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You are not enough

As women, we are constantly bombarded with voices which tell us we are not enough. Voices come from within and from without. Voices come from our past and from our present. Voices come from ourselves and from our culture.

voices in our heads

These voices can lead us into several traps:

1. The temptation to compare 

As women we constantly compare ourselves to one another – we always have done. But today we live in full view, 24/7, of one another because of social media. And yet of course Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don’t give us a true picture of one another’s lives – they only give us the picture that others want us to see. Often that is a picture-perfect glimpse into others’ lives and so if our lives don’t shape up, we are left feeling woefully inadequate.

2. The trap of perfectionism

My house isn’t tidy enough, my kids aren’t smart enough, I am not pretty enough…the list goes on and on. I spend my days trying to reach the mark. And I never do. But in the attempt, I become anxious and fearful – anxious that I am not good enough and fearful of being found out. I’m striving to please, always striving to please. We call it people-pleasing; psychologists call it peer pressure; the bible calls it fear of man.

Ann Voskamp, in her book ‘The Broken Way’, says;

‘Perfectionism is a slow death by self. Perfectionism will kill your sense of safety, your self, your soul. Perfectionism isn’t a fruit of the Spirit – joy is. Patience is. Peace is.’

3. The lure of consumerism

I might try to bridge the gap between where I think others live and where I live by consumerism. If it means buying clothes and shoes and make up which I think will make me look more like others around me, then that’s what I will do. If it means choosing a holiday which I can’t afford in order to keep up with my friends, then somehow I will justify it. Consumerism drives us to possess more and more in order to impress. The trouble is that the promises it makes are empty – we may get an adrenalin rush as we make that longed-for purchase, but it won’t last and we will end up feeling less satisfied, always wanting more.

4. The attraction of status-seeking

Some of us acquire status rather than possessions, whether that is academic status or status in the workplace or even status in church. In a vain attempt to overcome our own inadequacies, we feel that ‘if only’ we can prove to ourselves and to others that we can reach the standard, we will be content. But we never are.

What effect does this have on us as Christians?

Superficial community

Nowhere is this striving to impress more ugly than in the church. We as Christians ought to be able to be ourselves with one another; we ought to be able to remove our masks when we come into church. Yet it can be one of the hardest places for people to be real. If I think you and your family have got it all together, then I’m not going to be able to admit that I haven’t. We don’t dare to share on a very deep level – because of what people might think. Also, we don’t want to burden others with our problems. When we are broken and struggling, it is easier to avoid community than to try to remain a part of it. So we withdraw until things are OK again.

Forgotten identity

We have forgotten our identity. Those voices that tell us we are not enough, those voices that tell us we are imposters, they are lies. But because they shout loudly in our heads, we listen to them – and they can drown out the still, small voice of God. Ann Voskamp talks about a school teacher who told her that she only made it into her class by the skin of her teeth and she should never forget that. Ann says this:

All of my life I’ve felt like a fraud with skin on….later on in some way, those words formed me. They’ve become like my own name engraved right into me. Fraud. Phony. Not Good Enough.’

What does God say about this?

Who does he say we are? In Matthew 3, when Jesus was baptised and came up of the water, the Father spoke from heaven and said ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased’. God has become our Father and he speaks the same words over us:

‘You are my beloved child; in you I am well pleased’.

What do you think, what do you feel when you hear those words? May I suggest that in the measure that you feel uncomfortable, in that measure you do not believe them. Allow God to speak them over you, meditate on them, soak your soul in them, until they sink in and you begin to believe them, until you begin to allow yourself to let go of the lies of our culture and of your past and of the evil one. Allow yourself to believe what God your Father speaks over you. You are beloved. That is your identity. Ann Voskamp says:

‘Belovedness is the centre of being, the only real identity, God’s only name for you, the only identity He gives you.’

A. When you think you are not enough, remember who you are

You are the beloved child of God.

Instead of the superficial fix of a Facebook or Instagram ‘like’ or comment, which says I am or I have done something good, I can choose to listen to God’s voice telling me there is nothing I can do which can make him love me more – and there is nothing I can do which can make him love me less. I am enough. I don’t need to compare myself with others. I don’t need to strive to be better and to do better. The Father loves me. I am His beloved.

Instead of the transient surge of pleasure which comes from a quick purchase, I can choose instead the deep security of hearing the Father remind me that he has bought me with the blood of his Son and I am precious to him.

I don’t need to seek status. I am enough. I don’t need to prove to myself or to anyone else what I can do or be. God – who knows me best – loves me most. I am accepted. I am secure in his love.

In the well-known story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, the Father leaves home twice: once to invite the younger son home and once to invite the elder son home. That is who our Father is. He desperately wants to welcome us home – to the place of security and peace, where our quest for acceptance and unconditional love is over.

Henri Nouwen, in his book ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’, says this:

‘I am the prodigal every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found’.

Our heavenly father invites us to come home – where we can rest in the knowledge that we are his beloved children.

B. When you think you haven’t enough, remember who God is

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ….Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6.

God as Creator looks after the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. How can you think, that as your heavenly Father, he would do any less for you? He knows what you need. And if he knows, he will take care of it. That’s it – because he is your heavenly Father.

We know this – we know who we are and who God is – but how do we remember it?

When I find myself chasing after affirmation from others, craving the praise of others, seeking to please others; or when I find myself overcome by voices which are telling me I am not enough; or when I am anxious that I don’t have enough, I need to remember who I am and who God is.
We start by recognising the lies which we are believing – and then we replace the lies with the truth of God’s Word.

Imagine you are stressed and anxious about money. That worry will lead to a certain kind of behaviour: you will either be striving to get money or you will be anxiously saving money and may become stingy. That leads to the belief that it’s all down to you – and that leads to a view of reality which says either that you can’t make it happen (so you will be angry) or that you can make it happen (so you will be proud).

Imagine instead that, with that same anxiety about money, you choose to live by the truth of God’s Word instead of your feelings. So you will perhaps go to these verses in Matthew 6 and remind yourself that your heavenly Father knows your need. Now that will lead to the belief that, if your Father knows your need, you can expect him to take care of it. And that will change your behaviour so that you are expecting God to provide, while you do what you can to increase your income or reduce your expenditure. The feelings that accompany that will be peace and confidence – so very different from the anxiety which you started out with.

Or when I am craving the praise of others, I can choose to remember that God calls me His beloved. I don’t need the affirmation of others. I am secure in his love. That restlessness which sends me to social media to check my popularity ratings is telling me that I am only as good as the number of people who like my status. I can choose to reject that lie and rest secure in the knowledge that my heavenly Father calls me his beloved.

C. If you know who you are and who God is, you are free to love others

I John 3 tells us this:

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…..By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

As we learn to live out of our true identity as beloved children of God, then we are set free to love others. Our community as Christians becomes authentic. We are not hiding behind masks. We are free to be real. And as we are real with one another, we learn to trust each other with our brokenness. We don’t need to impress, we don’t need to please. We are free to be – to be the beloved children of God together, all equally loved, all equally accepted, all learning to live in that love. Ann Voskamp says,

‘All there ever is to see is Jesus. All there ever is to hear is “Beloved”.’

He is enough.

Depression

 

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world today. It affects 2-5 per 100 people in the population.Distressed_Woman_12034760_0

But 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 of us will suffer depression at some point in our lives.

Women are twice as likely to suffer as men. Possible reasons: higher rates of anxiety and susceptibility to stress? Biological and hormonal influence?

In Christian counselling, it is by far the most common issue.

Below you will find some of the symptoms of depression. It’s important to say that if you have a few of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you are depressed. You would need to be exhibiting several of these symptoms consistently for 2-4 weeks before you would think of depression. And then you should see your doctor so that a proper diagnosis can be made.

PHYSICAL

All or some of these areas can be affected:

Sleep

Appetite

Energy

Concentration

BEHAVIOURAL

You may notice some of these behavioural changes:

You stop doing things which previously brought you pleasure

Withdraw

Self-harm

Neglect yourself

EMOTIONAL

You may suffer from some of these consistently:

Low mood

Anxiety

Loss of enjoyment; apathy

Irritability/anger

Preoccupation with self

ALTERED THINKING

Re Self: lack of purpose; worthlessness

Re the world: negative

Re the past: ideas of guilt – you may fixate on something which others have long ago forgotten

Re the future: a sense of hopelessness

SPIRITUAL

Depression affects our fellowship with God, as it affects everything else.

You may identify with some of these:

Withdrawal from community of God’s people

Unresolved guilt e.g. Ps 32

Loss of sense of joy/peace

Difficulty praying/reading Bible

Lack of assurance

How can we understand depression from a spiritual perspective?

We are spiritual beings living in a fallen world

We live in a fallen world – ‘In the world you will have tribulation’.

Some people have a vulnerability, e.g. a child of a parent who suffered depression is 3 times as likely as general public to suffer from depression.

Previous history – person who has suffered one episode is more likely to have another episode.

Relationships – conflict and difficulty.

Life circumstances – 70% cases of depression are caused by life circumstances and      usually a loss. Not just the life event but our perception of it, especially if we feel we have some responsibility for it; and risk can last for several months after the event.

Earlier hardships that leave their mark, e.g. abuse.

Culture we live in – misleading voices.

We are embodied souls and our bodies are subject to the curse, frustration.

Bondage to decay (Romans 8) – weakness.

Chemical imbalance? Hard to know what causes what.

Is it sinful to feel like this?

a. No evidence in Psalm 42-43:

‘Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.’ Ps 42:5

b. Jesus was ‘exceedingly sorrowful’, deeply distressed (strongest of the 3 Greek words for ‘depression’; he said ‘let this cup pass from me’ (Matthew 26:36ff).

c. Lam 3 ‘I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light….my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”

These passages validate the feelings of the depressed person and give us hope.

The question is not ‘Is it sinful to feel like this?’ but rather Where and how do I seek help, comfort, refuge from all the hard stuff of depression? how can I respond in faith to these symptoms and this situation?’

Remember that progress is slow and not steady – there will be ups and downs. We need a cheerleader who will help us to see the global picture when we are discouraged by the setbacks.

We need to learn to live by faith, not by our feelings. Even when life seems dark and all is black, God is still there, although we do not feel his presence. Some of the most heroic people I know are people who live with depression and still hold on to their faith.

The Pain of Losing a Baby

Following my blog about miscarriage, I have heard from several friends who have very courageously shared their stories with me. I’m sharing parts of them here, to help us all learn more about this whole topic. It’s clear that the loss of a baby – at whatever stage – is a profound experience which these mums recall today as if it were yesterday.

What helped you through your experience?

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A 12-week old fetus

At first, what helped me was encouragement and care from my friends, most of whom were church friends.

The thing that was most helpful was the encouragement I received from other moms who had experienced miscarriages. Most of them had lost the babies early in the pregnancy and not as late as I did. But their empathy was precious.

One nurse helped just by rubbing my back as my body shook from shock.

It was helpful to have friends around.

My sister’s words “I just wish I was there to give you a hug” brought comfort and validated my experience.  That was the key…. I just wanted someone to say it was ok to feel sad.  I wanted my pain to be recognised and validated.

The knowledge that many people were praying for me gave me great comfort.

The experience of feeling that God was in control. Theologically I had always believed this, but this time I also experienced it in my feelings. I knew I was dying (they later confirmed this, saying that it was a miracle I was still alive) and yet I began to look forward very much to being with the Lord.

Previous to (this experience) I had been very ill and had had to lie in bed a lot. During that time I filled my mind with the Word of God and listened to quite a few sermons. I recommend filling your mind with the Word of God …. In crises like this He will bring it back to your thoughts. It helped me in bearing the pain.

Visits from dear Christian friends who came and prayed. Some just sat quietly by my side. Helped to make me comfortable, plumped up pillows, adjusted the blinds, asked me where they would like me to sit so that I would not have to turn my head uncomfortably to see them. Didn’t talk too much…. just came and sat quietly, a comforting presence. Not asking too many questions.

I was in a lot of pain and after the major abdominal surgery I wasn’t allowed painkillers because my liver couldn’t take them. Every cough, every movement, every visit to the bathroom was agony. Some of these friends were a great help with all of that, especially the trained nurses, and other sensitive people.

It was a great help that (my husband) kept so calm throughout the ordeal.

The…surgeon was quite a compassionate man. He visited me briefly every day to check on progress, and had just the right kind of reassuring touch, which helped to heal me further. The staff around you can heal you or hinder you. There is no doubt about it.

What helped me was eventually sharing what I had gone through with someone I trusted as I had kept it a secret initially. She encouraged me to grieve for my baby. I found this helped me to release all the pent up feelings I had kept hidden.

 

What was not a help to you?

A …nurse took it upon herself to pronounce that I must have sinned greatly for God to put me through such an ordeal. I responded that while I certainly wasn’t without sin, I wasn’t aware of any great deliberate disobedience. Needless to say I didn’t find her contribution to my recovery in any way helpful.

What did not help was when I told someone about losing my baby who had also had a miscarriage they said my loss was not the same as theirs as I had lost my baby at an earlier stage. This made me feel that my loss was not as significant.

Were there things that the medical professionals could have done differently?

Been more sympathetic, they were very matter of fact and clinical. They actually told me it was a good thing as it showed I could get pregnant as we had been trying to have a baby for three years. Even though I miscarried they said I should be pleased I had been pregnant.

When I lost the baby, I felt betrayed by the medical staff who couldn’t anticipate what was happening and didn’t prevent my miscarriage. Also, they had no answers….ever for WHY I lost the baby, and what I could do to prevent it happening again.

The medical staff were not attentive duing 12 hours of labor and delivery….Finally, after 12 hours, the baby was born … into a bedpan. And that is how she was presented to me a few minutes later….in a bedpan. When I returned to my room, the nurse aid walked in to give me a bath. She cheerfully asked me “Is this your first baby”? I told her I had lost my baby. She apologised. I was on the Obstetric ward with all the new mothers and babies…in a room with another woman who had miscarried. It would have been helpful to put us in private rooms isolated from the crying babies and happy mothers and guests.

The medical staff …. were really good. They kept me living in hope. Which in a sense was good but really not good. I think being real in love and truth would have been better for me. You see I knew by my loss of blood that it was really not going to be. It broke my heart lying in there for six days and then the following day I was taken to theatre for a D&C.

I was put into a side room – a kind gesture, but unfortunately it was in the maternity suite.  The nurses were more used to dealing with happy outcomes and, sadly I felt, ill-equipped when things did not go well.  Comments such as: “Sure you’re young, you have plenty of time to try again” , while maybe true, did not help. I couldn’t wait to get home.

Were there things that your friends and family could have done differently?

One thing that was NOT helpful was a comment from (someone who warned) me that ‘others would be watching’ me and how I handled grief…. that I should take care to keep it in check! Or that I should consider the effect my behavior might have on others.

I only had one visitor who wasn’t helpful. She immediately launched into all the medical problems of lots of other people she knew, her own medical problems, on and on she gabbled, couldn’t enter into my situation at all, and I wasn’t sorry to see her leave. But she was the one and only visitor in all that time who affected me like that, thankfully. Most were brilliant.

I kept it a secret which I now regret. Only my husband knew but I think he found it hard to really identify with how I felt. Perhaps I should have been more open so people understood why I was acting differently. It was my way of coping but I don’t feel it was the right way.

A church member, on my return to church after the miscarriage, quoted a verse to me: ‘Be thankful in all circumstances’. That was clearly not the time to quote a verse like that!

I hesitate to say this but some of the deepest hurts came from family.  I know my mum struggled to see me distressed but her comment “well I’ve had (x) miscarriages; you just have to get over it” didn’t help, in fact it made me feel that my feelings of deep anguish were abnormal.  This, together with a comment from another family member, “I’ll come and see you when you pull yourself together”, only made me withdraw and feel ashamed that I felt so bad.

What was the hardest part for you personally?

At the time I lost the baby I was one of 11 ladies in my circle of family and friends who were expecting babies. I was reminded, with each of their births, of my grief.

My hopes, expectations and plans I had already formed were all shattered. I had longed for this baby for three years and was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant and subsequently devastated when my pregnancy ended.

Probably the hardest comment I heard/hear is that it was a miscarriage. It wasn’t. It was a baby at 36 weeks who should have lived. I think having a miscarriage must be way more painful than many people think, but carrying a chlid 8 months is a different experience (in the same way, losing a child after he is born must be still more excruciating.) Time is the healer, although I suspect the pain of loss is always there…

I feel the worst thing about losing my wee baby was the fact that I love children and she was mine. Emptiness. No grave to remember her by.  The worst thing was my sister who had a baby around the same time.

It was hard that my husband experienced grief much differently than me. Because he didn’t go to the funeral, he didn’t have any relationship with this baby and his own grieving was much quicker. Even today, it doesn’t affect him a lot, whereas I think of (the baby) when I see (a child of the same age)….. I felt quite alone through it all.

How did you deal with the loss from a spiritual point of view?

I felt that God had let me down.    I remember cooking supper in the kitchen and suddenly weeping. I put my head down on the counter top and was crying. My husband walked in and asked me what was wrong. I said, ‘I just lost a baby’!?! He said, ..’but that was 2 weeks ago’! I really was surprised how quickly he had moved on and how I was alone with this grief.

I did not know why the Lord had allowed this to happen. I knew that these things happen all the time. But 5 months into the pregnancy, the baby had personality for me. We named her. I am happy when my children, now, remember that they have a sister waiting to greet us in heaven.

I know my baby was a girl only cause I was so emotional one night and I prayed to God to show me what I’d lost  – a boy or girl. And in the dream that evening was a baby girl in a pink blanket on my knee.

I know my grief was compounded by the belief that it was not acceptable to feel so bad.  I had to hide my tears and pretend that I was ok.  I felt shame, for my tears but also for the thought that maybe I had inadvertently caused the miscarriage.  I found it difficult to pray.  I didn’t feel angry at God but I felt ashamed that I felt so bad.  I would have liked to to talk to someone who understood the mix of emotions and who could gently and sensitively direct me to God’s truth, love and acceptance.  I have learned so much from this experience and I hope it has made me more empathic.

I am grateful that all of that happened. I have understood better what others go through, I have understood what people suffer with anxiety and panic attacks as well as chronic pain. The whole experience has certainly not, in the goodness of God, been a wasted experience, and I have never regretted it. 

The only thing that helped me finally resolve the question ‘why’ was that I would be specially qualified to encourage others who would experience the loss of a baby through miscarriage.

A grave or burial?

I have one regret. It was not proposed to me that I could have had a private memorial service and arrange for a dignified way to bring this life episode to a close. I am sure my baby was incinerated without ceremony. But in my defense, I had never done this before. I wasn’t prepared for the decisions I should have been making. And the medical staff never offered me an option.

The fact back then there was no burial services left me with no grave. They just D&C you. Family went silent on me, except for my mum who said it wasn’t meant to be. My husband felt it but it is different for a man; we women carry everything and never forget dates and times; men think differently.

The surgeon came with a little jar holding the foetus. I was sleeping at the time, and I wish I had taken a better look when he woke me up. I especially wish I had asked if it was a boy or a girl. Even so, it helped it to sink in that we had just lost a wee baby, and I often thought back to that afterwards. He told me there had been ‘a lot of infection’ which they had now removed. That is quite a clear memory which has remained with me afterwards, even though I was dozy at the time. I think that is a helpful thing to do.

Memories

Going through it 20 years ago seems like yesterday.

I remember my experience of my miscarriage as if it were yesterday.  In reality it was 25 years ago.

Memories of this time of my life don’t preoccupy me unduly or define me. But it certainly was an extremely difficult time for me. It is difficult to revisit it, but I am quite happy to share my experience. I am fairly certain my experience is being repeated many times. If what I share of how I lived my experience can be helpful, that pleases me.

You can see how 25 years later it is still all so vivid in my mind. I still cry when I hear of miscarriages, and i still cry when I hear of abortions. Though I think I am over the grief of losing this little one.

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on this Pauline.  The tears are close to the surface as I write this but as I read your experience it has helped me to know that that is ok.

We need to be there for one another, to let each other know that our grief is OK.

I would just like to thank all of these friends who have shared their stories so courageously. This is holy ground. And it demonstrates what a profound experience the loss of a baby is, as well as how personal a thing it is to each mum. Just as there is no ‘right’ way to grieve any loss, there is no right way to grieve the loss of a baby. And one thing is sure: the passing of time does not erase the memory of the loss. 

Jacque Watkins, a nurse who works with newborns and their parents, has written very sensitively about the experience of sitting with a woman who is losing her child through miscarriage. Jacque says this:

To grieve with another in the silence of their presence, THIS is holy work.

 

 

Miscarriage – what’s the big deal?

I lost my first baby at 7 weeks. So I was barely pregnant, certainly not ‘showing’ – so what was the big deal? Wasn’t it just like a late period?    weaned child

Miscarriage is one of those subjects which some people shy away from; others would rather not think about; and still others don’t understand.

The NHS defines it this way: ‘A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks‘.

Why, at only 7 weeks, was it such a big deal to me?

  1. It was my first pregnancy and I had experienced quite a bit of difficulty in conceiving so my Big Question was ‘Will I ever be pregnant again?’
  2. I believe that life begins at conception so, although I was only 7 weeks pregnant, I did consider my miscarriage the loss of a baby I had longed for.
  3. The circumstances of my miscarriage were traumatic. I had gone for a scan and there didn’t seem a to be a heartbeat so I was admitted to hospital.
  4. I was put in a ward with women suffering from all kinds of things. The woman in the bed next to mine was actually waiting for sterilisation and I could hear the doctor talking to her, ensuring that she understood that she wouldn’t be able to have any more children – while the life of my first child was ending.
  5. My husband wasn’t called; the hospital was short-staffed; occasionally a nurse checked on me, but no one was with me while I passed clots of blood – while I lost my baby and my dreams.
  6. The clots of blood I had lost were treated as ‘clinical waste’ – in fact, if I remember correctly, they were referred to as ‘the products of conception’. I heard them being incinerated while I wept alone. This is not so much the case nowadays, although it may still be the practice in some hospitals – see this link at the Miscarriage Association. But my baby was not just clinical waste – he/she was already a human being. ‘Around the eighth week of pregnancy…you may be able to find the sac and enclosed fetus….There is evidence of eyes that are sealed up and buds forming for arms and legs.’ (http://www.newkidscenter.com).
  7. My husband arrived at visiting time and was still not told what was happening – it was only when he came around the screens and saw me that he knew we had lost our baby.

How did I recover?

  1. Physically, I had a D&C (dilation and curettage) to ‘clean me out’ afterwards.
  2. I had a good gynaecologist who explained that often miscarriages of first babies are as if the body is having a trial run – that gave me hope for the future.
  3. Emotionally I grieved the loss of my baby but that was helped considerably by the fact that my husband called him/her ‘our baby’ – it wasn’t just that I had miscarried; we had both lost our baby. By the way, I think society needs to recognise the sense of loss for husbands as well as wives.
  4. Spiritually, as a Christian, I believed that my baby was now in God’s presence and that gave me hope that I would see him/her again one day; I was also filled with a sense of peace as I reasoned that, if God is a God of love, then nothing – not even a miscarriage – could change that. That gave me peace.

‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Romans 8:38.

 

At home

This is my favourite photo of my mum, who died 5 years ago today.head and shoulders

We lost my mum and my mother-in-law within 9 weeks of each other and, as I say in an article I wrote at the time, worry was their love language.

My mum worried if there was something wrong with us; and if there wasn’t, she worried that there would be. She worried if we were home and she worried if we weren’t home – when Alan and I were going out together, she would have fallen asleep before I got in, then wakened up and burst into my room at some unearthly hour of the morning to check that I was in.

 

She’s home now – and waiting for us all to get there.

Scott and Kiki’s wedding

Claire-Lise was married on Saturday 5 September. Scott referred in his wedding speech to having been ‘mystified’ by the girl who wore foot socks on her arms.  Kiki (or Claire-Lise) has always expressed herself in an individual, independent way – another word which Scott used was ‘quirky’. So their wedding was set to be different.

The location was Switzerland, actually in the town where Kiki was born. Instead of a church, Scott and Kiki chose to be married outdoors –  in the Place des Marronniers in Nyon, with the Lac Leman as a backdrop.

k&s at roman columns

Scott wore a very smart navy suit, accessorised by a gold tie and beautiful waistcoat, and his groomsmen picked up the gold theme in their bow ties.

wedding k&s groomsmen and scott

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Once the guests had gathered, the bridesmaids strolled in one by one, down the long ‘aisle’ made by the guests’ chairs, each wearing their own version of the colour blue, and each carrying sunflowers and gypsophila. Claire-Lise came last, escorted by her proud father and carrying the same flowers with just a splash of red carnations.

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The ceremony was simple, with family and friends participating; yet it was profound as we worshipped God in such magnificent surroundings. A good friend of Scott and Kiki’s – Andy Fearon – presided over the vows and preached the sermon.

As Andy pronounced the happy couple man and wife and they set off down the aisle, the guests blowed bubbles in joyful celebration – for this was Switzerland after all and one could not litter the place with confetti.

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After a few family photographs, the guests were free to wander through the streets of Nyon. Most meandered down to the lakeside where they were able to get a delicious ice cream or a frozen yoghurt with berries as they relaxed in the sunshine. Even the bride and groom enjoyed an ice cream, the colours of which blended perfectly with the flowers.

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Then they were whisked off by a family friend, Ted Talbot, in a boat on Lac Leman which took them from Nyon to Founex, where they were welcomed ashore by some of the guests.

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The reception was in the garden of another family friend, Pam Walsh, who hosted the event with her usual mix of sparkle and exuberance. IMG_0314wedding fondue chinoiseFondue Chinoise was the menu of choice and once it got going, all fears about the strange menu melted away and everyone seemed to enjoy the food, as well as the accompanying wine from a local vigneron.

The wedding cake was probably the most quirky part of the reception. Modelled on the well-known ‘carac’ which had been a favourite childhood treat of Claire-Lise, the pȃtissier had been asked to make 3 gigantic caracs and instead of icing them with the usual green icing, to ice them with blue and gold, tying in with the wedding colours. He had excelled himself, producing 4 tiers, alternatively blue and gold, interspersed with sunflowers. Never before (or since!) was there a wedding cake quite like it!

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The evening drew to a close with a few dances and then the young couple left for a honeymoon which would start in a chalet (of a another family friend) in the Swiss Alps and then proceed to Italy and one or two other European countries.

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We began with a reference to Scott’s speech and we will end with another. He said that he and Kiki had dreamt of such a wedding but never thought they would see their dream come true. How wonderful it was for us all to be a part of that dream come true.

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You may have picked up on the number of ‘family friends’ who have been mentioned already. Some family friends hosted bridesmaids and groomsmen; others helped set up for the wedding reception; one provided the cake; another provided the fruit platters; others provided transport; and when everything was over and the bride and groom had left, all the guests pitched in and cleared the tables and chairs away, ready for them to be picked up by the Commune of Founex. Many, many thanks to all of the people who contributed – in so many ways – to make the day the fulfilment of Scott and Kiki’s dream.

It’s the morning after…

The MOB robe is on the washing line, the drone of the dishwasher can be heard in the background, it’s been a morning of moving things up and down stairs, returning everything to its place – and watching photos appear on Facebook.

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It’s been a fabulous weekend of festivities. Some friends told me to savour each moment because the time would just fly by and they were right. So I determined to enjoy as many moments as I could and, as I sit here now on this Monday morning and start to process it all in my head, you’re welcome to share some of those moments with me.

On Friday evening, we all gathered in the church for the rehearsal and the pastor casually asked the bride-to-be how many bridesmaids she would have. ‘Seven’ was the answer. He turned to the groom-to-be and asked ‘Have you a best man and a couple of ushers, Dan?’ ‘I have seven groomsmen’ was the answer. The look on his face was a mix of surprise, wonder, maybe a hint of anxiety as he wondered how we were going to fit all 16 people at the front of the church. A funny moment.

Afterwards at the rehearsal dinner, I looked around at this large bridal party and I was thankful – thankful that the bride and groom have so many good friends that they couldn’t choose just one or two, thankful for the laughter and chatter going on  as we got to know one another before the more formal proceedings would begin the next morning.

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We got home and were preparing for bed when I heard squeals of delight as the robes for the bride and maid of honour were discovered. Another great moment.

The morning of the wedding was filled with moments to remember as we got ready. Things began early with the ring of the doorbell and as I peered into the darkness outside, I saw a figure and heard a voice asking ‘Is this the right house?’ The makeup artist had arrived. After that, it was a stream of people in and out of the house – hairdresser, photographer, videographers, and of course the 7 bridesmaids. Every time one appeared, there were screams of delight from the rest of us as we welcomed them and told them how well they looked.

At one point, I heard several bridesmaids calling for me to go upstairs where one was having her hair styled. I entered the room to find her seated in front of the mirror, the hairdresser still working away at her hair, which was standing out almost vertical from her head. I shrieked – and cameras clicked to capture my reaction. A set-up, if ever there was one! But, apart from this humorous moment, we were largely unaware of the photographer Emma Kenny and the videographer Matt Bonner and his colleague, as they mingled with everyone else throughout the morning, taking candid shots of all that was going on.

An emotional moment for me was when the FOB had his prayer ready and brought it to me so that I could read it. I shed a few tears then, but was glad that it was in the quietness and privacy of my own kitchen so that when I heard the prayer in church later, I was fine.

One of the best moments was when all 7 bridesmaids were ready and stood waiting for their bride to appear. Gemma entered the room and the moment was electric as the bridesmaids saw their bride in all her beauty – and the bride saw all 7 bridesmaids together for the first time. ‘It worked!’ was the verdict of one and all. And it truly had. A moment of sheer joy.

Escorts arrived and the bridesmaids were all whisked off to the church; the videographers and photographer had gone on ahead and so just the four of us Wilsons were left. We stood with our arms round one another in the hallway as the FOB said a prayer of blessing on us and on the day – an intimate moment before we drove off in the family car.

And so it was off to the church. In spite of all the worries about Moira traffic and congestion on the Lisburn Road, we arrived with time to spare – and even had to circle round a a little bit, like a plane waiting to land. A quick photoshoot outside and then it was time to go in. I was escorted up the aisle by Ben Behzadafshar, one of the groomsmen, who walked slowly and confidently, calming my nerves. All 7 bridesmaids entered before their bride, then it was the moment everyone was waiting for as Gemma and her dad walked up the aisle, smiling all the way. We had made it. A moment of relief.

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As the pastor welcomed the congregation and the ceremony began, Dan’s mum reached over and held my hand. It was a simple gesture but one which acknowledged the significance of the moment – for the couple, for their families and for all of us. And I was glad.

Friends of the couple participated in the service in many ways, which added to the significance of each moment. ‘Sincerity’ was a word used more than once to describe the wedding ceremony, as the couple exchanged their vows with heartfelt meaning. The pastor, David Dunlop, preached a great sermon from the Song of Solomon, encouraging Gemma and Daniel to give priority to time together and to remain faithful to each other, as they had promised to do in their vows.

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The bridal party walked down the aisle – no, it was more like danced down the aisle and, as friends and family chatted briefly before leaving (it was cold and windy at this stage), Dan and Gemma took the time to speak to each one who had come to the service, before heading off themselves. Perhaps it was an insight into why they have so many friends who speak so highly of their friendship – they both take the time for people, making each person feel valued and appreciated. Moments of  sharing and genuine friendship.

They were the last to leave but their patience was rewarded by the drive to the reception venue in the lovely car driven by Gemma’s uncle, Robert Mullan.

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Riverdale Barn was the perfect venue for the reception, offering beauty outside, warmth inside and lots of opportunity for chat and relaxation. There was plenty of time for guest to catch up with old friends, get to know new ones, take their own photographs or watch the bridal party have theirs taken. Tea and coffee were accompanied by tray bakes made by many friends who had generously and graciously contributed to a ‘chocolate station’ where all the chocolate was Fairtrade chocolate, as requested by Gemma.

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Soon it was time for speeches. We had the opportunity to learn more about the couple as parents and friends shared stories. These provided great insights into what has made Gemma and Daniel who they are today. Highlights for me were the message from the absent groomsman – Phil Dunlop, who had not been able to make it from the US – as well as the witty poem put together by the bridesmaids.

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Speeches over, it was time to enjoy the meal – a piping hot and delicious buffet which hopefully gave everyone the chance to choose what they wanted. After dessert, the place was cleared for the evening’s entertainment. While music was provided by some of the bands of which Dan has been a part, people chatted happily together, danced with the bridal party or made their way outside to mingle and chat with others. It was very relaxed and people were obviously enjoying one another’s company. As I enjoyed some of the music and was watching Dan playing the drums, it suddenly dawned on me, ‘That’s my son-in-law!’ A proud moment.

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The beautiful cake was cut in the middle of the proceedings so that it could be shared with the evening guests who had joined us. Made by Kathy Dickie of Angel Cake Bakery, it was really delicious – and looked amazing, garnished as it was with  autumn berries.

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The FOB and I had settled in the smaller barn as it got later and Gemma and Dan made their way over to us to say goodbye before they left. I appreciated that so much – just a few moments to share together before they ran through the arch made by their friends and disappeared off on their honeymoon.

Then they were off and it was time to say goodbye to the many friends and family members who had helped make the day so special. In these momentous milestones of life we need the presence and support of those close to us. We were so glad to have so many around us to enjoy the day and celebrate with us.

The day after the wedding, we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch with friends who had come from England and Switzerland – moments of catching up with one another before each headed back to their own lives again.

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