In the last blog post, I actually struggled to describe and define our happiness in words. Just like that phrase ‘Happy New Year’, our words can often appear glib; they can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted. The happiness Annie and I have is something we truly have a reason for, it’s something we actually experience but can’t always easily come up with the words to describe that experience.
Somehow, I guess that I hope this blog might share enough of our life to give you some sort of description of that experience. Our day on Monday was another little snapshot of the joy and happiness we have which is not anchored to our circumstances.
Following a string of really rough nights Annie got up on Monday morning having had a much better night. Here in the UK we enjoyed a public holiday and Annie had hoped if good weather and good health combined that we might go out. Of course, going out is not as straight forward as it used to be. In the morning Annie had come to terms with the fact that if she was going to enjoy the outdoors, she was going to need to make use of a wheelchair – in the daylight, in public. Somehow, if you had a cast on your leg, then being in a wheelchair is less of a big deal. But knowing that you are in it for the reasons that Annie has, is different and difficult. With that said, we both knew that there was really not going to be any other way she could go out and enjoy the outdoors for long. Just recently Annie took Milo out for a brief walk around the block with Philippa which left her feeling like she had run a marathon!
Annie had found a website which listed countryside walks for folks in or with wheelchairs and she found what was reported to be an easy one mile walk in the Wyre Forest a few miles away from here. The weather was good, we had access to a wheelchair and Annie was feeling mentally, physically and musically prepared for it. As I have said many times before in this online diary, great days out begin the moment you step into the car when you go out with Annie. We rarely have dull car journeys and after replacing the old tape player in our trusty little Clio with a cheap CD player, Annie had prepared a ‘CD-mix-tape’ of gospel music for our 30 minute trip out to the forest.
I don’t know what your thoughts are about gospel music. Some people struggle with what seems to be a mismatch between the lyrics and the melody. I recently read the comments of one group of critics who attacked modern gospel music for (in their words) ‘…destroying the sense of dignity and beauty that best befit the song that is used in the service of God…’ Lyrically, a lot of modern gospel songs tackle the dark and difficult in life, while the accompanying music and energy of the same song sounds a lot more bubbly and vibrant.
But who says that the more dour and dry the music is, the more reverent it is or the better suited it is to the lyrical subject?
Honestly, I’m not here to share my views or change yours.
I love music. I love the growing library of modern Christian music and I love the treasury of the older hymns. I really love that there is a rapidly growing number of Christian artists who are rediscovering, revitalising and re-voicing some of the otherwise forgotten or lost gems to a new generation. And I especially love hearing scripture shared across a wide spectrum of musical genres, helping us to store and treasure the Word of God in our hearts.
And actually, I sometimes am a little uncomfortable with the mismatch – not just between the lyrics and the music but also, sometimes between the the song and the songwriter. I sometimes wonder whether some modern Christian music (gospel and non-gospel) is more about the performers than it is anything else. There’s one thing that can be said for some of the older hymns, many of them were not written by paid professionals but by men and women who had experienced the Lord’s presence, power, provision and peace in very difficult times and circumstances. And so sometimes I wonder whether the modern Christian songs I am listening to have been forged in the furnace or just perfected in the comfort of the studio.
In the car on Monday the first track on the CD was a song called ‘I Smile’. Lyrically, it’s a simple song about rejoicing through difficult times. It’s one of those songs where some of us will be more inclined to discuss the aforementioned mismatch than we would the ‘dignity and beauty’ of its words. It’s not a sermon or an essay on the theology of suffering. But when I see and hear Annie in the car, fighting against the physical odds to sing the words of the chorus, almost flippantly expending as much of the little amount of oxygen she has in her lungs, moving with the dwindling amount of strength in her bones in spite of the seatbelt’s restraint and the unrelenting grip of physical pain within, with real tears of joy in her eyes, smiling from ear to ear while she heads out for a ‘walk in the woods’ which at just 35 years old she will have to do in a wheelchair…that, to me, is a very deep, wonderful, real and living testimony and display of the dignity and beauty and power that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into the lives of those who trust in Him and smile because of Him.
Annie’s smile is truly contagious. As we drove out to the forest, I stopped wondering and started rejoicing and praising the Lord for His goodness, for His grace, for His mercy, for His love, for His work in my life and the life of my dear Annie.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39
The only thing I could have wished for was that Annie’s research skills were as precious as her smile! Once we got to the forest we had no way of identifying which walk Annie had found on the website; the only information Annie had was that somewhere in that forest, there was a walk for folks in wheelchairs. With very little signposting we ended up taking a walk more suitable for mountain bikers and monster trucks. We descended each winding muddy track believing that it might gradually even out around the corner…only to be consistently betrayed and presented with more downhills. There were only so many downhills we could face before deciding after a couple of miles we ought to turn back and begin the muddy ascent of the hills behind us. It was a very cold afternoon but I was down to my t-shirt within 30 minutes!
As for the rest of this week, it’s not been great for Annie in terms of health. I kinda feel like she is glued together with paracetamol at the moment. I have even started to get a bit concerned that the amount of paracetamol she has to take in order to help her overcome the physical pain throughout the day and night (4,000mg) is going to trigger further difficulties. The hospice nurse popped round this week but wasn’t concerned about this; I can’t say this alleviated my concerns. The nurse has requested that Annie gets a blood test next Monday as a means of just checking how her internals are doing.
Today is Saturday and we are praying that Annie has the strength to be at the worship service tomorrow as we’re having a baptism for a dear friend who gave her life to Christ during that time of praise and singing we had a few months ago (you can read the blog article for that night right here). We both love to witness baptisms and really hope that the Lord will give Annie the strength that she needs to be there.
Smiling because Jesus lives!