What he said!

Quite simply this sermon is all I want to post this evening.  It’s a talk by Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, California and is entitled Hope in All Circumstances.  It’s a powerful and beautiful sermon which centres around this verse from Zechariah 9:12,

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you”.

I pray it speaks to your soul and gives you hope in Him who can do all things.

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Rolling with the Punches

I’m going to be completely honest with you, I haven’t been doing so well lately.  I had been thinking a little while ago that as much as I love and believe in the fighting talk, I haven’t touched so much on the dark days recently on this blogsite.  I’m grateful for that because there haven’t been so many of those days lately.  I’ve felt carried along in hope, trusting in Jesus and grateful for the prayers of close allies.  I really do believe in the power of prayer and in God’s limitless goodness and I know in my heart that nothing is impossible for Him.

But then the IVF didn’t work and I felt like I had been punched in the face as treatment came to an abrupt, unexpected halt.  Not the long haul we expected but a U-turn in treatment and then a period which confirmed even Plan B hadn’t worked.  We reeled from the surprise of it all.  Relieved and just about hopeful and then utterly devastated when it seemed in hindsight to have been a total waste of time.

I knew there was the chance I would be laid low by the fallout from it.  Having spoken to an experienced friend I had an inkling  that when IVF fails it can leave you forgetting God’s promises and plans for you.  It can cause you to retreat in confusion and pain.  It can leave you wondering once again about motherhood as an acute sense of failure and futility rob you of peace and joy.  It can make you lonely, frightened, broken again.

I reverted to default mode.  My words for God dried up again.  I couldn’t pray and I definitely couldn’t praise; I could only howl.  And some days I couldn’t even do that.  I didn’t tell anyone, I just got on with it.  The mechanics of life.  Isn’t that all we can do some days?  Just get on with the daily routine and wait for the feelings to pass or for circumstances to shift us into a different landscape.  In my opening blog post I have explored in far more detail the depths of grief and pain that I have felt during our infertility journey.  As I type now I can sense very tangibly the echo of that deep, deep ache but I must tiptoe away from it because I have come so far and I don’t want to disappear back down that rabbit hole of despair.

I will admit I am grateful for the glimmers of God in the details of this recent time of sadness.  I might have shut Him out but my phone still pinged with friends’ messages, laced with His love for me and I wasn’t oblivious to His presence.  I’m reminded now of a quote I read the morning that our IVF scan revealed the treatment cycle was at an early end,

“Being anchored in the goodness of God isn’t always going to be a rational thing.  It’s a stubborn, unrelenting determination not to let the hardships of life downsize the bigness of God”.

Stubborn and unrelenting determination – ah yes, two qualities which every Christian is schooled in – sometimes in blissful ignorance and at other times with eyes wide open!  Endurance is what we are called to.  Sometimes I’ve really had enough of endurance training!

But then the shift did come.  After a few weeks of feeling bruised and battle-weary I woke up one morning with a sense that something had moved.  It’s as if as I surfaced into the day I saw myself as I had been – lying face down on the muddy battlefield: exhausted, leaden limbs, the taste of dirt in my mouth and up my nose – too tired to care, too tired to move.  Weary, weary, weary of the fight.  But I could see my spirit shouting at my body to “GET UP!!!!  GET. UP!”.  Enough now.  Enough of the hollow living and absent words.  Enough of the unwillingness to draw close to God and have Him draw near to me.  I tapped open a podcast and found the most recent sermon, “Hope in All Circumstances”.  God was waiting for me.  I started to listen then flicked to a worship song……”it’s your breath in our lungs and we pour out our praise, pour out our praise”.  Time to praise again, time to lift my head, time to get back on track.

But as if the Enemy was waiting in the wings for this crucial moment an interruption came – this time from somewhere in the house.  Our cat – our gorgeous, affectionate, precious, sociable cat was very ill and wailing.  My heart started to recoil from the place of worship I was establishing in our bedroom.  And as the day took its course and within hours our four-legged friend gave his last breath, I pulled back again from God.  Death, so harsh and final, showed me once again just how very bold it is.  Grief, a new grief, overwhelmed me again.

IMG_0187You see, Desmond our cat wasn’t just a family pet; he was our firstborn.  We knew it was silly and yet we found ourselves craving to nurture the kitten we brought home four years ago.  He was a sickly little thing who craved attention and cuddles, talked back to us and was always waiting for us when we came home from work.  He loved us unconditionally and our yearning to be parents was transferred onto this funny little dog-cat who grew into a sleek and glossy bundle of friendly fur.  He loved attention and roast chicken, playing fetch with a grape and curling up on our laps or laptop at any opportunity.  He won over friends of ours who didn’t like his kind and insisted that we gave room for him in our hearts.  And we did.  His death – even though anticipated – knocked the breath out of us both once again.  Angry.  Gutted.  Bereaved.  More loss.  More stupid, horrid, upsetting loss to deal with.

I could see myself teetering on the edge of a significant moment the day he died.  I could continue in the vein of thinking and momentum of the morning with God, stepping boldly over the threshold into something new as I heaved myself out of the pit I had sat down in……or pull back and descend once again into the agony of loss.  To put on my spiritual armour or choose my humanness.

As I write this I am emerging once again from the pit.  My husband called it a cave this morning.  That’s about right – dank, dark, hollow, echoey, cold, drafty.  We both know that it’s time to come back out into the light of God’s love.  I prayed this morning – maybe for only the second time in more than a month, but it’s a start.  When I write these blog posts so often I want to end from a place of triumph.  Today, I think it’s ok to say that God joins us wherever we find ourselves.