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Whisper it very quietly, but a little more than six years after I first started taking medication for anxiety and low mood, I have stopped taking the tablets.  I’ve left it for a while before posting this to make sure that I am able to sustain the progress I have made and I now feel confident that the gradual reduction to nothing is permanent.

It has taken a long time – longer than I would have liked.  After a while, I gave up with a timetable.  Life just doesn’t work that way does it?  I would devise a plan and then something happened to foil it.  In the end, I stopped the medication completely as we headed into Winter – contrary to all advice and common sense but it felt right and it seems to have lasted.

I am still affected by both anxiety and low mood.  The medication helped me but it didn’t cure me.  It’s just that I have now reached a point where taking better care of myself and adopting helpful strategies are enough.  I need to keep doing both of those things.

I would not have wished for the experience, but the last eight years have taught me a lot.  They have greatly increased my compassion and empathy for others who experience mental health illness.  They have enabled me to help other people more effectively.  They have made me a better person.

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The unstoppable Jesus

This morning in our meeting, we sang a song which asked the question, “Who can stop our God?” and I was led to think about how His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted.

When men from the East asked, “Where is the one born King of the Jews?” Herod’s slaughter of the innocents could not stop Him.

Temptations from Satan could not stop Him.

The traps, questions and plotting of religious leaders could not stop Him.

False accusations, lies and a secret trial could not stop Him.

Flogging, mocking, beating, the Roman authorities and the cries of the crowd could not stop Him.

Jesus was determined to go to the cross.

Where death could not stop Him.

A stone across the entrance to His tomb and a Roman guard could not stop Him.

As He ascended into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, nothing could stop Him.

Today, nothing can stop Jesus pouring out His Spirit, His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

When He returns, riding out of heaven with an army of angels to establish His kingdom in all its fullness, nothing will stop Him.

Jesus is unstoppable.

when life changes

stone outcropI had a bit of a moment this weekend. To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we re-visited the hills we had explored when we decided to get married. We even took the same route we had taken all those years ago.

On the hill, overlooking one of my favourite places in the world, I was acutely aware that the most important period of our most important role in life is almost over. Our children have grown up.

Hope has completed her first year at university, Peace is about to leave home for college and Mercy is 17 in a few months time.  It’s not that you ever finish parenting – it’s simply that the role you play in your children’s lives changes and we are entering a new phase.

I was aware too that the most important wish I had for them when they were born was that they would each know and love Jesus for themselves, which they do.  I felt overwhelmed by God’s love and faithfulness across the years.

I am also aware that our marriage is entering a new phase too.  We have been preparing for life without our children at home, talking together about our future – the hopes and desires that we have – and about God’s plans and purposes for us.

It was so good to look out across the hills and vales and know that He has been faithful for so long and that He will continue to be so throughout the years ahead.

The care system for children in the UK has come under huge scrutiny recently, and rightly so. With so many cases of historic and systematic abuse being uncovered it is essential that the truth is established, justice is done and changes are made.

The impact on people’s lives is immeasurable. Many never really recover from such a difficult start.

It is therefore both challenging and encouraging to know people like Ray. He started life in a very tough family situation and experienced a traumatic time in the care system. When he left at 18 he was vulnerable and angry.

Unable to cope, he repeatedly found himself in prison. There was a pattern of behaviour in his life that he simply couldn’t change. God, however, had other ideas.

After being taken care of by a Christian who took him under his wing, Ray eventually gave his own life to Jesus. Things have taken time to change – and continue at times to be difficult – but for the last four years he has been living in accommodation with Faith Hope and Enterprise and making good progress.

In that time, Ray has become a family friend. He has spent Christmas day with us a couple of times and has seen our children in school productions, choir concerts and sports events. It is a privilege to know him and to be part of his journey.

when change happens

It’s one thing to see someone make significant change in their lives, it’s another when they reach out to help someone else do the same. Today, Geordie offered a young homeless man some hope in a desperate situation. Listening to him make the offer just blew me away.

I have known Geordie for a little more than two years. We met when he was in prison, referred to us by an alcohol worker there with whom we had built up a good relationship. He moved into a shared house and began volunteering with the company, quickly able to turn his hand to a number of practical skills that he has continued to develop.

Last year he moved into his own property, which he keeps in exceptional condition.

Other residents listen to him. His understanding and advice has been invaluable, and he is an inspiration to people looking to make the same changes in their own lives that Geordie has made in his. His journey is not yet complete, but he has come a long way and he has hope and confidence for the future. I am looking forward to seeing where that takes him.

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