A thought for the day:
“God has a reason for allowing things to happen. We may never understand His wisdom but we simply have to trust His will.”
A thought for the day:
“God has a reason for allowing things to happen. We may never understand His wisdom but we simply have to trust His will.”
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:
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.
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:
If 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.
Thinking about it further, I came up with another one that might explain what it might be like to lose someone close:
Take 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.
It’s back to school this week in England and for the first time in nearly 18 years, I have not had to do any sort of stationery or uniform shopping for my children. I have watched Facebook light up with the pictures of my friends’ children on their first-day-back photos (or as some wag dubbed it, “National Stand In Front Of A Door Day”) and my teacher friends posting status updates about how they can’t sleep etc, and it has brought about very mixed feelings for me.
This time of the year always represents a kind of new beginning for me – always has done. September for me means new school year, new pens, new notebooks, new shoes, new winter coat, new start, renewed goal-setting. In some ways, September is more of a New Year than, well, New Year really. For me it’s the chance to start over, make new promises to myself, wipe that slate clean and get on with things with a new sense of intention and enthusiasm.
As well as having this feeling because of my children and their school careers, recently I have experienced it for myself in the shape of my OU degree, where the modules begin again each September.
But this year is different. Emma has long since left university, my OU career is over, and Ethan is in his last year at college and he is studying music, so no need for the quick trip to W H Smith’s this year with him! It kind of makes me sad that it’s over, but there’s more to it than that and it goes a bit deeper.
This year, I feel that my own sense of purpose is being tested. As you may know, I don’t have a job and at my age and with my health record it’s unlikely I’m going to be able to just walk into one anytime in the near future. I no longer have any studies to look forward to, and my children don’t need me to mother them the same now as they did when they were at school. Emma is a fantastic, independent young woman now who, though she is still my little girl, she is a person in her own right. Ethan is almost a man now and has very firm ideas on what he wants to achieve from life, and neither of them need me to the extent they did before.
I do have hopes of my own, but a lot of that depends on a long and complex process within the church. For this week, this month, even the rest of this year, I have nothing to do and nothing to feel purposeful about. And it’s a scary feeling.
I wish I was one of those people who look at emptiness as an opportunity rather than a threat, or one of those who look at having no responsibilities as a life of ease rather than a life of boredom, but I’m not. Of course, there are day to day things that I’m involved with and that I enjoy doing but being fulfilled like that is not quite the same thing as having a sense of purpose. I suppose it’s a bit like the old “empty nest” syndrome of yesteryear, and it puts me in mind of Ria in Butterflies. Of course I’m not anything like her in lots of ways, but that sense of “what about me?” rings true with me at the minute.
Perhaps I’m impatient, and perhaps I’m showing a lack of faith by feeling that way because I know that the story is an ongoing one, and God hasn’t finished with me yet. But what do I do in the meantime?
I have got a couple of writing projects on the go, but with no deadlines they are just waffly notes and incoherent storylines at the minute. I have got a couple of pieces of music that I want to arrange, but same thing, with no deadlines there is no need to get worked up about them just yet. I can’t settle to crochet very much (my eyes need testing and I don’t have a pair of glasses that I can see the stitches properly with unless I hold it right under my nose at book-reading length, and besides, it’s too hot still to be crocheting blankets or hats!) and besides which, I don’t have any orders outstanding so, yup, you guessed it, with no deadlines to hit there is no urgency in getting a project planned and prepared.
And there you have it. This September is most definitely a “new” time for me – an emptiness that I have only kind of experienced once before. This time however, I do have a couple of things that are keeping me going more than they did last time and I thank God that I do or else I wouldn’t know how to cope at all.
I’m not used to having my Septembers being so blank and empty, and I wonder what is going to come along and fill it all in the coming weeks. I hope and pray that when something does come along it will shake me out of this dip I’m in just now.
Anyone else feel this way when their kids grow up? I’d love to hear your take on it if you have experienced it or know someone else who is going through it. Drop me a line below and share your story with me.
For Today… 24th February 2016.
Outside my window… it is a chilly -1 and each star is like a little chip of ice in the sky.
I am thinking… about who fascinating it is to cross paths with new people.
I am thankful… for my musical gift.
I am praying for… my old friend Jason who is in a high dependency unit tonight after a significant and serious surgery today.
I am creating… a plan for a screenplay. Can’t publish it yet but watch out, it’ll be coming soon!
I am going… to be leading our Lenten Bible study tomorrow night with my friend Helen.
I am wondering… whether this scratchy throat will develop overnight or will disappear.
I am reading… a really crappy novel that is nice night-time reading but not worth commenting on really in amongst the reams and reams of notes and critical essays I am reading for my studies…
I am hoping… I can make a good headway on my children’s literature assignment tomorrow. The official deadline is tomorrow lunchtime but I have an extension until Tuesday because I have been a bit poorly.
I am learning… to say “no” and to take some rest when my body tells me I have to.
In my garden… I have recently put out a new bird feeder filled with nuts and seeds but there hasn’t been many visitors yet. I might have to add a bit of something extra to tempt the birds in.
In my kitchen… Emma and Gemma made a delish meal tonight of pasta and a “sauce” which was stuffed FULL of vegetables. Very, very nice.
A favourite quote for today… this is from our Lent challenge at church, and it is a video I created for the verse “The Lord is my salvation”.
A peek into one of my days…
This is my friend Dot and it was taken on Saturday at our Deanery Away Day which was held at FC United. It was a great day and we had a good old natter about stuff.
One of my favourite things… is watching people blossom when they are given encouragement and praise.
Post Script: I posted yesterday about the question of whether Britain should remain in or leave the EU, and it has sparked a bit of a debate it seems. Have a look and see, and please leave me your thoughts if you have an opinion or an observation about it. I’m keen to find out if other people are as confused about it all just the same as I am.
Thanks to Joyce for hosting the Wednesday Hodgepodge again this week. Here are my answers but if you want to join in, please click the hodgepodge logo below and follow the instructions on the host site. Here we go!
1. February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. It lands on the calendar one day after National Do Something for a Grouch Day (February 16) which somehow feels related. Perhaps the 16th inspired the 17th?
Tell about a time you performed a random act of kindness or were the recipient of one. Will you make an effort to perform a random act of kindness on the 17th? Share details if you’re so inclined, and if you have something specific in mind.
We have had a prolonged spell of difficulty with our finances since I lost my job through illness and I have been continually surprised by the random acts of kindness people have shown me and my family through this time. There have been countless things happen to us and for us, but the two that stick out in my mind was one day I went get the post from behind the front door and a card had been put through containing a gift voucher for Tesco for a significant amount of money. The message read “from your friend at church”, and I was totally overwhelmed and still to this day don’t know who was so generous to us. The second was last Christmas when we received a food hamper from Marks and Spencer delivered to our house, again anonymously, but ever so thoughtful and kind at a time when we were feeling the pinch particularly keenly. Both those gestures have stuck out in my mind because of the timing when they were given. The Tesco one meant we were able to buy a good two weeks worth of shopping and we didn’t have to penny pinch to do so, and the M&S one was at Christmas time, which speaks for itself.
Personally, I do try to be kind to people at all times but I know I’m human and must often miss chances that perhaps I ought to be awake to. Nevertheless, I don’t like trumpeting the fact when I do ‘do’ kindness. It’s between me, the person involved and God.
2. What’s the most uplifting or encouraging thing you see happening in the world right now? You may have to dig deep for this one.
I have just read a news article about a man who instead of buying a yacht donated the money he would have spent to a kindergarten class for them to go college later on. How wonderful is that! It’s nice to see in this day and age someone who is thinking of the longer game when it comes to spending money.
3. Black olives, black currants, black grapes, black beans, blackberries, Oreos…your favourite food the colour of night? Your least favourite on the list?
Blackcurrant cordial was one of the staples of my childhood but I’m not so keen now I’m an adult. I don’t mind black olives (I’m a recent convert), black grapes are delicious, not so keen on black beans (two powdery inside). Blackberries are nice with icecream and syrup and thank you very much, but you can keep your Oreos. Not nice for me I’m afraid.
4. A while back I read (here) a list of twelve things you should do before you turn 50. They were – travel when you have the chance, take care of your skin, learn a foreign language, make exercise a habit, leave a toxic situation, stop caring what others think about you, stop worrying, volunteer, spend time with your grandparents, pledge to work less, learn to cook an amazing dish, and seize an opportunity as it arises
What do you think of the list? What would you add or remove and why? If you’re over 50, have you done all 12? If you’re not yet 50, have you done any at all? What’s on the list that you haven’t done, but would like to do?
I have another 5 years to go before I hit that marker, and there are a couple of things I have already done and things I still have to conquer. The conquering things are “seize an opportunity as it arises” (I analyse far too much and quite often end up missing out), “make exercise a habit”, “travel when you have the chance” (yeah, chance would be a fine thing!) and “leave a toxic situation” (easier said than done). Ones on the already conquered list are “learn a foreign language” (French), “take care of your skin” (having eczema most of my adult life kinda means I do that already), “volunteer” and “pledge to work less” (again, chance to work at all would be a fine thing). The ones on the nearly-conquered-but-need-more-work list are “spend more time with grandparents”, “stop worrying” and “stop caring what others think”. There’s a way to go on all of those still.
5. Besides the classic Christmas flicks, what’s your favourite film where winter plays a part in the setting?
I love “Bridget Jones”, both films, especially the bit where she and Mark Darcy are on a skiing holiday and she thinks she might be pregnant.
6. When did you last feel helpless, and what did you do about it?
I currently feel helpless in a situation with a very close friend who is experiencing some really difficult life choices and facing big changes ahead. All the love and advice in the world from me isn’t going to help that situation, and I don’t have the right words (or a magic wand) to solve it for him.
7. Share a favourite proverb.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
8. Insert your own random thought here.
I am taking part in a 5 minute Lent challenge from my church this Lent and there have already been some great Bible verses to meditate on and pray over so far. Here is today’s verse:
I have found it to be a comforting verse throughout my illness. It does help to know that no matter what, God will be with us wherever we are and whatever we are experiencing.
Contrary to popular (ie, non-Christian) belief, we are still celebrating Christmas. Most people think that Christmas is something that is done and finished with by 25th December, but that’s not true. For western Christians, Christmas carries on until Epiphany, which is when we remember the arrival of the magi at the nativity.
Christmas is a time of light. Here in the northern hemisphere are in the depths of midwinter, and Christmas falls just after the solstice, where we see the longest hours of darkness. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate the birth of the Christ who is the Light of the world at this time – the days are getting longer and lighter, we look towards to coming new birth of spring, and Christ was born to bring light to the darkness. Have you ever wondered about the phrase “having an epiphany”? It’s usually where we experience sudden clarity or insight into something we have perhaps been struggling with. Another way to look at it is that light is thrown onto a difficult issue or situation. The magi, or wise men, found the same when they arrived in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.
Just after Christmas comes January where the pressure is on to make resolutions, usually ones about self-improvement in terms of health, fitness, attitude or behaviour. But what about us people who are content with our failures and our shortcomings? How about us who know full well we are broken, with bits missing and bits of us glued together with gaps showing?
I draw comfort from knowing that God makes use of people like me who are cracked and broken. If we were whole and have no gaps, how can we let our light shine out and God’s love pour in? Just as the same way that a watering can is no use if it doesn’t have holes in, my life isn’t very useful if it is the paragon of wholeness. I quite like having the gaps where God can shine through.
Cracked pot? Certainly. Crackpot? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
Did you know: The name January comes from the Roman god Janus, who is usually portrayed as having two faces – one facing forwards and one facing backwards representing the change from the old year to the new.