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Why can’t I think straight anymore?

Before Andy died, I considered myself a fairly competent professional. I was running a business as an expert witness alongside working in a busy Community Learning Disability Team. I could recall almost every client I’d ever worked with. I could remember conversations I had in minute detail. In addition, I had a busy household with three children, supporting Andy as he worked full time, and I headed up a team of people leading young people at our local Church. This involved sorting some rotas, planning teaching, producing videos, crafts, entertainment on a weekly basis, pastoral care, mentoring, youth weekends, weeks away… I’m exhausted thinking of it all now!

But then – Andy died.

I went from relatively organised, competent individual, where I could think quickly and laterally on my feet, making decisions with ease, whilst keeping all the plates spinning to existing as an aemoba, living in a fog. I could no longer plan, think, remember, organise. Every decision was difficult. I could do no more than think about the next minute of my life.

In fact that became my motto – one minute at a time. my goal was simply to get through the next minute, and then the next.

I may be wrong but I think only those who have been through severe trauma or the grief of losing a loved one can truly appreciate “the fog”. My brain just couldn’t function. I could not plan how to make a drink, let alone run my household. Thinking through the steps to run a bath or take a shower almost seemed too much. I could not concentrate to watch a television programme. I could not concentrate to read. I found it hard to make any little decision,whether that be what to wear or what to eat for tea.

I thought this would get better, and to a great extent it has done…. but I still seem to hit brick walls at times. I feel I am far less competent at work. My memory for various tasks has taken a significant knock. Running the household takes far more effort than it ever did before. Although admittedly this is partly because previously I was part of a team running the house and managing the children… now I do not have another adult around to help run errands, nag the children and help with all the many household tasks.

If I’m not careful I can easily fall into a pity party and focus on all of the things I cannot do.

I get cross at myself and think about what I used to do, and question why I’m no longer performing at the same level.

But when I’m in the pity party I’m often reminded that i’m trying to do it all on my own. When I try to get on with things in my own strength, I fail. I make mistakes at work. I can’t keep up with the changes in the computer programmes or the changes in processes. I mess up with communicating with people. I mess up In my relationships with my kids. I have scheduling problems as I try to crowd too many things in rather than focusing on what’s important.

Too often I try to go through this storm on my own.

However, I’ve been reminded this week, that as a Christian, doing it on my own is bound to leave me failing. The guy that wrote Proverbs (a book of wisdom in the Oldest part of the Bible) said…. Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Too often I try to figure out stuff myself, focusing on my own ways of looking at things. But that is not God’s plan for us. He has better ideas for us.

So what is God’s plan?

Proverbs says to “Trust”. Trust has been described as an unquestioning belief in and reliance on something. Trust has not come easy on this journey. How do I trust and rely when my world has been turned upside down, when things don’t make sense at all in human terms?

But whilst things didn’t make sense, there was also a sense of relief in being able to simply rely on God in the fog. There had to be a time when I let go of trying to work out the answers. There isn’t any human sense in what happened. What God calls me (and you) to do is to listen for His voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. He doesn’t call me to figure out the whys and wherefores of Andy’s death. He calls me to trust.

Don’t get me wrong. I have questioned. I have argued with God. I have shouted and cried and sobbed and begged. But I believe His answer has always been to trust.

Once again, this week, I’ve messed up. I’ve tried to figure things out on my own. But I’m so grateful that the God who asks me to trust HIM, is also a gracious and merciful and forgiving God.

As you’re reading this I don’t know your situation. Perhaps you have found yourself in the fog and you don’t know how to get through the next minute… God simply says Trust me, I’ve got this.

Perhaps you’re someone who is trying to figure things out on their own, but it’s not working out. Stop trying to figure it out on your own, listen for God’s voice and trust Him.

Posted in listening to God

Are we missing the stars?

I’ve just had the most incredible experience whilst on holiday with my children.

We stayed on Sal, one of the Cape Verde islands. It was hot hot hot!!! Sun burn abounded. We weren’t used to the sun, the need for factor 50 many times a day, and staying in the shade whenever possible… thank goodness for after sun gel, best served straight from the fridge for extra chill.

Having traveled so far I was determined that we’d enjoy some local life and experiences. Stuff that we couldn’t do back home. Once in a lifetime sort of experiences.

So, late one evening, we went out with a tour guide, a marine biologist, to a beach near the hotel where Loggerhead turtles come ashore to nest and lay their eggs. We had been told that there was no guarantee that we would actually see a turtle, but every trip so far this season had been successful in seeing at least one turtle.

We bundled into a minibus, excited and buzzing with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see one of these beautiful, huge creatures up close and to see nature in the wild. The journey to the beach was short. The children stared out of the windows at the African style town… (There is a big debate as to whether Cape Verde is actually Africa or European due to previous colonial influences, but that’s a debate for another time!)

Then we headed onto the beach road and the adventure truly began…. the minibus turned off it’s headlights and just drove with the hazard lights on. We later heard this was to prevent the glare of the headlights from scaring away any turtles who were starting to venture ashore. Driving off road in the dark, without headlights was quite scary! We were putting our whole trust in the guide and driver.

Our journey of trust continued when the bus stopped and we were led almost silently along the beach, without lights, stumbling over rocks amongst the soft sand. My little girl clutched my hand. I could just about make out my sons ahead of us. We were walking completely in the dark… no lights allowed except for a small red light which the guide kept on.

Some way along the shore we sat and the guide talked to us about the lifecycle of the turtles and what they would be doing on the beach that night.

And then the waiting began.

We sat and we sat, straining our eyes, looking out into the darkness to see’ if we could see something black wandering up the beach. I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for. All I could see was dark and the light of the stars reflecting off the waves as they crashed on the shore. The situation started to seem quite helpless.

The guide went off and walked down the beach, searching for any turtles coming ashore, he knew what he was doing and what he was looking for… after all this was his job. Tour guide by night and conservationist by day. He came back, his search had been fruitless. The children were getting restless, the questions began from my sons, how long are we going to wait, when does this trip end, we’re bored.

Whilst not voicing my feelings, we had after all been asked to be silent, I also began to feel frustrated. I’d paid a fair amount of money for this trip. I’d promised the children an exciting, once in a lifetime experience, and it did not seem to be happening.

Selfishly, I started to pray, “please God I’ve come out tonight and spent quite a lot of money to give my kids this experience, so that we can see your creation up close, and yet it’s not happening. Please God, cause one of those turtles to come up the beach, just one, that’s all I want to see….” In the midst of the many difficulties in the world the prayer seemed selfish and indulgent, but I’m not perfect and I admit I often ask God for things I want, whether they’re good for me or not.

The guide went off looking again, I continued praying…. “please God let me see your creation.”

I love how prayer is not one way. It’s not simply that we say what we want to say and that’s it, but God engages us in conversation…. if we’re prepared to listen.

Fortunately, whilst sat on that beach in the near silence, gazing into the darkness, I was able to listen to God’s answers, without distraction.

So you want to see my creation? That’s brill. Look up…. that’s also my creation.

You’re so focused on what you want to happen that you’re missing what’s around you in the moment whilst you’re waiting!

Above us was the most magnificent canopy of stars, greater than my children had ever seen before in their lives. The stars went on forever, layers upon layers, clouds of stars, constellations, shining in their brilliance. I had not seen stars like it for over 20 years.

I recalled where it says in the Old Testament, the early part of the Bible that God promised a man called Abram that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the seashore and the stars of the sky. (Genesis 22:17) I had always struggled to understand this…, there was far more sand than there were stars surely? In our light polluted UK sky, the stars seem few compared to the billions of sand grains that are present.

I lay there on the sand gazing up at the sky, thanking God for the brilliance of creation… I couldn’t burst into song for fear of scaring away any turtles, but in my head I was singing… The words from the songwriter Chris Tomlin came to mind: Indescribable, Uncontainable, You placed the stars into space and you know them by name, You are amazing God.

As I sat there I felt prompted to reflect.

How often am I chasing the next thing and missing what is around me?

When I lost my husband was I too focused on what God would do in the future that I missed the blessings He was trying to show me in the midst of my pain?

As I look back, even in the middle of my grief there were blessings: quiet words from a friend, a text at the right time, the ongoing beauty of creation, my children’s laughter. In my pain, hurt, confusion and devastation it was hard to see and appreciate those amazing things, yet they were God’s way of showing me that He still lived me. They were His way of walking with me through the pain.

God does not want you to go through it alone

Whatever you are going through today, I am convinced that God does not want you to go through it alone. Whether life is good or you feel like it could not get any worse try to notice what God is doing for you today. This is often not easy to do but ask God to prompt you. Take time to be present in the moment. Stop and notice a flower, or a bird, and say thank you to God. If you get a smile from a stranger or a small text from a friend, be thankful.

Yes, there may be bigger things to come, but there’s also blessings all around you if you will only stop and consider them.

Make sure that you aren’t so focused on seeing the turtles and staring into the blackness that you miss the stars.

And if you are wondering…..The guide did come back and quietly told us that he’d found a turtle, we quickly yet silently followed him back along the beach, crouching at a distance whilst she dug her nest, then when she started to lay eggs we were able to get up closer and see the process and watch her cover back over her nest, then build a camouflage nest nearby to distract predators…. before she returned to the ocean, It truly was magical, but even if I hadn’t got to see it, the stars were also declaring God’s glory and His wonderful creation.

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What’s in a name?

When the embryonic idea of this blog first came into being… several years ago… like everything back then I chatted about it with my dear husband.

During the discussion, he immediately said that I needed to explain the name.  His first thought… and perhaps it was yours…. was that this may be a blog about walking around in the countryside with no shoes on!  I’m afraid I will have to disappoint.

I have looked and there are other blogs that talk about that.

I like going for a walk on rare occasions.  Unfortunately, I don’t do it often enough and set myself unrealistic goals of going walking with those who are extremely fit and who can walk miles over steep terrain without tiring, whilst I puff along at the back, gasping for air, reaching for my asthma inhaler and believing that I will die before the walk ends.  However much I may enjoy or aspire to enjoy these excursions, the frequency of these events do not allow me to describe myself as a rambler.

I have, however, done a barefoot walk at a local country park.  This has been designed for health purposes according to historic principles developed by Pastor Sebastian Kneipp.  The walk was a strange experience sometimes chilly, other times painful. Navigating along a path that represented the area’s local industrial heritage: timber, bark, coal, pebbles, wood and clay.  I got to the end along with my eldest son, invigorated that I had done it, having laughed myself silly as I slipped and slid around on the mud, screeched as I went through the ice cold pools of water and yelped as the sharp pebbles cut into my soles. There were parts of the walk that were comfortable and comforting in ways, whilst other parts were uncomfortable, unpleasant, and you tried to finish as quickly as you could.

Perhaps that barefoot walk is a good metaphor of life.  

There are bits that are comfortable and leave us crying with laughter whilst other bits are so painful you long for it all to end.

And this brings me on to the reason for the blog’s name.

There’s a story in the first part of the Bible where God appears to Moses, a refugee from Egypt through a Burning Bush.  This all sounds quite strange to us today, but it also seemed pretty bizarre to Moses.  The bush was on fire but wasn’t burning up, the fire just kept on burning.  During this meeting God tells Moses to take off his shoes, because the place where he is standing is Holy Ground, because God is there.

God is there

Whatever we are going through in life, God is there alongside us and so wherever we are we find ourselves on Holy Ground.  I have found this to be so true over the past couple of years, since the tragic death of my husband.

My hope through this blog is that I will reflect on times when God is present in my day to day life, in the boring mundane housework, laundry, shopping, doing the school run life.  I also believe that He is speaking to me through events all around me, if only I will stop and listen.

I also hope that this will encourage you to look for times when God is present and speaking to you too.

So that is why I have called it barefoot.

– a recognition that as we walk through life we do walk on Holy Ground, we walk in the presence of God, we load the dishwasher, change the beds, chat to others at the school gate, and chill with our families and friends on Holy Ground, with God stood there beside us.

And rambling

– well I am known for rambling on at times…. but in the literary sense not the physical walking one!

I look forward to sharing this journey with you and hopefully encouraging you to listen out for God in your day to day life too.

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Who Am I?

I am new to this blogging lark.  Please bear with me!

I’ve done a little research and it seems that one of the first things people will be looking for is who am I?  So here goes…

I am a widow.  I was a wife, (to Andy), for 16 and a half years.  But in January 2017 I became a widow. Andy died in a car accident on his way to work and in a split second I went from wife to widow.

I was a joint parent to three gorgeous children, who have taught me so much about myself and the world in which we live.  Now I am a single parent, a double parent, Mum and Dad, a dual parent, a parent to grieving children, a bereaved parent… I do not yet know how to define myself.  But to the kids I am simply MUM.

I’m an employee, I work part time for the NHS.  I am a Director of my own Consultancy company.  However, recovering from the sudden trauma of losing Andy has involved breaks from both of these roles, as I grappled to piece together some semblance of a normal life.

I’m a friend to many dear people, too many to name, although you may get to know about them as this blog unfolds.  The relationship with these friends has also changed as I moved from being married to being unmarried.

I have also begun a new relationship, so now I am a girlfriend and “Dad’s girlfriend” to two young girls. The complications of renegotiating relationships and blending families is just beginning.

Until Andy’s death I was a youth leader within our Church.  I am a Christian, attending a local Church.  However, this was another role I could no longer fulfil as I tried to find equilibrium after the trauma of bereavement.

Throughout the past year I have found myself asking the question… Who am I?  How am I defined?  Am I defined by what I do? What I own? Who I speak to? Who I relate to?

The questioning reminds me of a song by Casting Crowns… “Who am I? That the Lord of all the earth, should care to know my name”.

The song concludes that the answer to the question :”Who am I?” is that “I am yours”.

I can think of no better way to define myself, no better way to be known, than to be God’s child.

This gives me a purpose, a reason for being, whatever my role, whoever I know, whatever I own and whatever I do.

I am God’s child, loved unconditionally by an Eternal God, who is Sovereign in my life.

Whatever I face, whatever the future may hold, I can be at peace knowing that I belong.

Would you answer the question “Who am I” in the same way?  Perhaps you have other ways that you feel fits you better?  Perhaps you don’t yet know how you’d answer that question?

I’d love it if you would join me on this blogging journey and we can find out what God may have to say to us together….

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