There’s a mug that’s spent years at the back of my kitchen cupboard, we’ve moved house four times since we’ve had it and every time we’ve unpacked I’ve placed it right at the back of my cupboard again, hidden by the other mugs. There are a lot of people who have a mug exactly like the one I’m talking about, some use it everyday, some say it’s their favourite mug. But I know there are others who, like me, have barely used it, unable to throw it out but not ready to drink from it.
This mug I’m talking about came from a cafe that closed eight years ago. It was a cafe Dave and I dreamed up, researched, prayed about, and, with the help of many amazing people, became a reality. The vision was a well-run, high quality independent coffee shop providing a space to create community, build relationships and share the good news of Jesus with those who came through the door, and we did it! It was awesome! We made fresh waffles, served the best coffee in Chester, hosted live music, served white chocolate cheesecake and people came to know Jesus. But we ran out of money. Ten months after the opening party, we were emptying the contents of the cafe and travelling around Chester distributing equipment and furniture to churches and charities, including the mugs. Ten months after the high of seeing a dream become a reality I never wanted to risk dreaming again. Ten months to turn a heart full of faith stone cold, reluctant to trust or even talk to God.
Life would have been a lot easier in many ways if the cafe had never existed. I wouldn’t have had hundreds of mugs to get rid of for a start, but I don’t think my life would have been better without it. In fact I know it wouldn’t have been better. The experience changed me, it changed my friendships, it changed my faith. My beliefs about how life and God worked were destroyed when the cafe closed, forcing me to start again from the understanding that life and faith isn’t always straight forward. It was a painful process but I believe it changed me for the better. I learnt that struggle does not mean failure, that God’s silence does not translate to His absence. I learnt that the life of a Christian doesn’t mean you get what you want or even what you pray for. I also learnt about redemption, a truth I’m reminded of every time I visit our old church and I see the cafe furniture and soup kettle now used for a church lunches and homeless drop-in.
Yes, the experience of getting knocked down has changed me in good ways, but that doesn’t make the struggle after the cafe closed any less painful. I don’t think falling down was ever designed to be graceful or pain free, unless maybe you’re really good at gymnastics or are very small. The other week I actually fell out of my front door on my way to church. For those who know me this will not come as a surprise to them, I wasn’t very awake and, although I’m now in my mid-thirties, I’ve still not managed to gain control of my limbs properly. Needless to say, it was not a pretty sight and I can confirm once again that falling really hurts.
Eight years on and the mug is no longer at the back of my cupboard, I now use it. It’s a great mug, perfect for your morning tea, holding the heat of the drink in so that you can take your time. Eight years and we’re doing the same thing again, opening a cafe in our local community, to build relationships, make awesome coffee and food and share the good news of Jesus. Eight years and I’ve finally picked myself up off the floor, and am feeling brave enough to dream again. I’m still scared, I still worry about falling, about whether I’ve heard God wrong, or how stupid I could look if it all goes pear-shaped. But we have learnt from the pain of a failed business, this time the cafe is not centred around Dave and I, we have a team and it’s a church initiative, being brought into reality by the community surrounding us, rather than the determination of two people.
Sitting on a hard plastic chair waiting to find out the results of yet more fertility tests, I’m grinding my teeth and fidgeting in my chair, unable to find comfort or distraction in the world of daytime telly broadcast across the waiting room. I’d forgotten how vulnerable you feel when you decide you want to ‘try’ again. You see, this journey of falling and picking yourself up is not exclusive to failed businesses. It’s not just a public thing either, it can be very private, a fact I’m being reminded of now that we’re entering back into the world of hospital appointments, blood tests and talk of ‘trying’ again. Picking yourself up and daring to dream is an act of bravery even if no one else notices, it doesn’t come quickly and it certainly isn’t pain free. I don’t have any wisdom to share about when it’s time to let go of that dream of a family, of when to stop investigations, or how many miscarriages are too many, or when, or if you should adopt, I don’t even know if we should have even gone back to the hospital. But what I do know is, that as I wait for yet another doctor’s opinion I am a very different person to the one called into a hospital consultation room six years ago.
Maybe picking yourself up and trying again is less about what you do next and more about whether or not you’re a different person when you finally get back on your feet.
Six years have passed since our first gynae appointment and we are no longer desperate for a child, we would love to have a family but we know we can still live a full life just the two of us. We have picked ourselves up again, we are ready to consider our options one more time, but as we stand and dust ourselves down we are different. I am different. Because I now know that whether I’m lying face down in the driveway on my way to church, or skipping out the door, standing in the middle of an awesome cafe filled with people, or distributing mugs without a home, holding a baby in my arms or filling empty bedrooms with house guests, that by the grace of God my worth and my faith are not dependent on my gracefulness, success or even the size of my family. Because even though I may have fallen, even though it may have hurt, those experiences have challenged and changed me in good ways and I’m no longer as scared of falling as I used to be.
Thank you so much for this Lizzie – just what I need to be hearing!
Thanks for the encouragement Bridget, glad it helped. Sending lots of love to you xxxx
This post reminded me of a great song by Andy Peterson https://youtu.be/ys_wJDvvQ_o
“Well, I realize falling down ain’t graceful,
But I thank the Lord that falling’s full of grace”
Good luck with what lies ahead!
Hey Hannah, thanks so much for your comment. That really is a great line in that song. xxx
I still have one of those mugs. I use it regularly, and if its any comfort at all. I pray for you each and every time.
Thanks so much Stacey, that’s so kind of you. Xxx
“Maybe picking yourself up and trying again is less about what you do next and more about whether or not you’re a different person when you finally get back on your feet.” This is the message for me from this blog today. Thank you so much.
Thanks Anja, I think that’s the phrase I’m going to carry with me for a while as well. Xxxx
I’ve got the full set of those mugs! I always think of you both when I use them. I thank God every day for your strength and courage and read your blog with a grateful heart – bring on 2016!!
Awwww thanks mum xxxx
SUCH a great blog post!! Thank you for sharing dear Lizzie. xxx
Thanks lovely lady. xxxxx
Thank you for such an honest account. Praying for you. God loves you so much.
Thanks so much Glenys, thanks for your encouragement and your prayers xxx
The waffles were amazing. And the mugs are a very good size for your morning cuppa. We have to try out these crazy things, because God doesn’t want us to have regrets and always be wondering “what if?”. Or at least, that’s what I think.
Thanks Lou. Yeah, the waffles were amazing! I think you’re right, I think sometimes we need to step out and try stuff because then we need God more as well. If we’re too self-sufficient there’s no place for him in our lives. Thanks for your encouragement xx
Lizzie, I never knew this part of your story, and tears have come to my eyes as I realise the additional pain you’ve both suffered. Thank you for your continued honesty, for taking risks, and for the reminder we can’t be self-sufficient. May you continue seek Him in your new venture, and I pray for lives to be changed as you do so.
Thanks Jonathan, yeah we’ve had a few adventures! The book I’m writing actually starts with the closing of the cafe, but straight after it closed Dave and I got married so that was pretty good! Thanks for your kind words and your encouragement, hope you and Martha have a good Christmas x
I love this post. Have been following you for a few years, and I love the direction that the blog is going in now. Found it hard to read at times, but just as Psalm 22 finishes in HOPE and Jesus’s last act on the cross was saying ‘In thy hands I commit my spirit’ – that is really reflected in what you’re writing now. It really resonates and helps me. Doesn’t mean there’s no valley of the shadow of death, no pain, but it’s the eternal perspective that sustains us. My dark days have been many, and desperate, but I need to remember what you’re writing here if and when they return.
I would really love a post on ‘what does it mean to move on’, if you ever have time or thoughts. (Not that I’m saying you should, you understand – more just your wisdom on what it might mean). A friend has also recently lost a baby very late and is struggling, and I am not in a place to help her. I’m desperate for anything to help me help her! I know we’re told just to ‘pray’ but sometimes it doesn’t feel enough…
Anyway, I really, really love this, and I’m really happy to see you write it. I know I’m a bit late in commenting, but have a merry Christmas.
Hi Alyth, thanks so much for your comment and your encouragement. I love what you mentioned about psalm 22, it’s so true, there is still great pain but eventually there is still hope, even though at times it can be really hard to hold on to. Thanks also for your suggestion of a blog post, I think it’s a great idea, it’s something my husband and I have been chatting about recently as we’ve been in one of those times of grieving for what was lost and what might never be. I’m sorry to hear about your friend, it’s so hard to know what to say/do, often the best thing is to just tell them you don’t know what to say and to sit and cry with them. I also find chocolate or crisps work well too! Thank you so much for your support and your encouragement, I really do hope this Christmas is a time of peace ano renewed hope. Lots of love xx
Aw man, this brought back memories, many essays written in that cafe!! Well done on telling your story
Thanks so much Amy, I’m glad you’ve got great memories of the cafe and that you were able to get some essays written there too!! xxx
I still don’t think I can drink from the cup yet…but this is beautiful…as is your blog always…well done guys…proud of yas
Thanks lovely Ugo xx