Friday, 16 July 2010

Annie

My great-aunt Annie, aged 90, died yesterday. She was like a gran to me. She looked after me while my mum had her hands full learning how to balance a marriage to a man who was living the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and supporting a baby (me) while only being 18 herself. Annie was my dad's aunt, although my mum was incredibly close to her. They lived with her when they first got married and cared for her ever since. She had a very difficult life. She suffered a breakdown in her early 20s (from trauma) - resulting in a long stay in a well known mental hospital and receiving horrendous electric shock treatment. She never received the correct medication, and developed a number of mental health illnesses. Annie also had OCD, and as a child, it drove me up the wall watching her have to count to 20 before dismounting a kerb or switching off a light. She had 'bad nerves' and was always shaking, tapping, patting.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, Annie and I attended my Sunday school prize-giving. On our way home, Annie was mugged. It was horrific. She wouldn't let go of her handbag and was trailed along the ground, while I ran home for help. Her poor legs were ripped to shreds and she moved in with us after that.

There's a lot about her life that I won't mention in this blog - many difficult, tragic events that happened to her - but I have a few good memories I want to share...
When I was very young, I had a pair of cowboy boots (they were so cute, with lots of detailed stitching) and when Dallas came on T.V. I raced to put them on and dance to the theme tune. I made Annie watch and clap at my performance - every week! Sometimes I put on the test-card music (remember that?) and danced to that for her (I'm sure she was thrilled!).
One day she had answered the phone and whatever happened, the person was disconnected. We could hear her shout, "Operator, operator, trace that call!". When we asked what she was doing, she replied that she had seen that work in an episode of Kojak!
Walking down the hall, she passed her sister's black, shaggy dog, saying, "Oh Sweep, I thought you were our Eddie!" When my dad asked how she could possibly mistake a dog for his brother she replied, "Awk sure they both have black hair!"

That's the tip of the ice-burg but it's enough for me now...my heart feels like it's shattered into a million pieces. Annie was very frail at the end and we knew months ago her body couldn't hold out much longer. It was a bittersweet ending - we wanted her to go quickly and peacefully and yet didn't want to have to give her up. I'm really feeling for my mum and dad at the moment. Annie was an even bigger part of their life. It wasn't easy for them having to care for an elderly, mentally ill relative on top of their own problems. They have wonderful memories of Annie at different stages of her life. The stories will flow and be shared over the next few days.

So I sit here, in the early hours of the morning, thinking about the impact this woman had on my life. I will deeply miss her.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Storms Will Come

"In this world you will have trouble" (Jesus)

I've always hated the wind as a child. A few nights ago, the wind was fierce. I hadn't been sleeping well and I was mulling over how my life was feeling like it was being whipped by an unseen force. It felt like the Big, Bad Wolf was trying to blow my house down.
When crisis hits and something rocks our foundation to the core, we tend to start grasping, clutching and looking for someone to blame or some place to hold on. Kinda like drowning. Panic sets in; we rush to blame and point the finger or run to the biggest bar of chocolate or glass of wine (pick a self-medication of your choice)

Whatever else is going on, I know that God is using my marriage to forge my character. I also know that the log in my eye makes it very hard to see anything clearly.

When I was in the middle of an extremely dark depression I was confronted with lots of advice to just obey God or be more disciplined. Would you ask a person with a broken leg to run a marathon? So you can't demand the broken to live as they are whole. Discipline wasn't the issue for me; apply discipline and I made it worse. What I needed was healing.

My marriage has its ebbs and flows. As Ecclesiastes points out, there is a time for everything. There are times when David and I feel close and times when we could not be further apart. Winter comes, like it or not.

I'm discovering that it is not love to ignore your spouse's brokenness, faults, immaturity. It is not love to let something wrong carry on. Truth is, it is a lack of love that lets it all go on for years. When you let your own fears keep you from bringing something up with your spouse, that is simply self-protection...or indifference.

David and I are facing a winter season in our marriage. We arranged a 'date' on Thursday night to talk about how we were feeling. As we spoke, we both realised that it was our vows to one another (15 years ago) that kept us from jumping ship many times. Our choice to love and fight for one another and for the restoration of our marriage has introduced a little flower bud unfurling amidst the cold snow.

This I know...the storms will come. You need some place to stand. Here are some very basic truths I'm choosing to stand on:
*I am loved. Deeply, truly, madly loved. (Jer 31:3)
*I am secure. Utterly and completely secure. (John 10:28-9)
*I am forgiven. Totally forgiven. (Col 2:13)
*God is with me. He will never, ever abandon me. (Heb 13:4)

I am loved. I am secure. I am forgiven. God is with me.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Summer Time...and the living is easy

Hello folks! Well it's another early start for me due to my body still feeling like it has to work and prepare for teaching! So I thought I'd be productive and log in with an update.
A lot has happened since my last post...had a party (Heroes & Villains) to celebrate 15 years of marriage! Oh, while I'm on that subject, can I just share the contents of a card my father-in-law made me?

"Congratulations Nichola on:
*Not strangling Big Dave
*Not selling Emily to Brad and Angelina
*Not poisoning the mother-in-law
*Not getting sent to Flat 10 (local mental health ward)
*Not going postal in Black Mountain (the primary school where I teach)
*Not bulimia-ing yourself to a stringy-thingy
*Not wheeling Sammy off a pier (my dad, who is in a wheelchair)
*Not crashing the car for a whole week
*Not cooking - yaaaay!
*Not cleaning - boooo!
*Not smiling falsely - you just never smile at all!
*Not preaching anything better than Roy (the father-in-law and pastor)
*Not sleeping so you have an excuse for your grumpiness
*Not leaving David - cause he'd only come back to me
*Not having a long list of excuses - as you're inexcusable
*Not drinking - any more than 8 red wines a night
*Not blaming God on everything you manage to screw up"

Brilliant isn't it!!!! I did laugh!.... Then I went to his house with a baseball bat!!!

So the party went really well.
I finished my 14th year of teaching in a state of exhaustion but happy. I love my classes every year but this year in particular (because they were so young) I've had a ball!
I've been doing alot of soul searching....reflecting on my depression, eating disorder, past dreams and goals I had set....realising that I'm 'unsettled' with certain things.

Now don't get me wrong....I love my life - my God, family, friends, church, work etc....BUT...I have realised that alot of my dreams have been put on the back burner. They've been smouldering steadily in the background for so many years. I can't ignore their presence any longer. There's a yearning and a hunger deep within that can't be contained or shut up any longer.
So after speaking to my hubby, my church, my girls...I am ready to take steps to launch out. There's alot on my list so I'll only share a few things with you now...

*Africa is calling me - building a school
*Charity projects - climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, walking the Great Wall of China - raising finance for worthy causes
*Sponsoring a child
*My own art exhibition
*Writing a book/article/feature

That's all I feel I can share at the moment. Big changes afoot!