Tag: little things

A beautiful day

Today was amazing. I don’t know why but we were both full of hope for the future. It wasn’t that the many obstacles in our way at the moment had been moved. Yet we both felt lifted up by God’s grace. The magic and beauty seemed to be stirring in our hearts and giving an energy Ive never felt before. This evening I’m buzzing and high even though I’m exhausted physically and mentally. The voices are telling me this happiness and goodness isn’t for me and doesn’t happen to me; they are trying to fill me with the dread and guilt I always feel after any brief elation.

No. I choose Jesus. I choose my life by grace with Him and in the love of my fiance R. We are richly blessed. We are created for good.

Thank you Dear Jesus.

Ginny xxx

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God whispers and the world is loud

I stumbled across this quotation today.

It’s apt for me. I need to rest and listen for God’s “still small voice of calm”. Amid anxiety, distress, confusion and an awful lot of dishonesty around me right now, His voice guides and assures and gives hope for now and the future; His voice is always there if I allow myself to hear Him. I know He is with me working out His plans. Where I am right now, He needs me to be and needs me to serve Him.

I don’t know who drew the beautiful illumination in the quotation or who wrote it, but I found it thanks to the Facebook page Contemplative Monk.

Ginny xxx

Greek deliciousness and changing tastes

Continuing to share photos of our experiences in Greece, I think some of the foodstuffs are worth their own post!

The vegetables alone deserve a mention and the Greek treatment of them is totally different from the UK’s. Above is a picture of part of my lunchtime snack at the shopping mall. It’s a roast aubergine with tomato, courgette, herbs, olive oil and a little Greek cheese. (Similar and even tastier than this was vegetables “imam” style, involving aubergines slowly baked with a tomato sauce, which we had at a little restaurant by the Cathedral.) Greek meals incorporate vegetables as an interesting, focal part of the dish or course. They are bursting with flavour already from the climate but as well as this they are prepared with love, whereas in the UK we often drop them on the plate to tick the “5 a day” box and eat them as a chore to be got through to deserve the enjoyment of the meat or sweet. I think we miss something there.

On a similar line, that’s a Greek salad.

Fish and seafood is also important and I tried quite a bit. Sardines are totally different and definitely not tinned there. But much as I wanted to, as they look great and my fiancé enjoys them, I could not get my tastebuds round calamares (squid):

I think I’ll stick to photographing them 😅!

Greek breakfast usually involves hard cheeses and cold meats, and even stuffed vine leaves on occasion, as well as eggs, bacon, fruit, bread, cereals, yoghurt, nuts and so on being available at the hotel buffet.

Not forgetting sweets and desserts:

These macaroons and truffles were just a couple of the amazing selection at a sweet shop near our hotel. The sweet shops we saw also sold a huge variety of nuts – often a better variety than I’ve come across in many health food shops – as well as honey, preserves, halva and candied / dried fruits.

Finally, there are our delicious aperitifs at a rooftop bar looking out over Athens (incredible view to feature in my next post!).

Before we went, I was not sure how I would find following the diet I need to at present because of my EDS and gastric complications (no wheat, minimal gluten, minimal grains, no milk or yoghurt or soft cheese). I found it much easier than I had expected and that there were loads of available choices. I couldn’t try any of the pasta or pizza which was a shame but there was so much else to choose from. There are fewer gluten-free substitute foods on the menu, for example, I got the impression that restaurants don’t typically offer gluten free bread or pasta. However with so much else free from gluten to choose from, they aren’t missed (and they don’t feature much in my regular diet anyway). Admittedly, for someone who is celiac and has to be stricter than me, or who is completely dairy intolerant or vegan, it would be harder when dining out.

Eating felt much more enjoyable than it usually does. Everything just tasted riper and better. How much of that was objectively true and how much my “grass is greener” perception because of being on holiday, I’m not sure! Meals felt more filling more quickly. Or was it the heat?! I didn’t feel the intensity of hunger and cravings that I hate – maybe I shouldn’t but I do – and I didn’t feel out of control. I didn’t feel such a desire for sugar and have to deliberately choose to substitute it with protein, as I’ve been trying to. I just wanted other things. Back home, my regular food tastes rather lacking. On the positive side, this inspires me to learn to cook some Greek dishes once my house move is complete and we are married in the autumn.

Ginny xxx

“Music, sweet music, there’ll be music everywhere…”

It’s been a while since music has made me happy. Music is important for me. I don’t deal well with silence – something I’m trying to work on because it stems from trauma and what happens if I’m alone with my thoughts, my feelings and the voices. So when I’m home alone I tend to have either the TV on or music playing. Many songs help me get through the day by reflecting how I feel and even giving me some sense that someone is here who empathises. Others are effective at taking me away from the stresses I’m working through in reality. They may remind me of a good memory or something I like but more than this, they can be a super-highway into dissociation – not the scary dissociation but what I call the protective dissociation, where I can detach by becoming subsumed into one of my escape worlds.

It’s been a long time since music I’ve come across by chance has stirred up a simple feeling of happiness here and now. Today I was trying and failing to focus on work I want to prepare for seeing the psychologist tomorrow and on preparing a short talk I have to give on Friday. I was exhausted and my head couldn’t take anymore. It’s been a gruelling month. I decided to stop and do something else, a sort of example of the strategy “take the opposite action”. Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed I decided to act as if I were happy and in control of my life. I put on iTunes Dreamboats and Petticoats Diamond Edition – vintage and summery?! – and started cleaning my lounge of a week’s mess. After an hour or so it was as though a switch flicked in my brain and I started to feel mentally energised (if physically tired because of my disabilities and resultant muscle problems) and the panic receded. I hung out the laundry and actually felt happy for a little while.

Now I’m returning to my work for the psychologist and though I’m starting later than planned, at least I can use the boost the music gave me and actually face it.

Ginny xxx

Dancing in the Street by Martha and the Vandellas

Easter crafts – letting the light shine through

We made stained glass window pictures this week at the day centre where I volunteer with elderly people. In a small group we made three pictures – loaves and fish, the Cross and the sun rising above a tomb with the stone rolled away. Here’s the Cross (please excuse the scribbling where I’ve removed anything that could have identified the location; I’m probably being over-cautious but still…):

I made the templates and then we laid them on laminator pages, filled the designs in with tissue papers then added the top sheet and laminated them. This gave them a shiny finish. Once cut out we attached them to window panes to let the light shine through. My inspiration came from a YouTube video of Christian seasonal craft ideas.

It was trickier to do than I’d expected and tested my patience! The tissue paper did not stay in place easily especially when people with limited movement were handling it. Too easily it could be knocked, or the static between the tissue and the laminator sheets pulled pieces out of place. Surprisingly perhaps, all the clients enjoyed it and persevered. It helped that this week everyone seemed curious and wanted to be involved. With clients who often feel depressed or otherwise unwell, this isn’t always the case. This week the clients’ enjoyment encouraged me to keep going even when I thought everything was going to go pear shaped.

Thanks to one of the other staff members we were able to read a bit about how stained glass was and is made and where the colours come from.

We were very happy to do an activity strongly rooted in the hope of Easter. Of course compassion and generosity and love underly everything we do with the clients and we almost always learn, discover and receive blessings as well. However we wanted to do something explicitly exploring God’s gift to us at Easter. In our pictures, each side of the central Cross, the bread and fish represent Jesus’ presence amongst us, His feeding us, His Body given for us 2000 years ago and still on all the altars of the world; the empty tomb and rising sun represent God’s Son Jesus rising from the dead, as He is with us on earth so He is lifting us up to Heaven to be with Him where He is gone. The Cross itself we decorated in bright colours not dark. The Cross is deepest suffering but also and inseparably, our only hope, because there Jesus restored the ruptured relationship between God and man, so that we can now joyfully call Him Heavenly Father. There God’s light shines through to heal our broken hearts.

This Lent time seems to be passing faster and faster for me and I’ve felt I’m grasping at desperate moments to pray between crises, responsibilities, pain and dissociation. It was important to me to have this little time trying to reflect on the Easter promise with those Jesus loves so much, the frail and lonely. Thank you, Lord.

I’m praying for moments of peace throughout your every day.

Ginny xxx

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…

I’m going to start to put up the Christmas tree later. Usually I’d be looking forward to this. This year I’m not. I can’t seem to feel any excitement or happiness or hope. it’s very hard to get any creativity going even when I’ve been making presents for people. I feel guilty for not being joyful, as it feels ungrateful for the good people I have around me and most of all ungrateful for God’s gift of the Christ Child to us. Feelings can’t easily be changed but at least if I can’t feel I can try to do, so I’m going to make my preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and do as many things I can to bring happiness to other people, completing each tiny task with love, out of thanks to God.

So, the tree is going up later. This will be the first time my cat sees the Christmas tree (I did have a foster cat staying with me last year but it was a different cat) so it remains to be seen will her reaction be. Will I find her half way up it or flinging the baubles across the room, I wonder? It’s an artificial tree so hopefully the appeal won’t be as strong as if it were a real tree. Just as well I don’t have a puppy, where this might be the result:

(Not my cartoon – I just stumbled across it and I’m afraid I don’t know who the artist is!)

When do / did you put up your tree?

Ginny xxx

Miaow!

My houseguest would like to say hi:

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So, here I was reading up and planning to have guinea pigs, when this adorable guy arrived. He’s been a regular fixture for many weeks now since he first “dropped in” at the end of last year but I don’t think I’ve introduced him on my blog before.

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He has previously belonged to at least 2 other households in my block. He’s getting on in years for a cat – we think he’s about 10 years old – but he can still cause enough mischief, between naps that is! I started out agreeing to look after him and feed him over a weekend in the winter, when his owners had serious problems and couldn’t look after him. Circumstances were such that they didn’t collect him after the weekend. They didn’t come back for a fortnight and by this time he was growing used to my flat and, I think, to more regular food and playtimes than he’d been getting.

We have come to an arrangement where I am the main person to feed him and look after him but he goes between my flat and is previous / other home. The couple that had him before are still in difficulties and can’t care for him. So it helps us all, I hope.

I love him. He’s surprisingly affectionate. He loves cuddles. He loves playing with his toy mouse. He usually likes being combed. He even “holds hands” tapping me gently with his paw then letting me take it in my hand.

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He is enchanting to watch when he’s napping, curled up so comfortably and trustingly on the seat beside me, or even in my arms, purring softly, then snoring not so softly, body rising and falling with his breath, smiling (yes really), little pink paw pads uncurling as he stretches out from time to time.

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He is bringing me lots of happiness and I love that I can care for him and make him feel safe.

Ginny Xxx

 

31 Days of Summer Lovin’ – Day 2: Bloom

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Please see here for acknowledgments for this challenge, created by Soul Seaker.

This afternoon was so wet that Day 17’s “splash” might have been more fitting! However, I think part of the enjoyment of this challenge is being led to notice things we might not otherwise do.

I love roses. Here are some bright blooms on a market stall I often pass.

Ginny xxx

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Becoming like them would be worse

What a week. On Tuesday, again I was crying, asking, what is happening across the world. Every day there seems to be more violence and anger and fear and it is felt all the more as it erupts in places we thought were safe and stable. The murder of the Priest Fr Jacques Hamel in a small town, St Etienne-du-Rouvray, outside Rouen, was particularly shocking for many reasons including the fact that it shows such acts of war can happen anywhere. Loss of life is equally terrible wherever and whenever it happens and I fully hear the call of those pointing out that atrocities like this go on every day potentially unreported in areas of the world suffering indescribably more than the continent I am privileged to live in. Certainly the spread of attacks in European cities in the last month shakes us by making us realise there is no longer any way we can pretend it is something distant from us or not affecting us.

Some of my family set off today on a holiday driving through France and Spain.  I will be more mindful of their safety and praying all the harder for them than usual. I can’t imagine what it is like living somewhere that has been directly affected. Understandably, there is a call to action. Churches in the UK have all been asked to review their security systems, for example.

One part of the response that I find very alarming is the segregating, defensive, even attacking language and stance that spread quickly in articles and comments on a couple of pages I follow. I can understand the roots of this response, for example, the desire to remove the threat of extremism and restore safety and silence those who preach hate. But very quickly we risk acting in hate ourselves. In the days following Saint Etienne, I read several alarming comments calling for us to take up the crusade against the Muslim world which we supposedly “left unfinished”, saying that anyone who raises their children in the Muslim faith condones these barbaric acts, saying that terrorism spreads from anger (okay, that part I can accept) which spreads from bad education about the source of the Arabic world’s problems and to stop it we have to educate the angry young men who may be recruited by extremists that the Western World is infinitely better than theirs and all their problems are of their own making.

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

(John 13 v 35)

Perhaps I’m naive but I was shocked. Of course I am not suggesting tolerance or negotiation with extremism / extremists. However, somehow, I don’t think asserting our superiority is going to calm their anger. I don’t think responding to extremists’ war with a “holy war” of our own is a way to bring peace. Labelling a whole religion or culture on the basis of the way an extremist group twists its teachings and seeking to obliterate it, is not a solution to bring peace. Quickly we become anger and we speak in hate. We become like the aggressors that we fear.

I prefer Fr Dominic LeBrun, Archbishop of Rouen’s, response when he was leaving the World Youth Day pilgrimage in Poland to return to France the day after the attack on Fr Jacques. “I cry out to God with all men of goodwill… The Catholic Church has no arms than prayer and fraternity among men. I will leave behind here hundreds of young people who are the future of true humanity. I ask them not to give up in the face of such violence and to become apostles for a civilisation of love.”

Becoming apostles for a civilisation of love does not mean a saccharine sweet front or a return to Flower Power (!) but a genuine and often painful call to continue through pain, instability, suffering, hate and poverty responding in love – still allowing ourselves to dare to feel things other than anger and coldness that might protect our hearts, allowing ourselves to hope, allowing ourselves to believe somehow that people are foremost created for good, including ourselves.

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This applies on an intimate scale too. I apply it to my recovery from what I experienced at the hands of my abuser. That way I do not become what she wanted me to become and do not become like her.

If I give up, stop seeking the good in the little things of every day, I become isolated, as she desired. If I believe the voices, which pleases them – and pleased her – then I remain paralysed and in her control. If I shut myself away and do not speak because I know the torment that will go on in my head afterwards because of her twisted words and threats so firmly internalised, her world continues to surround me. If I allow anger to harden my heart then numb me; if I do not dare learn to let anyone love me; if I do not dare to allow my feelings and needs without punishing myself, then she wins.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

(Proverbs 31 v 25)

If I keep looking out and up, I learn to be thankful for a world which teaches us constantly more about our loving Creator. If I counter the voices with God’s Word of truth and life, I become like Him. If I reach out with love wherever I see someone suffering or in need, I forget my own, and good experiences multiply and become more wonderful and more vivid than the fears. If I believe the Lord made us in His image and “clothes with strength and dignity”*, I believe first in my capacity for good and slowly may learn that I am not the evil that she so well convinced me that I am. In all I do, Lord, may “my deeds publicly declare Your praise”*.

Ginny xxx

*Proverbs 31 vs 25 and 31.

 

PS – for fellow NCIS fans…this episode sprang to mind…

becoming like him would be worse

Ziva: This country holds itself to a higher standard. It is a nation of laws which are to be followed not only when it is convenient or easy. I have seen firsthand what happens when convenience wins out.

Tony: You never talk about it.

Ziva: What is there to talk about?

Tony: [Long pause] Come on, Ziva.

Ziva: What Saleem did was bad enough. Becoming like him would be worse.

From NCIS Season 7 – “Masquerade”

PPS: NCIS property of Channel 5 and CBS; directed by Donald Bellisario and produced by Don McGill. Image – Cote de Pablo as Ziva (not from Masquerade because I couldn’t find a suitable appropriate one from Masquerade).

 

A Very Hungry Caterpillar finds a home

I found this little guy when I was sweeping my patio. I thought he’d prefer a nice leaf to curl up on, rather than the paving stones.

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I am trying to tidy up my patio garden. It isn’t big at all – I have a patio door that opens onto a very small paved area and then a small flower bed beyond. I haven’t given this little space the attention I should since I moved in, largely as my physical challenges make gardening tiring and painful. Plus I’ve never particularly enjoyed it!

This week I’ve made the promise to start caring for it better. It is a blessing that I have this little outside space. I didn’t expect it at all and living in a flat it’s a privilege to have any garden. It’s a help for everything from being able to hang out washing to getting to sit outside, breathe, pray, ground myself in all the sensations of outdoors, and feel less isolated when I’m not well enough to walk far – I don’t have to stay totally indoors.

So I want to behave more thankfully for my little garden and take care of it and find ways in which, just maybe, I can create something pretty. It can be part of learning to give some time to creating a permanent and stable home, which I’m really not used to having, as until I came to this flat I was living between different kinds of shared and temporary accommodation where most of the time I stayed shut away in my one room, too scared of interacting with other people and too locked into my obsessional thoughts and hallucinations to leave it unless I could fulfil my compulsive behaviors and unless I could be sure I’d see no-one. I’ve had to leave so many places when I lost jobs, couldn’t make the rent, broke down mentally and was so disturbed I’d be asked to leave by the people I was living with.

Some level of security (though I’m not without financial problems) is a new thing for me and it’s hard to build on it. Any home I have, I expect to lose. Actually, for some strange reason i haven’t figured out yet, having a home and taking responsibility for it frequently fills me with panic. I feel like I’m losing control or can’t manage it, I’m out of control with everything I’d want to be in order (paperwork or cleaning etc) or other times I’m not sure what I’m scared of; something to do with I’m not allowed my safety, knowing it’ll be taken away, fears of being attacked or watched by my abuser and flashbacks associated to particular places in my flat. Having said that, I can feel safe in my home and I even have a place within my home where I surround myself with comforting and grounding things that help me stay safe when I’m dissociating, having flashbacks, the emotions are too much, and the like. I thank God for that. It’s so important for me to learn how to build on this otherwise I ignore the goodness of everything I have. Giving myself permission to trust in having security and knowing how to create an ordered home that I care for and give thanks for, is a new thing to me. I’m trying to take some little steps towards it, with my garden and trying gradually to bring more order to each room in my home.

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(Thanks so much to Cathy and her lovely blog at  https://cathylynnbrooks.com/ for reminding me how nice it is hanging out washing in the sunshine 🙂 – and as ever encouraging me so much to appreciate the beauty of the present moment in the little things. )

Ginny xxx