Bleak Midwinter? a guest post


Here’s another in the December guest post series.

This one if from Judith Parry. Judith and I were just getting to know each other when she moved out of South Wales. I’ve tried not to take it personally. 😀 You can read her thoughts on her blog by clicking here, where you can find info about her beautiful new #chapbook ‘Taking Flight’. Judith is a Tweeter too @DithParryTea 

I’ll hand over to her…

Bleak Midwinter?

Since our recent move to a village in rural Staffordshire, the Husband has taken to watching Countryfile. I think he believes it makes him more of an authentic country dweller, despite calling every plant he sees a weed and every bird a thrush. That said, I confess to being a bit of a fan of armchair farming myself, but in truth my agricultural expertise extends mostly to popping a few spring bulbs in the ground.

During one episode of our new viewing pleasure, the presenter mentioned a process called vernalisation. This tickled an ancient undergraduate memory from my days as a student of Biological Science, and took me to the fount of filling-the-gaps-in-half-remembered-facts known as Google. I rediscovered there that vernalisation, the word being taken from the Latin vernus “of the spring”, is a something which crops such as winter wheat need to undergo in order to flower well the following season.

It happens something like this. If these wheat seeds, sown in autumn, have not had the requisite amount of days below a certain low temperature, they go on to produce a poor crop. Conversely, if the seeds have experienced a prolonged period of deep cold during the dark days of winter, they will flower well once the days lengthen and the weather warms, eventually producing an abundant crop.

Now, I do love a good metaphor, and this biological process speaks volumes to me. Sometimes, such as in periods of grief and loss, we just want things to be over. We would prefer to fast forward through the cold, hard times, or to go around them completely, circumventing the process. I know there were times when this was true for me, when I did not want to engage with the pain and sorrow, did not want to let grief do its work. I discovered however that there are no shortcuts, not if I desired to grieve well. To undergo my own vernalisation. I found that in attempting to short-circuit winter, I risked stealing some of the abundance of spring.

That is not to say we have to like it, for who truly enjoys those cold, dark days of pain? We can however draw close to God, let those who love us gather around, and so get through it as best we can. Winter can be hard, cold and seemingly endless at times, but experience tells us that this too shall pass. Seasons come and go, in rhythms and cycles, and our spring returns again.

In the meantime, we have a choice: whether to seek to avoid winter by hiding in denial and evasion, or alternatively to face – even embrace – the sharp cold pain. The season of abundance will return, bringing with it sweet results of the lessons grief has taught us in the dark. In the meantime, our actions help determine how fruitful – or fruitless – this coming season will be.

photo credit: PATRICE OUELLET Inverno (Winter, Hiver) via photopin (license)

Memories, like the corners of my mind


I love the Facebook memories function. I enjoy looking back at them; most of the time they are a good laugh. One day last week, some memories popped up that threw me back to what was a very dark time, and I suddenly realised how far I’ve come.

When we moved back to Ireland in 2007 I was in a bad way. I finally let out the sadness that I’d been holding in for a long time. I was on mild medication and going to counselling. I thought that was the beginning of the end; but it turned out to be the beginning of the slow road back to health and strength.

I’m surprised to see myself smiling in the memory photos; inwardly I felt like I was crumbling. Even my hair was awful. I remember coming home from the hairdressers and I cried my eyes out. It didn’t take much to make me cry, but I was so upset by the hatchet job I’d ended up with. Maybe I was too dazed I didn’t communicate properly. I’m sure I showed her a photo, but whatever happened I pretty much ended up with a crew cut. I looked as dreadful as I felt.

The photos are of a holiday we were taking in South East of Ireland in 2008. Friends let us stay in their holiday home. It was a refuge we were grateful for. It was in the middle of nowhere, with no wifi and hardly any phone signal. Just what we needed. Richard was doing a lot of reading and studying for Bible college and sermon prep. I would sit on the floor each day with my guitar, singing and crying to God. It was the lowest I had ever been. I felt sure I’d never recover. I was convinced I was going to die of sadness. It was like I’d saved it up for years; it all came out in one go. Seriously, how I’m smiling in those pics, I don’t know. I remember feeling so empty.

It’s hard to believe the difference. And I suppose that’s the point of this post really. To say that things can change. I didn’t believe God would be ‘the strength of my heart’ – even though I sang it through tears, sitting on that floor.

After my mam died in 2005, God had led to me a beautiful verse which I had taped to my monitor in work. 1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. I had been hanging on to that hope. I didn’t just want restoration. I wanted it to be true that “he himself” would restore me, even though I did not believe he would.

Over time though, it has become true for me. I feel stronger, firmer and more steadfast than I ever have. That’s not to say that I don’t have rough days,  just flick through some old posts here and you’ll get the drift.

I just want to encourage anyone who feels overwhelmed with sadness. It can change. God can turn your mourning into dancing. It takes time, and a lot of clinging on. He does it though; I promise.

Better than that… HE promises.

Don’t give up! One day, these sad days will be memories.

A x

The too-long Facebook status update on why I’m not writing a Good Friday blog post…


This started out by me updating my Facebook status saying ‘I don’t think I have a Good Friday post in me today. #heavyheart and all that.’ Then I kept typing…

‘Reading my Good Friday post from last Easter it feels like it was written by someone else. It’s like I’m a different person from who I was this time last year. Life has been a game of snakes and ladders for me. Am praying for the strength to start climbing again.’

Still not too long for a Facebook post? I’ve seen longer… but I wasn’t finished.

small_5260296039I don’t really want to write another ‘Oh I feel so depressed’ blog post. I really don’t. I want to be happy and I want to be able to say out loud that I’m happy. But I feel like I’ve a heaviness settled upon me that I can’t rise above. I suppose that is grief; and I’m recovering (or not) from compounded grief at the moment. Two very different but big losses in the space of 3 months.

I think of Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary and I know I’m supposed to consider my ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Corinthians 4) as nothing compared to what He has done for us. And I’m trying to. I really am. But today l can’t find light and momentary.

Last year was so exciting. All the writing opportunities and the literary festivals and launching the book. I really felt that my writing career was taking off. No notions of being rich and famous – just published and out there. And yes I am that. But this year I was supposed to continue that and improve on that but I don’t know if I can. As I said I feel like it’s always snakes and ladders with me. I keep sliding back down and have to drag myself back to the bottom rung and start again.

Maybe that is everyone’s life and it just doesn’t look like it from where I’m standing. But it really really doesn’t look like it from where I’m standing.

One thing I know about Good Friday is that Sunday is coming. I doubt I’ll be back on form within 48 hours but resurrection day is coming.

After my mam died in 2005 I felt overwhelmed with the sadness that the previous few years had brought. God led me to this verse; I had it on a piece of paper, taped to my pc monitor in work. 1 Peter 5:10

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

I feel like I’m in need of this promise again. Starting that journey (again) to restoration and steadfast-ness. I wish I didn’t have to take the journey (again), but for some reason I do.

Vicky's crossTonight in our church service I’ll be singing… ‘and with every breath that I am given I will sing salvation’s song.’ As I read this back, it doesn’t sound much like salvation’s song. But then again Psalm 40 verse 2 says ‘he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand’
Firm… steadfast…
exactly what I need right now.

So maybe it’s not that far away salvation’s song after all.

Verse 1 of that Psalm says ‘I waited patiently for the Lord and he turned to me and heard my cry.’
So here I am… waiting…

I am sure about one thing tho…. this was far too long for a Facebook post.  

photo credits
Snakes and Ladders: weesen via photopin cc
Cross: used with permission from @vickymiti

Looking back… moving on


I’m using journals from a time when I was having counselling, as research for a book I’m writing about… a girl having counselling.

Still a long road ahead,  but I've come a long way
Still a long road ahead,
but I’ve come a long way

As I’ve gone through them I’ve been disappointed with myself, because I’m still struggling with a lot of the same stuff. The journals were only for me, my counsellor didn’t insist on reading them, but she believed anything I wrote down was significant and should be discussed. So no one has read these journals.

I’m going to share an entry here but first I want to give you some background… In 2002 I had lost all hope of having children, I lost my mother in 2005 and in 2007 I thought I was losing my mind with grief and sadness. I ended up on anti-depressants and out of work for a few months.

The ‘promise’ I refer to in the journal entry, came just before I hit rock bottom in 07. I read 1 Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” I typed it out and stuck it on my pc monitor in work and looked at it every day.

2 years later and some counselling, I wrote this – still on the meds at the time…

April 2009 – “I know God has restored me as He promised. He gave that word of promise to me from 1 Peter. He is making me strong and helping me to deal with life.. Who’d have thought that life would turn out like this…?”

Yes I am still struggling with a lot of those issues in the journal entries. But that little gem from 2009 reminds me how fragile I was. How close to the edge I came.
And how far I have come.

If you feel like you’ve stalled take a good look back.
Maybe you’ve come a lot further than you think 🙂

The chorus of one of my favourite songs says this…

Lord lead us through the wilderness,
We trust that you’ll provide.

Be our cloud by day and our fire by night,
and when we reach the other side

we’ll look back,
and all we’ll see
is your goodness.
(Stuart Garrett – guitarist with Delirious?)