Deep Darkness

Eric was convinced that I was depressed and wanted me to see the doctor again. I stood by my confession that I was healed of depression in October of last year and that what I was going through was NOT depression. It was a deep darkness but not depression - I knew the difference. I was unhappy. I was deeply miserable. I was not liking life. But I was not depressed. And so in my frustration I resorted to writing melancholic poetry. It didn't even rhyme which was an indicator of how deep the darkness was, I couldn't even be bothered to rhyme!

Darkness surrounds me
I even breath it in
It feels heavy
I can't find a way out

"Sanctify yourself[i]," you say
"For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

Hopelessness fills me.
How did life get so bad.
Hurt consumes me.
There seems no escape.

God help, please rescue me.
I can't do this on my own.

[i] Joshua 3:5
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The Submission Struggle

It's 5am on a dark, warm, late summer's morning. I have been awake since 2:30am.  Sleeping has become difficult lately with me averaging about four to five hours sleep most nights. Sometimes less. It's horrible! But my sleeping pattern is not what I want to share with you today. Today I want to share something that I never dreamed I would ever struggle with. Submission. A word that many recoil at. A concept that the modern woman finds outdated and irrelevant and many modern Christian woman believe it's a cultural thing for times past. I however have always been a massive advocate for submission and have passionately preached about it, written about it and believed it with all my heart - or so I thought. Well it's easy to think you are submissive when everything is going your way!

Eric keeps asking me why I won't follow him. I can see he is hurt by the fact that I am not fully behind him in his new church, in fact I am totally opposing him. I am 100% in disagreement with him about his choice to attend and work there. I have been very clear and direct with my disapproval and we have argued many times about the fact that he expects me to follow him wherever he goes and to trust him. Most of all he has made it clear that he expects me to submit to him.  Aargh I hate being told to submit, it goes against what I believe submission is so I dig me heals in even deeper. I believe submission is given by my own free will as a gift to my husband and cannot be demanded of me. Despite everything else I am about to share with you I still believe this to be true - anything else would be domination in my opinion and I don't believe a husband should dominate his wife in any way at all. This whole church situation has really thrown me! I can't understand why I so passionately resist the church that Eric is working at. It's not the people or the church, I believe that they are Godly and have a great church. It is a firm conviction that we are not meant to be going down that path again!

My past has affected me. I don't blame anyone or any past experience but I also don't want to put all the blame on myself either. As you may or may not know from my other writings, my dad was not the greatest of dads having crossed over boundaries that he should have. My step dad wasn't any better, in fact he was much worse. I had a string of hurtful relationships and a failed first marriage (because I was an idiot sadly). So to me the thought of completely trusting and surrendering to a man is ludicrous, even to a man as wonderful as Eric. I have always felt to keep my cards close to my chest and always make sure I have the winning hand. Never consciously but definitely subconsciously making sure I always have a way out, an emergency exit. Divorce thoughts plague my mind regularly and have done for 12 years of marriage. There was a season when I thought I cracked it but they came back. Knowing that there is a way out if I get too hurt is a comfort to me. The thought of having someone have full control over me is... well... unthinkable. Only God gets that much of me.

My prayer was something along these lines this morning:

"God, I don't want to give my husband, or anyone, power over me. Why should I give up the free will that you gave me. How can a trust a man. I trust you completely but I don't know how I can trust my husband. I don't want to give him power over me. I want to keep the door open to leave it I need to. What do I do as know all of this is wrong but you know it's the truth of how I feel. I give you all my heart and all of me, I trust you but I can't give that to another human being. I am tired of always feeling hurt. I don't want to keep myself in that position when my husband or anyone else can hurt me. What do I do? I know this is displeasing to you and I desperately want to please you but I can't see a way forward."

As I sat on my sofa in tears I saw a large thorn stuck in my flesh with a bloody wound around it. I felt like God was saying to me that He could remove the thorn if I wanted Him to. He showed me how I had been protecting and holding onto this thorn, not wanting to let it go. My pain was caused by this thorn but if I didn't allow Him to remove it I would continue living with pain that it brings. It made sense to me, why would someone knowingly hold onto a splinter or thorn in their flesh? Even though it would hurt to take it out it was a no brainer that it has to be removed. Yes I still resisted. The thorn was an obvious metaphor, perhaps of me holding onto my divorce thoughts or of me not wanting to submit. It could also be the fear of losing my power and giving a mere man his way with me. What if losing this thorn meant I became a mindless zombie who just did whatever my husband said and lost me in the process of blindly obeying. Yuck! I don't want to be that kind of person!

So I surrendered to God, not knowing for sure what the thorn was, how painful it would be to have it removed but fully confident that willing living with a thorn in my flesh is painful and foolish. I do trust God with all my heart and I know that He only ever wants what is best for me. I know that I can't 'fix' myself, this problem is too big and probably too deeply rooted. So I surrender. I will wait and see, trust and obey.
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My Broken Heart

The new year had kicked in and I was fully focused on building my business - the right way! It seemed right to be busy with something that was not ministry and we did need to money so it was what I chose to do. King's Daughters Girl's Nights continued on a monthly basis at a coffee shop connected to our church. Eric started a Men's Night as the men saw all that God was doing in the Girl's Nights and wanted their own special night too. Slowly, our hearts warmed to the lovely people at our church as we let the barriers down and allowed ourselves to feel love and compassion again. Brick by brick the walls came down and we starting giving pieces of our heart away as we were able to allow people in once more. It was scary to care again. Being vulnerable hurt a little as the scars were still raw from so much hurt from before. But the people in our church were (and still are) so lovely that we couldn't resist loving them and serving them to the best of our ability.

Eric was thriving in university and getting fantastic marks for his assignments. He loved the hour journey to and from university too, it was a special time where he drove much slower that the speed limit and just chilled in God's presence. He told me how precious that time was to him and I was happy for him. Despite our financial struggles, we were getting by each month and managing to pay most of our bills. We didn't go hungry and had a nice warm cosy home for which we were very grateful.

A niggling feeling started bothering me. I asked Eric to make sure that his university fees had been paid by the church as I didn't want that debit falling on us. He told me not to worry, that everything had been agreed with the church and that it would be paid in full by the end of the year. I didn't have peace, something didn't feel right. Weeks later I asked him again to check and I think just to get me to stop nagging he contacted the college only to find out that none of his fees had been paid at all. Towards the end of the academic year the university started asking for his full year's fee and my niggling feeling grew stronger and so did my nagging to sort it out.

There are many details and names that I won't divulge as this story is not about blaming anyone or being nasty in any way. It is out story and I hope to share it as delicately and diplomatically as possible without exposing or hurting anyone in any way. The bottom line is that there was a massive disagreement about the arrangement for Eric's university fees and we were left with a £8,000 bill that we could not pay. After a very well handled meeting between Eric, the university and the church we all agreed to disagree and Eric informed me that we were leaving the church the next day. We were both in shock about what happened and to be honest I think Eric panicked. The church that we had previously merged with after D7 Church closed had offered Eric a job several times over the years and so he decided that he needed to accept, if only to cover his university fees and find a way to get our family back on track financially. He did want to serve the church and told me that he was fully committed to doing the best possible job that he could at this church whilst finding a way to pay his university fees and take care of his family.

I was devastated, in shock, hurt and confused. We were ripped out of another church, left behind our ministries and hurt a lot of people who didn't deserve for us to abandon them the way we did. I decided then and there that I was not going to go to church. It hurt too much.
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Standing in the Way of the Blessing

Eric of course has his own story to tell, and I hope that one day he will also share his side of this journey as I am sure it will be filled with very different details, struggle, opinions and his own convictions and revelation. For now, I can only comment on my view into his part of our story. Eric is a man of prayer! He is always desperate to hear what God wants to say about every are of live and seldom moves until He is sure God has told him to. What I love most about Eric is that he is authentic, what you see if what you get. He does his level best to be a good husband and father but most important to him is that he is a man of God.

I don't recall how it came about but during 2015 Eric started exploring going to bible school to do his BA in theology so that he could be ordained and become a 'real' minister. As his desire to study grew he explored several universities and took advice from our pastor. Together they agreed on the course that Eric should do and after several meetings our pastor and our church agreed to support Eric on his journey but spiritually and financially. Eric was over the moon and signed up for university and began exploring Baptist ministry. I have never seen Eric so happy and fulfilled as I did during this year. He was doing exactly what he was meant to me doing and I recognised this.

Sadly, I could have done better as his wife. I made several mistakes along the way that made his journey much more difficult than it had to be. We were sitting in a coffee shop discussing the way forward with our pastor. Eric suggested taking his studies from part time to full time so that it could get done quicker and get back to earning a salary. I agreed to support him and had no problem with him going full time, in fact I preferred it that way. So I said, "Don't worry, I can take care of us financially while he is studying. I am making enough money in my business to support us."

Not long after that meeting Eric had a dream. He dreamed that I was flying an aeroplane and the cockpit area started to crack. He knew I was going to crash. After discussing his dream I asked how we could prevent it but neither of us could find the answer. We knew that the aeroplane was my business and that is was going to crash. I was frightened but didn't know what to do.

Shortly after the dream my company did start to fall apart. I went from a really good, steady income to almost losing the business. It seemed to happen overnight. My whole world was be falling apart. We got behind in our bills and tithing became impossible because the money was leaving our account before we could even touch it. We went from doing really well to doing really poorly. Everything I had built seemed to be crashing down around me. God was silent until I begged him to show me what was happening!

Pride. He showed me that I had become proud. My income and my husband's lack of income had caused a terribly imbalance in our life. I hated that he wasn't earning and that I was responsible for us. I desperately didn't want to feel this way, I wanted to support him while he was at university and I wanted to do it well. But I wasn't doing it well, not at all. And so the company continued its steady downward spiral and I repented of every possible thing I could think of. Nothing changed. The crash was inevitable.

Seven months passed and I held onto the 'yoke' in the cockpit for dear life! Things were not good but I held it together both in the business and at home. I was preparing for a crash because I really didn't know how to prevent it.

Then out of the blue when I was praying one day God reminded me of what I said that day in the coffee shop, "Don't worry, I can take care of us financially", and he showed me how that one little sentence was causing all this trouble.  I had repented of pride in general but not of saying these specific words. Our words create our world and so when I said these words I took hold of the yolk of the aeroplane from God and I became our provider. Clearly I was not a very good provider. As soon as I saw the power in the words I had spoken, and what they had done, I repented and asked God to please be our provider again. I realised that all that time I was standing in the way of God's blessing. As soon as I got out of the way the cash flow started to return and I started to get back to steadily building the business with God's help and for his glory. Everything didn't suddenly snap into place but I felt the weight of my words had lifted and I was back to following God's lead and trusting in His provision, not my own.
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Leading on Empty

Our pastor was very gracious towards us and never put any pressure on us to serve or get involved in church at all. We were allowed time to grieve and get whole again and so we just sat in church Sunday after Sunday with no desire to do anything or speak to anyone. We came, we sat, we listened, we left. One night in a dream God spoke to Eric and told him that he must connect with people at church and so we started to stay afterwards for coffee and a little chat.

King's Daughters Girl's Nights was set up at our new church before D7 Church had closed down. It was one of the things that I was passionate about and was what we did to help churches with their women's ministries. Where they had nothing in place we would offer to set up a King's Daughters for them at their church. So I was involved in ministry already and had connected with many of the ladies through King's Daughters. Somehow, despite all that we had gone through I managed to keep going with King's Daughters. Sadly most Tuesday nights all I could muster was dragging myself there, often without makeup on or any enthusiasm at all. I don't know how I did it, only God knows, but he used the empty shell of a vessel to someone still pour out into these precious ladies. My heart wasn't in it but I was sincere in my leadership and did my absolute best for the ladies. The anti-depressants did help for a while and kept me going. Looking back I do wonder if it wasn't really damaging to take the anti-depressants as they allowed me to continue to lead on empty when I probably shouldn't have been leading at all.

Thankfully, when I prayed about my year towards the end of 2015 I felt God saying that 2016 would be a year of rest for King's Daughters. That I was not to do our annual conference and that until I heard further instructions from him I was to do nothing in this ministry but rest. So I committed to spending the year praying and investing in the people not the ministry. It was our seventh year as a ministry so it made perfect sense to have a rest year! Girl's Nights continued but I didn't build or plant anything new. God knew what was to come in 2016..
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Necessary Endings

It seemed that church was just not working! Everything became really hard work and the church grew emptier and emptier. Our very good friends from another church invited us to merge churches with them and we thought it may be a good idea. After some negotiations on titles, roles for our team and pay scales we decided to go ahead. At first it felt strange and we didn't feel that we fit in at all but we all tried our best to serve well. Perhaps it was wrong to merge and get stuck straight into ministry without taking time to grieve and to council our team through their grief. I certainly wasn't excited about Sundays at all and hated the season. It's not that there was anything wrong with the church at all. I loved the people! The service was lively, spirit filled and the teaching was spot on Bible based teaching. It was a beautiful church with beautiful people whom we loved and admired. But for some strange reason we were miserable and Sunday's became really difficult. One Sunday, Eric whispered in my ear mid-service that he wanted to go home, so we snuck out and went home. After a chat he said that he never wanted to go back so we left. Just like that. We hurt our best friends. We hurt their church. We just left!

My heart broke even more. I felt guilty. I had just started building new relationships and loving the people I was at church with. Despite my unhappiness with Sundays, I had done my best to settle and serve. Leaving just hurt all over again.  My heart was exhausted and ripped in pieces.

Our team agreed to leave with us and give D7 Church one final try and we gave it our all. Not that we didn't give it our all before but we gave it all we could possibly muster. We hung in for as long as we could. Everything that could be done to make church work was done. Our team were amazing even though it ended up being the same faithful five people always doing all of the work. Creativity blossomed as we tried new and unusual things to build our church thinking that perhaps God wanted us to think outside the box. One of our ideas even got us a radio interview. We announced that we were going to be giving away money to each person who came to a particular service. There would be no strings attached and the point was to teach on Biblical money principles and then give each person a starting point which is exactly what we did. Many were grateful for the small seed of £20 that we gave to all who came along.

Perhaps we could have made it, perhaps we should have hung on a little longer. No, it wouldn't have worked as the team went down to Eric and I and even I didn't want to go to church anymore as it was so depressing! What went wrong? Who knows, we have analysed it to death over the years, seen all of our mistakes and tried to think what we could have done differently. Our dream was to build a large thriving church where people would encounter the living God and be radically transformed. In our mind we saw entire communities being transformed and wanted to make a difference all the way to government level. It broke our heart when met for the final time on Sunday 30th March 2014.

Failure is hard, loss is difficult but when you have failed and lost in the things of God it seems harder. You feel as if you have let God down. One thing that no one tells you when you pastor a church is that it too, just like a business, can fail. If the books don’t balance and your income is less than your expenses, you can fail. If you don’t have a committed team to keep up with the work you can fail. If people just don’t feel like coming on Sundays you fail.  And on top of all that you blame yourself for not being good enough!  Not praying enough, not hear God well enough, not working hard enough, not loving the people enough and just about everything else under the sun. Failing in ministry is the worst kind of failure, it's horrible.

Eric said he didn't want to go to church for a while. Even though I was hurting I knew that I had to go to church for the children's sake. They too grieved. Sometimes they just randomly started crying and when asked what was wrong they said that they missed D7 Church. It took a lot longer than I ever imagined to start feeling a little bit better about it all.

I had become friends with the pastor of a local church through King's Daughters and so decided to take the children there so that they had somewhere to go while we figured things out. They loved it and were happy so I kept on going even though I didn't want to go to church at all either. After a few weeks God spoke to Eric and told him to go to church so he started coming with me. He did so out of pure obedience to God as he really didn't want to go to church either. Looking back I would say that the first year we were both numb and all we could manage was to pitch up and be present on Sundays. I became burnout and depressed and the doctor put me on anti-depressants.
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Raging Storms

Storms raged all around me, not in the natural of course but the storms of life. The next season is a bit blurry as it was almost too painful to bear. First it was my second eldest daughter who left home. For the sake of her privacy and to protect all involved I can't tell you too much about it but let's just say that family life got really nasty for us all and it resulted in Jordan leaving home at only seventeen years old. Oh how I wish I could tell you the details so you could understand how much my heart was ripped out, how my marriage was hanging together by a thread and how losing Jordan not only hurt but confirmed my complete failure as a parent to her. Just believe me that it was nasty, unnecessary and very painful and left me broken in a way that I have never experienced before. I was even faced with a choice on one occasion where I was made to choose between my daughter and my husband! What would you do in that situation - it was not nice and I refused to choose either.

It may have been weeks, possibly months but certainly not very long after Jordan left that the next storm hit and if losing a daughter wasn't enough I had to face almost losing a son. We noticed that something was wrong with our son, Daniel who was 7 years old. He seemed fit and well and nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that he was drinking unusual amounts of water. It got so bad that he had to get up during the night several times to have a drink and of course go to the toilet. So after about a week of this I decided it best to go see a doctor even though it seemed like a silly symptom to go to the doctor for.

Everything from the doctor's appointment is a bit of a surreal haze and even two years and nine months on, I can remember the shock as if it were yesterday. The doctor did a urine test and afterwards looked gravely concerned and called the hospital.  Daniel was sent over as soon as possible and we were told to be prepared for him to stay overnight. He didn’t say what was wrong. Upon arriving at the hospital Daniel was seen immediately and had blood tests. I don’t recall exactly what happened or the order of events, all I remember is that his blood sugar was 33  (normal is between 4 – 7). They said they were surprised that he looked as well as he did and was not in a coma. He was that ill!

Daniel was admitted to hospital and we spend the next week at his bedside learning about type 1 diabetes, watching him crying as he had his finger pricked and blood taken often during the day and night. It was heart wrenching. Eric and I were in shock. After a week of excellent education by the NHS diabetic team, we were expected to start caring for him. They assured us that he would not be allowed home until they felt confident that we were able to manage his blood tests and insulin injections. We had to learn how to count carbohydrates, check his blood sugar levels and give him 4 to 6 injections a day. The severity of the situation was heavily impressed upon us and we were reminded that if his blood sugars went too high or too low he could die. It seemed every 5 minutes we were reminded that it was a life threatening lifelong disease that could not be cured ever.

Eric and I were exhausted from being in hospital, little sleep coupled with a lot of worry and uncertainty. We reached a point where we just wanted our family back home all together so we could get some sense of normality back into our life. Although it was clear life would never be the same again we craved some sort of routine. Each day we were asked if we were ready to give Daniel his injections. In the past Eric has passed out when he saw me have an injection during labour with Amy, I could not see him ever coping with this. I thought I would be fine but when they put the insulin pen in my hand I burst out crying. There was no way I could ever inject my son, or so I thought.

Much to my surprise Eric took the pen and gave Daniel his injection. I asked Eric how he managed to do it as I simply couldn’t and he said that he knew that if he didn’t, Daniel would not be able to come home. The nurses kept reassuring me that things would get better and giving the injections would become easier. Although I believed them and knew it was true I couldn’t see how. Eric became highly competent in caring for Daniel and so he was allowed home. I struggled. I couldn’t do the injections. I couldn’t prick his finger to test his blood. I was a mess. Shock, confusion and tiredness took over.
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