Marmite Wars (and Other News)

Tesco bans marmite from its shelves! The attention-grabbing headlines reflect a wider truth which is, funnily enough, exactly what any sane voter could see would happen. I voted ‘remain’ because to leave the European Union is likely to benefit the few at the expense of the many. There are some very undemocratic processes within the EU that need reform, but our departure throws out an infant blue whale with the proverbial bathwater. The pound depreciates. Food prices rise. No sugarsnaps*, Sherlock. More on this from the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/2c651be2-9228-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923

*’sugarsnaps’: my word of choice. Polite yetersnappy.

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In other news, I continue to use the KonMari method of decluttering, along with the Sidetracked Home Executives method of home management. The household is becoming more organised and orderly, albeit at a slower pace than I would like due to my health (and certain messy members of the family who shall remain nameless). My lovely Fluff, now aged 13, has really taken the ideas on board and has been very helpful. I’m so proud of her. Her attitude to everything has changed for the better lately. Hurrah!

I’ve begun studying Data Analysis again with the Open University. It’s going well but I need to be extremely careful to stick to a schedule of study, housework and rest because if I don’t it will all fall apart (again).

My dear mother-in-law was poorly and ended up in hospital for a week but is back at the care home now. I think the dementia has progressed, but she is very well looked after. I’m going to crochet a cuddly animal for her, because often she needs to be comforted in a very basic way and what better than something to snuggle with? I’ve been crocheting away like mad, lately, ready for Christmas as money is a bit tighter this year (and because when I finally decluttered my craft stuff I found a huge stash of yarn). I’ve even been to a sewing class where I’m learning to use a sewing machine 😀

Prince has had a resurgence of the pain that made him stay off school for six months (from December ’15 to June ’16), so we have an appointment at the pain clinic for the beginning of next month. He asked me yesterday if I was praying for him. ‘Of course!’ was my reply but I was so touched that he thought to ask. Please pray, if you’re so inclined, that we get to the bottom of it quickly? His life is hard enough with the inevitable, near-constant anxiety that autism brings. 

How’s life where you are? I’d love to know.

Reblog: The Paralympics, Disability and the Church

I sometimes wonder if Jesus would recognise what we now call ‘church’. People who are different, be it physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise, should not only be welcomed in our churches but valued and esteemed. Jesus always made room for those on the fringes. Throughout the bible God used the (seemingly) small and/or broken for His glory.

I am not virtuous because I have a disabling illness, paralympian or not. Perhaps the illness makes me more aware of my powerlessness (that’s another post) but the smallness of being that comes with struggles is exactly the way He – the Great Redeemer – grows big, bigger than anything I ever dreamed, even though to all outward appearances I yet remain in the smallness.

I’m very tired today. Neurological disorders tend to do that. So I am not sure if I am making sense 😴 Should probably not be blogging so I’ll leave it there. Please read Matt’s post. He makes some very pertinent points that really should be higher up the radar of Christianity today.

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

The Paralympics start today!

I have two children with disabilities, becoming their dad in 2012. That was around the time of the London Olympics, withits mythic opening ceremony, and the first time I remember theParalympics really entering the public consciousness.
Or maybe it was just my perspective that had been broadened; maybe I was seeing the world with new eyes and a different perspective and a glimmer of awareness of my own privilege. A lot of that has beenworked out on this blog.

Four years later and the Paralympics have come round again. There have been concerns about their viability due to poor ticket sales, and that might be telling, but ultimately the Paralympics allow us to celebrate sporting excellence, and
that’s great. I hope Team GB win lots of medals, and I’ll becheering on Team Refugees too. I’m not a sportyperson…

View original post 543 more words

For the Sake of Flicking Strawberries

I used a wheelchair today in the supermarket. Although I used a mobility scooter when we were in the Peaks, this was the first time I have used an actual wheelchair during this phase of illness. The last time was 20 years ago, more or less.

I guess it’s good that they provide them for customers. And it was good to have such a helpful child pushing me round and doing all the physical stuff. What a blessing a helpful child can be! But I didn’t like it – the stares, the comments. Not rude comments, mind you, it’s just that people who might usually ignore you feel obliged to say something, at least I think that’s what is happening. I think they’re wondering why someone who doesn’t look particularly ill or infirm requires a wheelchair. It’s not everyone, of course, just a few perhaps ill-mannered folk who never learned that it’s rude to stare. But even if the vast majority ignore you, it’s the handful who don’t who make it awkward. I felt ashamed of my illness. Ashamed that my 11-year-old daughter is taking on the role, albeit temporarily, of caregiver. That’s my job. And if I don’t have the role of caregiver, what do I have? I really don’t like to be the centre of attention, least of all when I’m feeling low. Which I was, by virtue of needing the bloody wheelchair in the first place. There’s no doubt about it: people look at you differently if you’re in a wheelchair :-/

I felt petty and childish when I asked God, later, when I will get to live my life. Illness has to be one of the loneliest ways to go through life. In my teens I spent a lot of time alone because of this illness and because I missed so much school. I was also depressed and very wary of pretty much everyone, so it was hard to maintain friendships. Then in my twenties, although physically I was healthy, I was deliberately isolated by my controlling, much older and abusive (so-called) husband. It’s one of the things that abusers do. They isolate their victims so that they can maintain the high level of control (and get away with it).

Eventually I divorced him and later met my dear Frank. Last year I went through EMDR and although it unlocked many barriers that trauma had created, I’m still unwell and probably worse, physically, than a year ago. I turn 40 next year and I am still waiting to be well enough to have a proper job, for the sake of flicking strawberries (tried to come up with something less rude than the usual…)

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A flickable strawberry. From idpinthat.com

Dear God, I know they say life begins at 40 but I never thought anyone meant it literally. I felt like crying earlier, which is progress, because usually I’m so detached I don’t feel much at all, but I still didn’t actually cry. How pathetic – to feel like crying but not even being able to do that.

If I were a twitterer I’d probably create a new hashtag: #effinguseless

Still, the great thing about reading your bible every day is that you can bring to mind appropriate verses. So here are a few words from the Psalms that remind us that struggle is universal, to some degree, and that we’re never alone, however much it feels like it (thank you, God, for Your Word):

These things I remember as I pour out my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my help and my God.

 From Psalm 42:4,5 (NRSVA)

 

The Bull’s Horns

We’re having a lovely holiday in the Peak District at the moment. Home very soon. No camping for us this year because I’m really not well enough, so we found a cottage that was not too expensive and here we are. I have had the use of a mobility scooter, which at first left me feeling really down. Also, my Dad said something that made me feel quite bitter, for a good few hours. It would have soured the whole holiday, if I had let it. Dad’s a professor and a highly regarded one at that. He has just spent a fortnight teaching an exclusive Masters course to some very high-paying students at a lavish English hotel.

“My love,” Dad said, “You’re more intelligent than 90% of the students I teach. It would be such a shame for you to not finish your degree.” He said this because I told him I had signed up to continue my degree from October, but that if it didn’t work out this time I was going to throw in the towel and admit defeat. I’ve spent five years studying so far and have only earned ¹⁄3 of an honours degree. Illness and circumstances have repeatedly got the better of me, though I love learning.

To get back to the point, I don’t want to start using a wheelchair or mobility scooter as a regular occurrence – just as I don’t want to give up my degree – because that seems like an admittance of illness as my life state, rather than keeping my focus on getting better, ‘pressing on to win the prize’, as it were. But it occurred to me, as I was negotiating painfully narrow paths and inattentive pedestrians, that instead of feeling humiliated I should grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. So ever since I’ve been wheeling my way along humming this:

As you listen, imagine not a boldly handsome machismo who only has to blink and a scantily clad lady falls at his polished black feet – and into his bed two minutes later. No, dear friends, I ask you to imagine instead an overweight, not-quite-middle-aged woman in a mobility scooter careening along the pavement of a sedate English town. She has about her a vacant, yet determined, air somewhat akin to a female Mr. Bean. A Mrs Bean, if you will. Got the image? There you go. That’s me.

Brought Low

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In the parable of the prodigal son, the black sheep of the family, having squandered every last penny and lived the reckless high life (crime? exploitation? addiction?) until he had nothing left and no roof over his head, comes home to his father to say sorry and beg for forgiveness. He thinks maybe he can do some kind of low-status, menial labour for his father. Besides, he has nowhere else to go.

Brennan Manning, in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, writes: ‘The emphasis of Christ’s story is not on the sinfulness of the son but on the generosity of the father. We ought to re-read this parable periodically if only to catch the delicate nuance of the first meeting between the two. The son had his speech carefully rehearsed… but the old man didn’t let him finish… [the son] doesn’t even have a chance to say to his father “I’m sorry”.

How  many times have we judged those, both inside and outside the Church, as ‘less-than’ or not worthy enough? How many times have we ourselves been brought to the place where we recognise that we are utterly broken, sinful beyond repair? Because it’s only when you’re in the broken state, fully aware of your lowliness, that you can begin to appreciate how great is the love of God. He can’t begin to occupy your soul unless you give it up to Him. It’s not something we can achieve on our own. This I learned at Celebrate Recovery and in some ways I think I will always be learning this truth, but that’s ok.

I like to think of it as a vase, oh so very pretty on the outside – a rare and delicate Ming vase, say, but inside dark and empty. One day the vase is smashed to smithereens*. The Maker carefully glues it back together, paying little attention to the outward appearance, and then sets a lamp inside. Suddenly the jumbled-up pieces and the cracks reveal the bright, glorious light of the Creator. This is grace.

 

*It is of no consequence whether we are brought low because of our own sin and destructive nature, or from the sin and destructive nature of others (for example with abuse), or even from illness. God redeems all and treats all the same – and who are we to say that it should be done differently? As soon as I think I know better, I make myself equal to God. And that’s just daft. No, instead we rejoice because we were lost and now we are found.

Thoughts from an English Housewife

I am stupidly tired. Stupid because all I did to set it off was to walk briskly into town and back. On Wednesday. Not even yesterday. So very little got done yesterday and I doubt much will get done today. For a homemaker to not be able to do housework is a teensy bit soul destroying.

I’m plodding through Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying  and am so keen to get on with it. I did manage to fill two bags with clothes for the charity shop yesterday, learned how to properly fold socks (yes, that really is a thing, read the book), loaded up the dishwasher (while singing ‘thank you, God, for the dishwasher’ to the tune of ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’), made some important phone calls and prepared dinner. But that was it, other than the school run. Meh.

On the other hand, today the weather is absolutely gorgeous. I can lie here on my bed and see the bright, bright sky, strands of fluffy white clouds rushing through the blue, the branches of silver birches waving in the wind. Earlier, when the sun was lower in the sky, the leaves seemed to sparkle as they reflected the light, making the trees seem ethereal and other-worldly as they danced and glittered. So beautiful. Now the blue has disappeared to make way for some greyer cloud, but the sun is still shining. No doubt there will be some rain, too, later on. It is, after all, England in July. Summertime and the weather is breezy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is dry(ing outside on the washing line).

I find I am simultaneously fed up with my physical health, with spending so much time alone, investing the vast majority of my energy into caring for my family, yet also overjoyed by all the goodness of a glorious summer’s day and so thrilled to have discovered the KonMari Method that I can hardly wait to get the rest of the house decluttered and organised.

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The clouds are even darker now and the sun is hidden. It’s definitely going to rain, unless the wind blows it over our town before it starts to drop.

I do so love this place. I love this house. I love my son – what a sweet young man I now have, and in the Sixth Form! He’s even beginning to remember things for himself and beginning to organise himself for school. He is not going to get any GCSEs or A-Levels, but the fact that he is getting to school more or less on time is a wonderful achievement. I am so proud of him, and told him so this morning 🙂

I love my daughter – what a bright, boisterous, confident and determined young lady I have. She will soon have finished her second year of secondary school. Granted she needs to learn how to listen a bit more (teenage hormones have made her very inattentive) but how wonderful that my little girl who used to be so anxious and sad is now genuinely thriving. Hallelujah! And she sticks up for what she believes in, even if that means going against her peers. That has to be a definition of at least somewhat successful parenting, don’t you think?

Then there’s the youngest, my second daughter, Little Miss Chip, who is coming to the end of primary school and will go off to her new school in September in her smart new uniform, very much a little fish in a big pond. Her good friend, a cheerful, moon-faced boy who goes to the same Theatre School as Chip, will be in the same class (thank you, Lord!). Jimmy is such a sweet boy. But I can’t believe I will soon have no more children in primary school (sniff)!

Of course, nothing would be possible without my darling Frank. He is kind and intelligent, patient and hard-working. We celebrated six years of marriage recently and for us it’s not just a wedding anniversary, it’s a celebration of the day we became a family. Chip had food poisoning, so she said it was our Sick Anniversary, but… It was a happy day. Frank is a lovely man. My soul mate, if there is such a thing.

So now you see why I am simultaneously hugely fed-up and enormously thankful. Knowing my smallness, I offer both to God. He knows my  smallness even better than I. He is the God of Great Love in the good times, and the God of Great Love in the bad times, and the God of Great Love in the in-betweeny bits. I write as testimony to His grace.

God remembered us when we were down,

His love never quits.

Rescued us from the trampling boot,

His love never quits.

Takes care of  everyone in times of need,

His love never quits.

Thank God, who did it all!

His love never quits!

Psalm 136:23-26 (The Message)

Grace: Enough

While the prosperity gospel is limited to a certain segment of Christianity, some of the ideas weaved their way into mainstream evangelicalism. This book is not a critique of the prosperity gospel but of the ‘positivity gospel’ that developed in relation to it… Christianity can be presented in a ‘therapeutic’ sense with God being like a personal cheerleader whose primary concern is our success in life.

~ from Positively Powerless by L.L. Martin

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Jesus is our personal saviour, but that doesn’t make me more special, or more loved, or more favoured than anyone else. Jesus didn’t devote years of His life to teaching about God and the godly life just for my sake. In fact, pretty much everything He did was other-centred. While this is not a cause for co-dependent behaviour it is reason to think, if I consider myself a follower of Christ, that becoming more like Him means losing the worldly, self-centred aspects of myself. As Mama Maggie said, give and give and give until it hurts. I don’t think I’m there yet, but at least I know where I’m going and what to aim for, by grace.

Also, we have what Jesus called our helper, which is the gift of God’s presence within us: His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to bring about far more than we can ever even hope to accomplish on our own. When I stop asking God to help me get what I want, when I stop asking for Him to do what I think best, in those frail in-between places He performs miracles.

…I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations… At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

… And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Extract from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)

Where are You?

Sometimes people respond to ill health by ‘[feeling] that it’s all their fault, that they somehow brought it on themselves. I don’t know about you, but adding a heavy guilt trip to feeling physically lousy doesn’t sound like a recipe for recovery, does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that the individual has mistaken responsibility for blame…

Blame… is as pointless as what the farmer said to the lost motorist who asked his way to a remote village while driving through a maze of country lanes. The farmer, after scratching his head and thinking for a moment, advised the motorist, “Well if I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from ‘ere.”

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

~ from Healthier Every Day Hypnosis by Julie-Ann Amos

I have been using hypnosis as a tool in my recovery. I don’t go in for all of it, e.g. Set Free Your Inner Goddess or How to Get Rich. Those things are anathema to me. But that’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water, is it?

I am making good use of hypnosis and suggestions. I listen all the way through first, to make sure I find nothing objectionable, and then if it’s all – how do I put it? – in line with the bible? Yes, if it’s not promoting something absent or contrary to the bible, I listen regularly and I listen prayerfully. The words quoted above reminded me of Jesus’ words in one of my favourite gospel stories – the healing of the man born blind, found in John 9:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in Him.”

John 9:2,3 (NRSVA)

Note that Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind in order that he might be healed, but so that he could reveal the working of God. If you read the rest of the story in John 9, you will see that this man reveals God by his testimony, by his honest, earnest faith, not by his healing.

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

Debussy and Runner Beans

I was trying to practise the piano. For some reason, after years of very little playing, I’ve been playing quite a bit this past week. Today, after five minutes, I had to stop. I was making too many mistakes because, alas, I was too tired. So now I’m just sitting and trying not to be too bored. I’m looking at the runner beans that I planted. The way they shoot up is nothing short of miraculous.

This is what I was practising, before this stupid illness made me stop and – er – contemplate runner beans o_O It’s a beautiful interpretation of Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin):

As for me, a little later this afternoon I have to drive for an hour to pick up our girls from Guide Camp, which will no doubt knock me out for the rest of the day. It’s been so quiet this weekend.

Reblog: Mental Illness doesn’t define me (or anyone else), with a TED talk by Elyn Saks

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My son hates to be defined by his disability. He has autism and learning disabilities, so he spends a lot of time trying to convince me that he’s ‘clever’, bless him. He is clever, just in a different way to other people. I bet none of my readers could spend hours talking about the different phases of twilight and the movements of the sun and how the times of the sunrise and sunset change over the course of a year! He’s not like other people and he never will be, but he’s Prince, not ‘autism’.

For the same reason I rejected the term ‘survivor’ to describe me, because I am recovering from abuse as a child and during my first marriage. I finally realised that I was not a survivor – because that still allowed the abuse to define me. Only God defines me. He calls me blessed!

I realised recently that by His grace I managed to move from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This amazes me! By the time I had sought treatment I’d already begun to heal, and that was only by grace! Celebrate Recovery changed my life. PTSD hasn’t gone away. I still struggle with some things and I have learned I have to be ‘kind’ to myself, but I am a lot better post-EMDR than I was before. I’m not scared any more. I find myself doing things and then only afterwards do I realise that at one point I’d either have avoided it completely, or been incredibly anxious when doing it (whatever ‘it’ may be). I would have been irritable and tearful… and now I don’t even notice.

Excellent post from Laura Droege; I had to share it: