There are good days and…

There are good days and there are days when another wretched pregnancy announcement seems impossible to stomach and the tears of frustration and envy are never far away. There are days when the adoring photo of father with baby son plastered across social media feels like a cold, hard hand slapping across the face. There are days when being sympathetic to a friend whose toddler isn’t sleeping or cooing over someone’s little one feel like an ask too many. There are days when only a punch bag or a pile of cheap plates for thrashing and smashing will fit the mood. There are days when it seems as though everyone else is popping out babies with the same ease as sneezing, whilst one’s own reproductive system seems of little use whatsoever. There are days when every word you’ve read about God feels like nothing more than a book of lies. There are days, weeks, moments when the pain of childlessness is unleashed so fiercely that no attempt at holding back the monster within will suffice…

The truth is there are days when it’s possible to accept the reality of life, to find peace and joy and fulfilment regardless of circumstances and fulfilled dreams. But there are also days when every brave smile and courageous intention evaporates at its initiation.

It would be foolish to pretend that there aren’t bad days when the longing for children – when any longing, quite frankly – is still lodged inside.

Lately, I have been reflecting on how easy it is to focus so intently on the destination, that the views along the way are almost completely ignored. It is most definitely an encouragement to hear on a Sunday from those given the microphone at the front of church as they excitedly share of how God has answered prayers, bestowed a breakthrough, or blessed with a miracle. But actually, I’m far more interested in hearing from them what it was like to survive the waiting, to navigate the moments of hopelessness and despair, and to remain faithful when everything looked impossible. So often we don’t get to hear that side of the story.

We absolutely need the testimonies of God’s goodness to remind us of His nature and ability to move in the here and now. Such offerings of joy keep hope alive and give God the glory He’s due. But we also need to be real about the struggle, about the days when we whimpered in fear and didn’t win the faith game; the days when we screamed with unrepentant passion at the injustice of being one of those who are still without.

When I dip into a bad day, I want to be surrounded by people who have built up their faith muscles because they know what it is to hang on for just a little bit longer. I want to be prayed for by those who know how to speak intimately and passionately because they chose to seek the face of the Father and they understand that nothing need be withheld in His presence. I want to learn from those who are honest enough to say they considered walking out on God ten seconds before the breakthrough happened because they were on the verge of giving up. I want to hear what it was like to be in the beginning and the middle of the story, before they got to the end.

Yes, I passionately want to be one of those stood at the front of church with the microphone, exalting God’s name because he answered my prayers, like he has done for so many others. But I want to be fearless enough to share the blood and guts of the struggle until the answer comes, to acknowledge the journey along the way, and to give honour now to the one who never lets me go no matter how difficult life feels at times.

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Acceptance with Joy

As we approached the end of 2017, I found myself marvelling at the realisation that I was no longer zoning in on 23:59 on 31st December in an eagerness to shake the dust off my feet from a difficult year and launch over the threshold into a spotless new year, as yet untainted by pain and longing. What I found instead is that God’s goodness and pursuit of me in the latter end of last year had left me more healed and peaceful than I could have expected. My mess of emotions weren’t yet lined up neatly in resolved boxes, but the gaping wound of loss that our third miscarriage wrenched open in me was soothed and quiet, and I no longer felt the rawness of heartbreak. I had questioned His ability to really comfort, to really heal – and yet once again Father God showed me just how skilled He is at understanding my pain and taking it from me.

As I have continued to reflect on this shift in perspective and emotional state, I have also looked back over the adjustments that my husband and I have made in our thinking since the summer. When we experienced loss again in July of last year, it forced us to look long and hard over the previous four and a half years and to ask ourselves a question we had been dismissing for a very long time: what if we never have children?

I think up until this point in time we had resolutely set our faces towards a deep belief that children would come, perhaps with a time of waiting and struggle, but they would come. Yet as we reeled in the aftermath of miscarriage, we found ourselves needing to be more ‘real’, needing to consider what a life without babies might look like. It’s a question that came up during our marriage prep classes years ago, but the theory back then absolutely did not prepare us for the reality of walking this out!

What would being a childless couple surrounded by our friends with kids be like – for us, and for our friends? How would this play out in our local community? Where would our place in society be? What role might we have in church? How would it feel to be constantly referred to as ‘Aunty and Uncle’ and never ‘Mummy and Daddy’? How might it affect the decisions we made with our careers and home – after all, what’s the point of having lots of bedrooms if there are no children to put in them? Would we consider downsizing or moving abroad, doing aid work or throwing ourselves into our careers with more gusto? How would we manage the gaping hole of loss and what would a life without children look like as we turned 50 or 60 or 70; as our friends’ children grew up, got married and had children of their own? Would we have to spend the next fifty years answering the question, “So do you have children?” with a well-rehearsed line whilst side-stepping the look of pity that would inevitably appear? Would this sense of grief simply morph from one degree of loss into another as each milestone reached reminded us again of what we have gone without?

Now I know that there are other options. I’m aware that adoption and fostering are both wonderful alternatives to having biological children. I am acutely aware of it, in fact, because it’s one of the first things that people who don’t know me well seem to want to thrust in my face as an obvious solution to our ‘infertility problem’ the minute they get the chance; and it’s a tentative suggestion that close friends or family courageously whisper in a “Have you considered…..?” kind of a way when they sense I seem open enough to be asked. As I said, adoption and fostering children are two options which may well be the best and richly blessed answer to prayer for those who have been unable to have children of their own. I have worked with colleagues who were adopted as children, have friends who have fostered and/or adopted gorgeous children and can see the wonderful weaving of lives as they’ve come together. We know that there are plenty of incredible, deserving children who need and should be receiving love and care, and there are many, many couples who are absolutely ready and able to be brilliant parents and who go on to create beautiful, loving homes with their children. We have given all of this stuff much, much thought.

But for me, for us, these two options aren’t appropriate ‘this fixes the problem’ answers to a question that we’re still unravelling in our hearts and minds. They are not a sticking plaster to be slapped on the wound of childlessness as though it’s a ‘one size fits all’ solution. For me, the first step has to be the willingness to move towards acceptance and surrender of the life we’re unexpectedly living, and to find joy in the midst of this landscape that still seems unfamiliar and disorienting even after all this time.

As we approach the five-year mark of our (in)fertility journey, I am focusing today on the fact that I can now say what I never thought I would be able to: if I never have children in my life, I know that the rest of my days will still be rich, full and blessed and that we will be ok. My life may not end up looking anything like I had planned, and I may spend from now until I die wondering why God decided that His “best” for us was not to bestow the gift of children upon us, but I love and trust God enough to live the fullest life I can with every opportunity with which He presents me. And for now, coming to this place of acceptance and surrender is a huge leap forward. Having a healthy pregnancy is neither a right nor an entitlement. Yet when so many friends, acquaintances and strangers are merrily procreating without a second thought, relinquishing the same expectation feels like a sacrifice so painful I can’t put it into words.

But if I cannot give up my deepest desires and dreams to God, then how can He really have me, heart and soul? How can I truly say I have lost ALL my life in order to find it unless I lay every last bit of it down in surrender?

Six months ago when we stood in our kitchen and asked ourselves the question ‘what if we never have children?’ I felt like I was staring down a black hole. As I sit at my dining room table and type these words today, I no longer feel like Alice staring down a rabbit hole of confusion, at a problem I cannot fathom. My heart’s delight, my deepest joy, still comes from time spent in the presence of children. I still long, pray and hope for babies of our own – and that’s not going to change any time soon. Acceptance is not defeat. But should children never come into my life, I whole-heartedly believe that I will still have a wonderful time with God, undertake great adventures and journey deeper into my faith with Him. And I will not get to the end of my life and feel it has been a waste.

2018 is my self-titled Year of Joy. I am determined to pursue joy in my relationship with God whatever else comes. Perhaps I am beginning to realise that up until now I thought that joy could only come if a baby made its way into our family. I am learning that my source of true joy is God, and He can be (more than) enough joy for me.

Middle of the Night Shufflings

As I sleepily shuffled to the toilet in the pitch black early hours of the morning a few days ago, I distinctly heard God’s voice speak to my semi-conscious mind,

“I have not forgotten you. I just need you to trust me”.

Trusting God has been a recurring refrain from our Father’s heart to these two stubborn, self-sufficient, fix-it types over the last few years. The lesson has come in all sorts of forms and guises and we don’t seem to be getting much quicker at learning. (Well ok, we might be learning to trust Him in incremental fits and starts!).

As I have mulled over these two brief statements that came to me in the literal darkness of this new year, I have come to feel that it’s right to share them with you. God says to me and He says to you, “I have not forgotten you. I just need you to trust me”.

Come with me on this life-long journey of trust in the One who is infinitely faithful and forever trustworthy. Let’s start again today. Let’s do what He says and trust Him. What have we got to lose?

A song of joy; rebuilt with treasure – Isaiah 54

“Sing, O childless woman,
    you who have never given birth!
Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,
    you who have never been in labor.
For the desolate woman now has more children
    than the woman who lives with her husband,”
    says the Lord.
“Enlarge your house; build an addition.
    Spread out your home, and spare no expense!
For you will soon be bursting at the seams.
    Your descendants will occupy other nations
    and resettle the ruined cities.

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
    Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
    and the sorrows of widowhood.
For your Creator will be your husband;
    the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
    the God of all the earth.
For the Lord has called you back from your grief—
    as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”
    says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with great compassion I will take you back.
In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.
    But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord, your Redeemer.

“Just as I swore in the time of Noah
    that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
so now I swear
    that I will never again be angry and punish you.
10 For the mountains may move
    and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

11 “O storm-battered city,
    troubled and desolate!
I will rebuild you with precious jewels
    and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,
    your gates of shining gems,
    and your walls of precious stones.
13 I will teach all your children,
    and they will enjoy great peace.
14 You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.
    Your enemies will stay far away.
You will live in peace,
    and terror will not come near.
15 If any nation comes to fight you,
    it is not because I sent them.
    Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.

16 “I have created the blacksmith
    who fans the coals beneath the forge
and makes the weapons of destruction.
    And I have created the armies that destroy.
17 But in that coming day
    no weapon turned against you will succeed.
You will silence every voice
    raised up to accuse you.
These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord;
    their vindication will come from me.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

(New Living Translation)

Hope is still my battle cry!

On Sunday at our church’s Christmas carol service I had the privilege of sharing what God has been talking to me about over the past few months.

These videos, made by my incredibly talented friends Georgia Hrubiak and Alastair Errett, talk a little about how God can bring us through circumstances from which we thought we’d never recover.

2017 has been the toughest year of my life and I never thought I’d be ending the year detemined to remain fixed on hope, faith and trust. I’m still working my way back to a place where my healing heart sings with joy, but scattered along the path behind me now is a trail of gold that God has created out of this year’s pain and sadness. And I marvel at His redemptive power and love for me.

Here I am. And here you are. I hope these short videos encourage your heart.

(P.s. yep, that’s right – Part Two entitled Perfect Peace is the one to watch first!).

Film credits: Georgia Hrubiak
Sound credits: Alastair Errett
Soundtrack credits: Bethel Music

Glory in the Darkest Place

Christmas is joy and fun and laughter and grace (bring it on!) but it can also be sitting with situations that make us sad and determining to look to unrelenting hope in the face of darkness. Perhaps it’s depression or the loss of a loved one or dashed dreams or an unexpected diagnosis. Yet still there is the Light, burning brightly, on which we fix our gaze. This song says it beautifully…

Brittany Hope: Glory in the Darkest Place

 

Tho He slay me…..

FullSizeRenderWe came back here today – a kind of pilgrimage of peace – six months after our last visit. Last time I sat in these hands we were preparing for our IVF embryos to be transferred in. We were so full of hope and expectation having recovered from the devastation of the events of the new year.

And in the weeks after our visit to these hands, joy did indeed follow. But a few weeks later so did more loss and pain and grief. The hands in this picture are called “Entrust”. To me they symbolise God’s hands holding me. I thought last time I was here that God would hold me and we’d step forward proudly into carrying new life. But it didn’t happen that way.

For a while after our miscarriage in July I didn’t want God to be anywhere near me, but today as we rounded the corner and could see those hands in the distance, I was trying hard not to run in my eagerness to clamber into them once again. God’s hands have held us through the anxiety of the procedure, the faith in the waiting, the high of our pregnancy and the low of our loss.

The first time we saw them I thought that they were confirmation of our promise and that all would be well. I sat in those hands today and I cried again over the memories of this summer. I watched two white swans swimming peacefully in the lake nearby and I thought of my two little lost loves. I have spent months being angry with God over this moment from May but I had misunderstood his meaning. I understand now that God loves me enough to go before me to set up moments of encounter. Before we knew what was coming, He knew. He knew how bad it was going to be. He knew the depths of fresh, awful pain to which we would sink. He knew that we would need holding and holding and holding. God told me recently that He showed us these huge tree-trunk hands to remind us that He was holding us before, during and after and that we are safe in His care. He reminded me that we will always be in His hands and that we can trust Him even in the worst circumstances.

I see now that God gave us this encounter before the hardest moment of our lives, to keep us steady just when we needed it and to remind us that we weren’t abandoned in our pain but held before we’d even gone into it.

We sat in those hands again today, thanked God together and took communion. The bottom line is, I need God in it all. Each day we get to choose – do I want to know you God, do I want to trust you? In the pain, the despair, the healing, the fragile glimmers of hope beginning to resurface, I come back to “Yes, I trust you”. It’s not always easy, but I know whatever comes He will always hold me.

We’re going on a Bear Hunt

The other day I found myself listening to the song that helped me through our first failed IVF pregnancy at the beginning of the year. It’s a beautiful song by Emile Sande called Breathing Underwater and sums up for me the incredible, despair-free journey we took as we lost two little ones to miscarriage over the New Year. Back then I sensed that Father God had scooped us up from the edge of a dark pit before we toppled in, and carried us safely through the months which followed.

I miscarried our most recent IVF embryos exactly three months ago today, and the landscape that we have traversed after this miscarriage has been so different. It has taken me a very long time to admit the depth of pain – perhaps accumulated pain – that I have been in. I started a new job only a few days before finding out in our early scan appointment that all was not what we had hoped for and two weeks later my body heaved and rejected what it could not sustain. The combination of beginning a new position alongside experiencing physical and emotional trauma felt like the worst timing in the world, and so I put a lid on my pain in an effort to march out the days at work. Despite seeking prayer support and booking a week of holiday, I should have guessed that I could not carry on as I was and that I might eventually implode. But sometimes, we’re not very good at admitting that we’re in trouble and that we need help, even as the telltale signs of physical stress begin to emerge!

My week of holiday, which was meant to be the rest we so desperately needed, was ruined by a nasty chest infection and conjunctivitis which only worsened upon my return. I took an extra week off to recover and then returned to work, but was immediately struck down by another infection, and at this point a kind and firm doctor realised that my body was crying out for help and intervened. I am bemused and ashamed now that I resisted for so long in admitting how ill I felt, but despite my pigheadedness, I also recognise God’s hand in the joining of dots as first my boss at work, then the counsellor (yes, I’ve just begun some counselling) and finally the GP all joined forces in ensuring I took the time off I needed.

Alongside this physical meltdown, I knew that I was up to my eyes in an emotional pain for which I had no words. My waking thoughts and prayers were little more than a deep groaning, “I’m so broken. My heart is so broken”, and this refrain would rise up from my spirit in the middle of the night, as I surfaced for the day and as I went to sleep at night. I had nothing more than a deep, raw agony of loss and I had no idea where to start in trying to heal. I felt like I was looking down into the well of my emotional reserves and could see straight to its very empty bottom. There was nothing left this time to draw on. The pain I was feeling had risen up in my life like a great, yawning cavern and as I stood at the edge and peered in, blinking furiously into the darkness to assess how deep and wide it might be, I was too frightened to venture further unless it sucked me inside and I never reappeared again.

When life wounds us deeply, when we go through trauma, we so often wonder where God is in the hurting. The words on the pages of our Bible can seem dry and crisp; we can read familiar verses without understanding the heart of the one who first breathed them. In the face of what seems like betrayal or disappointment, we can feel so justified in pointing the finger and asking God where he is in our pain. I have to keep coming back to the truth that God is right beside me. He is good and knows exactly what we need. His promise to redeem, heal and restore us is never withdrawn no matter what life looks like or how we thrash about or turn silent in our determination to cope.

As I began to accept and hunger for the space that was opening up to me, God presented me with two keys to dealing with this vast cavernous pain I was reluctantly tiptoeing around. The first came in the shape of my counsellor who explained to me that tears and confronting pain would not lead me into a depression (my biggest fear), but that by addressing the issues causing the pain, I would find I was making steps away from entering into depression. In other words, keeping emotions and hurts bottled up would damage me far more than taking the courageous step of releasing them. I’m aware that this is a very simplified approach to the huge topic of depression and that for many it’s not quite as simple as this suggestion, but for me it provided permission to press the ‘release’ button on my pain, rather than trying to swallow down what I knew was lodged inside me.

The second key came in the shape of a blog post by Kris Vallotton which I stumbled upon that same evening entitled, Leaving Pain Behind, which proved to be the confirmation I needed to step into my pain in order to get out of it. Like the children’s story, We’re going on a Bear Hunt, I couldn’t go around it, I was going to have to walk straight through it to get out the other side. Can I encourage you, if you’re reading these words and can just feel that inner niggle of, “Oh cr*p! I recognise this for myself”, I have found that the pain I thought was that big scary bear at the back of the cave ready to eat me alive, turned out not to be in there at all, but something much smaller and easier to deal with. What’s more, I also discovered that addressing the pain I was in simply required making the space and time to let God have full access to my heart and He did all the rest, in His best way for me, as only He can.

We underestimate the power and importance of self-care, of being kind to oneself, of stopping and admitting what we need in order to get well, whether that be prayer, rest, extra sleep, having another good cry, a walk, time alone, time with others, a trip to see the doctor or a counsellor, etc. I am learning that on this occasion I needed a mixture of having the time and space to rest and recover, and also to allow God into that space to do what He needed to do and to not question His methods or motives. Regardless of how hard life can be, God’s goodness never changes – we just have to keep reminding our aching hearts of that.

Let me tell you more….

As momentum was beginning to build around me to facilitate my time off work, I saw increasing confirmations that what God had in store for me was the need for silence and stillness. I’m not very good at sitting with either! To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure I would like what I heard in my head if I sat silently with my thoughts – and more importantly, I wasn’t sure I’d like what God had to say if I sat quietly and listened! As I endeavoured one afternoon to put this silence and stillness into practice, I was distracted by a link to a spontaneous worship set and as I settled down, these words floated out into the air around me:

We’re so thankful for your presence that’s in this room right now. I just feel the joy of surrender, the joy of surrender. What a joy it is to lay down our lives. We’ve got to lose our lives to find it. I’m going to lose my life in you.

I will dare to believe that anything is possible. We throw caution to the wind. It’s time to risk again. I believe anything can happen, anything can happen when we rise in the faith in the name of Jesus. There’s more, there’s more. Jesus is at your door and he’s saying, “I’m coming for you”.

I will dare to believe that anything is possible. We throw caution to the wind.

It’s time to risk again.

As I listened to the words of the song and relaxed into God’s presence I realised that it was just this that was my problem and the root of a lot of my pain. I had been frightened of risking my heart again – on God, on a future pregnancy, on dreaming again – but the encouragement, the call from Him, the dare was right there in front of me: it’s time to risk again.

And as I asked myself to trust God, a picture came to my mind of Him standing before me. And as this picture played out in my mind’s eyes, God reached out, put his hand on my chest and then reached deep inside my heart and scooped out what was inside. He then put his hand to his mouth and swallowed what was in his hand. And then he did it again and again. At first, I didn’t understand what He was doing, but then it became clear: God was scooping all the distress, despair, loss, sadness, grief, hopelessness, discouragement, disappointment, bitterness, trauma, resentment and anger from deep inside my heart and swallowing it down right there in front of me. And as I watched He did it again and again. Eventually, knowing what dark and painful thoughts and feelings were in my heart I cried out, “No no no, you mustn’t do that. It will hurt you. It will destroy you”. I felt I was watching someone I love swallow poison in front of me. But God replied, “No, I’m God! It won’t touch me. This is what I do“. And sure enough I could see with every swallow, God was simply absorbing the negative energy of my pain, brokenness, grief and anger and it wasn’t impacting him at all. I guess in an incredibly graphic and intimate way, right in front of me I was seeing the enactment of Isaiah 53:4 when it says, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” Right there in front of me, God was taking up my pain and bearing my sorrows as only He can. And so I sobbed and sobbed and opened my arms wide to let Him take it all from me.

If this blog post is resonating with you, I would encourage you to click on the link to the worship set above and allow our amazing Daddy God to talk to you about what it is you need. Perhaps like me you have been holding on to anxieties, pain and fears, or you feel frightened of the uncertainty that lies ahead of you. But you know we never regret allowing Him to bring his wonderful power and love to us, and it’s always perfectly tailor-made to suit us. There is nothing in you that can put him off, no matter how much it might be putting you off, or how long you’ve been burying it for. It says in Zephaniah 3:17 that “he delights over us with singing” and this song cracked open my clogged-up heart to him.

In the days which have followed I can confidently say that my heart is no longer crying out that it is broken. I still feel vulnerable, I still feel wary of the future, and I still wobble, but I am free of the pain I was in. I trust that my God is totally for me and that nothing that is within me will put Him off getting near to me.

One final thought… I have also found the Philip Yancey book, Disappointment with God, to be a hugely helpful read over the last few weeks, as I have wrestled with how to deal with life when it throws difficult things at us and God seems to have forgotten us. Yancey explores in an honest and authentic way what it is to have these questions and how to find the answers we’re looking for. The central message of the book asks the questions, will we trust Him, will we risk our heart for Him as He has done for us? I want my answer to always be “YES” no matter what life throws at me.

A Letter to my Nieces

A&ATo my darling nieces,

I have just returned from another wonderful afternoon with you and wish I could convey how full you leave my mother’s heart every time I come away. I am brimming, bubbling, effervescing with the sheer joy of having spent time in your company.

One day I will tell you just how precious every one of your smiles, every cuddle, every giggle is to me and how deeply your love moves me. You won’t know now that being with you, being loved by you and letting me love you soothes and heals the hurts I carry, as Uncle Joe and I walk out our dark valley place. You won’t understand yet that this barrenness, this ache, is made easier because you both exist in my life. You have given us so much as we navigate the yawning void of childlessness. Every single day I am thankful for the gift that each of you is to us.

From before either of you had arrived into this world we had been hoping to bring about dark-haired cousins to grow up alongside your fair beauty. Your generous parents have allowed us to participate in your lives and we revel in every minute we spend with you. To you, I’m just Silly Auntie Helena; Aunty Fun who loves to laugh and play daft games, roll around on the floor with you or encourage you to bounce and screech loudly to express the pure joy of being young, energetic and full of carefree life. You indulge my crazy and I’m so grateful when you join in. But for me, I become a lioness when I’m with you. I love you fiercely as if you were my own and I delight in every single thing that you do. Every spontaneous hug or kiss, every picture you present me with, every strop, every conspiratorial whisper at the dinner table or hissy fit because I have to go home is pure joy to me.

When you were tiny and my body newly-ached each month to be creating life, it was your spontaneous hugs or demands to be carried which kept me sane. When I tried my best to hide my grief and loss, it was the everyday pleasures of taking you out of your cot, giving you a bath or changing your nappy that helped to push those dark clouds away for a little longer. You cannot know how healing your very existence has been to me. Even now when you climb onto my lap to read a story or lead me by the hand to show me your latest endeavour, my heart bursts rainbows of happiness because you see me and you want to include me in your world.

When I first held each of your tiny sweet-smelling bodies for the first time; all milk-drunk and sleepy, it was with such wonder that anyone could be so perfect. You are precious treasures; priceless gold in the eyes of this beholder. And when your time as angsty teenagers begins and you come to me with wounds to nurse from the mean girl in your class who has been teasing you, or the thoughtless boy who has made you feel worthless, I will hold your sweet faces in my hands and I will tell you that you are the brightest gifts that the world has ever seen. I will remind you that the impact you hold began right back at the very beginning, before you could do very much for yourself at all. I will tell you that we already harbour years and years of beauty and joy and wonder and delight at the many amazing talents, gifts and skills you possess – and no playground huff or failed exam will be able to take that away from you. Your worth is already hidden in our Heavenly Daddy – the one who lent you both to us so that we could also share in His delight at your creation. And even though I may be nothing more than your out-dated, silly aunt who makes you cringe by then, I will remind you that the joy of your existence is stored up safely in our hearts forever and nothing will ever steal that from us.

I will always be praying protection over your health and your hearts. I will be thanking God that he gave you to us for as long as I have breath. I will be praying that you come to know Him intimately in your very own sweet, special and unique way, and that you will be the best version of yourselves that you can possibly be. When you doubt your place in the world, know that we, your family, along with all the stars in the sky and all the angels in heaven are joyously enjoying your worth and cheering you on. You are so much more than enough and we delight in you every single day.

I love you so very much.

With big squeezy hugs,

Your Silly Auntie Helena xx