Tea-Timers and the Waterstones Book Launch

I have my very first book launch, courtesy of Waterstones, Ealing this Friday.  I can’t quite believe it is happening to me, but I am excited.  My friends have been wonderfully supportive and several are making cakes for the event.  Here’s Waterstones and my book is in the bottom right hand corner.  Thanks so much to everyone who has wished me well on social media and been excited for me.  I am so grateful.  

I had my first launch on Sunday 10th September with Tea-Timers a group of my favourite people. 

Who are Tea-Timers?  They are a group of people I have fallen in love with over the last six years.  A group of us from my church wanted to do something for the elderly.  So we set up a monthly tea, with proper china cups and saucers, homemade sandwiches and cakes and invited the over 60’s.  Since we began in September 2011 we have hosted over eighty people.  Many in their 80’s and a few in their 90’s.  It was through working with this group that I felt I would like a tool to have the conversation about dying and death.  Time to Live: The Beginner’s Guide to Saying Goodbye was born.  

When I told them all about it on Sunday they were very excited for me.  We had some wonderful conversations about dying and death and to my amazement and joy many bought the book.  So I feel encouraged.  The whole point of the book was to help the conversations and offer really practical advice.   Some will be joining me to celebrate on Friday.

 

He had set eternity in the human heart

The title of this post is from Ecclesiastes 3:11.

The quest for eternity is deep within us all.

Our only portal to eternity is  through death.  Seeing death through the eyes of faith means what will stretch before us in our death and resurrection is far greater than what we leave behind.  

The full quote from Ecclesiastes:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no-one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 

 

HANGING BY A THREAD – The life of a creative

You’ve worked your butt off. You have given everything. You have sweated, persevered, and nobody seems to want what you have given birth to. Why keep going when it’s all gone horribly wrong?

  1. Our definition of success defines our failure

I just counted the number of scripts I have written. Twenty-one.  How many got made? One short, one feature film.  Of course I saw myself receiving the Oscar, my friend had imagined her dress.  I am grateful to have been a part of writing, and making a feature film with a great cast that talked about something important.  When one of the crew on the night we wrapped wanted to talk to me about the content and tell me his story it became worthwhile in that moment.  I know there were others for whom it was significant.   I wanted to make more but it wasn’t to happen. 

  1. Never confuse your real life with what you do

The sense of loss and despair can feel so great, like walking through mud in a long dark tunnel. And this all about something you have created. When I feel like this I remember what I do does not define me. The priorities in my life are to love and receive love. My real life is community, family, home, and God and I am fortunate enough to have all of this in my life. When we confuse the two we get into substitutes like addiction and unfaithfulness. A real life is interacting with beings with skin on their face.

  1. Stop obsessing and treat yourself to a retreat

Reflect, write, think, meditate, pray, read, remember. Leave behind all distractions. Get surgery to remove yourself from all social media.  Go somewhere and feed your soul.  Ask God for help and He will answer you whether you know Him or not. 

  1. Do not allow yourself to become isolated

Talk to a friend about everything, ask for help, and remember you are not alone.  Remember you are loved.

 

 

“Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them”

Thanks to my book club I have just read Fahrenheit 451 (Flamingo Modern Classics) by Ray Bradbury.  It is awesome.  I recognise I am not alone in thinking this as many people have read and appreciate this dystopian novel.  It depicts a not so distant America where books are prohibited and the general population tune in to shallow entertainment that anaesthetises from real life. The main character, a fireman who burns the books, is awakened from his sleep. He loses everything, but lives to activate change.  Although written in 1953 it is prescient and disturbing.  I feel somewhat depressed I never found it before, but exhilarated by the discovery of it.

Many questions and imaginings arise from the book. The quote above was only one of several I found striking.  If I looked long and hard at society what would I see?

I chose two things:

  1. A society that ruthlessly judges others. If someone has the courage to put their head above the parapet and say something different to perceived opinion, social media erupts into horrific abuse and people’s lives are often changed forever. An example is Gina Miller, the person who took Brexit to court.  She triggered the wrath of the tabloids, received death threats, harassment and racial abuse.  A woman driven by a genuine sense of responsibility towards a country she loves. ‘Hate-filled abuse is poisoning Britain. I fought it and ask you to do the same | Gina Miller’ https://buff.ly/2i9b6VL  
  2. A society that allows its plumb line of sexuality to be the entertainment and advertising industry and pornography. I taught briefly young troubled teenage boys 2008/9 excluded from every school they had attended. My school, specifically for such children, was their last chance to gain any qualification.  The pornography they watched on their phones was appalling. Their treatment of myself and other women in the school, dismissive, disrespectful and demeaning. Apart from disallowing phones during the school day there was nothing to be done to stop their daily diet.  Does pornography damage? I believe so. ‘Friends’, that series we all loved so long ago actively endorsed pornography. When Joey, Chandler and Ross needed cheering up pornography was an answer which the women thoughtfully provided. When, by chance, it was streamed free on Joey’s tv it was celebrated and never switched off.  It was an underlying theme in the series which I missed. “Friends” The One with the Free Porn (TV Episode 1998) https://buff.ly/2wjXJrs  What do we allow to teach us subliminally? 

We all need back-up!

Remember “About a Boy”? I’m recalling the film of the book by Nick Hornby.  Marcus, a 12-year-old somewhat odd son of an unstable single mother recognises they need friends or ‘back up’ when things get tough.  They do as his mother is so unhappy she tries to die. However, a small unlikely community grows around them, including a confirmed bachelor Will, terrified of growing up. When the bad times happen friendship sees everyone through. 

Why is community important?                                           

1. We need each other:   nurturing human connection is essential for our well-being. We need to be touched, to be hugged a certain number of times daily. I’m not talking about sex, but about human beings appreciating and loving each other.

2. Be a friend: Let’s not wait for people to befriend us, why not foster friendship ourselves. We don’t have to do anything grand. One of my friends rarely had someone round for a meal because entertaining was so stressful for her.  She believed she must clean the house completely;  provide outstanding food; be the perfect host.  She had a difficult full-time job, so she was exhausted before she began.

3. Eat together:   we all need to eat, why not organise mealtimes to eat with others? We have had people living with us for years and we tried to eat together.  The quality of food depended on when I shopped but there was food of some description!  People didn’t care. They loved being invited.

4. Know your neighbours:   we need each other.  Do you have elderly neighbours? Can you check on them, perhaps pop in with a pack of biscuits to share a cup of tea?  Elderly people are among the loneliest in our society.  When I walk my streets I remember those who live around me. I feel I belong.  Are we too busy to stop and have a chat?   Send an invitation to neighbours for a Christmas drink it might surprise you who you meet. 

5. Volunteer:   doing something positive, serving your community is a great privilege. It brings a sense of belonging, of ownership and has certainly helped me to understand and care about the people I live amongst. On occasion we band together.   I lend my voice as we stand against what we view as destructive initiatives in our neighbourhood.

6. Life is more than me:   let’s allow ourselves to be part of something greater than ourselves. If my life was only about myself, it would be paltry indeed.

7. Living without fear:   being part of, and living within a community brings a sense of safety and security.  I know my streets, I love my streets, I love the people who live here and I pray for us regularly.

 

8 Steps to Developing Our Potential

Potential: latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness

What stops us from developing our potential and becoming the best we can be?

  1. Fear – stemming from a lack of confidence, a poor self-image, a tendency to always compare ourselves with others. When we do that we always come out the poorer. Rarely do we ever feel we are better than others we choose to compare ourselves with.
  2. Not taking responsibility for ourselves. So often we make decisions by default, ie we fail to make a thought-through decision and ‘go with the flow’. It takes time and effort to decide what we really think.  If our opinion is different to the opinion of others we must be bold and speak out and follow our conclusions.
  3. Failing to explore what do we want? This is such a difficult question for so many of us. Perhaps as we grew up choices were taken away from us. However, as adults we must put energy into thinking through what we want out of life.  Be realistic and honest.  Don’t do this alone. Talk it through with another.  If we don’t pursue answers how can we take the necessary steps towards our goals?
  4. Getting distracted.  Work hard. Stay committed, focused and determined.  It is your journey and it will be different to everyone else’s.
  5. All work and no play.  Achieve a good work/life balance. Don’t sacrifice relationships – friendship, marriage, our children.  Nobody on their deathbed ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time at work’.  However painful at times, good relationships make life beautiful, joyous, fun and worthwhile.
  6. Paralysed because we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes. A friend arrived at my home distressed because she realised she had accepted a job she now hated.  We talked, we prayed. An amazing thing happened. When I next saw her the company had decided it needed to make cuts and offered employees redundancies.  She left grateful for a way out with honour.  She learnt a great deal through the experience and found a job she loved.
  7. Short term thinking. Play the long game rather than going for the instant. We may need to study, to be an unpaid intern, work abroad, work with difficult people.  Patience with promise is a wonderful thing to learn.
  8. Ignoring the spiritual dimension – perhaps God has invested more in us than we think. Explore the possibility of becoming our best by asking Him to help.

Never let a Terrapin mistake your finger for a sausage!

Shocking footage of the unbridled appetites of terrapin.

I actually enjoyed watching and feeding the little creatures amazed they were meat eaters. I then discovered that these animals, originally bought as tiny pets, grew from the size of a 50p piece to a dinner plate and consequently were being released into the wild.  They have enough strength to snap a child’s finger off and are a pest to our natural wildlife.  The ones in this footage were rescued terrapins from homes that no longer wanted them.

I watched these insatiable small creatures climbing over each other, their whole being desperate for a mouthful of sausage and thought about ‘appetite’.

 Appetite for food, for sex, for love, for revenge, to win, acquire money etc.  We are creatures of appetite.  This can be positive and life-affirming or negative and destructive. Perhaps in our rush to feed ourselves, we allow others to go hungry, to miss out.  When we take, do others go without?   

A society that nourishes the craving to feed ‘me’, ‘I’ at the expense of others, is a society that will, in the end, be left with nothing to give and destroy itself.   Human beings thrive on loving, giving and community rather than isolating ourselves through voraciously feeding our appetites.

Lydia’s Song – a cry from the heart

Katherine has written passionately about sex-trafficking in Cambodia borne from her experience of living in the country as teacher.  There she experienced a fascinating yet impoverished world with evidence of injustice all around her.   Her understanding of cultural differences resonates throughout her story-telling.

The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, a British teacher living in Phnom Penh. Lydia bravely fosters a young Vietnamese girl.   Both Lydia and Song are betrayed and the child is sold into prostitution. We follow Song through the horrors of the child sex trade and her redemptive journey.

The writer looks at the unfairness of life; the choices that confront us; can terrible circumstances ever be redeemed?  Her conviction is that there is a loving God who aches to be intimately involved in lives and brings healing to the most desperate situations.

If you enjoy stories that bring insight into another culture and tackle distressing realities whilst containing a thread of hope within, then this is for you.

The book is available from all good bookshops and from Amazon.

About the Author

Katherine tweets @kathblessan
Check out her website at: http://www.katherineblessan.com/

You can’t be brave if you’re not scared

I didn’t regard myself as a fearful person. Spiders terrified me, but they terrify many of us. That’s not real fear is it? Relationships were scary, but most of us find those challenging don’t we?   I remember a friend saying all fear was at root a fear of death.  I couldn’t understand what he meant, but his words lived with me.

What brought me face to face with my fear was the illness of my child.   As I sat in the ambulance, the little body limp, I lifted the small frame and prayed. He didn’t belong to me; he had been loaned, and I placed him in God’s hands.   We returned home together.

A light went on in my being.  The illness revealed fear inhabited me.  I describe it akin to a secret lattice-work that occupied my whole being.  I recognised how my responses were born from fear.

(A large Huntsman spider I cohabited with in Australia)

There are moments in life when what has ruled inside us externalises and becomes clearly identifiable.  I acknowledged my fear and faced it.  I determined to monitor my responses, to fight and sweep it from my life. I told friends; I sought counsel; I asked for help; I asked for prayer.

Am I still afraid of spiders?  No.  I don’t like them. I wouldn’t want to touch them or have them on my body, but I cohabit with them and am at peace in their presence.   I recognise their contribution in the home and garden.   Does fear still raise it’s head in my life? Yes, but I have found tools to deal with it.

Do I think all fear is at root a fear of death? Yes I do. I find it interesting the book I have written concerns the one thing we never talk about–dying and death. The great taboo, because of course, we believe we will not die. 

Not all fear is unhealthy.  Fear of being burnt keeps us from placing our hand in a fire.  It protects us from damaging ourselves and others.  But sometimes we must face the fear that stops us from functioning well, screw up our courage and be brave.  It is okay to be scared, but as you face destructive fear and find a way through, award yourself a metaphorical medal for bravery.  You might feel exhausted and spent, but you will have overcome and I applaud you.