Y is for Young


I looked in the mirror the other day and said to myself, I look dreadful for 30! Then I thought, Hang on , I’m nearly 50, I LOOK GREAT!
Is 50 old? Cos is isn’t young!

I don’t feel old, although my knees would disagree. Age may only be a number, but next year it’ll be a big one.

I am healthier than I was ten, even twenty years ago. I’m far more active than now, and even though I still struggle with weight, I am dealing with it. I spent a long time pretending it didn’t matter and I didn’t care. It does and I did. So, with age has come personal development, spiritual growth (I hope), physical improvement, aswell as the aching bones and the wrinkles.

It’s the last year of my 40s. I keep thinking I should be making a bucket list, or planning an adventure. All I really want to do is gather family I haven’t seen during lockdown and hug them til they can’t breathe. (Then I’ll let go, promise) There’s nothing like a global pandemic to show us what is important, and how precious every day is.

Psalm 31:15 says, ‘My times are in your hands.’ I believe that. But the context of Psalm 31 is one of extreme danger for David. He is making that statement of trust, in a setting of fear. He is fleeing enemies and looking for refuge. For the first thirteen verses, David describes his situation. Then in verse 14 he says, BUT…

“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (v15) My times are in your hands…

My plan as I move towards a new decade should be to trust in the Lord. He has all my days in his hands.
What a blessing for this not so young woman 🙂

X is for Xenial


Most years I have to go searching for X words. I can’t write about Xerxes every year now can I. (Xerxes being the King who Queen Esther is married to in the Old Testament.)

So I found this word – Xenial – pronounced Zee-nee-uhl. Dictionary.com says that one of its meaning is “warm, welcoming, and hospitable.” It is something I have missed being and doing during lockdown. We love to have people over for dinner and coffee. Myself and himself both come from families where there were always family popping in. His family is smaller but he was not completely averse to a houseful. Though a houseful in our family was often a littler fuller.

The context of the original word in Greek refers to hospitality to people from different cultures and origins, (the opposite of xenophobic). Again Dicitonary.com uses a sentence about xenial laws that exist in Greek mythology.

The Bible calls us to be xenial. The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is a great example. There are many verses in the Old and New Testaments that tell us to welcome the stranger

As for me… well I’m totally in xenial 😀

S is for sshhhh


In my first post of this year’s April AtoZ Challenge, I mentioned that I had no specific theme. I’ve shared some flash fiction, some Easter thoughts, I’ve had a bash at some poetry. I also mentioned back in that first post that I would share about a ministry project I’m thinking and praying about.

I want to help individuals and churches get to grips with technology. I reckon Zoom and live streaming of services and conferences is here to stay. I have helped many people get used to Zoom and find their way around YouTube. I have also spoken to a number of people who are sorry they’ve let the internet and smart phones pass them by. One lady I spoke to recently said it never occurred to her that she would regret not being online, but in the last year she has, almost every day. Lockdown meant I couldn’t help her beyond a phone call, and in her case it was not enough. She told me that as soon as Lockdown eases, she wants some lessons. Others I’ve had similar conversations with need me to sit with them and walk/talk them through it. And that’s what I would love to do when Lockdown eases. Help individuals navigate smart devices and connection to the internet, also, help churches who have not been able to, but would like to try streaming services and/or have a social media presence.

I really wanted to name this ministry. I spent ages thinking of all sorts of clever names for it, then it struck me that the name needs to be ‘friendly’ and approachable, rather than cool. So today, S is really for… Sunflower Tech. At the moment it is still an idea, but I wanted a logo/image to focus on as I pray – and this is it. If you’re of the praying persuasion, please do pray for me. And let me know what you think…

btw the beautiful image of the sunflowers is a photograph taken by Graham Morley, who has generously allowed me to use it 🙂

O is for Overcomer


I’ve been taking Saturdays off from the AtoZ Challenge this year, instead of the traditional break on a Sunday. I’m finding Saturdays buy and tiring and Sunday evenings are far more relaxing…

So today’s word is Overcomer. In Romans 8, Paul writes,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The phrase ‘more than conquerors’ means the same as being an overcomer. But it’s not something we can do alone. We can only do it ‘through him who loved us.’ We see it regularly in Scripture – Jesus is the overcomer. Whenever we prevail, we do it through him and because of him!

In John 16:33 (NIV) Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John writes again in his letter, 1 John 5:4,5 (ESV) For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Have a listen to this fantastic Mandisa song on the theme. Turn it up loud, and dance like there’s noone looking 😀 x

See you tomorrow… A x

M is for Monday is Monday


I remember this day so clearly. It was funny and embarrassing, so of course I’m going to share it… It was the day I found out that Monday is Monday 😀

You know when you actually start to worry about yourself! Well it was one of those moments. It was Monday morning and I was leaving for work. I walked past my neighbour’s house and he had his bins out. That’s strange, I thought. Bin day isn’t until tomorrow. What is he doing with his bin out on a Monday? So I kept walking. Just around the corner from my house, is my hairdresser’s salon. As I walked past the window I spotted all his lights were on, and there he was doing someone’s hair. But his salon isn’t open on a Monday. He only opens Tuesday to Saturday.

So I’m like, hang on. Peter, my neighbour, has his bins out. And the hairdressers is open. It must be Tuesday. I was sure it was Monday. How can it be Tuesday? How did I miss Monday?

It’s only a five minute walk to my office but I’m not kidding you, I was in sheer panic, all the way down the road.

What is wrong with me?

Have I lost it?

Is my memory failing me?

I’m sure I was in church yesterday.

Yesterday was Sunday, wasn’t it?

By the time I got to my office I was in a panic. I walked up to the receptionist with a wild look in my eyes

“What day is it?”

She lookedat me like, huh?

“No seriously,” I said tapping the reception desk, “what day is it?”

“Monday,” she said, with a very concerned look.

I went to my desk but it took me the whole morning to relax and calm down. As I thought about it, I saw how easy it was for me to be discombobulated. How quickly a couple of different things made me doubt myself, my sanity and my memory.

I’m a Christian but I live in a world where most of what I believe is challenged. Not only is truth challenged. But that truth even exists is challenged. That day, I was reminded that Monday is still Monday. No matter what .

And God is still God, no matter what. No changing circumstances can change that. 🙂

B is for Blood


Today is Good Friday. There are so many things about the Crucifixion that blow my mind. But I’ve always been fascinated by the concept that blood of Jesus cleanses us. 1 John 1:7 says, “…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Have you ever bled on your clothing? A cut on your hand which stains you sleeve or a sudden nosebleed that stains your shirt? Blood can be a nightmare to get out of fabric.

Yet the blood of Jesus, instead of leaving stains, does a purifying work. Not on fabric, but on our very souls. Jesus was innocent but died to save sinners from having to shed their own blood. Jesus’ blood is the only blood that removes stains instead of causing them. It’s amazing. And I am so grateful to God that I get to benefit from it.

HALLELUJAH!

The old hymn goes…

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

See you tomorrow for C… A x

Stepping back into the light


I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now. Not sure what to say or how to say it. Searching for the words to describe the last year or more honestly, without sounding like I’m grasping at the sympathy vote. Before COVID was a familiar talking point, before lockdowns were a thing, before facemasks were commonplace, I was already heading into isolation. I knew it was coming, I could feel it creeping up on me. The stress, the anxiety, the fear, the weight of perceived responsibility, the exhaustion, the disappointment in myself and worst of all, the distance between myself and God.

I cannot find who posted this but I give full credit to whoever it is. Sums it up perfectly.

At the end of December 2019, I shoved it all in a corner of my brain and we went to Ireland for Christmas. I had a fantastic time with my Irish family. I forgot about (well, ignored) my endless to do list, my inability to do my job properly and my lack of enthusiasm for church life. I was home and free and happy. But by the end of that trip I was ill; my usual winter lurgy, I thought. After we came home, I fell down a couple of steps hurting my already injured ribs. I went back to work for a few days, but after starting to cry when my boss asked me, “How are you doing?” I went home and rang the doctor’s surgery. In her treatment room I poured it all out. Sickness and pain, both inner and outer, which left me with no ability to pick up the load I had laid down before Christmas. The GP’s advice was to forget about even trying to go back to that life.
“For how long?” I asked. “I’ve loads to do.”
“You’ll know when you’re ready,” was her reply. I went home with my sick note, a prescription for the pain (both inner and outer), and sat down in an armchair. I sat in that chair every day for weeks. I didn’t cry again. I wasn’t pining for home. I didn’t want to binge eat. I wasn’t even sad. It didn’t feel like depression should feel. It didn’t feel like how it felt the last time. I was just empty.

It was clear that I could not return to the job I’d been doing, and should not return to all of the many calls on my time. It had never occurred to me that I could change things. I thought I was being lazy and selfish; a bad Christian and a BAD pastor’s WIFE (not a BAD PASTOR’S wife, you understand). But the doctor, and the pastor, and others I spoke to assured me that it was not only possible, but essential. I decided to give myself permission to only do what I could. I wanted to start running again but was worried colleagues might see me in the the park and think, she’s off sick, how comes she’s doing laps of the duck pond?

The Occupational Health doctor my employers put me in touch with, said I should get out there. He told me he’d prescribe it if he could. In his opinion, getting out doors and moving again is better than any pill he could give me. So I started an online couch to 2k, which went on to a 2 to 5k. I was running again and making good progress. This is me having just finished my first non-stop 5k. The elation I felt did indeed do more for me than the pills I’ve been taking (grateful as I am for them).

I’m officially finished work, but ‘under the doctor’ as they say in Wales. All this is just the start of my way back. I’m in no fit state to go job hunting. This is a time to reenergise, get my eating back on track, keep active, edit my book, and as from four weeks ago, venture back into church life. The irony is not lost on me, that I now wear an actual mask to church, at a time when I’m finally able to take the emotional one off.

I’m doing so so much better these days. Still have a way to go. But by God’s grace and love, I’m getting there.

Thanks for reading.
More soon. A x

Looking after the bricks and mortar


Helloooo! Am back after another blogging break. I have a good excuse though. I was nursing injured ribs. I almost called this post ‘Falling Slowly.’ I can remember every moment of the fall and the landing. I tripped over a few millimetres of crooked paving stone and landed with an extremely painful THUD! So I was out of action for a few weeks. Then I went on holidays…

We went on a road trip. Not as far and wide as we’d planned, due to my delicate condition. We went to Cirencester, the Cotswolds, Oxford, Kent, Chichester, Farnborough and our last day before returning to Wales, was a day in Bath. If you know me, you know I love Bath. I’m always up for a spot of Jane Austen spotting. But what really fascinated me on this visit was our walk around Bath Abbey. They have embarked on a major project of renovation and restoration. At the same time as repairing the collapsing floor, they are working on preserving the history of the building, and reducing their carbon footprint. They will be running the warm spa waters under the Abbey and utilising underfloor heating. It’s a super project called ‘Footprint’ and I’ll add the link below if you’d like to visit the Abbey website and read about it.

My first pastor regularly reminded us that the church is not just bricks and mortar. We met in a community centre and were delighted eventually to have our own permanent home in the loft space of a row of shops. But he kept reminding us, we were not get to caught up in our surroundings, but to get caught up with Jesus, and the Word of God.

As I entered Bath Abbey and saw the huge undertaking of restoration work, my old pastor’s words rang in my ears, and I confess I kinda snorted at what I could see happening. I know I know – a terrible attitude, but almost immediately God pulled me up on it…

God’s Word was all over the building. Each panel used to ‘fence off’ the renovation area had a Scripture verse on it. We found copies of The Lord’s Prayer in one of the small chapels, in a number of languages (including Welsh). There’s also an exhibition called, ‘Let My People Go.’ 23 beautiful pieces of work that reflect Bible stories from Creation, through to Moses.

Bath Abbey is definitely not JUST about the bricks and mortar, even though the bricks and mortar currently need some attention. I was blown away by it, I have to admit.

As I’ve spent some time healing from my injuries, I’ve been pondering my own efforts in physical restoration and renovation over the last few years. I continue to look after myself, staying active and trying to lose some more weight. But I too am not JUST about my bricks and mortar. I’ve written before about how I’ve mistreated this temple I’ve been given, and though I need to take care of my body, I also need to make sure I’m taking care of my spirit. I’m crumbling on the outside, there’s no denying it –  aches and pains, still carrying too much weight, laughter lines that have developed into hilarity tunnels. But… as long as there’s plenty of God’s Word on the inside, I reckon I’ll stay standing.

Go check out the Bath Abbey website… and do visit if you can. It’s a super place, inside and out 🙂 x

 

Remembering and believing…


June (and the beginning of July) were just too busy – but brilliant. Each Saturday, there was something on, or I was away. Lots of travelling, long days and late nights. From the 1st weekend in June spent in Scargill House in Yorkshire, 2nd Saturday there was afternoon tea in our church, the following weekend I was in Bala, North Wales. Then next Saturday, I helped organise a fundraising coffee morning for Relay for Life in Pontypool. The last weekend in June was the Relay itself.  Oh and the 1st week in July was a church afternoon tea again. Last Saturday I was sitting down – it was weird, I felt like I should have been dashing about somewhere…

It’s a relief to be able to stop for a bit and review the non-stop weekends of busyness. In all the travelling and organising, there were moments when I was stopped in my tracks and made to be still. This is one of them…

When I was looking at our route back to Pontypool from Bala, I noticed we could travel via Aberfan. I’d wanted to visit Aberfan since hearing about the tragedy in 2016, 50 years after it happened. A colliery spoil tip collapsed killing 116 children and 28 adults. It engulfed the local primary school and some of the buildings nearby. I hadn’t heard about it before the anniversary, and was shocked by the reports I read about the tragedy. And that it happened only 20 miles from where I lived. I didn’t want to gawp or stare, or nosey into a town’s history of grief. But I did want to see for myself an image that had imprinted on my mind when I saw it on the news. Two rows of white marble scalloped headstones. The resting place of those who had lost their lives.

photo credit is my own

It was a steep climb up to the grave yard and sight of the gravestones took my breath away. Even now it’s hard to get my head around such heartbreaking history. Rich and I walked slowly along the row, without much conversation. There was nothing to say. Every so often I stopped and shook my head in disbelief as I read messages of love and loss on the gravestones. I stopped again at one grave whose flowers had fallen over. I fixed them as best I could and found myself talking to the 7 year old buried there. “Let me tidy these for you love,” I said, trying not to cry for the little stranger. “There you go. Can’t leave you untidy now, can I? It’s the least I can do for you.” It was overwhelming. A moment that will never leave me.

I spent many “why God?” moments after that. And though I don’t agree with those who believe God is cruel and uninterested, I can understand why tragic events bring those responses. It sent me back to the book of Isaiah, which I had been studying for a while. I’m not about to preach a sermon, but reading God’s Word reminds me that even in the most devastating situations, he is worth trusting. I get that many would disagree with me, but I still believe God is good.

Flash Fiction, with some truth in it, by @georgietennan2


Georgie is back! This time with a tale of how a Sunday can go gloriously wrong… 🙂 Don’t forget to catch up with her on her blog, and follow her on Twitter @georgietenna2

 

 

Not the Smoothest of Sundays
by Georgina Tennant

It had been the kind of Sunday that made me want to slam the church door behind me and post my resignation back through it.

It started during worship and went downhill from there. One of the more ‘quirky’ congregation members had a ‘word from the Lord’ that we should sing a song about ‘breaking dividing walls,’ holding each other’s hands and swinging them, symbolically, to ‘smash through spiritual barriers.’ The scene that followed, reminiscent of an Adrian Plass sketch, appeared to bemuse entirely the few visitors we had enticed in. Most of them exited discreetly for a toilet break, returning only when it looked safe to do so. As first impressions went, not the greatest.

Next was prayer. An old lady expressed to the Lord her heartfelt thanks for His hand on her life through the years, from the moment she – I quote – “exited her mother’s…” I’ll spare you the term, but suffice to say her scientific terminology was accurate. Eyes widened all around me and I stared hard at the floor, trying to make sure mine didn’t meet anyone else’s.

Sermon time arrived – an exhortation to yield to the holy spirit more. As I painted a picture of him as a peaceful dove, sitting on your shoulder, I realised too late the tongue-twisting potential of those words – the spoonerism was out; a memorable sermon in all the wrong ways.

Dejected and weary, I locked the church and turned to face the road home. “That,” said a kind, amused voice, emerging from the shadows with a face that matched, “was the best Sunday meeting I’ve been to in a long time.” Puzzled, I reached out to shake his hand, but he was already disappearing ahead of me, down the road, one small scar faintly visible on the palm of the hand that waved goodbye.