Saturday, 31 August 2013

Pollyanna and The Glad Game

Last weekend we visited my parents and after my long drive Saturday morning we decided to put our feet up and watch a film.  As mum scrolled through the films she had recorded from the TV searching for something good to watch we found “Pollyanna”.

“I haven’t watched that for years!” I cried.

“Shall we watch it then? Your dad likes that one too, he’ll probably sit and watch it with us.”

I settled back on the sofa and sure enough my dad came and sat down beside me too, even if he did complain, “we’ve seen this before!”

Youngest son wandered in and out, shaking his head at us watching such a silly old movie.

“Will she fall out of the tree and die?” He said with a grin.

“Just watch.” Said his Grandad, but he never did sit down with us. Neither did Pollyanna die, but I don’t want to add too many spoilers just in case you haven’t seen this classic piece of cinema!

Pollyanna making rainbows from glass prisms
I remember watching the film when I was small and wanting to be Pollyanna, well except the falling out of the tree part. I wanted to be just like the smiling, happy little girl who always saw the best in people and in every situation. The little girl who despite every adversity taught a whole town to be GLAD.

You may remember somewhere near the start of the summer holidays I went to New Wine and made a decision to CHOOSE to be joyful? Kind of like playing an updated version of Pollyanna's Glad Game.

Why is it as soon as we make these kinds of momentous decisions real life seems to get tough? 

Nothing really BAD has come my way but I get the feeling “something” is trying to pull me in the opposite direction making me unduly grumpy and despondent, magnifying life’s little hiccups out of all proportion.

Watching Pollyanna reminded me to play the Glad Game or to count my blessings or to choose joy, it doesn’t really matter what you call it, just do what works best for you. 

You can only be the miserable maid or the awkward aunt for so long; eventually Pollyanna’s game becomes infectious.

So with that in mind I have started writing down the good things that have happened that day in my diary, especially when I don’t feel like it. I have found once I write one thing, even something small and seemingly insignificant, I tend to remember another and then a third and fourth…

As we’ve nearly reached the end of the summer holidays I decided to write a list of this year’s holiday highlights… to remind me that Summer 2013 was really good and not just because of the sunshine!

Obviously there was New Wine, it’s always great to be away with my friends and this year someone organised a Camp Olympics competition for our group, lots of silly games that involved throwing ping pong balls at a target, scrambling under guy ropes and spinning round a broom handle before walking in a straight line – or should that be falling over – OUCH! Haven’t laughed so much for ages – lots of family fun with my lovely extended church family!

Taking both boys to the cinema to see Wolverine. There are so few films we all want to see and this was one of the few things we all did together, so that makes it extra special. 

Having my bridesmaid and her family come to stay for a few days. A day out to a theme park in the sunshine, getting spectacularly wet on the water rides and no arguments from any of the six children or us 3 adults! Having a Scalextric tournament one evening and a musical evening the next, my friend’s husband and eldest son can both play the piano beautifully. Since my youngest son gave up lessons no one plays ours anymore – oh I really need to find a man who is musical! Hehehe

The drainpipe leaking – ok so that doesn’t sound like a blessing especially as there was no one around at the time to call on to fix it but when a section of pipe completely fell off something HAD to be done and oldest son and I got out the ladder and mended it together. All this time I’ve been wondering where I would find a man to fix things for me and there he was all the time, growing up before my eyes, tall and strong and capable!

And then he got his GCSE results. He worked so hard and achieved 2 As, 5 Bs and 4 Cs. Funnily enough for my O levels I got 1 A, 6 Bs and 4 Cs – I guess that makes him just a little bit brighter than his mother then!

There were a few days spent at my parents where I got spoiled with tea and toast in bed every morning – BLISS. I finally got to relax and actually finished reading a book!

A ventriloquism lesson for youngest son.

And I can’t forget to mention Edinburgh, just arriving there without a SatNav, the zoo (the monkeys were our favourite), the fringe, watching Simon Mayo Drivetime live in the Radio 2 tent and I have to mention the God Particle, please go and see it if you have a chance, such a funny and clever play – I wish I could write like that.

But my most favourite Edinburgh highlight… well that deserves a special post all of its own...just click the link below!

Meanwhile I’m glad that outside the sun is still shining and there are still 4 days left of the summer holidays to fill – I wonder just how many blessing I can squeeze in?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

VisDare 34 - Fearless

Oh I so enjoyed writing this story for Angela's latest VisDare challenge. It made me giggle to write it when only minutes earlier I had been feeling a bit frazzled and out of sorts.

I hope it brightens your day too!

Lamb for Dinner

It was almost dinner time and Millicent surveyed the dining room as was her custom.  Stiffling a giggle, her fingers absently played with the rope of pearls about her neck. She looked forward to this evening unravelling.

Her children, much renowned for their jolly japes, had this time enlisted the help of their Uncle Gilbert; a taxidermist by profession who had excelled with his latest creation. 

Mint Sauce, once a beloved family pet stood as a centrepiece, a satisfied expression on his face.

At eight sharp Millicent’s husband entered, escorting his latest lady friend.

Taking in the sight before her the timorous woman squealed and ran off howling.

Lord Fortescue shot his teenage sons a look of pure disgust before following.
The boys collapsed hysterically, while their late mother watched over them with her benign smile. 

It would take a far more fearless woman to replace her in this family!

150 words

Friday, 23 August 2013

Simply an Adventure - no SatNav required!

We’ve just been away for a few days, we being me and youngest son. We’ve been to Edinburgh, seen a few shows on the fringe and been to the zoo.

When I first booked the tickets I thought this would be a great big adventure, not just going to Edinburgh Fringe for the first time but actually driving there, driving north of the border into another country.

OK so it’s not a huge thing but Andrew rarely let me do the driving and I’ve not even been to Scotland since he died. It’s significant because he used to work off Aberdeen on a gas platform; driving up and down the A1 was second nature to him and he complained just how monotonous it was. 

There were occasions when we had gone with him. Four years ago he was working in the office because of a medical condition keeping him on-shore and we spent some days in Aberdeen with him. He rented an apartment for the week and the boys and I would meet him from work after our days filled with sightseeing.

We’ve always had these strange little holidays, a few days here and there; to be honest as Andrew worked away he was never happy to be away from home for too long.

Our holiday patterns now he is gone have stayed much the same. Short excursions are both manageable and familiar.

So I planned this trip with some trepidation. As I said it is the first time we’d ever been to the Fringe and the first time youngest son and I had been away together without staying with friends who have other children to keep him amused.

We set off from home, calling en route at WHSmiths to pick up a copy of the Daily Mail who this week are giving away free Lego. Only a small model but enough to keep youngest quiet for all of 2 minutes on the long journey and add to his already vast collection. 

Then I decided I should program the SatNav.

It was dead. It wouldn’t work at all. Turning on the ignition didn’t spark it into life. I pressed the only button on it and took the lead out and plugged it back in again.

A working SatNav!
Finally I resorted to the reset button underneath. This can only be pressed by use of a pin but in dire needs such as this when you have no pin to hand I have employed an earring and it has done the trick – oh how amazed was Andrew with me the day I did that – well actually not very much but I was impressed by my ingenuity!

On Monday however this didn’t work. With some misguided determination I fiddled about a bit more, whilst driving, not a great plan, I do remember swerving ever so slightly to avoid a parked car – then I decided I really should focus on the matter at hand so I discarded the Sat Nav completely saying “God, it’s up to you and whatever I can remember of the route.” After all this was supposed to be an adventure!

Of course getting to Edinburgh itself is reasonably straight forward – get to the A1 and keep driving north.

The problem I knew would be once we hit the outskirts of the city but fortunately I had looked at Google maps enough times in my preparation to have some idea of where I was headed and our accommodation was along the same road as the zoo, so I knew if I followed signs in that direction I should make it. Once in the area I could always ask if absolutely necessary, I am a girl, it’s not beyond me!

There was one little wobble where I decided to change lanes last minute at a set of traffic lights at a junction, which I hasten to add I did entirely safely although technically maybe not totally legally, but dotted lines mean you can cross them right? I’m sure they weren’t solid! Thank goodness I didn’t have my almost 17 year old, soon to be learner driver with me!

Anyway a little bit further along the road I spotted the place just like the picture I’d seen on the internet. Our home from home for the next three nights. We had reached out destination with very little hassle and certainly no drama, tears or tantrums.

Now I am pleased with myself, our few days away all went to plan – well OK maybe not all to plan, some bits weren’t so successful, like the show we walked out of it was so rude. But other things happened that were way above my expectations – I might just write about those another day!

But the truth is I’m not sure if the trip really stretched me. I have more belief in myself than I have ever had before and I want to try something more adventurous next time. Even driving back home through the Tyne Tunnel, another first for me, didn’t make me think “WOW I am so clever!”

Sometimes I wonder just how far I have travelled down this road called grief, there are bits of me that will never be the same but I have never wanted my bereavement to debilitate me. It is like travelling without a SatNav, a little bit scary as you have no idea what’s just up ahead.

However these few days away have shown me that I am stronger than I think, smarter that I often give myself credit for and even when things don’t go completely to plan I am capable of calmly working out a solution – who knew?

Monday, 12 August 2013

God's not done with me yet...

I was asked yesterday at church to share something about New Wine last week, so I scribbled down a few notes and afterwards decided to use them as a starting point for this blog post too – recycling – don’t you just love it?

As it happened I got up early Sunday morning, made myself a cup of tea, resisted the urge to switch on the computer to check Facebook and Twitter and I thought about what God had said to me over the last seven days. I actually wrote over four pages in my diary and I’m only up to day one! I didn’t think God had that much he needed to say to me!

Last year God spoke powerfully to me in the shower, this year he spoke to me everywhere, a few words here and there which apparently adds up to a lot. Similar themes came up again and again – well I never listen the first time! 

Much of it is personal, one particular speaker, Jo Saxton, seemed to have a hotline to my thoughts – some of her stories are so similar to mine its uncanny!

Leaving aside the personal stuff for Sunday morning’s impromptu testimony I started with the lyrics of my favourite New Wine song this year.
You Found Me by Ian Yates and Sam Blake

You found me
You’ve stolen my heart
You’ve stolen my heart
You found me
Awakened my heart
Awakened my heart

When all around is sinking sand
You’re the rock on which I stand
You’re the rock on which I stand 
And in the pain and suffering
You were stretching out your hand
You were stretching out your hand
To me

There was just something about this song that grabbed hold of me from the start. I have been surrounded by sinking sand over the past couple of year since Andrew died yet God has remained steadfast and faithful and reaching out to me at every step, never letting me fall.

Each time I sang these words I was reminded he will never leave me and that demands a response from me. One particular morning I just had to kneel down to sing, God's awesome presence was overwhelming and I am so thankful he has brought me this far and kept me close to him.

As you may have figured by now if you regularly read my blog I am a planner, a plotter, a daydreamer. I really do like to know where I am heading and how I am going to get there. I am all too fond of telling God the best path we should take but he is determined to take me on a mystery tour and travel the much longer scenic route.

my new journal...
God reminded me this week I need to surrender my own map book and atlas, give up my “secret” plans, which he knows all about anyway, all I need to do is follow him, one footstep at a time.
...with a verse I always cling to!

One of the lovely things about New Wine is the Art Venue called 3:16. It is run by a friend of mine and everyday a group of talented artists share their skills and lead some fantastic workshops. 

Last year I had a go at prayer weaving, it was incredibly peaceful, God spoke to me as I worked with recycled material, fabrics, wool, buttons and beads. The lady who ran that workshop this year did one called stitch a prayer.

I obviously had some notion in my head from the start of how my prayer would look but once I got my hands on the fabric my thoughts changed and I let God lead me in a different direction.

It started as a stormy sea then as I turned the fabric round I decided it should actually be a waterfall of tumbling thoughts made up of discarded plastic bags, net fabric and felt all stitched rather haphazardly. 

There’s a swirl of chain stitch as I try to make sense of things by myself. I try to get things in order but only end up stirring the mess with my own hands and going round and round in circles. Eventually the stitches dissolve into single chains reminiscent of tear drops. 

They lead down towards the cross and another pair of larger scarred hands.

Across the bottom of the material I stitched a colourful piece of fabric, this is all very neat and tidily enclosed by blanket stitch. There are two pairs of feet, the smaller ones following the larger footsteps.

It seemed to me even in my sewing God was saying, leave all the tangled mess behind and just follow me…

On my last evening at New Wine there wasn’t just one big talk but several smaller ones covering a variety of serious issues. Each person who spoke was incredibly brave, opening up and sharing some of their own stories.

The testimony that really spoke to me was a video shown on the screen. The woman who spoke had a huge infectious smile on her face as she told us how much she loved life. She appeared to be so jolly with not a care in the world.

Then she shared how last year she found a lump in her breast and she talked about having cancer. She fiddled about with her wig, finally discarding it and talking honestly about JOY. With God’s help she had chosen to be joyful, even through the toughest of times.

She was an inspiration and although my own story is completely different I decided I wanted to choose to be joyful in my own circumstances too.

None of this is going to be easy, surrendering my own plans, following Jesus and choosing joy. I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge in the coming weeks and months. OK a LOT of a challenge! Although in some ways it's pretty basic Christianity I just need to be reminded daily that this is the path I have decided to take.

However as it says in the song at the beginning God reaches out his hand to us and is always there to help.

I bought a new Tshirt at New Wine too.

It inspired today title and serves as a reminder that actually I am still a work in progress, on my own I would fail, spectacularly, but with God I just might be able to stand on the solid rock…