Quote of the Week – Week 19

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There are two reasons that I ended up choosing this quote for the week. Firstly, off the back of what I shared on my blog last week about what I left behind when I left Aberdeen I ended up sharing about some of the after-effects while chatting with my friend in the car. Secondly, an amusing misunderstanding when one of my friends messaged me in a panic after I posted this on facebook to thank my friends who’ve been collecting Active Kids vouchers for one of my Guide units…

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…she thought she had missed a major event in my life. Due to the fact the webcam takes a mirror image photo it looks like the ring I always wear on my right hand, is being worn on my wedding finger. It took me a while to realise why she was apologising that she’d missed my wedding. I’ve missed it too I thought. And then as I scrolled my facebook page to try and understand where this information could have come from, I suddenly realised…!

A conversation into the night revolved around singleness and dating after we had clarified that I hadn’t gotten married, or engaged. I’m almost proud to say that I’ve been single now for 6 years. There have at times been flickers of potential boyfriends, but it’s not something I actively pursue! Or ever have done really. I’m content now being single – and that was a journey for a wee bit, as an extravert loneliness is a huge big deal. But I realise that being single and being alone doesn’t have to be the same thing.

There’s another element too. I’ve learned what love is really all about in these last few years – and trust me, in my job you really get reminded how important it is to make wise choices when it comes to love.

Someone who loves me is going to care about me.

Someone who loves me is going to be for me, rather than against me.

Someone who loves me is going to respect my boundaries.

Someone who loves me is going to understand that my faith in God is the most important thing in my life and not try to change that.

Someone who loves me is going to accept that I am who I am, and encourage me to be the best version of myself.

All the other stuff – looks, hobbies, football teams, music, films, tv shows, where we come from, how much we earn or what kind of jobs we have – all that is not invalid, but really isn’t the big stuff and shouldn’t really matter even half as much as the stuff in the list above.

Lauryn Hill, you may have been prisoned for not paying tax this last week, but the words of your song still remain true.

Love is respect and devotion, greater than planets, deeper than oceans…

Quote of the Week – Week 13

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Christian in Moulin Rouge

**Hi, I came down sick (again) so didn’t have time to do my usual picture of the quote – sorry!!**

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Eva, her friends and family. It’s difficult to believe that it was as much as 3 whole years ago that I clicked onto my blog reader to discover a message on her LiveJournal page left by someone else saying that she had died that morning. I remember going to church the next day and bawling my eyes out. Someone said to me that she had lived much more than most people did in a lifetime. She was sick, she was in pain. But I remember all too vividly her posts in those last couple of months, how she asked for her family to make sure people fought for her life. She so desperately wanted to live, though she had accepted death too.

When news filtered out that Eva had chronic rejection people began to send her mail again from all over the globe. What was created was her ‘Wall of Love‘. One of the things sent was the quote from Moulin Rouge that she and her Dad quoted often in those final 7 weeks she spent in hospital.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Like three years ago, March 27th falls in Holy Week. I remember walking through The Meadows on a rainy day a few days later, reflecting on Eva, her death, her campaign for CF research and organ donation, my desire to be an organ donor and Jesus’ sacrifice when he was crucified. I remember thinking how Jesus died so others could have life. I remember thinking how that’s a little like organ donation…when you are an organ donor, you give an opportunity for someone else to have a second chance in your death.

Now I think back on those words from Moulin Rouge. I think back to all the people that spoke at Eva’s memorial and how she lived a life of love. She loved well and loved hard. And she was loved in return.

Love is a huge theme throughout the bible – particularly in the New Testament. It is taught that the greatest thing in life is to love God, and love the people in this world. 2 simple rules, but tough to always apply.

I’m sure as the year goes on I’m going to write more about love. My real hope is to live those words out though.

**Note: I’m sad to say that this week (the day before the anniversary of Eva’s death), her friend Meg Moore died from Cystic Fibrosis related illness. Meg also starred in the award winning documentary 65_RedRoses with Eva and their friend Kina. There was a beautiful letter written by Director, Nimisha Mukerji to Eva on Wednesday which you can see here paying tribute to Eva and Meg.**

Quote of the Week – Week 11

IMGP0612So since the Catholic Church got a new Pope yesterday, I thought it’d be appropriate to use this week to quote from Mother Teresa. Though I didn’t agree with all of her beliefs, what I really admire is her humility and the fact that she ‘walked her talk’. The reason so many people sat up and listened to what she had to say, is because she earned respect of people by living a life of action.

I love Inside the Actors Studio. I am that girl who likes to watch the special features on DVDs and track down interviews with the creators, crew, actors of my favourite shows and films to discover that extra insight behind their creative choices. I kinda want to be an accomplished actor just so I could meet and be interviewed by James Lipton. The last question he asks to all his guests from the famous ‘Pivot’ questionnaire is “If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?” One of my favourite answers given in response to this question was from Matt Damon. This is what he told Jim that he hoped God would tell him: “That  all of the suffering that you saw or heard about or knew was happening…that there was a point to it, and here come in the back and I’ll tell you all about it”.

Our world is a mess – most of it caused by us here in the world now and our ancestors being selfish or greedy or vengeful. There’s corruption. There are natural disasters that cause devastation that we previously would have struggled to imagine. There is war. There is evil. There is suffering. Some of it is far away from us. Some of it is just next door.

The problems of our world often don’t have simple solutions. And affect huge amounts of people. Can one person solve them? No. So what’s the point in doing anything if we can’t solve it? we might ask when we are overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity.

And that’s when I remember. We can’t often do HUGE things, especially not on our own. But we can do small things with a lot of love. And that will still make a difference. Much more of a difference than sticking our heads in the sand and doing nothing.

The story behind the ink…

I realise a few people have not pieced together the what or why of my tattoo. On Tuesday evening I was at my friends’ home having dinner and we were reflecting on where life has taken us over the last 5 years. We were talking about the tattoo, as I had shown my friends Kathy & Vicky the design on my birthday. They know the journey because they were my sisters who supported me through it.

It all began 3 years ago.

I was down at a church in Watford with about 300 others to get our training and team building for going to South Africa a few months later. At the time, I had an infection in my gum which was causing my jaw to freeze or click out of place a lot. Near the end of the day, a guy felt God was saying to him that a few of us needed to be specially commissioned to for our trip, and one of those people had a problem with their jaw, and it had stemmed from a gum infection on bottom left molar.

Pretty specific. And no way I could deny I fitted the description.

I went forward, and some women prayed for me, and as soon as they begun praying I fell back onto the floor. No one pushed me, I hadn’t fainted and I hadn’t done it voluntarily!

While on the floor I had a vision of a woman wearing red, I sensed she was south African, and heard a word. I assumed it was a name at the time. (I later googled it, but I’d spelled it wrongly!)

Over the next few months, every obstacle believable stopped me from getting South Africa. To the point where my Mum said to me ‘There’s so much going wrong, maybe it’s a sign you shouldn’t be going, maybe if you go you’re going to get killed or raped or something’. 

To list the ones I remember: My passport application being denied 3 times (because of the photos), my payment not going through as my references got lost in transit, almost being denied a place because of food allergies, my team host getting ill so my original team had nowhere to go, getting a sinus infection and not  being able to get my second set of vaccines when I was supposed to, extra bills and debts…Even the day before we departed there had been a terrorist alert and Edinburgh airport had been shut for several hours. Oh, yeah, and finding out that my Dad was in court and could go to prison while I was in South Africa.

But I got there. And it turned out God had reasons for some of it.

On our second day while in the minibus during our orientation, I asked Calvin (an intern in the church) and Ntuks (a young pastor) if they knew anyone in with this name or if it was a word they knew.

Do you mean themba?‘ they asked

I said I guess that’s what I meant.

It’s a Zulu word – it means faith or hope or love’.

I was floored.

On Day 7 I injured my knee, and on Day 8 I was hopping around the Seed of Hope centre and was struggling to join in as we taught a song that became the kids favourite. The premise of the song is based around the story of Noah and the ark, and how to show God’s promised convenant with his people he puts a rainbow across the sky.

That day we came out, to find a rainbow across Bhekuwandle.

The next day, I met my woman in red.

At the time the blog readers who knew the story from March were leaving me tweets and comments about whether I’d met ‘the woman in red’ yet. So I was relieved she did exist! And that what I shared with her was an answer to something she had been praying about for a while.

After that, I wanted to remember what God did that year. Not only in asking me to trust Him that I was meant to go to South Africa, but the fact that I have no other explanation how a woman who had no knowledge of Zulu language could fall the ground, hear a random word, it turn out to be quite  a poignant meaning and in Zulu and be told something and see someone in a vision who she’d never met before then meet her 4 months later in another country.

It was bizarre.

And I wanted to remember.

Because there are days when I question my beliefs and think I’m totally mad. There are days when I wonder if God exists, then where the heck is He? (I actually think Kevin Bridges theory on this at 8:16 is more accurate than he maybe realises). Shitty things happen in life and I have no answers for why one person dies tragically and someone else experiences a medical miracle or by chance ends up not being in the plane they should have been on that crashed.

I just know there is always, always hope that good will come out of the crap.

I trust in that.

An extra bit to this story that made me feel a little bit emotional when I went to get my inking done is that on Tuesday evening, a friend of mine – in fact one of the people who supported me in getting to South Africa those years ago – text me to say that her friend’s daughter had died very suddenly with no explanation to why.

It’s difficult to trust in faith, hope or love when you hear news like that.

But I’ve seen the resilience that themba brings to people who have faced unimaginable pain and heartbreak.

And so now, I’ll always be reminded.

Even when I don’t want to be reminded – it’ll still be there.

Inked on my skin.

Trust. Hope. Faith. Love.

Themba.

 

The wall: Love is respect and devotion…

“Father you saved me and showed me that life was much more than being some foolish man’s wife, showed me that love was respect and devotion, greater than planets, deeper than oceans.”

from I used to love him -Lauryn Hill

When I was in high school, I loved Lauryn Hill. I listened to her album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill‘ many times. I didn’t really pay much attention to the lyrics of her songs though until the summer when I was stuck in bed with post-viral fatigue syndrome. It was then I discovered how much of her own story was in her songs – as I guess is the case with the majority of songwriters.

I do not have a good history with guys, and when I became a Christian I felt a huge pressure and expectation that to be a successful person I needed to be married. Preferably soon after graduating from university. I met several girls in the Christian Union who told me that the main reason they were at university was to meet their future husband. I remember a conversation with one friend about what we hoped to do after graduating and she said ‘Well, I plan to be married’. As if that was a definite and that was her full identity.

I began to wonder if maybe my independent ways were wrong. I never really sought out relationships, but they seemed to find me. I remember going out with a guy soon after I became a Christian just because he was interested in me and I thought ‘oh well, this must be God bringing my husband to be into my life’.

Yes. I was nuts.

I soon realised that it was indeed crazy.

But as I entered my last couple of years of uni, I let guys treat me really poorly.

I still remember going to a retreat with my church and our pastor’s wife praying for me. She told me that God was saying that I had been disobeying Him and I needed to do what God was saying I should do. I knew exactly what she meant – I knew God had been telling me to walk away from a relationship I was in. My faith and self-esteem were taking a beating and I think the only one who noticed was one of my friends (and I think she’ll know who she is). I went back and this person said it was like I had life back in my eyes again. I felt after that weekend that I had been brought back to life. We needed to talk I said. He said to me ‘God told you to break up with me, didn’t He? I was really scared you’d come back from that weekend and break up with me

It made me feel guilty. And so I didn’t do it.

I was a fool.

Eventually things escalated and he told me he didn’t want to be with me.

I felt such peace.

Did I bawl my eyes out later that day? Yes. As soon as I was at work alone I locked myself in an office and burst into tears calling several people. I got home that night and called my friend who came round with a box of tissues and let me sob into her shoulder for the longest time. I came down with flu that night and was off for a week. It was a horrible time.

But there was still peace deep down underneath the fear of being alone, the anxiety of the next phase of life.

I feel like I was saved though, I realised how much I had not been with someone who knew what love, respect or devotion really was.

And now I know.

Life is so much more than being a foolish man’s wife.

It’s not that I’m against being married, if a wise man came along who loved me and who I loved, who I believed shared my core beliefs and values, who I could see a compatible future with…then yes. I would be happy to become his wife.

But life does not depend on that.

And I’m not alone, because I have friends and people around me who know that love is respect and devotion, greater than planets and deeper than oceans. 

Those are the wise people I choose to have be a big part in my life.

The foolish ones are no longer allowed into my inner circle.

:)

They will know us by our love

I along with a lot of others watched in horror yesterday evening – I couldn’t believe what was coming up on the BBC news website yesterday – a bomb blast in Oslo? The idea that anyone would want to terrorise Norway was just inconceivable to me. But it got worse – a man dressed as a policeman who went out to a youth camp and started purposefully shooting teenagers and those working at the camp. One news site was giving live camera feed from a helicopter over the island of Utøya and quickly cut away – but not before I saw people in the water.

People trying to swim to safety.

I was not surprised to see Fox News (and several other ‘news’ sites) immediately jumping onto the Islamic terrorist bandwagon.

How to explain then as we discover the shooter (and possibly the one who planted the car bomb in Oslo) was a right-wing conservative Christian?

They will know us by our love

Words I know to be true. I don’t think that’s the exact words used in the New Testament, but certainly I can testify that what drew me to think maybe this fairytale sounding nonsense they called the bible had some truth to it was seeing the church really loving one another.

Not 24 hours before the heinous events in Norway started to unravel did I have a friend say to me how she was jealous of Christians and the community we had with each other.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard those words spoken to me. When I first discussed the idea of moving away from Edinburgh earlier this year, my friend talked about how much easier it would be for me to establish community no matter where I might move to. In my final year of university my peers commented on the family I had around me – it was most noticeable to them when I caught mumps near the end of our first semester and they saw love in action as my friends took care of me, encouraged me when I was fighting through coursework despite my hamster-like features and hideous fatigue.

I’ve seen Christians getting annoyed about the proclamation of this ‘suspect’ in Norway being a ‘fundamentalist Christian’. I can understand that. Certainly it makes me think again of how many of my muslim friends have told me they feel when they hear about ‘Islamic fundamentalists’. Perhaps that’s why I get annoyed when people label me as ‘religious’. Because I do think that insitutionalised religion has done a lot of damage to our world.

I just don’t think God has.

One person can do an awful lot of damage . Can have a great deal of negative influence on other people.

But one person can do an awful lot of good. And can have a great deal of positive influence on other people.

I hope that I can be the latter rather than the former. I hope that you, my lovely readers, can be the latter too.

There will probably always be the people who use God’s name in vain for actions that He would never endorse. I’m sure you can think of examples you’ve seen on the news, heard of on twitter and read about in newspapers and magazines. They may misrepresent Christ, but they can’t change who God is.

Sometimes I misrepresent the God I believe in too. I’m sorry for that. But that doesn’t stop me from having the ability to love.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

- Romans 12:21

Wise words from the apostle Paul, that I remembered so many times while re-reading some of the Harry Potter series before I saw the last film on Tuesday.

Love is so much more powerful that evil. But it can sometimes take great courage to keep fighting evil with love.

And to my brothers and sisters in Norway (for we all human beings) – I am thinking of you as you grieve and mourn over the coming days. I truly believe that you will rebuild, you will restore and that the lives lost will never be forgotten.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

 

Be gentle with those who are grieving…

Last year, I began looking further into grief and loss – trying to find anything that may prove to be something that a client can hold onto as they journey through their grief. There can be no time limit on grief. It can come in fits and bursts, all shapes and forms. Somehow, I was led to this poem on an old website created by a family who had lost a child through SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

I shared it with one of the miscarriage support trainers, and we’ve discovered it has resonated with clients both within our centre, but also with friends who have lost loved ones in other circumstances that have no connection with our centre.

Please Be Gentle

Please be gentle with me for I am grieving.

The sea I swim in is a lonely one

and the shore seems miles away.

Waves of despair numb my soul

as I struggle through each day.

My heart is heavy with sorrow.

I want to shout and scream

and repeatedly ask ‘Why?’

At times, my grief overwhelms me

and I weep bitterly,

so great is my loss.

Please don’t turn away

or tell me to move on with my life.

I must embrace my pain

before I can begin to heal.

Companion me through the tears

and sit with me in loving silence.

Honor where I am in the journey,

not where you think I should be.

Listen patiently to my story,

I may need to tell it over and over again.

It’s how I begin to grasp the enormity of my loss.

Nurture me through the weeks and months ahead.

Forgive me when I seem distant and inconsolable.

A small flame still burns within my heart,

and shared memories may trigger

both laughter and tears.

I need your support and understanding.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

I must find my own path.

Please, will you walk beside me?

-Jill B. Englar

Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve seen it put better anywhere else. So thank you Ms. Englar for articulating what so many people who have loved and lost are trying to navigate through.

Father’s Day: the heart of the matter

After being down on the North side of town to celebrate a friend’s birthday (which resulted in my 4 a.m. bedtime…eek!), I didn’t realise until I rolled out of bed at 11 a.m. to check e-mail, facebook, twitter that it was Father’s Day.

There was a lot of discussion last night about fathers, children, pregnancy, learning disabilities, abortion and parenting.

(I think it’s the affect I bring into a room now…oh dear!)

The simple fact is I don’t celebrate Father’s Day. 6 years in Aberdeen meant I was rarely at home for either Mother’s Day or Father’s Day anyway so I’m not in the habit of doing the whole celebrating thing.

The relationship between me and my earthly father is complicated to say the least. I have been rejected, ignored and abandoned by him in various ways and levels more times than I care to count.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Dad, and I think he’d like to think he loves me. The problem is that he just doesn’t know how to.

He has never really got how to be a parent.

After 2 years of no communication, he has chosen to pretend like nothing has ever happened, and in April walked back into my life when I went to meet my younger sister in London. He didn’t arrange to meet me, he didn’t call or write or anything. He just manipulated my sister into telling him where she would be meeting me.

He’s even been in Scotland and made no effort to see me.

He’s tried to get me to lie to my sister, and my sister to lie to me.

He’s kept them from me, made choices that have ruined their lives (quite literally). And now he wants to speak he tries to get me to lecture my sister and parent her.

And it’s hurt me. It’s hurt not just because of what he’s done (or not done), but also to have watched him hurt my sister and brother who I love more than words. I got hurt. They got hurt. Badly. Possibly beyond repair. And that’s the reality.

I could talk about forgiveness, and I know it’s important.

I’m not sure I’m totally there yet, but I’m getting there.

One thing I do know is that forgiveness does not mean I have to trust him or let him back into my life too far.

It does not mean I have to pretend and make out and call him ‘the best Dad in the world‘ just because a bunch of card companies have decided that once a year in June that’s what sons and daughters should do.

Forgiveness does not have to be earned. It is the very beauty of grace.

But trust does have to be earned back.

To continue having a soft heart, I have to protect it, so I don’t have to harden it.

It means protecting my heart from people that might smash it to pieces.

For sure when we have a soft and open heart, we are liable to get hurt.

For example…

When I go out on my bike, I run the risk of getting hurt. I could fall off my bike. I could get hit by a car (or bus, or truck).

Now I could just not cycle so this doesn’t happen.

Or I could wear a helmet to protect myself. I can look around before I pull out or turn right into a road so I’m not cycling into oncoming traffic. I can choose to cycle on paths or roads that are safer as I get used to cycling again.

I still run the risk of getting hurt or hurting someone else while I cycle. But it reduces the severity of the hurt if it comes.

It is the same with my heart…

I could choose to protect myself against who I let in by letting no one in.

Or I could choose who I let in very carefully to keep myself safer, but not miss out on the joy there is loving, caring and being loved and cared about in return.

One of the last days I had with the PCC trainees, I played them this song sung by India Arie in our personal preparation time before one of the final sessions. It’s gone round my head for many months now, much like the Leigh Nash song did leading up to Christmas. A little bit hard to swallow sometimes…but wise words all the same…

Eva’s Memorial: The Celebration of Love

Again, I’m very busy this week and next week, so not got time to blog much. But very important to remind those of you who, like me, were so inspired by one Eva Markvoort, her family, friends &  the 65_RedRoses team…

Eva’s Memorial will be today at 4 p.m. in Massey Theatre, New Westminster, Vancouver.

If  (like me) you can’t be there in person, it’s going to be streamed live online at Eva’s blog.

So that’s:

9 a.m. Saturday if you’re in East Coast Australia

1 a.m. tonight for those in South Africa

Midnight tonight for those in UK

7 p.m. tonight for those on ‘Philadelphia’ time

…and I have no clue about the rest of the USA!

Little streams of hope…

Yesterday totally sucked. It wasn’t that anything major happened, just lots of little irritating things happened. And with each additional irritating thing I dealt with it more melodramatically than the last.

Today Edinburgh and Midlothian may have disappeared into a giant raincloud, but my heart is full.

I met with two amazing women from a church in East Lothian. I LOVE what this church is doing. I have a number of friends who go there, and I just love their creativity, their faith, their community.

From there, I went over to see Carrie. Elastatoddler is growing up so fast! He’s started Rugby Tots (yes, rugby for toddlers!!) and can count to 10, plus recognise bigger numbers too. He can now say my name, speak in proper sentences…and he’s not even 2 yet! Yes, I’m a proud fairy godmother. Baby brother is growing fast too – at 7 weeks old, he is the same weight Elastatoddler was at 12 weeks old. Eek!

Then it was a quick stop at home for some soup before heading to babysit for my fave 5 yo – Miss Sweetroot! We made pizza (ok, so we put toppings on a margherita pizza) and then shared pizza and salad while listening to her playlist on her Dad’s iPod speakers. Nothing quite like eating pizza while going from ‘Bat Cat’ (Charlie & Lola) to ‘Worthy, you are worthy’ (Matt Redman). Then we put together some Mr Potato Heads. Then her Mummy & Daddy came home.

And then I came home. I didn’t realise I had a window with Facebook open. I hear that noise that tells me someone is trying to ‘chat’ with me. Who is it?

My youngest brother typing ‘KOALA!!! TALK TO ME!!!’

This is the first contact I’ve had with him since Christmas Day 2008 when I briefly spoke with him over the phone. I love that the first question he asked me was ‘How’s Cassie??‘ (like I’ve said before…all my family refer to my car as if it’s a member of our family)

I love to see my friend’s children growing up, and wonder what they’ll be like as they get older. I hope to be a good influence in their lives.

I have new hope again that I’ll see my brother again in person. Man, I miss him so much, he’s no longer a wee boy…he’s on the verge of manhood, and will be 15 next month. Scary biscuits. And hopefully I’ll get to see my lil sis next month when I’m in London.

I have hope to reconnect with old friends during my trips to England over this year. Plus meet some of my online friends…I hope we all like each other in person!

And I’m rebuilding my inspiration wall. Last week when looking for my old journals (to help jog my memory while writing some of my Journey into PCC work posts) I discovered a laundry basket full of old notes, pictures, cards. Many of the photos I had stuck on my walls have gone missing, but I hope to find them too.

My wall of quotes, bible verses, song lyrics, drawings, cards & photographs remind me not to lose the hope, and replace any hope that has been lost with something called faith.