Tag Archives: family

Sorry for the Silence

I’m sorry for the silence. I have not forgotten you, but unexpected events changed what was meant to be a summer break from writing into a difficult and trying time for my wife and I.

It started with the prolonged acute illness and death of a loved one which took most of our time and energy. On top of which my cancer treatment has not progressed as expected. This has left us leaning on Jesus as never before and is taking us way beyond our own capabilities. We have been here before, but this is a ‘biggy!’  As my wife remarked the other day, “This is the biggest challenge of your life” and I replied that it was also a challenge for my life.

Jesus is taking us through and when the time is right I hope soon, God willing,  to be back writing with renewed inspiration from our experiences. I wish to thank those who have commented, expressed concern and for your prayers.

In the meantime you will find a weekly selection of my posts on Sitting Under My Fruit Tree.

New Year Blessings

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The Thirty Nine Steps

My wife is the Guest Blogger this week and writes about living with an illness long term:

The Thirty Nine Steps

We really welcomed our move to Cornwall. There had been some delay. We headed an ever-growing chain of interested buyers, so made the decision to arrange a bridging loan. It was risky, but John had to start his new job. We were separated for a time, but eventually moved on 5th November 1972 in the rain.

Our children – six and three – thought our new house was great, with bedrooms downstairs built into the hillside and 39 steps up to the front door. They ran up and down and in and out excitably. The beach was just down the road – a new adventure to be lived. Continue reading

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Putting Away Childish Ways

ice-cream-2As it was school’s half term last week, we had the company of our grandchildren all week. Three delightful little girls, each one quite different and a credit to their parents who sacrificially go to great lengths in bringing them up and teaching them what is right.

They are already forming their own opinions and it’s particularly at mealtimes when their individual likes and dislikes came to the fore. ‘I don’t eat cheese’ and ‘I only drink apple juice’, etc. Continue reading

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Carer or Sharer

This is a personal account of how I have lived with chronic illness for over thirty years and how it has been used to change my life. A husband’s viewpoint.

My wife was a real carer. It was part of her make-up. She would have made a good nurse, but gave herself sacrificially to being a mother, wife and home-maker.

After about nine years of marriage we moved to the Cornish coast because of my work. To live by the sea was like a dream come true. We saw it as a new start. Within the first year however, things began to go wrong.

My wife was already experiencing pain in her feet and not long after arrival, she was diagnosed with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive and disabling autoimmune disease. This ‘sentence’ came as a shock for her and she was quickly admitted to a hospital in Bath for three weeks specialist treatment. Within days of returning home however, she had news of her mother’s deteriorating health and travelled up country to see her. Her mother had painfully struggled for years with rheumatoid arthritis and it was our plan for her to come and live with us, once we had settled in and prepared a room for her.  Unfortunately this wasn’t to be, as she passed away ten days later. Continue reading

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Chronic Fatigue and Family

tn_family.jpgMy viewpoint as a husband and father – I’ve tried to keep it brief!

Chronic illness is a daunting challenge to a marriage relationship and family unit. Some say it can be make or break. In our case, we had a double whammy! Over thirty years ago my wife contracted a particularly aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis and was told she could be in a wheelchair inside four years. Years later, long after our children had left home, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

My response to my wife’s diagnosis wasn’t surprising, as my upbringing hadn’t fitted me out to deal with illness. In my childhood, any suffering or indeed any expression of emotion within the family, was kept mainly under wraps. My way of dealing with these things was to do something practical to try and hold things together. I put everything into my work, family and helping out where I could within the community. I did most of the shopping, including, for a time, buying my wife’s clothes and became an expert in the intricacies of M & S’s lingerie department. Our children attended the village school and we became involved with the some of the other parents and attended the church. I ferried our children and their friends to the various activities.

My wife made her role of wife and mother her topmost priority and gave her all, often sacrificially, she had high standards. She was a good listener and it was quite usual for me to arrive home to find the pile of ironing still untouched, because she had given several hours to someone in need. I found that difficult, as she was the one needing physical help. But apart from several notable exceptions, there was little of that.

As the rheumatoid activity increased, she became more physically limited and fatigued. It was easy for me to leave for work in the morning and bury myself in my work while she often spent the day lying down. This was the side most people didn’t see. She found the pain and physical limitations were hard to bear and there were frequent outbursts of expression. I found it increasingly painful to watch my wife, my loved one, in so much pain and distress and I felt so horribly helpless. One night when it got so bad I went down on to our beach in the dark and in desperation reached out to God from the depths of my being, imploring Him to help us.

I felt trapped by the illness and restricted, held back. Once, I was asked if I had thought of leaving and I can honestly say that was never ever on the agenda. We married because I loved her and was committed to our marriage. On the other hand I wanted to escape from the illness, I hated what it was doing.

In our search for understanding, we were led over the years along a path of Christian contacts. We learned new marriage communication skills and how to deal with the emotional pain that was bubbling away just below the surface. I also found healing and release from the grief and loss I was experiencing. Our attitudes changed and in particular people were noticing how well my wife was walking and the courageous way she was dealing with her illness.

Then I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS and I had a new battle to contend with. For the first time I was able to understand first hand what fatigue was like and I benefited from my wife’s experience. The effect this had was to draw us closer together than ever before.

So far as our children are concerned, yes, they did miss out on some things, they can hardly remember their mother well. But I believe the experience has enriched them and we are proud of the way they now handle themselves, their marriages and children.

The last two years have been the most difficult for us, our lives being battered by accidents and illnesses. But in it all we have continued to experience wonderful strengthening and enabling to do what seemed impossible. I don’t know what the future holds, but we know God is with us and the best is yet to come!

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Thank You for Chronic Fatigue

tn_thanks.jpgPlease do not misunderstand me. Chronic fatigue, ME/CFS/CIFDS is a horrible illness and I would not wish it on anybody. I found it devastating at first. In trying to find a way through the illness, I have experienced a whole gamut of emotion; loneliness, anger, helplessness, anguish, grief, including some feelings I didn’t think I had and I’m sure there’s more to come.

However, in looking back, I can now honestly say ‘thank you for chronic fatigue!’ By this I could be implying that God gave me the disease which He certainly did not! But He did allow it or He would have stopped it. He gives me free will, I’m not a puppet on a string. I’m quite sure that to some extent I brought the illness upon myself, because of my adrenalin-fuelled lifestyle. Whereas I don’t minimise the effect of my current difficulties and restrictions, there is a growing underlying gratitude within me because of the benefits. Benefits, that I just do not think would have happened outside the illness.

These are some of them:

  • Our marriage has benefited and there is a greater understanding between us. My wife and I have more time for each other and are closer together than we ever have been.
  • I believe I have grown closer to God and learned, in my weakness to lean more on Him for strength and enabling. I have become more dependant upon God.
  • My creativity has developed, especially in writing, painting and photography.
  • I have learned more about myself and who I really am in Christ. Also, and this is hard to explain, but God has done something ‘concrete’ inside me.
  • In the darkness, discomfort and pain I have discovered and experienced surprising blessings that I never would have otherwise.
  • I am learning to ‘flow’ and pace myself, which uses far less energy. I have developed new ways and am more of a human being than a human ‘doing!’
  • I can more easily tune in and identify with others who are experiencing brokenness, hardship and disability.
  • I have experienced a degree of physical, emotional and spiritual healing and several emotional hang-ups have gone. Also, and this is hard to explain, but God has done something ‘concrete’ inside me. I am expectant for more.
  • I am much clearer as to my real purpose in being alive and feel more prepared for the next phase in my life.

The challenging and sometimes scary journey continues.

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Healing Memories from the Woodshed

The Carpenter and the Glue Pot

tn_carpenter.jpg Childhood memories can effect our lives as adults – this is one of the better ones.

My father wasn’t a demonstrative man, nor was he given over to emotion or displays of affection. Some of the times I felt closest to him were when he was in his woodshed. This was a modest weather-boarded, felt-roofed lean-to in our back yard. Often, if he found that things got too ‘hot’ for comfort in the house he would escape there. He would close the door of his refuge and immerse himself in the latest project. It was one of the places where he was at his happiest.

As a small boy, I regarded it as a man’s place. It was somewhere away from the women of the house and where you didn’t have to worry about a bit of dirt. I would love to watch him, perhaps creating an item of furniture in oak, skilfully handling his old wooden jack plane. Curls of shavings would cascade over the bench and floor. Occasionally he would pause to instruct me how to check for line and square. His large hands would guide and steady mine as I cast my ‘expert’ eye along the length of timber. These were special times for me. Father and son – a ‘chip off the old block’ – together.

It was like an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of treasures to me. The tools of his trade adorned the walls – saws of all kinds, spokeshaves, bradawls, pincers… a rack of chisels sharpened and oiled ready for use. The patina of the old handles of ash or beech gave out a comforting glow in the light from the small window.

In the corner, a cast iron glue pot simmered away. These were the days before pva or resin adhesives. This was scotch glue, made from animal bones. It came in dark honey-coloured slabs or pearl-like beads. These were melted down with boiling water. The resultant hot sticky goo was satisfyingly applied to the joints with a brush. The pungent odour mingled with the sweet smell of sawdust and wood shavings. An unforgettable experience to rival that of freshly mown grass or the new leather of satchels on my first day of school.

He wasn’t just a good carpenter, but a Jack-Of-All-Trades. A hob iron and box of leather strips stood ready for repairing the family’s shoes, a valve radio needing attention or a broken toy requiring loving care. Some things however got him beat as one box contained old discarded clocks beyond repair. Lengths of timber hung from the roof, oak, mahogany, ramin and pine, salvaged from old furniture or buildings, waiting for an appropriate use. The real treasure trove was the bottom drawer of the bench. It was crammed with fascinating but mainly useless items and bits and bobs, kept ‘just in case!’

These are very good healing memories for me – something to savour. You can’t choose your memories of course. I had to allow them to come, good or bad. Is there really such a thing as a bad memory? Nevertheless, I sorted them through with Jesus, the Master Carpenter. The transformation involved taking responsibility for my feelings and forgiving where necessary.

I loved my father and though he died years ago, I often think of him. He did his very best for me, sacrificially at times, you can’t ask more than that from a man. We don’t have a shed now, but I can still go into my ‘woodshed’ anytime and be with my heavenly Father. He’s always there for me with open arms, ready to comfort, guide and steady. They are special times, Father and son together.

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