HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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Strength for the journey when the road is… unspectacular

Sometimes life is hard and sometimes it is amazing, but a lot of the time it can just feel kind of unspectacular and life just seems to roll along in an unspectacular fashion. Regardless of where we are on life’s mountain range it is pretty much always too busy and there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in. There always seems to be laundry waiting to be folded, dishes to be packed away, emails to catch up on and the floor could always do with a hoover (or is that just in my house!)

So what a joy and what a gift it is when in the unspectacular mess of everyday life we can find moments of rest, moments of grace and others to share them with, and how much sweeter is this joy when these moments are unexpected!

On Thursday I had the privilege of spending the evening with four other ladies, only one of whom I knew. I turned up clutching a plate of brownies, ready to make small talk and hoping they would like me!

So it came as something of a surprise that this evening spent with strangers turned out to be one of these evenings of rest and grace and connection and at its end I came away from it reluctantly, feeling encouraged and uplifted and knowing that I had been in a safe place with amazing people.

What a gift!

What a gift it was to be able to share something of our stories together, real stories that mean something, that go beyond the pleasantries of normal conversation. What a gift it was to speak and to really feel heard, and to be able to offer that in return. What a gift it was to be quiet with others, to enjoy the warmth of the fire and the flickering of candles and the sweet presence of the Lord.

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What a treasure this is. What a spectacular evening.

As I have been thinking about that time, the phrase “strength for the journey” keeps coming back to me. And I think that this is what time being real with others and sharing something of ourselves, brings. Strength for our journeys. Strength and encouragement for our everyday, normal, unspectacular lives. Encouragement to keep going, strength to keep seeking God and courage to see the spectacular in seemingly unspectacular circumstances.

I think that this is what fellowship is really about. Being real and honest and sharing ourselves and in so doing giving others strength on their journeys and in turn receiving strength for our own.

What a spectacular gift!


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Teach me to dance

You know when you get just one line of a song stuck in your head for a day… Or two… Or a whole week? That has been me this week. Thankfully this week it is not the theme song from Ballamory which got stuck in my head one night a few months back and I spent most of the night lying awake trying to figure out all the words (I still don’t know which coloured house goes with which character).

The song, or rather lyric that I have had stuck in my head all week, is the first line of that 90s Graham Kendrick classic, “Teach me to dance”. And for those of you that don’t know it, the line goes:

Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart

Here’s a clip if you want to hear the original.

On Wednesday night I couldn’t sleep, which is not unusual for me. It had been a pretty full-on day and my mind was buzzing. I gave up on sleep at about 1:15am and went downstairs. I got out my journal and began to draw and write and think and this line kept coming back into my head, “Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart”.

This was quite strange as I haven’t heard this song in probably at least 10 years. So, I figured it must be a God thing.

As I pondered this lyric, its beauty and truth struck me and its potential overwhelmed me and I began to pray it for myself.

What a beautiful image of our lives as a dance, full of beauty, grace, energy, celebration and twirling in wonder. But not just any dance or a dance to a random song, this is a dance that is in time with God’s own heartbeat. What could be better than that?

It is my prayer that I always dance and that the dance of my life is full of joy and exuberance and beauty. But I also pray that I can always hear the heartbeat of God for my life, that I dance in time with Him and that my dance magnifies and brings glory to Him and honours the things and people that his heart beats for.

I pray that this lyric gets stuck in your head too and that you always seek to dance to the beat of His heart for your life.

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I really like parties… But I don’t like cake!

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(Photo credit: Lorraine van Nimwegen)

Most mornings when my 2 year old son Jonty gets up we have a conversation that goes a little something like this…

Jonty: What’s the plan today Mummy? (Aaah, a boy after my own heart. Just like me, he loves to have a plan!)
Me: *Tells plan – usually something like off to a group, home for lunch and quiet play then out again in the afternoon*
Me: Why? What would you really like to do today?
Jonty: *Pauses for effect* Well Mummy, I would really like to go to a party!

Every time! He always asks to go to a party.

Sometimes I say he is in luck as we have been invited to a party that day. But most of the time I explain that we can’t go to a party whenever we want to, we have to wait to be invited.

Jonty loves parties so much that I have renamed Joel’s day off. It is now called “Family Party Day” and by definition involves doing something fun together as a family. I figure that this way at least I can tell Jonty whenever he tells me that what he really wants to do is go to a party that Family Party Day is just around the corner!

Yesterday we were making pictures out of stickers together. We had a big sticker book of 1000 random stickers. Jonty carefully went through the book and picked out all the stickers that could make a party… Presents, sweets, balloons and happy faces. As he was doing it he sighed and said, “I just love balloons Mummy”.

I have been thinking about why he loves parties so much. It certainly isn’t about the cake. In fact he takes great delight in announcing to the party boy/girl’s parent at each party we go to that he doesn’t like cake, much to my embarrassment! I have been trying to explain to his that he doesn’t need to make that announcement every time, but he can just politely decline the cake, but he hasn’t quite grasped this yet!

Perhaps his love for parties is down to the unlimited sweets and consequent sugar high, perhaps it is the games (pass the parcel remains his absolute favourite), perhaps it is the balloons, perhaps all his friends coming together for a lovely time, perhaps the party bag, perhaps it is all of those things.

But maybe it is more than that. Maybe he loves parties because he was created in God’s image and God loves to celebrate too! Maybe, in his two year old delight in parties he is unknowingly mirroring an aspect of the character of God.

I think often we can just think of God as being sad or angry all the time but that is not the picture that the a Bible paints of him at all. The Bible is full of stories of God celebrating. He celebrates when we come back to him (Luke 15). He loves us so much and celebrates over us. Zephaniah 3:17 says:

The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love.

Is is a beautiful image of God just celebrating just because of who we are.

I think there is much to learn from Jonty’s unwavering commitment to parties and celebration as well as from God’s celebrations…

I don’t want to have to wait to be invited to a party to celebrate. I choose celebration and thanksgiving. I want to have such an unwavering commitment to celebration and thanksgiving that I choose to recognise the blessings in each day, even in days that are hard. I want to wake up each day and know that as I consciously choose celebration and thanksgiving, even in hard times, that there will be a little bit of party in that day!

I hope that today, you too find something to celebrate!


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A new term and a new beginning

Today my little boy started nursery, just two mornings a week, but it is the start of a whole new era for us… For example, I am sitting on my own in Starbucks on this sunny Tuesday morning writing this and listening to the Starbucks selection of Christmas songs (already!!) That is a drastic change from my usual Tuesday morning which usually involves something thrilling like a trip to Aldi!

I am full of a huge mixture of emotions today and dropping him off was truly a bittersweet experience.

I am so excited for him, for this new chapter which I think he is going to love. This morning as I was getting Jonty dressed he started jumping around and said, “I am just so excited Mummy!” When I asked him if it was because today was his first day at school he replied that it was and started telling me about what happens at his little nursery (which he learnt at his settling in sessions). He has been so excited by his new Superman lunchbox ever since we bought it a few weeks ago and he carried it with pride into nursery this morning.

I was a bit concerned that we might have some tears when I dropped him off this morning, but there were no tears. His parting question to me was, “who is going to help me when you go Mummy?” which totally melted my heart. I hope that Jonty always sees Joel and I as the people who help him be all he can be!

While I was thrilled that we didn’t have any tears his morning, I was also a little bit sad that my baby is growing up so fast. Each day I have to come to terms with the fact that he is less and less of a baby and more and more of a little boy and that is harder than I expected! This new found independence is a little disorientating for me as a parent.

Today as I said goodbye, I was reminded even more of the things I love about Jonty, his sweet, gentle soul, his love of music, making jokes, somersaults and laughing. He is such a blessing to us!!

But in amongst this mixture of emotions, on this milestone day, I am thankful beyond belief! When I was diagnosed with cancer when Jonty was 8 weeks old, still being alive by the time he started nursery seemed an impossible dream. I was so frightened that I wouldn’t get to see any of his milestones and so now as each one rolls around it is just that much sweeter. I am still standing, full of scars, but still standing and blessed beyond measure!

Here’s to many more milestones!

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