Monday, 31 October 2011

Of Visits and Visitors

        Although many flat-dwellers are not blessed with lovely views from their windows, My Midnight Man and I are blessed with having a balcony and a lounge window that provides us with a view to a large park.  If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you will know this.  However, I wish I could share with you the beautiful colours God has blessed us with this year.  I believe it has been one of the best years for tree colours because of the wet summer and the late Indian Summer.  I’ve taken over 100 photos the last couple of days from the balcony and from out back. 
        Scarlet, gold, orange, brown and green leaves can be seen on a single tree—variegated and stunning to look at.  Only half the trees around here are empty—which usually are stripped bare by wind and rain at this time of year.  This year the leaves seem to be hanging around longer. 
        Before October is completely gone, I want to mention a few more October happenings. 
A Visit:  During a Skype call in August, My Midnight Man learned that his second sister, “Bea” and her husband, “Ven” were taking a holiday in October and wanted to spend some time with us the evening before flying back to South Africa.  “Bea” & “Ven” had been travelling for a few weeks—first to Colorado, in the USA and then on a canal trip in France and finally in England.  On Monday evening, (the 10th) “Bea” and “Ven” took us down to the local Toby Carvery restaurant to enjoy an evening of conversation—catching up with family news—even more enjoyable because restaurant staff did all the cooking and cleaning up. 
My Midnight Man, "Bea" & "Ven"
        Arrangements were made for “Ven & Bea” to come to us for breakfast on Tuesday morning (11th).  They brought the ingredients:   bacon, eggs, lovely Tiger bread, blue cheese, orange juice and a few other goodies.  Whilst John put on the coffee, I cooked breakfast.  It was so lovely to hear about their trip to Colorado and France while enjoying a home-cooked meal together.  After breakfast, “Bea” gave us a slide show of photos she’d taken on their holiday.  They were able to stay with us until about 1:30 pm, before taking the rental car back to Heathrow to catch their flight.  If you don’t know what tiger bread is or looks like, here is a photo.  And you can find a recipe here:
Tiger Bread
            Coming Visits: The middle of September, the publicity officer of HOST, UK sent an e-mail to the Langley Parish e-mail address, asking if an ad for them could be placed into the Parish Magazine.  HOST UK is an organisation that recruits volunteers to entertain adult international students during a weekend or over Christmas holiday.  The visits allow students to broaden their educational experience by being in “real homes” and tasting local British culture.  Since My Midnight Man and I are going to be home this Christmas, we agreed to sign up as HOST Volunteers.  If you are in the UK and are interested in providing hospitality and taking advantage of a ministry opportunity, simply visit the website and make contact with them.  A regional organiser will get in touch you and complete an application form.  The regional organiser for our area visited us on 17th October and we were connected with our first guest on 19th— October, and she is scheduled to visit on Remembrance Weekend.  Last week were notified of a second student who would like to come on the 25th of November. 
        I smile a bit about this because the idea is to give foreign students a taste of British life; My Midnight Man is South African/English and I’m American.  Just how British we’ve become has yet to be determined! 
            Birthday Guests:  On Friday, 21st October the phone rang and I answered it.  “Is you ‘usband there?”
            “Oh, Hi Mark.  No, he’s out right now.  Would you like me to have him ring you back?”
            “No, that’s fine.  Just wanted to know if he wanted some clothing.”
            “Yes, please.  By the way, what are you doing tomorrow?  It’s John’s birthday and I wanted to know if you wanted to come over for cake.”
            “Okay, that sounds good.  Sheri and I will be there about 4:30 p.m.”
            I spent most of the 22nd in the kitchen.  For breakfast, I fixed American biscuits and gravy.  Then I baked an applesauce cake with mixed dried fruit, as that was what Midnight Man requested.  I took a risk, making a last-minute phone call on Saturday morning to “TechPhile and Sandgroper” with an invitation to dinner for them and their children for that night.  For dinner that evening, I fixed a curried beef dinner—one spicy and one not spicy—basically because My Midnight Man and “TechPhile” enjoy HOT curries—whereas I don’t.  Happily they came and enjoyed beef curry with rice, and of course, cake.  
            It makes me happy that although my invitations were last minute, My Midnight Man’s best mates were able to make it over to our place to celebrate with him.  And the visitors were spread over the day.   Best of all, it was a warm, sunny day and My Midnight Man got to go for a bike ride.  
            The clothes that Mark brought fit My Midnight Man well.  There was an answer to prayer in the bag as well--a pair of shoes.  Midnight Man's old shoes were beginning to crack across the bottom.  Finances being tight, going to buy a new pair of shoes was not in sight for the near future.  Yet, because God is faithful, He heard my prayers and My Midnight Man has a new pair of shoes that fit, and fit well.  
             Many good things have happened this month.  I am looking forward to what God is going to do in November!

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith, "Lady Helene"
Out the Back Door

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Our God is a Good Father

On 15th September, I kept my appointment with a nephrologist.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the doctor confirmed that all the blood and urine tests came out clear and then confirmed to me that the tremors, fatigue, anxiety, muscle weakness and other symptoms have nothing to do with my kidney function. 
To be honest, I walked away from that session feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, sad, unheard by the doctors, and even apathetic.  Why were the doctors more wrapped up in concentrating on the kidney problem (which I feel pretty indifferent about!), when what bothers me both physically and emotionally is the fatigue issues?! 
Part of my frustration has been that the GP (family doctor) I see has not been willing to send me to an endocrinologist and explore the idea of a hormonal issue—specifically adrenal fatigue.  It had taken two years before my thyroid levels were low enough on a test for me to be treated—even though I knew that it was an issue. 
Unless another specialist makes a recommendation to my GP to send me to an endocrinologist, it just isn’t going to happen.  I thought about seeing a different GP, who happens to attend St. Mary’s church.  We exchanged a few e-mails and this doctor gave me a mental health inventory.  The result was that I was moderately depressed.  I made two decisions:  1) to spend some quality time writing in my journal; 2) to see a counsellor.
As I was writing in my journal, I realised that in some ways I had been drifting along, going to doctors’ appointments, thinking that getting better depended more on what they found than on what I knew I could be doing.  Surely, there were things that my body and the Holy Spirit were telling me, but I wasn’t listening.  By writing in my journal, I began to realise that there were two keys I could be putting to good use:  a set bedtime—22:00 hrs every night—no later than 22:30 hrs; and having regular, set meal times every day.  This would naturally help balance out my blood sugar levels, directly affecting my energy levels. 
Serendipitously, a psychological therapist has also attends St. Mary’s Church.  The therapist is currently on maternity leave and offered free therapy sessions to St. Mary’s members. 
My counselling sessions are going really well.  A tool I’ve been given is a small chart.  At the top is written Thoughts.  One the right hand side of the page is written Emotions.  At the bottom of the page is Physical/Somatic and on the left side of the page is Behaviours and lines are used to create a circle. All of these are inter-related and affect the other areas.
Through using this technique, I have been able to sift truth from warped beliefs, which had trapped me into fear, worry and false guilt, and therefore releasing me from the anxiety issues related to my Mom and “Annika”.  Operating on the idea that "you reap what you sow", I felt guilty that I wasn't the one taking care of Mom--because “Who would take care of me in my old age?”  Equally, I was concerned about "How am I honouring my mom, if I can't be there to take care of her?"                          I am concerned about them--of course. 
      When I went to Florida in the autumn of 2007, I went with the attitude of My Midnight Man and me moving to Florida, to help care for Mom.  None of those plans came to fruition—no job found, no car purchased, no flat rented for My Midnight Man and myself.  It seemed clear that we were not supposed to be in the USA.
Ephesians 6:2-3 "Honour (esteem and value as precious) your father and your mother--this is the first commandment with a promise--that all may be well with you and that you many live long on the earth." 
My parent’s greatest desire for me was for me to be married, happy and looked after.  Mom doesn't want me to sacrifice my marriage for the sake of taking care of her.  Mom has always taught me that being obedient to God and following His plan for my life was her greatest desire.  I realised that because I AM honouring her, things have gone very well with me here--I obtained my UK driving license, I’ve had several jobs, we paid off my school debts in less than a year, I have my British Citizenship, I have been received into the Anglican Church, I have medical care.  It was like the light coming on.  I can rest in faith that I am right where I need to be.          I realised that it isn't my job, (or even “Annika's” job) to take care of my Mom--but God's job.  Even if I were there, God would be using the same people he is now--the doctors, nurses, and rehab staff--to meet her many needs.  Just as it is God's job to provide for my Mom, it is God's job to take care of me when I am old. 
                        When “Annika” had to put Mom into hospital, she was full of anger and recriminations toward herself, because “Annika” felt she had not kept a close enough eye on Mom.  Mom's blood sugar had dropped to 35!!!  (This reading is the USA’s standard with 100-120 being a good level)  “Annika” was distressed, telling God that she couldn't handle it if Mom died--because it would have been her fault.  Suddenly, the Holy Spirit spoke to her--"Hey, nobody said she wouldn't come through this.  She will be fine.  Just relax.  I'm taking care of things."  A couple of hours later, she thought:  "We have a credit card with a large amount available.  I better see about getting ‘Helene’ over here."  So she went to one of the travel websites, with the idea of checking out prices and flights from England.  She typed in Heathrow in the "leaving from" box, and clicked the mouse.  The whole screen went black!  So, she hit the mouse again, and refreshed the screen.  Once again, she entered Heathrow into the "leaving from" box and hit enter.  This time only the title bar came up, and the rest of the screen was blank.  The Holy Spirit said, "I told you, everything is going to be fine.  You don't need to do this."                          When Annika told me this story, it was another thing that put my mind to rest.  I have not sensed an urgency to go there.  I am trying to call Annika on a regular basis--to check on her as well.  Right now is not the time to go to Florida--but the Lord will let me know when it is. 
                        “...And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well:” Mark 7:37.  This remark was made about Jesus.  I echo this feeling and thought as I look out the window at just this minute.  Why?  Because I see a rainbow—a token of God’s promises to us.  Equally, I was not surprised by the timing of Mom’s hospitalisation and the test on my part to truly trust God to care for Mom and “Annika.” 
                        In the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling better, and stronger.  I still get a bit shaky at times, but the tremors don’t last as long.  Having a set routine is making a positive difference and this gives me hope that I can be even more active in coming days.  I wanted to share all of this, because God is so gloriously gracious and deserves to be not only acknowledged, but praised and applauded. 
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”

Monday, 24 October 2011

Autumn thoughts!

        What do you get when you mix a bit of laziness, a bit of pre-occupation, a bit of busyness, a bit of fatigue and days that follow each other too quickly?  It’s more like what one doesn’t get—a blog posting!  But with the kind and strong encouragement, mixed with some very gentle chastisement, from a good friend, I have here to fill the screen with what I HOPE will be your reading pleasure! 
        My last blog was written and posted on 6th September—nearly seven weeks ago!  Wow! 
        My Midnight Man’s eyes are healed up now; there are barely any scares.  He is happy with being able to see more clearly, but thinks that perhaps a millimetre or more off his right eye would have been good. 
        Whilst August turned out to be the coolest weather for over 18 years, September experienced the most glorious Indian summer—and had record breaking temperatures through the end of the month into October.  The heat truly confused nature, as bushes put forth spring-time flowers on their limbs; the harvest for blackberries extended from August until October.  (We are still picking berries from a vine near us!)  The tomatoes responded enthusiastically to all the heat and we’ve had lots of little, sweet tomatoes.  I even had one little pepper on the pepper plants.  That was a very late result. 
Our beets on the left--big garden beets on right!
        I’ve stopped watering all the plants now.  I need to wrap the geranium though, as I don’t want it to die.  However, we had a nice collection of small, even tiny carrots and tiny beet root.  Seeing the end result did convince me that my decision to not plant vegetables next year was correct. 
        On 15th September I returned to the nephrologist.  She said that all my tests came back clear.  My fatigue and other symptoms were not caused by the kidney problems.  I found this very frustrating.  However, I have been scheduled for a kidney biopsy on Monday 7th November at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.  It will be done out-patient under local anaesthetic.  I will be observed for a couple of hours to make sure there are no complications.  The biopsy is needed to determine how the kidney is functioning and what treatment will be appropriate. 
Last of the Carrots!  Cute, aren't they!
        Apples have been more than plentiful this year.  The last week of August I was given two carrier bags with apples.  They were from friends who have apple trees in their gardens.  I didn’t want them to go off, so I peeled and cooked them and then bottled it.  It’s great to have homemade applesauce on hand.  The first week of October the harvest continued and I asked for some more apples from the vicarage garden.  I’d make crumble, and apple sauce, but no apple pies.  I had a craving for apple pie.  
        Reading other blogs, being around other home bakers, I’d heard about a pie crust recipe that used vinegar.  I’d never used this type of pastry before and I wanted to give it a go, so I found a recipe on the internet.  I must report that I did not follow the recipe exactly, so I’m not sure I actually liked the recipe.  I will give it another go before I make a final decision.  The pies were delicious, although I missed the crispy result of the recipe I use as standard.  The pies did look pretty though! 
        The Alpha Course has begun at St. Mary’s again, and My Midnight Man and I have had the privilege of serving two Monday nights.  I cooked for the first week—a nice big cottage pie—great comfort food!
        Many of you—probably most of you, know that Mom was placed into hospital at the beginning of October.  She is now receiving physiotherapy in the rehabilitation centre.  My sister reports incremental progress on a daily basis.  Mom’s memory has been affected because of the severe infection she had—but I’m not sure if it was a urinary tract infection or something more complicated.  Anyway, I have truly experienced the peace that passes understanding as God has heard your many prayers. 
        I hope to write more over the next couple of days. 
        May the Lord’s blessings overflow to you. 
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”