Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Faith”


To me, “faith” can be summed up by this simple image:

How do we get through this life of ours if it isn’t for our faith in God? I know not everyone would agree with me, but for me, my faith is something that has sustained me through some very difficult and bleak times.

But this Lent challenge is not just about reflecting on the surface of these prompts but on the deeper meanings, and when I was thinking about “faith”, I got to thinking about that like any relationship, it works because two parties want it to. In the case of my Christian faith, that means me as one half and God as the other and it made me think that I believe in God, and I have faith in him to “look after” me, do I deserve his believe and faith in ME? If so, what do I do to “look after” God in return? I can’t possibly give as much as God gives me – and to all of us – and as the cross reminds us, God gave his all to redeem us and to save us.

I know that I cannot even begin to pay that back, not even a grain of sand at a time. But because God is unstinting with his grace and mercy, I know that I don’t have to. And even though I know I cannot thank God nearly enough for the live he gives to everything and everybody, I have faith in him enough to know that he knows that and loves us anyway. I pray that I deserve his faith in me in return.

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Thought For Today

Trust


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.”

 

Blogging

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

Comment

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.

 

 

Blogging, Depression

Finding Purpose


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.

back-to-school

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?

meh2I 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.

 

Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry – 24th February 2016


Daybook EntryFor 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…

dsc_0035.jpg

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.

 

 

 

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Wednesday Hodgepodge


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:

joshua 1 9 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.

If you would like to see the 5 minute Lent challenge, you can follow us on Facebook here, or you can click onto our website to see the whole challenge in one go here.