Sunday, 28 June 2020
My homework this week from my first counselling session was two fold:
1. Give up some of my church responsibilities in order to find space to engage fully with my counselling between sessions
2. Use art materials to express my emotions about mum
At first hearing this I thought finding time would be easiest, and I've definitely made a start; but an afternoon of creativity was actually easier than I thought.
We found a large canvas and some old oil pastels in the garage so I sat in the garden for an hour of pure emotional creativity.
I really didn't know what I was going to express, feel or create; but I just took colours and let it flow. I used my fingers, my hands and some paper towel as felt right and quickly I started to feel strong emotions.
And by the end, peace.
That's when I knew it was time to stop.
I was sweating, exhausted but somehow lighter and the picture speaks to me on many levels.
I've annotated this photo of the painting below, it might not make sense to anyone else but it does to me.
The purple burst is mum; a powerful force in the middle which both sucks in and emits energy. A vortex around which her and my emotions flowed - affecting my emotions hugely as well as her own. I've sometimes thought of mum as a tornado; a beauty from afar, something to be admired and chased; and yet get too close and the forces take your breath away and can rip all you know to bits.
I know I have the same power within me, we all do somewhere when it comes to those we love; but I've learned to tame the strong forces of my fear and loathing, to calm the winds of emotion.
I am in this picture - I was touching the emotions of my small child and there she is on the right hand side - touching the natural world I felt so connected to and devoid of my own colour.
That area is only coloured by the finger prints of the colours elsewhere - it was where I literally wiped my fingers as I was creating. Those colours feel like the emotions I was constantly receiving and processing and watching out for, I was on high alert a lot of the time checking that mum was ok. The literal fingerprints on the painting are like the emotions I grew up so aware of, on my mind and heart - fingerprints of memory.
There's also a shape of a gate or an arch or a tunnel in that area - a doorway - a way to calm and light beyond all the strong colour and emotion.
I felt so strongly that that area of the picture wasn't meant to be filled in, but left in its complexity. Perhaps that's something about the healing I'm going through, or the not yet formed understanding of my inner child; I'm not sure but there's something in that to think through some more.
I've never done anything like this before, never really thought that I could express such raw emotions without thinking about them and then so clearly see them in the creative output. Perhaps I'm looking for signs which aren't really there, I'm not sure, but it's been a hugely helpful undertaking and I'm looking forward to discussing it with my counsellor.
Just out of interest. This is a painting I painted wildly in mum's last week. We came home from the hospital one evening and I couldn't sleep so I painted, having never done that before. Rachel thinks this image is similar to the bottom right of the piece I created today.
6 small trifle sponge cakes
2oz Rataffia Biscuits
8 cocktail cherries in syrup
For the custard:
2 large eggs
1oz castor sugar
For the topping:
0.5pint Double cream
Cut sponges in half and sandwich together with generous amounts of strawberry jam
Line the trifle dish with the sandwiched sponges
Crush the biscuits and sprinkle over the sponges
Drizzle the sherry over everything and push down firmly with the back of a spoon
Put in the fridge
Separate the egg yolks and blend with the sugar
Warm the milk then pour over the egg and sugar mix
Return the warm egg and milk mix to the saucepan and cook over a low heat ensuring the custard does not boil!!!
When the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat.
Pour the custard over the sponges and return to the fridge, preferably over night.
Just before serving: whisk the double cream until it forms firm peaks. Spoon onto the top of the trifle and decorate with the almonds.
My original handwritten recipe is suffering from getting wet a few too many times, so I thought I would post it here to keep it safe.
- 4oz softened butter
- 4oz granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 4oz plain flour
- 0.5 tsp baking powder
- 1oz ground almonds
- 1.5 Cadbury flakes flaked
For the topping:
- Large pack of chocolate buttons
- 1tbsp water
- 4oz icing sugar
We slice the cake as you would a loaf of bread, it is irresistible on day one but even better on day two if you can control yourself the long.
Thank you God for reminding me that this is indeed the day you have made.
Heart full of honeysuckle
Letting go of pain
Gentle streams of truth
Too great a burden to bear
Crowded circus music
Chocolate mint ice
Ocean breezes relaxing
Time to be
Sometimes we just need to stop.
To stop doing chores,
stop thinking about to do lists,
stop worrying about the family,
stop listening to news,
stop pondering the future,
just stop and be.
We are made to be
Not just to do
We are created to love
Not just to live
We can stop
We should stop
Just stop and be
With paper and pen I can stop thinking, stop worrying, stop everything
With paper and pen I can be still, be calm, be me
With paper and pen and simple lines I can praise and pray, listen and relax, hear and receive, as me
With paper and pen,
Alone with God
I can be
Who He wants me to be
And heat subsides
Nature is stilled
Dreams come alive
Between light and dark
Night waits to be born
Fears start to flee
Moon inflicts power
Pulling on waves
Setting sail on a dream
As notes upon staves
Improved city streets
Dark but not sad
Prayers often answered
Loves embrace makes us glad
Searching for meaning
At centre of being
Crossing a bridge
Peace beyond stress
Sun through a tree
Reminds us we're blessed
Raise your voice
Share your mysteries
Your layered truth
Down Wishing wells
Throw your stones
Find evil villains
On paths less roamed
Float on air
Fantasies of space
Renew your mission
Write soft or strong
Clear or embalmed
Don't bury hope
About what you wrote
Jane Austen standards
Or just a note
From pinecones to lakes
Jot wher,'er you go
Or try calendar remakes
Just write it down
It's a piece of cake
If there were no limitations at all - money, physicality, energy, politics, time etc - what adventure would you go on?
If there were no obstacles and possibilities were truly endless - so my wheelchair use could be accommodated, there were no wars, money was no object and I could have 2 years to do it - here's my dream trip.
Driving through France and Spain, enjoying the various culinary delights along the way
Boat from Spain to Morocco and then adventure South through Africa. Morocco - Algeria - Mali - Burkina Faso - Ghana - Togo - Benin - Nigeria - Cameroon - Congo - DRC - Zambia to visit friends - Zimbabwe - Botswana - South Africa to visit family.
Take a ship to Madagascar
Fly to India and explore from Kerala to Chennai, Delhi to Mumbai to Calcutta.
Then Nepal to visit Kathmandu before travelling through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Into Malaysia and Indonesia to visit the orangutans in the rainforest.
Across to Australia to hug a Koala and then to New Zealand to visit family and explore in a camper van everything wild and mountainous.
Take a trip to Antarctica to visit the penguins before continuing to Argentina and travelling North through South America enjoying animal highlights in Patagonia and the Amazon and wondering around Macchu Picchu.
Sail around the Caribbean on a crazy luxurious yacht to regain energy before continuing through Central America and into USA visiting friends all the way. Into Canada and going on the train from Vancouver to Toronto then far north into Alaska to see the northern lights.
Then back to New York and sail home.
I might have thought about this longer than I should have 😎
The words are the steps to pioneering new ways of being church - pray, join, ask, listen, act, pray.
But too many people think it is.
Kids can go to school but just retain strict social distancing
We can go to supermarket, church and for exercise but retain strict social distancing
Your look carves inner depth
Pearls revealed as kisses
Knowing dawns blessing
Living life fully together
Music played free under stars
Warm midsummer evenings
Birds singing free from cages
Breathing forest scents
Moon light in dark places
Peace amidst chaos
Empty rooms of restfulness
Inflated time with friends
Escape into stories
I looked back at it today and all these thoughts came to me including perhaps some of the emotions I'm feeling. I wonder if your doodles are speaking about your feelings.
Windows of my soul
Anger pain constrained
Confusing times within
Contented calm flow
Reflections on hope
Today I'm going to share the first of three reflections about hope, drawing on what the Bible says about hope.
Today I'm thinking about Romans 15:13
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
How often do you think of God as a God of hope?
My go to word when I think of God is love - God loves the world and everything in it. God wants us to feel loved and then to give that love to everyone else. That's been a central part of my life for many years.
But here Paul talks about the God of hope who fills us with joy and peace.
A God who doesn't judge the world, doesn't despair at our actions, but a God who sees the goodness of our hearts, who blesses us with joy and peace so that we are full of hope and can't help but share it with others.
I am an optimist, I like to think positively. But, as many of us do, I sometimes struggle with my mental health. It's been difficult in these times of lockdown, and that's when I can start to worry about everything and feel less hopeful about life, the universe and everything.
I made a conscious decision about a month into lockdown to be hopeful, to look for hope in the every day.
It challenged me to think about what that actually meant and I came up with two images
1. Light in the darkness - finding the good things amongst the troubles
2. Trust - hope is the trust that things will be good, that God has got us safe in his loving care and that we do not need to fear
Every day since then I have spent time finding the light in every day, the good things, the blessings, the hope.
And I've held onto God, trusting that all will be well, not necessarily quickly or in ways I can comprehend yet, but knowing that God wants me to trust him that hope is alive and well.
I hope this blesses you today and that you can find the light, love and hope you need.
This is the second of my reflections about hope, a word which has been so important to me in lockdown and which I want to learn more about and share with others.
Today's Bible reading is from the book of Job.
Those of you who know the book of Job are probably wondering why I've chosen a verse from a book of the Bible which is all about the suffering of a good man at the hands of Satan.
Well let me share the verse
"You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety"
These words are not words of Job but of one of his friends who has come to try and help Job in his pain, grief and suffering.
In my first reflection of this series I shared about finding hope every day. It was a decision I made to look for hope myself.
This verse draws on something else which has been so important to me in lockdown - other people.
I believe that God acts in the world, that the Holy Spirit is alive in the world and that much of this work is through people. I believe that God often blesses me through family, friends, and strangers.
In this verse we see Job being offered words of comfort, reassurance and hope. We hear about someone who wants to help a friend.
I have been blessed through lockdown to not be alone at home, but also blessed by already being connected to friends near and far on social media. It has not been a big adjustment to me to share online and sustain friendships online.
When I shared about finding lockdown challenging I was blessed with an outpouring of love, prayer and hope from people around the world; and in turn I have been able to do the same for others when they have been struggling.
Why am I sharing this? Because I want to remind us all that we are sources of hope in the world. We are God's love and hope in action.
In person or online, when we share the blessings we receive, we are sharing God's hope - we never know who that might encourage.
And that by saying when we need help, we are allowing others to share their hope with us - we are not burdening others but instead we are blessing others with the ability to help.
So please, do not think that sharing is boasting or demanding, showing off or burdening others; know that God is with us when we tell others about our lives and that by sharing we are enabling God to bring hope alive.
This is the third and probably final reflection on hope and what the Bible says about it and how that has encouraged me over the last 110 days or so.
There have been many low points over the last 4 months, times when it all got too much. Too lonely, too frustrating, too anxiety inducing. As those of you who read my blog or Facebook posts will know, a month ago I noticed that these days started to get closer together and my hope was getting less. I reached out to my GP and got help, I referred myself for counselling and I shared with friends to get the support I needed. But more than that I kept praying, earnestly praying and singing hymns which lift my heart to God. In that time I held firm to this one verse from Psalm 71:14
"As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."
It's not one I've ever held onto before, but I stumbled upon it - or perhaps God put it in front of me, and it was exactly what I needed to hear.
At a time when I couldn't hold onto hope, when hope felt far away, I was reminded of the struggle of the psalmists and how they held onto hope in their struggles. And so therefore would I. I would find the hope in the smallest things; the dawn song of the blackbird, the fleeting hug of my teenager, the message of a friend, the meal cooked by my husband, the encouragement and prayers from friends. Points of hope, of light, of God at work in the world.
Tuesday, 23 June 2020
All church buildings can only fit a limited number of people safely when they open for services, even at 1m social distancing, and actually the rules are still 2m if that can be achieved and only down to 1m if there's no other option.
Services won't look like they used to - probably no singing, much more distanced chairs, communion? Praying together in groups? Etc
There will be people who want to get back in the building asap because the building is extremely important to them.
There will be people who won't be going inside church buildings out of choice or safety and will want online provision still.
There will be those who enjoyed online and won't want to go into church buildings.
I think it will be important to offer both physically present services and online services.
As someone who often struggles to get into churches I don't want to "watch" a service inside a church, especially if there's no connection as part of that from people outside the building - that feels very excluding.
It has been such a great experience to all worship together online with people offering their gifts in different ways; we somehow need to capture that ongoing.
Perhaps that will mean that people at home video in to be part of the service in the building - readings, prayers, preaching etc
Or perhaps it will mean that an online service is a new congregation in its own right.
These are huge issues which every church needs to think and pray through. I just hope that churches don't rush back into buildings and lose the opportunity for praying and thinking and learning and developing.
Monday, 22 June 2020
Covid Lockdown feels like forever
In the grand scale of things
It's only a blip
Just a moment
A few months
You could rail and protest
Or turn it around
Be grateful for this season
In the future, what will you see?
I choose to see
Hope in humanity
Friday, 19 June 2020
Background: I have lived with low mood and depression since my teens and have had a lot of help from counselling and antidepressants.
Update: Since lockdown I have been very up and down, as I think most of us have, with some days really very low. Over the last month I've noticed the low days getting lower and the good days not exactly feeling good and that I'm struggling to sleep with lots of nightmares.
Three weeks ago I realised I should book myself a GP appt to talk about it and get some help - knowing it would take a week at least to get an appt. At the same time I self referred to Talking Therapies thinking I could get some CBT sessions. I spoke to my GP last week and she was fantastic, she listened to me and reassured me that I'm doing great in the circumstances and suggested we increase my anti depressants a little bit to help with my disturbed sleep if nothing else. She also said she'd put a flag on my referral to Talking Therapies.
I started my increased antidepressant dose a week ago and my sleep has improved which has helped a lot. Then on Monday I got an appt for an assessment by TT which happened today by phone.
The assessment was reassuring and positive as well and the assessor fully understood my situation, emotional journey and what I needed. In fact she helped me identify that I'm dealing with a resurgence of past trauma because we're in a traumatic situation in lockdown (especially because I'm vulnerable). We have agreed a plan for therapy for trauma, which I haven't actually had before even though I've often thought it would be useful. The waiting list is 7 weeks but she's emailing me various support provisions whilst I wait.
I am extremely impressed with the help which is freely available and the reassurance I've received that this is completely normal and that it's positive to ask for help.
I wanted to share this in case anyone else is also struggling. You're not alone, there are people who understand and there is help available. Please don't suffer alone.
Thursday, 11 June 2020
But only the one
What's your choice?
Take me out
To lakes and oceans
I'll shout frustration
Drunk on sounds of company
Without living in fear
Bright eyes let's play
Flowers dancing in my hair
Mood light as silk
Spring grounds of invitation
Silken tentative whispers
Face to face
Online connecting deeply
Handfuls of sunlight
Molding hope impossibly
Smultrostalle - special place
Peregrinate - wander place to place
Verklempt - overwhelmed by emotion
Be it sexuality
All that matters to the powers that be
Is the economy
I know that's not what you want from me
But unless we vote for change, many will never be
Can be solved only
By you and me
The change we want to see
I know it's not uplifting or anything but honestly I despair at the lack of equality in our world. Things have to change, must change, but until we realise that those who want power like inequality and we keep voting for them there's very little hope.
My mental health isn't great right now after 13 weeks in isolation so that no doubt affects this poem, but I'm posting it because I think it's an important issue to share.
Loneliness now mainstream
Nothing new for some
Essential for wellbeing
Let's not forget
Shielding will continue
Support still needed
Is still changing
My life is
In this crisis
Hope endures, grows
Life has meaning
Greater fireworks are
Going off inside my mind
Listen when I tell you, then
I breathe freer
No fear or embarrassment
Give me that blessing
Are bumblebees stealing
Ripe secrets of bliss?
I'm feeling: Ca va
Natural truth to be heard
Given in whispers not tears
Ever darkening shadows
A bear wakes early bemused
Life of uncertainty
Is karma confused?
No reason do I find
God why do I feel so abused?
Help is a journey
Over mountains and valleys
No choices demanding
Nightmares bleed into waking
Dark moody moons
Earthquakes on Jupiter
Stuck in the cosmos
Hugging vacant arms
War of the roses
Rituals in bubbles
Shark teeth xylophone
Flowers crushed on asphalt
Schools out at home
Memories being written
Right before our eyes
Mind bending choices
Mosaic crown creating
Depths of darkness dissolve
Light of love shines
Drops of ocean breeze
Feels like home in memory
Mirage lost at sea
High enough judgement
Love struck memory
Impulsive feelings tightly held
Dwindling false veils
Circles of sleeplessness
Sealed with a kiss
Stained glass beauty
Light inhaling the darkness
Wine glasses sing
Blushing coral eyes
Heart of russet threads
Coming out to God
He reaches out, reassures
You are enough
Of wild imagination
Where anything can happen
As release from isolation
Beyond the wonderwall
Over historic stone bridges
Avoiding trolls' constant tears
We journey into woods
The days there are longer
Freedom brings calmness
Floating on divine secrets
Rising in simmering love
Wanderlust leads us
As Icarus through crazy nights
Deals with the devil tempt
Ancient texts ground us safely
Forest clearing blesses animals
Summer trees loaded with fruit
Streams no longer muddy
Winter banished forever
Trinkets hang on dark trees
Secret thoughts trapped in history
Brides follow blurred lines
Your story lights the way