3, 13, or 23 (Five Minute Friday)

It doesn’t matter if they’re three or thirteen or twenty three. If they’re ill, sometimes they just need their mum.

I used to joke with new parents: “Don’t worry. It’s only the next eighteen years you’ve got to worry about!”

But as my boys continue beyond that magic number, I’m finding out for real that parenting never ends. Your children don’t reach a set point when they suddenly become adults and don’t need you, whether it’s for gentle guidance and advice or to actually physically step in to take care of them.

And now I look back, I can see all the times my mum did that for me as an adult:

– how she travelled for hours on public transport just to be in the hospital waiting room to give me some moral support when I had to see a specialist

– how she moved in to take care of me and my family when hyperemesis took over both my pregnancies. It was her insistence that made my GP get me admitted to hospital for the treatment I needed – and made him arrange ambulance transport for me!

– the precious hours of that night she spent with me in the early stages of labour while my husband slept until it was time for him to drive me to the maternity unit

– all the times when she listened, stroked my hair, and gave me the benefit of all her years of experience, when I hit obstacles in my life

– that sense of belonging whenever she cuddled me, no matter my age or her increasing frailty

And however old my boys get, they also seem to still need that maternal cuddle once in a while: a place to hide momentarily from the world, to feel safe, and to find sanctuary and new resources of strength.

I think parental love is one of the strongest forces in the world. I remember the shock of its first fierceness when my boys were born. And that determination to fight their corner, even if they can’t fight themselves sometimes, never goes away. It can move mountains and save lives. It can stay awake all night and clean up vomit. It can drive miles and buy easy to swallow food. It can hold a hand and bring painkillers. It can book appointments and hold out hope. It can stroke that still soft hair and find the encouraging words to lift a poor tired head. It can put aside tiredness or hunger to sit and listen. It can pray and pray and never give up.

Whenever I hear Adele’s version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’, I don’t hear romance but a declaration of undying parental love. Have a listen yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2zov3MSTEs

Now both my parents are dead, there are times when I miss the reassurance of that support and the knowledge of its availability to be called on. But I remind myself that I am not orphaned because their love was only a model of the same, even more powerful love that my Everlasting Father continues to offer me – and all of us.

 

Advertisements

WAY (Five Minute Friday)

I was going to post something different for this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/07/19/fmf-link-up-way/ but then I read this from Amy L. Boyd: https://www.revivemeagain.com/single-post/2018/07/20/When-Your-Heart-is-Troubled-and-the-Way-is-Unclear and it turned out to be something I needed to hear. So it prompted the following instead:

 

My daddy had strong hands

On our daily holiday walks

Even when our path was steep

And rubbled

And seemed beyond

The ability of my little legs

Unending, unendurable

He trudged on

Leading the way

Never letting go

My small fingers safely lost

In his enormous muscled grasp

And if I faltered or tripped

He would pull me up and on

With shoulder wrenching power

Or sometimes moved behind me

To push me up

Some impossible incline

His stamina bottomless

 

Right now, Lord, you are

Shoving and yanking me

Up and on

I can feel the pain of it

And know the need

To lean into your strength

For I have none

I am still that small self

Unable to see beyond

The immediate climb

In front of me

But I will try to trust you

Rely on your taller view

Believe your knowledge of the route

Be my Daddy

And give me your strength

 

 

 

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwJqCQoa2b0 )

IF (Five Minute Friday)

IF is the edge of a precipice

Trajectory unknown

Future unclear

Landing uncertain

 

IF is the fulcrum of a seesaw

Teetering with indecision

Alternating weight between

Fear and hope

 

IF is a diving board

Poised for opportunity

Uplifted by the updraft

Sure of the welcome

Of the waiting water

 

Five Minute Friday is great supportive resource of writers, who respond to a weekly prompt. If you want to read more from this week, you can find them at http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/06/28/fmf-link-up-if/

The Sea of Forgetfulness (FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY: OCEAN)

I wrote this piece near the end of last year about my dad to try to explain how it feels to love someone who has dementia and also to try to express how it might feel from his experience:

 

THE SEA OF FORGETFULNESS

I don’t know the first time

You took your first sail onto

The Sea of Forgetfulness

Where the fog clouded your judgement

And the navigational stars

Were nowhere to be seen.

The tide brought you swiftly back

To where we waited on the shore

But the call of that sea was irresistible

And the undertow soon pulled you out

Again and again.

 

 

The ebb grew stronger than the flow

As you drifted further out each time

Further from our view

But you still looked back to the front

(all back to front indeed)

As you signalled the landmarks you tried to decipher

Through your back to front telescope

And I raced along the pier to reach

As close to you as possible,

Not close enough to reach the towline,

Not strong enough to pull you back.

For long hours you kept your eyes

Fixed on the strand

On that familiar female figure

Longing for you to come home

You strained your eyes to see her as she morphed in the mist

– wife, sister, mother, me –

Until you finally turned your eyes to the horizon

And set sail for Home

 

 

Restored (FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY)

My patient wouldn’t let me leave without a gift – well, three gifts, to be precise: a Danish pastry (which I’d not eaten with the cup of tea he’d made because of my diet), half a dozen eggs from his friend’s hens, and large wooden bowl.

It was a chunky heavy piece, hewn from a great branch, left with much of the rough uneven edges of the original tree. But it had laid unused in an old coal scuttle next to an empty fireplace for the past two years since he had downsized to a smaller property.

“Take it,” he said, “if you like it. If you don’t, I’m only going to throw it away.”

Sucker for a piece of ‘real tree wood’ (as my father used to call it) how could I refuse?

Back home, I knew it wouldn’t be difficult to restore it to its former glory. Impatient to do so and with no teak oil in the house, I found the lemon oil that my husband uses to care for the beautiful cherrywood of his guitars. Carefully and gently I wiped away the accumulated dust, grime, and glitter from the bowl’s surfaces and crannies with a damp cloth. Then, once the bowl had dried, I stroked the softly scented oil into all its smooth surfaces, leaving the crude irregular parts matt to emphasise the contrast.

It glowed. The contrast of all its curves and age lines stood out as they should. It was restored to how its creator had intended.

And I thought about what restored actually means. The dictionary defines it as when something is returned to its former condition. But there’s another definition, which is when something is given back to its original owner.

And I wondered what is required for us to be restored?

Perhaps we too need to let One who loves us and wants us to clean us up and apply not a hard varnish but a holy oil that will sink right into our very being and bring out our natural glow? We were meant to be clean, shining with His inner light, knowing who made us and to whom we belong.

AZ384 (FLY – Five Minute Friday)

Time to share some poetry for a change this week. This one was inspired by a family trip to Gozo when my boys were younger. However uncomfortable it can be in economy class and however many flights I’ve taken, the sheer physics of flight remains magical.

AZ384 (Underneath are the everlasting arms):

We sit,

In mint-sucking anticipation of

Acceleration and lift

Like swans running across

The canal surface until

Acute angled up

We speed

Into the sky.

Our arms outstretch

Across the aisle

To each other

For reassurance,

Echoing the shape

Of our aeroplane’s wings

Or a skein of geese

Flying in formation,

We, like them,

Are steering south

Away from autumn

T’ward warmer light.

Aloft

We soar steadfastly forward

Like an optimistic

Paper dart

Launched high

Across the room

Or as my father

Used to swoop me

In exciting safety

Into bed.

Here we skim

Higher skies,

Hand holding,

Hand held,

On rising air currents

On angel wings

On the very fingertips

Of God.

 

I must admit that the first thing that came into my head for this prompt from http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/06/07/fmf-link-up-fly/ was this great track by Toby Mac and I couldn’t resist sharing it:

 

PAUSE for Thought (Five Minute Friday)

It’s a bank holiday weekend, an extended break between working weeks, so how apt is the Five Minute Friday prompt ‘Pause’. http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/05/24/fmf-link-up-pause/

I’ve recently finished teaching another fatigue management course, where this has been a key feature. We talk about the 5Ps of Fatigue Management, one of which is Pacing: the importance of building in breaks before you run out of energy completely, which may enable you to get more done in the long run.

But the course itself is a moment of pause for its attendees. Too often in life, when we are faced with ongoing stress (in the case of my patients, the effects of a life limiting illness), we go into ‘auto pilot’ and end up even more exhausted. Couple that with an expectation that we should be able to function at the same level of intensity and quality no matter what our circumstances, and it’s a recipe for guilt and frustration as well.

So the course gives people a chance to stop and ask questions about whether they are prioritising what really matters to them, as well as giving them practical techniques to do so. They may not change what they are doing but the important thing is that they paused and made an active choice.

And that’s the thing about pausing, isn’t it? There’s the ‘stop the world I want to get off’ pause (as my dad used to call it) that we cry out for when our lives become too overwhelming. There’s the enforced pause when illness or grief or disaster halts us in our tracks.

And then there’s the chosen pause: the holiday; the lunch break; the closing of the computer to play a mad game with the children; the morning moment in the garden soaking up the sound of birdsong before starting the daily routine; the time set aside to spend with our Heavenly Father.

Chosen pauses make a difference. We need their punctuation in our lives. We need the rhythm that they bring, to recognise and appreciate the natural ebb and flow, light and shade that enrich life. How the crescendo would be diminished without that pause before the final Hallelujah in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus!

We need pauses. We need to choose to stop, breathe, and refocus for a moment or a day or longer. We may even need those enforced pauses to remind us Who is really in charge. And when, facing the frustrating slowing down as we near the denouement of our lives, we need to remember that it may just be the pause before the ultimate crescendo in Heaven.

Yippee! (FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY ‘Include’)

Am I allowed to be indulgent with this week’s prompt word from Five Minute Friday http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/05/10/fmf-link-up-include-free-training-offer/ and use it to tell you some news? I hope you’ll excuse me as I do.

You see, I found out today that a piece I submitted has been accepted for inclusion in an upcoming Christmas anthology. It’s unlikely to hit the bestseller lists and it’s just one short piece among many. But it is the first time I’ll have been properly published as a writer.

The nearest I’ve come before was a short book review for a magazine letters page. And if that was exciting enough to see my Christian name in print, maybe you can imagine how I’m feeling about this: not just my name but words, phrases, sentences carefully crafted from my imagination, mulled over, edited and re-edited, until I was satisfied they made a finished whole. (Actually, that’s not entirely true as the editors have asked for a small cut, which I have willingly submitted to, trusting their experience and expertise).

I was going to write today about that age old feeling of rejection from being the last to be called into a kids’ sports team (I had plenty of practise at that) or from not being invited to join others’ games, how I still find it difficult – still fear that same rejection – whenever I go into an unknown group for the first time.

Instead, God has given me an experience of being included – literally, with other writers – and of course, it is giving me the opposite feeling, that of acceptance, of being wanted, of being good enough, of being chosen. And I am reminded of the great security I have found from being chosen to be loved by my husband and my in laws.

And that leads me on to the fact that God has chosen to love me. God wants me. God accepts me. God wants to include me in His amazing plans for life-in-all-its-fullness.

Which is an even bigger cause for celebration.

 

 

ADAPT (Five Minute Friday)

My dictionary tells me that ‘adapt’ means to ‘make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify’ or to ‘become adjusted to new conditions’.

So, although I spend my work life adapting people’s homes so they can continue to use them despite their disability or helping them adjust to the changes that their conditions bring – loss of mobility, reduced energy, etc. – I’m not sure that I’m always very good at adapting for myself.

Ironic, isn’t it?

But when I think about it, there’s a massive difference between the changes we choose – deciding to move house or change jobs or have a baby – and those that are imposed on us. Certainly, none of my patients have chosen cancer or MND (ALS) or dementia so no wonder they struggle to adapt, especially when theirs is a deteriorating condition so the goalposts are constantly moving. And many of the situations I’ve struggled to adapt to are those that have been beyond my control.

However, I do wonder if I can choose to try and adapt to those imposed changes? Or, better still, to ask God to adapt me.

I remember my mum’s last year of life. She fell, broke her hip and, alongside the physical consequences, had marked cognitive loss as a result. After several months in hospital, she came home but within weeks it became clear that her condition was too severe for my dad, even with a maximum care package and lots of support from the rest of the family, to look after her at home. So she had to move into a nursing home but he chose to stay in their flat without her.

That was a choice none of us wanted to make. It broke our hearts.

My mum varied in her understanding of the situation but, in one of her more lucid periods, we talked about how she could bear being parted from Dad after 55 years of marriage, how this could possibly be right or fair when it was so difficult and painful. And we posited the questions: ‘What if God had some purpose or role for her in this nursing home? What if He had reasons for this that we just couldn’t see at the moment?’

It was a daring thought.

It didn’t dismiss the agony and heartbreak of the choice but it did offer a way forward. And that way forward was to ‘adjust to the new [situation]’ by trusting God to use it in some way and to go with her into it, maybe even to allow Him to ‘make [all of us] suitable for a new use or purpose’ through it.

Looking back, I can see some of the good God brought out of it: how loved both my parents felt thanks to the care of the staff in that home; friendships with other residents and their relatives that remain 4 years later; my growing into the role of the Mum of the whole family; how I can use my experiences to relate better to the difficulties my patients and carers have. And I’m sure that’s not all.

So perhaps that’s the lesson of adapting: that it’s not a matter of forcing ourselves to embrace change but to trust Him who knows the future, with all its possible permutations, so much better than we ever can.

Keep You and Love You or …? (Five Minute Friday: STUCK)

Do you have those traditional sayings, those to and fro set conversations that only your family uses and fully understands, comforting in their familiarity? We had quite a few growing up, often reassurances of our love for each other.

One of them was for when someone had done something foolish or mildly exasperating. I can still hear my dad’s voice as he smilingly asked:

“What are we going to do with you? Keep you and love you? Or chuck you in the dustbin?”

“Don’t chuck me in the dustbin!” I would plead.

Then might follow a light hearted debate about how practical it was to put me in the dustbin – how full it was, whether I would fit, etc.

But the exchange always ended with:

“I think we’d better keep you and love you,” and maybe, “I guess we’re stuck with you,” followed by a long cuddle.

To a stranger, this might sound an uncaring exchange but it was always reassuring for me because I knew the ultimate outcome. We might go through just the essentials of the ritual or we might tease it out at some length. But I was always sure of the end result and I knew the message of this family saying was that I would always be loved no matter what I did or what happened in my life. As I got older, we would turn it round, with me or my brother or even my children telling my parents that we would always ‘keep them and love them’.

I think of the word ‘stuck’ most automatically as a negative – to be stuck with something or someone because it/they have been forced on us; that we have no escape, no choice about it. But one of the other Five Minute Friday bloggers reminded me this week that we could use the word ‘placed’ instead https://traciecollier.com/2018/04/26/stuck-in-the-middle/. Similarly  the lyrics of the song ‘My Guy’ have been circulating inside my head:

‘Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy,
(My guy)
Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy.
(My guy)
I’m sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter,
Like birds of a feather we stick together,
I’m tellin’ you from the start I can’t be torn apart from my guy.’

For a long time, I didn’t understand that analogy: ‘a stamp to a leather’ (weird pictures of postage stamps on a belt came to mind!). Of course, now I realise that it refers to a design embossed into the leather, a permanent mark that cannot be removed. Embossing isn’t something that ‘just happens’; it’s the result of a definite decision, a deliberate action. And when someone chooses to love us, and love us long term, they become a permanent mark on our lives, that remains long after they are gone. Their words, their actions, their values become woven into our lives forever.

When it comes to people, ‘stuck’ is something we choose. Keeping and loving someone is a choice, a daily choice, sometimes a moment by moment choice. Love is a verb not an adjective, a deliberate action.

I’m glad that when people look at me, they will see the permanent mark of my parents’ love embossed on my life. I pray that my husband and children will know the same security and faith in the permanence of my love for them. And I hope that all of us will know, whatever happens, that our Father God will never throw us in the dustbin but always keep us and love us.

(Five Minute Friday is a community of bloggers who, once  a week,  write on a given word for 5 minutes flat. You can find more offerings on this week’s theme here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/04/26/fmf-link-up-stuck/)