Child of God

He's got the whole world in His hands!

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

Hello again. Hope you’re all well and ticking along. You may have noticed that I didn’t write a blog last week and this is because Kev took a week’s holiday from work. We have this week in February every year to celebrate our wedding anniversary and my birthday, two days later. We had initially booked a few days in York but obviously had to cancel, so thought we might go out for some meals. But the restaurants and pubs are still closed, so we made do with a combination of home cooking and M&S ready meals! We got out for a few local walks, did a lot of lounging about, and basically had a thoroughly nice week together. I am including a few photos that Kev took from our local walks.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.” (John 10:14)

I’ve already told you that my birthday was last week but what I haven’t yet told you is that my second birthday is on 25 February. This is to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the date that I became a Christian. I can hardly believe it’s been so long and the time really has flown!

I have told you my testimony in great detail in previous blogs so won’t repeat myself, except to say that I am so grateful that God waited patiently for me to decide to commit to Him. Thanks to God’s gracious kindness and forgiveness, I am now happy and proud to call myself a Child of God. Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd and I have the assurance that He does know me and I certainly know Him. I am so looking forward to meeting Him face to face.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

God knew you, as He knew Jeremiah the prophet, long before you were even conceived. He thought about you and planned for you. When you feel discouraged or inadequate, remember that God has always considered you valuable and that He has a purpose in mind for you.

Woolston Lake

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Luke 12:7)

I love this verse. It reminds me yet again how amazing our God is, that He even knows the number of hairs on our heads! Our true value is God’s estimate of our worth, not other people’s. They may evaluate us according to how we perform, what we achieve and how we look. But God cares for us because we belong to Him. Never allow yourself to feel that you don’t matter – each and every one of us is special and precious to God. He created you and He knows you better than you know yourself.

“But God shows His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:3)

The whole basis of the Gospel – Christ died for us, in order that we may be forgiven, enjoy a relationship with God and look forward to an eternity spent with Him. What a package! Unlike a lot of so-called good deals, though, there is no hidden catch to this one. It really is as simple as believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, rose again three days later and ascended to heaven to be with his Father. Then you only need to ask Jesus to forgive you, invite him into your life, and begin to live for Him.

Before I became a Christian, I thought this life would be too difficult for me. I wanted to go my own sweet way without the ‘petty and boring’ rules and regulations of the church and the Bible. When I started to attend church, out of gratitude for what the Lord had done for me in guiding me out of a breakdown into relative sanity, I was very reluctant to do so. I only went through gratitude. I didn’t come out of my first church service singing joyful hymns and quoting the Bible! It took me a while to get into it but what I did find is that the more you put into your relationship with Christ, the more you get out of it. He really does want to help you and to make it easier for you to follow Him. It just takes trust and patience. I am still not over-endowed with this virtue but I keep it on my prayer list!

Looking back ten years to who I was then, compared to who I am now, there really have been a lot of changes to my personality. Apart from having settled into a happy and fulfilling marriage with a godly man, my priorities have altered so much. I still get depressed sometimes – I think that’s part of my nature – but I have such a lot of peace from my relationship with Jesus. I’ve said it so many times but I won’t apologise for stating it again – I really do not know how I would cope without my wonderful saviour, Jesus Christ.

Lymm canal

As I have said many times, becoming a Christian certainly doesn’t make you snow-white. I still have to battle with my impatience, quick temper, laziness – you name it! The difference is that the Holy Spirit within us does actually prompt us when we are doing, saying or thinking something which we shouldn’t. In my case, He is very busy! That said, I love the Lord and genuinely want to please Him, so I keep praying and reading the Bible and learning as much as I can about how He wants me to live. I like to think I am making very slow progress and I won’t ever stop trying.

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

God’s work for us began when Jesus died on the cross in our place. His work in us began when we first believed. Now the Holy Spirit lives in Christians, enabling us to be more like Christ every day. We may sometimes feel like we’re not making much progress in our Christian lives but when God starts a project, He completes it. When you’re discouraged, remember that God will never give up on you.

As always, I wish you all a pleasant, safe and healthy weekend. I wish you God's wonderful blessings.

Love Ann ❤

No Christ, no hope - know Christ, know hope.

Sam and me

“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Hello again. Another week has gone by and we wonder where it goes! But today is a rather emotional day for me, as it marks the four-year anniversary of the death of one of the best friends I was ever privileged to have. Her name was Sam and I have mentioned her a couple of times but decided that this week I would dedicate my blog to her memory.

Sam and I met during the year of my breakdown while living in Salford. Sam was a Salford lass through and through, complete with a proper Salford accent. As part of my many therapies, I had volunteered at the Loaves and Fishes, a Christian homeless shelter, which provided meals and drinks, as well as lots of support and practical help to local people down on their luck. We both turned up on induction day in July 2010 and my first impression of her was that she was a bit too cocky and full of herself for my liking! She seemed to be brimming with confidence and I was feeling very vulnerable at the time; in any case, I didn’t think we would have much in common. How wrong could I be? We happened to catch the same bus home and naturally sat together, and I began to see beneath the veneer to the real Sam – very insecure and vulnerable. We agreed to sign up for a shift on the same day and I never looked back. Sam was amazing at the centre – hard-working, warm-hearted, a genuine and kind lady, who loved the people we met and had great concern for them. I made sure I was signed up for the same shifts as Sam and really enjoyed working with her.

As our friendship grew, I got to know her story, as she did mine. We had both been through the mill in different ways but I so enjoyed our time together. She was generous to a fault. You’ve heard the saying, “She would give you her last penny” – well, that was Sam. She cared so much about people and would go out of her way to help anyone. She was also good fun to be with and we would often visit each other’s homes, or trot out to the Trafford Centre for shopping and lunch. She certainly added quality to my life and I believe this worked both ways. I am so glad we managed to take a week's holiday together in May 2015, when we rented a beautiful apartment in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. Sam wasn't all sweetness and light, of course - she could be feisty and downright opinionated sometimes, and we crossed swords on more than one occasion. But our little spats were soon resolved, as neither of us were sulkers.

I became a Christian in 2011 and spoke at length to Sam about my faith. She was very interested and read the John’s Gospel I plied her with. I also took her to my church a couple of times, including a Carol service, which she seemed to enjoy. Sam had always believed in God but had not yet made a commitment to Christ, so I was determined to do my best to help her along the way! We did eventually pray together and I am delighted to say that I was privileged to be with her when she committed her life to Jesus.

Four years later, I was excitedly making plans to take up my teaching post in Poland but Sam was devastated. I assured her that I would miss her too but reassured her that we would see each other on my trips home in the holidays and that she would be welcome to visit me in Wroclaw. Sadly, I bought her ticket but she never made it ….

We often wish we could escape the pain of grief, loss and sorrow. God promises to be close to the broken-hearted and to be our source of courage and comfort. We draw strength from God, as people would draw water from a well. Unlike water, though, God’s strength is inexhaustible and His supply of comfort is endless. He encourages us to draw on His resources as often as we need to – in my case, if it were rationed, I would have long used up my share!

Jeremy, Sam and Josh

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

The above picture shows Sam with Jeremy, her lovely fiance. Whilst I was in Poland, Sam regularly invited Kev to her home to feed him her famous Sunday dinners. She doted on Josh, the feelings were reciprocated, and he was thoroughly spoiled.

I was in Poland when I found out about Sam’s death. Our wedding was scheduled for 18 February 2017 and Sam had bought her outfit and was excitedly looking forward to it. Just nine days prior to the wedding, I was on a high. I was due to fly home on Saturday the 11th and had bought Sam a plane ticket for Saturday, the 25th to return to Wroclaw with me for a week’s holiday. We were both looking forward to it so much. I had made plans to treat her to a luxury pedicure, as she loved her beauty treatments. I had earmarked the restaurants I would take her to and my friends were excited to meet her.

So, on Thursday 9 February 2017, I was feeling pretty good about life. I had been to the hairdresser with my friend, Elaine but, as we came out, she remarked that her husband had received an urgent email from Kev. It was rather cryptic, stating that it was bad news about a friend but I just somehow knew it was about Sam and had a dreadful feeling it would be the worst news. I rushed home and rang Kev, who had the unenviable task of relaying the news to me. Sam had died in her sleep at the age of 45.

Talk about ‘don’t shoot the messenger!’ I put the phone down on poor Kev, couldn’t handle it. I rang Elaine, who came to my apartment immediately and, bless her, stayed with me until about teatime. She just sat with her arm around me, listening to me blubbing on, and brewing me umpteen cups of tea. I cried so much that I didn’t think it was possible that I could produce any more tears. Meanwhile, she had spoken to Kev and reassured him that she was with me. Kev loved Sam, too. It was so unfair of me to pull away from him but there’s no accounting for what grief will do to you. At one stage, Elaine rang her husband, who was director of the school, and asked him to cancel my class. It was the last one scheduled before the February break and I obviously wasn’t in a fit state to teach.

I eventually sent Elaine home to her family, after telling her how very grateful I was for her support. When I finally got round to speaking to Kev, he suggested that I change my scheduled flight from Saturday to Friday, the next day. With the help of another dear friend, Michelle, I managed to do this. I do not know how on earth I would have coped without my friends.

Even now, after four years, my eyes are filling up with tears as I write this. I had packed my bags for the following day and had set my alarm for about 3.30 am, as my earlier flight was very early indeed! I could not sleep for crying and thinking about Sam and I was worried I would not hear my alarm and miss my flight. I remember ranting to God, “You’re supposed to be a comfort to me in these times! I can’t sleep and I’m going to be fit for nothing tomorrow.” I was also dreading waking up with the fresh knowledge of it all. You know – when you have slept on something and you wake up and hope it’s all a horrible nightmare but you find out it’s not – the rawness hits you afresh.

Eventually I did get to sleep and I woke up with the alarm, feeling refreshed and – amazingly – quite calm. I got ready and waited for my taxi to the airport. And let me tell you, it was the easiest and most stress-free journey I have ever made. The taxi turned up on time, my flight was on time but what really astounded me was my experience at Wroclaw airport. As I approached the desk to show my passport, a smiling young man said, “Good morning – how are you today?” He couldn’t have known I was English, as he hadn’t yet seen my passport and I hadn’t uttered a word but he was so welcoming, I believe this was the Lord’s doing. The flight was a dream – smooth as silk, I felt as if I was in a warm little bubble of love and care. Kev was at the airport, clutching a big bunch of flowers, and I ran up to him and hugged him and hugged him, and he took me for breakfast before going home. Looking back, I am smiling and remembering how the Lord showered his love, care and protection on me that day.

Sam with Josh

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus’s own disciples had to cope with grief when He was preparing them for His death. He had to explain to them that His painful death was essential for Him to take on the sins of the world, but that He would be back to see them. This must have been so hard to get their heads round! They couldn’t understand why He had to leave them but they eventually understood. Jesus, of course, did rise from the dead and made several documented appearances to lots of people, before He went back to heaven to be with His father God. He has promised to come back to us too – and I for one can hardly wait!

Sam with Kev

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus has power over life and death, as well as power to forgive sins. This is because He is the creator of life. He who is life can surely restore life. Whoever believes in Christ has a spiritual life that death cannot conquer or diminish in any way. When we realise His power and how wonderful His offer to us really is, how can we help but commit our lives to Him? To those of us who believe, what wonderful assurance and certainty we have! “Because I love you, you also will live” (John 14:19)

Sam being Sam!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Our wedding was wonderful but there was still a huge Sam-shaped hole in it. Our pastor Andrew burned a candle for Sam and spoke a few words about her. Jeremy bravely showed up for the ceremony with his mum but it must have broken his heart. He explained that Sam would never have forgiven him for not coming!

Poignantly, Sam had paid for our ‘mini-moon’ as a wedding present. She had chosen a lovely guesthouse in Keswick, knowing we love that place and that it has special memories for us. It was a bitter-sweet time for us, enjoying the first days of our married life but knowing that we would be attending my dear friend's funeral the following week. We only stayed away two nights because the weather was dreadful and I just wanted to get back to Warrington, as I would soon have to return to Poland until June.

Celebrating Sam's birthday

“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8)

I recently mentioned my mum and my brother who have passed away. In these dreadful times, there must be so many grieving people out there, missing loved ones.

Grief hurts – a physical pain that feels like it will never get better. I hate clichés but I suppose they are clichés for a reason. Time does heal, in that it eases and dulls the pain but it never really goes away. I still miss my mum, after all these years; I miss my brother and I still miss my little ‘Sammy Squirrel’, as I used to call her. But this is not all there is. This life is not the end. I truly believe I shall see my loved ones again - and it’s all thanks to our wonderful Lord and Saviour, Jesus!

I hope you all have a peaceful, safe and healthy weekend with the people who matter to you.

I wish you God’s blessings.

Love Ann ❤

No hope, no Christ - know hope, know Christ.

New Year's Day 2017 - my last time with Sam

Hello again. I hope you're all well and still coping with this dreadful pandemic. Since my retirement, with Kev working full-time, I don't get to see many people. When he arrives home from work, I am waiting eagerly, like a little doggy - desperate to hear any snippets of news he has picked up during the day! 😀 I do have the pleasure of speaking to family and friends on the phone, though.

Can you imagine a world without friends? I can only begin to imagine the sheer loneliness of having no-one to call friend, no-one to call upon in your hour of need. But no-one need be alone; Jesus is waiting in the wings, ready to pick you up when you fall, ready to comfort you when you are in need.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loves us. He said “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus loved us enough to give His life for us. We may not have to die for someone, but there are other ways to practise sacrifical love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. Jesus wants you to give all the love you can and then try to give a little more.

Warsaw Palace

I was so blessed during my time in Poland. It wasn’t all roses but I certainly made more friends than I could ever have hoped for. As well as Elaine, the wife of the director of the school, I met lots of Polish friends and, through the International Church, was blessed with meeting people from all over the world. I joined a women’s Bible study group and met some of the most wonderful people – mainly American missionaries. I was introduced to lots of people, and my social life was amazing.

Kev and I managed to go back to Wroclaw a couple of years ago and met up with several people while we there. We had planned another visit last June but of course, along with loads of other plans, that went up in smoke! Fingers crossed for another visit at some point but in the meantime I am Facebook friends with lots of the people I saw regularly in Poland.

“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

There is a vast difference between knowing someone well and being a true friend. The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty (“loving at all times”) and being available to help in times of trouble. The Bible encourages us to be true friends. In the Old Testament, Moses had a very special friendship with God. “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

This verse is indicating that it is better to have one reliable friend than to have dozens of superficial acquaintances. Even in the best of times, loneliness is a very real problem. How much more of a concern this is in the current times! Many people are feeling cut off and alienated from others, unable to see their family, friends and neighbours. We all need friends who will stay close to us, listen, care and offer help when needed – in good times and bad. One of the upsides of this dreadful pandemic is the way that we have seen the best in people (and the worst, but that’s another story!). A great sense of community has evolved in many neighbourhoods, with folks looking out for their neighbours in a way not seen for many years.

Palace gardens

In the Song of Solomon there is a verse which says, “This is my beloved and this is my friend”. It is referring to the relationship between husband and wife. Kev, my lovely hubby, is also my best friend. We became good friends long before we got together as a couple, and I now value his opinions more than anyone’s, with the exception of God's, of course!

April

April came to Warsaw with us. She's from the USA and she lived in the opposite apartment to me. She was also a teacher at the school. She was very young, so I took her under my wing, with a welcoming corned beef hash awaiting her arrival. She subsequently became addicted to this, along with my homemade soups.

Michelina and Marianna

While we were in Warsaw, we visited the Palace, which was beautiful, and I also had the pleasure of meeting Marianna’s sister, Michalina, who was living there at the time.

Of course (and you knew this was coming!), the best friend anyone can have is a young man called Jesus. He was notoriously a people person and enjoyed a get-together. His first documented miracle was turning water into wine at his mother’s friend’s wedding! Jesus loved people from all backgrounds and was a friend to all, with compassion and love and empathy for everyone.

I certainly consider Him to be my friend – indeed, I truly do not know how I would get through life without His support and love. He’s there for the taking – just ask Him to come into your life, forgive your sins and be your Lord and Saviour. He died a terrible death, taking on the penalty for our sin, so that we might all have the chance of a relationship with His father God. He promised that if you believe that He died for our sins, and rose again, and if you put your trust in Him, you will have eternal life with Him. It took me so long to make up my mind to commit to Him. Don’t leave it as long as I did.

As always, I wish you a safe, healthy and peaceful weekend with your loved ones. God bless.

Ann ❤

No Christ, no hope - know Christ, know hope.

"Forget about everyday worries and enjoy the pleasure of having rest in the garden."