Tag: Church

God whispers and the world is loud

I stumbled across this quotation today.

It’s apt for me. I need to rest and listen for God’s “still small voice of calm”. Amid anxiety, distress, confusion and an awful lot of dishonesty around me right now, His voice guides and assures and gives hope for now and the future; His voice is always there if I allow myself to hear Him. I know He is with me working out His plans. Where I am right now, He needs me to be and needs me to serve Him.

I don’t know who drew the beautiful illumination in the quotation or who wrote it, but I found it thanks to the Facebook page Contemplative Monk.

Ginny xxx

In Athens

In Athens

I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful things we’ve seen and experienced in Athens so far.

There are countless interesting churches. In the rear of this picture is the main Greek Orthodox metropolitan cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, recently refurbished, whilst in the foreground is a centuries-old church known as Little Metropolitan, really St Eleftherios Church (which we haven’t managed to go into yet as it is often shut, unusually for this area). On our last trip here my fiancé and I prayed outside under the moonlight, giving thanks for each other and asking God’s guidance during our engagement.

This past Sunday we were able to go to Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St Dionysus where we found this very peaceful portrayal of St Joseph and the Christ Child.

There are several people we need to buy gifts for and also we are going to bring some non-perishable Greek foods home to form part of the meal after our wedding. So we went through the Monastiriki which is a set of narrow, winding streets packed with little open-fronted shops selling jewellery, leather bags and sandals, T-shirts, traditional dresses and embroidered shirts, icons, crosses, ornately covered Bibles, food (olives, baklava, Turkish delight, sweets, herbs, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil), drinks (lots and lots of Ouzo and Metaxa brandy miniatures), replicas of Ancient Greek artefacts and statues, toys, and countless souvenirs (some tackier than others – apparently you can fit a picture of the Parthenon onto everything from a teacup to a wooden replica of a certain part of the male anatomy!!).

It’s worth looking up, as well as at the shop fronts, because there are often pretty balconies above you and twisting grapevines where doves sometimes sit.

With new sensory experiences around all day long, I have needed to balance busy hours with down time, and we are so fortunate to have a pool at the hotel to cool down or rest beside.

My fiancé has been utterly impressively amazing at getting me and my wheelchair around – not at all easy when the streets are cobbled and up / downhill. I’ve been really concerned he will wear himself out caring for me. I walk where I possibly can but it is not much at all. My fiancé’s love is a deep blessing I never could have imagined existing. I want to help him rest and care for his own needs too.

I will post another Greece update with more photos soon.

Ginny xxx

“…And indeed it was very good.”

After my earlier panic, to ground and orient myself I’ve been meditating on some of the Scriptures that can be read at the Easter Vigil Mass (we are not going to church tonight and will attend the Easter Day Mass rather than the Vigil). One of the passages that can be read at the Vigil is the first chapter of Genesis , that is to say, the very start of the Bible. Fittingly, as we celebrate at Easter our new birth in Christ, sharing His Risen Life, our relationship with God restored by His gift to us, we read in Genesis how we are God’s creation.

However we interpret the creation narrative in Genesis, I think it is very clear that God created for good and created in love. This particularly hit home with me today and chipped away at my constant fear of my own inner badness.

God created light, dark, sky, earth, sea, sun, moon, night and day, every breathing creature, every plant. He created, “and it was so”; he looked “and saw that it was good,”. We are assured ten times “and it was so… and it was good”. Then, to have stewardship of all this good, God created man and woman. You and me. After creating all this good, would He make His stewards bad? Of course not. He created us good. Not only did He create us good but “God created mankind in His image.” He made us in His image and gave to us stewardship of all His wonderful creation, for our joy, for our nourishment, for our good. He looked on us, “and indeed it was very good.”

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His love never changes or ceases. He created us good, for good. You and I are first and foremost good and loved by God. Loved so much that He created us in His image. Loved so much that however much we mess up, He still desires our good, and calls us back to Him, through His own Son’s suffering, death on the Cross and rising again. God wants the best for us just as He wanted the best for us from the first moment of creation, from the instant He conceived us in His loving heart and brought us into being to be loved by Him, to love Him, and to love one another as He loves us.

And indeed, it is very good.

Happy Easter.

Ginny xxx

For you alone and all of you

Today is Good Friday. Today at 3pm we commemorate Our Lord Jesus’ passion and death for us on the cross.

It is more than a commemoration. As we pray, as we venerate the cross, as we approach the altar and receive Jesus, Body and Blood given for us, we take part in the sacrifice He makes for us and the redemption that flows from His Sacred Heart.

On a Good Friday several years ago, the Priest gave the briefest and possibly most powerful sermon I have ever heard. After the reading of the narrative of Christ’s Passion he simply said: Jesus did this for you, and He would have done it for only you. That very simple amazing truth about the cross lifted me right into the arms of Our Lord.

At the Cross, if I only stop there and look at my Jesus, there is no hiding and no pride. None of my sin, need, failure, weakness, pain, despair, is bigger than what He did on the Cross. And none of my pain, longing or grief is too small or stupid for Jesus to care about either, even the things I try to hide from everyone because I feel they are so childish or bad. Jesus did this for me and for all of me.

It is really hard for me to comprehend a love that wants all of me. So often I set myself apart, sure that this love cannot be for me really because I am too bad inside, sure of an angry God and that I deserve punishment. As a child my abusers convinced me utterly of my evil, the awful things I did and would do and the awful intentions and desires that were inside me. They set up a world where I believed they were the only ones who knew the terrible person I really was and the only ones who could stop the terrible consequences if I did what they demanded. They proclaimed their love for me but looking back I don’t know how I understood this love or how the supposed love was shown. In a way might it have been simpler if they just outright hated me?!

The understanding of me and of love that this left me with is so far from the love of God. He created us in His image. When we messed up, He sent His Son Jesus, right into our dark and confused world, drawing us back to follow Him to God the Father. He didn’t demand our perfection. Rather the opposite. He takes on all our imperfection, suffers and dies for us, and rises again, so that weak as we are we can do the same and follow Him to His Father’s house. The fact Jesus wants me, only me, all of me, is something it will take me a long long time to truly understand. The Cross is a good place to start and ask Jesus for the grace for His truth to replace the lies and confusion in my heart, so that I can lay down all of me and let Him love me, even though for all the years I have so wanted to believe, I don’t know yet what this kind of love is.

My prayer for you today is that Jesus show you tenderly how He loves all of you.

Ginny xxx

With thanks:

Image 1 from Mount Carmel Edmonton

Image 2 from Slideshare.net

Image 3 with thanks to Bertha Chelemu from Sermon quotes.com

Gesthemane

Today is Holy Thursday, or Mandy Thursday. Today we remember – and share in – Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, the Last Supper where He gave His Body and His Blood for us, so that we should never be apart from Him again. We also recall Jesus’ prayer and suffering that night in the garden of Gesthemane. We wait and watch in prayer.

I was not well enough physically or mentally to go to Mass tonight and watching at the altar. I have been trying to pray, read, listen at home. I wanted to find some words to say, some hopeful answer or some words to write here…. and I can’t. I don’t know what is happening to me. And I feel so guilty. In the liturgy of today, my God and Saviour Jesus has just given the most indescribable gift to us that makes us one with Him forever. He is about to suffer death for us. For me, so that I am lifted up with Him in His resurrection to God. And what do I feel? I feel empty, blank and cannot see for panic and hurt and darkness. Right when I should be thankful, grateful, filled with hope. Maybe what I most hate about this illness, and about myself as I am with this illness, is that unbearable emotions block out everything even what I most believe to be truth.

Jesus asks his disciples “Will you not watch one hour with me?” They also struggled. They were overcome with exhaustion, confusion, grief and fear. Jesus went away a little distance to pray and returned to find them sleeping.

Will you not watch one hour with me?

Here I am, Lord Jesus. My Jesus, I am here, but I do not know what to do or say. I am with You, yet I fear. You give Yourself to me, yet I lose hope. You died for me, yet I deny You and forget You when I despair and when I am consumed by anger or fear. You call me Your own, but I do not know who I am and I’m terrified of what is inside me, of my “others”. You are Love, You made me to love, but when it matters most, I do not feel.

Right after the Last Supper, came the darkness and agony of Gesthemane. Christ was still to go through His ultimate suffering and sacrifice. There was still the Cross, and still the Resurrection, without which everything before would have been meaningless. The way was not instantly rejoicing and light and the disciples did not yet understand what was to come and that Jesus would be risen from the dead. But the darkness and confusion did not mean Jesus’ love was gone away. It did not mean He had abandoned us. Rather, in suffering His love was about to be poured out for the whole world. Everything and everyone was part of His redemptive plan.

Please Lord Jesus, help me know that when it is dark You have not abandoned me. Please help me lay down now the terror of what I am, the terror that I am beyond Your help and beyond Your love. Because that denies the enormity of what You did for us, when I think You came for everyone but me. Here I am Lord, all of me. Please give me the grace to know You came for me.

Xxx

Resurrection eggs

I have been making some little gifts for the elderly at the Christian day centre where I volunteer. This isn’t my own idea – I came across a similar project on YouTube for “resurrection eggs”. I bought a set of plastic eggshells from a craft store and filled the insides with not only some chocolates but also a Scripture passage I wrote out, a different one for each person. There are a few different versions of this project and often pictures are put in numbered eggs which are opened to tell the Easter story to children. For the day centre I chose to include passages that share God’s mercy and that we are tenderly loved by Him. Please God it will bring some encouragement to our visitors next week (we still celebrate the joy of Easter beyond Easter Sunday!).

Copying out the passages today gave me a little bit of help as I have been extremely low and feeling I’m sinking, not able to carry on. I need to keep reaching out.

You can find the YouTube video by Taming the Frizz, that inspired me HERE .

Ginny xxx

Trying not to choose destructive “safety”

I’m buzzing with anxiety and I don’t know what about. There are loads of things I have been really worried and upset about. But I can’t work out what’s bothering me right now. My stomach is knotted around a cold ache. An actual physical pain. My head feels the same as when my thoughts spiral but there aren’t any thoughts I can catch, just dizzy blankness. My legs are shaky and I’ve lost balance several times. It’s different from the dizziness and fainting that comes with the POTS. I wish I could make it stop. My tablets I regularly take in the evening usually sedate me a bit but it isn’t working. If I could walk for ages, or go running, maybe it would channel the feeling out of me (but I can’t since I can only walk a few yards with crutches).

If I knew why it would help. It’s scarier when the feeling is separated from thoughts. The emotional state seems to have a tighter and limitless hold on me even if rationally I ought to know it will pass. An emotion that shouldn’t be unbearable becomes so because of confusion, fear, and I realise now, the dread that is wrapped up in the associations of previous experiences of this emotion (abuse, being trapped, feeling guilty, feeling unable to stop terrible things happening because of me).

I desperately want to numb it and stop it. Drink, or cut, or binge, or take enough tablets to knock me into sleep. That seems to be the default response my mind and body make. I’m asking God to help me stay right here and feel and know I am with Jesus. This week leading up to Easter we are particularly close to Him in the suffering He went through so we could be with Him. In this small struggle that feels big right now, He hasn’t left me. I will keep on reaching out for His hand, praying and reminding myself of His goodness. Every moment is His way of coming to us now and sometimes we are with Him on a steep path, a storm or a lonely place. What matters is we are with Him.

It seems I’m saying what I really want to believe, rather than give in to the false security of numbness through destructive actions.

Jesus, please hold me, Mother Mary, please help me.

To be continued…

Ginny xxx

Easter crafts – letting the light shine through

We made stained glass window pictures this week at the day centre where I volunteer with elderly people. In a small group we made three pictures – loaves and fish, the Cross and the sun rising above a tomb with the stone rolled away. Here’s the Cross (please excuse the scribbling where I’ve removed anything that could have identified the location; I’m probably being over-cautious but still…):

I made the templates and then we laid them on laminator pages, filled the designs in with tissue papers then added the top sheet and laminated them. This gave them a shiny finish. Once cut out we attached them to window panes to let the light shine through. My inspiration came from a YouTube video of Christian seasonal craft ideas.

It was trickier to do than I’d expected and tested my patience! The tissue paper did not stay in place easily especially when people with limited movement were handling it. Too easily it could be knocked, or the static between the tissue and the laminator sheets pulled pieces out of place. Surprisingly perhaps, all the clients enjoyed it and persevered. It helped that this week everyone seemed curious and wanted to be involved. With clients who often feel depressed or otherwise unwell, this isn’t always the case. This week the clients’ enjoyment encouraged me to keep going even when I thought everything was going to go pear shaped.

Thanks to one of the other staff members we were able to read a bit about how stained glass was and is made and where the colours come from.

We were very happy to do an activity strongly rooted in the hope of Easter. Of course compassion and generosity and love underly everything we do with the clients and we almost always learn, discover and receive blessings as well. However we wanted to do something explicitly exploring God’s gift to us at Easter. In our pictures, each side of the central Cross, the bread and fish represent Jesus’ presence amongst us, His feeding us, His Body given for us 2000 years ago and still on all the altars of the world; the empty tomb and rising sun represent God’s Son Jesus rising from the dead, as He is with us on earth so He is lifting us up to Heaven to be with Him where He is gone. The Cross itself we decorated in bright colours not dark. The Cross is deepest suffering but also and inseparably, our only hope, because there Jesus restored the ruptured relationship between God and man, so that we can now joyfully call Him Heavenly Father. There God’s light shines through to heal our broken hearts.

This Lent time seems to be passing faster and faster for me and I’ve felt I’m grasping at desperate moments to pray between crises, responsibilities, pain and dissociation. It was important to me to have this little time trying to reflect on the Easter promise with those Jesus loves so much, the frail and lonely. Thank you, Lord.

I’m praying for moments of peace throughout your every day.

Ginny xxx

One massive punch

WARNING: contains a very brief mention of eating disorders and abuse in childhood

Well. It’s kind of ironic given my post yesterday about uncertainty in relationships. At least the uncertainty in the particular relationship I had in mind at the end of the post has been cleared up. Cleared up with one massive blow. I’ve rarely felt more hurt and betrayed and rejected though I’m not sure quite why the impact has been so consuming.

I have tried to talk with my friend about what has happened in our relationship over the past months / couple of years and some of how I’ve been feeling.

After a line of further rejections from her, her not hearing when I tried to be honest and explain some most painful things, her not believing as far as I can see, what I experience and what has happened to me in the past – today she told me I have no reason to feel upset or hurt or angry, that I have no right to feel as I do, that because I have a feeling does not mean it is right, that I am to come before God and see if I have any moral right to feel as I do because I don’t, I am to push it down and rise above it.

I was filled with a massive surge of anger and raw hurt. It has not stemmed any in the hours since.

Coupled with her rejection of me and her disbelief or at least dismissal and ignoring of severely traumatic things that have happened to me in my childhood and right now, it was an immensely hurtful judgement of me. And how strange she thinks that she has the power to decide what feelings I am morally allowed to experience and what is real and what is not.

The terrors associated with feelings I thought were sinful, feelings I was not allowed, feelings that were so dangerous, that I had to atone for and punish myself for, were together with my terror of my ultimate evil, the way that I got to life threatening anorexia and then bulimia, daily self harm, overdosing and attempting to end my life. These feelings kept me submissive and within my abuser’s control. The feelings my friend’s judgement of my experience, my feelings, their and my morality, where I stand with God, the truth and validity of what has happened to me, brought in me straight back there again. Straight away my impulse was to cut and make myself vomit. But something had happened to my legs and I was shaking too much to do anything and perhaps that was blessed protection. I just cried.

It hurts worse because this came from one of the very few people I trusted. Someone I shared things with. Someone who brought me to the church and whose child is my godson. Thank the dear Lord I did not share with her the very worst of the abuse I suffered. If I had I don’t think I’d cope in any way now. I already feel violated again. Tricked, ripped apart, judged, rejected, punished, blamed.

As well as the hurt that’s making me go to pieces, I wanted to scream – feelings are not a sin. I have many reasons to feel very hurt, angry, scared… Feelings are not moral or immoral. Who is she to judge what I have a moral right to feel? I have a massive amount of pain and hurt and yes sometimes anger about the abuse. That is normal. Yes, when I’m not believed, dismissed and rejected and abandoned when I’m most desperate, that cuts a little deeper every time and yes emotionally I end up right back where I was in the terror of the abuse. This is not a sin or something I have to crush. I am not a sugar plaster “saint” too “holy” to have any feeling but happiness and superficial love, floating on some supernatural plane disconnected from every real feeling. That’s what she wants. I am not that figure. I am bleeding.

She was the last person left, outside this blog and community and apart from my therapist, with whom I had the depth of trust I thought I did. Perhaps it’s as well it’s gone. I will be very very careful indeed in the future (even more than I already am) about what closeness I allow to develop.

But the hurt is consuming. I am falling into pieces. Shattering. I haven’t gone home yet as I was scared what I’d do and of being alone. But I’m exhausted now and I have to go home. I’ll stay safe somehow. If I can’t I’ll have to go to A&E. I tried to get to the safe place I’ve been to before but they are full tonight.

Ginny xxx

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

The dear friend I wrote of in my last post, Father S, passed away last Saturday, a day after I had last visited him. Today was his funeral. It was a very hard but beautiful goodbye.

Father S was a Priest at my friend’s church. He was long retired however continued to serve and minister to his congregation – and to so many more, such as me. I came to know him through another good friend (the same who initially brought me to the faith); I have never lived in his Parish however he took such care of me and I know he prayed for me daily.  I can only imagine how much he is missed by those who knew him longer and more than I did.

Father S was an extremely humble, quiet and private person. He drew no importance or attention to himself. He worked, prayed, cared and gave of himself generously, not seeking recognition, never appearing discouraged, astoundingly giving continually even when there came nothing tangible in return. I think, indeed the Priest who gave the homily at the funeral said, that Father S has no doubt reached and helped far more people than we yet know or than he himself even knew.

I do not think his path was ever smooth. He moved between continents. He converted between churches and subsequently felt the call to become a Priest and dared to answer. I do not think he had many people to care for him in his early life, and he has lost and left behind many family members since. He suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, throughout I believe, the majority of his life, particularly in his later years. He faced intense physical pain and weakness, major health problems, increasing fatigue, struggles to get around. He suffered not only the mental cost and hurt of those things, but also deep distress, fear and sadness. Through all this, he continued to work and to give so much in friendship.

Only very occasionally did he brush the surface of what he went through, physically and psychologically. I knew and gathered a little from prayer, conversations and letters exchanged with him, and learned more today at the funeral. Though he did not make much of his suffering, he did not sugar coat things either. He did not pretend everything was fine, or not to care, or that he did not struggle, or that he had all the answers, or that we must be strong and healthy, or that all is happiness when we walk in the way of Our Lord. He lived and gave in every moment, acknowledging what exactly it brought, never turning his gaze away from Jesus and never fleeing. He taught me to begin to hold fast to Our Lord of love – seek Him in whatever is happening right now and hold fast (rather than running in fear from an image of a God I have created from all my fears and the torment going on in my head in my illness).

When I visited him the day before he died, all the more than ever, I sensed that he was very close to God. He had become much sicker very quickly at the end. On the way to see him that last day, primarily I was desperately hoping I would be in time. I was not afraid, but I did feel some uncertainty and anxiety as well as the sadness. How would I find him and what would be the right things to do? I have sat with the dying before, having worked in a hospice and having lost other elderly friends at a nursing home I used to volunteer at. Time somehow seems to change; it is not a bad thing, but indescribable; perhaps it is a result of so much that can pose a barrier to communicating, giving and loving, being stripped away. We are left bare and vulnerable faced with the finality of the separation of death. It need not be all sad. Somehow, in precious time like that, what we cannot express as we may wish to in words, can perhaps be communicated between our souls as we are held together by the Love that encompasses all of us. In our defencelessness, the stronger hold the love of God has.

In that visit as I talked with Father S, knelt and prayed with him, I felt I knew heaven was near and Mother Mary’s arms were around us. Kneeling beside him I told him some of the truest things I have been so afraid to admit. I thanked him as I should have thanked him much, much earlier and more often. Father S is one of the people whose encouragement, prayer and friendship has held me up when I have been at the very darkest times and he has played no small part in saving my life when I was at a point that I was going to try to end it. Kneeling beside his bed I prayed as I have not been able to pray for many long months. I felt that already, in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus, Father S was drawing me after him, just as Jesus draws us after Him. In his prayer and his life that he had offered totally to God, he was drawing me out of fear to learn to know, perhaps for the first time, a God of love.

There was no ceremony, no astounding event in the moment when Father S passed. There were no visions, no glorious rays of light, no voice from heaven, no odour of roses. There was quiet, and love, and friendship, and hearts reaching out in prayer and thanksgiving to God alone. In the same way as he lived, he died, quietly, with those who loved Him, everything offered and united to the God of love He told us so plainly about in his words and his life. He died on the feast of St John Paul II (whom he loved), just before 3.00pm, the same hour at which Our Lord Jesus died. I feel that Our Lady and St John Paul came to carry him to Jesus.

I pray that now he knows in heaven the fullness of joy with the Lord he has reached out for, for so long; that he also now sees all the good he has done, especially that which remained hidden whilst he was on earth. I know so many hearts here below are full of thanks for him.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you,

May they speed you to paradise;

May the Lord enfold you in His mercy,

May you find eternal life.

(From Song of Farewell, by Ernest Sands)

Image thanks to pixabay.com – https://pixabay.com/en/banner-header-christmas-candles-880323/