One day, one post had over 300 views, and many more on other days. One of my highlights of 2013, for sure. Other highs and lows of 2013, as posted on my FB page today include:
two new hair colours, pierced my nose, turned 30, had the most amazing party with wonderful friends and family, (lots of whom made special efforts to be there) fell deeply in love for the first time but had my heart truly broken, learned all over again what it is to trust God with an unknown future, learned how fantastic some of my fabulous friends are, had an exciting Skype conversation with an establish Christian author who thinks my writing is “fantastic”, learned all sorts about myself… faults too, and made constructive goals for 2014… going forward with my hand in the hand of the One who loved me and gave his life for me…
Here’s to the hope of a new year, going forward in faith with joy and peace, showing God’s love to all who cross our path. Glory be to God’s amazing grace, of which I shall write of in this coming year, with many more topics besides! Thank you for sticking with me, and let’s raise a glass to all that’s to come in 2014!
As soon as I saw the word ‘tree’ I thought of two in particular. The first, the magnificent tree I can see from a window in my kitchen, resplendent in all the colours of autumn with just enough leaves left to show off. The other tree, the fig tree in Scripture, and of which I was reminded recently while reading Christina Schofield’s story, My Life and Lesser catastrophes, beginning with the motorcycle crash which shattered Christina and Allen’s marriage, ministry and family as they had known it, and in its place, was trauma, uncertainty, hardship, and disability. One day, while Christina is reflecting on the caregiving challenge presented by her husband’s paralysis, God gently reminds her of the fig tree in Habakkuk 3: 17.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior (My Life and Lesser Catastrophes, kindle edn. P 317).
Each of us, if we are Christians, regardless if we face horrendous circumstances, or perhaps especially if we do, still have the same requirements on us as others, for example to choose to find joy in God and what he has done for us, to be thankful for the gifts he has given us and to find our strength in Him rather concentrating on the hardships we face and then trying to fight on our own. If we do, we are sure to lose.
I found I had much in common with Christina and her husband. For instance, it is easy to become bogged down in the monotony of day to day life, especially when faced with significant disability, as it takes so much energy just to get through each day, leaving little inclination or energy for travel, life does not vary much, as it revolves around routine by necessity, and there may not be much, if any money left over from benefits (or disability pension) for distractions and luxuries once the extra costs of being disabled are met in part or whole. We do though, have the constancy and companionship of Jesus, and the strength that only comes from Him, which is exactly what we do need. In our lack, we have plenty. I am thankful to God for such a vivid reminder of these things. I am off now, to see how many different colours I can find in the other tree, the one out the kitchen window. Until next week…
N.B. This post was written for Five Minute Friday. Why not have a go yourself? I’d love to read it!
I never used to like ‘me time’. I used to crave the company of others and hate spending so much time on my own. I have to say that these days the opposite can often be true. Perhaps the right balance is somewhere in the middle though. Together is Good. Together is to be treasured, worked on, and savoured. I have a friend I love to bits who I meet up with a couple of times a month. We have lunch, and sometimes, followed by hot chocolate. Depends how much time we have, or what mood her little boy is in, as these days, he is part of things too. A lot of my together time happens in my flat, at church, or even online. Scripture says ‘not to give up meeting TOGETHER as some are in the habit of doing’. Truth is we need each other. We were never meant to function alone, at least not all the time. Solitude is good, especially time along with our heavenly Father, and time to rest, recuperate, and repair our depleted energies. We were made for interdependence on each other though. I am reminded of this several times a day, because I need help from other for a lot of the basics of life.
If we are Christians though, our dependence is on God first, not on our own strength alone. We were made for fellowship, and community with each other. To give each other the comfort we have known God give us. These days, I often seek support and give support online. I have written before about friends I really value who I am unlikely to meet in person until heaven. There are others that for health reasons I most over talk to via technology. I do not often have the energy to meet up, but I do know my friends are there, and can keep tabs on how they are doing. I mussed Church last Sunday as I had not slept well at all overnight and felt awful, though texts appeared from three or four close friends, and the same with Facebook messages with another one or two. I know they noticed I was absent, which is important. We each long to be noticed, by this I knew they cared and I knew they were there for me if I needed them. Even short phone calls can have the same effect. Together is healthy, and together is good. Together with God, and together with each other. Stronger together, weaker apart.
I wrote this short post yesterday for ‘Five-Minute Friday‘, but forgot to post it, so here it is!
I am someone who has rather a lot of laundry. I’ve been without my ‘big wheelchair’, and so been so tired from half-baked attempts to get around other ways, I have had a bag accident once a day where I’ve had to change half or all clothes and put them in the washing machine. Yuck. They’re not pleasant and involve lots of effort to sort, either by me or others, depending what’s happened.
But then there is that other kind of ‘dirty laundry’ – those things we would not wish others to know, and if they do, then it is embarrassing and extremely unpleasant to face the consequences, and it may be something which hurts others, by it a rumour which gets out, an affair gets discovered, or an argument between an (ex) couple on social networks such as twitter or Facebook. Any of those things, or countless other examples could be called ‘airing our/their dirty laundry in public.
What a stinky, unsavoury mess, right. The name for examples like that is sin. The only One who can wash our dirty laundry clean is the Lord Jesus. His blood washes us clean, giving us brand new, shining white garments to wear. Things have happened recently which have made me acutely aware of my own shortcomings, because I let my standards slip badly. I am so grateful to Jesus who gives me something I don’t deserve – his unmerited favour, a good gift called Grace (a bit like getting ice-cream even though we’ve been naughty, instead of what we do deserve – punishment. I can never fully grasp what Jesus did for me, and continues to do for me, but what I do grasp, I am extremely grateful I can give up my dirty laundry and be washed clean – so can you!
When I think of Ordinary, some other words come to mind including ‘Normal, Mundane, Boring’. My life is none of those things, and neither am I. Ordinary, or Normal, means ‘able-bodied, capable, independent, an ‘ordinary’ body where almost everything works as it is supposed to. My body is not ordinary, far from it. It is disabled, or differently abled, and I depend on support from others to do basic daily tasks such as washing, dressing and making meals.
Neither is my life ordinary. I am young, and yet, like a retired person, I can no-longer make my own living. I depend on the taxes of others to give me an income so I can have some sort of life. The people I see on a daily basis are not work colleagues, they are carers, nurses, doctors, wheelchair engineers, physio-terrorists ….
Yet in other ways I am ordinary. I am a young woman with hopes, dreams, fears, struggles and joys. I have a need to feel useful, to contribute so society in whatever way I can and so give my life meaning and purpose. Not only that, but I was created with a meaning and a purpose in mind. Before I was born, every one of my days was written in God’s book. (Psalm 139:4) This week I have done that in a tangible way by blogging, tweeting and emailing, more than I sometimes manage. Ordinarily, one day merges into the other in the sameness of my life. I’d encourage you to read my previous blog post and consider signing the petition I highlight, if you are eligible, to stand up for those who cannot – ordinary people sticking up for those society considers extra-ordinary or different, and yet who are human being too with hopes, dreams and fears. Fears that even the basic lives we have are under threat. This is why we all need to stand together. In standing together, we can do something extra ordinary!
There are many times where I am too poorly to write, or so tired that I either cannot get my words out or I cannot sit up straight enough in my wheelchair to write without falling asleep. However, there are other times when the words pour out of me. If you are a regular reader to my blog you will know I am quite an emotional person at times. Today I am in pain. Physical pain from yesterday’s first hydrotherapy session, and heart pain, as the bloke formerly known as ‘special someone’ and I have had issues this week. Oh how messy can life get? However, their loss!
I am planning a weekend of writing to take my mind off him, and off the hurt; Three different posts for this coming week, a reflection on the Holy Spirit for the minister of a church I used to attend for the beginning of their series on the same, a guest post for Wendy Van Eyeck’s blog ‘ilovedevotionals.com‘, and yet I feel I am missing something. Pain provides great motivation for writing though – Is this one of the greatest paradoxes ever?
To have a go at Five-Minute Friday, just click the link! Write for 5 minutes, non stop on the given subject, and you may just surprise yourself.
A year on from the last wedding I attended, this past weekend, I went to another. This time, not of family, but of dear friends. I once looked into carers accompanying me to these things, but between their costs, my costs, and agency fees, it’s far too expensive. My Mum kindly steps in to assist me, and to do the driving, the easiest way of travelling, with all the stuff I need, even for one night. Arrangement was, I would pack my own bag the day before, so it was ready for Mum to put in the car. In my wisdom, I didn’t write a list of what I might need. I need so much, even for one night, the thought of writing a list was exhausting in itself, so I decided to ‘wing it’. This was largely successful, except I did leave one thing at home – my box of medications fondly known as ‘the UFO’. I was 30 minutes into the car journey before I realised this, meaning that we would be late for the wedding if we went back to collect it. I chose to soldier on.
My friends’ wedding was wonderful. The Church of England ‘civil’ part of the ceremony was conducted by a friendly, jovial vicar, who seemed genuinely fond of my friend. This wedding was different. The friend I now know better is a Christian, but my other friend, the one I knew originally, is a Messianic Jew. This meant that there was a wonderful mix of official ceremony, favourite hymns, combined with Jewish elements including a huppah, a canopy under which the ceremony was conducted; a glass being smashed underfoot by the groom, a chorus with a jewish tune, (sorry for the generalisation, unsure how else to describe it). At the end, the Aaronic Blessing (in Numbers 6) was read in both Hebrew and English. I’ve been to many weddings, and this one really stood out. Not just because of the elements recorded above, but also because this was a wedding which focused on their Saviour too; from hymn and reading choices, to the post ceremony message or sermon.
The teatime reception was fantastic too. Mum and I were seated next to a wonderful couple with whom we could easily converse, as we quickly discovered we had things in common, and both people were full of mischief and stories. The meal was one of Yorkshire portions – double helpings of meat, massive Yorkshire puddings, (made of batter, for anyone unfamiliar of them) at least three vegetables done different ways, and two lots of potatoes. The speeches were interesting and witty, at times sick-makingly romantic (from the groom, obviously) who had written parts of his speech in Hebrew (with translations into English) for his bride.
The evening disco had a great mix of songs, (great at the time, but now none of them spring to mind!!) Other friends arrived at the beginning of the evening too, which was lovely, though by this time it had already been a long day, and a massive effort to last that long. We left about 10 pm, which meant I was asleep from 11 pm. I was so exhausted I slept for 5 and a half hours continuously before my body woke me – my back having seized completely (which it does at home for less sleep) meaning without my electronically controlled hospital bed I needed a lot of help simply to sit up, shuffle to the edge of the bed, stand up, and get to the bathroom. Normally I would use the remote controls on the bed to sit, then effort-fully and painfully swing my legs and shuffle, transferring to my electric wheelchair which I use to get to the bathroom. It was during some of this that I prayed God would help me cope with the remainder of the weekend without medication, and with chronic pain, plus the emotional toll of being without ‘special someone’. A picture came to mind, of sitting in Abba’s lap, with his strong arms continuing to hold me tight. I kept this in mind all night.
(N.B. Scroll to almost the bottom of the webpage for a clickable link to page 2 of the post)
Tuesday’s daily prompt was one of the easiest I’ve ever answered. It was as follows:
Write a six-word story about what you think the future holds for you, and then expand on it in a post:
Only God knows what future holds
I find this an enormous comfort. I don’t have to strive anymore, because God’s got it sorted. I have no idea what the future holds, but He does… and he know’s what’s best.
That’s the simple truth. If I were to have a childlike faith, as I should, I should accept this and live by it without wavering. However, I am not as faithful to my father God as he is to me…! This is something I am learning over time, as I make mistakes, or try to have things my way. Were I completely disability and illness free, maybe I would have a husband and children of my own by now… or maybe not! Only God knows things like that, or whether I will ever be stable enough, and have enough support to have a job, and a career, or a husband! I am learning to develop a heart of gratitude for the many, many things I do have, from food, running water, flushing toilet and a roof over my head, a little money in the bank and money in my purse. This makes me in the richest percentage of people in the world. I think sometimes the disability lobby forget these things, though who knows what will continue to unfold with the welfare ‘reforms’. Things may well be completely different in a couple of years… or maybe not. I guess this is part of the reason it is important to trust God for the future. However, it is just as important to trust Him in the present, as I am to live for God now.
My life now also has consequences for the future; my eternal future. On Monday, I published a post about Invisible Illness Awareness week, and the scripture I quoted as helping me through the tough times is also relevant here:
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (Col. 3: 1-4)
Scriptures like this help me keep going through the tough times. I have to admit, I am not superhuman, there are days I struggle so much with physical, emotional or spiritual pain. I am finding things tough at the moment but it helps to know that this isn’t the end though. What I do now will have a bearing on then. Just recently, the last 6 months or so at least, I didn’t see things as clearly as I do now. When things are bad I try to think of others more disabled than me or who have a particular need and pray for them, or to read a devotional by Joni Earekson Tada or a Psalm from my bible. It may be a song, or a prayer on Christian radio. It’s what Tanya Marlow called ‘the truth that comes in sideways’. (I highly recommend her post, which you can read here) I’m off to find some of that now to help me get back to sleep. I got a few hours rest before midnight but have been awake for at least 3 hours now!
p.s. I can’t remember where I read or heard this, but someone once said life is like a tapestry. We see only the picture on the front, but behind the scenes, at the back of the tapestry is the One who holds all the threads and can see the to bigger picture. One day, I will see the bigger picture too, but for now, I have to live in the present.
When I look in the mirror, Ino longer recoil. Most of the time I like what I see. The teenage, pussy acne is gone. In it’s place is a pretty face. Nothing too out of the ordinary though. I remember in my teens, my mum standing with me in front of a mirror telling me I was pretty. I know this kind of thing has been bashed in the press recently as encouraging arrogance, vanity, and esteem based on looks. That day in front of the mirror really helped me though, which is partly why I’ve never forgotten it.
When I look in the mirror I see the face God made, the smile people are attracted to, the person he created me to be. My face is the one part of me that is not disabled in some way. I do refuse to have a full-length mirror in my house though. I hate to walk (shuffle, really) past them due to my wonky posture; my backside sticks out and my knees are twisted… it says to me, ‘spaz’. I was once at my mum’s friend’s daughter’s birthday party in my teens and walked past a full length mirror in the ladies’. This is when I first realised the wonkiness, and wondered, is this how others see me? It is something which, rightly or wrongly, has almost haunted me in a way. When I pass a mirror, I prefer to sit in either wheelchair as, although I am sat, my posture looks more ‘normal’. I wonder if anyone else out there who has a disability sees themselves that way?
When I look in the mirror, I one day hope to only see the person God made, with none of the twisted knees, sticky out backside hangups. I guess most people have hang-ups about the way they look. So far, so normal!!
Sometimes, I will read the ‘daily prompt’ and decide it is completely irrelevant and go looking for something else to write about. Other times, I will know what I would like to write and just go for it. Today however, the prompt made my heart skip a beat and think about whether I really should post what I am about to write. However, I have decided, as what happened has been retold many times over the last thirty years, and as long as I don’t share personal details, I think my parents will be okay with it.
Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?
Originally, the plan was to name me after my Dad’s Grandmother Louisa, or perhaps, to shorten it to Louise; I can’t remember which. However, nothing went to plan, as my mother was taken ill 3 months before I was due. My heartbeat was dropping so they had to get me into this world, even though survival at that stay of gestation was almost unheard of 30 years ago. I was born on the 18th of April and rushed to the special care baby unit.
Both my mother and I were on life support and very ill. Three times while my mother was ill, she told my Dad what my name should be: Jacqueline. My Dad went and registered my name after this, as he thought my Mum had asked. Much to his surprise, when my Mum woke, she couldn’t remember anything about this, and did not know how i had got my name. Their only conclusion? My name must have come from God.
To this day, I do not really know why God gave me my name, although someone once suggested it may have been because I am an original, and to name me after someone else would not have made me unique. Perhaps there is some truth in that I don’t know. I do know that I once hurt my Mum very much because i told her I didn’t like my name. This is something I very much regret. My Gran once brought me a framed picture of my name, drawn/written in calligraphy, from her holidays. That picture lived in a cupboard for a few years while I did the teenage thing of throwing a strop; in my case over my name. However, when my parents were organising their belongings in time for moving house last year, I asked them if they could bring the picture with them and hang it up on the wall for me. I don’t know if they were surprised or not. Now, I rather like the idea of having a name no one else in my family has. Additionally, no one else out there who is also called Jacqueline will have be given their name the way I was given mine. It makes me feel loved, and special. Though I once would have changed it, now, no way!!