Even so, it is well with my soul.

The new year has begun, many have returned to work & resolutions have been made. This is the time to look forward, but it has also allowed me to look back, reflecting on 2014, a year of heartache, perseverance & unexpected joy.

On January 19th 2014 my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack. No words could ever to justice to describing the pain my family and I experienced that day, nor will I try to articulate it here. However, I would like to share my thoughts on the past year & how grief transformed my faith.

I would love to say that throughout this year I have known God’s faithfulness & presence. Unfortunately, I felt like God was often absent.

“But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” C. S. Lewis.

Grief manifests in different forms and a range of emotions. Perhaps the most difficult is feeling profoundly alone & hopeless, no matter how many people you have around you. Unable to feel the presence of God at these difficult times, I often felt like abandoning my faith, in some ways this felt like the easier option. Easier than wrestling with the dilemma that the God I had loved and trusted allowed my father to die & who now seemed to be silent.

 I have spent much time thinking & reading about the different theories that theologians have used to explain why suffering happens. Honestly, I have not found a satisfactory answer, nor do I think we will ever find one. Unsurprisingly, theories and explanations do not ease the pain.

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”
C.S. Lewis.

People do help. I have never doubted or lacked the loving support of friends & family. Even in times when I felt alone, I never have been. Whether that was my compassionate god daughter taking me on adventures, generous friends giving up their time to help clear out my dad’s house or those who just sat with me in silence, being with me & perhaps praying for me in the times I felt I couldn’t.

In the initial weeks after my dad passed away, I expected to sense the presence & love of God in prayer, worship or during a church service. This rarely happened. In hindsight, I can see that God was not absent, but instead was working powerfully through the people around me.

Keeping my faith has not been easy this year. I have been extremely angry with God, prayer has been an uphill battle and I have tried, unsuccessfully, to run away from Him many times. Faith has been a conscious decision. I chose to believe & hold on to what I knew was true, despite my changing emotions. The biggest challenge this year was learning to say ‘God is good’ even when everything within me disagreed.

God remained faithful and through all of this, He was with me. God though sometimes silent, had never abandoned me. He has transformed & deepened my faith through the pain. I do not understand all of God’s ways, but I do trust Him. Of course, I would give up this transformation in a heartbeat to have my Dad back, but that is not the situation I am faced with.

In an interview this week I was asked to describe how I handled an emotionally difficult time. After explaining a little of my journey and how I got through the past year, I found myself saying these words, “I am blessed.” And I meant it. Though heartbreaking, this year has also been one of growing friendships, new adventures & unexpected joy.

Finally, I would like to say thank you. To those incredible people that God chose to work through this year. You have walked alongside me & without you, and the way you showed me the love of God, I am not sure I would have made it.

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A Beautiful Mess.

photo (19)

I am Harriet.
I am a daughter, sister, friend, student, trainee counsellor & most importantly a child of God. This is my first time writing a blog, and it would be fair to say I have spent a long time plucking up the courage to put this online. I was striving to make it perfect.

Self image.

“You are beautiful, just the way you are”

This is something I’m sure many of us have heard countless times. But do we believe it?
Honestly? I struggle to believe this statement. I  sit in front of the mirror and carefully scrutinize my appearance. I see imperfection. I am not pretty enough.

I am striving for perfection and falling desperately short. So now, I’m taking a step back. Taking a deep breath and asking – why is my sight set on perfection, and not content with anything less?

I could probably point the finger in many directions, including the media.
This advert made by ‘Dove’ is a great example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zKfF40jeCA

I often feel bombarded by the media’s image of beauty. Endless exposure to air-brushed, size zero beautiful models and celebrities. They set an unrealistic standard of beauty, which seems to say that perfection is the ultimate attainable goal.
But then it gets a little too close for comfort.
I daily interact & compare myself with beautiful people who from my perspective seem to be perfect.

So how do I measure up to all this?
I know that time again and time again I have felt that I am not enough. That I am flawed. I have wasted a lot of time and energy trying to look ‘right,’ trying to fit in, but instead feeling like the odd one out.

Evidently, I am often my own worst critic, holding myself to impossible standards and as a result struggling with self-confidence.

But in this broken mess I have come to God, who reminded me that I am a beautiful mess.  He revealed to me the truth.

I am imperfect “You are beautiful.”

I am flawed “You are uniquely designed.”

I am not enough “You are enough.”

This is how I should always feel. But emotion is an authentic reflection of our subjective experience” (Curt Thompson). If I’m honest my experiences with regard to my self-image has not always been positive.
Therefore, it’s no wonder negative messages often repeat in my mind like a broken record. It can be tough to change the track.

However, I do have a choice. I daily make a decision to acknowledge God’s truth, to drown out the unrealistic standards of the media in the knowledge that I have been created precisely this way by God.

 ‘You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made’ Psalm 139:13-14.

I have been uniquely and intentionally designed. He did not make a mistake when He made me.
He is a God who not only loves but delights in His creation (Psalm 104) and His love for me is utterly indescribable (John 3:16).

I don’t have all the answers, I have only scraped the surface.
But as I learn more of God’s character and glimpse at His incredible love for me, I am learning to view myself differently.
I’m on a journey, which begun with a request. That I may learn to see myself the way God sees me.

 I would like to offer a few thoughts.

We need to challenge the standards we hold ourselves to.  Are the negative comments we repeat in our minds realistic or factual? What does God say about who I am?

I believe the message that God wants us to hear is that  you are beautiful, you are designed and you are enough.