Monday, 27 September 2010

Dear church, an open letter

Dear church,

This is just a letter to try to explain how I'm feeling and why. How I am feeling is shorter to explain: deeply sad with occasional tinges of angry and a side of lonely would just about sum it up.

I'm not blaming you for this, I know I'm rubbish at explaining things and at vocalising my needs and how can you know what I need if I don't say? It's so hard being the only Christian in your family. Then add in being sick, to the point where dealing with everyday things like getting dressed and brushing your hair and remembering to take your pills were all challenging and tiring and a struggle, and maybe you can begin to see the problem? I struggle with daily existence, tired is a wholly inadequate word for describing just how exhausted I am, even on a supposedly "good" day (and there aren't a lot of those about, they're nearly as rare as dodos). This is physical exhaustion so profound that it feels like you are being dragged down by gravity and total mental exhaustion that means that thinking is incredibly hard work, it is like having a scrambled brain with only occasional patches where the mist clears. Add in physical pain and having joints as stiff as the average great-granny and a host of minor ailments, as well as a daily battle to keep my mood stable and maybe my absence from church seems more understandable?

I used to love church on a Sunday, at uni before I got so sick I'd go to the morning and the evening service and it was the highlight of my week. I'm not a slacker and it's not that I can't be bothered - I miss church, I miss coming together with other Christians and sharing that precious fellowship and worship. But I find church services too much and too difficult, the noise, lots of people, the journey there and back, the pain from sitting in the pews, the crippling cold - when I did used to make it to church it was wearing all my warmest clothes and with a hot water bottle - the length of the service, not being able to stand for any length of time, not being able to sing for more than about half a song, not being able to follow the sermon and the frustration of not being able to do the things I once loved are all too much. When I realised that by midweek Life group I still hadn't recovered from the previous Sunday and that my whole week was dominated by crashing from church, if I made it, I realised that I needed to put church on hold until I got a bit better. Unfortunately conversely despite my best efforts my health has declined further since then so returning is not yet possible. I put church on hold because I was spending most of the weekend worrying and feeling guilty about whether or not I should go to church, whether or not I was well enough or just being lazy. The self doubt, guilt and questioning was driving me to madness. Taking that decision was so freeing, though very sad.

I do try to keep up with the sermons from home, but there I can pause and restart and rewind the sermon as often as I need to in order to follow the message. I also try to get to Life group as much as I can, after all without it I would get no church whatsoever, but even that has become periodic, particularly lately during the latest crash. In order to get to Life group I have to rest up all of Wednesday during the day, avoid scheduling medical appointments that day and avoid doing too much on Thursday so I can recover afterwards (going out in the evenings tends to mean I can't sleep until very late that night). Even making these efforts I don't make it much... and once I'm there staying awake, staying physically comfortable (not in pain etc.) concentrating and at times just the noise of being in a room full of people can make it really hard.

I know that this is long and laying the situation on with a trowel, but I spend so much time trying to downplay how I feel and trying to appear "normal" that I tend not to talk about how I feel or say what's on my mind. I hate to feel I'm trying to make anyone else who says they're tired or not feeling well feel like I'm trying to "compete" or "trump them" by going on about how awful I feel - I get enough health related competition at home. Therefore maybe you don't know what I need? Or that I'm feeling sad and lonely and sometimes angry because I'm by myself and feel neglected. Seeing Marion has helped, but not enough I'm afraid. Her coming does mean that I see another Christian at least every six weeks or so, but how would you cope in the intervening weeks not seeing another Christian or hearing from any? Having no one to pray with, no one to encourage and being encouraged by, no one to discuss Christian matters with, no fellowship.

I do understand that everyone is busy, everyone has so much on, there's all these committees and rotas that need filling and I wish I could help. If I could help I would. And I hate having to ask for help, not just because of pride, but because I know that I'm a burden on you all and so useless and unable to help you. But it's such hard work trying to keep faith alive and lively on your own and I'm feeling so worn down, unrefreshed and dry. I suppose what I'm asking is if there is any chance anyone has some time to come and spend with me, reading the Bible, praying, talking about Jesus, telling me about all the things our new vicar is doing, chatting, telling me about yourself, what you're up to, what's happening in your life, what you love, what makes you laugh. My life is so boring, I love hearing about you. Even replying to my emails would be a start. I know there are lots of opportunities for fellowship organised by the church, but as I've said, I'm just not well enough to take them up. You wouldn't have to visit (or go out for coffee) for long (in fact it's far better if you don't because being with other people is tiring, but very worthwhile), or even very often. But surely someone or some people could spare a bit of time every month or fortnight? Even just for the odd email?

Sorry to go on for so long, I find it so much easier to talk in written words than in spoken words. And sorry if this sounds accusatory or attacking, it's not meant to be, but I've got to say this somehow or I'll never have any peace or stop feeling so sad.

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus,

love Stephanie

P.S. some prayer for healing wouldn't come amiss either.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

green tomato chutney anyone?

As our tomatoes aren't in the main getting any riper I've cut our losses today and picked them. Dad now gets to make green tomato chutney - something he's been gleefully looking forward to ever since all those tomato plants first started appearing. We can't complain too much about them not ripening since we didn't plant a single one of those tomato plants - they propagated themselves from tomato seeds in the compost we make from our food waste. That said I think another year I would water them less vigorously during the hotter weather as I think this encouraged them to grow very tall and produce a lot of leaf, but not flower. It has been an odd growing year, particularly with that cold spell in May just as everything should have got going.

Our runner beans are still providing us with plenty to eat - I was left with so many earlier this week and only me to eat them that I have blanched and frozen around 30 beans for eating at our leisure. Typical that my parents go away just as we have a glut. I'll put photos of them up later - I'm very tired from my picking activities.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


I committed a piece of terrible extravagance today: I bought a new pair of slippers, even though my old ones aren't worn out yet! Shocking I know. They are my favourite shade of teal/bluey-green, what can I say? That said I do spend most of my autumn through to spring (so most of the year) wearing slippers, especially as I'm mainly around the house. One sign of declining health has been my outdoor shoes lasting far longer than they used to. So now I have "smart slippers", for occasion wear, cocktail parties and the like; and everyday slippers for more prosaic occasions like knitting and listening to the radio.

In the same outing (yes, I managed to get out of the house for the first time since last Tuesday! hurrah!) I treated myself to some bright red plaid pyjamas with Scottie dogs on the pocket. They are brushed cotton, heavenly soft and warm, so warm.

But the most especially exciting discovery of the day has got to be the discovery that there is a fourth series of The Good Life!!!!!!! How did I not know this?! The DVD seems to be being re-released so in a week or so I will be in DVD heaven, watching new episodes I've never seen before! If you have never heard of The Good Life I should explain that it is a 1970s sitcom starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith about a couple who decide to go in for self sufficiency in suburbia and the trials and tribulations it causes their status conscious neighbours. There are some serious ideas at the heart of the series about the way we live our lives and it resonates now, but more than that despite the obvious signs that we are in the 1970s of flares and the like, it still remains fresh, very well acted and most importantly funny. Watch it, watch it now!

I just have to survive until around 22nd September when I'll get my DVD, how hard can it be?!
On the whole today hasn't been a bad day, though a tired one and I still have the stupid migraine I've had all week and left to myself I'm still inclined to get gloomy, but I think I'm moving in the right direction on the whole. Hopefully and God willing.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Why I'm feeling sad

I think I have realised why I'm feeling sad, it's because I'm feeling rather lonely. I haven't been well enough for church group for a little while now and I haven't seen any other Christians in ages, which is so hard. What I'm longing for is some fellowship, talking about Jesus, reading the Bible, getting into it with another person or other people, praying together and for one another. And I'm so nervous of asking because I've had so many brush offs and disappointments in the past when asking for help, so many times been told simply "to rely on God" and stop asking. And of course everyone's busy. It's all so silly and I'm sure there's a logical way out of it.

At least I got some more sleep last night. I can't think of anyone to say all this to, so I'm saying it to a blog, shouting it into the internet.

Now to pick myself off, dust myself off and give myself a stiff talking to about how bad and pointless self pity is!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Putting together thoughts

Beans in situ

I've been wanting to blog for a while now but been having difficulty working out how to put into words and sentences and paragraphs exactly what I wanted to say or even pinning down the thoughts I wanted to capture. So I thought a list of what I've been thinking and feeling and experiencing might work better.1. Desperate for decent sleep, haven't been sleeping well recently, really takes its toll
2. We've had some good runner beans from the garden, our record for one day last week was seven (pictured below) but today Dad picked 11 - which was enough for us to have just homegrown beans for tea, no bought ones added in. A small horticultural achievement perhaps, but one of which we are proud. Dad keeps talking about how many beans he could grow on a couple of acres.3. I've been knitting a new jumper Cream Puff Pullover, started a week and a half ago and one inch away from splitting the whole body to do the shoulder/armhole shaping. If it keeps up at this rate it will be the fastest jumper I've ever knit, I'm loving it. The gorgeous yarn is helping too - King Cole Merino Blend in Kingfisher, great value and feels so soft, with that 'proper wool' sproing to it.
4. Our tomatoes are mainly still green, it looks like we'll shortly be making green tomato chutney.
5. Weight watchers seems to be going OK, I've so far lost 6lbs in 3 weeks, which seems to be a good rate of loss, here's hoping I can keep it up.
6. My obsession with ratatouille continues unabated. So delicious, so low in points (virtually none... except for a bit of olive oil) and yet so filling. I'm half way through my second batch since I started WW. Before anyone starts worrying about my diet becoming monotonous - it's OK, I've got a Weight watchers cook book on the way and one on "seasonal salads", should be nice to get some new ideas.
7. I got a cool new case for my crochet hooks, I'd had vague thoughts of making my own but couldn't see how I'd be able to avoid having to put a zip in and I'd rather not spend my time wrestling zips, so in the end I went for the lazy route and bought one.
I've called him Oswald, after the Northumbrian king, in tribute to the brilliant lectures by Professor Rollason at Durham.
8. Despite needing more yarn about as much as a hole in the head I fell for some more yarn by my favourite indie-dyer Violet Green today, a second in rainbow bright colours which was seconded because of green flecks, which I presume were initially unintended. I'm never deterred by green flecks and the yarn looked so gorgeous and so I just had to buy it, after all, we disabled have got to stick together!
9. Because of feeling extra-awful these past few days I keep feeling sorry for myself and this evening have felt quite miserable, despite the amazing headache pills making today so much more bearable. I'm trying to find new ways to deal with this, ways that don't involve comfort eating, which I used to do far, far too much. I'll admit I did treat myself today to some chocolate, though staying within my "Points". I think this may be one reason why the jumper is going so fast. For now I'm just trying to ride it out, "this too will pass" as they always say.
10. To try to occupy myself with something positive and encouraging, rather than because I "should", I have been catching up with the sermons from church, the one from a couple of weeks ago I just listened to cut home in some interesting ways, about how we need to engage with Jesus, it's something I've struggled with of late, I feel like I'm drifting along and don't really know how to get onto any sort of course. I'm doing my best to keep my relationship with Jesus going and stay close, but I feel so tired and jaded, like I've been through so much and just can't keep going on. I need to grapple with some of this, but somehow lack the energy and strength, because I have so little of it and I'm just so tired. I keep reminding myself of Matthew 11:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I don't know the answer to all this, partly because I'm not entirely sure of the question(s). Spending time with Jesus seems important though.

There: some random thoughts in ten points, very neat and tidy. Now I'm for bed, hopefully to sleep.