Holocaust Remembrance Day

Saturday 27th January is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Most of you won’t even have realised that was a thing! That’s fine, that what I’m here for – to educate you!

As a 3G Holocaust survivor, this kind of day is significant, because had my Grandfather not escaped the horrors of Munich which killed his parents, other family members, and friends…. well, I wouldn’t be here to educate you.

Sobering, isn’t it.

Last year, I spent some time researching whether there was an impact on 2nd and 3rd generation of Holocaust survivors. Mostly from a Jewish perspective, but I also looked briefly at those on the “other side”. I looked at Psychological, Spiritual, and Epigenetic research, to find out whether there was any kind of legacy passed through the survivor to the generations after.

What do you think I found?
Is there an impact?
Has something been passed on through the generations?

Have a read of my research paper for yourself!
To order a copy email: enquiries@cmj.org.uk

And may #WeRemember and #NeverForget what happened only a couple of generations ago. Just because one man decided one nation wasn’t acceptable I know, it’s deeper than that, and affected more than the Jewish people. But they were the main target of Hitler’s hatred. So, let’s remember… before someone else make the same drastic decision, and the murder of innocent people begins in another cycle.

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When the road to healing contains a hidden dip

When you’ve been on a difficult journey, sometimes you can look behind you, see how far you have travelled, and think you’ve made it to the end of that particular road, only to find there was a hidden dip you weren’t expecting.

It’s those hidden dips in the road of recovery and healing, which remind you to keep looking ahead; because while you may be nearly there, you’re not quite there yet.

For me, Friday brought one of those hidden dips. A simple task, became a reminder of the past I had walked away from, and the chains which God broke off me, from which I stepped out of. It shouldn’t have done, and it caught me off guard.

Changing my name back to who I am, the name I was given at birth, has been a long process. Each place requires proof, and it takes time for items to be sent out and brought back through snail mail. Friday was the last place where I needed to make the change. At the surgery. Except they wanted more than I had, to prove who I am, compared to everywhere else. A deed poll. Because it’s a legal document. But so is my driving licence! And so is my passport!

I mean, I know it was a mere inconvenience. And it shouldn’t have bothered me. But it was when the administrator said they might reject the papers I had, but would use ‘also known as’ instead. This is when I entered the hidden dip. I am not ‘also known as’ anyone…. I am who I am. I don’t have two names, I am proud of the one name I have, and have used for the majority of my life. It is me. It is who I am. It is not who I am ‘also known as’.

It’s funny when you think about the way in which we define people, one of the most important, is the name by which they are known. I don’t want to be known by any other name. I don’t want the association of the name I once took. Because I don’t want the association with him, or what he represents.

For women who have come out of an abusive marriage, in particular, it’s that concept of being known as Mrs so-and-so. Like you belong to that man whose name you accepted. Like your identity becomes lost in his identity. Like he still defines you.

I think this is why I see what happened at the surgery as a hidden dip. As silent tears threatened to fall from my eyes, trying to cling on to the part of me which really exists, compared to what a computer and it’s operator were trying to say would define who I am. What should have been a simple last step, became a challenging hidden dip, reminding me that while I have travelled a long way, I haven’t quite finished this particular road. Nearly. So very nearly. But not quite.

Who is God…

Who is God?

To some people, He is nobody.
To others, He is this elusive Being Who is judgemental, controlling, angry and oppressive.
To some He is distant, and not really bothered about what happens to you.
To others He is the One who holds life in His hands…both the good and the bad.
To others He is this floaty, cloudy, Santa Claus who will make everything perfect…if only we had enough faith.
To some, He is there for others but not for them because they’re not good enough.
To others, He is a killjoy who doesn’t want you to enjoy life, at all.
I can go on….

How people form their understanding of God, is based less on Who He really is, and more on the perceptions formed of Him, according to the actions and behaviour of those who allegedly represent Him.

  • For someone who was abandoned by their father, trying to relate to a God Who is like a father, who cares like a parent, and all we imagine a parent to be, this doesn’t relate. So God becomes distant.
  • For someone who feels rejected by parents, family, friends for whatever reason – whether real or perceived – God is just another person Who will potentially reject you, if you don’t live up to expectations.
  • For someone who has been in any kind of abusive, controlling relationship, God becomes this controlling being who will torment you, play games with you and generally not mean what He says.
  • For someone whose marriage wasn’t what they expected, for whatever reason, trying to relate to God as like the lover of the soul, the “husband” who will never leave or forsake you, becomes another distant fairytale.

You get the picture, right? We try to understand an incomprehensible God, based on the people we know, have come into contact with, or experienced. We try to understand God according the limitations of our humanity, and box Him in by what we think we know.

So who is God?

While it is true Christians are supposed to be “Ambassadors for Christ”, are supposedly “being transformed into the likeness of Jesus”, and are “made in His image”, more often than not, even we Christians are not good representations of Him. Sometimes, we get it wrong. Sometimes, we understand God wrong ourselves. Sometimes, we don’t even know Who He is and have our own agenda. Sometimes, we like the idea of the God who makes dreams come true, so we lie about life, in order to present Him in a “better” light. Sometimes, we don’t care if we really represent Him or not, as long as we make ourselves look good.

I’ve been in church for over 40 years. Been around “Christians” for over 40 years. I’ve met many who have inspired me to become an even better version of myself, because of the depth of the relationship they have with Jesus. But…I have also met wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those people who are in the church, but not of the church. Some with titles, some without titles. Some of whom have given me a “check in my spirit” immediately. Some for whom the “red warning flags” weren’t as visible – or maybe I just didn’t want to see them.

But…. Who is God?

He is not Who we sometimes portray Him to be.

His nature, His character, Who He is – this is all revealed in the Scriptures….. and yes, I do mean the Old Testament as well as the New. God isn’t some vengeful, angry controlling being in the first part of the story. Who He is becomes clear when we understand Him from His Word first, and from others second. Like Jesus said, “You have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

It is this which then allows the Holy Spirit to bring a “check in your spirit” when someone tries to present God in a particular way, and it doesn’t “sit right”….because it isn’t right if it goes against what you really know of Who He is according to the Scriptures. The Bible tells us to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

We’re living in the end times. Of this there is no doubt. So when people start saying, “God is here.” or, “God is there.” or, “We can only be in a certain place, if we expect God to show up.” remember this:

“If anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or, ‘There He is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs, and false prophets will rise up….so as to deceive….even God’s chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:23-24)

While I was reflecting on Who God is, this is what I was asked, and I will leave it with you, at the beginning of a New Year:
“Who is God? Who do YOU say that I AM?”

Old stuff from an old life

When you try to hide from life, bury it down in the hope you never have to deal with stuff, God has a habit of bringing it to light when He knows you’re ready to deal with it, if you’re ever going to turn the page and begin a new chapter. More often than not, it’s a part of you, your character, your experiences, your history, which you need to hold up to Jesus’ light, and reflect truth on it.

As I think back on this year, sitting here with a mug of hot chocolate at crazy A.M., I am astounded at how far I have come. This time last year was a very different picture for me, and I am often left bewildered at what God has led me through to bring me to this point.

Yet there is unfinished “stuff” yet to be dealt with – some of it on a practical level, and some of it runs much, much deeper. Funny thing is, the more you try to bury something, the more it grows.

Like making sense of why you respond in a particular way, to a particular type of situation, and the impact your past experiences have on your present reactions.

So as the last 48 hours of 2017 work themselves out, what do you definitely not want to drag with you into another year? There’s still time for you to work it out. It won’t just go away, you’ve tried burying it for how long? And yeah, I know there are some aspect of this “stuff” which are going to take longer than the time we have left of this old year. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a start.

  • Old stuff from an old life – sell it. Do you really need to hang on to it?
  • Old stuff from an old life – let it go. It doesn’t define you any more now than it did then.
  • Old stuff from an old life – clean it up. Stop looking through the dirty window of your past toward your future.
  • Old stuff from an old life – release it. Embrace the new people in your life, they aren’t the same as those who are no longer around.
  • Old stuff from an old life – learn the lesson. You don’t have to repeat mistakes.
  • Old stuff from an old life – shake it off. You define who you are. No one else does.
  • Old stuff from an old life – leave it in 2017. Rejection? Fear of being alone? Fear of failing at life? Redefine how you want your life to look, and own it.

Old stuff from an old life?
You don’t need it anymore. There’s a New Year on the horizon; a new chapter about to begin; a new version of you to be developed, because you won’t be the same person this time next year. Don’t make it the “same old, same old”, make you a better version of who you currently see.

From Failure Comes Accomplishment

There’s nothing like feeling a failure for completing something which had been beyond you previously. Do you know what I mean? It gives you a little extra edge, a bit more fight, a bigger desire for success.

The beauty of it is… the failure doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the task.

Tonight I completed one of the “fitness” routines I do in the privacy of the front room…where no one can see me, and no one can laugh when I lose my balance or can’t kick as high as the people showing me what to do! For weeks I have huffed and puffed my way through it… oh the delight of being a writer and sitting all day! Without a dog to take for long walks… I’m sure that must be simpler! 

Tonight was also when I felt intense frustration at what “life” currently looks like, and somehow my sense of utter failure at “it” thus far, was the catalyst for finally completing the routine without needing to pause – for a drink of course!

The two are unrelated, and yet somehow, they came together in a moment of self-accomplishment. When we try to create boxes, or compartments for dealing with life, inevitably there’s spillage. And one area starts to impact on another. We see it with stress all the time. The impact of stress on the body, on the spirit and on the mind is often a spill-over from something which we have attempted to box away. For whatever reason.

  • Maybe it’s too much to deal with?
  • Maybe we can’t see a solution, so it’s better to hide from it?
  • Maybe the answer seems way out of our reach?
  • Or we compare it to others’ situations and think we are being too sensitive, too dramatic, too selfish?

The problem is, when we need to deal with stuff… it doesn’t stay neatly boxed away for a more convenient time. It spills out. Because the more you try to hide from it, the bigger it grows.

I remember when I was waiting for test results from a lump I’d found, my hair fell out in clumps. I also remember when I was in the middle of an abusive relationship, my stomach was permantatly knotted with anxiety and food was a forced necessity rather than enjoyable.

Instead of boxing, and hiding away that “stuff” you don’t know how to handle, find someone who will help you unpack it…either a good friend or a professional. Use one area of life you’re not sure about, to be a catalyst for success in another area.

I know it won’t happen overnight. Tonight is a one-off. And the feeling of failing in life hasn’t just dispersed because I succeeded with a routine. But I feel better than I did before, and know that just as with the small things, God will get me through the big things too. Some of the other boxes I’ve hidden away will need to be pulled out and sorted through – which, like a spare room in a new house, is a much longer project! But when the spare room is finally clear of boxes, the sense of achievement will be much greater.

Sara and Steph’s Afternoon Tea League Table

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to sample another afternoon tea, for various reasons. But today – we were back in the Tea Rooms and back on the hunt!

Our first Afternoon Tea at Tom Browns Brassiere in Gunthorpe was an excellent choice, and set a very high standard for others to live up to. So when a group of us went for a ladies afternoon at The Cavendish Hotel, in Baslow, Sara and I were ready to test all aspects, and insert it into our league table. Alas….the experience is definitely something to write home about!

Venue: The Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, Derbyshire.

Time of our booking: 3pm
Sara booked a group of 6 of us in for the Afternoon Tea about 10 days before. She confirmed the booking and requested my Gluten Free version about 3 days before we were due to go.

Parking: There is building work currently being carried out at the hotel, so the car park has been reduced. We ended up parking in the public car park next door, and had a short 5 minute walk up to the hotel.

5808020B-CA18-42BB-B23F-0FBFF90668E6First Impressions: When we walked into The Cavendish Hotel, it was like walking into a grand and lavish drawing room, with a real fire place (unlit) and comfy sofas. After a short wait we were led through to The Gallery which is a delightful room with white table cloths covering the tables, and silver tableware with The Cavendish logo. The walls were decorated with old paintings, and the menus we were handed matched the decor. A lot of thought has been put into offering a beautiful impression for a special afternoon.

The tea we were served was “proper” loose-leaf tea, with strainers. I had a berry fruit infusion which was OK. The flavour was more tea than berry, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The others’ tea was very strong, as was the coffee one of the ladies had. While they tasted smooth, it was a good job lots of hot water was provided!

Presentation: Presentation was just OK for the main Afternoon Tea, it didn’t have the wow factor, as food was served on a black three-tier tray type platter. I was expecting olde style china plates, based on the rest of the decor.

But, my gluten free option was treated as a second-rate cousin, and was served on oversized plates, rather than a three-tiered presentation platter. Disappointing.

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The experience: When the food was finally delivered (see failings) it looked OK. Sara had been a couple of times previously, so had recommended The Cavendish to the rest of us based on her enjoyment in the past. But she was disappointed with the selection which was brought out to us. Even by comparison with some of the other tables and it didn’t look all that great. The sandwiches were served on round disks, and there were only 4 each….less than one slice of bread per pseron. The options were one each of: Cured ham and a tomato sauce, salmon and cucumber, egg and cress, and cheese and onion. I liked the cured ham one, but wasn’t too keen on the cheese and onion. When we spoke to one of the waiters and asked for more, he said he would bring some out…but these didn’t materialise.

The scones, however, were served warm and to quote, “were to die for!” The home-made jam, and cream were delicious.

The cake selection was mediocre, initially. This was redeemed after we had spoken with one of the waiters and he arranged for another tray of cakes which included some heavenly pistachio cakes, and brownies. The gluten free ‘apple crumble’ essentially seemed like a flapjack with apple sauce drizzled over the top. I didn’t eat it beyond sampling it.

Some of the others around us had shot glasses on their trays with what looked like a posset, brûlée type dessert, which would have been refreshing after all the cake. Alas this wasn’t an option for our table.

The GF option: As mentioned, the presentation of the gluten free option was very much second rate. So I wasn’t overly impressed. The bread was dry, as if it had been sat out for a while. But the gluten free scone was delicious… I had two on my plate, and I scoffed both of them, thank you very much! Other than that, I wasn’t impressed with the flapjacks on the cake plate.

The crowning glory: The Cavendish offered some home-made whisky chocolate truffles. They were tasty, but those of us who tried them, couldn’t actually taste any whisky in them.

Failings: When booking an afternoon tea, we expected to be served quite quickly after being seated, and served our drinks. An hour and 15 minutes after we were seated we were served. This wasn’t just our table – a couple who had booked for their anniversary had to wait with their young son. And another couple ended up walking out without ever receiving their food.

When we spoke to the lady at Reception, the team were very apologetic, and did all they could to make it up to us: They brought out a bottle of champagne, but with so many drivers we didn’t drink it, we did however, bring it home with us for a future occasion. The extra cakes which were brought out redeemed the mediocre selection originally brought out. They waived the service charge on our bill, and…this is the biggest redeeming factor for all of us… gave us vouchers for another visit to them, with the request to, “Give us another chance. We normally pride ourselves on our service, and are really sorry we didn’t live up to this for you this time. So please come back and give us another chance.”

The waiters were attentive – particularly after we had complained about the long wait and poor selection. One of the waiters said he was supposed to serve us, but had been sent to another part of the hotel, which indicated a lack of staff. Which was a shame.

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Toilets: The toilets were beautiful and ‘proper’. The double sink offered matching soap and hand-cream, which smelt gorgeous, while baskets of individual hand towels were spot on for a germaphobe like me!

 
Best of Afternoon Tea league table: Unfortunately, The Cavendish hasn’t achieved top place. On this visit. If there were more than one in the current table, it would sadly have gone straight to the bottom of the list. But the fact they are good at customer service, and offered free vouchers for a better afternoon tea experience, could well redeem them as the table changes.

Current position: Last 😔

#1in6 – A positive?

The journey of infertility, for the 1in6 doesn’t seem to have an actual final destination, as I mentioned yesterday. In our hearts, we know what the desired outcome should be, but there are no guarantees. And the further down the road we travel, the further away from the dream coming true it seems.
And if one more person says…. “But you will have the desires of your heart if you just focus on God….” What they don’t know is our strength to face each empty day, comes only from remaining focused on Him.
But I have this, for those of you who are 1in6; who find yourself actually walking on this road. Please believe me when I say, there will be days, even months, when the road feels slightly easier. Not because the results have necessarily changed. But because something within you changes.
It’s the part of the human brain which steps in to protect us from the long-term anguish, protecting us from the ongoing pain. Not that we no longer desire to have our own child, but we start to develop a kind of resilience which allows us to actually leave the house and face the day.
Sometimes when I read Proverbs 13:12, I wonder if some of Solomon’s 700 women would themselves be part of the 1in6… There is a definite understanding of what it really means for the infertile journey. Unfulfilled hope. Heartbroken sickness. These will never really go away, but they become less dominant. Less painful.
YOU become stronger.
I would say, “Don’t lose hope.” But I know if you’re anything like me, you already have. I would say, this, however: DON’T LET GO. Of God. Of who you are. Of the other areas of your life which can be ‘more than’ while you are on this particular journey. There are aspects of your life which will add colour to your life, even in spite of the colourlessness of being 1in6.

#1in6 – The never ending story

The hardest aspects of being #1in6 is not when people say hurtful things, but living with the fact there is no cure, and no end. There are no guarantees… even though this week there have been lots of good news stories celebrating the 40th anniversary of IVF. This is not a guaranteed result for curing the empty arms syndrome. In fact, only around 20-25% of people undergoing IVF not only conceive, but carry their child to successful full-term.

A huge risk.

And all those amazing diets, healthy eating plans, supplements…. they’re big business, so they have to work? Right?

If they did, would there be 1in6 still?

No cure. No fast-track to success. No guarantees. Each month, for those couples who are trying to conceive, there is a never ending circle of hope, potential, and broken dreams. The emotional impact on them is tough. Especially if she is late. But if she is JUST late, the heartache, the sorrow, the grief, the burden of failing again… this at times feels too much to bear.

No cure. No fast-track to success. No guarantees.

What about those people who had been married, who had been trying, who now find themselves single. Again. A different kind of sorrow. A different kind of hopelessness. A different kind of grief. They know. They’ve been on the road before. Their empty arms feel heavy. To start again, to have to explain what being 1in6 means to someone new, to face the shame of holding back someone else’s dream…how can they even contemplate being so selfish?

And for those who have a burning desire, deep in their hearts, the empty arms burdened with the longing to hold their own, but the right relationship hasn’t been found. And now, it feels like it’s too late. A different kind of sorrow, a sense of abandonment, a never ending grief of what will never be.

No cure. No fast-track to success. No guarantees.

So when this National Fertility Awareness Week is over for another year….remember the 1in6 in your personal friends lists, and in your church, and think about how we can be there for them – even when we may forget.

#1in6 – When people hurt with words

Even though #1in6 is such a prevalent amount of people, as we have discovered over my last couple of posts (our friendship circles & in the Church), the amount of ignorance surrounding infertility and the impact on those who are struggling with it, is also prevalent…. disproportionately so!

Even in the church.

I say “even in” because the amount of women in the Bible who had fertility issues, you’d think people who read the Bible might show a little more understanding? It’s like, they read about one of the women, turn the page and everything is ok.  When actually… Between one chapter and another, years have passed…even decades when you look at how many children other women in the family had conceived.

But they forget that tiny detail.

And then throw out these examples of women who trusted God and then He answered their prayers. For many of the women….newsflash….their prayers weren’t answered for years. For other women in the Bible, they never conceived. Like Tamar who was so hurt by a man’s rape against her, she went to live in her brother’s home, and never fulfilled her own calling as a woman.

I know ultimately, I have personally found my strength and hope in Christ alone. Which is actually pretty good for me, because at the end of the day, people hurt. Sometimes they don’t mean to. Other times they try to represent God, but just try to find the right words thinking it’s what you want to hear. While sometimes it’s just ignorance which causes someone to say what they did to you.

Like those people who “had a dream and you had twins in your arms”. Or who “promise within a year everything is going to be OK”. God is the true source of prophetic hope and assurance, and so please don’t let the words of man distract you from God. The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy…. and what better way than to kill the future hope you have, to steal your faith and destroy your relationship with God. All because someone said the wrong thing.

Like when someone told me, unless I went to church on Mother’s Day, I wasn’t fully healed, and hadn’t let God deal with the hurt and disappointment of being 1in6.

It’s a good job I know God better than that.

He is for me, not for which services I attend.

Words hurt.
People hurt.
This journey hurts.
I know. But I know somehow, you will get through it too.

But I know somehow, you will get through it too.

#1in6 in Church

Hmmmmm…. #1in6 huh?

Yesterday, I posed the question to you about how many people in your social media friend lists could potentially be one of the 1in6. For some of you, I actually hope this is a sobering thought, because too often, those who are on their infertility journey find it too hard, and too lonely.

Now for those of you who are in church. How many are there in your church? 50? 100? 500?  That means there are potentially, respectively, 8, 16, 83 people who would be brought under the 1in6 statistic.

Have a look around you. In worship. You won’t know from how we worship, because God is the sole source of our strength, and we know we can’t get through some of our hardest days without Him. And even in the middle of our heartache, we lift our empty arms and still praise Him.

1in6? They’re in our churches as well as on our social media pages.

Does this make the 1in6 issue seem more real to you, yet?