Goodbyes

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” (A A Milne, Winnie the Pooh).

Change and goodbyes are hard – whether forced or chosen.

I feel like I have had to say goodbye to people I love too often and it doesn’t really get any easier.

When I saw this quote the other week straight away my mind went to a person who is so incredibly precious to me, to a friendship that started 24 years ago, a   friendship that means the world to me.

I cannot really think about my friend without the tears coming, because I am so grateful for her, so proud of who she is and the way she lives her life, and because she is such a big part of who I am. Other than my family there is no-one I love more.

Other than a few years living in different cities for university, and gaps years, we have always lived in the same city, and yes there have been periods where we have not been so involved in each other’s lives, but she has always been just down the road, she has always been near. However in a few months time she is going, she is moving cities and the likelihood is that we will never live in the same city again. I have not really let the enormity of that move sink in yet as I know when I do the tears may not stop and I am not quite ready for them yet.

That friendship started as 14 year olds in a tent in the Lake District and has grown through those teenage years, into our 20s and 30s – we have been each other’s bridesmaids, stood by the other as one lost a husband and the other a baby, we have laughed together, cried together, prayed together, eaten together, shared our hearts, our dreams, our worries and our struggles as well as our families. When she married I gained a friend in her husband – a man who has spoken so much wisdom, life and truth into my life, probably more than any other person ever has.

We had baby girls within months of each other, girls who could not be more different, one who is shy and sensitive, the other who is brave, confident and fearless but who are the best of friends.

My friend is beautiful inside and out, she is humble, kind, and gentle but at the same time strong, passionate and sold out to the things she believes in. She is not afraid to speak the truth and stand up for what she knows to be right. She is consistent and committed. She is real and honest. The way my friend and her husband do marriage and family constantly inspires me. They have made sacrifices for the other and supported and encouraged each other. They have taught me so so much.

Back in the autumn my friend text me to tell me she need to see me that evening, which in and of itself felt odd as it was slightly out of character, and once I had established with her I was not in trouble I knew. God had been preparing my heart for this conversation for the last few years, for the fact they were going to go one day. As I drove to her house I asked God to help me say goodbye well and to honour them in whatever was next for them.

I hate thinking that in a few months they will not be just round the corner, that I won’t be able to see them easily, without much planning, that we will no longer be part of each other’s lives on a day to day basis. To be quite honest it feels like it will be another grief because in the few moments I have let myself feel it the tears come and my heart aches. I am though so excited – I know there is so much in my friend to still come out, that God has awesome and amazing plans for her life, and that this move is a part of those plans coming to fruition. I am excited to watch from a distance as this new chapter of their lives unfolds.

Change is so important, to stop life becoming stale, for the new and better things to have room to come, to allow new people into our lives who may transform our lives in ways we could never imagine. But with change there is often the sadness of letting go of the old, the safe and the known. The excitement and the sadness sit side by side and that is ok.

So I release you my friend and your precious family, into all that God has for you all. I will always be standing right behind you, rooting for you, praying for you and loving you. I believe in you completely. Go in the knowledge that your time here has been marked with goodness, integrity and truth, that you have all blessed and impacted so many lives, and that you have finished well.

I love you x

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“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together”

The last four months have been tough.

God has literally picked me from the path I was heading down and placed me on a totally different and completely unexpected path. Although it was not as simple as that, as I don’t think in life it is ever is, it has been a period of feeling totally broken, scared, and incredibly anxious. Whilst it is has been horrible to go through I do believe it almost had to be this way for God to get my attention in order to show me that he had different things for me.

About 4 years ago I sat in a service where the leader of our church, Mick, said he had a word for someone there that God was going to ask them to let go of and step out of a career which had been hard won – my heart started racing and I knew it was a word for me, especially given that it was a service made up of predominantly students who had not even started their careers yet. Now at that point I was studying as part of my career progression and was happy in the thought that I would build a hopefully successful career in law, but that word never left me.

About a year later whilst cleaning the kitchen floor, on Christmas Eve, I felt again a real sense that God was asking me to step out of that career that I held so dearly, that gave me part of my worth and identity.

Slowly, gradually over the next few years I have prayed and thought about that word and those feelings and bit by bit I have become less and less satisfied with the work I was doing, increasingly questioning whether I wanted to invest my life in this work for the next 30 years.

Before Christmas some stuff happened at work, mostly out of my control, and I became consumed by anxiety – I could find no rest, no peace and no joy – I couldn’t sleep or eat. I had no choice but to cry out and ask God to help me, on an hourly basis, as at times it is was literally overwhelming. I knew that I need out of litigation and not because I couldn’t do it, because I had proved I could, but because it no longer gave me any peace and literally, without meaning to sound over dramatic, felt like it was sucking the life out of me.

So in ten days time I will be leaving the world of litigation and entering into the charity sector. Whilst the way it is has all come together feels like it is totally of God, and I am excited, that move does not come without its anxieties for me – am I leaving a potentially lucrative and secure career for a not so lucrative and secure one? Whereas before the future looked sure and certain now I have no clue what is ahead and I feel like I am stepping totally into the unknown and am having to hold tight to my father’s hand trusting that he will show me and he will provide for me. I have so many thoughts and feelings swirling round my head and my heart right now but I do know this is right and that this will be about so much more than a job and earning a living. I sense that this will also be about pursuing my dreams, about writing more, about finally being able to explore training as a bereavement counsellor and probably many more things I cannot even imagine right now.

What I have learnt through this time is that I am a worrier and that I need to work to let go of that worry – I need to replace worry with trust – to trust that God is my father, that he loves me totally and that there is nothing that he cannot turn around and sort out. That all I need to do is place my worries in his hand and trust him to work out the solutions in ways above and beyond my understanding and comprehension.

I am sure it is going to be a process as it is inherited, it is tied up in family expectations (so many times in the last week I have wondered what my Dad would say if he was here, whether he would agree with my decision- I guess however old you are you never stop needing your daddy’s reassurance), it is deeply rooted – I do not want to be a failure, I want to always do things well and be a success, I want people to think well of me – to like me and to love me, I want to have enough and then some, I want those I love to be safe and happy, I want this nation, this world not to be so screwed up and scary. So slowly I am learning to give the worries and the stresses over to the one who has the answers, to lean on hope and goodness, to keep trying to walk with faith and truth and to choose joy and life but also to accept that sometimes failure is part of the process and that those failures, if we let them, can teach us and humble us, to lead us to the successes.

Words

I don’t know about you but words flow out of my mouth without thought fairly easily – I am an extrovert processor and have no problems with finding the words. Since reading a devotional about words a few weeks ago I have not been able to stop thinking about how I use them. Something that comes so easily out of our mouths can have a flipping massive impact both positively and negatively.

After losing John people said so many words to me. In my mum’s attic are bags of condolence cards – I was overwhelmed with people’s kindness and each and every card and each and every word helped make the whole thing slightly more bearable.

However I remember picking up one letter that had been written to my parents, from old family friends, who we had not seen in years, and in that letter they were saying how sorry they were but went on to say that a wife in their 20s could never get over her husband’s death at such a young age and what a hard thing I would have to bear for the rest of my life. Now I am not saying I am not grateful that they had made the effort to write, and say they were thinking of us, but those words crushed me. Those words, even though they came from the best of intentions, went straight to my heart and said “you will always be sad”, “your future is bleak” and “your heart will always be broken” – they fed into my brokenness, into my fears and sent me into dark places.

In my grieving I craved words of hope, light, life and love – I avoided conversations where the subject would be how hard it was to find love, about the difficulties of being a single parent, about how I was going to cope financially on one wage, among other topics. I needed words that kept me believing. My love language is definitely words of affirmation and so one of the biggest gifts that anyone gave me during those years after John was to say that they believed in my future, that they had complete faith that I would know love again, that it was not the end, and that there was good ahead.

I am sure we can all think of a million examples of how words have affected us. Work situations, parents in the playground, friendships, family relationships and sometimes even strangers. In a work situation one negative comment can destroy me for days despite numerous positive testimonials, and words of encouragement – it is the negative I focus upon.

Since losing my Dad me and my brother have been faced with the pretty horrendous task of sorting his estate out, the complicating factor being that my dad was not finished sorting out my grandpa’s estate, so lucky us we inherited that too! We were faced with boxes of unopened post, the good old HMRC, an accountancy business we knew nothing about and did not really understand, a property in Cyprus just as the property market in Cyprus crashed spectacularly – you name it it was there. In that time there have been some pretty stressful moments where we have both been pushed to our limits, both exhausted and we exchanged some pretty hateful and horrible words, words on both sides that were hard to forgive, words I for one regret – fortunately nearly all behind us now!

As I have thought about words I have also been thinking about the words I speak to my child and over her. What I say to her now in these formative years will go with her into her teenage years and adulthood. How she thinks of herself, what she values, her body image, her work ethic, how she treats others – all these things she will learn through me, by my example, largely through my words or lack of them. As for most parents I want my child to know she is loved and she is amazing and so I try to speak words of love, encouragement and affirmation at any given opportunity – I figure I only have a few years left to say these things before she tells me to stop! But there are times where those positive words do not come so easily, when I am tired, frustrated, irritated and stressed and I can snap and not be as kind.

As I have thought more about words I have been challenged to think more before I speak – I want my words to be truthful and honest but to bring love, life, joy, freedom and healing to people. I want to be slow to judge and slow to speak when I am angry. I do not want to use my words to put someone else down just because I am in a bad place and it makes me feel better.

“Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” Robin Sharma

One of my favourite verses from the bible is from Philippians 4 vs 8, which says “…whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” No I do not profess to say I get my thoughts or words right all of the time, in fact most of the time, and it is a massive challenge for me, but I want this verse to be my standard, my benchmark for my words as they flow from my thoughts.

What a legacy we could leave through our words alone!

My John Boy

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As I was thinking about what to write about and asking God what to say next I felt I had to tell a bit of my John’s story. It is a story I have gone back to a lot over the last few years when I have felt forgotten and have questioned whether God still loved me and had a plan for my future. As I looked back at John’s story and our story together it has always helped me to remember that God worked so much in John, and in our relationship that surely death, grief and sadness could not be the end of the story and has helped me to keep going in the knowledge that God is not finished with me or my life.

I remember the first time I met John Bukowicki (later to become John Forder so I did not have to become Becky Bukowicki!). I was working at HSBC at the time and was moving teams. John was on that new team and he helped me to move my files. Over the next six months I worked alongside John. Now I was never one of those girls who had a list of the qualities or characteristics I was looking for in a husband but safe to say if I had written a list it probably would not have described John. Whilst I had grown up in my nice little Christian environment, going to youth group and summer camps, in my private school education, John had come from a broken family, his father was no longer in his life, he had grown up in a very different family background, and had spent his teenage years clubbing and holidaying with his mates in Ibiza, drinking and dabbling in drugs.

Those years working at HSBC were very social, with people spending a lot of their free time together. I had just moved back to Sheffield from London and had few friends around so would spend a lot of time with my work mates many of whom were in their 20s like me and many of whom are still some of my closest friends today. John made me laugh from the start and other than one other person (you know who you are!) he made me laugh more than anyone I had ever met. We would talk about travelling and all the places we would like to visit and he would question me a lot about my faith and what I believed in – I think for John I was very different from anyone he had every come across and I think I intrigued him in terms of my faith.

John then left HSBC and went travelling for a year round the States, Australia and NZ – I would get the odd email hearing about various drunken antics and then one day I got an email saying he was coming back to the UK and was going to try and come back to work at HSBC, which he subsequently did. I didn’t see John much over that next year as he was working on a different floor but then he moved to live near where I was living and he started to pop in as my house was on the way to work.

We then ended up working back on the same team. John started to question me more and more about what I believed. One day he said to me he saw something in my life that he really wanted in his life and asked if he could come to church with me. By this point I was starting to feel a little uneasy about what I felt, what he felt and wondering what exactly was going on.

I grew up knowing when I got married I wanted to marry someone that shared my faith and I was very black and white on that to the point of being very self righteous and sanctimonious at times. Suddenly here I was on the brink of starting something with someone who was so totally different from me in every way – as my dear friend, Hels (there you go!!) would often tell John I made him boring!

So I arranged to take John to church with me on Easter Sunday evening. That day some of my friends came with me to my parents for lunch and were telling my parents about this boy who was coming to church with me later on that evening. After lunch my uncle went into the kitchen and said to my mum that that boy was going to come to faith. John came to what was a very lively service which completely freaked him out given that he had never really stepped foot inside a church in his life.

What followed was a tough couple of months as our feelings for each other developed and we wrestled with what that meant given our differences. John was amazing in the way he threw himself into situations which were very much out of his comfort zone, and as he faced difficult questions from his mates for getting involved with this weirdo religious girl! John’s step-dad’s reaction was that a religious girl was marginally better than some girls he could have bought home and to remember that the collection plate was to put money in and not take it out!

John met with my friend Jon in a curry house, having never met him before, to talk about Jesus, he spent time talking with vicars and did an Alpha course. I couldn’t pinpoint an exact time when John committed his life to Jesus but by the time he died he was miles ahead of me in his relationship with him.

John’s dad walked about on John, his mum and his brother when John was about 13 years old and after a few very painful years John ceased to have any relationship with him – he is someone I have never met but am so thankful John had made peace in his heart about it and had forgiven him by the time he died. I came from a very privilege, nice background where divorce didn’t really play a part in it, my parents were married until my dad died and my friends’ parents were all still together so I had my fears (totally irrational and unfounded) that maybe history would repeat itself with John if I went any further into the relationship. By rights John could have been very screwed up by that situation but he was one of the most together people I every known. I will always remember him turning to me one day, out of the blue, and saying “God can break the past can’t he so that history doesn’t repeat itself and so that I do not turn out like my dad.” I was blown away by quite how obviously God was working in his life.

For the first eighteen months after John’s death I moved in to live with my parents so I could have support with a newborn baby whilst I grieved. I then sold the house John and I had bought only a few months before he died and bought what is my home now. When John died I had to pack our things up quickly so that I could rent the house out. On moving into my new house my friend, Hels (twice!!!), was helping me unpack and we came across some handwritten notes, which I had never seen before. They were notes John had made of the stuff God had put on his heart about working with youth (he wanted to work in inner city areas similar to the one he had grown up in and use football coaching to make a difference to kids there and he was working towards his FA coaching qualifications) and also reaching blokes to show them God was relevant to their lives. I was again blown away – if I needed any reassurance that John’s commitment was real and personal and not just about me I had it in those notes of the vision John had for the things he wanted to commit his life to.

John was a very different man when he died to the one I first met – not that he wasn’t brilliant when I first met him – but he had grown up and allowed God to change and transform him into a Godly man. My dad and John always got on well but John would say to me that whilst he knew my dad loved him he also knew he wasn’t who dad would have chosen for me, given our differences. One day not long after John died I heard wailing and sobbing coming from my dad, who had locked himself away, and I heard him say over and over again “I was so wrong” – my dad had realised the true depth of who John was. John changed my family in so many positive ways, in both his life and his death and the precious gift he left behind, in his little girl.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt was to let God have his way because he knows much better than me – I would never have put myself with John but God knew he was all I needed and we fitted together in ways that could only have been God given. He was like a ray of sunshine and was so easy going as a contrast to my stress and worry, whereas I like the nice things of life and had no issue with spending money he was the most unmaterialistic person and pretty tight, he was kind and funny, patient and loyal, totally secure in who he was and committed and was all I could have asked for and so much more. My biggest sadness in life is that he never met his baby who is so much like him in so many ways, that they were never together on earth at the same time is something that I will never be able to get my head round but I know that in the last 4 years of his life God worked in amazing ways which means that one day we get to see him again and I hope I am present to see him and Lucy reunited in heaven. I miss him every day but I know he is safe in heaven with my heavenly father and my earthly father. I will always be grateful that he was mine and I was his.

This morning in church we sang John’s favourite hymn “Before the throne of God I stand” – in the past it would have made me cry but this morning it just felt like John was saying to me I am here with God in heaven and God is with you and so we will always be joined.

This story has been the hardest to write so far, and has made me shed tears because today is one of those days where I miss him and not because I miss having a partner around me, but because I miss the person who was John but again this story reminds me that God was there in our relationship, in John’s life, in his faithfulness, and that faithfulness will continue in my life until the day I get to go see John again.