A Year to embrace with confidence…

Another blogger, more skilled with words than I, has written:

And so 2017 nears. A year to embrace with confidence. It may be a year when courage and patience will be much valued travelling companions. Calm or turbulent we are going where we’ve not been before, so let’s be ready for the adventure. St. Augustine’s words come to mind : ‘ Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are ‘. I guess that’s a way of saying have confidence in the future and don’t let politicians lies and half truths go unchallenged.

(Bob & Sophie’s French Adventure)

I would try to write more, but can’t think of anything to add, save

In 2017, may you be challenged and angry at the way things are, may you be courageous to see how you can make a difference, and always be hopeful for a better furture ahead.

May God hold us all in the palm of his hand, and lead us in the ways of peace, kindness and love.

Advertisements

Meet Jasper

who may, or may not, be just passing through.

img_0065

 

As you can see, he is rather similar to George, which is how we met him. This morning there was a ringing on the doorbell, and there was a man standing there, who I vaguely recognised. (After, Mr FD told me that he works for the town council, and I’d spoken to him when George first went missing) He said that there was a very friendly ginger-and-white cat who had turned up at Jocelyne’s hair salon – she feeds some of the Poor Cats in the village – and maybe it was George. We grabed a cat-carrier and rushed to Jocelyne’s. It wasn’t George, but it was a very friendly young cat. J said that he’d been around for a couple of days, and he’d turned up outside the salon today, so she had taken him in, as it was so cold.

I picked him up, and he cuddled into me, purring away and not trying to escape. I put on my Puss-in-Boots appealing lookand suggested to Mr FD that we might take him home, and look after him, while also searching for his owner. Mr FD agreed, so we put him in the basket (no problems getting him in – definitely not George then!) and took him home. I was suggesting names on the way back – Galloway…Ron…Wencelelas…

I then took him to the vet’s to check for a microchip (no yowling in the car, no trying to escape – just constant purring) of which there was no sign. The vet gave him a reduced cost check for FIV and for cat flu (clean) and reckoned that he was in good condition, and probably a house cat. Confirmed as male, not castrated.

Brought him home again, and he’s now shut in my study, with a litter tray and a cat bed to sleep in. So far, he has demolished a pouch of food, and almost a bowlful of biscuits, had a good drink, and spent the rest of the time asleep.

img_0067

I have put photos on “Pet Alert 42” which advertises lost & found pets in our department, and Mr FD has put the same on “Chats Perdus”. We also have some posters to put up around the village. I rather hope no-one claims him, as I have rather fallen in love with him, but if he IS lost, then I hope the owners see the posters/ adverts. We wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what we felt when George disappeared.

We have decided on the name Jasper for him, as when he settled down in the cat bed he looked so very relaxed, rather like this picture

which is a lino cut of a cat, called “Jasper”, given to us by friends this Christmas.

So, we may (or may not) be back to 4 cats again!

Advent Challenges 12 – 17

Hello, dear Readers – whoever and wherever you are. Thank you for popping in, and thank you for your comments and “likes”. I really do appreciate them all (and I’m not just saying that – see 17 below!!)

I have been doing the Advent Challenges – although to be honest, I’ve not really been taking on board the meditations, or Bible passages that accompany them. I’m glad I’ve done this, as it has helped me think about others. As we are going away from tomorrow onwards I won’t be posting about the remaining challenges – & I may not pick up the emails from the Bible Society (it depends on my data roaming package in the UK) – but I will try to consider others more.

So, what have I been up to?

DAY 12: EXIT THE COMFORT ZONE: It’s easy to be kind to kind people. It’s less easy to reach out to those we find tricky or those who are unkind to us. Yet, this is exactly what the Bible calls us to do. Eek. Today’s the day to reach out to the bad-tempered so-and-so you usually avoid. Or how about just reaching out to the people in our lives we have little to do with? If we do the unexpected, people’s reactions might surprise us too!

With 61.6% I chose the challenge to “hand deliver your Christmas cards” to neighbours. Actually, that was a bit daft as we are so behind on Christmas cards this year, & it’s not really a French tradition. But I did take one along to the CCI where I was working today, which I delivered.

It wasn’t really exiting my comdfort zone though, as I get on very well with Frederique, the woman I mainly deal with at the CCI (partly because, during 40 Acts last Lent I gave her a cake as a random act!).

DAY 13: GADGET DE-TOX: Screens and gadgets can rob us of valuable time if we let them. Did you know that the average time we spend on social media every day is estimated at 106 minutes? (Statista, 2015) That’s about one-and-three-quarter hours we could be spending instead with real people. Having a one-day gadget detox might just help us rediscover the joy of a phone call or face-to-face chat and reconnect with people. The Bible calls us to ‘love one another’ and that means spending quality time with people and enjoying their company.

Today I wasn’t really going to be near a screen, so it wasn’t quite suitable as a challenge today! However, I chose the challenge to call someone I would usually email/ text (as did 34.3% of the Advent Challengees) – except I decided that I would write a letter to them instead. This is going to wait until after Christmas though, as time is running out!

DAY 14: PUT A SMILE ON SOMEONE’S FACE: The tinsel and fairy lights can help lift people’s spirits – but what if we went one step further today and brought a beaming smile to people’s faces and deep joy to their hearts? The Bible calls us to encourage people and build them up. How can we lift people’s mood and lighten the tone today? We can be sure that, when one person starts smiling, others will follow suit.

58.1% (including me) chose the challenge to put chocolate through someone’s letter box (although I’m not sure that if I received a random bar of chocolate in my postbox I would eat it…Suspicious minds, and all that!) but in fact I took a packet of chocolate biscuits to the Garage with me when we took the car in for a change of tyres. The Garagistes had choccie biccies with their morning coffee. Alex (the owner) was suitably surprised and smiley!

DAY 15: GIVE ME A BREAK: There’s an awful lot to do in the mad dash towards Christmas, and some people are starting to feel the strain, with deadlines to meet and jobs to be done. It can be a tiring time for many. The Bible describes how Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms in battle, literally shouldering his burden with him. It’s a vivid picture of how God encourages us to help others so we can all reach our goals and win our struggles. Give someone a break today!

I didn’t do this on Day 15, but it’s Mr FD’s turn to change the eight litter trays (EIGHT!!!!) this weekend, but I’m going to do at least four of them, and if I feel really kind I’ll do all eight. The ones in the cellar and the one on the balcony are the worst!

DAY 16: LOVE YOUR PLANET: Our planet is a precious gift from God and the Bible calls us to look after it, for our benefit and for future generations. Sadly, we’ve ignored God’s instruction to care for his creation. Many scientists now believe global warming is manmade, and climate change is making life even harder for millions of the poorest people on earth. This is a huge injustice – and one we cannot ignore.

21.4% of us chose to put on an extra jumper instead of turning the heating up… Well, we don’t have central heating, so instead of not turning up the heating for a while I didn’t use any heating, and kept moving. It did get a bit too chilly in the end though!! I didn’t put the granule burner on at lunchtime, and had lunch in my study instead.

DAY 17: BE GRATEFUL: If we pay too much attention to boastful friends, we can fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Social media doesn’t always help in this regard. It’s not long before envy takes the place of gratitude. The Bible tells us God wants us to have an attitude of gratitude at all times and ‘in all circumstances’… for our own good. It’s the key to contentment and keeps us open to receive God’s blessings.

40.7% of us chose to write a list of 10 things we are grateful for…

  1. The real message of Christmas: the incarnation of Christ – God bridging the gap between heaven and earth. Love came down at Christmas, and challenges us to continue his work.
  2. Mr FD…with all his annoying habits! I appreciate and love him for all that he is and does.
  3. Friends – those I see regularly and those I don’t. Those who I’m going to see this Christmas, and those I won’t. For their love, laughter, tears and support.
  4. A new bathroom. It’s been a nightmare getting it done (you can read about it in other posts!) but I have to remember that a warm, clean place in which to shower in copious amounts of hot water is a dream for so many people.
  5. Plentiful food, that we can afford to buy. Use of Food banks has tripled in the past year. Katy Boo wrote a moving post here.
  6. Our lovely cats. We love their cuddles and purrs when they snuggle up to us in bed. We miss our lovely George boy so much, but are grateful for the three who remain…and we still hope George may come back.
  7. ChristChurch, Clermont Ferrand…I am very happy to be a member here. Of course, because the church is made up of broken, hurting people there are tensions and misunderstandings, but we are all members of the body of Christ, trying to spread his message of love. Especial gratitude for our dynamic rector and his lovely wife.
  8. The incredibly generous donation made by the Bishop to Phone Credit for Refugees. I made 200 Christmas cards, which he was going to send to whoever the Bishop of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe sends Christmas cards to. He sent a donation of 400€ for the charity.
  9. Work. A job I love, and which pays reasonably well. Yes, I’d rather not have to work, but if I have to, I can’t imagine a job that’s much better than this…Except maybe acting, or crafting.
  10. Christmas music – including the bautiful Sol Invictus by Thea Gilmore, Kate Rusby’s cheerful folk music,  Hely-Hutchinson’s lovely Symphony of Carols  and, of course, Rend Collective!

So there’s 10 things…but of course there are so many more.

I wish all my lovely readers a very happy Christmas

And we’re back to the !*$@!* bathroom!!

STILL not finished and we’re having to write more emails to the builder! Sigh.

He came a couple of weeks back and we discussed what we wanted to finish off the bathroom – most of it he said we had to do “because it wasn’t on the devis”. This includes pâinting the top of the wall, prepping and fixing the beading on top of the tiles, and tiling & painting the boxing-in of the pipes. Well, fed up of the whole bogging thing we agreed, just wanting to get it finished. We discussed the boxing in, that we’d paint it and tile the front, and that we wanted access to the stopcock. I think we said we wanted it in wood.

When he saw me on Wednesday evening at dancing he gave me the house key & said he’d finished. When I got home we found a boxing in type thing (?!) made of thick  polystyrene, with ridged sides that couldn’t be painted, not fixed to the wall, and with no access to the stopcock! Like just plonked there. And he’s charging us over 200€ for this!!!!!

Mr FD has written the email this time, and he has again been polite but firm, saying please come and take your nasty thingy away (not in those exact words), we’ll pay for the work (but not the boxing in) but let’s draw a line under this now.

So I’m back to worrying about bad feeling between us, me having to give up dancing so I don’t have to face him, and I’m getting my stress-related IBS again! It’s really depressing. I really think I will abandon dance group, because I don’t want to face him, which is a bit sad, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to face difficult Stuff.

Advent Challenges 6 – 11

Goodness me – the joys of the season are really passing me by! I can’t get “in the mood” for Advent OR Christmas – presents remain unbought; those that are bought are unwrapped; cards are unwritten (people are getting the Bishop’s rejects!); the Christmas Round Robin has been abandoned. Even listening to the magnificent Hely Hutchinson Carol symphony has failed to get me jolly and merry…

We have been choir rehearsing for the Service of Nine lessons and rather too many (in my opinion) carols. Our newish organist comes from a Cathedral background and I feel the Carol Service is a bit too “performance-y” and not community carol singing enough. But it’s his first year, and I think the Rector just said “Get on with it” So he did. I hope the slightly scratch Choir can come up to his expectations! But even singing carols hasn’t helped!!!

But I have been continuing with the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge:

DAY SIX: On Your Marks, Get set, Bake! Food plays a big part in our Christmas celebrations and it’s a great way to draw people together. But not everyone’s budget can stretch to festive food treats and the pressure to make meals special can be a real source of stress for those struggling financially. The Bible makes no bones about it: we’re to share our food with the poor.

Together with 65.4% of the challenge-takers, I doinated (or plan to donate) food to a food bank. It was very tricky finding out how to donate – the two websites I found were remarkably User unfriendly – but I will give some food to Rob, our Rector, who has links with the local Banque Alimentaire.

DAY 7: Let Justice Roll On: The Bible is one long clarion call for justice for the poorest, the overlooked, the people on the edges who most others despise. These were the very people that Jesus chose to spend his time with. When Jesus came down to earth, God’s word was made flesh: Jesus demonstrated how we should live just lives. Let’s follow his lead today!

One of the challenges was to buy something Fair Trade – 54.1% of the people took this action. I’d gone shopping the day before – FT coffee!! – but as I had 15 minutes before my lesson in Roanne I nipped into the Artisans of the World shop. I bought two creches – one for each mother – and a beautiful glass dove decoration for friends’ Christmas present.

DAY 8: Take a Deep Breath: Patience is one of those wonderful fruits of the Spirit that we’d all like more of – especially when we’re driving or in a long queue. The good news is that God knows that we are naturally impatient, and sometimes impulsive, and that we need his Spirit’s help to be patient. Let’s ask for his help to slow down and be gracious today: it will bless other people, especially if we’re acting out of character!

The Challenges today were:

  1. When driving, let someone out in front of you
  2. Hold the door open for someone
  3. Let someone go ahead of you in a queue

To be honest, I try very hard to be patient and do all of these things – especially if I’ve got a trolleyload of shopping and the person behind has only a few things. They weren’t really a challenge – but still….One day it might be!!

DAY 9: Give of Yourself: In our busy lives, it’s tempting to take the easy way out: to limit interaction with our neighbours to a quick ‘hello’, and to give gifts rather than spending time with people. But the Bible challenges us to go deeper, to give of ourselves, without expecting a reward. So, today, let’s be generous with our time and our attention. Let’s linger with people and put some love into all that we do. In fact, the Bible says we will get a reward: happiness!

The Challenge I took, along with 70.6% of people, was to handmake at least one Christmas present. At dancing we are having a Secret Santa….I have drawn a zentangle dreamcatcher and put it in a hand decorated frame.

IMG_2496

It’s not this one – I did this for someone else – but it’s similar. Slightly less complicated, but similar. With a 2€ limit on the cost I thought handmade was a good way to go!

DAY 10: Enough is Enough: This time of year brings a relentless onslaught of shopping catalogues, adverts and TV programmes that prod us to have more, look better, try harder. Keeping up with the Joneses (whoever they are) can be exhausting and ultimately fruitless. So let’s take a moment, step back and look beyond the ‘packaging’ around Christmas – and choose to be satisfied. We will be happier as a result and so will those around us.

I took the slightly less popular choice this time – only 24.9% of people chose it – Give all the loose change in your purse to someone in need. Again, I haven’t done it yet…as I’ve not seen anyone who was “in need”. But we had a collection in church today to support the 26 Afghan minors who have been housed near Clermont Ferrand…The plan is to give each of the lads a voucher so they can go shopping and choose some clothes. Not be given cast-offs, but buy stuff that THEY want, and that they have chosen. So I gave to that collection.

On Thursdays when I drive to one of my lessons, there is a guy who goes along the line of traffic waiting to turn left, with a paper cup, asking for spare change. I always avert my eyes, or give an apologetic shrug but I never give money. This Thursday, with these challenges in mind, I rolled down my window and gave him some money. I don’t know if he’s homeless, or poor – or even if he’s scamming us – but I feel that if you spend your day wandering up and down a line of traffic, you can’t be in a particularly good place. So I let my instincts take over, and I gave him a bit more than I might have usually done…

DAY 11: Spread a little happiness: The Bible urges us repeatedly to ‘rejoice’ or ‘be joyful’. Not just when everything is going our way but ‘at all times’. We can be sure if God repeats something it’s because he wants to make very sure we get the message. Let’s make a point of being joyful today and setting the mood music around us, even if we’re facing troubles ourselves. Joy is contagious, even in the grumpiest of offices!

Smile more! This was the challenge! In repose my face is a bit mardy-looking, even though I’m not. So I tried to be a bit more smiley today… I also greeted people cheerily, as another challenge suggested.

Advent Challenge N°5

“GIVE PEACE A CHANCE” – ‘Peace’ may appear on our Christmas cards but it often seems to be in short supply in our world. Today is all about restoring relationships that have become broken and breaking down the barriers between us and other people. It’s not always easy but the Bible calls us to be ‘peacemakers’: people who pursue peace decisively. Let’s give peace a chance at least!

The three challenges to choose from were:

  1. Reach out to someone who has hurt you
  2. Forgive someone
  3. Send a Christmas card to someone you have fallen out with

TBH I couldn’t think of anyone who has hurt me, or anyone who I have to forgive, or who I have fallen out with….But I’m sure that somewhere along the line, there will be someone! I “accepted” the first challenge, but maybe it will be one of the others that I’m called to do. So this is a challenge that I’m carrying over for another time: I’m sure that God will remind me!

25.2% of people accepted the first; 52.2% the second, and 22.6% the last.

Advent Challenge 1 – 4

Hey-ho! I meant to blog every day about this but somehow I never quite managed it.

Kezzie pointed me towards the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge.

Spreading generosity and goodwill with our Advent calendar of good deeds You’re about to help your community rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. As you reach out to friends and neighbours, you’ll spread true love, hope, joy and peace. And you’ll reconnect with God and his word along the way…

It appealed to me as it seems similar to Stewardship’s 40 Acts, which I take part in, and blog about, each Lent. So here I am in Advent doing a similar thing….Each day there are three challenges to choose from. I suppose you could try to do all three, but I’m sticking with one.

DAY ONE: Be a Good Samaritan: We all like to think we’d help someone in trouble, but sometimes we feel too awkward or embarrassed to step in. We’d do anything for a friend, but what about a complete stranger? In the Bible story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus urges us to ’love your neighbour’, he isn’t talking about our good friends next-door. Step out of your comfort zone and bless someone a bit different today

Together with 55.2% of the other Challenged people, I gave food to a homeless person. Well, I assume he was homeless, or, at least, short of money, as he sat outside the Casino supermarket with a paper cup…on one of the coldest days so far this year. I often buy him a Coca-Cola if I see him (as that’s what he asks for) but today I bought him a bag of shopping…Not that much: some bread, fruyit, meat and biscuits. And a litre of Coke!

but no cats were provided!

DAY 2: Shine A LightIn the Bible, Jesus calls his disciples to be ‘salt and light’, to reflect God’s light and his love in a hurting world. Let’s go out of our way today to brighten someone’s day, especially someone who is going through a difficult time.

27.5% of the participants took this challenge – buy someone flowers. Our friends Monique & Michel are very sad as their canine companion of 15 years died – not very peacefully. I bought them a plant for the garden, which flowers in December, so they can plant it in remembrance of Canelle their golden retriever.

DAY 3: Put Others First: We’re only human and so we naturally look after number one. Yet, the Bible calls us to put others first. In fact, it goes further and calls us to ‘consider others better than yourselves’. If we truly took that on board, how might we act differently? Think of ways today you can show humility and serve others. It doesn’t mean being a doormat: it means allowing more of God to shine through us.

78.4% of people took up the same challenge as me – Tidy up a shared living space. It was a bit of a cheat, as we had to do this anyway, but Mr FD & I spent most of Saturday cleaning the house. It was enormously dusty after the bathroom renovations (which are almost finished – huzzah!) so we did a fine job.

DAY 4: A Word of Encouragement: Today is a day to make other people feel great about themselves! Too often, in our world, gossip and point-scoring tear people down and make them feel small. Just pick up a newspaper and you’ll see. But the Bible urges us to use our words carefully, to build others up. And it promises that, when we choose to be encouragers, harmony and peace are the result. Give it a go and see how the mood changes.

19.7% of challengees chose with me to give someone a note of encouragement…Mine was to the Rector and his wife, thanking them for everything they do for our Church. It was anonymous though. They won’t know who it was…

I’m not blogging about doing these challenges so you all think Oh isn’t she wonderful… but just in the hope that you too might be inspired to make people’s lives a bit brioghter this Advent. It doesn’t matter if you’re of a religious bent or not, each action will bring some light into another person’s life. And if there’s one thing this world needs right now, it’s kindness and light and peace and all those good things.

do-not-be-dismayedn