Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014...

So, despite what I see around me I don't want 2014 to be a "fresh start" leaving the old behind. I left the old behind,  and I am already on a journey towards the new that god has for me and this is a journey I believe I've been dedicated to for a long time but increasingly since march, when I told God he really could have everything I my life and do what he wanted with me no matter what the consequences.

So this year I want to continue on that journey; continue listening to God and trying to do what he wants me to do when he wants me to do it; continue understanding what his death and resurrection means; and continue drawing closer to him.

Of course there are things to do a long the way that will help, and there are many things I want to do that I already am trying to do in 2014.

In 2014 I aim to: 
- keep happy memories, inspirational quotes and things in a jar, so at the end of the year if an reflect on all the positives of the year.
- keep walking on the path God has put me on, in terms of my mental health.
- keep getting to know God more, sharing what he wants me to and being honest with him.
- keep talking about mental health, sharing the reality of it and helping people understand.
- keep worshipping God in every way I can.

There aren't many things I want to completely change immediately, and I plan to take change when it comes. I've learned a lot in 2013, through the good and the bad, and I'd like to remember all I've learned, I don't want to just forget the bad and pretend it's not there, I want to use it to help myself and others, and the same with all the good :)

So I stand with God, and with friends, entering 2014, not trying to force anything new, but continuing to chose to focus my heart and mind on God. 

Happy New Year, I hope you can celebrate the good and the lessons from 2013, and move into 2014 with God :)

Friday, 27 December 2013

Goodbye 2013.

Hello,
I hope you have had a merry christmas. I hope the meaning of Christmas and the hope that tiny baby brought in darkness as affected you in a new way this week. 

So, it's nearing the end of 2013. For me 2013 was a difficult year, it started in difficulty that had spanned the previous 6 years of my life. This difficulty was partly my mental health struggles, and the pressure I felt from others but mostly myself, to be OK, always, or to at least appear OK. Let me tell you now, it's OK not to be OK, so long as you are getting OK. If your not OK going into 2014, don't be ashamed of it, don't hide it, but ask for the help you need, the support you need. 

My year deteriorated, I got more ill, I moved from house to house to house, with multiple hospital visits, until I ended up almost dead, and really unable to cope mentally, and damaged and broken more than I'd ever imagined. At the start of 2013 I never thought I would be where I am now, never thought I'd of been through what I have this year. But I have, and God has brought me through it, and been with me in it.

I am very thankful to God for this year. More than I expected I would be even if I'd had a great year. I cannot explain to you how much this year has hurt, and how little hope I had, and how far apart I fell. But by falling apart, I allowed God to start to slowly put me back in the right way. I'm a long way off well, but that's OK too. Had things not broken to the extent they had I would not be healing to the extent that I will. 

So I thank God for this difficult year, I thank him for standing with me, holding me, carrying me, and letting me break. I thank him for those who he has put there to help. I thank him, because I'm still alive, because he is still alive, because he has paid the price for me never to break the same way I did this year again.

So, as I think about the new year, and what I'd like it to be like, my main focus is on God, for his will and for his timing. I encourage you, too, to think about what God has helped you through this year, and thank him. Celebrate his goodness this end of the year, for the struggles and the fun. 

Thank you God, for I am still alive, and I know you more than when this year begun.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

What would it mean if Jesus came into your darkest and loneliest place in your life?

So, as you may of noticed its Christmas. At my church on Sunday we looked at Jesus' birth, the nativity story, and the way Jesus chose to enter the world. 

Jesus was born a King, born God, born Human. He was born to a virgin, who was unmarried at the time. He was born into a family who had been shamed by their own family for his birth. He was born in a dirty stable, an unhygienic room with animals, essentially the equivalent of an abandoned and derelict building frequented by people doing illegal things. You getting the idea? Jesus was a king born into a life more opposite to what a king should be than we can imagine. 

My point is that Jesus knew struggle and darkness since he was born. Jesus was born light to the world, he was born hope in a hopeless time. The time leading up to Jesus' birth was silent from God to the Jews, they hadn't heard anything for so long, and I expect they were struggling to keep hope. For the Jews God was the centre of their entire life, so silence was difficult in every area of life. Then, in this dark time where there has been silence and everything's has felt dark and hopeless, the son of God, the brightest light is born in the darkness. Hope has been born on earth, born to a virgin. 

Everyone has dark places in their life. Everyone has silent, lonely places where they don't let people, where they don't let God (mainly for fear that it will be too dark for even him). But Jesus was born into darkeness, and he still held light, he was still God, the world didn't consume him into its own darkness. My challenge to you is to think about your life, where is the darkest area in your life? What are you keeping most hidden? If you don't have anything your probably deceiving yourself. What would it mean if Jesus entered into that darkness with you and walked with you in it, holding his light, holding hope, holding you. 

I think for me, I need to invite Jesus into my thoughts, into my illness. For me that is a very dark place, where I struggle to see hope, to find anything worth hanging on for. And I try to hide it, I try to appear well, to appear joyful and hopeful as much as I can. But in reality what I need more than anything else is for Jesus to hold me in that place, to carry me through this illness. I need to let his hope be my hope. I need to remember all the things that have tried to defeat me, all the battles he has won. I need to remember when he came into dark times in hospital, when I nearly died, when I couldn't cope. And I need to be brave and risk exposure, and let him in. 

What would it mean? It would mean I could hold on to something. That it would never be as dark as it's been because now I've found the light in that area of my life. It would mean that I wasn't alone in my struggles. It would mean I can rest assured that it will not last forever, because Jesus died on the cross, took the price for me to be well, to have hope, to be free, and he rose again, defeated death - and what is darker than torturous death?

So I invite you to join me in this prayer:

Jesus, the light of the world, 
I thank you for coming to earth, 
For paying the price for me to know hope and light,
I invite you into my darkest loneliest place my thoughts and illness*,
And I ask you to be in it with me and help me through.
Amen.

*add your own darkest loneliest place.

I really encourage you to talk to God about your life, identify the dark bits, ask him to lighten them and be in them and trust that he is and walk with him. 

I wish you a happy, hopeful, joyful, light Christmas to you, where Jesus is closer than ever before. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Jeremiah 6:16a

Jeremiah 6:16a- "Stand at the crossroads and watch, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls."

This has been the bible verse for this year at my church. I remember hearing it earlier in the year and thinking "I wish I could have rest for my soul." 
I said the verse weekly at church for more than half the year, and asked God for rest for my soul, for rest from the turmoil and the hecticness of my mind. Rest within the reality of being ill with an illness that is characterised by chaotic thinking, impulsiveness and constant change. 
Last Sunday it hit me, that I still hadn't found that rest, or at least not that I could see. Which really hurt, to know that this verse is what God has promised and the year is nearly up and I'm still frantic and constantly in a state of unrest, especially within my mind but also in a lack of sleep and energy. 
In the last week I've been asking God things like "where is my rest?" "Have I not gone down the right path?" "Have I ruined and sabotaged my own opportunity for rest?"
I've stood at many crossroads this year to make decisions; I've asked over and over and over where the good way is, I've pushed to get to where I am in terms of help and asking for it when I need, I've asked professionals what they think is best, I've asked God and I've asked friends; I've tried to walk the paths that I've been directed down. So where is this rest?

Where is rest when I've been in and out of hospital like a yo-yo? Where is rest when I can't concentrate long enough to read an A5 page of writing because my brain is racing so fast? Where is rest when I can't understand reality because of the confusion and distress in my mind? Where is my rest God? 

Today I read that verse in church like I had all the other times this year. And I know where my rest is. This year I have stood at many crossroads. I have walked many paths. I have chosen good ways and walked in them (and bad ways and walked in those too). But this verse isn't static. It isn't a single event necessarily. It isn't that this year we would meet A CROSSROAD. That we would then have rest in every area.
I stood at a crossroads when I came out of hospital and walked paths that lead me back there. That wasn't the good way, that wasn't the ancient path, but I still walked it and I didn't find rest.
I also stood at crossroads a different time coming out of hospital and I chose to ask for help, for the ancient paths, for the good way, and I stayed out of hospital a lot longer, and got significantly more rest, because I wasn't making decisions that made it harder not to turn back with every step. 
Crossroads are scary. Crossroads have many options and I don't like decisions, I fear I will fail or upset or disappoint. But to find rest for your soul you must take a path, taking no path doesn't find you rest either it just keeps you in the same place.

I may have been journeying the last year walking endlessly between crossroads and trying to find paths and rest. Each time I chose the good way, and I choose to enter the right path and walk that way with God I choose rest for my soul. I choose not to wrestle and wander anymore. And slowly but surely, because of what Jesus has done for me on the cross, my soul will find rest, like a child in their parents arms.

So I may not be resting right now, I may feel like I'm constantly wrestling and wandering, but God knows the right paths and has paid the price for my soul to rest and this pain and confusion to be through. I just have to keep trusting him, talking to him, choosing him. You can choose to do that too. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Stand.

Some of you will know what my past few weeks have been like. Some of you won't. I'm not writing this to share that, but I will say they have been exceedingly difficult.

For now I want to share this:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
-Psalm 23:1-4

I will stand. I will be held up when I cannot stand. If it were not for God I would not be alive.

The last couple of weeks, have been deeper into the valley than I ever thought I'd go, and I am scared almost all the time, but that doesn't mean I can't stand, even with the fear, and declare that God is with me. But Jesus has died and rose again, he has paid the price for me to lie down in green pastures and be beside quiet waters, and have restoration for my soul. He will guide me, and be with me, even in the shadow of death. 

I'm not writing this because I fully understand, or think I've got it sorted now. I'm writing this because I need to remind myself that although I can barely stand, although I am in deaths shadow, although the pain is more than I can bear, Jesus has paid the price and he is alive and all that is promised as a result of it will come, and until that day I will never be alone, even in my darkest suffering.