Honouring a legacy?

This week, one of our very long standing church members died, and had a funeral that celebrated her long and incredibly full life. It was very moving, to reflect on all that she did, and she was described as a pioneer of her time. One of our challenges as a church, is how we live up to her legacy.

This started me thinking about what we leave behind us. None of us knows the number of our days, so how do we make them count?

I found a quotation from the 4th century Greek statesman Pericles:   

          ‘what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the life of others.’

I started writing because I wanted to honour my late husband’s life. Somehow, telling his story, helps us as a family, to find meaning in what has taken place, and to honour his legacy.

Part of this is shaped by a desire to raise the profile of the need for more effective care for veterans. The damaging nature of the long term emotional, spiritual and physical injuries after serving in armed conflucts, cannot be over estimated. And the impact on relationships and families can be immensely destructive.

It also feels important to raise awareness of the need for more research into epilepsy, and the exploration of possible new treatments. If some one’s seizures are well controlled by medication that is great, but if their epilepsy is intractable, life is challenging.

To honour Colin’s legacy, in the midst of these two strands, I also want to give thanks for people who have supported and prayed with us. God gave us kind people around us, guided our path, and sustained us on the darkest days, granting us all we needed.

And so Colin’s legacy is that even in the midst of trauma and disability, we are not to give up, that God gives us strength each day, leads us to helpful people, enables us to laugh, helps us find an internal resilience that we did not know we had. Every day of life is precious. God gives our lives a quality of love and grace that is life changing.

At times, I question writing about all this, because it makes you so vulnerable. But this feel like our purpose to try to encourage others,, and the best way I can honour Colin, so I pray for strength to do so, especially in these days leading up to Remembrance.

In Ephesians chapter 5, verse 2 it says:    ‘ live a life of love, love others as Christ loved us’                                         The legacy of Christ, is indeed love, and so sharing that love, truth and grace with others, is our greatest calling, let us pray.

Gracious God, forgive us that we often don’t think what our spiritual legacy is to the next generation. Lord Jesus, may we be inspired by generations of Christian people, who have faithfully and creatively followed you. May our life’s purpose be to honour the legacy of all who have gone before, and may your holy spirit guide us as to what to do, as we seek to pass on your life changing and transformative love and truth to others, Amen.

I’ll walk you to your car, lass.

Civility in the city.

Anniversaries are such strange things. You think you are prepared, but you seldom are. This month is the first anniversary of my father in law’s death, and it feels really emotional. He lived a long and full life, and he accomplished amazing things, but I still feel so very tearful at his death.

I used to visit him and his wife on a Sunday evening, and they always made us a meal, even when that should have been the last thing in the world they should have been thinking about. My mother in law would make a Sunday roast dinner for us, and took great pride in getting all the details right. How she cooked in that little scullery kitchen I will never know!

And then at the end of the evening, Tom would say to me ‘ I’ll walk you to your car, lass’. Everytime he said this, I would just be blown away. It was an old fashioned courtesy, offered as if it was so self evident that this was the only possible thing to do. They lived in the top flat, parking on the street was often difficult, and do with my parking skills, my car was often far away. But still he pull on his cap and jacket, and would accompany down the stairs. He would wave me out of my parking place, stopping the other traffic, just to make sure I got home ok.

That weekly courtesy was one of many, and just spoke of his kindness and manners. Even when he was less well, it took me all my time to stop him escorting me down the stairs, even when I protested that it was raining, and I didn’t want him to get wet.

Sometimes it is these little things that are so moving, so symbolic of his life, his thoughtfulness and humility and self effecting nature. Yet he also held strong views on politics, art and culture. He was incredibly witty, loved conversation and was stimulating company at dinner. He was an artist, with an independent vision and style. He was a brilliant husband, father in law, dad and grandpa. So sorely missed.

May we never take our loved ones for granted. May we take time to remember them, all the memories, good and bad, funny and poignant. May we have space to speak of them fondly, and to laugh and to reminisce. Every day is so precious.

In psalm 90 verse 12, the psalmist says : ‘ teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wisdom of the heart.’ Appreciating what we have, is just so vital, giving us thankful hearts, and puts all things in perspective.

Gracious God, our times are in your hands,and we are so grateful for all who have gone before us, who have shared their lives with us, who inspired us, and loved us. Lord Jesus, help us treasure all the ways You have blessed us, all the people who have shown us kindness. Holy Spirit, may the example of those who have gone before us, inspire us to live each day for good, that we may love and show compassion and thoughtfulness to others, and to seek to make this world a better place. Amen.

Finding freedom!

Flying in the light.

At this time of coronovirus and lockdown restrictions, life can seem a bit heavy. In the west of Scotland, we are not to leave our houses unless it is necessary, and it can feel a bit as if we are in prison, unable to do the things we would normally do, to meet up with friends, or go to the theatre.

In comparison with many, we are so fortunate. We are not in a refugee camp in Kenya, or in prison for our faith. We have so many things to be grateful for.

I suppose this is where perspective comes in. It is so easy to focus on the things that we cannot do, and be downcast. However God calls us to focus on what is possible, and the choices we can make.

For people who are carers though, I think this is a particularly tough season. Many support services have been cut, day centres and respite opportunities are often closed or limited. Caring for a loved one with mental health issue, a chronic condition or a disability, can be exhausting at the best of times, a 24 hour a day job. Listening in the night to meet the needs of some one who is ill, or might wander, means that feeling of never being able to relax for a second.

When I was looking after Colin, I could never anticipate his needs, or when I should be involved. He was proud and independent- he often didn’t want help. He resented it. Yet on occasion, intervention seemed the lesser of two evils. So hard, as a spouse, to deliver person centred care, and to ensure his dignity. For many carers, your anticipation of risk, means you can’t rest, because you are seeking to keep everyone safe.

If we are feeling trapped, whether because of personal circumstances or covid restrictions, the Christian faith can make such a difference. There is a beautiful verse: ‘ where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ 2 Corinthians 3: 17

We are reminded that God releases us from our chains, He heals the broken hearted, He puts the lonely in families, He lifts up those who are down. He gives strength, insight and patience when it is needed. God is so tender hearted towards His children- He sees our struggles, and comes alongside us, to release us from what binds us, and to set us free. Our spirits can dance and soar, even in the midst of burdens and cares.

And so, dear friend, whatever might be weighing on your spirit, I pray that you can find freedom in the Holy spirit of God, who cleanses and heals us, and inspires us and brings life.

Let us pray, Lord God, at times our burdens are so heavy, we feel weighed down and trapped. But Lord Jesus, You shine your light into our darkness. You forgive our shortcomings, You open our eyes to the beautiful, the small acts of kindness. Holy spirit of God, bring us to a place of freedom, where we can soar like the eagle, and enjoy the exhilaration of the fresh air and the warmth of the sunshine. May we always know an inner freedom, that enables us to be, and to have space and identity. Help us to appreciate and explore this freedom, Amen.

Apologies and explanations!

Brene Brown quotation.

Dear friend, when Colin said that he wanted his writings published, I can honestly say that I had no idea where this would lead. Colin wrote some poems and reflections on different incidents that happened to him in the military, but they were in fragmentary form. I felt that writing a framework for them would make more sense, and this framework became the story of Colin’s life as a veteran in civilian life, and of the devastating impact that his history and disability had on him. This enables his story to be told in a fuller way.

Yet it is scary to tell this kind of story, because it is so very personal. And I am a very private person – as some of you know! So having the courage to do this, is immense. What I have discovered, is that it is easier for me to write this down, than to try and have a conversation about it all, as it is so complex, emotional, and at times harrowing.

And so I need to apologise to friends and colleagues who maybe feel bewildered that I didn’t share more of Colin’s story with them before. When I look back, it was easier to compartmentalise my life, in order to give it any semblance of normality. It was a relief at times to be out the house, talking about normal things, to laugh, to play, and this space to be was literally a Godsend.

I have listened to other carers grappling with this issue, about not wanting to talk about a loved one’s illness, especially when it is ongoing. It is easier to respond to the question ” how is so and so?” with the response ” up and down” than to give a long description of the details – eg for Colin – that he was affected by a seizure, depressed over memories from a military incident, or struggling with difficult behaviours because of a mood swing. There can be a lot of shame over difficult behaviours, and on many occasions I didn’t have the energy to explain things to myself, never mind anyone else.

In these years, I was blessed with a small but lovely group of supportive and prayerful friends, whom I saw regularly, and who listened beautifully. However as I was a carer, mum and worked full time, I didn’t have the capacity to always share what was going on to a wider circle. And I regret if people feel I was not as forthcoming as I might have been – I was not trying to be hurtful – just to live out each day. My primary focus was to support Colin.

And so I ask for forgiveness and understanding, for my coping mechanism in an ongoing stressful situation, was largely to keep things to myself. God was the One who was my Confidant, and who gave me strength each day. Meantime I thank everyone who accompanied me in this journey, as I value all of you, whether I was sharing things in more or in less detail. Whether it was laughing or crying, your support was invaluable.

” Love bears all things.” 1 Corinthians 13: 7

Prayer – Gracious God, what an amazing friend you give to us in Christ Jesus,

A friend, who is closer than a brother, who lifts up my soul.

Teach us all to value our friendships, to treasure times spend together, to be kind,

And to connect in a rich variety of ways, to support and encourage one another, Amen

” sorrowful but always rejoicing”

an umbrella of healing love

2 Corinthians 6: 10

Friends, I have waited a long time before starting to blog. Often I have wondered what to say, and what my message is.

It is such a cliche that everyone has a story to tell, but it feels so essential to life and identity, that I want to try. I am a Christian who doesn’t have all the answers. I love Jesus, and God the father is my Shelter, and His Holy Spirit is gently nudging me to be more creative, to get in touch with my true self, and to have the courage to articulate a little of what that means.

In my core self, I am a bridge builder, a reconciler, an encourager. I am deeply flawed, I make loads of mistakes, I get things wrong, and I feel down at times because I feel inadequate to fulfil what I feel called to do. I wrestle with how to take things forward.

I am also frustrated with cliches in the Christian world – particularly about suffering and pain – eg ” that God has sent you this to make you stronger”. When you are sad and tearing your hair out, and everything is falling apart, with a restless noisy toddler, or a sick husband, these words don’t seem to help.

In psalm 45 verse 1, the psalmist says:

” My heart is stirred by a noble theme,

As I recite my verses for the King

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

God has blessed me so much, even in dark and difficult days in my life, when things made no sense. He encouraged me, and gave me strength, and still brings me healing every day. In Glasgow, it is often raining, and God is like my umbrella, protecting me, keeping me safe, and enabling me to flower underneath His care. And so my blog is called ” an umbrella of healing love”. My prayer that this blog might give space to others to reflect on where they care, to know God’s abundant and compassionate love for themselves, and to connect with Jesus’ healing love in a deeper way.

Wishing you Christ’s healing love,

Fiona

An invitation to pray:

Gracious God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

I have so many questions, my heart is restless, I cry to You.

Lord Jesus Christ, reveal to me Your heart of Love,

Shelter and heal me,

Holy Spirit help me find the wholeness I seek, Amen.