Today was just such a great day, I felt compelled to come and post about it. In July 2008 I decided to take the girls along to a new church. For various reasons, the church we had been attending was not where I saw us in the long term, so I took the plunge and we went along to the Abundant Life Church in Bradford. ALC is unlike any church I had been to before, it is very modern, welcomes all, and has an enormous Sunday school, known as Kids' Church at ALC. The girls were welcomed into Kids' Church with open arms, and before I knew it, I had been roped in to help with various things, as well as be involved in the Christmas performance of Scrooge.
Since then, the girls and I have attended church on a pretty regular basis, and we have made some wonderful friends there. Every Christmas, I would watch in amazement as members of the church were honoured in a campaign called 'Christmas Kisses'. Never in a month of Sundays did I think I would be chosen. Well, this year, a lovely lady called Clare Hooper decided she would nominate me to receive a Christmas Kiss. The other members of the committee agreed, and so today would be my special day. I had no idea it was going to happen, in fact I had a busy day planned at church, which on reflection I can see was full of ruses to ensure I was in church to hear it all!
Charlotte Gambill, one of the pastors, started talking about the first person to receive a Christmas Kiss, and talked about how this person was a widow, bringing up two children after her husband had literally dropped dead whilst on holiday. Then she said my first name, and I realised it was me! She talked about how I had coped when Nigel died, and how I had decided to make the move to ALC. Then she talked about how I instantly dived in and got involved, which I definitely did!
Meanwhile, I sat and listened, amazed that this could be me, and steeled myself for going up on stage, something I was not looking forward to! Imagine how I felt when Charlotte then handed me a bag from Tiffany & Co! Church had decided to buy me some gifts which they felt Nigel would have given me had he been here (cue tears at this point, plus I'm welling up as I type this). Apparently inside the bag is a bracelet, engraved with 'loved' because church wanted me to know that I am truly loved, even when life is proving to be a real struggle for me. And it didn't end there! In January I am being treated to a spa weekend with my lovely friend Dawn. Gobsmacked doesn't even come close to how I was feeling at that point.
I decided I needed to thank everyone, so took the microphone from Charlotte and spoke to church. I'm not sure how many people were there, but I think it was at least 900 as it looked like a full house to me! I talked about how life had not been easy for me, but that ultimately the ups and downs make life what it is. Anyone who believes that everything in life will run smoothly is in for a shock. I remember listening to Paul Scanlon, our senior pastor, speak in October 2008, about how the journey of life is a rocky road, with some easy times and other much more difficult times where the road would seem almost impassable. I sat at the back of church and sobbed my way through that service, because the realisation had hit me that my life was progressing just how it was intended to progress. It wasn't a case of woe is me, the journey is tough so I'll give up, the tricky times just made me want to fight harder to carry on.
I've been on a rockier part of the journey of late, and am proud that I've come through it. Receiving my Christmas Kiss today has made me realise just how much lies ahead that I have to look forward to, even though Nigel isn't here to see it. I miss him every day still, that will never go away. I bite my tongue now when people say, almost crossly, that I should be over him by now. It is never going to be something I get over, more that I make the most of the life that I have without Nigel. I still find myself thinking about ringing him up to tell him something during the day, not so often now but it does still happen. The girls' nativity plays last week made me realise how proud he would be of our beautiful girls.
Being a widow is part of me, its not something that will go away. Now I just have to make sure I continue to grow into the person I want to be, not dwell on the past and the difficult times. There will still be times where I feel as if sadness is overwhelming, but that's ok. With the support of people at ALC, my family and so many wonderful friends, things are going to be A-OK.