Tag Archives: church

Fractured

I would be a long way away from this episode if I was going to blog the episodes chronologically in order. But I feel as though this is an important part of who I am and what I’ve been going through, and how I got to where I am. So I will dispense with order and chronology and just go ahead and skip to the end.

My lovely new friend, Christian Janeway and I have had to clarify on twitter that we are not the same person, just two ex-fundies who had a similar idea.

It’s true.

But Christian Janeway went on to say that whereas she chose her Janeway character and blog to catalogue her exit from complementarian theology around marriage, and I had embraced mine and later decided to become egalitarian.

That’s not quite the case, and I’ll attempt to explain why. Firstly, the dichotomy between completarian and egalitarian marriage is not quite as polarised in the UK as it is in the US. Certainly, conservative churches would lean towards complementarianism where more liberal churches would lean towards egalitarianism, it is not such a big issue over here as it is over there.

My Chakotay is not a religious man, and as far as he would be concerned, we have an egalitarian marriage. I happen to have stayed at home and adopted a more traditional role but not because he asked me to or because he forced me to (far from it). It was more a case of falling into it when children came along, but also additionally – because I had put myself under such very conservative teaching again as a young wife and mother – I forced myself into this role. I actually gave up my degree to follow him in his job. He would never have asked it of me, but I unselfishly submitted! (And I’m sure he never knew anything about it, just assumed it was what I wanted).

Even the homeschooling, when it came along was not for any conservative or religious reasons – my eldest child seemed to have mental and emotional issues (which we thought at the outset might be ADHD and have turned out to be Asperger’s), which made learning at home seem to be the best option. But of course that was the route back into fundamentalism for me.

Fifteen-twenty years later, I can see that forcing myself into a role for which I did not have adequate emotional resources or any outside support has done damage both to me and possibly to my children on many levels, including mental and emotional and academic. But whether going to school would have helped is debatable – my eldest child’s worst trauma actually happened at school when he went in aged 16 to complete his exam year, and I know that a lot of his Aspie friends who did go to school are now in the same position as he is – out of work and isolated.

Looking at my facebook memories around this time, I see that 7 years ago I was planning to leave Chakotay for various reasons, which perhaps I will look at another day, but one of the biggest reasons was his Vulcan inability to communicate and show affection. All these years later, I realise that I probably chose him precisely because he was undemonstrative and not somebody who either felt intensely or would be threatening to me. He does have a temper actually which has exploded on occasion, but really he is very much the gentle man. I may talk about my ex another time, as that was quite a different relationship.

I mention the episode ‘Fractured’ because, not long after our difficulties, I got pregnant with twins (which I was overjoyed about), but later miscarried them at 14 weeks in October 2010, and straight afterwards I was verbally attacked by a couple I knew who had just had a baby. Needless to say, being kicked so cruelly when I was at my lowest ebb was traumatic and impactful to my self-confidence etc. Chakotay’s response was to move us hundreds of miles away out of the city to the most remote place he could find. (Our New Earth)

My response, odd though it may be, was to write but I did it by multiplying my accounts on Twitter and Facebook and WordPress. I ended up with 4 separate facebook accounts, 10 Twitter accounts and 15 sites on WordPress. Yep. Each account had a different name and a different theme. I felt as though it was indicative of my state of mind, as though I myself had fractured into a million pieces.

As some of you will know, I was assaulted by a group of young men in a pub last weekend. It was not a very serious assault, thankfully. Having spoken to the police, it transpires that there was no CCTV and so I shudder to think what could have happened.

But it does reinforce for me the idea that once you have a trauma – especially if it is a childhood trauma – it becomes compounded and almost invites new trauma. I have, over the years, attracted a string of abusive friends (and abusive churches), and I have often joked that I must have a target invisibly tattooed on my forehead that tells potentional abusers “Look, I’m vulnerable! Give me a good old kicking!”

I was actually privileged on Sunday to preach and lead my first service at my current church (which happens to be a Salvation Army). I preached on the goodness and faithfulness of God. I feel as though I have so, so much to say, but this was the topic that impressed itself on my heart.

Is it a coincidence that I was sexually assaulted the very next day? I don’t know. I don’t really know what to think about spiritual warfare, the devil, hell and spiritual things like that generally. The Pentecostal in me is yelling! Are you kidding?! Of course there’s no co-incidence! This was a spiritual attack, to remind me in no uncertain terms that I’m ‘just’ a woman, and probably shouldn’t be preaching. And that message is coming straight from the pit of hell!

The Anglican in me however, a rather more rational, composed creature, can see that it really is probably more a case of having that deep seated vulnerability and unconsciously communicating it (body language? hormones/ pheromones?) as I go through life. The abusers are probably no more consciously aware of it than I am. I just need to learn, somehow, how to protect myself and communicate confidence.

Is it healthy to continue in this fractured state or is there some way to re-integrate and become a whole person again? I don’t know. (I am probably going to delete at least 2 of the facebook accounts, if that helps!) Who do I want to be? Can I be homemaker and writer and preacher?

Chakotay has told me on many occasions that I have freedom, I just don’t take advantage of it. My prison is of my own making. Part of me, certainly, really wants to be a ‘homemaker’ – The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie still look like the ideal life to me. But I’m not very good at it, and actually I think that my trauma comes into play there too. I’m just a little bit dysfunctional.

I’m part of a group on Facebook called ‘Radical Homemakers‘ – a group of (mostly UK) women who have purposely chosen the domesticated life for various reasons, but who are also committed feminists, determined to smash the Patriarchy from home. I do wonder how I got to 40 without realising or understanding what Patriarchy is or how damaging it can be. But I suspect that it probably has something to do with the nature of the debate in the UK. Whether we realise it or not, the churches here are deeply influenced by American theology, but when it is communicated over here, it tends to be more subtle. We don’t even notice it.

What is the way forward? In the episode, they have to inject the bio-neural gel packs with a chroniton-infused serum to take every part of the ship back to the point of the original trauma.

In real life? I think that means going back and facing all those demons, bringing them out into the light to see what they’re made of, and finally defeating them. Obviously it’s a little bit more complex than that, but I think that is the gist of it. I suspect that, if childhood sexual abuse had been involved – which thankfully it wasn’t, it would be a different matter and I don’t know enough about that to know how that can be overcome. But for me, untangling my background of spiritual and church abuse and dysfunctional family is the only way I can be made whole. Will it make me a better homemaker? I don’t know.

I’d like to thank you now, for putting your doubts aside and helping me to put mine aside as well. Good luck to each of you.

LLAP

Kathryn

Wounds to Dress

This blog was originally going to be talking about handicrafts and gardening and cooking and learning to ‘homestead’ through the lens of Janeway and Chakotay finding themselves marooned on New Earth in the Delta Quadrant. I thought it was a good metaphor for my isolated life in rural Cornwall. I still hope to include those aspects – part of me longs for that ‘Good Life’.

But there are other issues which have come to the fore recently – related to my self-named status as a “progressive fundamentalist” which are forcing me to look long and hard at who I am and how I got here.

I have been speaking recently with another Star Trek RP account – Christian Janeway – and I have been amazed at how much we have in common. Conversations on Twitter, and with my children over the last week, have prompted me to recognise just how damaged and damaging I became as a member of a fundamentalist church in my youth and again as a young mother, and so I thought that, in the first instance, I would write a brief summary of what that has entailed. I wasn’t expecting to bare my soul or look deeply into difficult and painful corners, but I think it needs to be done; and as I have said elsewhere many times, my two favourite forms of therapy are Star Trek and writing. Even if nobody reads this and it helps nobody else, I hope it will help me to move on.

Beginnings

When I was very young (this was in the mid 70s through the mid 80s), my parents were happily attending a lively Pentecostal church in a small town north-west of London which happened to have a US ex-pat community. Somehow my parents came in to contact with American fundamentalist Baptist missionaries to England who dazzled them with personality, charisma and authoratative confidence and persuaded them to leave the Pentecostal church – which they convinced them was at best fake and at worst, probably of the devil – and start a new fundamentalist Baptist church with them. Before long there were a number of families and additional children associated with the new church.

I was mostly too young (approximately ages 6-13) to fully comprehend the depth of what was going on, what was being preached, and how my parents were more and more controlled in every area of their lives – to  my conscious mind, all was good, these were the best days of my life – because we saw so much of them, because they often stayed at our house, we were practically living in community with them. Our whole week was in some way or another controlled by the church. It wasn’t just Sunday morning and evening, it was Sunday lunchtime, midweek dinners, Bible study evenings, prayer meetings, members’ meetings, social calls. It was completely engulfing.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that my parents’ mental health was suffering in different ways (my mother later had a mental breakdown, my father expressed it as physical ill health).

We eventually escaped the church in two stages – firstly, the American Missionaries went home on furlough for a year, fully expecting my father (who had been partially trained, for about three years for the pastorate with their organisation) to keep the church going in their absence. What actually happened instead was that my father rebelled and pretty much immediately after the Missionaries left, allowed the families to go to another church during that time.

I don’t know what ire this behaviour invoked when the absent Pastor found out – I’m sure my father would have been on strict instructions to contact somebody else here in the UK from the organisation for assistance rather than allowing the church to close; my father kept everything close to his chest so I don’t know his thought process or decision process. I probably don’t know the half of it. I do know that my father never really ever recovered from the damage they did to him.

When the missionaries returned, they were obviously furious about what had happened and again although I don’t know the details, I can only infer that they made my parents’ lives a little bit hellish and so stage two was to move away from the area altogether. The missionaries were never able to re-establish the church in that area, and were eventually re-located by their organisation.

Initial Results

Right before we moved, I had a serious bicycle accident which was probably a hit and run (my memory of it is very hazy but my bike was definitely run over), in which I sustained a head injury which has affected my health ever since. This led to my mother becoming mentally ill. Around the same time I became mentally ill myself with Anorexia. I always thought that it was linked to my head injury, which it might be, but I am beginning to suspect that it might be an after-effect of the church. I will explore that at a later date.

My parents, prior to my mother’s breakdown, embarked on a search for the perfect church. Still affected by the fundamentalist teaching they had, and despite all the damage it had done to them, the new church had to measure up in some way to the church they had left, so after rejecting several perfectly nice churches, we ended up in another strict Baptist church with its own issues. (No doubt the most serious being that the Sunday School Superintendant was ‘having an affair’ with a 13 year old child. Note it was the 80s, so that was how it was phrased at the time).

When my mum got ill, the church were pretty incredibly useless and unhelpful, not being able to deal with mental illness, so that turned out to be a blessing in disguise and we were able to leave there.

Teenage

I spent some time at a very good church during my teenage years which was gently charismatic. A nice balance, not over-the-top crazy Pentecostal. (It was a Salvation Army by the way – they’re variable, and have their own issues, but I have to say that this was my happiest time and probably the healthiest church I ever attended.) The fact that it was charismatic would have bothered my parents considerably a few years earlier but by that stage they were beginning to realise that some of the fundamentalist teachings had been wrong and harmful, so they let it go. My mother even attended there for a while.

Marriage

To cut a very long story short, I hastily married the first boy I slept with and promptly regretted it, and hastily got into another relationship (with Chakotay). I was pretty consumed by guilt and shame which I had learned under the teachings I had learned early on, and so when I started home educating my children (for totally non-religious reasons!) I soon *put myself* under the teachings of extremely conservative fundamentalist teaching again. Everything was so familiar that I lapped it all up – quiverfull teaching, headcovering, submission for godly wives, corporal punishment for children (which I totally disagree with and regret btw) etc. I literally could not find a physical church conservative enough for me!

Messianic

Probably as a result of that irrational drive to find the most conservative form of Christianity, I started looking at the Messianic movement. I actually spent ten years in Messianic Judaism (one year of which actually involved rejecting the whole thing and seriously trying to convert to mainstream Judaism – another story, for another time), and I hope that I have taken and absorbed the best and most positive aspects. The actual physical fellowship I was involved with were absolutely lovely and kind and generous and unfundamentalist! But there is in Messianic Judaism – principally online, for me, as I’m in the UK – a very fundamentalist thread which is every bit as damaging as mainstream fundamentalism (if that’s a thing).

Unfortunately, I was under those two strains of teaching for long enough (20 years in total plus the original 6 or so) for me to perpetuate some of the abuse that was visited on me onto my children. It was totally unconscious and unintended, and I am utterly mortified at the damage I have done. Icheb, my eldest, seems to have borne the brunt of it all, while the others seem largely unaffected, thankfully.

I don’t quite remember how it happened, but something snapped at some point and I realised that I was part of something really very nasty and unhealthy that was replicating some of the exact same abuses that I had been part of as a child (being told that you must separate from every other sort of Christian, that the rest of the Church is wicked and evil and not of God etc for example).

Exile

Chakotay, who is not a religious man at all (alas, my Chakotay doesn’t even go in for spirituality) tolerated all of the above, mostly blissly ignorant of what was going on in my head, but he could see that I was getting physically and mentally ill and that was affecting the children. So he unilaterally decided to move us – hundreds of miles away from where we were, to a place so rural and isolated that there was no internet. I’m still a little bit angry with him for doing that (and I have mentioned my inability to speak up for myself earlier today). But in actual fact, it was a good call. The last six years have been long and hard and lonely and painful, but removing me from that whole social circle has enabled me to re-evaluate everything and begin to heal.

In many ways, he is my hero, and I am so grateful that he is such a gentle, kind, slow-to-wrath kind of man. He is certainly not without fault, but he has been so much more gracious and godly than so many Christians I have known.

Anyway. That is enough for now. These are some of the issues I want to work through here on this blog. I hope you will stick around and I hope it will help some people to heal too.

LLAP

Kathryn

21st Century Christian

According to Cross Rhythms, the UK Christian music site in its history of magazines involved in raising the profile of Christian music, 21st Century Christian Magazine was “stunningly unfunny”, “conservative and cozy”, and its unwieldy name was “conceived by committee”. Critics apparently called the magazine “The Christian Yuppie”.

But it’s not how I remember it at all. 21cc ran from October 1987 to 1990, and for me it was radical and left-leaning, part and parcel of a radical and left-leaning Christianity, something you could unashamedly read in your squat and leave for your non-Christian mates to read.

Cross Rhythms goes on to say that “21st Century Christian eschewed the controversy and satire settling instead for a safer, cosier Christian overview, in the process cutting back still further its music coverage. Sales continued to slide downwards and by the time of its closure, in 1990, had reached only a little over 14,000 sales.”

I was surprised when I looked for it again a few years ago to find that it had had such a short run, and been so opposite to what I remembered, because for me it had felt important and influential, and I obviously took from it the opposite message that everyone else was seeing.

Most of the Christians I knew in the late 80s were slightly hippyish, vegetarian, rainbow jumper wearing, Greenbelt festival-going rebels and radicals, bringing the government down with love and flowers and marching for Jesus. It was a while before I discovered that most of the church was made up of comfortable, conservative-voting status quo-lovers (and not the metal kind).

The one good thing about being faced with an all Conservative government determined to abuse the poor and vulnerable at every opportunity, not to mention attempting to repeal the hunting ban and the Human Rights Act, is that I feel catapulted back to my youth and I’m encouraged to look again at Christianity as rebellion against the Babylon system. (Don’t be fooled, it was always the Babylon system, even when Labour was in charge, the Conservatives just make it much easier to see.)

Government is not our saviour, it’s not our friend, and it’s not a friend to animals, the environment or the world.

I bought a vegan cookbook last week called “Soy Not Oi: Over 100 Recipes Designed to Destroy the Government”. (Available through http://www.akpress.org )

Now is the perfect time to go vegetarian or vegan, question your assumptions, review your comfortable position and ask what you can do to make the world a better place in spite of government.

Are you with me?

Out in the cold, dark night

So here we are, almost nine weeks after moving out of our rented house, from which we were being evicted, into the brand spanking new housing association property. Minus the mold and the awful landlord and letting agents, but also minus carpets and curtains, the gardens, the fabulous view and minus the dining room, the built-in wardrobes. (We’re also still waiting for our deposit to bé returned) I could go on, but I’m trying not to dwell on the negatives.

One negative I am really struggling with though is the lack of landline phone and internet. Thank God for my mobile phone, but it is costing me almost as much to run this mobile as our only phone and internet source as it was to run broadband and wifi for the whole house before.

Nine weeks is long enough, don’t you think? If I had a choice not to use BT I would certainly vote with my feet, but of course they rely on your inability to go to anybody else for a landline.

I have been through a few traumatic events in the last few years, so in one way I’m used to it, but in another, I feel battle-worn and weary, traumatised too many times.

I’m basically middle-aged now. I thought that by now we would have a stable, comfortable home with a stable, comfortable network of friends and family around us. Nothing could bé further from the truth.

Needless to say, my health has taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, to the extent that – apart from a few necessary errands – I am mostly needing to lay down in bed in my room. Even sitting up is too painful, my neck feels unable to hold my head up for long.

I had a conversation on Saturday morning with a pentecostal friend, and I mentioned my ill health, so she said a prayer online which she asked me to agree to, which I did, but then she said “Now we have done ‘spiritual warfare’ and you are healed. Don’t invite back the spirit of infirmity.”

I have spent some time in pentecostal churches, so it shouldn’t have surprised me but I was taken aback. If only life were that simple!

The problem with having such a simplistic worldview is that it becomes inevitably judgemental – if you don’t get well, if your circumstances don’t improve, you must have failed in some way, failed to adequately wage spiritual warfare, had a lack of faith, spoken negative words to “invite” negativity back into your life! (Remember the ‘Secret’?)

Unfortunately, unless you want a potentially self-defeating argument, you learn to have to watch what you say around people with this kind of thinking. I feel another sense of loss that I can’t trust this friend with my true thoughts and feelings.

Anyway, our big news is that, in view of our circumstances, in view of my health, our finances, my husband’s age (over 50 now), we don’t intend to pursue adoption.

That decision comes with another terrific sense of loss and grief and guilt, but we left it too late I think. I wish we had looked into it ten years ago, but on the other hand it would not have been good to put adopted children through what we have been through in the last few years. It looks like it just wasn’t meant to bé. (Either that, or I didn’t wage enough spiritual warfare. Joke.) 😦

I dreamt last night that there were a bunch of children that weren’t mine out in the shed, out in the wet cold night, and one of them broke into the house and threatened me with a gun. Somehow I knew that they were out there, and I was more shocked that I hadn’t let them in than that this child was standing in front of me with a gun. Dreams are stupid, but I expect that’s the guilt talking. I would let you in, but I don’t think I would bé very much good for you.

The Kingdom Divided

I have been quite shocked and disappointed this week to (re-)discover two things:

Firstly that anti-semitism is alive and kicking in the churches, particularly down here in Cornwall.

Secondly, that there are many groups and individuals who believe that gentile believers are not part of Israel proper, only on the fringe as part of the ‘commonwealth’, and that Torah is only for Jews (and beyond that, that we need the “oral Torah” to properly understand and obey Torah).

To my understanding of the scriptures, such a view and practice of exclusion is falsely resurrecting the partition wall that Yeshua tore down. It is a little bit like saying that gentiles aren’t really part of the Kingdom, which is after all what “Israel” is meant to be – the Kingdom where God reigns.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free”

We are meant to be equal and “one”, united in Messiah. As I have said many times, we seem to be yet very far from that ideal. There is still racism, sexism and class and cultural differences which separate us. But certainly we should not be perpetuating such division.

I am supremely grateful that this was not my experience in the Messianic fellowship I attended, which was run by a very lovely, humble Jewish man, who seemed to be quite ‘colour-blind’ when it came to Jew and gentile, whereas I had been turned away from certain other groups that I won’t shame by naming here for not being Jewish! How heartbreaking and divisive!

My conversion, which was what you might call a ‘Ruth-ite’ conversion, a simple declaration as the Biblical Ruth made that “Your people will be my people, and your God my God” is not generally recognised by Jewish or Messianic groups. I find myself in the position of being ‘not quite Jewish enough’ for some Messianic groups, and ‘too Jewish’ for some church groups!

Since there is no official Messianic conversion process in the UK, there is a temptation – even perhaps a push by groups who exclude gentile believers in this way – to convert via Reform or Orthodox means. (In a conversation just this week I was told that if a gentile wants to keep Torah, they must convert to Judaism!)

Since such conversion involves either hiding or denying your affiliation to Yeshua Jesus, that is totally unacceptable in my view, but it is an inevitable result when gentile believers feel particularly called to Israel and the Jewish people and to Torah, and both these things are denied to them as gentiles.

The crux really of this matter rests on what the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 meant when it ruled on gentile believers coming into the Kingdom:

It was being suggested by “a certain sect of the Pharisees who believed” that gentiles could not become part of the Kingdom unless they were first circumcised and kept the whole law, but Paul and Barnabus show that God had shown his inclusion of gentiles by imparting the Holy Spirit, and by many signs and miracles among them.

“And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; *And put no difference between us and them*, purifying their hearts by faith.”
Verses 8 and 9, my emphasis.

In verse 20, the ruling is that Gentile believers must only do the following:
“that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” verse 20

This is really a minimum standard, but even this has been generally ignored by the church because it seems to contradict their understanding that anything at all is permissable to eat. (That’s another discussion for another day!)

But then in verse 21, James goes on to say, “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”

Again, this verse is generally either ignored or misunderstood. What does James mean? Well, the early believers were meeting in the synagogue, reading the weekly Torah portions.

In other words, they were learning Torah gradually. There is an implicit suggestion there that the gentile believers will gradually conform their lives to Torah, and so it is not necessary to lay the whole law on them at the outset, and certainly not as a condition for salvation.

But wait, you say! Paul says the following in verse 10:

“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”

What does he mean by that? Of course, it has been taken to mean that the “yoke” refers to Torah itself. But is that really the case? Is God’s own law a burden and a bondage from which we must flee and escape?

In Leviticus 26:13, God says:

“I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and *I have broken the bands of your yoke*, and made you go upright.”
(My emphasis)

This is in the context of the giving of the Torah. No, the “yoke” is not Torah itself – God did not rescue the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt only to lay another bondage on them – but rather, the “yoke” is all the additional rules and regulations, what is commonly referred to as the “Oral Torah” put in place as a “hedge around Torah”. The clue is in the word “Pharisee”.

What does Jesus say about those additional Pharisaical rules?

Matthew 15:3 “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” He goes on to give examples of how they are doing that, and then in verse 7: “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”

So Jesus regards the Torah as the commandment of God, holy and good, whereas the ‘Oral Torah’ is no such thing. Indeed, it can be quite the opposite when it contradicts Torah.

The scriptures, especially the psalms are replete with the idea that the law of God is good. Even Paul acknowledges in many places that the law is good, for example in Romans 7:7 he says:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid!”

In conclusion, although I realise this is a massive subject and we could argue back and forth on the subject of the law and to what extent Christians should observe it, there is no suggestion whatsoever that Torah is for Jews only and not for gentiles.

In as far as gentiles are grafted into the Olive Tree through faith in Messiah, we are meant to be “one new man”, part of the same body. That is not to say that you cannot retain your identity as Jewish or gentile as a believer, but the wall between us has been broken down. Don’t build it up again.

Twisty-turny Lifey-wifey

2015 is not shaping up to be all I hoped it would be so far.

2015

Firstly, I was not able to go ahead with the next OU module due to a funding error. The same funding error that Student Finance England promised me was sorted out in September. So now I have lost a whole year’s worth of study. I’m beginning to feel that perhaps I’m not destined to study with the OU.

Then the Ministry course that was being run in North Cornwall, for 28 churches, was cancelled because only 3 people (myself and my eldest son included) had signed up for it. Out of 28 churches. Yes, you read that right. Spirit of Apathy, anyone?

And then, this week, just in time for Lent, we have been served with an eviction notice. Our Landlord – the one who has delayed and prevaricated and refused to pay for repairs for the entire time we have lived here – has decided to sell the house, and that it will sell more quickly empty. Charming. (Now that he’s evicted us, he’s decided to actually replace the boiler.)

I wonder whether there are any nice, kind, honourable landlords. And then I remember being a landlord. We thought we were nice, kind and honourable. But we were also appallingly naive.

Because we knew the tenants, and they were down on their luck, we didn’t take a deposit. We set our rent at a level just enough to pay our mortgage so that we could rent elsewhere, not a penny of profit. We left the house in an outstanding condition – better than we had ever had it while we lived there.

But our tenants, when he lost his job, rather than contacting us to let us know they were having trouble, just stopped paying rent. From October to May, we had no rental income. Our actual income was so low that we didn’t have money for food. we literally didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. We were forced to evict our tenants. It felt awful.

Our tenants never contacted us, they just skipped town owing us thousands and thousands of pounds.

When we went back to our house, we were astounded at what they had done to it. They had utterly ruined our family home, short of setting it on fire, they had done everything they possibly could to make it unliveable, and it was covered in thick, black ooze from chain-smoking. Their poor kids. It didn’t get like that overnight – they must have lived like that for months.

As we were penniless by that stage, we had no choice but to sell it, at a loss, barely covering our debts and the deposit for this house.

This time round, we have no savings, no way of raising a deposit for a new house, and strangely we find that landlords and letting agents don’t like people who rely on housing benefit to boost the pay their pitifully low income to pay the rent.

We are in the unenviable position (as so many thousands in this country are) of being totally at the mercy of merciless landlords, in a merciless society.

I wonder what happened to our tenants, where they went, who would possibly have taken them on.

I was angry with our tenants for a long, long time. How could they have been so cruel to us when we were so good to them?

And then I remember that he was an adult adoptee, abandoned in the ’50s with no knowledge of his parentage, and estranged from his adoptive family. I remember that he was depressed already when they moved in. And I wish I had tried harder to help them. (Even though I still wish they hadn’t taken it out on us.)

I’ve been surrounded by rich Christians all my life. In fact, I was one of them. I grew up in a reasonably wealthy family. We owned our own home in a nice neighbourhood, we wanted for nothing, really. But my family’s fortunes changed a long time ago, and it has been downhill ever since.

But not one time in all our crises have we ever been offered financial help, practical assistance, or even emotional reassurance from the Church. If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than anything else it is that. The Church at least should be a haven of mercy.

timey

The title of this post refers, of course, to Doctor Who, and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey things. Life is so twisty-turny and unpredictable. It seems that nothing is guaranteed, nothing in this life can be relied upon.

If I could go back in time, to a better part of my life – when things were less complicated – when would I go to? If you’ve seen the film ‘About Time’, you’ll know that you can’t go back beyond the birth of your children, so I think I would choose to go back to the day my youngest was born, before everything went wrong.

And I’d do things differently.

Rounding Up the Year – 2014 – It’s been a weird one.

2014 has not been the greatest year, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst year by a very long mile.

We had only just moved into this house (in November 2013) with mixed feelings – not the home I had hoped for, we’re still renting with no end in sight, but relieved to be out of the hell that was the previous rental. But on the home front I have spent most of the year battling the agents over a long list of problems, not least of which the intermittent hot water, which thankfully was finally fixed in time for Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, I set out meaning to read one book a week for #Read52 but I doubt I have even read one a month. I can’t remember another year when I have read so little in fact. I started off the year with lots of energy and did several courses – an OU course, DD101, an introduction to Social Science, as well as several MOOCS, and I also volunteered with Scouts and Guides AND Boys / Girls Brigade. By the beginning of the summer holidays I had totally overdone it and had a relapse which kept me almost housebound over the entire summer and well into September. I have been getting better since then but I have had to pace myself and I haven’t resumed any of my volunteering again so far.

In the Spring – also when I was feeling healthy and strong and on top of the world – I put myself forward for Ordination. I had two interviews and was informed that, although it was considered that I had a ‘call’, I wasn’t quite Anglican enough yet and needed to do several things before coming back to them. Although I know it was the right decision, I did experience that as a kind of rejection that has made me feel quite miserable and frustrated since. This Spring I will need to decide whether or not I want to pursue it. I have a feeling that it may be an uphill struggle, and it’s a funny kind of mirror of the struggle one has to go through in order to convert to Judaism – you can expect to be sent away and persist several times before your wish to convert is taken seriously.

And then the other big issue of 2014 was the beginning of a possible adoption journey which so far has consisted of a lot of reading (mainly of blogs – see the blog roll to the right for recommendations) and attending information meetings with the Council and an agency, but not much else so far. I have been lucky enough to discover the amazing adoption community on twitter which, since mostly anonymous, is able to be very open and honest about the reality of adoption and they have been kind enough to answer my questions.

Oh and finally, I did successfully complete my second ‘novel’ for NaNoWriMo in November. I haven’t started editing yet…

Overall, 2014 has been something of a weird and unusual year – not good, not bad, but a lot of new stuff and big stuff being contemplated which could possibly lead to big changes.

There seems to be a lot of pressure to make resolutions and have a ‘new start’ for the new year. But ‘New Year’ is an invented non-entity. The winter solstice has already passed and there isn’t even a new or a full moon – there is no astronomical reason to say that the year turns on this day or night and yet somehow we imbue this date with significance that give it a kind of magic. Whatever. Every day can be a new start. I would love to resist it, but I find myself – as I often seem to do – in the position of being very unhappy with where my life is and feel the need to make some decisions about the direction it is taking. In that sense I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to make a new start. but on the other hand, I feel as though there is very little within my control that I can change.

I have realised that I perceive myself as a victim in many areas while often seeing everything as being ‘all my fault’ – all of which results inevitably in misery. in other words, my thinking has become rather negative and unhelpful.

I have made some painful realisations recently, the details of which I won’t go into in any depth but they revolve around needing to rely on myself for what I need. This is nothing new really – when I did the 12 Steps back in 2010 in working through grief and did a ‘life evaluation’, it became clear that my life was very strongly characterised by disappointment. What has taken me a little longer to take on board is the fact that it hasn’t just been ‘bad luck’ or that I just need to wait for hope to be realised around the corner. No, it is that my expectations (of God, of marriage, of family, of friends, of church, of community, of neighbours) were wildly outside what they were prepared to give or be to me. (The book ‘Disappointment with God’ by Philip Yancey, that I read many years ago springs to mind. Worth reading, although it doesn’t resolve anything, and I seem to remember wanting to throw it across the room! But it very eloquently explores the theme and I do recommend it.)

So the crux of the matter, I think, is that I need to change my thinking. I don’t mean that I need to ‘think positively’ – I have had an earful this year about ‘the Secret’ / Law of Attraction from people who have a ridiculously easy life because they’re selfishly and thoughtlessly living at others’ expense but believe they have ‘attracted’ their good fortune by thinking positively while all the dreadful things that have happened to other people were also somehow ‘attracted’ by them. NO, NO, NO! Although that philosophy may be ‘attractive’ (pun intended) it really is the most offensive claptrap when you think about it in any depth. So as my Dad (of blessed memory) used to say, “Take the meat and leave the bones” – if it helps you to think positively, that’s great! Please just don’t let it be a weapon to bash yourself or others when disappointment, failure and disaster happen. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. And if you’re successful while others aren’t, it’s not their fault. Really, people, as a philosophy LoA is severely lacking. It’s not that simple. Life is (and people are) complex, multi-faceted, inter-connected and unpredictable.

What I do mean is that I need to start thinking of myself as capable – capable of providing for my own needs without relying on anybody else to make me happy, capable of making my own decisions, capable of making the life that I want for myself without relying on anybody else to do it for me.

So, 2015…

My main goals are always along the same lines – get healthier, enjoy life more, be a better person, be more disciplined. This year though, I would also like to learn better how to look after myself (knowing now that nobody else is going to do it). That means, in the first instance, forcing myself to go to the hairdresser’s. Its such a small thing but I have developed something of a hairdresserphobia. I have probably only been perhaps three times in the last 15 years or more. I know that, if I manage to get there, I will feel better for it, but I really do have to force myself to do it.

I am intending to sign up for some new courses. My OU account is still apparently having funding problems, so I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll be able to do the course I had intended (I wasn’t able to sign up for anything in September but I was assured it had been sorted in time for the spring term, but it seems not…), but I have signed up for a Ministry Course with the deanery and a free Archaeology MOOC, and I may do some other things, depending on finances.

I have been extremely frustrated with my de-cluttering efforts over the holidays so far. I was hoping to be able to have the house spic and span with a view to finally registering for Stage 1 of the adoption process. (It has been around 8 months now since we first enquired with the Council about adoption). So now I’m not sure whether untidy house is an insurmountable obstacle. I have got rid of nearly 50 books along with old furniture and lots of other junk including 20 years of magazines! But the place seems ten times more untidy that when I started so it’s obviously going to be an ongoing project.

I do know that, for the purpose of adoption, I need to do some work on building up a bigger and better support network, since any that I had before we moved down here is now completely non-existent, and developing a new one down here has not come easily.

I may come back with some more specific goals linked to specific times and dates because I think the deadline aspect is a crucial layer of accountability that causes resolutions to fail when they’re not included.

So finally, wishing all (any?) readers a happy new year and, as ever, I hope to be more consistent 🙂

Open to Life

I had a dream last night that I was at a Christian large family conference somewhere (and as far as I know, there is no such thing). The room was filled with pregnant women, mothers with babes in arms and prams and pushchairs, and the speaker was talking about how the church needs to value children and families, and we should all be ‘open to life’.

Meanwhile, I was standing at the back, and although I was in the same room, it was as though there were a glass barrier between me and the rest of the room. I could hear the speaker, and the sound of the mothers and their babies, but I was screaming and crying and flailing my arms about trying to get somebody to pay me attention, but nobody could hear me.

screaming

Well I guess I may need therapy! lol!

Co-incidentally, I had a phone call out of the blue from the midwife. It was odd because I had left a message with the surgery months ago asking about a miscarriage / babyloss support group – there isn’t one here, and I miss the fellowship of the groups I used to go to.

The midwife confirmed that she’s not aware of anything near here, so she gave me some numbers and suggested that I might like to try and set something up. There is a need for support, and there is nothing on offer for at least an hour in any direction. (The same is true for most things of course, and is just one of the issues of living in a very rural & isolated place.)

My grief comes in waves – it is becoming a longer and longer time ago, but when the waves hit, it is just as raw as ever. I don’t think it ever goes away, and I am not looking for something to make it do that. But I do think that sharing burdens lightens them, makes them easier to carry, and I think that sometimes the best way to help yourself is to step up and help other people through the same thing.

Going back to the dream, churches are variable obviously and have different ideas and different emphases, but I have been involved with groups that place a lot of emphasis on children as a blessing, with the linked idea that a large family is a reward for being a good and faithful Christian (and the flip side of that being that loss or lack of children must therefore be the result of sin or failure as a Christian – I reject that notion, by the way, and I think that the large family advocates haven’t thought through this logical flip-side).

I think there can be also be an emphasis in any church on ‘happy families’ which can be excluding to people who struggle with singleness, infertility, miscarriage and babyloss, as well as to families who struggle with children with behavioural issues, which could include families of adopted children who have been through trauma. We definitely need to learn to be more sensitive and inclusive of people who hurt.

With Adoption Sunday coming up on 2nd November, hopefully churches will get a brief window into the fact that not all families are happy or healthy, and be introduced to the idea that as Christians, we should be open to life from a different source, and that the whole church community needs to get on board to pray for, support and bless the families of looked after and adopted children.

The congregation I am part of is around 90% retired, so I don’t expect there will be many offers to actually go in for adoption, but hopefully it will be my chance to tell my church community that, if we do go ahead and adopt, I will be relying on their support and prayers to carry us through.

Taking this from Home for Good‘s Adoption Sunday Pack and service outline, I’d like to leave you with the following questions:

  • Is God calling some of us here to step forward as foster carers or adopters?
  • Is God calling us, as his family – the church, to do more to support families that foster and adopt?
  • Is God calling us to use our voice, our influence, our prayers and our money to make sure every child that needs one has a home?

The adoption Sunday Pack, if you would like to make use of it in your church, can be downloaded as a pdf file here.

Autumn Update

autumn

When all my activities finished at the end of term before the summer holidays, I was relieved because I knew I had been overdoing things. But what I hadn’t realised was that when the adrenaline (or whatever) stopped, I would completely crash.

I spend a lot of time determinedly denying that what I have is M.E. I have eight pages of notes to bash my GP with – there are so many other things that I should be tested for, that should be ruled out before they give up and diagnose M.E., so many things they should try, so many things they could offer before they tell me that “there’s nothing we can do”. But this thing of feeling terrible when you stop, this ‘post-exertional malaise’ is typical of M.E.

The whole summer was essentially ruined because I was too ill to go out – despite living a few minutes’ drive from the beach, I wasn’t able to get there. I wasn’t even able to sit out in the garden. I haven’t been this ill for a long, long time.

So I haven’t resumed Scouts or Guides, and I have given up Boys/ Girls Brigade, with no plans to take it up again any time soon. I had another reason for dropping Scouts and Guides – after nearly two years of volunteering, neither of them had bothered to do a CRB check (or DBS as I think they’re called now). Neither had they sent me for any training, despite me repeatedly asking for it and indicating that I was serious and wanted to be a uniformed officer. In fact, at one stage I was asked to take over the section I was working in, and I indicated that I would be interested to do it, with help, but the help wasn’t available.

It seemed to be the case that it was completely up to the volunteer to ensure that they have the correct training and certification, and nobody seemed bothered. I wasn’t prepared to carry on in the position where, if something when wrong, I could be liable. That really isn’t acceptable.

There were a lot of things about Scouts in particular that opened my eyes to bad practice and some of the inappropriate people involved in it, and I have to say that I would be very, very reluctant to put any young children of mine in a youth group that I hadn’t investigated thoroughly, or that I could perhaps be personally involved with. The willingness of parents to leave very young children with people who are really not at all suited to be working with children amazed me. The stress of that is something that I am very happy to be leaving behind.

I have had approximately ten weeks rest now, and although I’m not really feeling better, I am hopeful that my GP is now willing to offer me something since he has discovered that my blood pressure has shot up suddenly (although he doesn’t know why – he likes to blame it on my weight, but I haven’t put any on in the last year, and this time last year it was basically perfect). I have no idea why, but hopefully some medication might start to make me feel more human again.

Unfortunately, I am cross that in all that time, being unable to go to church, I haven’t had a single visit or even a phone call. I have been getting more and more cross about that as the weeks have gone on. I assumed that they knew how ill I was because my eldest son is a bell-ringer and sees them every week. But he told me last week that my husband told them I was “fine”. Because apparently, from experience, this is how he deals with things. They have to be private, nobody else is to know, in case we worry people. Please.

Really, am I an awful person for wanting to tell people I am ill and need help? Should I be worrying, like he does, more about everybody else not worrying?!

Needless to say, I have become progressively more depressed and distressed over the last ten weeks. But part of that is to do with having too much time on my own to dwell on all the trauma and distress from the events of the last few years. While I was busy, I thought I was moving on to a new normal. But now I am right back in that dark place of grief.

I have continued to wonder about adoption. One of my online contacts had got to the point of being approved by panel, but then decided that she couldn’t go ahead. It’s huge. Taking on a traumatised child – even a baby – is so much more fraught with difficulty than having a baby yourself. If I manage to get my health to a point where I could consider going ahead, do I have the emotional strength to cope?

Additionally I have had the stress of having to make a formal complaint about my boy’s paediatric diabetes team. I won’t bore you with the details right now, but suffice to say that we have elected to transfer hospitals in an effort to secure a better service. But this has been stressful and upsetting to say the least. But I have done it.

I discovered today that my old friend’s wife, the one who made a fuss a few months ago that I hadn’t enthused about her pregnancy, has blocked me on both my accounts. I don’t care much about her to be quite brutally honest. She is a shallow, selfish character who would never even want to bother trying to see somebody else’s pain or point of view. I felt like sending him an angry, ranting message or unfriending / blocking him in retaliation. Instead, I just sent him a message telling him that I am sad.

When you have lost babies, or have a sick child, or you have to deal with ill health, you are going to have some level of underlying sadness. I would love to just get happy. I want to live, I want a full life. I just wish I knew how.

My next post will be happy, I promise.

Plan to Help Ailing Rural Corps

I managed to get to the Salvation Army today, the first time in a couple of months.

I came away disheartened and discouraged. I really think that, in rural places like this, and perhaps particularly in Cornwall, the Salvation Army will die unless it makes some changes and soon.

In this particular corps, there are no young people, no families, no children. Only 3 uniformed members, including the corps officer. 13 attendees in total including myself and the corps officer. The only midweek meetings / outreach a monthly Bible study.

Off the top of my head, there are a bunch of things that could be done to build up ailing corps.

1. Committed, experienced uniformed salvationists should be encouraged to retire to Devon and Cornwall and their families should be encouraged to visit.

2. Young salvationist families should be encouraged to come during the summer holidays to Devon and Cornwall on mission to bring young families into the corps. Look for example at United Beach Missions http://www.ubm.org.uk/

3. Young salvationists should be invited to spend a gap mission year, unpaid (or perhaps supported by their sending corps) but with free board and lodging, to work with the corps. The only limit to the number and length (number of years) of these mission places is the number of people willing to feed and house them.

4. Regular marching, with the Salvation Army banner, around the town on the way to the meeting on a Sunday, handing out leaflets inviting people to join the meeting.

5. Don’t limit yourselves to what you can achieve now. Do some research to find out what local needs are, pray about them and take a step of faith to start meeting those needs. Make prayer a priority.

6. Don’t assume that it’s enough to be a friendly and welcoming bunch. You need to be investing in real relationships. Superficial friendships aren’t much use to anybody.

7. Don’t abandon the hymns, don’t replace them with choruses and modern songs, but do make sure that you choose hymns that are well-known, catchy and joyful, especially for the final hymn.

8. Other corps within striking distance should be willing to ‘loan out’ bandsmen and songsters to stand in and teach until resident corps members are able to form a band themselves.

There’s more I could say but this will do for now.

I’m torn between enthusiasm and frustration. I stopped going regularly because my request to become a soldier was ignored and not pursued despite many months of faithful attendance.

But I love the Army and I hope they will do something about their dwindling numbers before it’s too late.