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’.

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 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.