Living in the in-between

Welly boots and sunshine

One morning, a few weeks ago, I started writing a blog post.  I wrote it using my iPad, but decided to draft it in an email so it would be easier to edit.  I spent an hour lovingly tapping out a thousand words. I edited, tweaked, smiled.


I could feel my brain slowing down and becoming fuzzier – the characteristic ‘brain fog’ of M.E. that would mean that my ‘brain battery’ had run down for the day. I was unlikely to be able to do any more activity that day that involved concentration.

But it felt good to have done something creative, productive. I could evaluate my day and say to myself, ‘even though I’ve spent most of my day lying around in bed, I achieved something today.’

All I had to do was save it to drafts, then I could copy it and paste it into WordPress. My brain was decidedly clunky and confused, but there was not much more to go now. I pressed to close, and my finger hovered over the two options: ‘save draft?’ / ‘delete draft’?

Horribly, inevitably, I pressed the wrong one. I didn’t even realise I’d done it – I don’t know if I was fully in control of my finger movements at that point. It disappeared. I had deleted it. I sent out a panicked tweet for advice, even though I knew really that I would not be able to get it back.

I thought rationally. It was fresh in my mind. Even though I’d spent ages crafting the sentences and structure, I might be able to reconstruct it if I re-wrote it immediately.

But I knew I couldn’t. My brain had packed up for the day. It felt like most people’s brains do after five solid hours of intense revision for exams, and I knew that it would take hours to recover. That was it for the day. There may be an opportunity to rewrite it tomorrow; I would have to see.

I sighed. There didn’t seem much point dwelling on it. But I felt once more the frustration of this illness.

This is so hard.


Last week, I had a happy afternoon. I had had an unexpectedly emotionally replenishing phone call with a friend, and had been able to rest in bed in the afternoon while Jon took our boy out to play in the garden. Because I’d had some extra resting that day, I was able to come out in the garden, just for half an hour or so.

The sun was shining, the beautiful, hopeful sun of Spring. It felt so good to have sunlight on my skin. I watched my boy toddling proudly round the garden in welly boots. He picked up the (full-size) rake to show me what he had been doing.

“Have you been helping Daddy in the garden?” I asked.

“Yuh.” (It is one of the few words he knows.)

“The sun is amazing. Don’t you just love it when it’s sunny?”


“Can you hear the bird singing? It sounds so pretty.”


(The toddler stage is often said to mirror the teenage stage. I have a feeling that I could be having very similar monosyllablic interactions with him when he is fifteen. Somehow that realisation gave me great pleasure.)

I sat down on the step and waved to him. He came up to me and sat next to me on the step. I pointed to my lap, “Would you like to sit on Mummy’s lap?”

He shook his head. He tapped the step where he sat. He was too grown-up to sit on my lap today. We sat companionably, watching Daddy chop wood. Chatting, hanging out, like we were friends.

I closed my eyes and could feel the joy bubbling up. My heart was full. I was so thankful to God and aware of His goodness.

This – this little vignette – was so idyllic. The phrase ‘thin place’ has been used in Celtic Spirituality to describe those places where it feels like the boundary between the ordinary and the spiritual is blurred and the boundary between the two is not as strong as normal.

It’s those times when you feel like you are breaking through into heaven a little and there are echoes of Narnia all around. It felt like that.

I am so blessed.


I was chatting to a friend on the phone yesterday who asked the usual question: ‘how are you?’

The answer is: ‘This is so hard; I am so blessed.

When I was watching my little boy in the garden, I was conscious of how immensely privileged I was to have a house, with a garden, with my amazing husband and child. I found myself wondering – is this what life is like for most people?

You know, ‘others’, ‘the rest of the world’ – the pseudo-mythical ‘normal people’. Is this what life is like all the time for Others who aren’t ill? Is it one long extended idyllic vignette of perfection? I think it can often seem that way when we peek at others’ lives, (especially when we look at them through the rose-tinted lens of Facebook).

But I reasoned, actually, most people’s lives are mostly taken up with Hard – the busy, the demanding, the day-to-day. There are different and varying degrees of hard, but we’re all part of this fallen world and none of us are immune from the effects of it. There is much toil and meaninglessness under the sun (Eccelesiastes, paraphrased).

I think that those special, golden moments where we feel alive and – (there is no better word) joy-ful – are typically infrequent, even for the most privileged of us. Most of the time we toil ‘under the sun’ rather than living life ‘in the sun’.

Is it possible to live life continuously aware of God’s presence, focused on heaven, seeing the spiritual and the real rather than the temporary and toil? I don’t know. It would be nice. Perhaps some Christians do. One day we all will.

For now, I am in the in-between. For now, that is okay.

How is my life? It is full of hardship and blessing. I suspect yours is too.

Over to you:

  • Are you more conscious of the Hard at the moment or the Blessing?

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15 Responses to Living in the in-between

  1. Adrian Tremblay 5th May, 2015 at 1:55 am #

    Eight years ago I to had the proverbial rug pulled out from under my life. Not by my illness but my husbands and parents. I experience those little vignettes and thin places too. I used to think they only happened on a relaxing vacation. Good thing I became aware of them because vacations are out of the question. I am so appreciative of the smallest golden moments. I had one Saturday while sitting in our sunny backyard rocking my grandson. I am excited to give them a name… thin places.

    • Tanya 21st June, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Hi adrian. I’m so sorry you also have had the rug pulled out from beneath you. Hoping for more golden moments, thin places in your life.

  2. sf 6th October, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    I tweeted this post. Oh yes, I think we’ve all gone through that horror of deleting something important from our computers – or forwarding a private email to someone else than the intended (AH!). So happy for you that your heart was filled with blessings by your child and sharing your life stories. You know, although you write about your illness, you really write superbly!!! Maybe when I ever finish my college course on English 2, I’ll be as good as you – I hope.

    • Tanya 6th October, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Thank you so much! And thank you for your kind words about my writing. Exciting to hear you’re doing an English course! I reckon honesty is halfway to beauty – write honestly: so few do. 🙂

  3. Anne-Marie 18th April, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I love those little golden moments, those thin places. I think it was just over a year and a half ago that I decided to find more joy in things. Small things, like the colour of the sky, the flowers in peoples gardens that I walked past, the smell of the air in the trees, the feel of my dog sitting with/on me. It seemed like a small thing to do, but it turned the daily walking the dog into a real mini slice of joy instead of a routine task. I can’t say I feel like that all the time, but there’s something in deciding to be joyful that made a difference for me.

    • Tanya 2nd May, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      Thanks for this comment. I think it’s really great that you are consciously finding joy in things, and particularly able to identify God’s blessing in nature. There’s a blog that I think you would really enjoy that is really all about that experience you describe:

      Ann Voskamp writes beautifully on joy, thankfulness and nature – I can recommend her writing to you!

  4. Karen 16th April, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    How funny. Exactly the same thing I have been thinking of – the hard vs the ‘normal’ life. I have had had 8 years of nearly unrelenting, searing pain. Hard is not the word to describe it. Full-on battle is more like it. But for the last few months, since I started student ministry again, I have faced NORMAL. It is amazing. I don’t quite know what to do with it. All the challenges I face are business, organisational, normal day to day challenges. Things that other people seem to have all the time. Yet I know, from the times when I have had a short break from pain in those 8 years, that this could just be a short break. That I could face more deep trials. And I brace myself for the pain … that just doesn’t come. All the challenges I face are extraordinarily ordinary, and I wonder if I might just begin to ‘unbrace’ myself, and just enjoy life for a bit. I’m scared to… but perhaps I can … just a little…for a little while. Bless you for all you are writing. I never experienced the degree of fatigue that you have – but can understand something of what you write, cos I came close……

    • Tanya 2nd May, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      Thanks so much for this comment. I’m so glad that you are finally having a sense of respite and replenishment. Long may it continue!

  5. Kevin 12th April, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Thank you so much Tanya for this blog. Your writing reminded me so much of the writing of Madame Guyon; a truly remarkable woman, as indeed you are, whose devotion to God despite her long years of enduring illness and sufferings were an inspiration to many others to seek a deeper understanding of what it is to walk with God and for Him to walk with us. Bless you.

    • Tanya 2nd May, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      You’re so well-read! I had to look up who Mme Guyon was! I’m very flattered to be compared to her – many thanks.

  6. Anita @ Dreaming Beneath the Spires 12th April, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Is it possible to live life continuously aware of God’s presence, focused on heaven, seeing the spiritual and the real rather than the temporary and toil?

    I haven’t. Brother Lawrence frequently had. So has Ann Voskamp. Do you know her blog?

    Lovely that you had that moment of joy. i was reading about joy today in John 17, and reflecting on when i last tasted it. It’s the opposite of busyness, so a close synonym with nature for me.

    Joy so elusive, so hard to pin down. I wonder if it comes when the self has in a sense taken the backseat?

    Must shut up before I write a blog in your comments section!!

    • Tanya 2nd May, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Thanks so much for this comment. I’m really interested that you see it as the opposite of busyness – that’s very thought-provoking! There is something about joy that seems to involve losing yourself – I think you’re right…

  7. Petra 12th April, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    A lovely blog. Well done! I think you’re right. Life for most of us is always a mixture of Hard and Blessing. For me it’s definitely a mixture of both at the moment. Sometimes life is more Blessing, and sometimes it’s more Hard. Even each day can vary from the previous and from the next. Sometimes only moments separate the Hard from the Blessing. You’re right. It’s all part of the ‘now and not yet’ of God’s Kingdom. It’s hete now, and it’s not yet here. We are saved and holy people and yet we still have muddy feet and fall often. We just hang on to the Blessing when it comes, the Kingdom. The Holy….

    • Tanya 2nd May, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      Thank you – and I love the phrase ‘muddy feet’. Hope that this week is more full of blessing than ‘hard’ for you.


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