Dad

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My Dad lay in deepest of sleeps, his breath rattling loose around his fragile frame. He was leaving us, departing this momentary world. Many of those around his bed had been allowed their moment and I waited quietly for mine. Even with ten of us around his bedside My Heavenly Father graced me my space. As I looked up to an empty room tangible peace invaded my being.

Just my Dad and me.
I looked down at his hands, one hand held a wooden prayer cross and I wrapped his other around mine.
I wanted to hold his hand as he was ushered in.
That smooth, familiar hand.
That had steered the truck to support our family.
That had betrayed…defended.
That held back screaming fans in the 60s at the packed town hall.
That had given out aid in Croatia.
The hand that had surrendered to God.
The miracle of his surrender made the redemption of God all the more glorious. We all remember that miracle – when God broke into the chaos, pouring rivers of living water and drowning dysfunction. And wherever the river flowed, transformation happened.
…I said all I had to say; my throat squeezed tight, words finally filling my voiceless pain. He heard me, his frail, cancer consumed body slowly departing, but he heard me – healing tears rolled down his cheeks and mine.
‘Well done Dad, well done.’
Family gathered close again, holding hands tight and every second dear.
Sounds never heard before, emotions never experienced.
Then…a glorious February sunlight shone through the hospice window, a new light.

Remembering you today Dad, with Beatles songs and stories and I’m so thankful to our Saviour,
Love, Shell x

I pray for those of you in the unending shadows, that you will not be overcome by fear.
I pray that you will be reassured that He is with you in those moments and that He is near with protection and guidance.
I pray that you will know His comfort, His presence, His peace – always.

You are loved.

He comforts to the point of strength

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I have no words yet I have all the words. Death seems to have a way of breathing new life into our bones and shifting our focus on the eternal. Thank you all for your love, prayers and messages these past few weeks. We have felt it. God has wrapped us up in His love. For those who are new here. Here’s the link to our journey over the past while.

I have been meditating on the valley… because it is a familiar place to us at the moment. It would appear this valley here is no sprint – but what I do know is that ‘even though I walk through the darkest valley.’

THROUGH. Phew

 Rick Warren describes the valley as : Inevitable /\Unpredictable/\Impartial/\Temporary

Valleys happen, they are no respecter of persons and never happen at a good time – read more of his devotional here  – he ends it with this ‘…There is an eternal glory. This is important. Pain can be productive. There will be a benefit for our problems if we respond in the right way. While we have the temporary hassles there is long term, eternal benefit when you go through a valley and respond to it correctly.’

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Our God the comfort, He comforts well – to the point of strength. That’s our promise even when emotions weigh us down and grief gets in the bones. Even in the darkest valley moments. There’s always, ALWAYS light.

Because of promise. Because He is light. And there is no darkness in Him. And at times like these. When we’re fighting for the day. There is a community that rises up. With encouragement and food, and cakes (because sweet things are comforting ;)) meals out and a whole lot of love. Thank you.

….and today I am procrastinating on a uni assignment because I seem to have misplaced creativity. I am supposed to be writing a Fantasy story for 7-9 year olds – so I decided to ‘winterize’ the (neglected) veggie patch instead.

As I begin to turn it over, and weed – I pull up a whole harvest of misshaped carrots – I find monster zucchini hidden under shrivelled leaves – and an abundance of tomatoes desperately crawling on the ground. Yes, there is still fruit – even when it appears we’re not on top of things. There is harvest in this mess.

And a surprise selection of sunflowers grow tall. Facing light.

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After my gardening today I came in for tea and (more) cake and read an article by Danny Silk.  ‘Your life is a gift from God to you. It has infinite value to him, which he communicates to you in all the many ways He loves you…healthy relationships grow between people who have embraced their individual responsibility to tend to their own gardens. …You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. If you have ever been on a plane, you have been subjected to the flight attendants’ spiel about what to do if the cabin loses pressure. They explain that oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling and show you how to put them on. Every time, they remind you that if you are traveling with a child or someone else in need of assistance, you must be sure to put your mask on before you try to help anyone else. The implication is clear. If you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to care for anyone else. (Thanks Danny!)

So as we walk through the valley we care for ourselves, we hide in the rock, and hear Jesus whisper ‘get up’…. and we take a few more steps.

And even in these past few weeks loved ones near and far have faced their own valley –unexpected news, accident, illness and loss.

Friends: God is near to you – He is near to the broken hearted He rescues those who are crushed in spirit – He prays for us. What a perfect opportunity for the Holy Spirit to meet us in our weakness and pray on our behalf. He knows us.

That’s all for now!

Love, Michelle xo

 

A few days before we returned UK Phil preached on the book of Job – little did we know we’d practicing what he preached… you can listen to it here.

 

Chapter One of the Great Story

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“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.

When we followed God’s call across the pond. We knew there’d be some sacrifice involved and knew there would be times when that call happens. Last week we heard Phil’s Grandfather (Pop) had deteriorated in health and was in his last days and asked the Lord to grace us with time with him. So we flew on a cramped flight, the Collins clan scattered around the plane.

We spent his last days with him. Talked about his life, about heaven, we prayed, cried, laughed. Pop slept through it all but we know he was listening.  And as Phil sat with his Pop on Monday evening, his final breaths were woven with Phil praying the Lord’s Prayer, until his last breath came with Phil’s ‘Amen.’

 

We woke yesterday to beautiful skies – reminded that his mercies are new every morning. We enjoyed a drive out to Church Stretton, and a beautiful walk over Carding Mill Valley in the Long Mynd. I love to listen to whisper of God in nature. And as I breathed the wonderful air I invited heaven to speak. The stunning landscape changed with the weather as clouds rolled in, the wind blew and sunshine surprised. CS Lewis wrote ‘grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’

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I looked at my family and rejoiced in the knowledge of a living, loving Christ holding us up.

We reached the top and made our way across heather-covered hills, within moments sheets of rain fell curtain-like around us. The promise of stunning views of the Welsh Hills were wrapped in fog.

I was absorbed by the grey beauty of the valley.

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And paused in His presence.

We walked from the hill, down into the valley, into the pain of more loss. Phil’s mom,Val, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Her pilgrimage here on earth over.  As we sat with her and prayed her into Jesus’ presence – the tangible love of God filled the room. Holy. So holy.

How she loved the Lord – feisty and stubborn, beautiful and childlike. A colourful rich soul.

In our disorientated state of grief. With weary heads and bodies, we are thankful for your love, near and far – we love how God uses people to heal people.

We are amazed with the favour of God’s timing. A friend described it as a ‘perfectly orchestrated piece of a very sad song.’

Pray for us, especially Phil, as we enter into a week of funerals and travel once more across the world to our other home, community and life.

We grieve with hope – knowing there’s no real end.

‘Til heaven – Nanny Val and Pop.

Love, Michelle xo

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Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

We all remember that Miracle

 

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My Dad lay, in the deepest of sleeps, his breath rattling loose around his fragile frame. He was leaving us. Departing this momentary world. Many of those around his bed had been allowed their moment and I waited anxiously for mine. Even with ten of us around his bedside My Heavenly Father graced me my space. As I looked up to an empty room tangible peace invaded my being.

Just my Dad and me.

I looked down, one hand held a wooden prayer cross and I wrapped his other around mine.

I wanted to hold his hand as he was ushered in.

That smooth, familiar hand.

That had steered the truck to support our family.

That had betrayed…defended.

That held back screaming fans at the town hall.

That gave out aid in Croatia.

The hand that had surrendered to God.

 The miracle of his surrender made the redemption of God all the more glorious. We all remember that miracle – when God broke into the chaos, pouring rivers of living water and drowning dysfunction. Wherever the river flowed, transformation happened.

I said all I had to say; my throat squeezed tight, words finally filling my voiceless pain. He heard me, his frail, cancer eaten physical body slowly departing, but he heard me. Tears rolled down his cheeks and mine. Salt heals you know.

‘Well done Dad. Well done’

As a family we waited a few more minutes, holding every second dear, then we all gathered closer and held hands, tight.

Sounds never heard before, emotions never experienced. Then…the most glorious February sunlight shone through the hospice window, a new light.

Remembering you today Dad and so thankful to our Savior,

Love, Shell x

I pray for those of you in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, that you will not be overcome by fear.

I pray you will be reassured that He is with you in those dark moments and that He is near with protection and guidance.

I pray you will know His comfort. His presence. His peace. You are loved. Amen.

 

Through the Wardrobe.

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Hi all. This week I have seen community at its best. Practically, spiritually, physically – you know one of my favourite lines is that we are

‘created for community.’

Following a word prompt: community. Com(with)Unity.

We arrived at Green bay all set for a week of ministry Phil speaking on Ephesians 6. We unloaded kids and luggage; as usual it looked like we were emigrating. A baby faced skater noticed my van overheating – wait – that’s not steam it’s smoke. Fast-forward 5 minutes. Fire trucks arrive and douse my flaming Odyssey. I informed the firefighter that I had cleared the people should the car explode – he kindly informed me ‘that only happens in the movies’. We spent the week with the Green Bay family – and love to take part in their mission ‘to lead all people into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.’

I received a desperate text from good friends trapped in the Rock Creek fires. BC has experienced some harsh fires this summer and this was one of them. We stopped, dropped and prayed desperate prayers through tears right there on the dock surrounded by candy filled children having the best time. Our friends and many others surrounded by candling trees and without emergency crews able to reach them ran for their lives. Terrifying. Fire crews eventually rescued them and they found refuge for the night. Again we saw our church community step in driving for hours to bring them home.

My heart is with a good friend who has lost her best friend this week; she is out of physical reach yet close to my heart. Social Media often gets a bad rap but I have watched a community gather around her – a digital vigil of grief, love and support, then, stepping out of the virtual and sending her to her loved ones.

Kelowna was shocked and sad as we said goodbye to an adventurous young man from our community, Kevin was a free diver who lost his life this week in our own Okanagan Lake – a man who lived life to the full, having travelled to 25 countries already this year. Phil spent time with his family and tribe from around the world throughout the week and celebrated his life on Saturday. Kevin knew Jesus and was surrounded by family and friends as they said goodbye. In the devastation of tragedy – Jesus was present. IS present.

Josiah, my 8 year old theologian heard the story of Samson this week and mentioned that the gouging of Samson’s eyes wasn’t told and ‘didn’t he kill the philistines and die himself Mom?’ I explained that was the story, but perhaps not the best ending for children’s fireside. I reminded Josiah that we don’t live a Disney Christianity with constant happy endings and life doesn’t always happen as we’d like BUT there is always a bigger story at work and we know that God is good, faithful and present in all.

I’ll leave you with the hope filled words that Phil read at the celebration of Kevin’s life – a man who always pushed through the wardrobe.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” – C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle. 

I pray you are able to love and be loved in your community this week,

Love, Michelle xo

Abiding not Striving.

It’s time for a catch up!

Summer in Kelowna saw bible camps, road trips, hikes, praying mantis finds and speedboat thrills.

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Summer in Kelowna was a houseful of the loveliest ones in our lives, alongside ‘one thing after the other’ … ending with an ‘all clear’ following my mammograms, ultrasound and biopsy. Thank you Jesus.

Nanny Pop (Phil’s Grandma) passed away which led the Collins clan back to Stourbridge where Phil led her funeral service, as the family were able to remember together. Sad days, walked out on Clent hills, with the best of friends in hidden caves and great pub grub.

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We enjoyed a God given moment as we left Pop’s house. His tears flowing in his grief – 73 years is a long time. Phil, myself and the children prayed for Pop, the comfort of God was present in the room – and in Pops heart.

And here we are at the end of September! We have just seen the end to our teachers strike so look forward to the twins starting their new school on Monday. We also have a Korean student, Chloe (12) with us for the school year. We recently enjoyed Korean Thanksgiving where samgyupsal, jjimdak, kimchi and dukboekki ’ were devoured by all!

The church enters a new season – our kickoff happened last weekend where all of our congregations joined our downtown service. A beautiful evening of worship, baptisms and community.

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We have Philip Yancey and Searchlight theatre with us this weekend at Willow Park Church for a time of understanding ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace’.

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As the children head back to school on Monday, I head to Mwanza, Tanzania on Tuesday.

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Phil and I have been involved with Living Waters for many years and I look forward to visiting there again with a group of women from our church. We will be involved in many activities – schools work, assemblies, helping in the children’s home, involved in the feeding program, leading a women’s seminar… and singing in a village church 😉

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Now those are our plans – we are excited for those, also for the surprises God has in store for us. We want to be love poured out to the lovely community in Mwanza, blessing the ministry that is established there.

More on that over the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to write and post pics as and when possible. Please pray for us – safety, health, for our families at home, for anxiety to calm, and for God to use us mightily!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8

A couple of months ago I started to ask God for a message to carry. It was no surprise when the Lord began to weave scripture together, confirming it each and every way I turned – everything I read, listened to and watched.

The message began as I browsed through my first bible. Remember those big NKJ bibles, enclosed in a burgundy leather case, complete with gold edge indexing? This bible is dated, underlined and highlighted in many places – the joy of my salvation jumping out in yellow marker. It’s a verse I underlined during my first year of giving my life to Jesus – the days where the presence was tangible and His whisper wild. It’s good to be reminded of those promises. To smile at those fulfilled and to question why some struggles remain the same.

It was this verse…

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, 
 whose trust is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water
 that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; 
its leaves are always green.
 It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7

I was promised drought will come…but that fruit will be produced.

The underlining is not just a cheesy exercise – it’s a lifeline – a promise.

A river in the drought.

God knew to highlight that verse to me in those early days. He knew that life would hurt me, that death would affect me, that I would despair for loved ones, that Christians….

He knew I would always go back to the promise, that even in that season there is fruit. I have a choice to make. It is easy in difficult times to put it down to a ‘season’ – dark, winter times when God feels absent.

This verse tells me another story. It tells me I am a tree planted by Gods river and that I can bear fruit 12 months of the year. The promise of nourishment. The person who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted by a stream. The roots make their way to the fresh and nutritious flow. The tree will never lack for food. The promise of protection. The heat comes, but the tree by the stream is appropriately shielded. So the believer will experience heat through various circumstances and challenges. We need some heat to make us grow. But God will always be there to protect us. The promise of fruit. Dry times come. But the tree planted by the stream has everything it needs to bear fruit.

The beginning of the verse says ‘blessed is the person who trusts’ TRUST, a word that comes from a root word meaning ‘to lean on, feel safe or secure, to be confident, to find refuge and security’ It involves an act of the heart and will and weaves wonderfully with John 15 and abiding.

I have just written the seminar for the women’s day we are leading in Tanzania on Intimacy and Fruitfulness. So excited for this!  1 John 3:1 says ‘How great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God’ Lavish is an incredibly rich word. It means over the top – more than you can I imagine. Giving us the beautiful title of Son or Daughter!

Heidi Baker says  ‘We cannot create fruit, but we can live in intimacy!  A tree produces fruit by simply abiding, not striving’

Intimacy. But how? What does that look like? What is this fruit? I have gathered my thoughts from friends who live this out and will write a post on this in the next week.

Meanwhile I need to pack!!

I will leave you with a couple of questions:

What is the message you are currently carrying?

God has spoken promises over you – which one do you need to be reminded of today?

Love, Michelle xo

PS. Good to be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Days.

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These days…

Of sunshine and turquoise lakes

Of tangible care and an overflowing table.

These days…

Of grief, and heavy hearts,

Of tests and waiting.

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These days…

Of sunsets and supermoons,

Of dancing flames and shooting stars.

These days…

Of my well organised plans not being His,

Of weariness and wakefulness.

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Of hikes to hidden places,

Of awe-owned words.

These days…

Of His wrap around presence on stormy waters,

Of His word breathing over the poem of our lives.

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These days…

Of energetic children drinking every drop of life,

Of exhausted children despairing over life,

These days…

You are God.

These days…

You.are.God.

‘Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.’

Diamonds.

Day 25.

Rose of Sharon

It was a year ago today that my Nanny Rose passed away; it’s at times like this I’d love to be with my family, remembering our Rosie and keeping her memory alive.

So last week when I asked my Mom to consider writing some thoughts for my blog, I wasn’t really thinking about the timing of it, and it falls on today and that’s good, you know? Many of you know my Mom, for those who don’t, you can meet her here. Anyone who has met her in person remembers her, that’s for sure…

I asked Mom to share a few thoughts on finding God in difficult times.

‘…So when Shell asked me to write something I thought, ‘not this week’. Then I thought ‘why not this week’? Why not share with others how God is in the midst of our dark places. And how he shows us those diamonds in the dust. How those rainbows appear just at the right time. And how we can cartwheel with joy.

I call them diamonds – that comfort, peace and love which God brings in the midst of the most painful of times. I have seen them repeatedly for many years and will share a few with you.

Starting with the most poignant.

I knew that I needed to go to the chapel of rest to see Mom, but I was struggling. I didn’t want to but I needed to. The phone rang and it was my sister. ‘Have you seen the rainbow Sue?’

I looked out to a glorious rainbow to what seemed to reach from my house to hers.

I went to see Mom shortly afterwards, which took away the pain of the image in my mind of her last moments. On our way home, we saw another rainbow, right over the place where Mom had collapsed. It was as though God was saying ‘It’s OK, she’s with me’.

Diamond.

Way back in 1990 I had this word from God. ‘As you stand firm on my rock, the storms will swirl around you and come against you but I AM YOUR ROCK do not move from me. When you walk forward lean into the storm, lean into the wind, do not be forced back, do not bow down to the pressures that come against you for the victory is mine.’

Strong words, words that were to stand me in good stead in the years that followed.

The storms did come, many of them, but after each and every storm came the rainbow, I love rainbows and I am reminded of God’s promise to me every time.  Of course, it’s not a physical rainbow every time; God speaks to us in different ways. Above all,  he has equipped us with His word and in it we can discover the soundest advice for every situation we face.

Underlined in my bible are many promises – for my family, for each of my children, my grandchildren…for my life.

I stand on those promises. Speak them out. Shout them out. Cry them out.

I speak Gods word into dark situations and I see His answer come. In His time.

God comes into our dark times in so many ways to let us know He is walking beside us.

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On New Years Eve 2006, I went to church feeling tired and sad because my Uncle had passed away the night before in hospital. He’d wanted to go, he’d had enough of this life and had prayed many times for God to take him.

We got to the hospital, he’d just gone and there was his bible, open at his favorite scripture. ‘In my Fathers house are many mansions.’ What a blessing to me that was.

Diamond.

Back to New Years Eve morning. It was testimony time so I got up and gave testimony to the wonderful things God had been doing in my family. As I went and sat down I experienced a massive pain in my head. I managed to find the church foyer where I lay on the floor unable to move, I remember friends praying for me at that moment. Days later in the Queen Elizabeth hospital my consultant came to me and said I need to be rejoicing as 50% of people die on the way to hospital after a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage that I had experienced.

Diamond.

Even this last week we had some news that caused us much joy yet attached to it so much pain. In that pain I am praying ‘God, show yourself in this’. As we walked out of our house. I looked up at our Rose of Sharon bush…and there were unexpected fresh blooms. The Rose of Sharon represents Jesus.

Diamond.

These are just a few of many examples of how God speaks to me. Always, someway, somehow. God’s diamonds appear but we have to look for them, to listen for Him in those dark places.’

Thanks Mom – Encouraging words today, and knowing you you’ll keep adding to them as the day goes by!

I would add, that we have faced the worst of situations as a family and in them we have seen the best of God. Be encouraged to look for Him in the places you find yourselves today, He so loves to speak to us.

Verses to encourage you:

O Lord, in you I have found a safe place. Let me never be ashamed. Set me free, because You do what is right and good. Turn Your ear to me, and be quick to save me. Be my rock of strength, a strong place to keep me safe. For You are my rock and my safe place. For the honor of Your name, lead me and show me the way.’ Psalm 31:1-3

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.’ Psalm 18:6

Moses spoke to the people: ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today.’ Exodus 14:13

Finally, be blessed by this song… Your word unfailing. Your promise unshaken. All my hope is in You

What diamonds have you seen this week?

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Journeying Home

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My Nanny Rose passed away last week. I know. How can this be? Nanny Rose. Perpetual 40 year old. She was a wonderful Nan, tall, beautiful. Strong.

On the day she passed I admired my favorite artist at work with the orange sky.

In another direction the early evening offered the sunlit moon.

I grabbed my camera, because I love to capture and went off sunset hunting.

Some chase storms, I chase sunsets.

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In this I thought of Rosie, and all of the sunsets she had seen in her life. Faithful. Constant.

I looked up to the hills where I saw the remnants of  fire.

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And that image was the one that struck me most.

Yes the world still turns, fiery sunsets faithfully happen and the same bright moon rises.

 But the flame of Rosie lives on and burns in each of our hearts.

We live on with a wonderful legacy of how to do family well, of knowing how to celebrate, and an unconditional love which supported and accepted us all.

There is nowhere in the world I would have wanted to be last week other than Stourbridge.

So I flew home to be with my family.

Tears flowed as quickly as laughter came as this cycle found its way round many times.

I walked into Nan’s house and enjoyed catching up with her lifetime scattered throughout. I touched Nan’s stuff, those things, trinkets and ornaments and pictures that make Nan’s house what it is.

This time differently though,  through the eyes of grief. I savored that moment.

And as we gathered to say goodbye, we did it as only our family could do. Close.

With my lovely brothers shouting shotgun as they got in the funeral car.

With my Mom admiring the flowers and not knowing that Nan was part of a cards club. Then realizing she was looking at another’s flowers.

With all the people, who you don’t see for years, but who played a beautiful part in our Rosie’s story.

As she did ours.

So here I am at 4am. Jetlag laughing at my confused state.

I soon flew home again. To be with my family.

Home – there’s no place like it right?

And now. The home of all homes.

The eternal destination or as Lewis puts it ‘the secret signature of the soul’.

I am sure of our heavenly home is within reach, the one we all journey towards –  we glimpse – yet can’t quite grasp it. But our homesick hearts know it is there.

Until one day… when we will not only see it, but taste, feel, hear and experience it.

So, until then, I ask. ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

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Dedicated to Charlotte Rose Homer. My Nan.

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.

Thank you for reading, you are loved,

Michelle xoxo