Saturday, 14 October 2017

On knowing the score.

I got a little bit cross today.
I know.
I was surprised too...

Testosterone Towers is a football house.
There's no escaping it.
Believe me I've tried.

Today,  being Saturday, a match was on the telly.
And that's when it started ;
The shouting
The whining
The helpful advice for the ref.

Football
With its ups and downs
Is part of life in these parts.

But we're not just spectators in this house.
We're players too.
Many a happy Saturday or Sunday has been spent in or around the football pitch.
Come fair weather or foul.

Today I was reminded of the practice of some teams we watched.
After a goal was scored,
For or against,
Someone in the team would shout,
IT'S NIL-NIL!

I'm not going to lie,
It used to really annoy me.
But today I can see the attraction.
Let's put all our efforts into now.
As if the past has never been.
Let's start afresh.
Let's put the past, it's joys and sorrows, where it belongs.

My work?
It's 0-0

Weight loss?
0-0

Relationships?
0-0

Parenting?
0-0

The truth is I have messed up in the past, and will do in the future.
My health is not what I hope for.
My life doesn't fulfil the desires of my heart.
I long for a fresh start most days.

And you know I believe that's possible every day.
Every moment if necessary.

I believe in the faithfulness of God who's compassions are new every morning.
Every hour.
Every minute.

My life?
And maybe yours too?

It's NIL-NIL.

Thank the Lord for that.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

On swimming on Sunday mornings

God told me to go for a swim this morning.
I know!
You'd think with Brexit,
and Trump,
and the Middle-East
God would have more important things to think about.

But nevertheless, this morning,
when the options were

1. Go for a swim in the lake
2. Take Daisy for a walk
3. Go to church, though Chris is preaching on a subject close to home and I'm off sick,

God sent me swimming.

The road to the lake is a winding one.
The men in the big white car behind me, clearly wanted to get in the car with me.
They beeped goodbye to me as I turned off,
and gave me a special wave.
At least I think that's what it was....

Anyway,
for those who don't know I've recently started wild swimming.
The option is either to swim in a wetsuit, complete with hat and goggles;
or in 'skins', which isn't nearly as rude as it sounds,
but means you swim in a costume,
with hat and goggles and a tow-float so you can be seen.

I swim in 'skins'.
The only fashion statement I can make is having a pink tow-float to match my pink hat.
But I appreciate the feel of the water on my skin,
and the cold,

So anyway,
I've been to this place a few times recently.
This morning, for the first time, a few of the swimmers spoke to me in the water.
A general hello, a comment on the weeds, and off.

I find the vaccum-packed look,
(ie. wetsuits)
a bit intimidating.
As I mooch along doing breast-stroke,
with my pink tow-float obediently following,
I feel I'm not in their league.
But that's ok as they're inevitably in training for the next competition.

For me it's all about the moment,
the water,
the breath,
the communion....
with God
with nature
with life.

Today after my swim
all 750 metres of it,
I decided to grab my towel and get a coffee.

And in the cafe,
the guy who'd shocked me by speaking earlier,
said Hi and asked if I was taking my coffee outside.

Now lets get a few things clear.
Yes, I'm happily married
ie. not used to having coffee with strangers.
Yes, I like my own space and would happily have sat alone.

But a number of things came to mind.
1. I'd heard about the camaraderie and kinship of wild-swimmers,
2. He seemed genuinely friendly, after all he's the first one ever to speak to me in the water.
3. I knew God had wanted me here at the lake this morning.

So we sat
and we chatted
about swimming,
and spouses,
and children,
and family,
and yes you've guessed it
church.

We talked about living out faith.
He told me about his work.
I explained about mine
and inevitably he asked me why I wasn't at work on a Sunday morning.
When I told him I was off he looked in my eyes and very bluntly asked
'What's wrong with you?'

When I said, 'depression',
he said,
"What with that smile,
and that sparkle in your eyes?"

And I smiled and explained some more.
Depression is not about being sad.
I do smile.
I can sparkle.
But it's hard to function 'normally' with this weight dragging you down.
Doing the exact opposite of my lovely pink tow-float.

As we parted.
Nick said, 'God bless you.' and hugged me.
And I went away blessed.

And you know the sensitive topic Chris was preaching about this morning?
It was part of a series on Elijah,
The point where Elijah sits under the broom tree.
Depressed,
Despairing.
In fear of his life.
And God sends him a ministering angel to tend to his needs.

And the irony is not lost on me.
That God,
Creator,
Preserver
and Governor of all things
should have factored me in to His day.

Yes He has got 'important stuff' to do.
But in the moments of my life,
nothing is as important to Him as communion with me.
And with you.

He took something I love,
and made it more wonderful,
more grace-full,
more inspiring.

God meets us where we are.
Thank the Lord for that.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

On going to see The Shack

I went to see The Shack on Monday.

Now if by this point, you're starting to bristle....
and want to talk to me about it's theological soundness....
please,
stop reading now.

Because in the nicest possible way,
(obviously);
I don't really care.
(In love....)

After starting to emerge from the worst depressive episode I've ever experienced,
in 23 years of the illness,
and finally getting the courage to write again,
I've decided to give you my thoughts.
To 'speak of what I know' (John Gowans)
I offer you nothing more than that.

So, back to The Shack.
I read it back in 2008.
I read it as it is published,
as a work of fiction.

It spoke to my heart and my soul.
The idea that God:
Father
Son
Spirit
comes to us exactly how we need him in that moment
is one I can run with.

The film did the same.
Challenged me.
Inspired me.
Met me deep within.

There were times when I needed to suspend belief,
but that's what cinema is for isn't it?

There were moments of deep sadness,
as the story unfolded and God reminded me that He is right here.

In the thick of everything with me.

Loving me

Knowing me

Holding me

Then loving me some more.
Apparently He's 'especially fond of me,'

And there were times when I wanted to throw something at the screen.
Not just because of the cheesiness of the film at the beginning,
but also the narrator at the end saying,
'Mack lives most days with a sense of pure joy....'
Hmmmm......

So yes, I would say if you like cinema,
go and see The Shack.
It's not a deep theological offering,
but for me it has deep spiritual moments in it.
I asked God to speak through it
and He did.

How He did.

I left the cinema with
'My heart strangely warmed.'

In my experience,
particularly over the last 10 months,
God uses all kinds of people,
places,
things,
to help us come closer to Him.

If I can hear God through Frozen,
Maleficent
and Apollo 13
then you bet I can experience His presence very close
while watching The Shack.

Maybe you will too.
I hope so.

I'm praying his presence and power in your life,
right now.

Monday, 3 April 2017

On approaching Easter

I went to church last night.
It was the first time since mid-February.
Depression hit last September and hasn't lifted significantly since then.
After months of trying to manage it;
To work my way through it;
To pretend it wasn't really that bad;
I was signed off with clinical depression.

This blog post isn't to gain sympathy.
More, it's to be real about an illness I have had for most of my life.
It's not an easy thing to live with.
I have to constantly remind myself I'm not weak, but sick.

Lots of people don't understand.
I answer the same questions over and over about what I'm doing to help myself.
I try and smile as I answer, while inside I'm crying.
Imagine the injustice of being ill and people leaving you feeling it's somehow your fault?
You'd be better if only you would....

So my friends
This is me raising my head above the parapet and saying

Yes I have a chronic illness.
No, nothing seems to help at times.
Yes I'm on medication and in therapy.
I walk,
meditate, 
practice mindfulness, 
look for things to be grateful for,
watch what I eat
and rest.
No, at the moment it doesn't make any tangible difference.

But I'm hanging in there.
People with this illness are often very good at that.
I'm hopeful for better days.
I wake every morning in the sure and certain hope that Resurrection Day is on the horizon.
Maybe not today.
Maybe not tomorrow.
But soon.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

On walking Daisy into 2017

We walked in the opposite direction today, Daisy and I,
We set out on a longer walk than usual and chose a different path.

Beside the canal,
over some bridges,
through a few fields.

Having a bit of puff left,
we decided to go round the lake we often venture round,
but as we're wild things who can't be tamed
we went round the other way.
I know!

It was fun for a while
Darting robins
Trees from a different angle
Views of the lake we hadn't seen before.

I loved it.
Daisy?
Not so much.

She seemed happy enough for a while;
but didn't seem to recognise her favourite places,
or her usual watering holes.

Her piece-de-resistance though, happened at the car park.
At precisely the moment when she was supposed to wait while I put her lead on,
she thought it would be really funny to run off.
As soon as I got close she darted in another direction.

Every time.
For 45 minutes.
Well when I say funny......

This time of year we're bombarded with advice about changing our lives.
New Year, New You !!!! (exclamation marks not mine)

But what if the old you;
the one who works hard,
makes the best of circumstances,
cries,
laughs,
cries some more,
sometimes eats too much,
loves well, even though it hurts,
shows up even when they'd rather not;

The you of yesteryear
That you, was already pretty darned fine.

Not perfect by a long-shot,
but still here,
still showing up to do the business of life day after long day.

We celebrated Epiphany last Friday.
The visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus.
They were warned in a dream to go home 'another way,'
And I'm one of the legions who have preached sermons on those two words.

But this year?
This year I've decided harder, faster, stronger is not for me.
Different isn't always desirable.
Change is a challenge I don't aspire to.

Believe me I'm as surprised as you.
As the seed thoughts for this post started this morning,
I was going to suggest that gentle changes can be a good thing.
But after the debacle with Daisy, I've changed my mind.

This year I shall mainly be taking one step at a time.
I'll be busy forgetting what is behind me,
and not so much 'straining toward' but 'leaning into' what is ahead.

I'll be keeping my eyes fixed.
I'll be claiming the promises of the Father.
Join me?

'My child, I love you,
and as long as you're seeking my face,
You'll walk in the power of my daily, sufficient grace.'
(Laura Story)




Friday, 7 October 2016

Five minute Friday: Test

Friday.
The day when people are given a prompt and write for five minutes.
Today's prompt is TEST.

And so the test has come.
The moment of truth.
As I pause
and breathe
and open my mouth
in a new place
with new people who have barely known me two summers.

I've lived with this for most of my adult life
but you know it never gets any easier.

Hannah West describes living with depression when she feels well:

'The attacker that threatened my life still lives in my house.'

He has attacked me again.
And yet again
I feel I should have been able to stop him.

But the truth is that there is an inevitability to this horrible illness
which in my mind is a bit like Voldemort,
he who must not be named.

I am sick.

Yes I pray.
Yes I believe.
Yes I have asked God for healing.
Yes I live mindfully.
Yes I meditate.
Yes I try to have proper rest.
Yes I have work-life balance
Yes I exercise.
Yes I tick all the boxes that people think I should

Yes depression has struck again.

And the test?
To remember that this is an illness like any other.
And when the dust has settled I will get better again.
Maybe not today
Maybe not tomorrow
But soon.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

On asking for prayer.

We've spent 4 hours in the car today.
We'll be repeating the same journey next Saturday as it's that time of year again.
The time when teens and twenties give up weeks of their Summer,
just to make a difference in the life of a child.

This isn't some fancy camp.
No amazing excursions, trips out or extended time off.
This is a tough gig.
A camp for children from really hard circumstances who come for fun,
excitement,
a glimpse of love and life as they've never experienced it before.

As we dropped off our middle son,
our eldest son ran to meet us for one of those hugs that you think will never end.
A hug that says a thousand words that you don't have.
A hug that you hold until some of the strain starts to disperse.

As he whispered in my ear,
he told just a few things he'd experienced this last week.

And as a Mother I'm torn between the pride I feel at my sons,
and the other young people who are on the staff,
who give of themselves over and over;
Work tirelessly.
selflessly,
extraordinarily....

And wanting to take them home,
wrap them up,
and shield them from the tougher side of life
that they have seen this week,
and will surely see over the next seven days.

But they are no longer children.
They are young men.
And as I left them this afternoon
I am filled with awe at what they have committed to,
along with their friends,
and the rest of the staff.

As I drove through the roadworks on the A21
I felt a stirring to pray for them myself,
but also rally some support
for what they are expecting will be
an even more difficult week
than the last.

I believe in the power of prayer.
I'm praying that
'My God will supply all their needs;
(physically, emotionally, spiritually)
according to His riches in Christ Jesus,'

Will you join me?
If you're willing to pray for them,
please comment on the Facebook post so they can see.
Maybe tell them what you are praying for them this week.
Let's give them a treasure-trove to dip into when they are flagging.
Thank you my friends.