Mind over…Everything

Some years ago I joined a group in church following the practice of Julian of Norwich who lived a life of contemplation. The idea was to sit quietly for half an hour. During this time it was important to clear your mind as much as possible and sit and listen for to see if God might want to say something. As I have always been told that I spend too much time doing ,and not enough time listening this appeared to the perfect opportunity. I tried. I really did. On some occasions I managed to completely relax and push aside the pressing matters of the day. Sadly at those times I was in real danger of falling asleep and not wanting to be the only person present who was snoring I immediately tensed and my mind the had to concentrate hard on staying awake and not listening at all!.

wild ducks swimming in calm water of lake in park

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

This week I decided to try again. I have no urgent things to do and nowhere to be so I thought it might be easier to let my mind become quiet. My home is calm and the garden a pleasant place to relax. I found a comfortable seat outside and let my mind become a blank canvas. I had been sitting for no more than two minutes when my washing machine discharged its dirty water into the grid nearby! Settling again I could feel the sun on my face and the peace of my garden and once more my mind drifted. Just then a robin landed in the bird bath and proceeded to splash happily, and noisily,around . I was completely distracted and spent the next few minutes watching his antics. Not to be deterred I moved to the bottom of the garden and made another attempt. Within a few minutes my neighbour, who had noticed me sitting very still, came out to ask me if I was alright or if I needed some help. I gave up! I have resigned myself to thinking that if God wants me to do something he will let me know some other way.

On Tuesday I noticed that one of my tyres on my car looked very soft so I drove off to the garage to check all my tyres. Two days later the warning light was showing again indicating I still had a problem. This now involved a trip to the local tyre garage. I always feel out of my comfort zone in these places as generally speakingI have no idea what Im talking about. The first thing I was asked was where was my locking wheel nut. I wasnt sure whether this was a joke, a bit like the apprentice bricklayer who is sent to the builders merchant to buy sky hooks! Yes that really does happen. Anyway it appears I am supposed to have one of these nuts but a futile search of the car proved that I hadnt

And without it they were unable to change the tyre. This resulted in a visit to the garage where my car is serviced and after another search of the car they agreed that they must have lost it. I arranged a second visit to give them time to get another nut and at the agreed time arrived for the work to be done. I was given a curtesy car to use for the day as the work involved breaking the nuts on all four wheels and replacing them with new ones. On returning I was told the work and what turned out to be a slow puncture had been repaired free of charge. I am so glad I didnt go in with all guns blazing! They apologised, did the work without charge and gave me a brand new car to use while I waited. Its probably the most excitement I’ve had since the lockdown.

I have had visits from friends this week. Roger and Gaynor had a socially distanced coffee at the front door. Two other friends visited separately and I had coffee with one and lunch with the other. How conversations have changed. No longer are we describing lunches out, theatre visits or recently taken holidays. Now it is all about whether we have managed to get a shopping delivery or had a video call with other friends and family. It was lovely to see them all in almost normal circumstances. It did however make the house feel very empty when they had gone and I had to tell myself sternly, how lucky I am to have friends who have taken the time to see me. When I think of the millions in the world who dont have fresh water or soap to wash their hands I realise I am not only lucky but also very blessed!

Tears and technology

I dropped Lindsey off at the station with her many bags and I was allowed to go down to the platform with her. There were no other people on the platform which made it seem very surreal. Very few people were on the train and accommodating her baggage was easy. At the other end she was picked up by a very kind taxi driver who helped to carry her luggage to the door of her flat where she was met and assisted by her new flat mates. I’m not ashamed to admit that there were more than a few tears as the train pulled away from Crewe but then I remembered Gaynor telling me that when she left for university, she had a trunk and the promise of letters as nobody had their own phone and I realised how lucky we are now to be able to keep in touch in so many ways and able to see each other on video calls too.

There were tears of laughter when I saw what Lindsey had done to Daves dog (see photo). As you can see Wellie sat through it all with his usual good grace. He is such a beautiful dog and I defy anyone to be sad in his presence.

pretty dog

Online shopping is the norm for most people now and I am grateful for the technology which allows us to purchase the items we need while staying safe in our homes. When parcels arrive I always thank the people delivering and their reply is almost always that they are grateful to be kept in a job.

I know that many people have been binge watching box sets and I too have enjoyed watching a whole season of a TV series. However, is it only me who reverts back to watching old favourites such as Morse,Endeavour and Midsommer Murders? I find that there is such comfort in seeing these old friends previously watched when the world wasn’t quite so chaotic. Again, what would we do without this technology?

An important part of my week is watching and taking part in the lovely, thoughtful church services lead by Rachael. I love the ‘action’ songs and again it is impossible not to feel better when Rachael puts so much enthusiasm into the routines! I would love to be a fly on the wall ,when,in the future, these services are watched by her grandchildren!

Now the weather is colder and it’s not so pleasant working outside, the technology which allows me to work at home is proving invaluable. My days are still going really quickly now that I can carry on doing my job and the house doesn’t feel as empty when I can message the people at work and still feel part of a team.

As the weeks go by it is difficult to imagine that life will ever be normal but part of the wonderful technology we have also means that we have access to the daily updates on the terrible loss of life in such a short time. Each life lost means that there is a family grieving and I am praying to God that he will give comfort to all those who are feeling bewildered and bereaved.

My prayers this week are also for you, that you and your families stay safe and well and hope that we can all be together again soon.

Shaan

All Change!

As you are probably aware Dave and Lucy’s wedding was postponed and they have provisionally rearranged it for October. They dealt with the news incredibly well and on the actual day we sneaked a visit to them and sat socially distanced in their garden. They had champagne, and flowers arrived from their chief bridesmaid, and the Crossfit club they belong to set a wedding quiz in the evening. They had also arranged for a video message of support, from an international Crossfitter to be sent to them. It’s good to know that they have such incredible friends!

Last week Lindsey came home to start her induction with the charity she is going to work for. This week it has been decided that all new trainees should work at their allocated shelters so we have spent the last few days packing up her belongings. She only found a place to live on Friday and she had to make the decision after doing a virtual walk round of the flat and a video call with her proposed flat mates! Not what we envisaged when she made the decision to work in London. I had thought I would be able to visit regularly and looked forward to exploring London with her. Instead I have no idea when I will see her again or what restrictions will be placed on any time we have together! Originally I was going to drive down with her stuff but now she is travelling alone by train hauling a large and small suitcase, a rucksack and a holdall!  What should have been a pleasure to see her doing a job she really wants to do is tinged with sadness that we are probably faced with months of being apart.

There are so many calls in the media for help in supporting charities who are unable to fund raise so in the last few days I have looked closely at my finances to see if I can help at all. My first thought is that I should try and help my own church. I gain so much from being part of this church community. I have received friendship from so many of you, spiritual guidance whenever it’s needed not to mention the many social events which have helped to fill the days with pleasure.  I’m not spending money on going out for coffee or lunch and not spending money on petrol so I am easily able to give something extra even if only for a short period to help fill the shortfall in a bid to keep our church solvent and ready for our return!

 My hair obviously doesn’t realise that there is a lockdown! It continues to grow at an alarming rate so this week I gave in and chopped my fringe and bits at the back in a bid to not be mistaken for an entry in the Wybunbury scarecrow competition! I’m not sure that I have been entirely successful!

The garden too is changing!  Gone are the daffodils and tulips and in their place the more vibrant azaleas and rhododendrons and the smiling pansies are showing us the way forward! The colours are getting stronger urging us to remain hopeful and quietly anticipate a more normal future.

I have felt during the last few weeks that we are on hold! Our lives standing still while so many brave and wonderful people fight this awful illness on our behalf! I now realise that the world keeps turning albeit in a gentler way and we must embrace all those changes which are happening. We may not always like them but good or bad God is with us every step of the way and with his help we can face anything!

Can you hear the bells ringing?

Across the parish bells are being knitted and crocheted and now we have the tingling bells to go inside – let us know if you need them and we’ll arrange safe, contact free delivery to you.

Please let us know how you are getting on so that we can keep a running total. Margaret Hodgkinson has transformed this:

into this:

creating, more than 50 bells:

Reading, writing and …….gardening!!

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

This week my daughter Lindsey came home! She has been living with my son and his fiancée to try and protect me but she has now been offered a job in London and to to begin with, will be doing her training from home. As Dave and Lucy are also working from home they are limited for suitable space for her to work so as she has been self isolating, we decided it was worth the risk for her to come home. Its been lovely for me, having someone to talk to, and not at the end of the phone! I am so pleased that she has a job but have many concerns as she is going to be working for a charity, looking after the homeless, in London. However, I am so proud of her because I really believe she will be doing something very worthwhile.

I am now working from home too! A laptop has been delivered and I am just doing a couple of hours a day. Suddenly I find I have quite a lot of structure to my days!  Mornings are spent catching up with friends and family, and a work session in the afternoon, when its been too warm outside. As the weather is still so good I am doing very few household chores, just the bare necessity, choosing to spend my time outside in the garden. I’m not always working though. I’ve read a considerable number of books in the last four weeks which has been an absolute pleasure for me. I still find that doing some kind of chore then rewarding myself with a period of reading is the only way I can get anything done, otherwise I would remain completely lost in the world of fiction. We are very blessed to have such wonderful writers in the world who are able capture our attention and take us away from the difficult challenges we all face.

My crafting skills amount to covering shoe boxes with Christmas paper ready for our appeal later in the year but I must say I am tempted to have a go at a Christmas bell that Margaret H has put on the web site! Bearing in mind I still have knitting on the go from about ten years ago and can’t crochet, this will be a major achievement, but they are so pretty and are such a symbol of joy and hope for the future that I feel I must at least try!! So is there anyone out there who knows of a simple ‘learn to crochet in five easy steps’ video please let me know. Also going back to the shoe boxes (with removal lids), this is an ideal time for me to ‘get covering’ so all of you who have been tidying wardrobes and are throwing out boxes please let me know and I’ll try and collect.

This week I have been thinking so much about the small businesses in our area which have given me so much pleasure in the past. The specialist gift shops where a last minute present is always available and the coffee shops where I have had such lovely times with friends. As soon as we are allowed, it is my intention to shop locally wherever possible and to definitely buy British. I am going to do my little bit to boost our economy and ensure a future for my children.

The highlight of my week is spending time watching and listening to the online service. Some of my friends who don’t have this facility at their own church are joining in and I feel really close to you all at these times. I particularly enjoy the zoom coffee after the service and it is so good to be able to see your faces and I pray that it won’t be too long before we can meet ‘for real.’

Smelling the coffee

I’m still staying in and away from the supermarket, spending as much time as I can outdoors, taking advantage of the glorious weather. A new toy has arrived via post, and I’m now the proud owner of a pair of cordless hedge cutters! The first time I used them I pruned everything I could see that was slightly overgrown! The following morning I could barely pick up my arms they were so stiff but in compensation there is much more daylight in my kitchen after reducing the height of the ivy growing nearby! There is a lot to be said for everything in moderation!

Spending so much time in the garden has been the perfect opportunity to use an app on my ipad which allows me to point the pad at any passing aeroplane and it will tell me the type of plane and where the plane has come from and where it’s going. It also tells me how far away it is. I’ve been having competitions with myself guessing the distance and country of origin. Sad, I know, but it keeps me good!!

I hadn’t realised how boring my food shopping habits have been! Anybody who knows me will say that shopping is my least favourite chore so having someone else to do it for me has been a blessing! When I shop I tend to put the same kind of cheese, bread, grapes and other items in my trolley every time. Now, because someone else is shopping, and not all of the products I use have been available, I have tried several different products all of which have been delicious! I have made a note to myself that when this period is finished I will make more effort to look around and try new things, and I will do this in other areas of my life and not just food choices!

Years ago I read a very short book called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson,  which made a very big impression on me and I still read it occasionally as a reminder to slow down and smell the coffee!! These days of marking time are allowing us to make the most of the time now! We are no longer wondering how to fit in all the things we have to do next week. Nor are we looking back, feeling guilty about jobs that weren’t finished or the calls we didn’t make. Instead the weather is dictating whether we are in the garden or exercising and the hours of isolation are allowing us to spend time on the phone talking to people, checking on their welfare and not just asking the cursory question of ‘are you OK?’ when you don’t really want an honest answer! Now people passing are happy to chat, obviously at the required distance, as nobody is in a rush to be anywhere. Isn’t it great!

The Bells!!

Looking for something to fill your time purposefully over the next few weeks?

As most of you will know it is becoming a tradition in the parish to give the community Christmas decorations that we have made.

In 2018 we made 400 Angels and left them on hedges and walls etc to be picked up and taken home. Then in 2019 there were 700 Stars to adorn trees all around the parish.

2020 is going to be the year of the Bells!

To keep reaching a growing number of people at the previous rate we will need – dare I say – 1000.

I have set myself a challenge to turn this woolly mountain

into more of these.

Gaynor meanwhile is crocheting these

cof

Patterns for crocheted and knitted bells are available below as a guide, or you can use a pattern of your own. Use any wool any colour.  Dig out all those odds and ends of yarn and they can be put to good use. The bells to go inside will be available when we get back to more normal times.

Of green and gardens

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Hello Again!

Well I ended up with two weeks isolation as my friends that I went away with all went down with coughs and sore throats on our return!

I’m still walking each day and I’d forgotten how much the scenery changes at this time of the year! The number of variations of the colour green never ceases to amaze me! Even though we are living in such strange times there are so many signs of hope for the future! The birds are singing and nesting, I have robins making their nest in my garage, and the rabbits and squirrels are in abundance in the fields. It’s so much easier to hear the birdsong and listen to the woodpeckers around Wybunbury Moss now the traffic is no longer whizzing past.

Everybody has so much more time to chat, at a social distance, and people are so much more concerned with each others welfare! I live in hope that this new awareness continues when life returns to normal.

As I have nowhere to be, nobody is coming to visit and there are no appointments or meetings to attend I decided to stop wearing my watch! This was fine and I was eating when I was hungry, going to bed when I was tired and doing my household jobs when I felt like it and not because I was fitting it in between work and my social life. The downside was that I forgot to switch on the morning service! I am still being far more relaxed about time but I have at least programmed my google mini to let me know when I need to be online, when deliveries are expected and to remind me when I need to be outside clapping for the NHS! Is it only me who is enjoying this new relaxed environment?

My kitchen cupboards are clean, windows polished, sewing repairs up to date and the ironing completed! These jobs all done not only to fill the days but because I initially thought that this situation would have a time limit. Realising that this could go on for weeks I have now saved jobs for the rainy day which we have fortunately been spared so far.

I’ve always loved spending time in the garden but found keeping it under control difficult. My husband was the gardener and I was allowed to mow the lawn which to me is very therapeutic. However he drew the line at me weeding as I really don’t recognise the difference between a seedling and a weed! Now though, I’m learning to love my time out in the sun and fresh air. I don’t have to try and do too much at any one time and doing little but often means that I am actually watching stuff grow and learning where things are in my garden. I am so grateful to Albert for all the love and attention paid to the shrubs and bulbs and seeing clumps of daffodils, the huge flowers of a rhododendron and the creamy fat bulbs of a magnolia not only make me think of him but also the lesson that nature is teaching us- look after the earth and the rewards will be great!

My prayers are now much more thoughtful and not rushed through. I can really think

About the people I pray for and not just have a shopping list of requests! We are blessed to have Rachael, Gaynor, Margaret, Ginny and Sara working on our behalf and I hope you will all pray with me for their continued good health. I am also thanking God for the team who had the foresight to set us up online enabling us to stay in contact with each other and enjoy the benefits of online services!

Praying that you and your families stay safe and well!

Shaan

Stay at home!

undefined How quickly we learn to adjust to new situations! A little over a week ago I was lying on a sunny Mexican beach watching squadrons of pelicans flying overhead. Arriving back at Manchester AirPort, we were collected by our taxi driver, who, bless him, had refused to leave us stranded.  We learned on the journey back that he had managed to secure work as a delivery driver for one of the big supermarkets as his own work had completely dried up.

My children had left me a fridge full of food, a bouquet of flowers and a gift basket to celebrate Mothering Sunday. What a welcome Home but even the lovely gifts couldn’t make up for not having my customary hugs!

So began seven days isolation as I was mixing with so many Americans, Canadians and Italians while I was away. I decided that if I am to be isolated I need to do some exercise so I am now doing a daily three mile walk around Wybunbury trying to avoid other walkers, those exercising dogs and a myriad of cyclists! At least I have discovered that the British sense of humour is not lost when a lady dashed past me shouting ‘coming, ready or not!’

The Lords prayer has become even more important to me. I find that I am saying it in my head when I am walking and at many other times of the day. What do people who don’t have a Faith think about? The online services lead by Rachael are also a great comfort. It makes me feel so much better knowing that my church family is also online!.

I now have my own personal shopper, my son Dave, who delivers to my door with a stern reminder to wash my hands after handling the bags. This new arrangement brings with it its own restrictions. Just as Dave is trying to keep me as safe as possible, I too feel a responsibility to get him out of the supermarket as quickly as possible  by not asking for anything that isn’t essential. This means that snacks of crisps and nuts are out of the question and I am using up every last ounce of fruit and vegetables and ensuring that every last drop is squeezed from the toothpaste tube and other toiletries to extend the time between supermarket visits! The upside of this, together with the additional exercise will hopefully result in a leaner, fitter me!

I have never been so grateful for technology! I am able to keep in touch with friends and have video calls with my sister in Turkey who is in complete lockdown with the threat of arrest if they try and leave the house! Thankfully they too have special friends who are keeping them supplied with food.

I am receiving so many emails and texts that I am now making a list of those I have spoken to so that I don’t forget any of the special people in my life. I think the funniest comment I seen was from someone who was asking if anyone had tried switching off 2020 leaving it 15 seconds and then switching it back on again! If it was only that easy!

Did you join with me last Thursday clapping in support of the NHS? My niece in Preston lives near to a hospital and while they were clapping they could hear cheering and shouting! They learned the next day that NHS staff came out of the hospital and were responding to the clapping with cheers of their own.  Everbody I know was in tears but definitely worth it.

I hope to talk to you again in the coming weeks just as a way of keeping in touch and letting you know that yes, life is different but so much is still the same! If you feel like a chat don’t hesitate to ring!

The stars were out in Shavington and Weston this Christmas

In 2018 we made and offered to the community in Shavington & Weston 400 plus angels

by leaving them in hedges on walls etc. which proved to be popular.

Then in 2019 just under 700 Stars came out to shine, once again these were collected and hung on trees in the parish.Huge thanks go to everyone who knitted/crocheted them, and helped us reach out to so many people

Watch this space for the 2020 challenge, may ring a few bells!!