Living in the basement was how it seemed to us at first when we moved in April to the Essex coast, even though we live on the second floor of our block of flats with the most wonderful views over water from both the front and back balconies. After being in the thick of the action for God in London with a bunch of on fire brothers and sisters, it was suddenly …nothing! Ouch. And it hurt.
The early part of the year had been so painful – two months of daily hospital visits for radiotherapy treatment for the cancer, (now gone, thank God), my dad dying, packing up our home after 34 years, saying goodbye to so many neighbours and friends in the church. On the day we moved it poured and poured, as if heaven was mingling its tears with ours.
Then nothing, except the challenge of downsizing, and getting to know a new community and trying to find a new church we could call home.
A lovely summer holiday with the family, reading and a steady trickle of visitors helped keep our chins up. The book ‘I SHALL NOT HATE’ ,by Izzeldin Abuelaish rocked me to my core. He is a Palestinian doctor who, when working in an Israeli hospital, lost his wife to leukaemia and three daughters and a niece when their bedroom in the family home in Gaza was ripped apart by Israeli shells. From his impoverished childhood in a refugee camp and going through all that tragedy he now treats patients on both sides of the conflict and has gone on to become one of the world’s leading infertility experts. Incredible. God has wonderfully enabled this Muslim to live without hatred or rage towards the Israeli murderers of his family. Get hold of this book if you can, you won’t be able to put it down.
Like Nelson Mandela whose greatest achievement was also to see forgiveness overcome hatred, these men challenged me so much : they could have lived in the basement for the rest of their lives but something awesome got hold of them – a desire to live at a higher level. And that met with a chord in God’s heart, and he lifted them up.
God spoke to me to keep the Kingdom dream of a different, higher way of living alive up here in Walton, a small declining seaside town with low aspirations. He told us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and look and try to see what He is doing – and then to follow that path with Him. As we did that, gradually Kingdom opportunities started to open up to us.
- When out dog walking I began bumping into people who it turned out were hurting and needed to know Gods love and forgiveness for them personally.
- We were asked to drive a mini bus and pick up older people to take to a weekly club. We gave one of the ladies (93 years old Ivy Ball) a start when she opened her Christmas card from us to read with love from Ann and Leslie Ball. Her long dead husband’s name was Leslie Ball. She thought he had sent her a Christmas card from the dead!
We started working through the Rick Warren 40 Days Purpose Driven book ‘What on Earth Am I Here for?’, and before long had a bunch of spiritually hungry friends wanting to join in.
- I was asked to help with appointing a youth outreach worker for the Walton churches.
- We were asked to help local churches make an impact on the community at Christmas through shining the Light. We took a nativity set into a local school and when unpacking it with the headmaster children started gathering round and spontaneously started asking who Mary and Joseph was. The baby intrigued them when I said it wasn’t Mary’s baby, but it was ‘God with skin on’, and is why we have Christmas.
- We supplied a local farmer with two large LED good news angels and a Peace dove to shine light out over his barn where he is having a carol service for the village, together with his horses!
- We are still to settle in a new church where we feel we can be of help, and really miss having our family just round the corner, but we certainly aren’t living in the basement any more. We are really enjoying living here, although we miss the mix of cultures that enriched our lives so much in London. The man upstairs has come down to us and is helping us climb back up the stairs, just as he is committed to doing for everyone who looks to him.
May you feel his strong hand over yours this Christmas and may the New Year see you also enjoy the upward climb with the one who put skin on and came down to grab our hands all those years ago.
To the King who came downstairs, and His Kingdom!