Behind on the Acts – but it’s okay.

I am behind with my 40 Acts, but that’s okay. Generosity is for life, not just for Lent. I will catch up after Easter.

But today is Good Friday. I’m still working, as it isn’t a Bank Holiday in France, but I have time to pause…

to reflect…

and to listen…

 

You bled your heart out
Now I feel love beat in my chest
How wonderful
You gave your beauty
In exchange for my ugliness
How wonderful

You left your perfection
And embraced our rejection

How marvellous, how boundless
Is Your love, is Your love
How wonderful, sacrificial
Is Your love for me

You put on our chains
Sent us out through the open door

How wonderful
You took our sadness
Crowned us with joy and real peace
How wonderful

You left Your perfection
And fought for our redemption

Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
How wonderful
Yes Jesus loves me
This is love
You gave Yourself

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Sigh. Acts N° 29,30,31.

Humph. I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for 40 Acts at the moment, as the lack of blog posts shows. I’m not sure if it’s because the Acts are challenging, or if they don’t “resonate” with me, or if I’m slipping into a slough of depression where I can’t be arsed with anything very much…

I’ve never had depression, as a medical condition, and I don’t think this is that exactly, but I am finding myself feeling overwhelmed with sadness and worry about the state of the world and the future of humanity. Yesterday I cried over a news report about the poaching of elephants, leading to their near-extinction: a weeping for the elephants, and also for humankind who see it as their right to shoot and kill these lovely animals with impunity. Or maybe who do it because it’s their only way of making enough money to live on, because of the inbalance of wealth in this world, and who see animals as less important than their family.

So handing out chocolate or doing someone’s washing up for them suddenly seems a bit pathetic and useless in the face of Syria, and all the other conflicts in the world, and rape being used as a “reward” for fighters, and the treatment of refugees, and trafficking of women and children for sex, and murder, and slaughter of near extinct animals, and child abuse and all the other shit in the world.

But, let’s try to catch up – in a morosely negative way…

DAY 29 – BOGOF – Hah, this doesn’t exist in France. The best you get is Buy two get 50% off the next one, or get points on your fidelity card. But I know that’s no excuse. We do have a food bank collection at church, which I often forget to contribute to. I’ll write myself a reminder to take some goods along next time. And the time after that…and so on.

DAY 30: MARGINS – This is a difficult one for me to pinpoint what I can be involved in. This may be one for a nudge later on in the year…I will rely on God to push me where he wants me. But in the meantime, I will continue to say Hello to those I see begging, and try to help them.

DAY 31: BEELINE

In some countries, towns and societies, talking to the people you meet – passers-by, shopkeepers, fellow commuters – is entirely normal. Expected, even. You might not be a natural talker, but think of it this way: everyone around you is a valuable person with his or her own life, experiences, struggles and stories. Every friend you have today was a stranger once. So make a beeline for someone today and strike up a conversation.

GREEN:If you’re unlikely to see anyone new today, perhaps you could learn a few greetings or phrases in a different language or in sign language. The ability to communicate kindness across cultures and disabilities is always a good skill to have up your sleeve.

AMBER:Pluck up courage and pick a person to talk to today. You might not need to go out of your way. It could be whoever you happen to sit next to on the bus, the guy who makes your morning brew at the coffee shop or just someone you walk past in the street. A smile and a ‘Good morning’ is often the best place to begin.

RED: Talk to anyone and everyone today. Literally everyone you meet. Go wild!

I’m not a chatter to people that I don’t know – even in English! I never really know what to talk about. My friend, Alison, is great at it, and she makes me feel inadequate as she rattles along, ten-to-the-dozen, finding links between her and the other person. I can barely manage a “Bonjour? Ca va?” before I run out of things to say. I have to do it as a teacher, but take me out of the classroom situation and suddenly it becomes enormously difficult!

The reflection from this Challenge was quite helpful, but this is not something that I feel at ease with. BUT, I know that today I’ve got time after my lessons and before I go to my dance group, because some lessons have been cancelled. I am planning to go to the McCafé, and have a coffee while I wait for my dance group to start. So I will at least try to chat to the barista, and I will see if there’s anyone else that I can talk to as well. But don’t think it will be easy…!!

Act N°28 Show-and-tell

Our unique skills, talents, insights and experiences make us invaluable to each other. You might have no idea how to fit a shelf, but you could be fantastic at styling a house. You might be a computer whizz or a knitting champion or a chess king. You could know what kind of garden will grow in clay soil, or you might draw illustrations beautifully. Whatever your skill set, there will be someone who could do with your knowledge. Offer it freely today.

GREEN: If you’ve only got five minutes, you’ll need a skill you can teach quickly. Teach a teenager to sew on a button, help an elderly person to set up their phone or configure their social network, put up a picture with a DIY-phobe, make an omelette with someone who can’t cook, teach a colleague the short-cut keys on a computer keyboard… There are a lot of quick options to choose from. The tough bit is finding someone to help!

AMBER: What can you do that others wish they could? It could be a practical skill like DIY, baking or craft. Or maybe it’s ways to get fit, be more productive at work, or close that deal. Offer to spend a few hours with someone, teaching them something new.

RED: Commit to share a skill on a regular basis (e.g. helping someone improve their English, teaching someone an instrument, or anything that requires regular lessons).

Well, there’s a question: What can you do that others wish they could?

I have no idea. I don’t know what I can offer to anyone! Yes, I teach English, and so there’s that skill that I share as a professional. Perhaps I could offer English lessons…But who to?

As I’m writing this an idea about offering free English lessons is slowly formulating in my head. I could approach the Director of the Collège to see if he thinks there are some youngsters who could benefit from extra English lessons. I’m kind of not sure because suddenly this Challenge is becoming a Challenge: I’m being asked to regularly give up some time here. I will discuss this with Mr FD, but I think it’s probably what God is calling me to do

(I’m kind of hoping I’ll forget about this one, but I don’t think God will let me!!)

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Rats.

There speaks a reluctant 40 Activist!!

UPDATE ON PREVIOUS ACTS:

Act 27: Worth the Wait: I have written a letter to the manager of ther restaurant saying Thank You to his staff for their friendly and helpful attitude. I also posted a positive review on Trip Advisor.

Act 23: Last Rolo: I brought myself some bars of chocolate back from the UK…I do love Cadbury’s chocolate! I put all three bars in the package of socks (see below) to encourage the people who are sorting them. It wasn’t my last Rolo, but it was my chocolate stash!!

Act 22: Essentials: I packaged up another 20-odd pairs of socks for Socks for Refugees. They were sent off this morning.

 

Acts N° 21 to 27 (it’s a long one!!)

Oh deary, deary me! What has happened?!

Well, first of all a lovely weekend visiting my mum in Liverpool happened. A friend, whose mum also lives in Liverpool, drove to Limoges airport (3.5 hours) and we took the plane. My sister was also at mum’s, so it was good to see her. We spent Friday evening chatting, and then on Saturday did a bit of shopping… I went a bit mad in HobbyCraft, managing to buy something that is totally useless as I can’t use it with my BigShot machine. D’oh! Then we went to the pictures to see “Spotlight” – a truly excellent film.

On Saturday we ate in (a meal deal from M&S) and then on Sunday, my brother came over and we went out for a meal in Southport. It was lovely to see everyone…

But what of the Acts?

Well, as Day 21 was “Global Warming” I felt a tad guilty taking the plane…but actually this was a slightly different take on the problem:

Creation is in trouble. Scientists predict new global crises every other day, and our governments are under increasing pressure to do something about it. But really, much of the problem lies with us. Small things, every day, make a difference. It’s the difference between leaving a legacy of destruction and ensuring life for those who come after us.

Read more here. This is to do with not buying so much “tutt” (As S’rAlan calls it on “The Apprentice”) – so I can feel guilty about my spree in HobbyCraft instead!!) I think a no-spend day would be a good thing, although I may still have to buy our daily bread at the boulangerie (Act N°3 “Roots”!) The problem for me is that most days I have to drive somewhere for teaching, so having a no-spend day becomes a bit trickier, but I should certainly try harder. Thinking before I spend would be a Good Thing also.

Day 22 Essentials: One year, on the first day of 40acts, a lovely lady called Becky sent the team a care package in the post. She knew we’d been working around the clock, so she sent healthy (and a few not-so-healthy) snacks and drinks to keep us going. It made a frantic morning into a happy one. Whose day could you brighten with some essentials today?

Lots of good ideas are mentioned here. Although I haven’t done it yet, my contribution for this will be the next package of socks for Socks for Refugees

These socks really are essential for refugees and I know that they are definitely doing good. I’ll get these parcelled up and sent off tomorrow morning.

Day 23: Last Rolo: It’s often said that the way to tell whether someone loves you is to see whether they’ll give you their last Rolo. Whether it’s our last Rolo or our favourite jumper, sometimes we get a bit clingy about the stuff we have. When the stuff we own starts to own us, it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. And the best solution to hoarding? Giving it away.

I’m not sure about this one yet…I’m not sure what is the equivalent of my last Rolo, but I’m guessing that when this one comes up God will be giving me the nudge I need.  But until then, I will learn to share my chocolate with Mr FD. (Most of) the horde will be shared! Maybe.

This took me up to the end of my weekend, but on Tuesday I needed to prepare for Wednesday’s teaching, and also to make a couple of cards, one for MiL and one for her “beau”. You see, Mr FD was off to the UK the following day to pick up a car, which Mike, MiL’s beau, is giving to us. How generous! I know it’s not the car that Mr FD would have chosen, being a bit of a Peugeot workhorse, rather than the slightly sportier Honda Civic he was dreaming of, but one can’t look gifthorses in mouths. So the cards were a Thank You for Mike, and a one-week-late Mothers’ Day card for MiL

IMG_2529This was the card for MiL, made using a die and embossing folder I bought in HobbyCraft at the weekend.

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This was the card for Mike. This used a punch that I bought at Noz a few months back. I haven’t quite worked out the best way of using it, but I think this works quite well.

So, being a bit busy I didn’t have much opportunity to do anything other than read the prompt for Day 24. Stand

It’s easy to get weighed down by the injustice and need we see all around us, and to imagine that there’s nothing (or very little) we can do about it. Choose not to shy away from a cause today. Lend your voice to the voiceless, stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, and don’t wait for someone else to be the solution.

I have recently signed a few online petitions with “Change” – for causes that I think are important – but now I get one or two petitions every day popping into my inbox. Usually I delete them without reading them (“I don’t have time”) but I pledge that from now on I will take time to read them, which is hardly an onerous task, and sign the ones that mean something to me.

Day 25 (I think I’m catching up!) Word Up!

Some of us are dab hands at memorising Bible verses. Some of us get them mixed up with Disney and Shakespeare quotes. All of us, though, can probably remember a time when a Bible verse shone an incredible light into our situation. Give that gift of light, freedom and hope to someone else today.

For this Challenge I posted on FB this verse:

which has been important to me for quite some time. I wrote: “This is a verse that is important to me as it reminds me of the fact that God will always hold my hand. It is I who slip away from him, and when I do there is noone to catch me when I fall. But when I cry out to him in pain, or fear, he will come running to pick me up and put me on the right path again.
My earthly father was a wonderful dad to me; how much greater and loving is my Heavenly Father.

I also took the encouraging verses that 40 Acts linked to and wrote them out (in French) on some Ninja Notes:

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ready to put on car windscreens in Roanne. However there was one that I wasn’t sure was appropriate for someone who wasn’t Christian to find, which was

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But strangely, that day, I had to pop to the CPAM offices to make an appointment, and I walked back to the car a different way (a not very logical way). En route, I passed the Christian Reading Room, that isn’t usually open (only open on Thursday afternoons, seemingly) but, on Wednesday morning was open. I thought “This is it!” so finding I hadn’t already left the card with this verse on it on a windscreen, I just opened the door, and gave the postcard to a surprised looking guy at a computer.

“Here’s something for you” I said, and left before he could say anything. I don’t know why, but I believe that it was really meant that on that day that verse was important for that man.

Day 26: Bake Off: Apple pie, cupcakes, croissants, chocolate gateau, raspberry roulade, black bean cacao brownies… Whatever your speciality, treat someone to a taste-bud party today. Make it healthy, gooey, rich or gluten-free, and make someone smile.

Despite my good intentions, this one wasn’t going to happen today. But it will…I’m thinking scones for our friends across the road, on Saturday when I may have a bit more time.

And we’re here – today! – Day 27: Worth the Wait

People who dedicate their lives to service roles – whether they are waiting staff, airline hosts, or people on the end of a customer enquiry line – spend a lot of time giving out. It costs us very little to give back to them. Turn the roles on their head today and serve your server.

GREEN:Wherever you go today, treat the person who serves you with dignity and courtesy. Make eye contact, ask and remember their name, ask how they are, and remember to say a genuine thank you. It sounds simple, but a bit more mindfulness and effort can validate that person and brighten their day.

AMBER:What can you do to help? Clear a table in the café, stack the baskets or trolleys in a shop, put stuff back on the shelves if it has fallen off. Yes, technically you’ll be doing a job that someone else is paid to do, but your helpfulness might be making someone’s day a little less stressful.

RED: Leave an extravagant tip, tweet an encouragement about great service or write a complimentary letter to their Head Office/line manager.

I always try to do the Amber act anyway – if I see something on the floor in a supermarket I pick it up, I clear my tray, or take glasses back to the bar. It just seems like common courtesy. I also mention good service if I meet it in shops etc, so I was a bit stymied for this one. But then, I remembered the smiling, welcoming service we received at the restaurant where we went on Sunday with mum. Although it was busy, being Mothers’ Day, all the staff were very pleasant and helpful; perhaps one would think As they should be, which is true, but I suppose it is still good to acknowledge this, so I’ll write to the restaurant & commend the staff. Only a small gesture, but still something worth doing.

February in Books

How come I’ve reached 11th March and I still haven’t managed to record the books I read in February!?

So without any more ado…

index

  1. HOLY ISLAND by I.J.Ross (read on my Kindle)

The notes I wrote: “Okay but a bit long-winded and slightly ridiculous plot. Let down by an unnecessary epilogue which added to the lack of credibility”

Although I liked the characters, I was annoyed by several points, including a regular reference to the good looks of the main detective, plus the fact that something (I won’t say what) appeared to be known by most of the inhabitants of the island but nobody thought to, mention it to the police. The final ending was really annoyingly unnecessary. I think it was too long, and I just wanted it to finish!

index 1

2. LETTERS FROM SKYE by Jessica Brockmole (Kindle)

My notes read: “Really enjoyed it – a two strand story, one slightly less interesting, but woven together well”

I really did enjoy this epistological (real word?) novel. Written in the form of letters (which is what I guess epistological means!!) it was gripping. I didn’t want this one to finish. Very good.

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3. IN WINTER’S GRIP by Gordon Thomson (Kindle). Sub-title “A 1940’s mystery thriller”

Good story but not very well told. Slightly tedious with an annoyingly “unfinished” feel to the end”

Once I noticed a particular trope in the author’s writing, it really started to annoy me,and I thought that it wasn’t that well written. That said, the story was good, and although I guessed who the murderer was fairly early on in the story, it didn’t spoil the tale. However the end was frustrating on two counts; I won’t say what they are, as it might give the game away, but I was a bit disappointed.

In Winter’s Grip” actually took me over into March, but I’m happy to say that the next two books have been much more satisfying. I suppose the fact that I rarely pay more cthan 99p for my Kindle books is reflected in the disappointment levels! The ones I pay more for  (Letters From Skye, for example) are the ones that I usually enjoy more – possibly because they are not self-published, and so have been “endorsed” by a publisher, through acceptance for publication. Not that that is always the case – I have read some rubbish published books & some excellent self-published books – but it is often the situation.

If I had to recommend just one of this month’s books, it would, without doubt, be “Letters From Skye”

And as a sidenote for Trish re: Lolcats…I don’t subscribe. I just google “Lolcats + subject” and see what comes up. These were all “Lolcats books”.

Acts N°19 & 20

Act N° 19: DAILY GRIND:

Our lives are often built around routines. People factor highly into those routines, but sometimes they become nameless and faceless as we concentrate on our own tasks and desires. Today we’ll take a moment to get off the hamster wheel and show some gratitude towards the ones we’re most likely to overlook.

GREEN:We might see a lot of people day in, day out. It can become easy to take them for granted, and forget to greet them with affection, or even just to say a simple thank you. Be mindful of how you treat your nearest and dearest today; they deserve your courtesy and kindness just as much as anyone else.

AMBER:Your daily latte-maker, your bus driver, the lollipop lady, the postman – why not leave something nice for them to find? Slip it into their bag, leave it on the doorstep or pop it into the tip jar – and leave a note to explain that you’re thankful for them.

RED: Take it higher: look at those people in positions of leadership above you. Being a boss can be a tiring, thankless task. The buck stops with them, and blame often lands at their door when things go wrong. It’s the same with church leaders, school teachers, our MPs and local authorities. Today, take time to acknowledge the effort they put into leadership, and bless them with words of encouragement or a small gift.

My Wednesdays are always busy, but I did have 10 minutes to buy a box of biscuits in the local minimart (Act N°3 Roots) and to drop it off in the post office, with a little note saying it was for call the post office workers/ post deliverers. I know a lot of the people who work at the counter, but the woman who was there yesterday was new, so she didn’t know me from Adam.

What she made of the mad Englishwoman who thrust a box of biscuits at her garbling incomprehensibly in bad French I have no idea!! “But why?” she kept asking

“Just to say thank you!” I trilled in response.

“But why?”

We could have gone round in circles forever, so I skipped out of the PO in the end, leaving her still confused. I hope they enjoyed the biscuits, even if they don’t know why they got them!!

A couple of weeks back, guessing something like this challenge might come up, I gave a present to the guy who leads the Line Dancing group I go to. He didn’t want to teach this year, but, because nobody came forward, he has ended up being the instructor…So I gave him this zentangle wot I drew to appreciate what he does:

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When I finally get round to it – and who knows when that will be! – I want to send a card & some chocolates to the school where I used to work, just because teachers need encouragement too!

ACT N° 20: BEAM:

Smile – it’s free, it’s contagious, and it brings feelings of warmth and happiness. Share your smile with everyone you meet today. Even smiling on your own is known to release endorphins and bring a sense of joy, so flash those gnashers and get your grin on.

Only One Option: – smile as much as you can

Hah! Slightly ironic (I think it’s irony…I’m never quite sure if I use the word in its correct way) that the day we’re asked to smile is the day we start to have complicated car problems! Too complicated (and boring!) to go into, but very inconvenient! Still, I suppose I can smile because I’m swanning off to the UK tomorrow and leaving poor Mr FD to deal with it (smiley face!! ) and also because, in the end, it’s only inconvenience and possibly quite a bit of money which we’d rather not have to spend…but we’re lucky enough to have 2 cars, so we’re not without transport, and to have the money, even though we’re not rolling in cash. It isn’t life threatening, and life can still go on.

So I shall endeavour to be smiley, to beam at people and not to get grumpy.

I do hope you are impressed at how I can find LolCats for almost every occasion!!

 

Letter writing!

I recently joined in a Hand Written Letter writing Exchange. The idea being that you are linked with two people, one to write to you, one to write to, thus ending up (if you click with them) with two pen friends.

I procrastinated for ages about writing – all the pictures I’d seen of letters sent to other people were beautiful, or witty, or erudite…I hesitated about what to write, what to send, how to present it…Particularly as Kirsten runs a wedding planning company, and creates such beautiful things. I thought she would be woefully disappointed by anything I could send!!

Finally I persuaded myself to just get down to it, so over the weekend I wrote to my correspondent. I sent her a recipe (for Pat’s Chilli jam), a tiny zentangle of a sunflower, a few postcards of Saint Just (yesteryear) and a copy of one of my favourite poems, as well as a letter.

Here is the envelope, ready to go:

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Yesterday I got home from Roanne, rather tired after an exhausting hour-and-a-half’s dancing and a slippy, snowy drive home through the mountains, and found an envelope waiting for me! In it there was a lovely chatty letter from Tracy, with a postcard of the town where she loves and a bar of chocklit!!!

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What beautiful writing paper! I look forward to writing back to Tracy – but not for a few weeks. The next couple of weeks is going to be a bit busy here in the Dormousehold. I’m off to Liverpool tomorrow, so there won’t be any 40 Acts updates (after today’s) until Tuesday. Then I am desperately trying to finish a scrapbook to be filled in at a friend’s 70th birthday “houseparty” before we go away for 5 days with the Cycle Club. And I have to do some work too!!

But letter writing! What fun!