I recommend you to read this great post by Jennifer, at ‘Feeding on Jesus’.
This is powerful, amazing stuff. Miraculous. I think my heart caught a glimpse through that veil – that it could even be true for me! I shall read it over until I know it. Thank you Jennifer. Thank You Jesus.
I often write to process ideas and floating thoughts. This morning I am processing some thoughts on FEAR. I capitalise it, because it manifests itself as a very BIG thing.
I’m not an expert in any of this, though I have known the presence of fear for as long as I’ve known life.
I thought it was an emotion, but I think it is deeper and more fundamental than that.
In my humble view, fear is as solid and universal as an instinct – a defence/ protective warning signal for survival. It triggers the fight, freeze or flee response to danger. It has a very important role and if we consider what it is saying, it can protect us from rash, impulsive and dangerous choices.
But it can also be crippling, like a shackle around one’s ankles. It can render a person mute, ineffective and pathologically disabled or ill in many ways.
FEAR made its presence felt in me again last night. I feared my loved ones becoming very ill. I feared becoming ill myself. My chest went tight and my breathing laboured; I felt light-headed and faint. I was aware of the potential for fear to cause me to feel physiologically ill.
Of course for two years now, we have heard the sirens racing alarmingly through the streets, listened to news reports (which I rarely do), had to wear masks, follow precautions, sanitise, socially distance… Whatever we believe about the pandemic, we have been subjected to death statistics, to prolonged lock-downs and closures and to constant news of hospitalisations, illness and threats. Regular life has been suspended and we have all been distanced and put on high-alert. It is the topic of all news and conversations. The UK no longer discuss the weather, but open conversations with “Have you had your booster yet?” and “Where’s your mask?” whilst applying yet more sanitiser from bottles perched on every surface.
The symptoms for many with covid 19 have been coughing, a tight chest and difficulty breathing, so in a state of fear or panic, one feels these sensations, which can spiral into negative thinking, worst-case scenarios and further panic and psychological and physiological anxiety, stress and panic. When panic begins, it can be very difficult to control, but self-control is possible.
My defence strategy, last night, was to breath deeply, to pause and pray and to encourage myself in the truth of the promises of God:
We are constantly told by God to be strong and courageous; to not be afraid, not be terrified and not to faint…
(It is said that the Bible tells us 366 times to ‘not be afraid’ – one for every day, including the leap-year!)
Why not be afraid?
Because God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind. Because He promises to go with us wherever we are and to never leave us or forsake us…
So how do we do this?
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:1 – 2)
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:5-12)
This morning, I could still feel the memory of the panic, but I was no longer carrying the burden. I had listened to God’s word and presented my concerns to God. I expressed my troubles and gave them all to Him who is able to carry them, and now my heart and mind are both at peace. I can now deal rationally with those things that are my responsibility to attend to.
I shall possibly need to remind myself over and over again. I need a treasury of promises on every surface of my mind, with which to sanitise my mind from the virus of fears all around.
If you become afraid, acknowledge it, see what it is trying to tell you. Listen to the warning, but refuse access to the spirit of fear, for that is not from God.
Lean on the Holy Spirit, breath in deeply and cast all of your concerns, worries, fears, requests on the God who cares for you.
Encourage yourself in the promises God makes to those who put their trust in Him.
May you enter 2022 in the Spirit of Power, of Love and of a sound mind, knowing that God is FOR you, He is with you and He loves you with an everlasting love.
And encourage those around you, helping them to carry their burdens and comforting them with the comfort you have received.
As I child I always wanted to ask and know about our story, though information was rarely forthcoming.
“Mammy, Did you and Aunty Ju fight a lot?
How naughty was I?
Tell me about me and Debbie?”
I wanted to know the details and the why/ how much/ why not? My own children were the same in adolescence – they wanted to hear about themselves as young children: Mammy, tell me about the time we…
When my Mammy came to live with us in 2006, I still wanted her to tell me the stories. She told me the same few stories that she’d always told about her own childhood. And good that she did, because before long, I was having to prop her up with those same stories that she was beginning to forget. As her short term memory lost it’s grip altogether, the deeper, older memories became stronger and more significant. It was like the roof had blown off and she had moved downstairs. As she forgot the recent and latter parts of her life upstairs, she also lost some of the show – the inhibitions, the secrets, the niceties and reserve were blown away like the loose fittings and the stories she told and the way that she spoke felt as real and profound as a fairy-tale. I learned so much about this beloved woman in those months. She was clinging to the old furnishings and we described them together over and over. Sometimes she would venture upstairs with me, but it was windy and precarious up there and there was little left, but sometimes she would like me to describe what it had been like before.
This was our special journey together down ‘Memory Lane’. It was important for my own processing and growth. Mammy also showed me surprising hidden closets from my infancy and before I was part of her story. There were times I felt lost in her world and times when we were both felt ‘lost down memory lane’.
It was those hidden closets and those Bogeymen in the cellar, that I knew I would have to have the courage to meet in my own life. I had spent a lifetime barricading the doors and papering over the cracks, pretending that I was sorted and healed, but it was not true at an emotional level and I could see that it was futile at best. I was not living the promised ‘life to the full’ because I was still afraid of the Bogeymen!
Burying my head in the sand, anaesthetising the pain, ‘not knowing’ and ‘forgetting’ were all coping mechanisms to avoid facing the fear of being afraid. I was ready to be sober and to look my Bogeymen, secrets and myself – square in the face. Well, I thought it was time I tried! I would make sure I did things differently and let go of the fears that were strangling my life and my voice. And so it began with a plan on New Year’s Eve, 2015…
The next few years were an exploration of Suzie’s stories as she told them to me and I wrote them down. A journey of getting to know and learning to love her by going down her secret Memory Lane.
This beautiful and courageous adventure into young Suzie’s life is the subject of my current writing project and the book coming soon…
In honour of this, I wrote a poem:
Free to be me, at fifty
At fifty, she’d had to confess,
that her life was really a mess;
She needed a chance to learn a new dance
and to heal, to grow and to bless.
But a word from the wise, whispered, “Open your eyes,
for the door of your cage,
(Prophesied the old sage)
She’d been trapped in the cage, this is true,
But at least it was space that she knew.
Could she survive, even thrive, in the open,
if she finally let go and flew?
Her heart was abused and her wings still unused –
What if she fell, couldn’t fly?
To make such a change felt fearfully strange,
Was she even too old now to try?
She pushed open the door and stepped out,
surrendered her will and her doubt.
She screamed and roared as she tumbled and soared,
The thought struck me – if I have no memory, how can I learn any skill or knowledge?
As I come to the last part of my thoughts of Remembrance, I realise how the words ‘memory’ and ‘remembrance’ have such a broad scope of meaning!
We have ‘remembered’ historical events and persons, known to us by the written and spoken stories of collective, cultural history.
We have ‘remembered’ likewise the miracles and stories of God’s salvation history, from the written words of Bible and through ongoing synagogue or church traditions.
We have remembered our own family heritage, perhaps enhanced by family anecdotes, photographs and paintings.
Much of this ‘remembrance’ is a bringing to mind of stories about, rather than of personal experience with, a person, time and place. We tell those stories, teach the lessons and pass on the collective wisdom learned through the people and events of the past. Society wants us to remember and learn lessons of history and God wants us to remember, learn and be encouraged by His faithfulness and love. This is why Jesus spoke in parables and stories that we can understand, remember and pass on to others.
But there is a different sort of remembering, which is also crucial in our personal identity. These memories are formed by the impact and impression of experiences we witness, hear, see, smell, touch and in some ways ‘feel’ fully for ourselves. These are our own personal memories. It is not a ‘knowing about’, but is a ‘knowing’. We were there and saw it and felt it. We heard him. We tasted it. We smelled it… and it sticks in the mind. The impact of this depends on the persistence over time of the information we store and on the impact of it on us. When I hammer into stone with a sharp implement, I will impact the stone and leave a mark… likewise, years and years of footfall, or weather, will also cause a mark and impact on that stone.
It is very significant how early our formational personal experiences occurred. The first experiences we have lay the foundation and shape of the person we believe ourself to be and often do then become. These early experiences are fundamental to our identity.
Our identity is entwined with all these experiences we have had and through our experiences of our interactions with others in our world – our parents, family, church, school, society, culture… We learn who we are, who we are expected to be and the significance of our place in it all.
Lessons from Dementia
I’ve been thinking a lot over the years about the importance of personal memory and the absence thereof.
It became an intensive personal study when I became a full-time carer for my young mother, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed with it in her early 50s, younger than I am today.
When Mammy’s Alzheimer’s became debilitating, one of the deep lessons I learned was of the nature of memory to define who we are. When Mammy began to forget, her sense of self, her foundations even, began to slip… she forgot what her family looked like now, and in time she no longer recognised their faces, voices and names. She no longer recognised herself, or where she lived, where she was at any moment, who she was with, what she was doing, or supposed to be doing…
Her memory failed and she forgot who she was in relation to everything else. She became lost and very afraid!
We knew her and we continued to affirm her, hug and hold her, remind her of who she was and all the moments and memories that made her who she was. Sometimes this was enough to give her quality of momentary peace, warmth and love, but it all was without connections. The oldest, deepest memories of experiences that were significant and powerful, these remained as monsters in a fragile void. The string of fairy lights no longer connected and illuminated the place that was Mammy and for many lonely hours, she lived a state of terror, haunted by old trauma, (unresolved stuff that had left big impact in her life), and frightened by her state of lost unknowing.
She entered a void of dissociation, disconnected and mute as all meaningful words also retreated whence they had come. As she slipped into oblivion, the torment and terror seemed to stop and she seemed to experience a peace?
My first published work, ‘Lost Down Memory Lane – Caring for Alzheimers – A Personal Journey’, by Dawn Fanshawe, explores the reactions and responses of my mother, me and others, to Mammy’s loss of her identity in dementia. I wrote it in honour of her struggle and for myself to remember. I also wrote it to offer encouragement and empathy with others, who also embark on that un-chosen journey to care for a loved one whose lights begin to go out.
This is available as an e-book or from WestBow press (for those in the USA) or on Ebay direct from me for those in the UK. Use links in the ‘BOOKS’ page or message me directly.
As I witnessed the unresolved parts of Mammy re-traumatise her in her state of dementia, I knew I had to find a way to exorcise, if you will, those painful parts of my own early experiences that I had long ago buried out of harm’s way. I did not want them to come back to haunt me, if I should ever get dementia!!
Since publishing this book in 2015, I began my own journey to get to know my own wounded-inner-child. I called her Suzie.
The second book, that I am hoping to publish soon, explores this personal therapeutic journey and the strategies and processes I have used to effectively re-connect with my wounded inner-child and to re-member the fragmented parts of me that had been disconnected and buried inside. It is an exciting journey of growth, honesty and an unexpected joy.
The more I have reflected these past months on answered prayer and thanksgiving, the more I realise that my attention is shifting to giving thanks and praise to God no matter what the circumstances. My prayers may not be answered the way I want, but His ways are higher, better, wiser and more perfect than my ways… I need to trust that God is always Good, always Righteous and always Faithful.
Today I revisited the story of the old lame man, begging since youth at the temple gate… He thought he wanted money from Simon Peter and John, but what God wanted to give him far surpassed his wildest dreams and gave him back his true life and dignity as a child of God.
This is God’s way.
Praise His wonderful name.
Despite this, I still bring my requests in confidence to my Father in heaven, knowing that He asks us to come with confidence and to ‘cast all our cares on Him’.
I often find visualising a prayer very helpful, so I will share, as an example, a scene I am currently praying for a lady I met last week, called ‘S’. (She has a form of blood cancer that she is told is inoperable, terminal and now simply a matter of time. I asked her if I could pray for her and she said although she is a Catholic, she is not really practising her faith.) The scene I have been praying through, and seeing in my mind’s eyes, is that she will hear the knock of Jesus on her heart’s door and will let Him in and go along to Mass; that she will receive the Eucharist and then thebody and blood of Jesus will course through her veins – from the crown of her head to the souls of her feet – and she will feel it’s healing, life-giving power running through her; that the hospital check-up will reveal her ‘remission’ and that she and all her loved ones will give glory to her Lord and Saviour. As I prayed this I touched the crown of my head and followed through my whole body down to the souls of my feet and felt and saw the tingling new life.
This is only my way of visualisation and it helps me to focus my prayers. I may never see the lady in the shop again. With some prayers we never know how or when they were answered – not in this life anyway. Like with the lame man at the temple gate, God may have better plans and do it His way. But I do know that God has heard my prayers for ‘S’ and will answer them.
For the month of November, I have been blessed with many specific answers to prayer, for which I want to publicly give God all the glory and honour and praise:
For all the insights and refreshing in preparing the blog-posts about remembrance so far this month.
For the examples of so many Saints and martyrs who have helped to preserve the church and teach the faith as it was handed down from the apostles.
For showing me how to synchronise all this research into church and group lesson plans too.
For my personal remembrance of a late but loved friend; and
for my anniversary of 37 years since my baptism.
For ‘C’ being fully off the smoking now, though still ‘vaping’.
For blessing and refreshing ‘L’ and ‘D’ in their body, hearts and minds.
For blessing ‘B’ with a job.
For blessing ‘I’ with encouragement and a new sense of purpose and commitment.
That teas and coffees and richer fellowship is now returned and established back at church.
For giving ‘D’ courage and blessing as he ‘breezed’ through his first and second successful cataract operations in November and that he can already drive safely alone (after 6 months not able).
For wisdom and clarity to gather and submit all the relevant tribunal evidence requested in good time.
For all the kind letters of support and prayers over this time.
For motivating and helping me to wisely restructure and update everything in my business.
For dinner with ‘C’ and for his creative support with my book.
For a further remembrance and lovely reunion 40 years on from school.
For a wonderful return of the baptismal pool in church, for ‘S’’s amazing testimony and baptism.
Again I say thank you to God for His mercies, which are new every morning. None of us know what the day or the morrow will bring, but we can have every confidence in our Daddy God and His amazing grace and amazing love for each one of us. We are not worthy of this, except that we are now robed in the righteousness of Jesus. God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Jesus over us.
Blessed be God forever.
Please be encouraged to also pray for those you may never have been privileged to meet – for our persecuted family throughout the world and wisdom for all the leaders and authorities. And never give up praying for anyone God has laid on your heart, especially those who still have not opened the door to their hearts to Jesus. Your prayers to God are powerful.
Lastly, dear friends, I thank you for coming to read my blog.
Please share your thanks to Father God in the comments below, or privately as you remember His abundant blessings and faithfulness in your life.