HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


Leave a comment

Everybody needs a cheerleader

It has been two weeks since the October Yay Mail! Project ended and I’m really missing it. I was so humbled and touched that about 50 of you lovely people chose to take part in it with me which means that around 1500 pieces of lovely post were sent and received in October. What a joy!

img_2964

I’ve been thinking a bit about why I enjoyed the project so much and here’s what I came up with:

1. I loved how easy it was to bless and bring joy

Writing someone a card is such an easy thing to do. Probably the most time consuming bit is finding their address (I really do need to get an address book!) But despite it being easy for me to do the responses I have received from people I sent a card to have been truly humbling. So many people have gotten in touch to say what a timely encouragement receiving the card was.

I think the world would be a far better place if we all had our own personal cheerleaders (skimpy outfit not necessarily required) but sadly most people don’t have many people regularly saying, “Keep going! You’re doing a great job!” So to be able to be that for people even in just a small way is a wonderful thing and a great joy.

2. Encouragement feels great both to give and to receive

I genuinely think that everyone I wrote a card to is special and has something wonderful to offer the world and it felt great to tell them so. We can be so British about both giving and receiving encouragement and feel so awkward about it when there is really nothing to feel awkward about as encouragement is something that builds up both the giver and the recipient.

As I was typing that last paragraph my phone pinged and I received a text message from a WhatsApp pen friend that I have (slightly long story but we met briefly over the summer and I thought she was great but we don’t live near to one another so we WhatsApp one another and pray for one another – what a joy). The sole purpose of this morning’s message was to encourage me in whatever I was doing today and it has totally lifted my soul! It was so lovely to receive and has brightened my morning. Encouragement always feels great!

3. It’s so much fun to do fun projects that bless others together

I loved it so much that so many of you joined in with me on this project. As the month passed I loved chatting with those of you that I knew about how it was going and sharing cool encouraging stories. I think that there is something powerful about the community aspect of choosing to do something positive together. We could encourage one another to keep going and I found it helpful to know others were doing the project to keep me on track with it (although I wasn’t as organised as I would have liked and did have to write 9 cards on the 31st in order to finish on time – see the below picture!)

img_3065

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the world a bit of a scary place to be right now. There is political and civil turmoil in so many places and it feels like a spirit of division in so many communities. There is also a lot of fear. Fear of the future, fear of people who are different, fear of politicians, fear that our peaceful lives will somehow be interrupted. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and completely powerless to be any sort of positive change in our communities and it is so easy to feel afraid.

But there are many things we can do to break this spirit of division and fear, and to foster stronger senses of community and love around us. We can be kind. We can make an effort to get to know our neighbours/colleagues/other mums on the school gate/dog owners in the park. We can greet people and smile at them. We can look for opportunities to be encouraging and to speak life to others and call out the gold that we see in them. We can do be the blessing in our face-to-face and online lives. I’m sure you can think of other ways too.

I was listening to a talk by Nicky Gumbel on Sunday and he said something which really stuck with me. He said, “Encouragement is like verbal sunshine. Just like sunshine warms the body, encouragement warms the soul.”

That is who I want to be. I want my words to build up and not tear down. I want to only speak verbal sunshine. I want to be that cheerleader that everybody needs. I want to fight fear with love.

There is a great passage in the Bible that talks about love and one of the verses (1 John 4:18) says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Love drives out fear. Love is stronger than fear. As we show love and compassion and kindness we will break down walls, strengthen our communities and that is a wonderful place to start.

Whether you were able to participate in it or not I hope that the October Yay Mail! Project has encouraged you to be the cheerleader that everybody needs and to seek to live a life of intentional love and encouragement.

img_2985

(PS. I’m hoping to put together a few thoughts about things to do for advent which you may like to join in with. Please do drop me a line if you have any awesome advent ideas that are a tradition in your home that I could include on my enjoying advent post. X)


10 Comments

Humbled by extravagant love

Since baby Aaron arrived 8 weeks ago I have been totally overwhelmed by the kindness and outpouring of love that we have experienced. This kindness has taken many forms: well wishes on Facebook, cards and gifts in the post, two weeks of delicious meals made and given with love by friends from church, my mom who has cleaned our house every week (you’re amazing Mom!!), and friends who’ve had Jonty for playdates so I could rest.

In this new season I have been particularly humbled by the kindness and love shown to us by those who for whom it has cost something, and for whom showing that kindness and that love has been a sacrifice – the sleep-deprived new mums that lovingly cooked for us, the well wishes from cancer friends for whom a new baby is not currently, and may never be, an option, the amazingly generous gifts we have received (one of which was so extraordinary that I was totally overwhelmed and almost burst into tears in the middle of John Lewis on receiving it). The list goes on…

These kindnesses have been humbling and have meant so much.

The generosity of spirit that we have witnessed has been particularly touching as I know that sometimes celebrating with others can be hard. When we don’t get a job we want and a friend does, when another friend gets married and we remain single, when we are still unwell and others are off having adventures we could only dream of, celebrating others’ joy costs us something. In those times rejoicing with another means that we put our pain aside and turn our eyes away from ourselves to focus on and celebrate with our friends and that can hurt. A lot.

We can know in our head that joining in the celebration is a wonderful gift to give our friends but it can also absolutely feel like the hardest thing in the world to do.

I remember well the years after Jonty was born when the deepest desire of my heart was for another baby but it was categorically not a possibility for us. It was easy to celebrate friends’ new arrivals when Jonty was little but as he grew and a new baby remained impossibility for us, each new pregnancy announcement was a little more challenging to celebrate. It cost me something and sometimes it was easier than others. Sometimes I was better at joining in than others.

A few days ago I saw this quote on Instagram from author Bob Goff and it really struck me.

Bob Goff quote

In this season so many of the kindnesses given through sacrifice have felt like real acts of extravagant love and for so many of the givers I know that, even at a subconscious level, these acts have been their faith in action. They have been declarations of the goodness and kindness of God.

Romans 12:15 says rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those that mourn. These last few weeks and months have been such a wonderful season of rejoicing for us as we have seen a dream fulfilled and I am so grateful to have been joined in my rejoicing by so many others. But our season of rejoicing was preceded by a season of mourning, and I am equally thankful for those who joined us in that season and who didn’t shy away from it, but who were present with us through it.

Sometimes we feel like we don’t know how to rejoice with those who rejoice or to mourn with those who mourn, and so we don’t. We feel awkward, or sad about our own pain or guilty about our own happiness and so we steer clear. But, even though it can be hard, I encourage you to give it a go anyway. Even if it is messy or you feel awkward or you are sure you’ve said the wrong thing, offer extravagant love in the best way you know how.

When we choose to offer extravagant love to one another in either a time of rejoicing or a time of mourning, it is a powerful thing. It is a declaration of faith and in offering this love we make earth a little more like heaven. In offering extravagant love we have the opportunity reflect Jesus and the goodness and kindness of our Father God and his extravagant love for us.

That is powerful. Even if it is messy and awkward, it is important and it is something that I want to be part of!

Thank you to all of you who have shown us this extravagant love in both our seasons of rejoicing and of mourning. I am so humbled and so grateful.

Aaron 16.02.2015

(A snap from today. I hope it makes you smile.)

 

 


3 Comments

Farewell Kara Tippetts

Yesterday, this world lost a beautiful soul. Her name was Kara Tippetts. She was 38 years old.

I didn’t know Kara. We had never met. She lived on the other side of the pond, in Colorado, USA. Although I didn’t know her she allowed me into her world through her beautiful blog, Mundane Faithfulness. I first encountered her writing late last year when she wrote an open letter to Brittany Maynard, the young lady who chose to end her life due to a terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

I started reading Kara’s blog regularly, and despite our thoughts on suffering being a little different, over and over again I found myself moved, encouraged and challenged. Even the blog’s title spoke straight to my heart as through my own cancer journey I found myself valuing faithfulness more and more as even when I had nothing to give, I could be faithful with what I had. I could be faithful in the mundane parts of life. This was all that I could offer.

Through the blog and a few short videos I watched Kara come to terms with the fact that she was dying with amazing dignity and grace and it was a privilege to witness this from a distance.

I think that one of the reasons that Kara’s life captivated me so was that, other than geography, many of our circumstances were really similar… We were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, both mums of young children, both married to pastors with a heart for church planting, both desperate to stay on Earth… not afraid to die, but not ready to leave either… Kara described how she felt about dying as feeling like a little girl at a party whose Dad had come to get her early. She was so upset about it as she just wasn’t ready to leave. It was too soon…

And so today my heart aches. Why is it that I am well and thriving and she has left this world? Why is it that tomorrow I get to celebrate another birthday but she won’t get to celebrate again? Why is it that tomorrow I get to cuddle my baby and walk hand in hand with my guy and she doesn’t anymore?

I don’t know.

I don’t know why she was taken so soon and I was given more time.

I will never know.

But, I am so thankful for the life she had. She lived it well. It was so evident that it was full of love, friendship, grace, forgiveness, peace and kindness. She ran the race well and was faithful to the end.

Yet again, I am reminded that life is short and life is precious. As I enter my 33rd year I rejoice in growing a little older as it means I am still here! I am still at the party. This year, more than ever I choose to live my life well.

Farewell, Kara Tippetts. You blessed more people than you will ever know.


6 Comments

But Mummy, I want to go to my old home!

Yesterday morning was that morning that I had been anticipating since we’d moved whilst all the while hoping it wouldn’t come. Yesterday morning Jonty was completely inconsolable and kept saying, “Mummy, I want to go to my old home”… the crying and this phrase (along with “I want my Daddy”, who was not at home as he was already at church) was repeated for about an hour… A very long hour!

I tried everything to calm him down…cuddles, food, getting cross, trying to rationalise, crying with him out of sheer desperation… But nothing seemed to work! My heart broke for his little two-year old heart that has understood that we have moved, but doesn’t quite understand why we can’t go back and see his little friends again. 😥

I felt utterly helpless in the face of his distress. This was not something that I could kiss better, as I usually do when he has hurt himself. This sadness we had to ride out together until it eventually passed (and he allowed himself to be consoled with two slices of Marmite toast).

But… It did pass and since then he has been fine, and in fact quite delightful!

I guess, in his own little way he was grieving what has been lost. As a parent, I now know that I need to recognise that he is grieving and allow it to happen, rather than trying get it to stop straight away, as grieving is important and the sadness will pass and he will move on to Marmite toast, or his helicopter toy or possibly an episode of Octonauts.

I love how children are able to express their emotions and haven’t learnt yet to suppress them to reflect how they think they “should” be feeling.

There is a huge lesson in this for me. When I was poorly, I spent a lot of energy trying to keep myself together, I think as a self-preservation tactic more than anything else. Grieving is exhausting, so although I grieved for what had been lost, I did so in quite a measured way (and to be honest I think there might be some residual grieving that still needs to happen).

I think part of the reason I only allowed, and still only allow, myself such “measured” grieving times is because I am aware there is a fine line between grief and self-pity and once crossed it is so easy to slip deep into the self-pity zone which is a place I most definitely do not want to end up! It ain’t pretty down in the self pity zone and it is hard to get out of there!!

But my little Jonty has modelled for me unhindered grief, that had to express itself, but that also allowed itself to be comforted, and this was such a helpful (if heartbreaking) thing for me to experience with him.

The Bible is full of beautiful imagery of how God is both our comfort and our refuge. So, I have nothing to fear when I need to grieve because I know that as I bring this grief to Him, I will be comforted. I know that I will be held and loved just as I hold and love my own child.

Psalm 91:4 is one of these beautiful images of comfort. I love the idea of finding a refuge in the shadow of God’s wing!

20140707-220038.jpg


Leave a comment

Love it!

I have been thinking a lot about love over the past few days and in particular, how we show one another love and how we receive the love that others show us. I have been blessed with lots of love in my life. I am actually overwhelmed by all the love that is around me and I feel I am the luckiest girl ever for it!!

I have also realised how deep some of the love that is in me runs. I love my husband and my son so much that it almost hurts. I would do anything for them and I feel so blessed that they have been entrusted to me and that they are in my life. I know that the feeling is mutual too! But this love is, I suppose, obvious. One is supposed to love one’s family!

The love that has caught me almost by surprise is the love that has been shown to me by my friends. In this difficult season I have been blown away by the many different ways that friends have shown us love… They truly cover the full spectrum of Gary Chapman’s five love languages… The hugs, word of affirmation and love (which I find particularly difficult – I so admire people who can tell others that they love them with ease), the countless prayers by the hundreds of prayer warriors, the time that friends have spent with us, time spent looking after little man whilst we’ve been in hospital, the meals that friends have made, the cards and gifts that we have received and the list goes on…

This love, I have learnt, is God’s church in action. We have experienced community in a way that we have never known before and it is a beautiful thing and one for which I am very thankful.

In this time of weakness I have also learnt to receive the love that friends show. In our Western culture it is often difficult to receive love as this requires us to acknowledge that we are not self-sufficient and that perhaps we need other to help us… For many of us, myself included, this can be hard… But from my experience, learning to receive love is a lesson definitely worth learning! It is such a blessing!!

For me the love that we have been shown has been, and continues to be, an out working of Jesus’ command to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35) and it has certainly inspired me to show others the same kind of love with as much joyous abandon as we have been shown it!