Lavish Lite, “café style”, in the Church of the Resurrection was a welcome and cosy retreat from the wind and rain lashing down outside. And the tea, coffee and home-made cakes were shared from the beginning onwards, instead of just at the end of the night!
Our speaker was Debs who worships at Victory Church in Cwmbran. Debs’ path to becoming a Christian included first attending the local Anglican church as a child, then Brownies church parades, the power of Christian Union in secondary school, and then one night seeing Jesus who touched her and became real to her.
Debs family life at home wasn’t easy, but after leaving school and a few setbacks along the way, she achieved a degree in nutrition, got engaged and moved into her own flat. Debs threw herself into life at 100 miles per hour, in a deep longing to avoid being a failure and overcome her low self-esteem.
Her life was full of busyness – a career in academia, family, running a church toddler group, leading the PTA, volunteering for everything in an attempt to make people like her through her actions. This carried on for over twenty years, but it all came to a head when her Nan died and at the same time Debs was hit with a norovirus which laid her low for a month. Once she stopped, it seemed impossible to get going again.
Debs was not sleeping, she was aching all over; she developed a burning pain in her legs, then a severe case of facial flushing. There followed a crazy period of doctor’s appointments and a barrage of tests before Debs was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia and photo-aggravated rosacea. Fibromyalgia affects everyone differently and for Debs it included widespread pain, stiffness, lethargy, poor sleep quality and “brain fog”. The rosacea was a chronic inflammation of the skin, possibly triggered by medication, and meant that Debs was allergic to most lights, except LEDs.
Debs talked of her life as a journey taken with God, who has been with her every step of the way. She was reminded of the song sung many times at Lavish, “never once did we ever walk alone”, and she shared many verses of scripture with us that she found helpful.
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:18)
“…because God has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Even in the most difficult circumstances God will carry us through to the end. Debs grieved for her old life, as she was forced to slow down and having counselling at Cardiff Christian Healing Ministry helped to come to terms helped. She learnt that she had tried to fill her life by pleasing people, earning love by being productive, but she came to realise that God’s love is a free gift, not based on what we do.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31: 3)
Debs got rid of the “should, oughts and musts” from her life, as God gave her permission to love herself and heal. After all, if we look after ourselves, we can then be a better person for others.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12)
The process of healing was a messy one and Debs finally admitted that she was depressed and had been for a while.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8)
She was worried that Christians shouldn’t get depressed; she couldn’t own it. But of course, as 1 in 3 people will struggle with their mental health in their lifetime, there is no reason for Christians to be exempt. Why feel ashamed of taking antidepressants? If you were diabetic, no-one would shame you for taking insulin.
Debs is waiting on the Lord for healing, and as she waits she knows God is giving her strength. God has our backs; we are surrounded with his protection and unfailing love.
“…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Debs shared her memories of a sermon on Psalm 23 by Louis Giglio. God lays a table before us in the presence of our enemies. We are invited to have a relationship with God, to come to His table. In the midst of trouble, God will sit with us. But don’t let the enemy have a seat at your table! Jesus laid down His life for you – He has already paid for your table reservation with His blood.
We had the opportunity for a personal response to Debs’ moving story, as Julie invited us to tell God what was on our hearts, as we made paper hearts and hung them on a tree branch. We ended the evening by singing the song Oceans together, and shared Romans 5:1-5 with each other.
Thank you to Debs for inspiring us through her testimony. Thank you to St Mellons church for hosting a relaxing evening of fellowship and love.