Seeing through it…

Here in the UK, it’s ‘Bake Off’ season (a TV contest for home bakers) and once again we’re being shown the importance of the ‘windowpane test’. This is a way of discovering whether dough has been sufficiently kneaded – if it can be stretched to the point that light can shine through it, it indicates that the gluten is well developed and the dough is ready to rise.

photo source http://pinchmysalt.com

It strikes me that the same can apply to us. It can be the people whom life knocks about, and who are stretched to unimagined points, that can end up with light shining through them.
Stories come to mind of people who were abused, helping others seeking freedom; people who’ve known what it is to be in need, advocating a better state of affairs for the disadvantaged; people familiar with disability or depression, offering empathy and empowerment to those facing difficulties.

As a believer, I trust that God will never stretch me beyond my limit. While we cannot always choose our circumstances, we can decide how we react.
Truth is, after months of physical and emotional challenges, I feel like a bit of pummelled dough and I find that my responses are variable!
In my better moments, I take a step back, and see the whole picture with small shafts of light shining through.
In my darker moments, I struggle to see clearly, until I realise that God the Master Baker is at work, rising from the ingredients of everyday life.

Trevor Dennis, retired Dean of Chester Cathedral and author of The Three Faces of Christ, has likened God to a baker:

My God was in the middle of baking bread and up to her elbows in flour, and she came out to just to see me. I didn’t know she wore a pinny!
She came right up to me and gave me a great big hug. Like no hug I’d ever had before. And that was my judgement day. I’ve never been the same since. And I still have the marks of God’s floury hands on my back. Everyone does up here.

Dough is transformed by kneading. It responds to warm firm handing, so I’m going to see it through, hoping that God’s light will shine through it all…

Truth is… Remember that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.  (I Corinthians 10:13)

Smitten by mittens…

My ten-month-old granddaughter has very busy hands and enjoys exploring her ever expanding world by touching everything within grasp!
The various toddler groups she goes to, are all a long walk away, so she needs a hat, coat and mittens to keep warm in her pushchair. She is however, out of alignment with her Mum on this matter – time and time again she pulls off her mittens and despite Mum’s best efforts, eventually ends up cold and miserable.

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Sometimes I’m a bit like my granddaughter – I do things that aren’t conducive to my wellbeing – despite God nudging me to make a better choice.  As the saying goes ‘old habits die hard…’
Many years ago, I needed to lose weight, but by the time I reached a healthy point, my mind had been hijacked by an unhealthy urge to keep losing. It had nothing to do with body image and everything to do with hidden depression.
Although I now appear to be reasonably recovered, truth is, deep within old thought patterns die hard.

This week though, the story of the mittens is helping me move on from habits that are way past their ‘best before’ date. I want to live life to the full, and to do this, I need to be fully nourished. So rather than appeasing any urge to eat in an unbalanced way, I’m being mindful of the truth contained in the words (attributed to various people including Einstein and Ford)

If you always do what you always did
you’ll always get what you always got

I guess that we are all addicted to something in our lives. We can probably all find a word that completes the sentence ‘My name is … and I’m an …’
But we are more than our addiction to alcohol, pornography, gambling, drugs, food, social media, perfection or whatever our vice is. As a believer, I’m smitten by the truths brought together by Desmond Tutu:

Goodness is stronger than evil.
Love is stronger than hate.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours through Him who loved us.

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May I keep on these ‘mittens’ of truth, and grow into my true self…

Truth is… “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come2 Corinthians 5:17

The Best Is Yet To Come…

Twice this week I’ve found myself in conversation with people who feel that the best is yet to come (actually it’s three times, if I include conversations I’ve had with myself!)
Following a bit of a frustrating day, one friend was telling me that he’d had one of those ‘why on earth am I doing this job’ moments. He has many gifts and abilities (as we all have) but has a sense that there’s something more fulfilling for him to do in life.
We talked a bit about how differences can be made to other peoples’ lives by the little things we do, and that ‘waiting times’ needn’t be wasted times.

I too am in a time of waiting. I’m waiting for acute depression to lift. I’m waiting for a Hearing Dog to enable me to return to employment. I’m waiting for relationships to mend. None of this is passive, I am actively finding ways forward, and I am holding on to the words a chaplain said to me many years ago: “The best is yet to come”.
Wonderfully, those exact words are on the front of a card just given to me by another friend.

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They remind me that I don’t have to persuade God to make life fulfilling,
nor does God need to persuade me that there is more to life than meets the eye.
It’s not about being persuaded, it’s about connecting with our deepest desires.

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I believe that God doesn’t want anything other than that we fulfil our potential.
But truth is, when life doesn’t seem to go according to plan, I sometimes doubt God has got the ‘what, when and where’ details to hand!

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Gradually though, I’m coming to recognise that life lived in the company of God can have a ‘lastminute.com’ feel to it.
The ‘departure gate’ for the next step of our journey through life, only opens when we are actually ready to step through.
So this week I’ve remembered that in fog, pilots keep to a flight path by trusting their navigation instruments, and I’ve realigned myself with the Truth which is at the heart of what matters.

Truth is… I know what I’m doing. I have plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for” Jeremiah 29:11

Know It All…

My local Medical Centre has changed its appointment system.
I’m an infrequent user, so I didn’t know how it worked until this week. I had a temperature, rash, sickness and hearing loss, and was told the earliest I could be seen was next month!
I questioned the delay and a phone consultation followed. The doctor quickly attributed the rash to a “fungal infection”, and the other symptoms to “depression”.  I felt at the end of the line, in more ways than one!

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I got the feeling that he’d taken one look at my medical record, seen the word ‘depression’, and concluded this explained everything. Thank goodness that’s not the end of the story. I subsequently saw another GP who did a thorough examination and concluded that it’s a pesky virus.

All this got me thinking though, and humour gives a different perspective.
There was something outrageous in my full-size-Jackson-Pollock-effect-rash being attributed to depression!
As I metaphorically raised my eyebrows, my perspective shifted and I wondered how things had seemed from the doctor’s end.
He was right, depression can have a negative impact on health and cause all kinds of symptoms.
He was right, I do happen to have a diagnosis of depression.

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However, at that point he missed the point. He had no idea how depression actually affects me because he’s never met me, and didn’t ask any leading questions.
In actual fact, I have lived with a ‘black dog’ for years and I now have it very well trained. I always keep it on a short leash, and have learnt many skills to keep it walking to heel. It does not bark, nor does not bite other people.

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But truth is, there are times when like the doctor, I too make ‘misdiagnoses’ about people and situations. I sometimes think I’ve got the picture but I haven’t. I’ve not listened carefully enough to what’s been said – or not said.  I’ve made assumptions or jumped to conclusions.
So, this week God’s reminded me to never be a know it all – because I don’t!

Truth is… ‘Never rely on what you think you know’ Proverbs 3:5