ONE (Five Minute Friday)

It was the first time we had met. As we sat on the end of the bed, in between sobs, she told me of her battle to get her ninety year old husband’s condition diagnosed and her distress at his deterioration; how she struggled to help him into bed because of her painful arthritic knees awaiting imminent surgery. But all her focus was on making things better for him.

“Well, we have to look after both of you,” I responded. “After all, with fifty eight years of marriage together, you come as a unit.”


And we set about making a plan.

That’s often a key part of my job: not just to try and make life more bearable for my patients but also for their families. Their lives are so closely entwined, their well being so affected by each other’s, that it makes sense – support each and then they can better support each other. We need to honour and respect their ties and work with them.

But it’s true for all of us, whatever situation we are in. We live not just as individuals. We’re all part of some group: couple, family, work team, church, neighbourhood, nation, online community. Our ties may be strong or weak, expressed or silent, present or past, but we are bonded to each other nevertheless.

“We’re one but we are not the same
We carry each other, carry each other”

My thoughts are back with the lyrics I quoted in last week’s blog post: one but not the same. How else could we carry each other? Different strengths, different histories, different reactions, different gifts, different stages on the journey. God puts us together with these differences so we can take it in turns to support and learn from each other.

We come as a unit. Let’s not forget that.

Five Minute Friday is an online community of writers who respond to a weekly prompt word and free write in (approximately, for me!) five minutes flat. If you’d like to read more or want to give it a go yourself, here’s the link: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/11/15/fmf-link-up-one/

(Some of you will recognise the wedding photo from a previous post of mine – it’s of my own parents’ wedding, who reached 55 years of oneness)

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I Don’t Want to be a BURDEN (Five Minute Friday)

One thing I’ve noticed about my family is how much we try to protect each other from pain and distress. Sometimes that’s a good thing, done out of love – my mum and I delayed telling my dad about the lump in her breast until it was confirmed as cancer and a treatment plan put in place because we felt that with his memory problems it could only cause him unnecessary anxiety if we didn’t have all the facts to tell him at once.
But sometimes we do it more out of fear – that our loved ones won’t be able to cope or that telling them makes the situation too real for us or that it is a sign of weakness to be unable to cope without support – and the price we pay for protecting them is too high. We are afraid of being a burden. So we keep going independently no matter the impact.
Strange, I do a job that promotes people’s independence and yet independence can be so isolating and impossible, so unachievable. Over the years of my career, I have come round to a different view: that we are designed not to become independent but interdependent. We should take it in turns to ‘carry each other’ as Johnny Cash sang so movingly in ‘One’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGrR-7_OBpA
Heather Fignar (#3 link http://www.heatherfignar.com/2018/11/burden-five-minute-friday/in this week’s Five Minute Friday http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/11/08/fmf-link-up-burden/) reminded me of this, especially the lyrics of Richard Gillard’s ‘Servant Song, the first two verses in particular:

Brother let me be your servant
Let me as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

But it’s more than that. If we let others support and even carry us when we are weak, we give them a great gift with our trust in them.
As my mum grew older, as her health deteriorated, she became dependent on me for both practical matters and major decision making. It was heart breaking to step into the role of mothering her. But it was also her last and most precious gift to me because that is how she taught me to become a mother like her.


And as dementia claimed more and more of my dad’s mind, as he regressed to a naughty schoolboy alternating with an exhausted frail man, again my heart broke as our roles of parent and child reversed. But there were gifts to be found even in this: the chance to see exactly what he had been like way before I was born, to learn more of his and our family’s history as the past became clearer than the present to him, to learn to be more patient and gentle – just like him.


It was hard and painful but they were never a burden. For how could I ever balance out the amount of love and caring they had done for me for so much of my life? Their dependence became their training ground for me to grow up.
But the training continues. As my sons become adults and as my marriage goes on, I, we, are still learning the strength and trust that comes from openness and taking it in turns to lean on each other.
‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light,’ said Jesus.
I’m not so sure about that when I am struggling through difficult times. But I do know that He has given me companions along the way. Sometimes we can completely take the weight, like the friends who carried their paralysed friend to Jesus for healing. Sometimes we can lighten each other’s load for a time with a listening ear, some distraction, or practical help. And sometimes we can help others build their spiritual muscles and grow more of His fruit in their lives by being their weight training equipment ourselves.

Repeat and repeat and repeat (Five Minute Friday)

So I’m doing a spring clean of my kitchen cupboards, even though it’s November! I have some untidy habits so I can’t see if I really need to order more or not; I buy more or different just in case when we haven’t finished the original supplies; plus I’ve recently given up alcohol so it seemed pointless to keep hold of our previous amount and better to donate the unopened bottles to the work Christmas raffle.

As I’m checking Use By dates, sorting waste into macerator, recycling, or bin, then cleaning the shelves and putting the slimmed down number of items back, I’m struck by a number of things:

• The memories evoked by the smell of flavourings or icing colours I’ve used: the blue and white Danny Rose birthday cake for my ardent Spurs fan; the purple and yellow Spiro the Dragon cake for his video game playing brother; cinnamon and citrus for so many Christmas puddings and mince pies for family and work colleagues.

• The regrets for the things I didn’t cook: the coconut liqueur for the tropical trifle meant for a dinner party I was too ill to attend; the crystallised and stem ginger for a long forgotten cake recipe; the black cherries in Kirsch for a luxurious pudding never made.

• And further regrets for the waste: why on earth did I buy and then not use 6 boxes of vegetable suet or 5 tubs of candied peel? Perhaps I fell for some supermarket deal for a multi buy. Why didn’t I give away those 2L Pepsi bottles left over from our anniversary party last year? And how frightening it is to see the amount of plastic used in food wrapping and thinking of the effect that will have on our environment, my own culpability for that.

• The possibilities for future recipes out of what I have left: what could I make with four packets of dried cranberries? There must be a Caribbean bake I can use the muscovado sugar in. And how many cupcake recipes can I come up with to use up all my different size muffin cases?

(Halfway through)

It all feels like a metaphor my psychological and spiritual life. I think of how many times I have crammed something in that I don’t need; how many opportunities I have wasted; how I let the good memories get all muddled up with the rubbish; or how I prefer to mentally shut the cupboard door and ignore the growing mess of unresolved issues until there simply isn’t space for any more and I have to take action.

It’s hard work spring cleaning – and clearing out one cupboard only makes me more aware of the others that also need sorting. It’s painful sorting through memories, evaluating what should be kept and what should be discarded, and letting go of regret.
But it’s also good. I feel somehow lighter and as if things are more manageable. There’s a sense of satisfaction of a job well done and plans to go forward. It’s a lot like therapy.

I know that I’m likely to slip into those old habits again. I’ve always been better at blitzing than daily tidy ups. I will need to repeat the process of sorting though both my physical and psycho-spiritual messes over and over. But thank goodness for the people and the God who help me do so and never give up on me.

The Lost Children of South Sudan – a recommendation

APOLOGIES: THIS EVENT HAS HAD TO BE POSTPONED. PLEASE LOOK OUT FOR AN UPDATE WITH THE RESCHEDULED DATE. BUT IN THE MEANTIME, WHY NOT BUY THE BOOK OR VISIT LIVINSGSTONES ANYWAY?

My lovely friend and fellow writer, Letitia Mason, will be at LivingStones Christian Centre in Fleet, Hampshire, today to sign copies of her book, The Lost Children of Cush. It’s a great read, really evocative descriptions of Africa (which I particularly recognised from when I worked in Rwanda), and a moving account of the impact of trafficking in today’s world.
It’s the first in a series about how this affects one family as well as the British charity workers who come alongside them.
So why not come along and meet Tish and buy a copy for yourself?

For those of you who aren’t local, the book is available to buy at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Children-Maria-South-Sudan-ebook/dp/B07CSJ2HB2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541240774&sr=8-1&keywords=letitia+mason or https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Children-Cush-novel-South/dp/1548221333/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541240845&sr=8-1&keywords=letitia+mason

You can also find out more about the series and South Sudan itself on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MariaofSS/ or on Tish’s blog https://mariaofsouthsudan.wordpress.com/