Light in the Darkness by Liz Carter part 1

Continuing the theme of Light and Dark, I am delighted to welcome Liz Carter to the blog. She will be sharing today and tomorrow, and we’ll hear about her new book, Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting.

So, over to Liz…

With the clocks going back and the winter drawing in, many of us are living with a creeping sense of dread that coils around us like the fog on a chilly winter day. As the days grow colder and the nights darker, we often feel enveloped in gloom, and now more than ever, as we wonder when all this will come to an end. Winter seems to stretch ahead with no promise of hope, with no sparkles of joy to look towards and wait for with anticipation. Winter 2020 seems like a pit of nothingness, a black hole of rubbishness and sadness.

Perhaps, for some of you, it’s not just 2020 that feels that way to you. Perhaps you’ve lived through years where the nights are too dark and the air too frozen around you. Maybe you’ve been living with sickness, physically or mentally, or living with grief, or other burdens which have left you bruised and battered, unsure where to look for any signs of hope.

For me, this year has been tough, but my whole life has been lived in pain, to some degree, with a chronic lung condition from infancy. This year I went into shielding in March after receiving the letter that punched me in the gut with its words instilling more fear in me: I’d been identified, it told me, as someone with risk of severe illness if I caught Covid-19. I separated out from my family and lived in my room for almost five months, caged into a life without touch or the usual family interaction. It was tough. It sent me spiralling mentally, into restless, tearful nights and days that seemed to stretch too long at times.

But God kept sending me little reminders of his presence and his love. As I began to let go of some of my fear and pour out some of my restlessness into poetry and other forms of writing, God spoke peace into my heart, and even sparks of joy at times.

God reminded me that it is sometimes in the darkest places where we find unexpected treasure, where light is able to break through in even more splendour, puncturing the blackness and calling us on towards the hope we find in Jesus.

I wonder if you have ever felt that you should be happy at all times as a Christian. Perhaps you’ve even heard teaching encouraging you to claim prosperity and health in all areas of your life, that because God is a generous God he will give you these – you only need to ask. Perhaps you’ve felt unable to share honestly about tough times, because you have been led to feel that you are, in some way, failing God because of your struggle. You hear the great triumphant stories of healing and wholeness, of God coming through for people when they are suffering, of God’s great and miraculous provision. But when it doesn’t seem to happen like that in your life, you can be left sad and alone, hugging your suffering to yourself in the mistaken idea that you cannot share it with others, because it might put them off the idea of faith.

Yet the more I dig into Scripture, the more I find the most starkly honest writings there poured out for all to see, overflowings of emotion and anger and sorrow spilling onto the pages – most of the prophetic writings are like this and the Psalms are full of songs of lament as much as songs of praise. Tomorrow I will write more about that and share one of the poems from my book

Thank you Liz. It’s a blessing to read such refreshing honesty in difficult times.

I look forward to hearing more. In the mean time, Liz’s book Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting can be found here. Until tomorrow… A x

More on light and dark

So many people love this time of year. Autumn colours, pumpkin spice lattes, snuggly scarves, warm fires, falling leaves etc. It’s not my favourite season. I prefer Spring. The hope of good weather and the promise of longer days and brighter evenings. The only thing I love about this time of year is that I can get all my hats out and start wearing them again. I have quite a few. In fact those of you who have been following this blog for a long time will remember it was originally called, Just Another Christian Woman… talking through her hat.

As a kid, I hated the dark. My bedroom door had a glass panel above it and when the landing light was on I got the benefit of it. But it was always turned off when the last person went to bed. I often felt vulnerable once the light was off.

If everyone was asleep, who would hear if someone broke in? A fear of my home being broken into stayed with me for years; even now I don’t like to stay on my own overnight.

In my teenage years dark evenings meant I had to be in. I wasn’t allowed out after dark until I was 16 or so. Even then I had to fight for it. Until that great liberation, in the winter months, I’d run home from school, change out of my uniform and meet my friend. We’d do a quick lap of Tallaght, stopping off in the Town Centre to look at the make-up stall or visit the record shop, then run home to be in before the dusk curfew. When we were finally allowed out after dark, it turned out it was too cold to be hanging around the streets, (unless the was a boy to meet), so we’d end up in her kitchen or mine.

Sounds like a bit of a contradiction doesn’t it? I didn’t want the dark as a small child, but was eager to be out and about on a dark evening when I was a teenager. On reflection, I think darkness was ok, as long as was with my friend. I didn’t want to be out in the dark on my own. It’s darkness when I’m alone that gave/gives me problems.

1 John 1:5 says “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” If John had been Irish, he might have said, “there’s no darkness at all, at all.” No darkness what so ever. The closer we get to him, the less darkness there is. In a time of social distancing, it is such a comfort to remember that God is not distant. He is always with us. Not two millimetres away, never mind two metres.

Two things come from this for me.
1. I am never alone, God is always with me
2. If he is with me, there is no darkness at all (at all) 🙂

Thanks so much for all your encouraging comments and messages about my last post. I really appreciate it. It’s great to be back writing again after a long dry spell.

A x

photo credits 1. Mattiii photo The Long Shadow via photopin (license) 2. Annmarie Miles

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)