Blessings


Transcript of my sermon delivered on Sunday 29th January 2017

This sermon uses two passages from the Bible, and questions what are blessings, and how do we recognise blessings in our lives. The passages are Micah 6: 1 – 8  and Matthew 5: 1 – 12and I began my talk by showing this piece of video from “The Life of Brian” – the Sermon on the Mount

It might seem a bit surprising that a clip from an anarchic film such as The Life of Brian could be used in a sermon in church, but I like this clip because it shows us so much about human nature, and the very real way that we can not only fall out over insignificant things, but also how if we’re not careful the Word of God can be misheard and mis-translated. It also ties in with our gospel reading today, where Matthew writes about Jesus’ sermon on the mount. If you know the film, or if you are familiar with parts of it, you will also know that later on, there’s a scene where the elders are all sat round and the conversation goes something like “pah, what have the Romans ever done for us?”. (Aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public order, health, peace etc)

The scene that Micah writes about in our first reading is not dissimilar: he speaks of the Israelites who are complaining about “what has the Lord ever done for us”, and Micah points out that God led them out of slavery, he sent great leaders in the shape of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and he saved them from Balak’s plans to have them cursed by the magician Balaam in Moab. Not only that but when they were stuck in the sinful city of Shittim, God led them to safety by crossing them over the river Jordan to the safety of Gilgal. You can almost hear the answer “yeah, well, apart from all that, what has God ever done for us?!”.

How many of us can say, hand on hearts, that we have never said something similar? How many of us have felt that we are hard done-to, or downtrodden, or that we deserve all the misery that is in our lives at the minute? I think it’s fair to say that at some time or another – some probably more than most – we have all failed to see what God has done for us, and we have simply not acknowledged his presence in our lives. Through Micah we are reminded that the Lord has done, and continues to do great things for us.

It’s the same message that we hear from Matthew too. The Beatitudes – a collection of blessings that Jesus is reported as saying in his oft referred to “sermon on the mount”. Scholars now argue that what Matthew wrote here is more of a series of headlines or soundbites rather than a word for word account of a single address given by Jesus on a hillside. I don’t know either way – I’m not a Biblical scholar and I have still got a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus – but if these are really just headlines, then I feel it’s up to us to put the meat on the story, so to speak.

So what is a blessing then? What does it mean to be blessed? 

It’s perhaps easier to think about what a blessing isn’t. It isn’t the same as being happy, for example. If that were the case, then most of the beatitudes are nonsense. Can you imagine saying “happy are those who mourn?”. Nope, that doesn’t work for me.

Tom Wright says we can understand “blessed” to mean “good news”. That works a little bit better for me – “good news for the poor in spirit…” does feel a little closer, but it’s still not quite right.

We drop the words “blessing” and “bless” into our everyday language and conversations with each other. If I were to sneeze now, how many of you would respond by saying “bless you”? How many times have you heard or said “aw, bless him”, or “that’s a blessing in disguise”? In the words of the Johnson Oatman hymn “Count Your Blessings”, we are encouraged to think about our blessings in terms of what the Lord has done for us and to acknowledge his touch on our lives. For me, this is getting a bit closer to the real meaning of blessing, that when we are blessed, we have received the touch of God.

For those who mourn – the touch of God will comfort them; for the meek, the touch of God means that they will inherit the earth.

You see where I’m going with this?

It doesn’t quite go all the way, and it starts to go awry for me when we hear about those who are merciful, or those who are peacemakers and the righteous because the point is that we can only ever be these things by God’s touch in the first place. Peace-making, showing mercy, righteousness – without the touch of God we cannot be any of those things. We need God’s touch, his presence, throughout all aspect of our lives so we can be those things in his name. It doesn’t come naturally to us to be merciful or righteous – those are gifts from God and we must acknowledge that. We must be honest with ourselves when we claim to be righteous, or humble or any of the things we are called to be, because no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are only ever at the beginning of a long pathway, and even then, it is only with God’s grace and touch that we can even begin to see the first bend in that pathway that leads to him.

I feel that even though it has a flaw, my interpretation of what it means to be blessed is close enough for us to understand what a blessing is, and in such a way that enables us to be able to share with others the gospel message.

Because after all, what are we doing as Christians if we don’t share the good news with other people? How do we let the meek, the persecuted, the bereaved, those who are poor in spirit know that there is good news for them? How else do we let them know that Jesus Christ lived and died and lives again so that we can be part of God’s kingdom, that we can enjoy fruitful and meaningful lives here and now even though life feels hard and bleak sometimes. That with the touch of God and the blessings of God, even the most dismal and heart-breaking of situations are transformed, if only we take the time and trouble to acknowledge them.

Too often we find comfort in being down, and miserable. Sounds daft, but we do. We would rather put up with a poor situation, or a hurtful relationship, or stick with the old, destructive patterns of thinking because we take comfort from their familiarity. We know where we’re up to with that friend who always puts us down, and we know that if we always have the same reaction to situations in the news – immigration, poverty, injustice for persecuted groups – we don’t have to think too hard or put too much effort in to speaking out against them and those who inflict them.

I’m not just talking about straightforward pessimism and optimism here; people are far more complicated to be labelled either a pessimist or an optimist.

[Hold up glass half filled with water]

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Your answer shows if you have a pessimistic view of life, or an optimistic one depending on whether you see the glass as being filled or emptied; but as a Christian, you should have a third answer up your sleeve; that with God’s touch on your life, with his grace, his love and with his blessings, this glass is infinitely refillable.

Are you in mourning? Do you grieve for someone, or something you have lost? You are blessed by God! [Fill up the glass to the brim/overflowing]

Do you show mercy to others? Do you let compassion and love for others flow out of you? [Emptying glass part way]

You are blessed by God – Jesus told us so! – and you will receive more mercy than you will ever need [fill glass to overflowing].

Do you feel pure in heart? [hold up full glass]. With God’s touch you will see him in everything you do! And if you see him in everything you do, then others will see it in everything you do too.

And for this grace, these blessings, this full glass, these touches of God which transform our lives, what does God ask of us in return? How on earth can we ever say thank you enough to him for his blessings? How can we ever repay him?

As Micah says, it won’t take the sacrifice of your first-born, nor ten thousand rivers of oil, nor the masses of calves and rams as burnt offerings, nothing like that. All God asks of us in return is that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

So as we go from here today, let’s think about what it means to be blessed by God, to have his touch on our lives in the darkest and bleakest places as well as in the joyful and bright ones. Think about how your lives are blessed by him every step of the way, and how those headlines on that mountainside are as alive and meaningful to us today as they were to those who heard them two thousand years ago. But more to the point, think about what God asks in return from us; not a lot really – simply that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

Amen

Prayers for a New Year


I led the prayers in our Sunday worship this morning, and for a change I used a couple of props. I chose to pray around four items that are traditionally used on New Year’s Eve in Scottish households – coal, “black bun” (or fruit cake), salt and whisky.

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Here’s what we prayed:

Coal – small, dirty, seemingly useless. Coal has taken millions of years to form.

Heavenly Father we pray that this piece of coal represents to us your staying power and long term commitment to us; that even in situations where it seems things are longtime dead, with your redeeming love and grace, there is the power to transform.

Remind us that even though things may appear hopeless, lost or worthless, with the application of time and even a little pressure, good things will come.

This piece of coal reminds us we are never alone, no matter how far buried we feel, and you are with us for all the age.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

“Black bun”/Fruit Cake – filled with lots of different ingredients; some sweet, some not to sweet; some dry and in need of other ingredients to help them do their job; some nuts and some things we don’t expect to find.

Father, as we think about this piece of cake, help us be reminded of your church. Made up of different, exotic or downright odd ingredients, when we as individuals come together in your name something deep, rich and nourishing happens.

We pray for all your church around the world, and we ask that you strengthen it, guide it and we ask for your continued blessing.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Salt – can be used in lots of ways; as currency, to cleanse, to add flavour, to preserve, to tenderise.

May this salt remind us of your love, your grace in our lives. How, without you at the centre of our lives Father, we lack so much.

We pray that through this coming year, we continue to put you central to everything we think or do.

We pray too for those whose lives lack flavour or interest through sickness, despair, poverty, homelessness, grief. We ask that you put us in those places where we can help.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Whisky – made from the same ingredients as bread – grain, yeast, water.

Heavenly Father remind us that Jesus is the bread of life. He is the source of all our hope and we pray that we continually feed on him in our hearts.

This whisky is a reminder too of the Holy Spirit – the one who breathes fire into our hearts, who unites people, who stirs up passions and without whom we are weak, and useless at being your hands and voices in our world.

Father we pray that this tiny bottle reminds us that your power in this world cannot ever be contained.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

 

Daybook Entry – New Year’s Eve 2016


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFor Today… the last day of 2016

Outside my window… I can hear some isolated bursts of fireworks going off locally. The weather is mild to cold but not frosty yet.

I am thinking… about some changes I need to make in myself, my outlook, my worldview and my expectations.

I am thankful… for so, so much! Where to start? Well, first and foremost I am thankful for the ever present grace and love of God in my life. My faith in him (and his in me) has got me through so much this year and I am thankful to have reached this point still in one piece.

I am praying for… Charlotte and Kieran who are dealing with the most heartbreaking loss anyone can imagine; my brother who is going to be having an operation in a couple of weeks and is facing a long recovery time afterwards; Roy, Margaret, Iain and Megan who will be taking a big step next week; Emma who is starting a new job on Tuesday; Ethan who has got a high-pressure time ahead this term.

I am wearing… a happy smile this evening as I look back at what has happened this year.

I am creating… a new way of thinking. I have come to realise that my thought patterns and behaviour patterns need an overhaul if I am to ever make progress with my life. For example, I am desperate to write a full length novel but fear of failure is holding me back. I know I have the skills (talent is as yet still untested), but I keep talking myself out of doing anything about it because I think my story is not good enough, or that people won’t want to read it and so on. I am trying to create a new way of thinking about myself where I concentrate on the positives of what I’m doing rather than worrying about the (unknown) negatives.

I am going… to put my new thinking into action over the coming weeks and let’s see where we are by half term.

I am wondering… whether I ought to do something about my physical health as well as my mental health this year…

I am reading… “Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs. I was fortunate enough to receive an Amazon gift card for Christmas which I have already bitten into and bought this latest one in the Temperance Brennan series. I have had my eye on it for a little while and I was really chuffed to be able to buy it on Boxing Day. I’m nearly at the end of it and to be honest, I can’t wait for bedtime tonight so I can go and finish it!

I am hoping… that our financial difficulties will be eased this year, if not resolved somehow. I have faith that we will be ok.

I am learning… to ease up on myself, to lower my expectations, and to celebrate the small things.

In my garden… we have a gazebo erected over our deck area at the back of the house. We put it up there for Christmas Day so we had somewhere dry to put the settee out while we had the long tables set up for dinner. We haven’t got round to putting it down yet but I rather like it and might persuade Kevin to keep it for a while.

In my kitchen… we have some snacks and treats waiting to eat while we watch the final Harry Potter film later on tonight.

A favourite quote for today…

new_year_meme

A peek into one of my days… I’m going to cheat here and show you a few photos from December as there’s too many to choose from!

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A bonus little video for you: filmed outside our house on Christmas morning as we played for our neighbours before church. Hope you enjoy it!

One of my favourite things… is planning and researching things for writing about. One of my least favourite things is spotting when “research” becomes “procrastinating” and getting a move on and to get writing.

Post Script: This year has been a year of spectacular highs and devastating lows, and this is my chance to acknowledge those difficulties and joys and to say a public thank you to everyone who has got me through it all.

Those of you who have followed my blog over the months and years will know that from time to time my mental health takes a hit, and that my family’s financial situation is not particularly secure or hopeful. This year has been the worst we have endured and we have come close a few times to crossing the line. However, we have been blessed on so many occasions by the kindness and support of family and friends who have seen us through. With gifts of food and other necessities, and on more than one occasion the gift of money, our family and friends have literally saved the day. Ethan would not have been able to go on the trip of a lifetime with the music centre had it not been for an anonymous gift of a substantial amount of money which was put through our front door the day before the deadline for payment. More recently, we were facing a very lean Christmas with no spare cash to be able to buy any presents for anyone but again, from anonymous gifts, we not only were able to get some gifts for our children but we have enough now for both Kevin and I to be able to replace our glasses in a couple of weeks. We are both desperate for an eye test and new glasses but until this money came in, we were getting very anxious about how we were going to pay for them. As I said, we have been extremely blessed and we are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in 2016. The grace of God has been in abundance in our family this year!

Some high spots have punctuated the seemingly endless struggle to “get by”, such as our family camping holiday in Wales this summer (again, paid for as a gift to us – and boy are we glad for that gift!). We were joined by my brother and his family for a few days, which was a great experience, and I got to enjoy some spiritual time in a very special part of the world. I finally finished my studies and I got my degree this summer which is an achievement I never in a million years thought I would ever do. Kevin and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year too, which, as with my degree, is an achievement and milestone I never thought I would ever see. But we did and I am proud to have made it with my best friend and partner in life.

Thanksgiving


In the spirit of Thanksgiving in the US today, I thought I would share with you a list of things I am thankful for in my life just now:

  1. homeThe roof over my head. Yes, we owe more on the mortgage now than when we took it out 18 years ago, and yes there are some fairly hefty repairs that need doing on it, but these four walls and the roof on top are my safe haven. Homelessness and the possibility of losing the family home have been brought home to me recently, which makes me all the more thankful that I have this place to call my home.
  2. The food in our freezer. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were in a position to pool a couple of weeks worth of groceries and do a big batch cookout so that we would be seen through the “silly season” ahead, yet already we have had to turn to those supplies because of an unexpected bill (and therefore massive bank charges for failed payments) and we have very little cash to see us through the next 6 weeks or so. We also have an unexpected lodger too, so the food in the freezer was well timed, and continues to be a life-saver for us. I am thankful that I was prompted to fill the freezer just before the money ran out.
  3. Spiritual support from church friends. Linked to point #2 above, this one is another big one in my life. My faith in God is as strong as ever, but sometimes, the spiritual support of other people is what keeps my grip strong. I am thankful that my faith in God has brought me to such a place that I can be part of a group of supportive and understanding friends.
  4. dsc_0949.jpgMy family. Especially my husband. We are like a tag team at the moment, and we seesaw between being strong and weak. When one is weak the other lifts them up, and vice versa. Sometimes we are on an even keel in the middle, but as anyone dealing with a financial (or other) crisis knows, emotions and ability to cope can swing quite violently from one extreme to the other and it takes a particular type of relationship to hold it together. My kids have been fantastic too, both in emotional support and simply bringing laughter and sunshine into an otherwise bleak and austere existence. My parents too – where would I be without them?!! From my mum “accidentally” making an extra Shepherd’s Pie, to my Dad transferring an emergency lump sum into my bank account over the summer to bail us out (yet again), my parents have been instrumental in me holding things together in the last few months. I am thankful for the loving and supportive family I am surrounded by.
  5. crochet-hookCrochet. A life-saver a couple of years ago when my illness first took hold and everything seemed pointless and without direction, crochet has been an activity that I turn to again and again to help with anxiety and depression. I have started some Christmas projects and I am thankful that I have been able to find a cute snowman which I am working on for our house this Christmas.
  6. Music. Like crochet, music has been a life-saver in so many ways over the years for me. Whether it is listening to it, playing it, writing it, arranging it, planning it, organising it or whatever, I am thankful for the presence of music in my life.
  7. My Kindle. I was bought a Kindle as a gift for Mothering Sunday a couple of years ago and at first, I was a bit sceptical about using it. A lifelong lover of books and reading (notice the differentiation I made there), I didn’t really want to engage in technology like a Kindle but having been given one as a gift I thought I didn’t have much to lose. I haven’t actually looked back since being given it and I have engaged in so many more books and articles than I would have done in hard-print books in the meantime, largely because of all the free books available online. I am thankful that I have got access to such a large, free, library of books to read and the mechanism to carry them all round with me all the time.
  8. bedMy big comfy bed. Might sound a bit trite, but I honestly say a prayer of thanks every time I get into my bed each night. Linked to the point about the roof over my head above, I am so grateful that first of all that I have a place to put my head each night, and second of all that it is so comfy and warm once I get in. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to rest properly each night.

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, and it isn’t in any particular order, but these things are on my mind most of the time and they are the things see me through when times are bad as they are now. I am sure that when the climate changes for me I would come up with a slightly different (and longer) list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

happy-thanksgiving

Daybook Entry -7th November 2016


simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 7th November

Outside my window… the weather is miserable. It is bitterly cold and the drizzle has got needle edges on it.

I am thinking… that I am glad I took some time out last weekend to have a rest and to gather my strength.

I am thankful… for the food in my freezer. That might sound like a very trite thing to say, but trust me, it’s not. Times are hard and money is extremely tight, and we managed to pull together enough money last week for two weeks’ worth of groceries to be able to batch cook meals in individual portions for the coming months. Not only do we have the security of knowing there are meals ready prepared (and with fresh produce, and where I know exactly what’s in them) but we also have enough to share.

I am praying for… my son’s girlfriend and her family who were suddenly thrown out of their home on Friday. They have had to split the family up to find accommodation for the short term, and she is staying with us for a while until her mum and dad can get back on their feet. I am also praying for my own family, particularly my husband, for the strength to keep going and to trust that things are going to work out one day.

I am creating… crocheted mini Christmas stockings for a bit of fun, and I’m working on a hat for myself for winter.

I am going… to meet up with an old friend sometime soon who I haven’t seen for ages.

I am wondering… whether I am going to finish NaNoWriMo this year. Signs are not good so far, but there’s time yet!

I am reading… “The Hanging Tree” by Ben Aaronovitch. It is the latest in a series of books about a special department of the Metropolitan Police which deals with the magical as well as the criminal. The others have been very good and so far this one is turning out to be the same.

I am hoping… my Achilles tendon heals soon because as the weather is getting colder, it is aching more and the lump has come back again.

I am learning… to look for the fingerprints of God in everything around me.

In my garden… a tennis ball randomly appeared one day last week. I don’t know where it came from and it has gone again now. Who? Why? When? What? How come??

In my kitchen… I have made a concerted effort to cook from scratch every night for the past couple of weeks, and it is paying off. I did a lot of research into budget and straightforward recipes that used basic ingredients that I could get cheaply, and I have been trying out some really good and exciting new dishes as well as making some of our family favourites for meals. It has been a useful exercise – not only is it costing us less, but it is healthier and I feel more useful in the house by contributing something by cooking for us all. Tis a good feeling.

A favourite quote for today… “some days you’re more on top of your horse than others” (can’t remember who said it, but it is a good one!)

A peek into one of my days… my graduation last week. I was conferred the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Humanities with Creative Writing from The Open University at the Bridgewater Hall. Phew what a mouthful, but what a day! Thoroughly enjoyed it and I could get used to wearing that gown and hood.

One of my favourite things… is clean sheets, clean pyjamas and a clean body before bedtime. Bliss!

Post Script: You may have gathered things are a little difficult at the moment, and it has left me unwilling/unable to blog very much recently. Trust me, I feel better than I did a little while ago so I will be making every effort to try to blog a bit more in the coming weeks. There are lots of things on the calendar coming up with band and church and so on, so keep watching, things are going to be interesting to say the least.

 

Recovering From Grief


Our regular study group at church last night was a little bit different, and we had a discussion around death instead of our usual Bible study and worship. We looked at death in today’s society and our experiences of it with a view to how it will help us in our ministry to those who are grieving or who are having difficulty moving through the stages of grief and bereavement. It might sound a little bit morbid, but to be honest, I found it a really uplifting and enriching experience and it wasn’t the least bit fearful or distasteful as it might first sound.

We looked at our own experiences of loss and grief, and then we looked at various aspects of death and, using discussion prompt cards, had a chat in small groups about a couple of them.

One question that really stood out for me was “Do we ever recover from grief?”.

My initial response was “yes, of course we do”. But then we got into discussion about it and after hearing a couple of other people give their experiences of grief, I realised that I was not really in a position to answer that question quite that easily, because I hadn’t lost someone very close to me such as a spouse or a child. I have lost close family members and I have grieved for the loss of them, but I am fortunate in that I still have both my parents, my husband and my two children alive and well alongside me. That means that my viewpoint of the question is slightly different from my friend H who lost her husband within the last two years, whose answer was “no, you don’t”. She explained that she has learned to cope with her loss but she doesn’t feel secure in the knowledge that she has “recovered” as such. I was moved by her explanation and it has given me a lot of food for thought today.

I talked about this question with my husband Kevin earlier, and we talked a little bit about how grief has affected us individually and how that the idea of “recovering” from grief very much depends on the person who has died and the nature of the relationship we had with them before they died.

After a bit more thinking and talking, we came up with this analogy:

crumpled-paperIf you take a piece of paper – clean, white, unspoiled paper – and crumple it into a tight ball, then open it up and smooth it down again, you could say that the piece of paper having gone through the grief process of being crumpled up then straightened out again is still the same piece of paper as it was before, only it has been changed by it. It isn’t quite the same; it bears marks and scuffs that show it has been through some sort of trauma, and while it can still function as a piece of paper, it has been changed by it.

smoothed-out-paper

Thinking about it further, I came up with another one that might explain what it might be like to lose someone close:

eggTake an egg, and plunge it into boiling water. When you take out that egg, it is still an egg and is still fully serviceable as an egg, but because of the boiling water experience, you can’t even begin to put it back to the state it was in before. The intensity of the boiling water did something to its internal structure and it cannot physically or emotionally be the same as it was before, yet it is still an egg.

And so it is with us. For some of us, recovering from grief may be a little bit like the piece of paper analogy. Yes, we go through some pain of being crumpled up, and for some of us the process of smoothing out again can be a further source of pain but eventually we get there. Not quite the same as we were before, but we are more or less as we were before we experienced loss. However, for some of us, recovering from the loss of a loved one is more like the egg. We go through the intensity of boiling water for any length of time and yet our outer shell might look the same as it was before, our innards have irrevocably changed and we cannot be the same people as we once were. We still have a function, and we still look and taste the same, but to say that we have “recovered” would be wrong.

 

 

Daybook Entry 15th August 2016


8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 15th August 2016

Outside my window… the sun is setting, throwing up a beautiful peachy glow over things in the garden

I am thinking… about doing a long-distance walk next summer, inspired by the beautiful countryside in North Wales where I have just been on holiday. There is a route from Holywell that winds its way from chapel to holy site to standing stones to chapel westwards towards the Llyn peninsula and then on to Aberdaron on the tip which, it is said, has been used by pilgrims for centuries. The whole route is around 135 miles and if I do walk it, I would probably mix camping out in the wild with B&B’s and proper camping overnights. My fitness levels need to be improved – a LOT! – before I seriously consider it, but I think it would be something good to set my mind to doing for both physical and spiritual healing.

I am thankful… for the two weeks of family time I have just spent in Wales in our little caravan. Things have been tense and stressful for too long recently and I think we all needed the break away from the routine and grind of daily life. There was a time when I thought we wouldn’t be able to have a holiday this year, even a cheap one camping in a farmer’s field like we did do, so yes, I am extremely thankful that we were given the chance to do that.

Family time camping in Wales
Family time camping in Wales

I am praying for… strength, wisdom, insight and guidance for myself; healing for a battered and bruised friendship; a light at the end of this very dark and winding financial tunnel I am travelling down.

I am wearing… shorts and a t-shirt. It’s been a hot day today in Manchester.

I am creating… a story about two friends who promise each other they will get together with each other if neither of them has a partner by the time they are 30. It’s a plot that has been done before (many times!) but there will be a twist to mine which I don’t think has ever been written yet.

I am going… to have my hair cut tomorrow. I have done it myself for the past couple of years and as there is still some money in the kitty from our holidays I’m finally going to have it cut by someone who knows what they are doing and who can even up my dodgy layers at the back.

I am wondering… if this broken tooth will hold up til next Monday when I can get to the dentist to have it fixed.

I am reading…  “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. Kevin was given the box set of series one for his birthday and we watched it bit by bit in the evenings on holiday. I enjoyed it so much I have decided to read the book too. It’s a great story, one of my favourite genres, where Claire ends up slipping back through time from 1945 to 1743 and the eve of the Jacobite rising in Scotland. there are a lot of historical anachronisms, but they are forgivable because the storytelling is so good.

I am hoping… for a better night’s sleep tonight than I had last night. It was a good old-fashioned tramadol night last night, complete with twitching, restlessness, itching and hallucinations which have left me feeling a bit hungover today. Sleepy, not quite ‘with it’ and wondering if what I dreamed about someone being pregnant is just a flight of fancy or if my subconscious has picked something up and is playing it back to me under the guise of tramadol-induced ‘sleep’.

I am learning… to let go of things even though it hurts to do so.

In my garden… the hydrangea bush is a gorgeous colour this year. It has been pink or blue in the past but this year it is a beautiful lilac/purple colour. I think it can be explained by the change in soil pH after the removal of a tree next door a couple of years ago. I read somewhere once that the acidity or alkalinity of the soil where a hydrangea is situated has an effect on the colour of the blooms, and I think that’s what has happened here. I’d post a photo but it’s gone dark now. I’ll try and remember for next time.

In my kitchen… we had pasta which was brought back from Italy by Ethan a couple of weeks ago. He was on a band tour with Bury Music Centre and thought I might like to have some genuine Italian pasta, which was very thoughtful of him. It was multi-coloured and very nice. I did a chorizo, mushroom and tomato sauce to go with it – delish.

A favourite quote for today… “Young people might have lots of energy to run fast, but older people know how to read the map”

A peek into one of my days… 

Sunset at Nant Gwrtheyrn, Wales
Sunset at Nant Gwrtheyrn, Wales

This photo is one of my favourite from my holiday this year. A glorious sunset, the sounds of the waves below us on the beach and my son in silhouette setting up his camera to take some shots of his own.

One of my favourite things… the taste sensation that is sweet and salty popcorn mixed up together. Oh my word!

Post Script: My postscript today is a thank you and an apology to Mary. First of all, thank you for your lovely card which arrived the morning I left for my holiday, and an apology that I didn’t get to send you a postcard from Wales because I took your card with me but forgot to bring the envelope with your address on it! I have sent you a couple of cards in an envelope so you can see a bit more about where we were on holiday – expect it in a few days!

 

 

Daybook Entry – 13th July


8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 13th July

Outside my window… there is still a trace of blue in the sky and it has gone 11pm

I am thinking… about the juxtaposition of tragedy and celebration today

I am thankful… that I have a ministry in the church

I am praying for… Millie’s family, Alfie and his mum, the children of Pike Fold School who came to Messy Church today

I am wearing… my hair loose for a change

I am creating… a jacket for myself. I have cut out the pattern pieces and the fabric for the lining, but I haven’t plucked up the courage to cut out the fabric for the jacket itself yet. I’m letting my knees recover before I get down on the floor to do that!

I am going… to take my son shopping for clothes tomorrow for his band trip to Italy next week

I am wondering… when his passport will arrive

I am reading… I’m in between books at the moment having finished “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult yesterday afternoon, but I did read a short story by Neil Gaiman last night called “Odd and the Frost Giants” which was brilliant. I don’t usually read fantasy stories, but this one was a great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a satisfying read for half an hour or so

I am hoping… I don’t miss the delivery man tomorrow who is going to be bringing me my Dad’s birthday present in the post. I’m hoping my Dad likes it too

I am learning… that the human spirit is probably the toughest substance in the universe

In my garden… we have lavender, strawberries, thyme and parsley growing on the deck and the smell is divine

In my kitchen… we had a bit of a concoction for tea tonight – mushrooms, courgettes, yellow peppers, red onions in a tomato sauce with gnocchi. Not bad for a knocked-together quick meal

A favourite quote for today…

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

A peek into one of my days…

Dragon in the sky tonight
Dragon in the sky tonight

One of my favourite things… is seeing children singing and dancing in church

Post Script:

It has been a very trying time for me and my family recently and we have survived yet another storm in our lives. It has felt like life was giving us a bit of a kicking but we are on the up again now and looking forward to a couple of things this month now. First of all, Ethan is going away with the music centre for a few days’ concert tour in Italy next week then it will be our 25th wedding anniversary the week after. A few days after that we are planning on going camping although Emma won’t be with us this time and she is staying at home. She has been working away at a High Adventure camp for the past six weeks and between you and me, I think she’s a bit fed up of tents and sleeping bags at the minute! Our change in outlook is because of a couple of things that have come together at the same time and it has made things altogether feel better, even if they haven’t actually solved the problem. With prayer and faith, and the grace of God extended to us through our friends, life is feeling a lot happier and we have some things to look forward to now.

 

 


daybook buttonFor Today… 3rd July

Outside my window… first day today for about three weeks with no rain!

I am thinking… how spirited the Iceland football team are. They certainly have heart

I am thankful… that I have such caring friends and family. We have had a tough time as a family recently with financial difficulties and I am extremely grateful for two people (my Dad and an unknown benefactor) who have given us money this week to be able to get through it.

I am praying for… our mystery benefactor; my Dad who has fallen off his bike this weekend and who is a bit battered and bruised today

I am wearing… dark blue shorts and a white t-shirt

I am creating… a screenplay to submit for consideration to the BBC

I am going… to chase up my son’s passport application tomorrow. He needs it back before 20th July and the ETA is 6 weeks… got to apply the pressure tomorrow or else he won’t be going to Italy with the music centre

I am wondering… how amenable the passport office is going to be in the morning

I am reading… I am in between books just now having just finished R D Wingfield’s “Night Frost”. Need to find a new book before I go to bed.

I am hoping… that my Dad hasn’t broken his wrist after his fall yesterday. He is going to the fracture clinic tomorrow to see the extent of his injury. He has got it in a cast for now but hopefully tomorrow will reveal no fracture

I am learning… that it is painful to admit when friendships and relationships come to an end

In my garden… a photo from last week:

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In my kitchen… I made a vanilla and chocolate traybake cake on Friday to take to band practice for my birthday. It was one of my more ‘average’ attempts

A favourite quote for today…

A peek into one of my days… dsc_0162.jpg

This is my Dad just before his ride yesterday. He is training for a sponsored bike ride from Manchester to Blackpool next Sunday, and he is raising money for The Christie Hospital which is a cancer specialist hospital in Manchester. He has raised money for them before and he was/is looking forward to riding again next week to raise some more. If his injuries from yesterday are such that he can’t ride next weekend then he will honour his sponsors and will ride in a couple of months when he has healed. If you would like to sponsor him, his JustGiving page is at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Derek-Swain

One of my favourite things… is having both of my children here for a meal together

Post Script: Money, or lack of it, causes a lot of stress. Lack of money but owing it to others causes even more stress. Owing it to others and not having enough to cover basic costs before you even begin to think about paying debts is one of the biggest stresses I can think of, and it has the potential to cause so much harm. I alluded to it above, but these last couple of weeks have been the most stressful I can remember for a long time because of debts and money issues and I cannot say enough times how grateful I am to the two people who have helped this week. It has meant that we can take the pressure off for a little while and we can take time off from thinking about how to get out of our mess.

It’s a funny thing really. As you may know, I am a Christian and my faith in God teaches me that all will be well, God has got this, and if we trust him he will catch us as we fall. And I do believe that, I honestly do, but it takes a certain depth of faith to believe that when it feels like things are in freefall. Knowing God’s hand is there to catch us as we fall means the world to me and I am certain that as a family we would have broken up before now and personally I would have had a nervous breakdown or something if it hadn’t have been for my faith in God. Yes, debt is stressful, and yes, not having enough money to cover debts and basic living costs is stressful, but having God’s grace extended to us and shown to us through the actions of friends has literally kept mind and soul together through this.

We are a long way of solving our financial crisis yet, but by the grace of God we will get there as a family and we are all the stronger for it.