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)

Waiting for the abundance of Isaiah 35

Greetings all. Welcome to the new followers – and thank you 🙂 I’m continuing a short series in Isaiah; sharing some of the encouragement and challenge of reading the book over the summer. If you like, you can read Isaiah and Me or The Isaiah Disclaimer as these were my introductory posts.

It was a  joy to read the first couple of verses of chapter 35 from the New Living Translation…

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! (v1,2a)

It reminded me of church.

At times church can feel a bit like a desert and a wilderness. There are seasons when I have felt church life to be a spiritual wasteland.  If you’re shocked and/or you disagree with me, then you should count yourself extremely blessed. You should thank God every day, that church life has never been like that for you.
It has for me, and for many I know.

Thankfully, those seasons pass, and church life becomes a literal,  ‘abundance of flowers and singing and joy.’ I’m grateful to God that is also my experience.

What struck me about these verses was that there is a reason to be glad, even in the wilderness days. Our spiritual wastelands have the potential to bloom. And this message of hope is to be passed to those who need it.

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees. v.3a

The image of tired pray-ers comes to mind. Hands raised or simply joined together; on our knees – either literally or emotionally. It can be disappointing; praying for the same things over and over. Waiting is tiring, but the news of God promising an abundance of blossoms and joy from desert lands, brings strength. And of course, that promise comes back again in chapter 40. Strength for those who wait on Him.

We should tell people that. I bet we all know someone with tired hands and weak knees. Or maybe it’s you who needs to hear it. I know it cheers my heart every time I read it. So be encouraged, or be an encourager. No matter how dry and desolate the situation, there is promised cause for celebration.

It might not feel like it everyday. It might not feel like it today. But there’ll be flowers, and singing, and joy; and lots of it.
Just you ‘wait’. 🙂 x



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