Sunday, 11 December 2011

Two hands
My hands
Shackled together
I thought I was free
How wrong could I be?
Two feet
My feet
Walking along
Which direction to take?
What decision would I make?
I thought I had choices
Any way I could choose
Little did I realise
I only had two
One: to go my way, do what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted
Two: to follow You
Seeing yet not seeing
Knowing yet not knowing
Believe or not believe
Not believing is a choice
How do you want to spend eternity?
You choose...
(c) Cathy Mowbray 2011
Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

It was that time of year again a couple of weeks ago - time for a mammogram. I couldn't believe it had been a year since I had the appointment. This time I didn't feel as much discomfort - I don't know if it had anything to do with a different machine, a different nurse or I knew the "squashed" feeling wouldn't last forever. I had to find a different way to sleep a couple of days after for about a week, hey that's no problem.

A couple of hours after the mammogram I had a strange phone call from the hospital. On the letter and at the hospital they said the results would go to my GP and to contact them in a couple of weeks. The phone call was offering me an appointment to see the Doctor the next morning.  My mind froze and I said no.  I could feel myself getting worked up after the call ended. 

It would have been so easy to have got so distraught about the "what if"'s  - oh how they can destroy my peace. Thankfully I became aware of my thoughts and quickly thought calmly about the phone call. If it had been as a result of the mammogram would the results have been ready so quickly? I suspected not, no matter how efficient a place is. And I declined and they accepted that - if it was necessary to be seen quickly they would have suggested coming in soon rather than giving me the option. If a doctor asked to see me I'm sure they'd have said that. I decided the best thing to do would be to phone and speak to the clinic secretary. Which I did the next day. Spoke to a nurse who explained it all to me. Had the phone call happened a different day I'd probably have accepted it for what it was. Just being the same day got me thinking.

It made me realise how debilitating fear can be and how easily it can get a grip on life. Thankfully I was able to sit and pray and process my thoughts in peace, something I'm not always able to do. The Holy Spirit brought it's amazing peace and my fear evaporated. I need to find space at work to do this when things feel out of control. Unfortunately when I'm under pressure and accusations are flying around there isn't an opportunity to find some space to do this. I have to find a way to get through the day and hopefully find a way of dealing with it in the evening - not always something I want to do later on. I get to the point where I don't have a choice. I can run but I cannot hide! I have to face the emotions (good and bad) at some point. Thankfully the time carrying these emotions is getting shorter before releasing them. I know I cannot carry them around with me forever. I'm a new creation, being renewed daily and do not want to add more baggage to an already overloaded emotional state.

I received the test results from the hospital. It made me laugh. My results were exceptionally satisfactory. No chance of misunderstanding that result!

It is so great to be monitored yearly. I have been trying for years to be monitored through NHS and had never got the courage up or money to do it privately. It's a shame in a way I'm unable to go down the checking out genes line. It would have been good to know if the Cancer in the family is a genetic problem. Only one problem with that - I need to have family members with Cancer to check against. Hmm, a few years too late for that. And I certainly don't want any more family to be diagnosed. Even if it is genetics, it's not necessarily a guarantee of developing Cancer. It could skip a generation. That would be a good thing. Two generations is enough.

I don't spend time worrying about developing Cancer. My role model is Ma. After Pa died she suspected the Cancer had returned and was quite open about it. I'm sure she still protected me from alot of the pain - emotional and physical - she went through but she always said the not knowing was worse than the confirmation. It was something she just had to deal with and get on with it. She found the strength from somewhere to fight for as long as she did. 2 years. 2 hard years. 

Ma and I were very close. I only remember once seeing her in hospital upset. It wasn't a nice experience to see her so upset, yet at the same time I was glad she was able to share this with me. We had so many funny moments together which crack me up when I think of them. We used to cwch on the sofa and chat about most things. 

Have you ever had time with friends that are so funny each time you remember them you cannot help but laugh then try to explain to someone why it is so funny for it not to sound that funny? A case of "you had to be there".

One of those moments had to do with the song  "Pretty Woman". Ma used to do silly things like put her purse in fridge and the milk in her bag - you know, that sort of thing. (Go on, admit it, you do that from time to time. I know I do). She used to call herself 'silly woman'. She was laughing at the song and said it was about her so we tried to change the words. We only managed a couple of lines before we ended up in hysterics. I really cannot explain it. I cannot listen to the song without smiling.

I find the same thing happens with writing as when I pray. I start of thinking it is to do with one thing and before I know it it's developed into something more - I think I'll leave this post as it is and not split it...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Are we so different?
 Over recent months my experience of watching films or programmes or even reading has changed. Before, quite often I'd sit and watch or read and accept as face value. Lately though I either question my own beliefs or will spark off some form of thought process. I can understand it with some of the books I've been reading, although even then I don't just read it. Some of the films seem to be a sit and watch, hopefully a good story line, but not for me lately.

This got me thinking about human relationships. There are certain groups of people I'd find it difficult to get along with. That was difficult for me to admit to myself - it's not something I think about often. Part of this would be because of lack of understanding, some of their beliefs are different to mine. Then I thought about the film. They turned things around by not looking at what was different between them but by looking at what was similar and embracing that. So it's a film and not always as easy as it looks on film. Some differences are taught to us at an early age and become part of who we are. Is that an excuse? Sort of. Just because I believe something doesn't automatically make it right.

Beliefs over time can change too. I think that's important to remember. I know some of mine have, some drastically due to personal experiences over the last few years. Some are still being broken down and rebuilt into a healthier form. I've found it a painful experience looking at some of my beliefs but one I'm finding interesting at the same time. It's also important to remember that we are each a sum of many beliefs. Just because you may not agree with one of mine shouldn't automatically discount me as a person, I'm much more than that one belief.

I wonder what a difference it would make if we each took time to listen to people-groups we're uncomfortable with and find a common ground? All relationships take time to develop and have their ups and downs. It takes effort to build and maintain relationships. I live in a "right here, right now" and a "throw away" culture. Isn't it time to invest time in each other, whoever we are?

Friday, 8 July 2011

Penultimate leg of homeward journey
Getting home is feeling like a marathon - not that I know what one feels like. I think it's due to lack of sleep. I tried to doze during my 6 hour wait. I sat on my case which was on a trolley. Thankfully the brakes worked. I half expected me to be somewhere different when I woke up. I am sooo glad I packed my blanket. After helping Naomi get the boys and things to the car it started to hail quite heavy. I got soaked.

I am amazed and happy at how great the twins coped with the journey. They woke up as soon as we got to the airport. They were so tired. With so many new things to see there was no way they'd settle. Even then they were really good. When we took off they fell asleep. Naomi and I stretched out with one each to relax a bit. I dozed again but it's not the same as sleeping in my bed.

I was a little sad leaving Serbia. It always finds a place in my heart. When I met up with Vesna on Wednesday she asked what she could do to get me over more regularly! Bless her. It has more to do with me keeping tight control on finances and annual leave.

It has inspired me again to get back learning the language. I'm hoping the more I learn and try the more sense cases will make - at least have a bit more knowledge which one's it could be instead of randomly picking. Back to basics again, me thinks. It would be great to have a conversation instead of understanding what they've asked but cannot reply. That'd be a good place to get to.

Just under an hour before the flight leaves to Dublin. I just want to get home now. I'm totally exhausted.

"Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and want to go to bed"
Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Amazing animals
 What an amazing last day of hols. We took the boys for a walk as usual before they went to bed by the river. I heard a strange noise and asked if there were ducks. No, they are frogs. I have never heard frogs sound like that before.

We are all packed - Naomi, the boys and I. I sat on the terrace for a while and was distracted by lights coming on and off. I've seen fire flies. Wow, so amazing watching them. Just as I was about to come in a bat was feeding. It came so close.

I am tempted to stay outside and watch but I'm shattered and we're leaving in a couple of hours so thought better try to get some sleep in case the boys need entertaining on the plane.

Again I'm feeling sad to leave Serbia. I feel so loved here. I cannot explain why or how. I always have each time I've been here. But am so looking forward to get home to Belfast. It's gonna be a long day. I think I'll be finding a quiet place to sit down at Luton to sleep. I have around 8 to wait. But I had to leave some time in case there's a delay leaving Beograd.

So night night. I'll be back in UK by 7.30 tomorrow morning.
Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Soko Banja za Soko Grad

It was worth the (rock)climb
I went for a walk today to Soko Grad. I set off early before it got too hot. It's such a lovely day. I think it could be called a hike and climb. I ignored my fear and climbed up to the fort. Going up is not bad, it's the coming down unaided I don't like. Especially when I fell, I managed to fall backwards but the rock was sloping and I ended up falling sideways into another rock. I was winded and not sure how I got down the rest. Definitely not a walk to do if it's wet as the rocks are slippery enough dry.

I'm glad I went up for the walk. I sat and looked at the mountains opposite. They looked covered in shrubs - actually trees. It reminded me how small I am and that my problems are insignificant. Perhaps another way to explain it would be - how big the world is, huge the universe yet God still chose me, found me, called to me and is with me.

I now realise how important it is for me to get out and about either walking or cycling. It helps put things back into perspective. I know I haven't had to deal with work or "normal" life so I'm more relaxed anyway but I know being outside makes me feel soooo much better.

Anyone want to join me?...
Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Good film line becomes reality
Have you watched "My big fat greek wedding"? There's a line something like this "He doesn't eat meat?...that's ok, we'll cook him lamb". It's such a funny line.

I've now been here 5 days - well, today's 6. I've been explaining I don't eat meat since I've arrived. I'm also having to watch my intolerances so added them to the list. Serbian's do not understand that I don't want to pick out the meat. I've been offered cooked vegetables in a rabbit stew. They eventually said the veg taste like rabbit but I won't be eating the meat. Then last night they made me a pizza with cheese and tomatoes - 2 intolerances I cannot eat. We went to the health food shop the other day which I forgot about so started creating. I was offered polenta cake which sounded lovely. My dinner was ready so dished up, up came the polenta. Milos said I'd have to scoop out some of the bits. I thought they were tomato but turned out to be ham. Not again!

I'm not sure why they don't listen. There are lots of Serbians I know who will listen to you and even if it's a completely different view respect that view. It's so hard - I know it's even harder if this is what you have to live with (honey, you're amazing). It's wearing me down and it's not even a week.

Yet at the same time these guys cannot do enough for you. May not be what you want but they do it anyway. It would be quite comical if it wasn't so often.

Naomi, the twins and I popped into the church in Nis yesterday. They were having a mum & toddler group. It was great to see so many attending. They have asked us to pray for this group. They want to do this twice a month from September. The church is being transformed. Downstairs looks fantastic. The room layouts the same but I never thought it could look this good. They are definitely getting themselves on the map!

Today I'm off to see Vesna in Nis after her exam. I couldn't come all this way, be 30 mins from her home town without seeing her. It'll be great. Better go get ready!
Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Non-roaming even though I have

I've tried 3 times to get my mobile connected to a Serbian network and 2 of those have been via international calls to UK. I give up. I'm told something different each time. Thankfully the restaurant has wi-fi so am connecting via that. Ok no phone calls or texts, but next best thing. I'll certainly be looking for new network when get home as it cannot be anything to do with the Serbian network as I cannot get roaming 2 hours from home and what's the point of that. Yes, I'm a bit upset about it! Dread to think how much the calls will cost. Taken at least 40 minutes to sort out so far.
I had so much peace on Friday travelling down the country with no phone. I couldn't let Naomi and Milos know which bus I was getting so they'd know when to collect me. I tried a public phone bo only to find they are now phone cards. I didn't have time at the bus station to get one so just got on the bus.
The bus arrived early at Soko Banja. I was unsure if I should wait or make my own way. I was feeling adventurous so decided to see if I could find the way (I wasn't sure they'd come to collect me). So with my case in tow off I went to the first crossroad. Hmm, by process of elimination there was sort of one possibility. I kept an eye out on the way to the bus station and didn't think it was that way.
I toyed with the idea of going into the first restaurant and seeing if I could use their phone but I didn't. I kept walking - yay, I found the park in the centar. Ok, I knew which way to walk and I had to turn right at some point. I'd only been to their apartment once before so my memory was a little faded and I was so tired by now. I turned right and walked a little. I wasn't too sure until I saw a shop and was encouraged as I remembered a shop near the apartments. I thought I saw the apartments in the distance and continued walking only for them to disappear. By this time I was wondering if I'd been hallucinating because of lack of sleep. I decided to continue to see if there was a sharp bend around the corner. If not I'd go to the shop and ask for help. If only I'd had their address or at least written down Milos' surname - I wouldn't be able to say it but at least someone could read it!
As I found the bend I looked to see the house, a sign for the restaurant - of course, it's Kaskade and the apartments. I looked up to see Naomi on her balcony. I left my suitcase on the steps up to the door as Milos was on way down to collect the suitcase. The three flights seemed to take forever - only because I was tired.
Milos had gone to the bus station and spoke to either the bus driver or a ta xi driver to be told there was an English lady on the bus and she spoke very good Serbian. I hardly spoke any. Perhaps that's the secret, be good at what I can say and say no more!
Relaxing day today. For me it's warm but locals are wrapped up. It's great being out and feeling warm again. We took the boys out a couple of times today. They both had bad night last night and we were coping with that.
I'm being reminded again what having children is about. It's so challenging. Lovely and rewarding, at the same time. Also seeing the way different cultures deal with bringing up baby. I think my thoughts are more about the culture and their beliefs as opposed to specifically thinking about parenting. It must be because I'm out of my own culture and have a bit more time to see things.
It's also got me thinking about national identity and how much conflict can be caused in the name of it. We have to have somewhere we belong and feel connected to. Sometimes that can be threatened by politics, religion, leaders, I suppose anything that can challenge us. It's how we decide to react that's important. Do we lash out in fear, goad others into our "cause" or work it out another way? Do people helping us support us or are they along for the ride, on the bandwagon or because it's an inherited view?
I feel that working out which of my beliefs are my own for a reason and which are inherited is important. I am not disrespecting previous generations if I don't agree with their view. To me it feels more respectful after having looked into why they feel that way. It can bring a deeper relationship.
We are all individuals who have different life experiences even within close families. I can view the same situation in a different way to the person next to me therefore can have a different view.
I know it's important for me to know in my head and heart who I am. Lately I've been looking at untrue beliefs - why I hold them and why I've developed them. It's been a very interesting journey so far. There have been a few where the root of the problem has been revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. It's amazing how clear His revelation is and the gentle way He is doing this. Oh yes, it's painful but knowing I'm being set free from potentially life-threatening beliefs is great. It's a great example of how much better Jesus knows us than we know ourselves.
When was the last you examined your beliefs?

Friday, 1 July 2011

1st flight done
Woo hoo, arrived @ Luton Airport. There are lots of people milling around. I've found a bench and table to stretch out on. I may get some sleep, be good if I can as I'm shattered.

I phoned Virgin Mobile when I arrived here as I couldn't get signal @ Dublin Airport even though I checked earlier in the week. Can u believe this - if I have problems in Serbia I have to phone again as they cannot do anything when phone is in UK. Please pray it does work or I'll have to spend time ringing when I should be on way to bus station. Naomi won't know what bus I'm on. I've learnt from yesterday and written down some phone numbers in case I cannot access later on. It'll be fine. I'll just have to find public phone box and ring when get off the bus. It all adds to the adventure!

I'm going to try and get some sleep for a while. My head is buzzing with lots of thoughts but they're too deep to start writing now.

Nite nite for now.

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Thursday, 30 June 2011

You'll never guess what happened. I'm off on holiday tomorrow - well heading to Luton airport then Serbia Friday morning. For a while now I've been wondering what adventure will happen getting there as quite often something odd happens before, during or after flying. I can safely say that the strangeness has already happened, 24 hours before I fly! 
Oh, what a night. I had a great time at the Redeemer barbeque. It was lovely spending time relaing with people. It was perfect timing. I still have a bit of housework to do and a wee bit more packing of the suitcase left but thought it good to spend time with others - and hey, only one more working day left so a night out is called for!

So I get dropped off home. As soon as I opened the pocket on my bag where my housekeys normally are I felt something was up. I tried not to panic as sometimes I've left them in the bag instead of the pocket. Uh-oh, not in the bag. OK, time to get the mobile out and ring A for my spare key. Bigger uh-oh - I left the mobile on my bed charging. Never mind, A is staying down the road and left before I did so no worries, I'll walk to hers. 
All the way to hers I was trying to work out what I'd do if she wasn't in. I sort of had a plan but prayed I wouldn't need to act on it. Ok, flat rooms are in darkness, no van parked on the road. This probably means she's not in. I tried the buzzer, just in case. Have you ever been in a situation where your head goes into over-drive with "what if's"? I only let a few develop - what if A staying at parents tonight? What if D, housemate, staying at partner's tonight? I waited outside for a while, not sure how long. 
Time was ticking on and had a feeling my keys may be in the back of C's car as my bag fell upside down getting in. I know C is like me and gets to bed as soon as she can if it's later than normal. There was only one other person in the area I could think of - I know her road but not the number of the house - so not much use. I know how annoying it is when someone calls out down my road, didn't think it best to do that now.
So the only other person I could think of was G - who is in the east. Taxi time. I arrived at hers to see all the house in darkness. Oops, she has an early start in the morning. I rang the door bell. It's now around 10:50. Thankfully she heard. Out comes her mobile. We rang 3 people - all mobiles went straight to voicemail. It got to the stage of nothings going to happen tonight so just as well stay over and we'll try something else in the morning.
I'm not sure how long I'd been trying to sleep when I heard G speaking. I was slightly aware and in the distance heard a door knock. I thought I was dreaming then realised why would G knock on another door as it's her place. Aha, must be my door. A had checked her phone and if I could get there within 30 mins she has my spare key.
Back in a taxi. Requested a stop via cash machine. First one we stopped at had been smashed to pieces. Perhaps it didn't give out a receipt! I made it across in time, paid for taxi, picked up spare key, walked back to mine. By this time I'm shattered and I'm not too sure how I managed to keep walking (or even sit here writting). I'm home now, in bed, ready for sleep.
I'll be up early in the morning to finish the housework and more importantly packing!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Just another Bank Holiday?
I don't always remember my dreams. Sometimes I'll wake up knowing it was a really strange dream but have no memory of what it was about. Others, I'll remember vividly and have to spend time working out it was a dream or did it actually happen. 
One morning last week was a bit like this exceptI sat bolt upright and heard myself saying "...but Easter is more important than Christmas". Haven't a clue why I'd say that. As I lay back down I thought about this a bit more.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Christmas is a great thing to celebrate - God becoming flesh and choosing to be born in a fallen world. He could have come to earth as a 32 year old male in time to gather His disciples and teach, heal and bring the Kingdom to earth. But he didn’t. He was born and grew up with experiences we can relate to over 2000 years later. It’s such a shame that for far too many Christmas is a break from work (if you’re lucky enough not to work in retail and other professions that have to work) and what presents are we going to get. How many people think about Christ being born?

Let’s think of Easter. What does it mean to you? Is it how many eggs you get? Did you receive more than your friend? Some people will think of images they’ve seen. How many thought about a cross with Jesus on it? To me, Easter isn’t about Jesus on the cross - that’s only part of the story, like watching a box set except the last episode which explains all your questions. It’s not about the tomb where Jesus lay. It’s about the empty tomb, Jesus defeated death, He died and rose again. Jesus gave His life for me - and YOU so we could live in the freedom of abundant grace and mercy.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Light in the darkness
So long has gone by since my last post. Being quiet on the Caf-front is not usually a good thing. I seem to hide away when things get challenging. Sometimes it's to get strength for the next day, others it could be because I don't trust how I'll be with 'you' and am not sure you can handle me. At least I think that's why!

I am trying to learn that being in a community, whether that's church or family, means the good and the bad side of people, healthy and sick - starting to sound like the wedding vows! Slowly I'm showing more people the real depressed Caf, not the put on a mask "happy" Caf.

I realised the other day that I'm on the highest dose of anti-depressants I've been on and they're not working as well as they could. Part of that is intentional. I know from the last time with depression that when they are at the proper level I felt spaced-out much of the time. Admittedly that got me through the days, weeks and months but I know I wasn't really there. This time round I know I have to be in touch with my thoughts and as I'm having prayer ministry I felt it important to be able to connect with feelings to deal with them. Having said that, it is extremely hard and very energy-zapping.

I feel quite amazed at how I am though. On one hand I do feel very depressed and worse than last time. But at the same time I'm (just about) holding down a full-time, full hours, job. Ok, that's just about it at the mo, no energy for socialising. I have to ensure I make it to work or things will change there. Last time I had to have time off work. Part of me is wondering if that'd be better but I'm not convinced it would help. I feel supported and lifted up. I know this is the Holy Spirit sustaining me. I am in a very dark, sad place but feel lifted up. I know some of you don't have the same relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as I do and may not understand how that can be. I cannot explain it. I pray that you'll come to know more for yourself (but not through depression).

I do recognise some of the darker thought patterns, unfortunately - well, in the sense that the thoughts are back, not that I'm recognising them! I scared myself a couple of months ago. I felt I could take no more of this and wanted it to end. I couldn't believe that thought was back. Thankfully I realised where this could lead and had to stop the thought process before it spiraled downwards even darker. I'm no Psychologist so not sure if this is true, but to me suicidal thoughts and wanting to commit suicide are two different things, although thoughts can lead into actions. I was distressed by wanting to end things.

Before suffering from this deeper depression I had the view, as it seems the majority of people do, that suicide is the easy way out and selfish. Well, during 2001 - 2005 I tried 4 times to end my life. To me, it was the most self-less thing I could do. I could see how much my illness was affecting family and friends and the pain I was causing them. I couldn't see a way out of the darkness and became so tired of it. I am soooooo glad I rejected most ways and only ended up taking too many anti-depressants. Part of me was wondering if it'd make me better and if I died it'd be a release for everyone.

So back to a couple of months ago, being a follower of Jesus and wanting to end my life caused additional conflict. It is not down to me to decide when I die, that's God's job. That's when I cried out to God with all my strength. I had to stop the spiral now before it got out of control. Thankfully it stopped. Also I know there is a way out of this darkness. I've been healed before, I will be healed again. I just need to keep on the rocky journey of healing - facing and opening up baggage I've been carrying around for far too long.
Prayer ministry is good. I find meeting up with Linda and Lila a catalyst to healing until we meet again. The time in between meeting up varies, 2 weeks or can be 3 weeks. Within that time I receive revelation or healing for different issues. In 2 weeks time I've agreed to have a long ministry session to see how much freedom I can receive and see which walls will come tumbling down. I'm excited and anxious at the same time. Although I don't like how I feel it's familiar. I've been like this to some degree for the past 2 years. To think that in 2 weeks time I can be healed is a strange feeling. I've put my life on hold during this depression and now need to think about my life again. I do have sight of the bigger picture of this depression and that's been keeping me going. To think that the bigger picture could be around the corner is strange.

These 2 weeks will be filled with preparation for a new me. A time to think again what I want to do in Northern Ireland, a time to get creative again and connect others to their creativity, a time to have fun and lots of it. There's so much I want to do here and it's just around the corner.