February 2005 article - A letter from Sheila Barlow
I wrote a book back in 1998 or at least the Lord did! As my grammar spelling etc has a lot to be desired I was amazed when I felt that was what God wanted me to do! It was my testimony about how I had found God whilst being caught up in a war zone along with my husband and two young children; I was living in Kuwait when Iraq invaded. Scary times!
Two years later after getting on with life I suddenly hit nightmare number two when I started having voices in my head. I was admitted to a mental health unit. I was lost and very fearful. god whispered to me "Be still and know that I am God". to cut a long story a bit shorter lets say that god stepped in when my hope and all of the me I knew left.
God is love and he lovingly healed me, I am very well now and have been for years, life is good and now I try to share my story to encourage others that god is at the end of the tunnel! I work as part of a team in several charities just coming along side when I can and praying with people who need some Jesus TLC. Love your poems because they are real, not overly long and speak into the heart. You must have been through some tough times I can tell.
There was a time before I wrote it when it was like living with a huge secret that haunted me in someway. Now I have no secrets, well that's probably not quite true we all have something of ourselves that we would rather the world did not know! It was not my idea to write a book as I said to you before, its not the kind of thing you do when English was your weakest subject at school etc.
When we become truly committed Christians we listen to God Don't we, and often pray probably very naively Lord anything, anywhere, anytime! Thinking God will say something we are already doing or something we would feel able to accomplish. I was Gob smacked to think He wanted me to write a book! We certainly worship a God who is higher than us and who thinks very differently than we do! I now go around sharing my story to many Christian and amazingly non church connection groups, that is a miracle it truly is, I used to be so shy until God shoved me off a cliff and said fly!!!!!!
I also work (voluntary) as part of a team with a lady called Jennifer Rees Larcombe. She heads - up a wonderful healing ministry called Beauty From Ashes. Again this was something that I was surprised about when God pushed me off another cliff and got me involved, especially as I had, had bad experiences in my past. Love working with Jen coming alongside the broken, encouraging, and praying for them.
In answer to your questions .... I told you how I work as part of a team with Jennifer Rees Larcombe within the charity she heads up called "Beauty from Ashes", I am so amazed how God places me in places and then shoves me of my comfort zone cliff! Jen facilitates and leads many Time out days with God from her home near Hadlow in Kent. These days are very special I love being a small part of them they bless all who go and that includes the team as well! Jen is a writer among other things and has written I think 23 books and is about to have another published. She puts the whole of herself into these days and felt it right to encourage others to lead parts of the day for her sake and for building up gifts in others.
Jen asked if I would lead a writers workshop sometimes during the lunch break as one of the options, did wonder if she was feeling alright? So that's what I have been doing for a while now. I facilitate the workshop to the needs of those who come. Often we write psalms as letters to God, some like to try poetry and yet others want to try writing a book. One thing it is not is an English lesson, if it was I would need to go back to school first! We share at the end what we have written (that's only if people want to) I will also have time with any one who want to share privately as the lord often uses these times to bring up deep hurts, we finish with a time of prayer. So yes I do encourage others to write. My poem came out of one of these days, after all how can I expect others to share deep painful things if I am not willing to also make myself vulnerable? Yes you may my poem but only if you think it is appropriate you must promise me that you won't ever print anything just to please me. You and I have a bigger friendship and understanding than that don't we?
Just one more thing that I think is hilarious and really makes me chuckle to myself which I will share with you - Quite some time ago a radio station called Radio Worldwide contacted me, it was probably a few years ago now. They asked if they could have my permission to adapt my book to be broadcast on their radio station that would be heard in many parts of the world, especially where English was not their first language, this would be used as a help to teach them English! I happily agreed and its been used quite extensively now. I just think it is so funny that me who has had such a hang up about my Written English or lack of it firstly could ever write a book and then to have it used so others can learn English and be a witness at the same time well, wow, Has God got a sense of humour or what? Radio Worldwide also asked if they could adapt my book for their web site again I have happily agreed. When in January I first signed up with broadband internet I typed in my name and up came a picture of me! So if you want to see what I look like you can try it!!!! To listen to their adaptation of my book you have to download something which I did not do as it looked complicated! One day I may have another look. Our God is an amazing God he takes our weaknesses and turns them into his opportunities.
The Invisible Illness
If I were in bandages and wrapped from head to toe,
You'd stop and pass such pleasantries before you went to go.
"Are you in pain?" you'd ask. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Oh poor old thing, it must be horrid," you lovingly would coo.
No wounds to see or blemish upon my head,
No bandages or even plasters, but I feel as if I might as well be dead.
The pain of fear and confusion scars my battered brain.
The pride within is crushed and only bits of me, the person, now remain.
To be in plaster up to my neck would get your sympathy I'm sure.
I'd receive grapes, chocolates, oranges, kind words, and more.
You would see my broken body; there would be no need to explain,
But no one seems to realise that I'm still me behind the pain.
My pride is truly broken; true sanity I cannot find.
I hurt in so many places, the real me lost behind the shutters of my mind.
If you cared to stop a while and seek me behind the mask,
I would not feel so bad if you would just love me, and ""How are you?" would ask.
So take a second look I plead; stop a while and speak.
Draw back the curtain of your understanding and have a peek.
I am not infectious; you won't catch my pain.
With your loving kindness my self worth I may regain.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Nothing could have prepared Sheila Barlow for the ordeal she was to go through as an army wife held captive during the first Gulf War - or the nightmare that was to follow as a result of the trauma she had suffered.
Listen to her book Stepping through my Nightmares adaptation in 18 short episodes.
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