too traumatised to talk about it). 

So, on the one hand I had counselling and therapy, which was good. I am still in touch with my wonderful Christian counsellor, who was the only one, the ONLY one who spoke the precious words which would come back to me with full vehemence last year, “You’re not suffering depression, Sandy, you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

And on the other hand I had people treating me as if I had ‘problems’, or outright dismissing me, as the police did, cementing the idea that I was somehow worth less than other people. Unfortunately, the nature of being human is that negative things tend to stick to you. I walked into adulthood a very damaged soul.

Damaged

Damage is what the first boyfriend at 21 saw, right from the first. And damage is what he grabbed and manipulated and coerced, to earn my attentions, and to manipulate my affections (love does not arise from being made to feel guilty, but I did not know that). Damage is what he made use of over the years, during the marriage, when the manipulation and coercion became biting words and flying fists. I didn’t believe I was worth anything better. I didn’t fully comprehend there was better.

Carrying the Burdens

For years, then, I carried burdens which were so heavy they crushed me. I didn’t understand what they were, or that they shouldn’t be there. I didn’t realise that I should be any other way. I sank deeper and deeper into the role of ‘victim’, because I had learned nothing else.

Eventually, after years of quiet, desperate prayer, something inside me changed. I decided that, despite what I had been told about divorce and remarriage, I couldn’t let my children grow up in such an atmosphere of sadness and misery. I knew it would affect their long-term development. I still had no notion of my deserving anything better! But I’m glad I valued my children enough. I’m proud of that. So, despite the idea that divorce and remarriage were both ‘wrong’, I made myself a vow. If things didn’t improve – meaning, if the ex-husband’s behaviour didn’t improve – within six months, I would leave. I’d find a women’s refuge, or something. Somehow. What made it difficult was that he’d promised that if I ever went to the police about his violence, he would tell them that I mistreated the children, that I was a bad mother. For years this had kept me ‘in my place’ because I believed I was a bad mother… Eventually (hallelujah) I cottoned-on to the fact that I was not the bad parent.

Fortunately, the police caught up with him for his other criminal deeds and then there was no question of whether divorce would happen or not. And it did, as quickly as I could manage it, though during this time the wicked man still tried to manipulate me and coerce me out of divorce! A convicted paedophile – a criminal of the worst kind – tries to tell me he is a Christian and does not believe in divorce. Insane!

Celebrate Recovery and the Road to Sanity

I then had to bear so many awful labels. All at once they were chucked at me. Added to my load. Social Services had to investigate me because of the charges against the ex-husband (I knew they had to, but it didn’t make it any pleasanter). I had to sit through a Child Protection meeting, which was the most awful experience of my life (bear in mind all I have been through and I still say it was the most awful experience of my life). It was the worst because they were questioning me as a mother, which was by far the most wounding. I also now bore the label of ‘single mother’, ‘benefits claimant’, ‘divorcee’, etc.

As I began attending Celebrate Recovery, the label of ‘survivor’ was offered to me. I accepted it with gratefulness. I was no longer a ‘victim’.

It is a few years since then. I have grown. I have changed. All by grace and only by grace. I am now, fully, ‘wife’ and ‘mother’. I am also ‘mature student’, ‘blogger’, ‘volunteer’…

‘Future pastor’? 😉

But what I have learned is great. The most great. Ever. It is this: these things don’t define me.

For years, as long as I can remember, I was defined by other people’s ideas of me, other people’s expectations, other people’s cruel actions, other people’s negligent actions. I was a ‘victim’. If I allow myself to be a ‘survivor’, I am still allowing myself to be defined by things that were done to me, even if it’s in an apparently more positive way than ‘victim’.

I am not a survivor. I am me.

My identity, my entire being, is as a child of God, who calls me His beloved.  He woos me and cherishes me and calls me by name. I am His and He is mine. Here is eternity. Here is love. Here is grace. 

All is grace, as Ann Voskamp is so fond of saying. And that, dear friends, is the most freedom a human being can ever have.

‘God’s way of putting people right with himself has been revealed… everyone… is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.’ 

Romans 3:21,23 GNT

‘…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’

John 8:36

Free indeed. To be me.

Amen to that.

Hallelujah for the grace to just be.

Addendum: 2014

I think there was some anger towards my parents when I wrote this post. Now, in retrospect, having recognised my own mistakes as a parent, I realise there are no handbooks when you have children, especially not for the circumstances my parents found themselves in. I believe the fact their marriage survived is a testament to their love and their dedication to their family. I am thankful for my parents and esteem them greatly.