Switching off to power up

I’ve just got back from a few nights away in a caravan with my mum. It has been lovely. Just what I needed.

However, when I arrived I realised I was going to have to switch off.

Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t completely roughing it. We had electricity BUT we had to watch what was on, and although there was good 4G access, streaming was not an option. I contemplated paying for wifi but E persuaded me that switching off was my best option.

Shockingly, E, was correct.

My biggest concern was going to sleep, as I normally watch stuff, and have had to have noise as I go to sleep for as long as I can remember. But I had my MP3 player, and after my first night of falling asleep with ease and sleeping straight through I realised it wasn’t going to be an issue.

I have read more this week than I have in a long time, I’ve even had two books on the go. One for my book group (I actually can’t remember the last book group book I finished) and one for interest, that will help with work.

So, I’ve switched off, and it has been great, but I’ve also powered up.

It’s not rocket science but I’ve realised I don’t read as much as I used to, because there’s so much else to do. TV to catch up on, rubbish binge watching, finding the next box set to watch. But because that wasn’t an option I’ve been able to find the time to read. I’ve been loving my book of interest because it has reignited a flame, of why I love teaching my subject so much.

Whilst we were away we caught the light railway to Dungeness. I love the irony of Dungeness, that there is barely anything there, there are a few houses, and untouched beautiful beach…. and, of course, the power station. You almost need a barren place, to be able to have a space big enough to provide that power.

At the beginning of the holiday I took a walk, and sat under a tree, and I listened to what God was saying to me. I read a psalm that I have never read before (that I remember) and I had a clear sense of what I needed to do, and what my oath was going to be.

Our world is constantly moving, it requires power, but sometimes we need to make that conscious choice to step away, turn it off, and power ourselves up to empower others.

Scabs and Scars

I am a picker of scabs.

I have lots of scars.

I am yet to really learn that the two things are related.

For as long as I can remember I have picked at scabs. I find it somehow therapeutic, the pain eases, and there is a weird relief. This has been especially problematic in recent times due to the way I ‘deal’ or should I say ‘react’ to anxiety.

However, I may have finally learnt the lesson.

Nearly two weeks ago I went for a run. I haven’t been for a run for ages, and when I found myself on my backside on the pathway I remembered why. Over the last year I have found myself having more myochlonic seizures which sometimes mean I lose my footing. This is annoying when walking, and it turns out to be quite dangerous when running.

In true MrsN fashion I got some injuries, including a rather large cut in the bottom centre of my right palm. That is a really annoying place to get a cut. Over the last two weeks I have not picked at it once. I have felt it healing, as the skin has stretched and tightened, and I have seen it healing.

I’m a picker of scabs, so why haven’t I picked at this one? I think it’s purely because of its location. It is in such an awkward place, that my knowledge of letting it heal and not picking at it seems to have finally kicked in.

You know me though, it’s no surprise that I managed to get such ridiculous injuries in the summer holiday, but it’s also no surprise to hear that this has got me thinking about metaphors for life

Last week the husband and I were watching a travel programme in Bosnia, where everything seemed to be focussed around the events of the war. I do not wish to belittle those events, and I know I have no idea what it must have been like to experience. However, it was as though they did not want to let it go at all. It didn’t seem to be about remembering the events, but about constantly experiencing it again.

The day after my meeting with the path I was battered, bruised and extremely shook up. I was really apprehensive about leaving the house in case I should lose my footing again. Eventually I dragged myself up to the local supermarket – mainly because E was telling me I couldn’t let my knee get stiff. If I hadn’t gone out that day, I now worry whether I would have made it out that week. I was still in pain, I did lose my footing a couple of times, but I did it and I didn’t fall.

We all experience things which throw us, they are likely to cause wounds of some description. But do we dwell on them, keep picking over what has happened, possibly creating longer term scarring. Or do we live with the pain of the moment, and allow it to heal in it’s own time.

The wound on my hand has gradually been getting smaller, it’s still there, it’s still hurting, but it’s smaller. I have been grateful for antiseptic creams and tubular bandages to hold the dressing in place. I have also been grateful for people willing to open bottles, push down toasters, and generally help out the invalid.

As I was thinking about this blog, I was reminded of a Matt Redman song, ‘Never Once’ the pre-chorus says

“Scars and struggles on the way; but with joy I gladly say; never once did I ever walk alone”

We are going to get Scars in life, that is inevitable, but we can choose how bad those scars are. They are going to be smaller if we allow ourselves to experience the pain, to allow the scars to heal by themselves, knowing that we are not alone and allowing others to help us out when our scars are inhibiting us.

I know I have a long way to go to get this embedded in my life and the way I process things. But I am hoping that when this wound finally heals completely, I will see that it was worth the wait, the pain, the resisting of temptation, and that it may stop me physically picking at scabs, even if the mental and spiritual process may still need some work!

Take me away from me

I like to be alone. I’m not great with quiet, but I like to be alone. For example when I walk to work in the mornings I go at ridiculous o’clock so that my route is nice and quiet, I put the headphones in, and I take the same route everyday. When the husband worked in the same direction as me he walked with me one morning – worst journey ever. Don’t get me wrong, I love the man, but, he wanted to talk. We were talking about this with my friend in Brum the other week, who said ‘she’s never liked to talk in the morning’ as we used to sometimes get the same bus in the morning, but I would sit on my own!

People question the time I leave, the fact that I walk rather than get the bus, but it works for me. I’ve always been more of a morning person – I follow after my mum. My walk gives me time to wake up, and prepare for the day ahead. There aren’t many people in work when I arrive, so I’m able to just get on with stuff. It works for me. My classroom is barely quiet, and there will often be 80s music blaring out, but it is often only me in there – and that works.

However, it isn’t always good, and I can be my own worst enemy. Last night I gave the husband permission to ‘take me away from me’ when I go back to work. I have a tendency to over think things, and sometimes I can get completely caught up in what’s going on in my head, which often has a detrimental effect on my health, well-being and everyday life. So I have told the husband that if he can see that I’m caught up in ‘me’ that he has permission to take me for a walk or go for a pint but essentially to take me away from me.

I’m good at hibernation, but when I hibernate I take myself away from everyone. There may be times when I need to avoid large groups of people as I get too anxious, but I also need to force myself to not hibernate from those who give the strength to get through the hibernation like the husband, E or D. I always seem to get shocked in the holidays when I spend large amounts of time with the husband, how much I love spending time with him and how good it is for me. I need to recognise now how that can help me get through the other times as well.

I like to be alone, and it can be helpful at times, but I give permission for people to take me away from me when they can see that I am not helping myself.

Moments

“I’m doing alright” “I’m just getting on with things” have possibly been my most used sentences over the last couple of months, and on the whole that has been true. But then, there are moments.

Teaching Religious Studies, we look at festivals within religions. All religions have festivals, why? To remember moments, key moments that have shaped the religion. Sometimes those are the happy moments, but sometimes it’s seemingly bad moments, but still moments that have shaped the religion.

2.5 weeks ago I was ‘doing alright’ until I said the words to S ‘it’s Dads birthday today’ and the grief came over me, and kept doing so. Dad was never too fussed about his birthday, but it was still a moment, that we recognised, and this year, a reminder that he wasn’t with us to celebrate it. The Birmingham contingent met together in one of his favourite eateries and the Canterbury contingent had steak and chips in his honour, a moment.

Today, another moment, as his ashes were interred at our parish Church. It was lovely, especially as his final physical resting place, is in the place that has been has been his spiritual home for 39 years. It was lovely, but I wasn’t expecting the emotion that I felt (am feeling) as I knew it was a short, simple service with just the 5 of us (plus clergy – don’t want to offend) but it has been difficult, Whether that is because it felt like a final goodby, or because I hadn’t necessarily prepared myself as much as I had for the funeral, but it probably didn’t help with heading back to Canterbury afterwards as well – something I always struggle with, especially recently.

Moments! When something specific happens – positive, negative, happy, sad – for me this week has been full of them. Celebrating the husbands birthday, catching up with school friends, remembering mum and dads anniversary, celebrating a friend’s wedding, inferring dads ashes. That’s a lot of moments BUT it’s not all about the moments

Religious calendars have key events, but in the liturgical calendar of the Church of England the majority of the calendar is ‘ordinary time’ where we remember the teachings of Jesus, the everyday, and its green to represent a time of growth. There are going to be key moments when I will remember Dad, and those days may seem more momentous, but I also know that there will be things in the ordinary, the day to day, as that is when I experienced him the most, and where he helped me to grow.

Moments happen, but it’s the ordinary where we grow the most.

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