Learning from the movies: Devil’s snare

I could have chosen numerous film references for this blog but I have decided to go with Devil’s snare because it encapsulates a lot, and is a perfect metaphor for me at the moment.

In Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone the three main characters get caught in a plant called Devils snare, there’s two things you need to know about Devils snare

1. The more you fight against it the more trapped you become

2. The thing that makes it wilt is sunlight

Hermione is the first to escape the Devils snare because she relaxes, she stops fighting against it, and she becomes free. But typically the boys keep fighting it. Then Hermione starts to poke through the plant to enable sunlight through which wilts the plant and frees the boys.

I feel trapped at the moment. I have underestimated the effect that the grief has had and continues to have, as well as a lot of changes in other aspects of my life. I get frustrated because I don’t feel I am doing my best, well I know that I’m not. I am aware that I cannot help anything that has happened, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling it.

I am fighting against my devils snare and it binds me even further. I know that I need to give in to it, but I don’t know how to and I continue to struggle and to fight.

I am lucky that I have friends team H who are poking through and brining light to the situation. Easing the bind momentarily. But I know it is only momentarily, and I know that the only one who is able to release me is me. I also know that the only one that can bring enough light to loosen the weeds to make it easier for me to escape is God.

Frozen’s “let it go” didn’t seem sufficient, but the devils snare is the perfect metaphor. Now I know what I need to do, but I have to allow myself to do it!

Team H

A few weeks ago I was watching ‘family brain games’ and over the last week I’ve been watching some doubles tennis. The thing that was clear in both of these was the sense of teamship (I don’t care that it’s not a word). In the family brain games the families that did well were those that encouraged each other in all aspects, whether they had won a game or not, they would find the positive from the experience and would make sure all had recognised it. That isn’t to say they weren’t upset at losing but that they would strive to move forward together. In the doubles tennis most pairs will bump fists, or slap hands after every single point has been played. It doesn’t matter whether they have won or lost the point they are recognising that they are a team, playing together.

Two weeks ago I had an appointment. For that appointment I had to fill out a questionnaire about how I had been feeling etc… there were a number of questions which I had to rate saying whether I had never experienced it through to experiencing it all the time. For most questions I was somewhere in the middle, but for one I was able to say never. That question was along the lines ‘I have felt completely alone and unable to talk to anyone’. There was another similar one which I was able to answer always to and that was something like ‘I have felt supported by other people’.

It is fair to say the last month has been rubbish, with the loss of two members of family, a lot of major changes at work, and my brain still not being happy. I have been at some of the lowest points I have ever been at – and I hate it! However, as E keeps reminding me – and I mean it, she is ridiculously persistent with it – she, and many others are on team H. I know that I am surrounded by people who are supporting me, being there in the tears (of which there are many), holding my hand when I’m shaky, giving me the fist bump of encouragement when all I can see is the failure.

I have witnessed the importance of having a team in things I have watched, as well as my own experiences over the last few weeks. And as I’m studying the Trinity with one of the groups I teach I am reminded that we are created to be in relationship, with one another as well as with God. We all need a team around us, sometimes we will be giving to that team but at other times we will need to receive. During my darkest times over the last month, which I am sure will occur again, the one thing that has caused me to cry as well as fill my heart with warmth is those times during my doubts when I receive a text from E saying ‘remember I’m on team H’.

Grounded

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The last 3 weeks have been rather difficult to say the least. As well as all the emotions that have been going around my head, I have been told numerous times that people are surprised that I’ve been back at work, or that I am here rather than in Birmingham. It doesn’t take much to confuse me, but I really have been confused – mainly asking the question am I reacting in the right way?

Throughout all the confusion, the exhaustion and the emotion, I have also felt completely and utterly grounded. How I have been grounded? I have been grounded in my faith.

On Tuesday I had the privilege of giving the address at my Dad’s funeral, and I think it is able to explain why I have been grounded, and how my faith has been an essential part of that… so here it is… based on the reading John 14:1-8

Life is full of journeys, definitely when you grow up with a dad who’s a cub leader. Weekends, summer holidays, there was often a trip. With the necessary skills of Having a destination, working out the route, following a map, and working out how to get back on track when necessary. My first day at Handsworth he came with me through town to make sure I got to the right bus stop, luckily there were other girls from school who he left me with so I didn’t have that ultra-embarrassment of my dad dropping me off at school. But he still made sure I knew my route.

 This was not only the case practically, and physically but also spiritually. Dad knew his final destination, and that this life was just part of his journey to that final destination.  His whole life was a reflection of the knowledge that he was loved by God, and that he was walking with God even when the obstacles seemingly got in the way.

 In the passage that Gav has just read the disciples were becoming increasingly aware that Jesus was going to be leaving them, they didn’t really understand what that meant but it was upsetting which is why Jesus was trying to comfort them. The comfort he brought was that through their belief in Jesus as God, they would come to the Father, and that through knowing Jesus they knew the father. Dad knew this comfort as well.

 The first comfort was, that through belief in Jesus as God, they would come to the father.  Dad knew that the Easter story wasn’t just a story that meant chocolate eggs – although he didn’t say no, but that it was a fundamental part of his faith. The belief that through Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter, He would return to the father meaning that we too, are able to return to the father, who created each and every one of us, and loves us for who we are.

Jesus wasn’t abandoning his disciples, but was creating a place for them so that they too can be in relationship with the father, not for a short space of time, but for eternity.  This is the same promise for us.  God created humans in His image and to be in relationship with him, we have all done things that are undeserving, but because of Jesus that relationship can be restored and we can return home.

 This really would have brought such comfort for the disciples. I know that there is always something comforting about returning home after a long day, or coming back to the home I grew up in. Knowing that it is a place of safety, with people who love and care for me. How much more comforting, to know that we are able to return to our heavenly father and to be in relationship with Him.

 The second comfort for the disciples was that through knowing Jesus they knew the Father.  Jesus was God on earth, his life was a life of love. He cared, he comforted, he taught, he wept. Before Jesus, God was a far away idea of a being who was all-powerful with plenty of barriers separating humanity from God. Jesus broke those barriers down, his life, death and resurrection demonstrated the love of God for all humanity, not just certain people who followed certain rules – But EVERYONE. Through Jesus’ life the disciples had experienced God, and that is still the same today. Through a relationship with Jesus, we are all able to know the father and be in relationship with Him, the one who created us and loves us for who we are, because that’s how he made us.

 Dad knew this love. He knew that he was loved by God for who he was. He took the time to understand more about God, and it filled his life, and therefore the lives of those around him.

It is fair to say that Dad was one of a kind, with a unique sense of humour – which took a while to understand, and he wasn’t really a talker (not when it came to feelings anyway). But he cared and he loved.  He reflected the love of God that he knew.  In the same way that through knowing Jesus we may know the father, we also see something of God in other people, and for me, that was definitely the case with both mum and dad. 

 Dad would be pleased to know that he has set a challenge, or four, for all of us.

 Do we know the love of God, and that we are loved for who we are?

Do we know that through Jesus we are able to have a relationship with God here and now?

Do we know that Jesus has prepared a place for us in our heavenly home with our heavenly father?

Do other people know the love of God, through the lives that we live?

 Life is full of journeys, especially when your dad is a cub leader, but if you know where you are heading, then even when you think you’re going in the wrong direction, or when the journey is particularly treacherous, there is a comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and that you will reach that destination – it just might not be quite the journey you would have liked.  

 

Amen

Strength when there is none

I have been wanting to write something since Saturday when I found out but I haven’t been able to, but after a few pints i have found the strength and it’s considerably easier, although I still don’t know if I’ll manage.

On Saturday I received the news that my dad had passed away, he has had complex health issues for a long time (too long) but it came as a complete shock to us all.

Over the last few days I have been completely overwhelmed by the amount of love that has been shown, for me, the family, but most of all for my dad.

I can’t, at this time, bring myself to explain what a fantastic man he was. But he was always there for me and my brother, he supported everything that we did. He may not have said he loved us, or that he was proud of us, but he showed it. And we knew it. So many people have commented on his sense of humour, it really was one of a kind, and sometimes took some getting used to, but it was because he saw the positive in all situations and that helped through the toughest of situations.

It is because of the way I saw my dad deal with the issues with his health that I have been able to deal with mine (possibly not as well). Health issues have always been something that happened as part of life, an added obstacle to the challenge that is life!

The thing I have been most overwhelmed with since Saturday has been church. I know that I teach my pupils that Church is the people and not the building, and this week I have seen it. As soon as my parents moved to this house (before I was born) they started attending the parish church. It has always been a part of my life, and has impacted, hugely, my faith now. The support they have shown, for me, my brother, and especially my mum has been phenomenal, as well as the fond memories they have for dad. I literally can’t put it into words (literally is the correct use of the word as what I’ve written doesn’t do it justice). If this is not an advert for what Church is, then I’m not really sure what is.

Dad was sarcastic and cheeky, but he loved. He knew the love of God, he lived the love of God, and he introduced me to that love as well. It still hasn’t really hit home, and I imagine there will be many more ramblings from me. But for now I will say that I am so grateful for everything dad did for us, the love he showed through encouragement and support, and the strength to get through the tough times. He was a unique character and I’m going to miss him more than I ever could have thought.

Shout out for support

It’s 6:30 on a Saturday, I’ve been awake and up for over an hour already – madness? Well… quite possibly! But I also feel more at ease than I have for a while. Why? Because I’ve just spent time with husband before he has gone off to a long day at work.

I’ve become so aware over recent weeks how much I benefit from familiarity. I’m not sure that makes sense so let me explain. There have been a few occasions recently when I’ve been feeling particularly tense or anxious and then the husband has arrived and I just relax. I know I don’t need to put on a show, we chat about meaningless stuff, or we just sit in silence, and it’s all good. We talk through concerns as well, and try to support each other, and I know that he has got my back – even though there are times when I go mute and don’t talk at all! I know he’s my husband – but he really is a legend! And I guess this is what marriage is!

It’s not just him though! I am amazed by the amount of support that I have, whether that’s the daily messaging with E, the support of colleagues at work, a chat with mum, those who I know regularly pray for me, or those who will send messages. It’s overwhelming – in a fantastic way!

The thing is…

They are all there throughout, I am aware they are supporting me know when I’m struggling, but I also know they are celebrating with me when things are good, and plodding along with me when life is just happening.

I only hope that I can provide the same for them.

We all need to be part of a community, where we can support and be supported. I have to say, most, not all, of my support, comes from people I have met through Church. I am so grateful that it is a part of my life.

So a big SHOUT OUT to those who have and are supporting me, an especially big SHOUT OUT to the husband, the mummy, E & S!

Savouring the smiles

It’s not been a great couple of weeks but on Thursday a friend kept pointing out the good to me.

It is very easy to focus on what the struggles are, but I am trying my hardest to acknowledge the good, enjoy the laughter, and savour the smiles.

I was challenged in one of the acts of worship this week (assembly) that in order to flourish we need God, and we need community.

I think this is even more important when you’re struggling yourself.

I have been blessed this week by E making me bawl like a baby, but also reminding me how much I am loved by God and by others. I was blessed by my friend pointing out the good – because she knew that I wasn’t feeling great. I have been blessed by pupils making me laugh. I have been blessed by the husband knowing what I need, whether that is space, rubbish tv or homemade maltloaf! And I have been blessed by a community surrounding me in smiles, texts, and prayers.

It is easy to wait until the fire comes before we put it out, BUT when you are part of a community, that can often lead to prevention of the fire.

The title of this blog is Life: enjoying not enduring – that is a lovely idea, but sometimes it is a lot more effort to enjoy than it is to endure. It has been difficult for me to try and focus on the good, but I do encourage you to savour those smiles, it can be a real glimmer of hope!

Easter: the power not the chocolate

Happy Easter.

Over the last couple of days I have found it a real privilege to share in the story of Easter with so many others.

On Friday the husband and I participated in the walk of witness through Canterbury, joining with people from other congregations in the City. This morning I went to Church as usual, passing a couple of friends on the way and being able to say happy Easter to them. At our church service we had many visitors along with a couple of Baptisms as well. This evening, because the husband had been at work this morning we went to the Church we used to be members of and it was lovely to be worshipping with friends, as well as others we didn’t know. My social media has also been inundated with commemorations of Holy Week and Easter from all over the country, and even all over the world.

Whereas for many, tomorrow Easter will be forgotten other than working the way through numerous Easter eggs. For me, for my husband, for those I’ve worshipped with this week, and for Christians all over the world, today we remember the power of the cross, the risen God and the new life that we are able to live each day.

Easter isn’t about chocolate, it’s about celebrating the day that is the foundation of the Church family; the reason there were shouts of “He is risen” around the world today; and the reason people join together in worship around the world throughout the year.

Alleluia