A Highland Coo for Sarah

During 40 Acts I asked if anyone would like me to draw a piece of Zentangle Inspired Art for them…

Sarah requested a Highland Cow. So a Highland Cow is what she got:

If you would like to see him in more detail, then click on the picture

 

Again, if there’s anyone who’d like a piece of ZIA for themselves – or as a gift – then let me know. It’s always nice to have a specific piece to be doing.

I sent a few postcards to John Grey of “Going Gently” as he was having a competition. Here’s the envelope that I drew – he has a bulldog called Winnie.

 

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40ACTS2019 :: 34 :: ADOPT

34: ADOPT

PROMPT: Friendships across generations are vanishing – in the UK, libraries, pubs, youth centres and clubs are closing at a shocking rate, with 600 youth clubs shutting down over the last six years. Churches are some of the last places where generations meet. But do we make the most of that chance?

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Schedule a meet-up with someone from a different generation.

Amber: Schedule a monthly hang-out, and serve while you do – what can you do to help them?

Red: Find someone in your church (or anywhere) who you know, and decide to ‘adopt’ them. Take them under your wing, and make them a part of your life.

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood…” (John 1:14 MSG)

I don’t interact too well with young people – I become too much like a teacher! Teaching young people is fine, but being sociable with them is not me at all.

I don’t interact too well with old people either – well, if we’re being honest, I don’t interact too well with anyone for the first few months of knowing them. I’m a definite introvert and I know this!

This Challenge makes me feel squirmy and very uncomfortable (though, to be fair, it doesn’t require any monetary outlay from me, which is what I was complaining about yesterday!!) but I think I can see two ways to fulfil it. But, for full disclosure, they were on my mind to do anyway.

1) Angel is a young 11 year old girl at church. She “acolytes” for me when I take Eucharistic services. In all honesty, there’s not a huge amount of acolyting to do, but she has been very sweet, and I keep telling her that she is doing a great job helping me, and telling me what to do! I have a lovely mother-of-pearl cross that my brother and his now-deceased wife gave me a while back. It is very precious to me, but I don’t wear it very often. I felt called to give it to Angel on Easter Sunday as a gift, to say Thank You to her. (Act 10: Drop Everything) but I need to check with her mum tomorrow that she’s okay with me doing this – especially as I wouldn’t be giving something to her brother, Ebuka.

2) Just before she left to go to Rome, Caireen, our rector’s wife (he’s gone to Rome too!) introduced me to Rabab, a youngish woman from Syria. She is living and working in France, while her husband, who works for a French company in Syria, travels between the two countries. Caireen asked me if I could possibly make friends with Rabab, and help her to settle into life in Clermont. So – this minute, now, just done it!!!!- I’ve texted her to see if we can meet for coffee sometime. Not someone from a different generation (although she’s younger than I am!), but someone from a different culture. It won’t be easy: as I’ve said, I don’t “meet” people easily, but hopefully I’ll be able to do it!

 

40ACTS2019 :: 22 :: Open Invite

PROMPT: Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, a day of celebration but also a difficult reminder of grief for many. Think carefully and creatively about how they might best receive generosity. It could be inviting them to the party, or offering a more low-key and quiet recognition of how they’re feeling.

LINK: HERE

ACTS Green: Give a card to cheer up someone who’s struggling today.

Amber: Have a catch up with a friend who isn’t able to spend time with family, or will find tomorrow a painful day.

Red: Prep a Sunday lunch, and invite as many as you can!

Paul lived for two years in his rented house. He welcomed everyone who came to visit…His door was always open.” (Acts 28:30–31 MSG)

Interestingly, this reflection is anonymous: I wonder if it is written by someone for whom this is indeed a difficult time. If so, I lift them to God in their hurt and pain.

I’ve sent an e-card to a blogging friend for whom this might be a difficult weekend. I’ve also had a catchup with a friend – not that she’ll find tomorrow difficult, but it was nice to spend time with her. I probably won’t do much more for this challenge – it’s a strange one really, which I’ve found a little tricky to fulfil, and I have felt a little uincomfirtable with.

***

On Catching Up with 40 Acts this morning was a busy time…

I made cakes for our neighbours (Act 19) and took them round. Marion was a bit confused as to why I was offering her a plate of cakes, but I explained it was a neighbourly gesture and she seemed satisfied, but still puzzled.

My first efforts at piping with buttercream – a bit shakey but not too awful!

I also made 12 cards – these are for the people who help at Lunch Bunch – our version of Sunday School – (Act 17) to say Thank You for what they do. There are 8 people who escort the children down from school to the Church Offices, and 4 people who actually teach the children. I was lucky enough to find some little scented sachets in Casa, at 2 for the price of 1 and 1 costing 0.49€ which I thought made a lovely gift to slip in with the cards for the escorts, and I had bouht 4 little fridge magnets in Noz as a preparation for 40 Acts at 0.50€ each, so it didn’t cost me very much to thank these people for what they do.

magnets & scented sachets

Little “Thank You” cards for the escorts

Bigger “Thank You”cards for the teachers.

I had bought a Thank You card in Noz ages ago, for 0.75€ which had lots of “Thank You”s on it – which I cut out and used on these cards. Sadly I was one short, which is why one of the cards has a different style of Thank You. Otherwise practically all the paper and embellishments have also come from Noz – so these were cheap to make. I put one of my 40 Acts stickers on the back of each.

I have other 40 Acts to catch up on tomorrow afternoon too, not least researching Open Doors for Act 18, and making some cards to send with letters to persecuted Christians. As my afternoon lessons on Monday have been cancelled (both students away on holiday) I may hold off until then, and catch up with other admin tasks – I’ve got bills to send out and tax declarations to make…AND I’ve also got to try to make sense of the emails I’ve been sent about the catering arrangements for the party for the Bishop next Friday. It seems extremely complicated and I have filed  them away under “Worry About This At A Later Date”. I think the “later date” has arrived!!

I’m off to feed the Poor Cats now.

 

 

 

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!

Saying “goodbye” to the dragonfly.

You may remember I have written about our friends Monique & Michel.

Sadly Michel died on Wednesday, having had a stroke on Sunday morning. It was his funeral today – nothing religious, just a ceremony at the cemetary when family and friends read poems, and spoke about their beloved Michel. Some of his favourite music was played, including “Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh, and “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. He was in a plain pine coffin, and before it was laid in the family tomb, we were invited to go up and write a message on the coffin.

Quietly people queued; there were many people there, testament to his popularity in the village – kind, gregarious, funny, lively…he was all these things.  People had drawn hearts, or written “Thank You”, “We love you”, “Goodbye”, there was even a “Bon Voyage”! When it was our turn, I drew a dragonfly.

Why a dragonfly?

Well, typical of Michel’s funloving nature, he belonged to a group of “majorettes” called “Les Libellules” (the Dragonflies) – all gentlemen! – who performed (usually slightly inebriated!) at various events.

I found it moving that the rest of the troupe formed a “guard of honour” with their red hats and majorette batons at the entrance to the cemetary, and Michel’s own red hat was placed on the top of the coffin, surrounded by red and white flowers.

He shall be missed.

 

You can shed tears that they’ve gone, or you can smile that they have lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that they’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see the memories that they have left you.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them, or your heart can be full with the love  and fun that you’ve shared.

You can turn your back on life yesterday and on life tomorrow, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember them and only that they’ve gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back, or you can do what they’d want: smile, open your eyes love and go on.