Valentine’s Day Prayer

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“We pray today for those in love, those off love, those in between. And for those who are lonelier today than other days.
We pray today for those whose frozen hearts cannot love & those who feel so unlovely that they can’t love themselves.
We pray for the elderly man gazing today at a black and white photograph in a silver frame of a wedding in another time.
We pray for the the mum, who quietly bought herself flowers yesterday. And the boy who dared to send a card but didn’t get one back.
King of love come comfort and forgive us this cheap, gaudy, desperate, isolating thing we have made of you. Amen.”
Pete Greig – Valentine’s Prayer

One of our pastors shared this on Facebook. It’s awesome.

Still Part of the Fellowship

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abstract-fine-color-waves-910x300A church friend contacted me yesterday and I wanted to share how encouraging she was.
I was explaining how sad I was that I haven’t been able to get to church as much, although I have made it to life group a few times and the Christmas concert.

She said: “But you’re still part of the fellowship. Every single person who can’t get to church for one reason or another is still part of the fellowship.”

This is such a powerful thing for me to hear and I realised that the fellowship IS all still going on: texts, letters, visits, support, prayer, music, podcasts and reading.

There are lots of people who can’t always get to the services, through ill health or distance.

I just wanted to say it’s true: “We are all still part of the fellowship.”

A Lover’s Story: Crookes Valley Park, Sheffield, 1988.

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“Will you stay in our lover’s story?” Kooks, David Bowie.

Back in 1988 I saw our time in Sheffield as a sad and lonely period yet in retrospect I see it differently. We were young, not yet fully formed, and very much in love.

My job was hard, physically and mentally, and I felt pulled in many directions. At work, I was the ‘newbie’, before that word was invented, who had to make her mark, a graduate among school leavers, viewed with a little suspicion. I wasn’t part of any clique and was frequently homesick for my birth town and my parents. Gray was out-of-work and lonely too. As I had dragged him to this landlocked city I felt I had to make everything alright for him. Exhausted after my day at the office I felt obliged to go out at night, to pubs or to the cinema, when really I would have preferred to stay in and just talk or be.

Sundays became special though.

Mostly we walked in Weston Park, sometimes visiting the art gallery there, and often in Crookes Valley Park, which was often swathed in mist.  He would wear his Joe Orton-style leather jacket and I would be in my blue coat with its real fur collar, which I’d picked up in Oxfam in Broomhill. It looked like something straight out of a Tissot painting. I kept that coat for years.

Crookes Valley Park comprised sloping greens and a flat lake and was peaceful in a melancholic sort of way. Gray was often sad and we were frequently tired. What we talked about I can’t recall but conversation always flowed between us as the leaves came tumbling down around us. There was this utter sense of togetherness, of being with the right one. If I’d have known my Bible back then I would have identified with the verse from Song of Solomon:

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.”

Sometimes we would walk down to Hunter’s Bar and end up in Pizza Hut. Having been on the dole for a few months before I got this job this seemed to us quite decadent! I relished seeing the anticipation in his eyes and we’d laugh as the soft, doughy pizza would melt in our fingers – and then in our mouths. I loved to see him happy like that.

Sundays were doubly precious because I never looked forward to rejoining the world of office politics in a department that was sinking fast in an era of privatisation. Many people in the office were having affairs with each other as if it was the last few  days of pre-war Berlin. This was the very antithesis of my world of “pure love”, monogamous, hopeful and magical.

These memories can pierce my heart, as if they were happening right now. I wonder at this, bemused, that he, in his new life with new wife, doesn’t feel it too, at the very same moment as I do.

The subconscious mind, I read, doesn’t understand past and present, but sees everything as if it IS occurring right now. And it is happening.  I’m walking in Crookes Park, Sheffield, with the man I love.

I am loved, valued, wanted.

When You Are Not Needed

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Sometimes having only yourself to think about is more a of a curse than a blessing. Even offered to take my 83 neighbour to the nursing home where here hubby is today but she was already sorted!

Offered to help young friends out with childcare on their moving day, but they don’t need me. I’ve joined a voluntary group – but nothing’s happening yet, I’ve work promised – but for the future, have a business idea – but it is still in development. Even Life Group was cancelled tonight.

At least I got out of town today for a while! Hallelujah!

Marriage support – Care for the Family

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“Every marriage is different, but all marriages experience ups and downs – there’s the romantic times when the sun seems to be always shining, and the tough times when winter seems to have set in for good. We want to support you in your relationship whether you are preparing to get married or have been …”

Source: Marriage support – Care for the Family

Praying for Healing Isn’t Enough

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Praying for our health isn’t enough. I’ve learned that we have to pray to God to be shown what we need to change –  how our thinking and behaviour need to alter, no matter how painful the execution of those things may be.  We need to meet God halfway and take responsibility for our own part. But sometimes we need God to show us what those steps are.  

Just vaguely praying for healing for ourselves and our friends, for example, in Life Group, which is what we do a lot of, isn’t enough. We need to get specific. 

 

Dr Sarno Makes Me Realise I’m a Bitter Hag!

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I am doing a lot of mind-body therapy at the moment, following the teachings of Dr Sarno, author of The Divided Mind and inventor of the term Tension Myositis Syndrome.  It’s fascinating stuff.  Basically, the idea is that many chronic conditions are the result of holding in, or rather repressing, difficult emotions, especially rage/anger.  The process is unconscious.

You have to list all the things in your life, past and present, that make you angry or cause other negative emotions such as sadness, fear, etc.  My list is very long –and I haven’t even finished!

I have realised I am criminally envious of and bitter towards two Christians I know.  These two seem to live the perfect life and it really gets to me.  It pains me to admit it but I really do not like one of them.  It is hard to say it out loud but I think this person is spoilt and they have made me feel like some people in the past have made me feel: lesser, lowly and a bit grubby.  I appreciate that that might be more MY problem than theirs.

I am seething with vitriol right now!  It’s not a nice feeling but at least I’m being honest with myself.  This person, of course, has no idea I feel this way and, as it happens, I have not seen them in real life for months and months.  But, boy, do they like to flaunt their lives on social media! And hopefully they will never know of my dislike. These feelings may pass now I’ve acknowledged them.

Well, that’s my vitriolic posting for the evening. I think I feel better for it!

Happy Divorce Day!

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One of my church friends is celebrating his first anniversary of remarriage today. This couple seem to live the perfect life!

I am happy for him but his announcement on Facebook and loving words to his wife reminded me that today is the second anniversary of my divorce! Cruel irony.

Yesterday, though, ex and I went to the beach. He had come from neighbouring country for work and our shared care duties. It was lovely. We got on well and it harked back to other times. I was sad that I can’t walk much (still undergoing the muscle relapse from hell) and sad that his new wife is very sporty and active.

I say to God, “Why have you abandoned me?” It’s just not fair!

Ex has changed a lot. I am sure he smiles and laughs sometimes but I never see that abundant laughter and joy on his face now. Maybe he saves it for others or other times. I don’t know. Maybe too much has happened to him for that.

 

Not Celebrating Recovery

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DSCF2594As the relapse in my health – long-term condition –  from hell continues I have dropped all regular commitments, including Celebrate Recovery at church in nearby city.

Not even sure I am going to go back to it. Not making any plans at all like that. Researching how to recover from this relapse a lot and thinking I may just stick to following my church’s sermons online while I recover.

CR is great but there are a lot of platitudes uttered from the manual. It is also a very tiring evening, especially if there are only two of you in the small sharing group. I will carry on doing my moral and spiritual inventory though. That’s useful.

Elderly Brexiters Have Sold Us Down the River

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Utterly fed up with the crowing Brexiters. What a mess. Hate crime up, the pound down, businesses in turmoil, and virtually no government going on here in the UK.

What’s worse is that my mum is here looking after me ‘cos I am having the relapse from h**l and she is making a huge difference and I am really, really grateful – BUT she voted for Britain to leave the European Union. I think she feels guilty though. She admitted that she and her generation are hankering after the Britain of the 1950s, but she knows deep down that this will never happen and that the world has changed too much for that.

Old people, Daily Express readers like my mum, have totally sold younger generations down the river -and they won’t even be around to see the mess they have landed us in! I feel sorry for the young, educated, passionate people. They are understandably bitter.

And even worse, nearly all the people I know at church, barr Pastor 3 and another leading light in the church town, were I gather, on the Brexit side. .

This, along with the fact that most of them are Tories plus some of their beliefs is making me seriously consider leaving this church. As it happens I am confined to quarters and will be for some long time. I will sped the time thinking about what to do and where to go if I ever get out of this relapse. old-people-funny-t-shirts-18__605

Sweet Memories of My Friend Who Died Saturday

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My friend PJ died on Saturday. She was friend, neighbour and some time client – and I was her client too. She was a nurse, a high flying one, and a holistic therapist. Hugely talented.

I thought a lot of her. Admired her. Envied her. She had the family I would have longed to be part of, a great job, great friends, smashing kids and a brilliant husband.

I’d listen open-mouthed as I heard about all the energy she’d expended – over the weekend, say. I could only dream of being that well. I don’t mean she was flighty or an adrenaline addict, no! She just had a zest for life and a lot of stamina.

Her youngest daughter was the very first person who spoke to me when I moved into that leafy, middle-class street 16+years ago with my now erstwhile husband. The daughter invited me into her house to a benefit for the Tanzanian tiger! I bought a fairy cake. I recall that, PJ, the woman who later became my friend, was sitting at the dining room table chatting while lots of well turned-out children did their best for our big cat friends. It’s a nice memory.

Although I knew her for 16 years she knew me better than I knew her. Most times it was me seeing her for treatment and there was a good measure of counselling/listening involved on her part. She understood about boundaries and professionalism.

I was also lucky enough to be a guinea pig when she was studying aromatherapy. Her massages, in her fantastic, elevated summer house, were awesome. When I had to go into hospital for surgery in 2013 PJ made up an aromatherapy stick for me to calm my nerves. It comprised rose oil and frankincense. Still got it and it still smells divine!

She helped me no end: when I was undergoing some awful stress related to my ex’s family, (2009) and during our break-up, (2011) and after that too. Her generosity was much appreciated. Incidentally, her acupuncture treatments were one of the few things that truly helped me out of all those I’ve tried.

The last time I saw her was Autumn 2015. She had moved away by this time to the North but she was back in the city to meet friends for lunch. I kept bumping into them and she was really giggly from lunchtime wine and lively chatter. She looked as glowing as ever and very happy.

Just weeks later she was diagnosed with cancer. It was aggressive and unrelenting. She died around 7 months after diagnosis.Within the last two days her eldest daughter has raised over £1,310 via http://www.justgiving.com for Hospice at Home.

I’m heartbroken for PJ, her family and close friends. As a Christian I don’t know what to make of it. I can pray for them.

I’ll always remember PJ. At 52 she really is gone too soon.

 

When God Makes You Wait

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amusement-park-438419_960_720Just having that extra night at Celebrate Recovery has shortened my week which means I have less energy to do other things. CR makes for quite a long evening but it is helpful.

I’ve decided that as God is making me wait here in this town due to the ridiculous house move delays I can use the time to go to this more local church where Celebrate Recovery is. In this way the waiting becomes useful.

If I had moved to the next town 6-8 weeks ago I may not have started the course as I would have been busy settling in and trying to forge a new life for myself there.

How Hearing of A Friend’s Shortened Life Expectancy Can Galvanise Us

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Hearing yesterday about a beloved friend’s terminal cancer (could be weeks, months or years – not sure yet) has made me aware that I’m spending too much time living in the past and the future and not concentrating on the now.

I’m determined to make some changes in my life, even just little ones, like not being involved with too many things on Facebook! I do the Christian business club page, update my church’s public page, then there is our prayer group, where I am the admin, and I also am admin on a client page plus have my own business page. Time to do something else I think.

There are some bigger changes I want to make too but I’m working my way through those and how I might proceed.

 

Eucharist at ‘Rival’ Church

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Have hideous cough and thus I felt it was not fair to breathe over my brethren at my usual church and that the long service and the drive was not a good idea.

Instead I went to a local church (Church of England) for 30 minute evensong. There were only six of us (not much chance to pass on germs) as opposed to the 50 that usually go on a Sunday eve at my church but it was nice. But I DO miss my usual church when I can’t go.

Having said that, I feel it’s better to go somewhere than not go at all. It focuses the mind.

Politically Active: Back to My Senses

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This latest thing with the proposed cuts to Personal Independent Payments (PIP) for disabled people in the UK has galvanised me at last!

I know a LOT about PIP and have been glued to developments. Eugenics by economics. Govt must be shocked at level of anger and outrage out there.

Have reconnected with my disabled friends who are more active politically than I thought, even if it is mostly online.

Signed up for General Strike on 4 July.

Have signed PIP and ESA petitions and mum has too – for 38 degrees. Have given them quotes they can use in media also.

Thinking about joining Christians on the Left (formerly Christian Socialist Movement). I’ve been too concerned about alienating my conservative Christian friends (who are mostly lovely yet somewhat deluded) but enough is enough!

 

Over the Moors for Funeral

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Featured Image -- 4922Well, we said a final goodbye to pretend ‘auntie’ a few days ago. A long journey in the funeral limousine over the stunning, wild moorland to a gorgeous crematorium (sounds odd, but it was). Very personal and religious service led by auntie’s friend, who’s a lay preacher, then back over the moors to a methodist church for fish, chips, mushy peas and homemade cake.

I don’t think auntie was especially religious, actually, but it was a great service.

Mum and I did not really know anyone but I talked to quite a lot of people and my step-brother and his wife came to the crematorium, too, which was lovely of them as they hardly knew auntie. I think they just wanted to support us.

Damage Done: Avoiding Codependency With Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse

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56503713980c8203e1bb61830d7b0352Going to Celebrate Recovery has made me even more aware of how people who are suffering but who  don’t come out of denial about their past will be forever blighted. And it makes me feel even more admiring of those who DO take the steps to deal with the rubbish that’s happened.

I know people who are in great denial whose lives are being affected minute by minute. This led me to read up about adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. While it is a gruesome subject, reading does help me to understand the affected person’s behaviours in the here and now rather than just getting frustrated and angry that they can’t see how badly affected they are!

It is difficult for me to NOT take on the responsibility of making them face up to the damage done. It’s not my place to do that. If I were to do that it would be codependency and bullying. And it could lead to terrible consequences for the abused person, if they just could not face up to the truth. But, oh, how sad it is to see lives significantly affected and denial in place.

I found this article very helpful: http://www.thehealingplace.info/adult-survivors-of-childhood-sexual-abuse/

I have not reproduced the whole thing but I highlight some points that spoke to me. 

“They may not understand the connection between their childhood situation and their adult experience.  Generally, the abuse has either been accepted by the survivor as “normal” or is viewed as something that is better left in the past.  In some cases, the abuse may not be remembered.  Consequently, the significance of symptoms and problems arising from the abuse is often not recognized.”

“An abusive childhood situation interferes with the child’s natural movement toward growth and expansion of his or her experiences.”

All children have a right to have their basic needs met. Children need to feel secure in order to learn to trust their environment.  They need support for the development of dreams and wishes.  They need encouragement to be separate unique individuals.  They need a consistent sense of belonging, and of worth from their families and home situations.  Abuse denies these very basic needs.  As a result, adult survivors are often left with a deficit of emotional and practical skills for dealing with their present “grown-up” world.  As a result of having limited opportunities to naturally develop these skills, survivors will frequently develop extraordinarily complex coping mechanisms in their attempts to appear “normal.”  As a child, the survivor may have learned the importance of “pretending that nothing is wrong.”  This coping mechanism allows them to function in society in ways that never allow anyone to guess that they struggle with such pain on the inside.

“Having not been given appropriate levels of love, care, or attention when they were their true selves as children, they might feel that they will not be given love, care, and attention if they allow their true selves to be seen as adults.”

“Adult survivors may fear the intimacy and responsibility of committed relationships.” 

“They tend to blame themselves for the abuse, especially if there was pleasure, comfort, or a sense of caring attached to the incident.  They frequently feel ashamed by the fact that they could not stop they abuse.  They often do not remember the details but have only a vague feeling of discontent with another family member or friend of the family.  Adult survivors frequently report childhood blackouts in which large chunks of time are forgotten.”

“Survivors deal with the sexual abuse in a variety of ways.  They may become over-responsible, believing that they are accountable for everything and must take care of others, often meeting the needs of others before their own.  On the other hand, they may act out against others in manipulative or abusive ways, especially if that is the only way they have learned to get their needs met.”   

“Many adult survivors have difficulty connecting their current life situation with earlier childhood abuse. This denial can take many forms: rationalizing, minimizing, intellectualizing, focusing of the problems and shortcomings of others, hoping the problems will take care of itself, feelings that they can take care of their problems on their own.”

“Fear and shame about sharing family secrets. Survivors often fear that to get help is to betray and hurt their families, or that they will be punished for exposing family secrets.”

“Inability to blame their parents or other adults for the abuse. We are taught to love and honor our parents and to be respectful of other adults.”

“As survivors strip away all the old negative beliefs that have been the burdensome but familiar foundation for their lives, they begin to feel that everything they’ve ever known is shifting and nothing is certain or sure.”

 

 

My Big Posh Church, Lent, Day 18.

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As I was very tired from my night out I decided to go to our town’s poshest church rather than make the trip to my own church this evening.

Very beautiful surroundings and wonderful choir, good sermon, but strange to be there.

This posh church’s ethos is extremely liberal – which is my 1970’s upbringing background. It’s all gay vicars and seminars on transgender issues. But the hierarchical nature of the service, the Us and Them aspect (congregation v clergy), the formality, is now alien to me, yet this is what I grew up with.

At my usual church services anyone can pray out loud, singing is done by all of us and we sing a LOT! Sermons, a.k.a. the message, are chatty, funny, moving. But gay vicars are a big no-no. It’s a fundamental church, in effect, though with kindly pastoral care rather than punishing.

Sometimes trying new things can be a disappointment. But it does stretch you and also makes you appreciate what you have already.

A Fire Burns Tonight, Lent, Day 17.

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_65108948_peterfarrellHad an evening at a friend’s house with some of her friends. Well, actually, it is the house of her parents, a farm estate that’s been in her family for 200 years. She’s living back at home and what a very lovely home it is! The new things were that I met two of her friends who I’d never seen before.

I felt out of place, even quite shy, to start with as they are all about 10 years younger than me and have known each other years but I tried not to let that hinder me. Most of them are Christians, but not all, and they tend to belong to looser, more liberal churches than the one I go to (which is too fundamental for me but I love the place and the people and the pastors).

I really enjoyed the evening and ate my own body weight in Pringles, dips and spaghetti bolognese and loved the large, blazing woodburner.