HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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How pausing changed my life

Yesterday, the morning dawned bright and early with a little boy who did not want to go to school anymore and a baby who was cross for no discernible reason. My big boy had decided that he only wanted to attend school on the first and last day of each term and my little boy had just decided that he would be cross and so cross he was! The house was a total disaster area and as I woke up still tired after a full on few days the day loomed long and hot and sticky before me. Joel was due to be working late and I was only expecting him home at about 10pm and so as the day began I felt the misery levels rise at the prospect of a day filled with housework and crying children. Especially the crying children! They are hard to deal with for a whole day.

As I said goodbye to Joel I very ungraciously bemoaned to him what I expected my day to look like. I was angling for some sympathy and did receive some but not the bucket loads I felt I deserved! I begrudgingly waved him off at the tube station and trudged home muttering to myself about how lucky he was to be leaving the mess and the crying for a whole day.

As I got home from the school run I realised that I needed to make a choice about how this day was going to go down. I knew that I wouldn’t get through the day in any manner of which I would be proud without a reality check and an attitude adjustment. I seriously needed some perspective.

There is only one way that I know that consistently helps me find perspective and so I parked all the chores and stopped, sat and let my heart be still.

For me what that looks like is turning on some music (United Pursuit is my choice of the moment – I have put a link to my favourite of their songs below), reading some scripture and pouring my heart out in my journal or just sitting quietly and praying or letting the music wash over me.

So this is what I did. I sat on the floor, in amongst the baby biscuit crumbs and Happyland people with a small little guy crawling around and using my legs and a climbing frame and I paused. I rested and poured my heart out and let beautiful music wash over me and I read some truth and it began to restore my soul and melt my hardened heart. As I wrote and thought and prayed my perspective began to be realigned.

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I was able to give thanks for the mess in the house as it was mostly generated preparing for the funeral of Joel’s lovely Nan who passed away last week at the age of 95. Her funeral and celebration of her life had been the day before and as part of the celebration we all baked the food that she had been renowned for. The mess was as a result of honouring the life of a wonderful woman and I think that is a mess worth having!

As I paused I had some really special time with my little guy, playing next to me on the floor. And I was more able to enjoy his clinginess as it meant extra cuddles (which I don’t get as many of anymore now that he can crawl).

As I rested and stilled my heart I was able to give thanks for our lovely home and that it is filled with love and laughter.  

My perspective was truly realigned. What a sweet gift!

These times of pause are always sweet but it they are never perfect and are frequently interrupted. Most often, at this point in my life, these times happen on the floor. Sometimes they are cut short with a knock at the door or a baby that cries. Sometimes they are very short and sometimes I get the luxury of a longer pause.

But in spite of their imperfections these times are sweet and sacred and vital and they are without a doubt a completely key part of my day

I have learnt to embrace the mess and the imperfection of these times and not to worry about them. In the past I would only have “quiet time” if I felt that I had enough time, could go somewhere quiet, had the correct pens for my journal etc etc. The list of restrictions I put on myself were extensive and as a result the times I had were limited and I felt frustrated if they weren’t quite right.

These days if I imposed any of these sorts of restrictions it would mean that these times would literally never happen. I now snatch them on my own or with my little ones at my feet. The housework can wait 10 minutes. It will still be there, believe me!!!

Yesterday, more than ever I was reminded of the huge value of coming away from the frenetic pace of life and pausing for a few minutes with God. It is a beautiful, humbling and perspective altering choice and it can truly transform the shape and trajectory of each day.

What a beautiful thing to begin the day with a thankful heart and a peaceful soul and it is my prayer that even in the chaos and mess of life that we all make moments to be still, to allow our souls to be restored and to rest with Him each day.

 

 

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June – madness or fun? Sometimes it’s hard to tell!

They say that time waits for no man, and as June has rolled around – and almost ended – once more I have been reflecting on the huge changes that our family has seen over the past few Junes.

Here’s a brief snapshot:

June 2011: We were living just outside of Bath, I was expecting Jonty and we were both working full-time. We found out towards the end of the month that Joel had been accepted for full-time training for vicar school.

June 2012: We had moved and were living in Cambridge. Jonty was four months old. I had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in April and by June was half-way through a gruelling season of chemotherapy.

June 2013: We had moved house again and were living in a village just outside of Cambridge. I had finished my active treatment and we were celebrating with a six week road trip around Europe. On this exact date I think we were busy enjoying sunny Spain!

June 2014: Joel finished his ordination training mid-June and we moved (again!) this time to leafy South West London. Joel was ordained a deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral and started his current job.

June 2015: We didn’t move house!!!! Joel was ordained a priest last weekend. There are so many exciting things in the pipeline at the moment and we can’t wait to see how the next year will unfold.

I feel exhausted just looking back on these Junes – what a whirlwind few years! What a total rollercoaster!

When I look back on these Junes written down like this the first thing that stands out is, boy have we moved house A LOT (there were another two house moves in the couple of years preceding the years I have outlined that I haven’t even included)!!

I was so pleased to write that we didn’t move this year, although Jonty does keep asking when we are moving house again. He says that he doesn’t like the shower at this house and would like to move to Jericho!! Thankfully, at 3 years of age, it is not his decision to make, especially as I am particularly fond of the shower at this house!

Aside from all the moving, the key thing that stands out for me when looking back is both how crazy it has been but also how blessed we have been through all this craziness. The blessing and the grace that we have known have come in so many different forms and I am so thankful for all of it. Here are just a few:

In each place we have lived, we have very quickly found ourselves surrounded by communities that have loved us, have both wept and celebrated with us and that have encouraged and challenged us to be our best selves.

We have always had access to brilliant healthcare, particularly at the time when we needed it most.

In our season in Cambridge, in particular, we were given the space and time to grieve for what was lost through cancer, but also to celebrate life and all its blessings.

We have added to our family and have gained a beautiful, completely hilarious character of a son.

Through it all we have known the peace and joy that only God can give. He has been our bedrock, our very present help in times of trouble. This is what has made sure we haven’t been taken out by each curveball that has come our way in all these crazy Junes.

So here’s to many more Junes! I am excited to see what the next few hold! Fingers crossed for lots more amazing adventures and not too many house moves!

Here are a few snaps from this June. It’s been a good month!

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Crabbing with Oupa

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Joel’s priesting

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#phantomselfie


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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.


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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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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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Sunshine and eyelashes

Two things that are very good for my soul – sunshine and eyelashes! And thankfully the past few weeks have contained a considerable amount of both. 🙂

It is funny, I was definitely more sad about my eyelashes falling out than about my hair. I think this was because one really looks very poorly if you have no eyelashes, whereas the hair situation is easier to hide. I would attempt to put mascara on in the morning but there would only be a few lashes to put it on and no matter what I tried with make up it just didn’t look right. I found this a real challenge and it would often make me feel quite down (superficial I know, but there is something about feeling that you don’t look like yourself anymore that is quite unsettling).

So, imagine my delight when my eyelashes seemed to grow back almost over night! And they are now thicker and longer than ever before!! Woo hoo! I think that is God’s grace on me quite honestly.

Not only are my lashes back but my hair is growing like made too. Joel and I are almost ready to start out hair growing race! 🙂 My arm is recovering well and on Monday I begin my radiotherapy – my last major hurdle in this cancer treatment. I can hardly believe how far we have journeyed in the past few months. I could hardly believe it when I packed my wigs away (that is a post for another day) and when I had the energy to walk the 3 miles into town as I did last Thursday.

I have so much to be thankful for and I am reminded every day of how many good things God has given us. I have been thinking about the gifts that God has given me through this journey and they are many, but if I had to pick the one for which I am most thankful, it would be joy. I feel that God has given me a joy that is quite contrary to how the world says I should be. Of course I have dark moments, but these are few. Through this season I can truly say that Nehemiah 8:10 is true – “The joy of the Lord is my strength”.

Here is a picture of little man and me with hair! 🙂

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