59 years on…

This is a quick post to say I’m back. I had a great time in Liverpool celebrating my mum’s 90th birthday. I got back yesterday evening, and today I’m back at work!

My brother found this photo of the three of us when we were young:

I was probably between 6 months and a year, making Mike about 3 and a half and Judy about 6.

Mike decided it would be a good idea to try to recreate the picture…So we did.

One of those mad ideas you get…

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Two cards – one birthday!

It’s coming up to my mum’s 90th birthday! Hard to believe – here are pictures of her when she and my sister visited us in September. We went for several walks of 5 km or more, and mum was fitter than I was!! (Though to be fair, it was only three months after my chemo had finished!!)

I’m going over on Wednesday, and we have a big family lunch on 11th at a restaurant. It’s her birthday on 12th May. I have a picture that I bought in Strasbourg for her present: it was going to be her Christmas present, but sending it became so complicated I decided to keep it for her birthday. It means I can buy a frame too. I’m there for almost a week, which will be lovely – I hope to maybe catch up with an old friend from school while I’m there too.

So today I sat down to make a card. The first one I made was this:

 

I used papers from a papercrafting magazine plus various Noz embellishments. I quite like it, but it’s a bit boring for a 90th birthday card. So I went a bit more OTT and created this one:

It’s a three-fold card (which is a bit difficult to photograph) so it’s already a bit more “special” than the first one. Here it is, standing upright:

and in the second fold there’s another butterfly hidden away:

I think this one is a bit more joyous, and appropriate for such a landmark birthday. What do you think?

What do I write about now?!

I’ve been so focussed on my 40 Acts journey every blog post, practically, has been about that.

What now?

Back to the mundanities of life in a small French village.

But things to look forward to this week:

  • not quite so much work – not quite an Easter break, but less to do. (though the less I do, the less I get paid!)
  • meal out on Friday with Louis and Odette
  • Friend Cathy arrives on Sunday or Monday – huzzah!
  • I should get my new bank card soon too.

I didn’t tell you I’d lost my bank card, did I? I used it on Saturday in the bank, and discovered on Sunday that it was missing. Not sure if I’d shoved it in my pocket and then pulled it out with my gloves somewhere outside, or whether I’d left it in the bank, I decided (after a panic attack and tears – this bloody hormonetherapy!) to cancel the card. Of course, on Tuesday evening (bank closed on Monday) I got a phone call saying I’d left my card in the bank!! But it’s too late, of course, as I’d cancelled it. So I’ve been without it for a week, and I’m not likely to get it for another few days. It’s been a pain as many shops in France don’t take cheques – luckily supermarkets do, so I’ve been able to get the food shopping, but I’ve had to plan my petrol buying more carefully, as the kiosks are only open at certain times. It has meant I haven’t impulse bought…but there’s a handbag I’m definitely considering!!

For those who might be interested I’ve created a new blog for our Church sermons. We’re hoping to post most of the weekly sermons on this site. Do go over if you’d like to read them. Oh Taste & See

This is Christ Church, Clermont Ferrand

The Easter procession: Lift High the Cross

40ACTS2019 :: 37 :: Seek out

PROMPT: If we’re honest, as Christians it’s easy to develop blind spots for people who don’t fit our categories. One example is people who’ve left the faith. How often do we find ourselves being generous to those who don’t share in our beliefs any more? Find a way to make someone feel loved without holding back the truth of what we believe.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Get coffee with an old friend who isn’t in church any more – and hang out with no strings attached.

Amber: Ask that person to tell their story, and just sit and listen.

Red: Don’t shy away from talking about Jesus, even if it’s awkward.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

If I’m honest, I think this is an odd one… The reflection seems to suggest that many Christians drop friends like hot potatoes if they lose their faith. What a bizarre suggestion! The reflection also seems to suggest that for most Christians the majority of their friends will also be Christian. Which, apart from when I was at College, has never been the case for me.

Yes, I have friends who are Christian – but that’s not the reason I’m friends with them! I’m friends because I like them and they (I assume!) like me. We have things in common, but we have other things that are not in common. In fact, of the 4 friends that I would say are closest, two are and two aren’t Christian. I would never stop talking to, or seeing someone just because they lost their faith!

I feel I can’t really fulfil this Challenge because I only have one friend that I know of who has lost her faith – and she lives a long way from here! I won’t be meeting her for coffee any time soon. I can send her a letter, I suppose…I have a long list of people I should be sending letters to! I have a friend who doesn’t come to Christ Church any longer, he goes to another church (he’s an organ player and afficianado. Our little keyboard did nothing for him!!) I guess I could try to get in contact with himù too, although he is in-and-out of the country with work… I’m meeting someone I don’t know well for coffee later this week – maybe I can fulfill the Amber act by just listening to her story.

I’m a bit “meh” about this Act, both for the initial assumptions that it seems to make, and for the challenges themselves.

OK, this is as far as I got with my blog post before I read the reflection again.

This time a certain paragraph leapt out at me: We don’t know what God’s great plan for our lives is and that goes for our friends too. We can pray, love and support, knowing that while we can’t make those we love fall in love with Jesus, we can show them his love by continually sharing “the hope that [we] have… with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) and continually praying that they will return home to the Father.

I know what I’ve got to know. God knows what I’ve got to do.

 

Not saying any more, but I’ll admit to feeling less “meh.”  Just a tad overwhelmed instead.

 

40ACTS2019::8,9, & 10 :: Catching Up!

When I’m working, I don’t have much time to blog – I used to be able to blog in the evenings from my laptop, but that suddenly died on me a few months ago, and we’ve not been able to afford another. My PC takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to boot up, and I am not inclined to trot up to my study after a day’s work, to wait for ages and then to write a post. Last week I had a tad more free time so I was able to start with a post every day…next week, maybe not. But I do try to post on the 40Acts FB page too.

So this is a bit of a catch up post:

No, LOL cat! I must catch up on my blog!!

Allons-y!

ACT 8:

BRING LIFE

PROMPT: Today is a chance to, quite literally, bring life to someone. Giving blood is such a potent image of generosity, because it’s giving away something so critical to ourselves – our actual lifeblood! And that can train us into sacrificial generosity in other ways, too.

LINK: HERE

ACTS: 

Green: Find out about giving blood at http://www.blood.co.uk and make a one-off trip.

Amber: Start giving blood regularly.

Red: Give blood as often as you can.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)

Oh! I was surprised at how much controversy this caused! A lot of people on FB were fairly upset that all the Challenges focussed on giving blood. There was no “non-donating” challenge. Of course, many people are precluded from giving blood, because of illness (like me), or needle phobia , or because they are a non-celibate gay man (STUPID!!!!!) (The rule, not the gay men!) or because of the idiocy of their country who won’t accept their blood because they lived in the UK during the Mad Cow outbreak even though France had it too (that’s me too)

But there’s no edict from 40 Acts saying that “the only blood donating related act you can do today is give blood”. I just shrugged my shoulders, said “I can’t do the act, but I can encourage others to give blood” – so I wrote a post for FB, and also gave a shout out to my nephew who went a step further and donated bone marrow. There was no need to get up in arms that I couldn’t do it. Others supported blood-donating-connected charities, such as Blood Bikes or went to a local centre to encourage the volunteers, and nurses who were there. I didn’t quite understand why some people got quite so worked up about the focus of the Acts. Hey ho.

After all, the aim of 40 Acts is being generous, finding a way to go an extra step or two…It doesn’t have to be exactly what it says on the day’s post. Sigh.

 

ACT 9

BE PRESENT

PROMPT: ‘Being present for someone’ might conjure up images of therapeutic chats and tissue boxes. But really, all it means is intentionally putting yourself in the presence of others, for their benefit. It’s giving the best of your time and the best of your attention to make someone feel valued. Maybe today that’s someone who you’ve overlooked, or who doesn’t usually get invited out.

LINK: HERE

This is a good reflection, reminding us that we need to support friends through good and bad times. I’d like to add a Thank You to those friends, both “real life” friends and blogging friends, who supported me so much during my last year. I wasn’t always cheery, but I knew that folk were there, to talk or not to talk. To make me laugh. To sympathise. You were invaluable.

ACTS: Green: Spend some quality time listening to a friend or family member. Why not have breakfast or lunch together today?

Amber: Strike up a conversation with a colleague or classmate who you haven’t ever sought out friendship with. Make sure the first three questions are about them.

Red: Be present with quality listening. If someone has shared their worries with you recently, follow up with them and try not to jump in with advice before it’s due.  If you’re up for it, take some courses (like this one) to help you get better at listening.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NKJV)

This is quite a tricky one for me – I don’t meet up with friends very often, and work is fairly manic so sitting down with a colleague for a heart-to-heart isn’t really possible.

But I decided that today would be the day when I got off my backside and arranged to visit someone who I do consider a friend, but who I rarely see. Charlotte befriended me in the hospital during my first chemo session, and helped me feel better about it all. She has terminal cancer, having chemo every three weeks, and so our sessions often overlapped as I was on a three week rota too. She is so cheerful, and optimistic, despite her terminal prognosis, and the last time I visited I spent ages talking to her. But she lives some distance away, and I don’t want to disturb her if she’s just had chemo, and I’m busy at the weekend and…and…

So I read the challenge yesterday and immediately messaged Charlotte to ask if she was free this weekend. She is, so I’m going to see her this afternoon (today’s Saturday) And I will make sure that my first three questions are about her!! I’ve made scones to take, with some marscapone and strawberry jam too!

I also popped in to see my friend Monique – she lost her husband a couple of months ago – with a tiny plant…Gave her time to talk a little. It’s hard for her, but she is, little by little, coming to terms with it.

ACT 10

DROP EVERYTHING

PROMPT: How do you view the resources you have at your disposal? Are they there for your benefit only or the benefit of those around you? Today we’re dropping our personal intentions for things we own and using those very things as generous gifts for someone else.

LINK: HERE

ACTS:  Green: Think of an everyday item that’s in good condition. Find a recipient and give it away. Umbrellas, handcream, etc.

Amber: How do you get around? Can you give a friend a lift too?

Red: Just like Mary with her alabaster jar, what can you give away that you can’t undo? Maybe it’s a bottle of perfume, or a favourite jumper. Bless someone else with something that means something to you.

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.’” (Mark 14:3–6 NIV)

When I saw these Acts I immediately thought “Ah, the amber one!” You see, over and over I’ve thought I really should put my journeys to work on BlaBla Car – but actually, that’s quite a selfish thing, because you get money for it! But I should still do it! I know the times I’m going to Clermont, even if I don’t know exactly what time I’m coming back, so I could easily post those times and take somebody. It means that I’m not just one person in the car.

But in my heart of hearts, I knew that actually it was the Red challenge that was calling me… As I said before I’m visiting Charlotte this afternoon. She is a wonderfully flamboyant person, and I have a scarf that I love. It’s a muted brown/maroon paisley pattern, but on it are pearls and sequins, all shiny and pretty and “out there”. It’s lovely. I will admit I don’t wear it very often, but I love it. Dammit, God, I thought, you want me to give that to Charlotte, don’t you?

Grumble. Grumble.

Harrumph.

‘Nuff said.

I’ll do BlaBla Car too.

A not-Birthday card

It was Friend Alison’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, but as she was working, we only caught up with her a few days after. I made her this card, which I didn’t theme as a birthday card, as it was rather late after her actual birthday, using lots of bits-and-bobs. The letters, the shiny paper, the glittery swirl, the sun embellishment and the backing papers all came from Noz; the “Russian Caravan” came from a box of teabags, and the orangey-yellow card came from an M&S £10 curry box that I bought in Paris. Even the card & envelope itself were bought at Noz I think, so it was a cheap card to make!!

We gave her a lovely Robin silhouette fat ball holder, a little like this:

together with some jazzy socks and a couple of sweet little magnetic bookmarks.

An emotional week

It’s been an emotional week this week, and it looks set to continue…

Last Saturday, as I told you, was Michel’s funeral.

On Sunday, driving to church I came across a dead cat in the road. I couldn’t leave it just to get squished by passing traffic – if it had been our cat, I would have liked someone to move it. So I stopped the car (well, actually drove past, continued for about 500m and decided I couldn’t leave it there so I turned round…) and moved him/her to the side of the road. S/he had obviously been hit full on, and had died instantly, but it was still a sad thing. The body was already a little stiff as I picked it up. As I drove on, the emotions of the past few days caught up with me, and I bawled my eyes out – not necessarily the best thing to do on the motorway! When I reached church, someone asked me if I was OK, and I just started crying again!

In the afternoon, I popped across the road to see Monique – it wasn’t for long, but she and I had another weep together.

On Tuesday I had an MRI scan and a scintigraph, to see if we could get to the bottom of my rib/breast pain. The MRI was clear, and the scintigraph showed broken ribs. Which was a relief! It just means I have to wait for it to heal. The scintigraph involved being injected with some sort of radioactive product, waiting for a couple of hours and then going into a huge scanner thing. I spent my two hours going round Noz…(of course!) Then I had a three hour wait before the MRI scan – I took my book and went to MacDonalds for a coffee. I sat there for a good two hours, picking up my empty-save-for-some-milk-froth cup everytime a member of staff walked by – just looking as though I hadn’t quite finished yet! Waiting for tests – and their results – can be exhausting! The MRI scan was uncomfortable and noisy, but not as scary as I had anticipated.

Yesterday evening, Monique asked Mr FD if he would scan and print out some photos of Michel. I think she wants to send them to people. One is a lovely picture of him, that she has in a frame on her table. She’d asked MrFD if she could have it back ASAP, so I took it across to her. I then sat with her for about an hour – talking about “Poulou” and about believing in God, and how she wanted a sign that God was there…So difficult to know what to say in English, never mind in French! We laughed a little, smiled a little, wept a lot. She told me some shocking things I can’t share in the public domain, and we cried some more about how unfair life seems to be… She was glad to have the photo back, so she could look at it while she had her meals…

And now we are looking towards our Rector and his wife leaving. Tonight there’s a get-together in Clermont. Mr FD is coming with me, which I’m glad about. On Sunday there’s a goodbye lunch, and then next Sunday will be their last day.  The two of them and their dog will be leaving to drive to Rome straight after the service (to which the dog is coming!) It will be an emotional time. We are looking forward to the coming months, and discovering how we can pull together as a Church, and what the laity can do, but it is sad to be losing Rob and Caireen who have done so much for Christ Church. They will be sorely missed.

 

My ears feel a little flattened at the moment!