Thursday, 14 December 2017

On slipping on the ice

I slipped on the ice on Tuesday.
Well, when I say slipped,
it was quite a spectacular fall.
Darcy Bussell would have been impressed with my lines.

After my head ricocheted off the ground,
I lay doing my impression of a starfish,
and closed my eyes,
not sure what would happen next as the tears started.

Within seconds I was surrounded.
Half the hairdressing salon had borne witness.
(That will be helpful in my dealings with Tesco who hadn't gritted their land.)
The nice man from the Estate Agents helped too.
Within minutes I was sat in the warm,
being given First Aid.
The kindness of strangers was overwhelming.

Two days later the only thing that really hurts is my neck.
All the way round.
The Dr says my tissues and muscles are damaged.
And you know what is most painful?
Lifting my head.....
I know.

And so these are my thoughts:

No matter how careful we are,
there will be times when we fall.
It will hurt,
but there will be people ready to lift us again.

Sometimes 'the helper' becomes 'the helped',
That's ok,
in fact it's good for all concerned.

I felt ok yesterday.
I was able to walk about.
It was more or less business as usual.
And then I went to bed.
And boy was I in pain.
You can't get comfy in bed without using your neck muscles.
Sleep proved elusive.

Often we think we're ok
and then evening comes.
And in the darkness, the truth emerges.

Be careful out there!
Take care of yourself,
Keep your head up.
And if you fall, look for the people waiting to lift you.
They'll be there.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

On searching for normal.

I have two favourite quotes about Autumn.

1. Autumn is a second Spring (Albert Camus)

2. The trees are showing us how beautiful it can be to let things go. (Anon/I don't know)

I love the beauty of Autumn.
The colours
The smells
The tastes.

But if I'm not careful, it's spoilt by the fear of what's to come,
A grey, dark, miserable winter.

I have recently had a diagnosis from a specialist for the illness I've lived with for most of my life.

I always knew it was depression.
Her official diagnosis is Recurrent Episodic Depression caused by biological factors rather than life's circumstances.
She describes it often as a disease of the brain.

Her diagnosis has changed nothing in one sense.
My medication has been adjusted and I have horrible side-effects.
I'm on a phased return to work after 6 months off.
I wake every day not knowing how my illness will effect me.

However I have a new-found love and appreciation for the
'Sick not Weak' campaign.

Today as I walked with Daisy I had a bit of an epiphany.
(Just a few months early).

My life
My work
My ministry
May look very different to how it was in years gone by,
But is that necessarily a bad thing?

I may not be able to be the life and soul of the party any more
But I can still speak to people quietly and encouragingly.

I may not be able to sit and absorb facts for long periods
But I can read, and read, and read some more.

I may not be able to be in noisy situations with lots of people without feeling completely drained
But I can walk for miles with Daisy
And while I'm at it I can think,
and pray,
and text,
and hear God.

I may not be able to do the things I used to without tiring
But I am now a wild swimmer....
A member of Team Pants,
The Battery Belles and Buoys,
and the Polar Bear Club.
I know!

So I guess what I'm trying to say is this
I know how hard it is to be positive when you're in a dark place,
or your situation changes.
I'm not sure positivity is what's required anyway,
more an acceptance of life today.

We may long for the old Egypt,
but we can't go back.

We can however have hope.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow is what's promised.

Autumn is a second Spring,
a time of hope and renewal.

Join me in letting go and looking forward?
Maybe we can be abnormal together?

Lots of love

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.

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,

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?



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?


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....

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

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.
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,
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....
stop reading now.

Because in the nicest possible way,
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:
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....'

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,
to help us come closer to Him.

If I can hear God through Frozen,
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,
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.
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 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)