Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Uncategorized

MY SEVEN-DAY BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!!

How often we dread the turning of the clock as the years tick by and we reach a certain milestone. Denise Mclaughlan shares how she celebrated her coming of age of three score years and ten as a single person! (This was 5 years ago)

In an effort to accept and make sense of this ageing matter, I had this sudden inspiration to embrace the fact that I was turning 70 in that month of May… so, rather than to fear it or make it go away I decided to embrace it…and that after several years of not easily admitting to my 60-plus status!

The fact is that I feel so much younger…. healthy and with more energy and exuberance than a lot of younger people. I realised that there is no getting away from the years… thus why not go big? Hence the week-long festivities, A 7-day celebration for the 7 decades.

I set about it by creating a Powerpoint invitation of several slides in which I set out the plans I had for doing pleasurable activities every day for a week…with whatever friends cared to join in.

I took great pleasure in designing the page and writing the rhyme/verse playing with the words starting with S as in the heading SASSY SENSUOUS AND A SHARP SEVENTY which is how I tend to see myself… never mind the odd grey hair, the slight stiffness when getting up ; at least I had kept up with the modern world of technology and had refrained from getting narrow in outlook!

On the following slides I set out plans like….a morning tea party at my house (for the older folk who are not working ) … a Pyjamas and Popcorn movie evening for my church cell group on the one evening…a movie and coffee outing with three other friends – who share my interest in movies ( and did we enjoy “Far from the Madding Crowd”!

There was also the Sunday with my little family at home with cake and champagne… and the joy of having two of my three grandchildren with me!   However the piece de resistance was a good old-fashioned Soiree (which for those who don’t know) is an elegant get-together at a home with live music and a dinner. This was in the end held at a very close friend’s house and as a gift she provided her lovely dining-room, most of the dinner and the table decorations which had a vintage theme…and her cook who did the delicious meal. To fit in with the soiree theme, I hired a professional saxophone/clarinet/flute player to do the honours. We were 12 people and I must say they did me proud… a real highlight of my festivities!

On my actual birthday and after the six days of enjoyment, seven friends and I went for a very fine breakfast at Nitida Wine farm near Durbanville where I simply loved the view of a dam , the vineyards in their autumn colours , the fynbos and the Boland mountains in the distance.

This was the most blessed and fun-filled birthday and I actually enjoyed reaching this milestone of birthdays…. here is an excerpt from the speech I made at the dinner on the night of the soiree. 

Seventy years of a good life

……….And so now I am seventy and rather than fear old age I shall embrace the years to come. I will work on my bucket list and I will live life to the full with the help of my Lord in heaven. I am grateful for the blessing of good health and a zest for living … so watch this space!!

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

LEARNING TO BE CONTENT WHATEVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES


Reflections on solitary outings and activities, by Denise McLaughlan

Being single again has many challenges and loneliness is one of them.  Denise shares her story with how she has been able to be content within her circumstances. This has been a day by day walk.

These days I am constantly aware of the merits of going -it-alone! Being an extrovert and socially inclined, the prospect of outings and get-togethers used to be paramount. I could even admit to a touch of Fomo- fear of missing out, but lately I have tempered this inclination. Maybe due to the ageing process- which I tend to ignore!

 I am discovering the pleasure of pursuing passions for certain things like country drives – I call it Small-town Hunting, I love weekend getaways or just sitting alone in lovely surroundings. This could be a coffee-shop with atmosphere, a tea-garden – anywhere I can sit, read, or write in my journal, also to take photos of old buildings/landscapes. It seems to me that the only requisites are a pretty, vintage-like or close-to- nature setting, a book, a pen and the money for a coffee or light meal…Sometimes I take my own picnic. I am discovering that much pleasure is to be found in simple things that need not cost much money.

My weekend often includes just one outing or pleasurable activity to keep me content  – to feel less lonely .An example would be my drive one Saturday morning to Franschhoek, a very pretty historical town with a decidedly French atmosphere -mainly to go and listen to a well-known journalist/political commentator at the Huguenot Association of S A where I could also find out more about my Cilliers family research.

Beforehand I enjoyed a coffee milkshake at an open-air cafe, then strolled through a market, where I bought a blackboard and chalk, a new straw hat for the summer and six plants for my new-found interest in my garden, all at a very reasonable price! The trick is to focus on places where you can indulge in your own interests or passions – whatever they may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed mingling with other descendants of the French Huguenots, listening to the topic of the day and actually finding out some vital information about my paternal grandmother!

On the other hand, I have started cherishing time spent in my home and garden. My various activities include reading, knitting, creating little corners of interest or displays such as my travel corner in the entrance hall complete with a globe, vintage suitcase and old-fashioned picnic basket plus travel magazines!  I have also arranged a bookcase with comfy chair and little table for tea as a reading corner with invariably the French doors open for the summer breeze and a view of my little side veranda. To enjoy time alone I find I must create the setting and get the right atmosphere – which could be a simple as a little glass container with a few small flowers from my garden, maybe a candle and the inevitable cup of tea- definitely in a pretty porcelain cup !

Then of course there is my hobby of adult colouring books where I can indulge in my love of color and creativity… I already own ten such books.   When one lives alone (and originally this was not by choice), you can eventually learn to enjoy the companionship of a pet- and my white cat Saphera purrs happily when she tentatively creeps onto  my lap while I knit or write or colour in. Who can resist such closeness?

Another source of stimulation and enjoyment is my creating PowerPoint Collages or cards – often for someone’s birthday using some of my many photographs. If permitted I share them on Facebook – another nice-to-do thing. That is to say if one has embraced new technology- which I would not want to be without now.

I am deeply grateful that I found it in myself to be on my own and not only to keep productively busy but also to be truly satisfied and content with who I am and where I am at. I am striving to have more time quiet time, in my case with my Lord Jesus, but could be spiritual awareness for someone else. I know that my abundance comes from Him.

More and more I am choosing to spend time alone and enjoying the freedom and choices that living alone gives one, therefore still maintaining a festive outlook on living alone!!

Paul said he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances, I think learning was the operative word. It is a process, and Denise has clearly outlined how she went about being content as a single person. What are you doing to learn contentment in your circumstances? We would be really happy to share your thoughts on rebuilding a contented single life.

Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Uncategorized, Widowhood

TRANSFORMING THE BRIDE

transformation2.jpgJesus used many parables and examples from nature during His time on earth. The book of Romans tells us that we are without excuse because since creation His attributes have been clearly seen and understood through what was created.  This has caused me to look at spiritual concepts and view them through nature and thus enrich my understanding of them.

Look at the Church, the Bride of Christ, we all understand that concept. We see the denominational diversity, divisions and competitiveness – how can we really become the one Bride of Christ?  Jesus said they shall be known because they love one another!  The conflicts and religious wars of history have shown that that hasn’t happened.  How can we accept one another’s differences and love one another at the same time? Let us look in creation for a metaphor and see if we can find an answer.

A tree has four components, a trunk, branches, leaves and roots. Without these it cannot live each being dependent on the other as a whole and the spirit (life-force) within that maintains its cycles.  If we look at each part and compare them to denominational or religious philosophies, we can see how much we depend on one another and therefore need each other to prepare the Bride of Christ.

The trunk, solid and immovable on what is right or wrong, black or white, no shades of grey. The Word of God is the Truth; we need to be reminded that this is so, that our focus is kept on the Triune God and that no other philosophy can woo us from this Truth. Trunks are covered with bark, that bark can be smooth or rough, striped, ringed or covered with thorns, and depending on how our Truth is projected or told to others can either protect or harm them. Fundamental Truth and belief systems.

The branches represent those who teach the Intellectual and Practical outworking of this central Truth.  Their programs reach out like the branches; they offer shade and shelter to the weary and to passersby. They reach out to causes like prisons, missions and good works.  They bear fruit; they feed the hungry, comfort the sorrowing.  They are always reaching out, even in winter when the branches are bare.

The leaves are seasonal and colorful. You know the wind is blowing by the rustling in the leaves. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind; no one knows where it comes from or where it will go.  The leaves flutter and give trees their glorious colors.  In the Psalms it says the trees in the field will clap their hands in joy, charismatic movement.  We need the joyousness of the leaves to lift our souls in worship above the heaviness of life and to know when the Spirit is moving.  The leaves are there for a season, then drop to the ground where in due course they provide food for the roots.  The young leaves are then formed for the next season’s growth. There are seasonal patterns in our spirituality and belief systems.

We cannot see the roots, but we know they are there, they draw the nourishment and water up from the soil to feed the tree. There are people who set themselves apart to pray, those who withdraw from the world, contemplatives and mystics where meditation and prayer are central; the prayer warriors, monasteries, convents and communities.  Even if we do not see them, if these people stopped their function in the Church it would become very sick and maybe even die. We all need their prayer and deep connection to the Creator

Nature has given us a solution to the problem of religious and denominational difference and diversity.  We must accept the place God has assigned for each of us individually, whether it is the trunk, branches, leaves or roots and fulfil our function with all our hearts, minds and souls. This may be for a season or for a lifetime. We then must accept that God has assigned different people to different places and they are there to create balance, diversity, color and strength to His church so that the Church Universal can fulfil its function.

If we each maintain our own identity and function and accept everyone else’s identity and function as God given and as part of the whole, together we can transform the Bride of Christ because the Church will be known “because they love one another”. A tree will not survive if any one of the four components are missing so we need each other to grow in love and unity so we may be THE Bride and not many brides.

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized, Widowhood

REFLECTIONS ON RETIREMENT

Gazing across the still lake at Claremont Gardens in Surrey, the golden reflection of trees looked up at me mirroring the great oaks and beech trees along the water’s edge. This beautiful sight caused me to reflect on the last two years since my retirement and my first visit back to the UK since I went to live in the USA.  This was a major transition, from working to having time on my hands, from living alone to living with my family and learning yet another culture in new land and dealing with the ubiquitous bureaucracy!

I had spent several years on planning for this move, so adapting to the new culture was not too difficult having visited with family on numerous occasions. On arrival in the USA I was exhausted from the past few years of a strenuous job and the handing over process, of saying goodbye to family and friends and going through the immigration process.  This was probably more emotionally draining than anything else. My body felt very tired and I even wondered if I had some dreaded disease, I felt so bad. This was a time to ‘Be still and know that I am God’.  Quite often we are not even aware of how tired we can become in serving others, we give because we enjoy helping others, we give because we know that is what God has called us to do, but even Jesus grew weary in his earthly body and needed to go aside to rest and pray. It is important to allow your physical and emotional body to recover from a big transition. 

Looking at the tranquil water of the lake, I could feel the rest and calmness in my body, something that I had not been able to experience when I was working, always expecting an emergency phone call or my mind working on a problem that needed to be solved. I had to learn once again to be mindful, to live in the moment, to appreciate my environment and what I could see, I needed to learn to tune into the ‘still small voice’ in contemplative prayer and allow God’s voice just to tell me how much He loved me again.  It is easy to lose the focus of God’s goodness when you are in transitions as there is so much going on.

It was important to hear God’s voice saying, ‘well done, you have added value to my Kingdom, rest here awhile to recharge before your next assignment’. Your value is not determined by the work you do, so when you are no longer working you feel you have no value.  Your value is determined by the fact you are a Child of God, His daughter or son and just because you are, you are valuable. So, taking the time to be still and re-establish the strong foundation of who I was in Christ was very important to me.

Taking time to explore new places, find a new church and a new group of friends and different ways of worshipping, doing art or writing all became part of the journey into my new life. Reflecting on the past and knowing my giftings and strengths, putting them out before God as to what plans He has for me to use them in this new venture of retirement required time.  Two whole years have passed, and I am now ready for the next adventure in what plans God has for me.  I have written an Amazon best-seller in the Christian Liberation category. I have joined the Creative team in my church giving an outlet for some of my gifts, I have created my on-line presence of blogging, art gallery and e-course. I have met and made so many new friends from diverse backgrounds that have made me explore even deeper the meaning of life.

I think most of all I have learned that ‘in quietness and confidence will be your strength’, as God reveals things to me day by day with the people He puts in my life to support and help going through difficult life circumstances. He has given me that compassion and caring for them and some creative solutions that they can use to help themselves through hard days.

One day I asked my son what was the one thing he felt I had given him of value and he told me it was living with me through such a variety of life circumstances, that we had survived and succeeded and he was able to apply that foundation and confidence to his life, and that all three of my children had come out not only survivors but winners in successful careers and family lives.

I think the main take away from my reflections must be that difficult and diverse life circumstances build resilience and faith in Someone who is bigger than you, who cares for you, protects and provides even though you may not see it in the moment. It is with gratitude I embraced all the challenging times to bring me to this place of quiet restfulness and peace.

Uncategorized

SPRING FORWARD – FALL BACK

It is that time of the year when we set the clocks back again. I don’t know about you, but this practice perpetually confuses me, and I have ended up either missing something or been an hour too early!

Growing up in Central Africa there was no need for daylight saving, it seemed we got up with the sun and went to bed with the sun! Before we had electricity, at five o’clock all the paraffin lamps would come out, the wicks checked and trimmed, the glasses checked to see they were clean, and the bowl filled up with paraffin if necessary. Dinner would be prepared on a coal stove and later a paraffin stove, but it was easier to make sure all the cooking was done before the daylight went. As there was not a lot of light to do things by after dinner, just paraffin lamps, us children would be tucked up in bed under mosquito nets and the room sprayed with a Flitz pump with mosquito repellent, long before aerosol sprays! When the sun rose, we would climb out of bed and the day had begun.
Turning the clock back reminds me that we really cannot turn back time, we may be able to manipulate the hands of a clock but in life what is done cannot be undone and what is past is gone. If you have been through difficult life circumstances like divorce, you may wish you could go back and make different choices, or marry someone else, but you now must live with the consequences of those choices and decisions. You may have been widowed or lost someone dear to you through no choice of your own – illness, accidents these are all part of life. You have to go on with living and life without that person.
So how do you move forward after this kind of loss and grief? Just like you turn the clock back in Fall, you turn the clock forwards! After the winter time of grief and mourning is over (it is always healthy to have that break to work through the primary emotions of pain, anger, loss and sadness),it is time to look forwards again. It was a new day that dawned when our old homestead was connected to the electricity grid and we were able to flip a switch to have light, we could cook on an electric stove and use a washing machine. What fun to listen to the radio in the evenings and later television as it came to Africa; we watched Lassie, The Flintstones and other early TV shows and so every year we progressed with some new technology, man on the moon or other leaps of mankind forward.
So, when your winter is over, it is time to start making plans for a future on your own, a time to make new memories and overwrite the sad old ones. It is time to reflect on things you could do differently in this time season of life. It is also time to gather the old memories, keeping those that are happy and discard those that don’t serve you well for the future. Time to spring clean your home as well, making space to enjoy new memories as you create your new life.
It is helpful to have someone who has travelled this road before you to help you through the difficult places, as they inevitably will surface when a memory is triggered by something out of the blue or you find you just get stuck. I have written a self -directed e-course to help you, with lots of work sheets, you may get lost at times. Some places you may travel through a few times before you can move on. Following my map, you will find your way again to a fulfilled new life.

The blogs I write are here to encourage you as you walk through the different landscapes of life, take a moment to look through the archives if you have missed some. You can follow me on Instagram at @derynvan or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Derynsbridge/ If you want to find out more about my e-course click here