Sunday, 11 January 2015


It's no secret that we've been having a tough time lately. Facebook's been my own pity party and everyone is invited, thanks to the beauty of a news feed. You're welcome.

Within all the complaining and bitterness there has, occasionally, been processing and prayer. On the good days. On the bad days and nights there has been a lot of effing, blinding and blaming. Poor John.
Perhaps before we talk about the glorious revelations and about how we're more than conquerors, before we start editing ourselves pretty, perhaps we could tell the truth. Perhaps you'd be helped if you knew the shoddy depths of my heart and the limping finish that will be my entrance to heaven.

I have hated this season, and I'm still hating it. There is nothing in me that thinks 'oh goody, trials to rejoice in'. All of me longs for comfort. I am heartily fed up with trying to be a good mum, a nice wife, a safe place for my teenagers in the midst of stress upon stress upon stress that just won't stop building. You think you're done? Have a generator fail. Had enough now? Be crippled for weeks. Want to give up? Your baby needs hospital. Exhausted? Have blackouts, have heating failure, have toddler meltdown, have constant sickness and and and and... my dreams have narrowed from saving orphans and faded into dreams of England, of my baby sleeping in a room that's not either furnace hot or arctic freezing. Or just of him sodding well sleeping. Of ease and support and of not living a life where every single day seems to bring new heartache and worry.

And I know the religious, utterly unhelpful advice, because we've been given it enough times. Be grateful for what you have. Other people have it worse.
Of course we are, and of course we do, we would never be so ridiculous as to claim the worse deal ever. But I will never look you in the eye, watch you weep, and say 'this doesn't hurt because other people have worse lives'. Compassion is not limited to the worst cases, it flows from beautiful hearts and minds, it should flow from Christians. If one more person says to me that 'there's power cuts all over Ukraine' I shall reply with a swift punch to the face because what that's actually saying  is 'I am judging you for struggling and I feel threatened by your honesty please shhh so I can carry on pretending to care without it costing me anything'.

So yup. It's been hard. I have been astounded by the relentlessness of our physical and emotional challenges. This morning the road to church was very icy and it was hard to walk on so I burst into tears, not because of the road but because the road was the last thing I could handle this week. So silly and so scary because of how much I am clearly not coping.

But, if I may fix our eyes on eternity for a second: This is beautiful.
This whole process is beautiful.

Even while I freak out and cry in the snow, I am aware that it's going to be ok.

A few months ago I asked God to humble me. And he did, in all my appalling reactions to every thing that has happened recently, I have seen my black black heart. My angry, selfish, middle of the night reactions. I have not walked through this time like the Jesus lady that I thought I was. I'm horrid when I'm stressed.
And when I prayed about it, when I finally owned my sinfulness and expected God to say 'yes you are terrible' he said instead 'I know you, and I love you'. Because this is our God, He is positive and for us, he knows our blackness and He doesn't back away. He is not afraid of the dark.

So if all of these things that we're going through have a purpose, they've already shown to me more of who God is, I have already experienced and understood more of his love. I have realised more than ever before that I am a dirty rotten sinner and that God is a Holy, loving God. Every time I snap at my kids or resent the teens or lose it at my husband because all I want to do is SLEEP, God is right there with me, forgiving me. It's phenomenal. I can't cock this up, I can't force Him away, I can't reject Him - He is constant and He doesn't run away. He's got me. To use my gorgeous daughter's best new word, it's 'incredible'.
I don't believe that this is just a time to keep our heads down and get to the end. It could be, and I hope it is going to be, a time to grow up. To be made different. If this is what it takes for my heart to soften then let's do it. Let's hold on to Him and roll with this day after day difficult-ness, letting our souls awaken.

One example: I don't love Ukraine. Missionaries bang on about loving their adopted countries and I don't love mine. I am homesick constantly, every day. The food is gross to me, the customs bizarre, the culture often offensive and the decisions of those in power bewilderingly incompetent. Judge all you want but I'm telling the truth because someone important said not to lie - I don't love Ukraine.
But tonight while we were driving home in the dark, skidding on stupid ice along stupid broken roads, God tore my guts out for this nation. You know when he grabs your insides and just....pulls, just lays down this huge heart/ pang/ pain/ beauty/ longing that's called intercession? When you aren't praying cos you're weeping but that's good enough, deep enough, more like prayer than any shallow words you could conjure?

It's taken living without warmth, without justice, without light, without certainty, without a voice, without rest and I'm finally able to let this in: God loves Ukraine. Enough to give me tears to shed, to put me through months of awfulness to make me more compassionate, more broken.
This nation has lived without justice, without light, without certainty for generations. Unobserved holocausts. Orphans hidden. Shadowed by nasty giants. Undefended. Alone.

Yes, when I get to the finish line I will be limping. I'm a dirty rotten sinner. But hopefully I will have given my life to defending something beautiful, even if it's just in the tears of a softened heart praying, watching the ground move underneath us as God says YES.

I will be the one scraping my way into heaven,
still sinning probably,
but my friend will hold me by my hand,
like He is now,
and if need be He will lift me across His shoulders,
like He did His cross,
like He is now,
and He will carry me home.

For now, my home is Ukraine. Let's watch the ground move. Let's change some lives. Amen. xxx