For that hardest of hard days

  They said that Monday was the worst day of the year. But they didn’t know of her darkest, deepest, hardest days. Those black days, each in their own way so terrible she thought she might not survive, might go mad.

January days are short and dark and cold. Days of pain are long and pain comes back – or maybe never goes. What to do, what to do? Where and how to alleviate the pain, to know that spring will come again?

Into the pain come words of hope and there is gratitude for friends who pray, not even asking for what they pray but who support and comfort and are simply THERE.  Often people want to know what they are praying for – and it’s a ruse for prurient curiousity and Christian gossip. Good friends simply pray not necessarily knowing the what and where and how and why.

So she writes of ways to alleviate those January blues. Walks the beach and tries to pray.

Sings harder and louder (where no-one can hear) of grace and mercy and love and peace.

“Lord I come before your throne of grace… Lord of mercy, You have heard my cry; Through the storm You're the beacon, My song in the night...." (R + C Critchley, (c) Kingsway music)

Knows the truth of the Messiah who comes into impossible messes and makes miracles happen.

Gives her broken heart to the One who does real heart transplants and gives her His.  (Ezekial 11:19)

Proves that joy happens when she opens herself to be enveloped by God’s Presence. (Zechariah 8:8)

Needs a month of festival – from sorrow into gladness and mourning into a holiday: Purim, looking forward to a February of fruit and fasting in order to fall back into festival for Easter.

Reads blogs and posts and books and articles that are positive and encouraging.

Learns to skip and jump EVEN when it’s a bad day, when a friend takes her by the hand and skips her down the beach, arms swinging. Says, Smile – even through the tears.

Hears a friend say: God can make something beautiful out of our mess if we hand it over to Him to transform.

Remembers that ALL IS GIFT – even in the brokenness of broken hopes and broken dreams, broken hearts and broken days, the God of all comforts goes on giving and giving. Mending and healing. Transplanting and transforming.

ALL IS GRACE, amazing grace – through Christ alone who translates sorrow into joy, transfigures pain into healing.





(David Adams)

What has helped you most, on those difficultest of days?

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"God sent a rain today

to show how miracles are made.

The trees and grasses looked and listened,

the hills did likewise.

Only man put up his umbrella -and grumbled and grumbled." - anon.


But I was determined to walk again this morning, in spite of the heavy rain. I donned wellies and raincoat, set off for Ally Pally, put up my umbrella.

It was wholly and completely different to yesterday. Then, the sun shone warm on my face, the sky blue to my gaze. The crowds were out, taking gentle exercise on a pleasant autumnal Sunday morning.

I dodged through groups of runners and cyclists, passed the greyhound owners club as they lined up their dogs, stepped out of the way of Bugaboo mummies as they hurtled their offspring along the footpaths. All around me was noise - dogs and babies, shouts and song, a veritable Babel of  mid-European languages (and occasionally some English.)

In spite of the crowding, I tried to listen for the Lord's voice, to find Him in the walking and rhythming of my pace. I laughed at the sun and gloried in the warmth and rejoiced in the time away from family and friends for a while. Round and up and down and round, until 12,000 steps registered.  Then I left the trees and the grasses to the people, whose Palace apparently it is.

Today, there was no-one. Just me and my umbrella, the rain and the falling leaves. And God. In the silence of the falling rain there was just Him and me. No other distractions. No dogs or people, no babies or Babel. I splashed in a puddle, gloried in the autumn colours still radiant in the rain.

And wondered afresh at the contrast. In the rain, the gloom, the damp, it was easier to listen to the Lord. No other joyful distractions.

I thought again of the gratitude in the brokenness, of the eucharistic moment of giving thanks when the bread is broken, of the miracle that comes from much brokenness.  It was hard to hear Him in the happiness of the Indian summer; in the rain and aloneness, He seemed much nearer.

Had you offered me a choice, I would have chosen sunshine over shadow, richness over rain. But I would have missed God's voice.

I am glad I walked again today. It was a Retreat: under my umbrella was God - with me.

When God drills deep, He always strikes a fresh new spring.


Over to you - when do you find it easiest to listen to the Lord, to hear that still small voice?


The Fosse Way

The Fosse Way. Ancient, straight, unbending.

Full of old memories.

Roman soldiers marched it. Horse carts stuck in its mud. Cars still drive most of it.  My friend and I walked some part of it today, heads tossed about in the wind, hairfree, carefree, glad to BE.

We walked.  We talked.

Glossy black cows and speckled herds were over the hedgerows.

We found blackberries sweet, small, sun-kissed.

There was a sadness in each of us, a year or more of hard places.   Parents departed. Children making nests empty. Struggling spouses. Illnesses. Finances. Life.

And the book I recently encountered.  Eucharistic moments – the breaking of bread, the giving of thanks in the brokenness, the miracle ensuing. Looking for charis, gifts of God, so often unnoticed yet there for our accepting.

We strode on, the ground dry and cracked, the path hard to our feet.

And then.

The farmyard, horses, a tractor from which to stand aside.  The gate to the next field, always open – always there a puddle thick with farmyard mud to straddle.

More dry earth, more fields, more cows.  More sun and wind and glorious freedom in the views. And then that final wet stretch, teetering along its edge, trying to find a pathway through, and I knowing it to be always wet, “Perhaps it’s a spring, fresh water always leaching through.”

Hop skip jump and we are over and onwards.

Remembering later, I write to her.

Thinking of that cracked dry soil we saw in some places this afternoon; and the puddles which never seem to be dry - a metaphor of what happens when joy and grace and God's gifts penetrate our broken, cracked lives.  

And looking for the Gifts.  Searching out the Eucharistic moment. Allowing Him to leach into our crackedness.  Dry hardness becomes soft.

Life giving.

Life healing.

Life refreshing.

Life in all its fullness.

His life filling into ours.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  John 4:13.14