Having the Right Heart

Amaziah… reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem… He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a true heart.

2 Chronicles 25:22 (NRSVA)

file When [God] had removed [Saul], he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, “I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart…”

Acts 13:22

…wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 

James 3:17

Serving God is not about getting it right all the time. It’s about having the right heart – a yearning for the goodness of God alongside a knowledge of my own flaws. Jesus said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” precisely because of this. He knows we will make wrong choices, but loves us anyway.

God is always good (even though we are not).

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)

 

Waiting in the Empty

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Image from idpinthat.com

Marcus Buckingham notes that your strengths are not simply what you’re good at and your weaknesses are not simply what you’re bad at. You will have some activities in your life that you might even be pretty effective at doing, but they drain you… A weakness is any activity that leaves you feeling weaker after you do it. It doesn’t matter how good you are at it, or how much money you make doing it – if doing it drains you of energy, you’d be crazy to build your career around it. 

~ John Ortberg, ‘All the Places to Go’

Right. So I should give up this whole ‘being a mother’ thing? Actually, maybe I should give up the being ill thing. I know I’d love to give up the PTSD thing. That’d be great.

In plain English, what a load of bollocks. The rest of the book has been quite good, though, so maybe Ortberg is going somewhere with it. I’m just rather discouraged today, because I feel like whatever I do as a mother is never enough and this stupid illness prevents me from doing so much. I have one child who has anxiety about the fact that things change (bless his dear, serious, innocent face) and there’s no way I can negotiate that one, other than to repeatedly offer the same reassurance. Such is autism. Another child treats everywhere she goes as a litter bin, and seems to think it’s amusing. She’s a happy-go-lucky little soul, but there are limits to how much go-luckying a mother can take.

Then there’s the other daughter who, in teenage angst, actually walked out of the house yesterday and disappeared for several hours, to the point that I was driving around looking for her and trying not to imagine all the awful scenarios that play out in a mother’s mind. I can’t even tell myself that those sorts of horrible things ‘happen to other people’ because they have already happened to us. There is no magic cloak of protection. When I eventually saw her, she just seemed so small.

So today will be a day of praying, because sometimes sadness is a blessing in disguise. It makes us lean right into Him. And maybe that’s where we’re supposed to be, because God is always good – and that is the message of the gospel. Thank God.

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.

Give a Child a Future

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There are quite a few blog posts floating around my head at the moment, but I have been too busy and/or too tired to actually write them. This is just a quick post to provide a link to the ONE campaign’s petition calling for education for refugees, the following is from an email I received earlier today:

Every child deserves an education. But right now, well over 3 million refugee children aren’t just away from their homes, they’re out of school.

The impact of this is devastating, with children often forced to work and, in some cases, having to agree to child marriages in order to survive.

These children have already lost their homes. They shouldn’t lose their futures, too.

This September, our leaders will be meeting in New York to discuss the global refugee crisis – they need to put education at the heart of that conversation. Sign the petition and let’s help these children get the future they deserve.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for signing.

18 Summers

There is a meme around the mommy blogosphere that says we have 18 summers with our children before they fly the nest. For the most part this is true. My son is 16. It occurs to me that I will get more than 18 summers with my dear boy, because with autism he will need our help for longer. In fact, we don’t know if he will ever be truly independent because of the nature of his disability. I know Frank and I will have to push for independence of some kind, perhaps supported housing, for Prince, who very much wants to be independent, because we’re not getting any younger and won’t be around forever. But still I reckon I have received not a youngster with tragic disabilities (which is what some people automatically think of any kind of disability) but a blessing in the form of an innately innocent, deep-thinking young man who by his very nature needs someone to take care of him. This is not a burden. This is a mama’s blessing.