I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25):

A Guest Post by Penelope Swithinbank

I was really honoured and excited to be asked to write a guest post for Anita Matthias on her blog spot


Here it is again in case you missed it

I can remember how it felt – that walking across the Square, arms stretched long with shopping bags.


I can remember how it felt  - that looking at our church, heart stretched hard and cold with unbelief.


I can remember: before coming to that church the years of losing everything – the business I had started, homes and cars and income, all lost; the worldly stuff I had held so dearly, gone.  Taken by God, vindictively it seemed.But then came this church.  Its large draughty  Victorian Rectory. My life turned upside down and not in the way I wanted. For I had enjoyed my status: 20th century vicar’s wives did not usually head up their own nationwide company.


Gone. All gone.


I was tired, so tired of it all.


* * *


But then I remember: that clergy wives’ conference, days after crossing the Square. The reluctant going, the fear of being thought an abject failure, the hesitancy in case someone uncovered my unbelief. A speaker – who was she? And what did she have to say? Lost in time. But then, oh then, another speaker, who spoke creatively, humourously, and who then asked us to stand so the Lord could minister to us.


STAND? My hesitation – what was this about? My desire to melt away and not be part of this. And then finding myself standing, pulled by the Unseen Presence. His Light, flooding the room. His Warmth enveloping me in ways I could not comprehend. His Voice, unheard, speaking into my poor stretched heart: I am here, I am true, I am your strength.  I AM.


Their prayers for me, surrounding me. My tears falling.  Shaking with the overwhelming sense of His being with me.

One stood back, pondered, allowed Him to speak through her voice.


"I wonder," she said, "if this verse might be for you? Somewhere in the Old Testament I think. Words from the Lord.  I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten."


They prayed some more. He took those words deep into that cold stretched heart. He promised restoration, things that would replace what was lost, devoured and devastated.


A swarm of things new and above what was lost.


So I clung to that verse over the years that were to come. Years with ups and downs, but years of fruitful ministry just as He had promised. A book was published, an international speaking gift confirmed, a ministry ordained. The years lost through unbelief were more than made up for.


Always I remembered that verse. He had restored the years the locusts had eaten – and more.


* * *


And then.


Seventeen months ago, my mother died. Swept away. One moment she was there, a feisty ninety-year-young who cared ceaselessly for others, drove old ladies to church, talked non-stop on the phone to her friends and family whenever she could.  Prayed for us all, every day.


And the next she was gone, swept away under the wheels of an out-of-control car.


And I stood there, frozen, helpless. Stunned from having been hit by the same car just a few moments before. Deafened by the shouts and screams and sirens. Deafened by the silent scream inside. And my tears turned to ice and my scream frozen deep within.


She was gone.


I stood at her feet and I tried to pray for her, aloud.  Tried to thank God for all she was and had been to me and others; tried to ask Him to take her to Himself; committed her to the One who loved her the best. And the paramedic had tears in her eyes.  “I’ve never heard anyone pray out loud before,” she said.  “Would you like her teeth? And her watch?”


I took the watch and turned to thank the paramedics and the police and the passersby.  People were so kind; so very kind.


But I was frozen.


For seventeen month now, I have been frozen. Unable to work or to play, to read or to write. Lost, barren, devoured by locusts.


But now.


A slow greening of tiny shoots again.


A decision to be grateful in the brokenness.*

A monthly Happiness Project.+


And confirmation from He whom my soul loves, that what has yet again been devoured by locusts will be restored to me.

The verse remembered.


That decision to have a monthly project – for March, to write again.


He promised.  And there was the verse, my verse: on Anita’s tweet. Her invitation on February 29 to write a guest blog.  And on March 1st an offer of a freelance writing project – very small but it’s writing and it’s paid! Unsought, it brought with it His Voice of Promise: I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.


Confirmation that my ministry years are not over, as I had feared.


He who has promised is faithful and He will do it. Again and again, whenever it is needed:

“I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25



*  One Thousand Gifts. Ann Voskamp. Zondervan

+ A Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin. Harper

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

Tenth anniversary of 9/11

Try praying says the banner.

It blows in the wind which blows the people and the sounds and the smells of fast-food-side-stalls.

Try praying.

Prayer before anything else or there won’t be anything else.

So why did I not pray?

Why could I not pray?

9/11 and a daughter missing.

A phone call abruptly cut off as a Tower collapsed.

Her scream and the line going dead.

Hours of not knowing.

Manhattan had swallowed my daughter.

An eighteen year old daughter and her second day at work.

I could not pray.

I could worry.

I could cry.

I could cling to my family.

But I could not pray.

Words would not come.

Shock took over.

And then friends prayed.  Friends there, friends here.  Friends nearby and friends far away. Friends with comforting arms outstretched.

I felt cut off.  Longing to be back in England because America was closed down. Stranded. But not wanting to leave my daughter.

Wherever she was, however she was.

Try praying.

But sometimes prayer is impossible. Its words will not come. I am stranded – on a mat stranded, unable to help myself.  I need carrying friends, friends who will bring me to the feet of Jesus.

Ten years ago I could not pray.

A year ago I could not pray.

A daughter restored but a mother dead.

I need carrying friends. Praying friends. Friends who care.

And then -

I am a carrying friend

a praying friend

For you.  To Jesus.

Try praying.

For she who needs your prayer.

For he who cannot pray.

Have you tried?

Tried today?

Have I?