Hi all. I hope everyone is well and enjoying a little more freedom as the restrictions ease.
It has been a strange eighteen months! I know a lot of us have been through a tough time. I pray we’ll all come out of it stronger than we were before. I am certainly feeling better these days and am working on getting back out into the world. I say working on it… It is not as easy as I thought it would be. I’ve gotten a bit too used to being indoors and semi-isolated. But I don’t want to stay here. Things have to change.
One of the changes I’m considering is finishing up this blog and moving to podcasting. I feel the need to do something new.
auntyamo.com is more than ten years old. I’ve enjoyed writing about being ‘Just another Christian Woman…” There have been various subjects, blog challenges, guest posts and book reviews. I want to keep that variety and bring other people in to share the new venture with me. And I’m hoping you lovely followers will come with me too 🙂
The working title for my podcast is – Words, Wobbles and Worship. I’ll be talking about and sharing some writing. I’ll also be talking about my wobbles – the physical ones and how I’m working to reduce them, and the emotional ones with regard to my mental health. And of course, it will be underpinned by my love and worship of a faithful God.
So… I’d love to hear from you. You can message me privately, or leave a comment below. Would you listen to a monthly podcast from me? Would you survive if this blog was no more? How about if I threw in some cake? Tempted now?
Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love some feedback.
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 🙂
Hayfever sufferers like myself are not fans of pollen. It’s nothing personal 🙂 Our immune systems think pollen is a baddie and so overcompensate.
This is a snapshot of the metoffice.gov.uk website today for Wales. The pollen count is high, but I didn’t need to check the website to know that. I knew before I woke up. My eyes have been itchy all day, I can feel the tingling of a cold sore coming, and my nose is running. *sniff
Aswell as my antihistamine, and my inhalers, I have lip Vaseline, designated ‘nose only’ Vaseline and Zoviraz for the budding cold sore. I’m also wearing my sunglasses indoors as it helps with the itchy eyes. I am thankful for the good weather tho… so I’ll write a little ode to Pollen
Pollen Haiku my poor eyes, they itch a runny noise, tissue please two words for pollen, bless you
I have a problem with noises. If I hear a noise, I have to find out where it is coming from. Also I jump at sudden noises. I know we all do, but I jump at every single sudden noise and most times will cry out in fear. Often I’m anxious for a time following the incident.
I have to put in a disclaimer and say that I have not been diagnosed with anything beyond, ‘anxiety with depression.’ I do intend to speak to my doctor when the NHS is not so stretched with all things Covid. Having read peer reviewed articles on line and some medical websites, it sounds like I might have some sort of Noise Anxiety or a form of High Functioning Anxiety Disorder. I am very happy to be proved wrong when I get myself checked out, but I do resonate with some of what I have read. I promise, I didn’t just look up Wikipedia 🙂
For many years I’ve had a fear of my home being broken into at night. It’s been with me since childhood. I rarely stay on my own at night, so if hubby is away, I’ll usually stay with friends, family, or have someone stay with me. On the occasions I have stayed on my own, I’ve stayed up until I cannot keep my eyes open. I check doors numerous times before going upstairs and make sure all doors are closed. This is all to do with noises. It so that if I hear a sound like a door opening, I’ll know it can’t be mine unless it was kicked in. If I hear what sounds like footsteps, they can’t be in my house unless the doors have been opened. I’ll watch tv in bed to distract me until I fall asleep. I won’t put on headphones or shower when I’m on my own at night, cos then I can’t hear if someone is coming.
I know it sounds weird. Writing it in the cold and safe light of day, it sounds weird to me. But alone at night time, my thinking is irrational and I cannot turn that off.
One of the most common things I’ll say to my husband, apart from, ‘I love you’ and ‘Where’s my phone?’ is, ‘What’s that noise?’ It could be him tapping. He is a tapper!!!! It could be the washing machine taking off. It might be a water pipe clunking. If there is a noise outside, I’ll always ask him if it sounds like it’s in our garden. We live near a big Tesco and we face the back of the building where goods are loaded in. I’m now used to the sound of the crash of the large entrance gate opening, and the various noises of goods being unloaded, but it took a while. Once I know what noise is I’m happy, but I have to know what it is before I can settle down.
So there you go. Ridiculous as it feels sitting here writing it, it is real and DREADful at the time. I do pray for God’s peace a lot and I trust him to help me. It’s just something I have to deal with…
Today’s post is a kind of poem about my experience of depression. Not everyone’s experience is the same. So I’m just going to share a little of mine. I’m not a poet but I find writing the truth can be hard. It’ll be easier to do it in a more creative way.
Depression is a funny thing, It does not make me laugh It used to make me cry, it used to stab me in the heart until the pain would make me angry, hungry, sending me for food, to make me feel the way I felt when I was small, and safe, and good
But now it doesn’t do that. This time I’m more stressed out In case somebody asks me to do, or say, or shout and tell them, “everything is fine, I’ll take care of that.” Cos it’s what I do, I sort things out. Except for age-old fat that I am trying trying to disrobe from but I cannot concentrate on every single thing that’s asked of me.
No one asked me? Oh wait
It was me who piled the stuff on? It was me who got it wrong? expectations, responsibilities more words, more songs I thought I had to do it all and carry all theweight while trying to lose it without losing it while not losing the faith
Does it look like I am losing any sense of sense right now? Well that is it, you’ve now seen how it works, it makes me feel that now, I must explain and say I’m sorry, that I don’t know where, why, how
See how it steals my peace?
So, I’ll stop and ask you just to wait, and let me find a way back to thinking, breathing, eating, normally (is the word normal okay?) You see, depression is a funny thing It does not make me laugh but the joke’s on me and will be while I travel on this path to God knows where and God knows when but that is good enough for me cos though I live with my depression, my God, He lives in me
Thank you so much to those who commented and messaged me about my last post. It’s great to know you’re still happy to read my witterings 🙂 Having completed the plan I mentioned in that post, I was quite daunted by a year’s worth of empty spaces. But already I have most of January filled, either done or preparing to do. It feels good, after a year of sitting around not doing much at all.
My experience of anxiety and depression doesn’t feel like any I’ve read or heard about. Maybe each journey is unique. I’ve come a long way, there are some days when I feel totally normal but others when I get a wave of anxiety every time the house phone rings or my mobile buzzes. Though why I’m worried about calls on the landline, I can’t tell you. My Amazon account is fine thank you very much.
I felt I’d levelled off in my recovery, the two main problems being headaches and not sleeping very well. So I arranged a chat with the doctor, and we tweaked my medication a bit. Already I can feel the benefits. If we weren’t in lockdown, the doc said she’d be advising me to get out and about. I’m sure it would aid my recovery to visit nice places. Meet with friends, have coffee and laughs. Maybe a couple of nights away with himself. None of that is possible at the moment.
But I have to do something. I was on the treadmill this morning for half an hour. After falling and really hurting myself last year AND the year before, I’m still very nervous about being outside. Especially in this snowy weather.
I need to move forward. I want to move forward. but I’m going to take my time and go at my own pace. I’m so grateful to God for the time and space that lockdown brought, but I feel ready to start making my way back in to regular face to face contact, that is NOT on a computer screen.
I have emerged from my biannual “why do I bother writing? what’s the point? yada yada” phase, set for another year of scribbling. I’m in the process of making a plan for the year. Dividing the year in to four quarters with a the intention *coughs* of working on one major project each quarter, with some flash fiction, research and social media malarkey as I go. During my “woe is me, I am unpublished” season, I did wonder about shutting this blog down. The thought stayed with me during the planning. Who reads blogs any more? Anything longer than a tweet and people scroll on don’t they?
You still there?
I have deliberately not written much about Covid or Lockdown. What is there to say? I ate too much, moved to little but did use the restricted time to aid my recovery from anxiety and depression which I wrote about back in October last year. I’m doing so much better. The depression has lifted for the most part, thank God, but anxiety is still an issue for me. Increasing Covid numbers do not help.
I’m finding that having a plan for the year is helpful. Not just a writing plan – a life plan. I pray it will give me something to focus on when I’m feeling a bit wobbly and uncertain. It includes getting rid of the weight I put on during lockdown. And getting back into running. I got to the stage of doing 3 x 5k runs each week. The I fell. My confidence has not repaired to the degree my injured knee has. I had been praying for a treadmill for a couple of years. So I could walk regularly in the winter weather. God miraculously provided one – from the people who I was on my way to visit when I fell. (Bit of a Matrix moment there. You know the bit where the oracle says, “don’t worry about the vase,” and Neo says, “what vase?” he turns around and knocks a vase over. ) Anyway, I’m ready for writing, running, counting my carbs, and watching my mental health; doing all of those things with God’s help and guidance.
God has been with me all the way and I pray for his blessing on all those areas of my life. He underpins it all. The only time there’ll be no point in writing, is if He ever decides I should go and do something else 🙂 So if you’re still here and still reading, thank you so much for sticking with me.
God bless each and every one of you in 2021!
p.s. if you read Gorse Lodge, thank you! Do leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It really means a lot to a writer. In the meantime, this quarter I’ll be working on edits to publish my second novel.
It’s great to have Liz Carter back today. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you really should. Liz’s honesty and openness is such a blessing. Here she is with the second part of her post on Light and Dark.
It’s good to be back 🙂 I finished yesterday, by saying, the more I dig into Scripture, the more I find the most starkly honest writings there poured out for all to see, overflowings of emotion and anger and sorrow spilling onto the pages – most of the prophetic writings are like this and the Psalms are full of songs of lament as much as songs of praise.
It seems to me that we are on dangerous ground if we insist that we must keep our own darkness hidden in the darkness, because that is not the biblical model.
Biblical writers craft their words with honesty and authenticity. They tell it how it is. They do not tell us that there will be no suffering in the Christian life, nor do they tell us that the Christian life will be blessed with health and wealth and no pain. In fact, if anything, they tell us the opposite. Paul tells us that he lived in hardship and persecution, suffering for Christ and with Christ – and his words are full of the profound mystery of the intersection of brokenness and the peace of God that passes all understanding. The Psalmists wrote of isolation and imprisonment, of sickness and danger. And in the centre of it all we have Jesus, a man of sorrows who knew the great depths of suffering like no other.
I always think it would be so hard to follow a faith where the deity remains outside of our understanding and experience. Christianity is unprecedented among faiths in that God became one of us and sunk into our pain and mess with us. The incarnation points to the beautiful and complex intricacies of the fingerprints of God amongst us; a God willing to lay aside all his majesty and fall into the dust, to suffer and die, to take all our pain and sin and mess upon his body. It is a mystery that cannot be contained in words, but a mystery bursting at the seams with hope and life, and one that speaks loud into our own agonies like nothing else.
And this, ultimately, is what lights our path ahead; the knowledge that God is not far away, but is with us by his Spirit and in his experience of broken humanity. On days I have nothing left I can only look back to God, as the Psalmists so often did in their wretched poems of sadness and yearning. I can still choose to ‘yet praise’ within the days of trouble.
This winter will be long and bleak, and bleaker still for some of us, for many reasons. But winter ends in a glorious awakening, and God reminds us of that in a love song:
‘See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.’ (Song of Songs 2:10)
One of my poems from my new book incorporates this theme, and so I would like to share a few words from this poem with you today, with the prayer that God will speak to the deep places in you and flood you with a hope wider, deeper, longer and higher than you could ever imagine:
Oh hasten the day when death flees away when the winter of mourning melts to joy in the morning, when bleak shadows are drenched in the glory of your dazzling light, when darkest places and worn-down wastes are crushed in the power of outrageous grace The winter is past; the rains are over and gone, find love that is deep and love that is long find immersive light and ageless depths find crazy love in inexorable breadth Oh hasten the day when night flees away.
Treasure in Dark Places is a collection of poetry and short stories which are re-imaginings of biblical accounts and encounters with Jesus that take the reader into the heart of the stories, where you yourself can experience and encounter the God who loves you, and where you will find resonance and comfort in your own struggle.
Continuing the theme of Light and Dark, I am delighted to welcome Liz Carter to the blog. She will be sharing today and tomorrow, and we’ll hear about her new book, Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting.
So, over to Liz…
With the clocks going back and the winter drawing in, many of us are living with a creeping sense of dread that coils around us like the fog on a chilly winter day. As the days grow colder and the nights darker, we often feel enveloped in gloom, and now more than ever, as we wonder when all this will come to an end. Winter seems to stretch ahead with no promise of hope, with no sparkles of joy to look towards and wait for with anticipation. Winter 2020 seems like a pit of nothingness, a black hole of rubbishness and sadness.
Perhaps, for some of you, it’s not just 2020 that feels that way to you. Perhaps you’ve lived through years where the nights are too dark and the air too frozen around you. Maybe you’ve been living with sickness, physically or mentally, or living with grief, or other burdens which have left you bruised and battered, unsure where to look for any signs of hope.
For me, this year has been tough, but my whole life has been lived in pain, to some degree, with a chronic lung condition from infancy. This year I went into shielding in March after receiving the letter that punched me in the gut with its words instilling more fear in me: I’d been identified, it told me, as someone with risk of severe illness if I caught Covid-19. I separated out from my family and lived in my room for almost five months, caged into a life without touch or the usual family interaction. It was tough. It sent me spiralling mentally, into restless, tearful nights and days that seemed to stretch too long at times.
But God kept sending me little reminders of his presence and his love. As I began to let go of some of my fear and pour out some of my restlessness into poetry and other forms of writing, God spoke peace into my heart, and even sparks of joy at times.
God reminded me that it is sometimes in the darkest places where we find unexpected treasure, where light is able to break through in even more splendour, puncturing the blackness and calling us on towards the hope we find in Jesus.
I wonder if you have ever felt that you should be happy at all times as a Christian. Perhaps you’ve even heard teaching encouraging you to claim prosperity and health in all areas of your life, that because God is a generous God he will give you these – you only need to ask. Perhaps you’ve felt unable to share honestly about tough times, because you have been led to feel that you are, in some way, failing God because of your struggle. You hear the great triumphant stories of healing and wholeness, of God coming through for people when they are suffering, of God’s great and miraculous provision. But when it doesn’t seem to happen like that in your life, you can be left sad and alone, hugging your suffering to yourself in the mistaken idea that you cannot share it with others, because it might put them off the idea of faith.
Yet the more I dig into Scripture, the more I find the most starkly honest writings there poured out for all to see, overflowings of emotion and anger and sorrow spilling onto the pages – most of the prophetic writings are like this and the Psalms are full of songs of lament as much as songs of praise. Tomorrow I will write more about that and share one of the poems from my book
Thank you Liz. It’s a blessing to read such refreshing honesty in difficult times.
I look forward to hearing more. In the mean time, Liz’s book Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting can be found here. Until tomorrow… A x
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.
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.