My faith is my greatest blessing and I'm just so grateful for His unending love, mercy and grace...
I grew up attending a Catholic church and schools throughout my childhood but it wasn't until I was nearly 40 years-old and desperate, that I truly found Him and my faith.
I'm telling you this story, my faith story, in order to share my heart with you from one ordinary woman (friend, mother, daughter, sister etc) to another...
It's not an 'easy' story to share but often it's these very experiences that can be so helpful to others. I don't have all the answers on this journey of faith and life and of course I'm still on this journey, just like you.
My faith story opens up all sorts of vulnerabilities, potential judgement and criticism from others but share I must because if it encourages just one other person, then it's worth it.
To go back to the beginning - my parents were (and are) very loving and together with my Granny, Aunt and Uncle, my childhood felt secure and content for the most part. However, when I became a teenager and hormones filled my body, I started to change imperceptibly (at first) and after I had given birth to my first son in my late 20's (he is now 21), I spiralled rapidly into post-natal depression and re-visited this state on and off until I turned nearly 40.
I think all of us have a defining moment(s) of heartache, struggle or insight in our lives, whether it be relating to a deep hurt, profound grief, abuse, illness, depression, divorce, addiction etc.
For me, as mentioned above, it was crushing depression, tackling a phobia and the accompany anxiety, the break-up of my first marriage, together with hard, painful emotions and situations that had plagued me for several years and inevitably caught up with me - everything was leading to this moment...
Additionally, you may have read in previous posts regarding my first-born son who was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was just two... My heart had broken and I was a mess. I felt I would never to recover - this was the sum total of my life.
I found myself on the kitchen floor crying with our two little ones playing in the corner oblivious of my pain (I hoped) as I tried to pull myself together, once again...
Apart from a few people and of course my husband, most people would have thought my life was near perfect.
I was able to dress myself each morning, care for our children, walk around in a detached fog without many people realising, cook meals - 'act the part', all with a fake smile upon my face but inside my heart was shrinking - I was living a facade. Maybe you know what I mean?
That moment on the floor, in the kitchen, brought everything to a head and I prayed to God for His help! I'd had it, I was broken, wounded and wrung out. My children and husband deserved better.
Whilst on the floor, I can't say that thunder clapped above my head or I audibly heard God speak to me but I do know that I felt changed somehow...
Like, there. was. finally. hope.
Like I was being held.
Like I was heard.
Like there was a glimmer of light in the distance.
Like .... maybe, just maybe, I was loved.
That, maybe I could break out of the hell hole I was in and feel His tender, loving arms wrapped around me like the patchwork quilt of my Granny's that enveloped me with love as a child.
As I said, it wasn't an immediate healing of depression but for the first time, it was finally clear to me that I needed to seek help and bit by bit I began to see the Light in places I could never have dreamt of.
It sounds weird, but as I became 're-acquainted' with myself, the 'real' Jane that had always been there but had just been buried beneath the surface, began to blossom and my faith grew stronger and my healing went deeper and deeper. I began to see the world in technicolour instead of grey tainting everything. This is when art began to play a part in my healing.
Fast forward approx. ten years and it was when I started to go to a mother and toddler group at our local church, coupled with me seeking help from the doctor, that bit by bit I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and my heart was renewed. I found me again, my family had me back and I felt infinitely loved and accepted.
A little while after, I had to have some surgery and my husband and I were amazed to find women appearing on our doorstep with meals they had cooked for us as they knew it was going to be tough for me. I hadn't asked, they merely had seen the need and acted accordingly. I was amazed and warmed by their kindness. After all, relative strangers don't often act this way in life.
We started going to the church regularly after that and gradually became more and more comfortable being there. I started going to the women's group attached to our church and learning about what's in the bible and applying it to my life today. Ever since then, I've belonged to a bible study group because it's a wonderful way to learn more about God and discern what He might be putting on my heart. Also, it's a fantastic way to hear from other folks who have the same challenges and to encourage each other.
So, I'd just like to encourage you and if you're going through a challenging time to just remember that you're not alone and that He cares for you because He created you.
He knows how many hairs are on your head.
He breathed life into you.
He loves you.