30 Days of Wild: Days 16-21

I’m not sure I managed to record every day over the last week. I know we went out everyday but I think I got tired of taking photos of the same thing. Anyway. Looking back we seem to have spent most of our time in trees or under trees or walking through woods. So here we go. Tree week.

Day 16

We enjoyed pottering around Petworth with the grandparents. SO many trees to scramble on and marvel at.

Day 17-18

I remember very little of these days apart from painting. But we made it out to local woods to sit in trees, read books on picnic blankets, run around with friends in the rain and I walked lots early in the morning noticing pretty flowers I hadn’t seen before.

Day 19

We made it out to Stanmer woods and found more trees. I went for a socially distant Spiritual Direction session and found it very helpful wandering through the woods with my Spiritual Director and pondering God whilst listening to loud bird song and feeling the ground beneath my feet. The day ended with lovely friends coming over for a firepit. A beautiful way to enter the solstice.

Day 20

I was gifted a day off. I walked for a couple of hours through woods and fields full of butterflies and sky larks. I sat outside on my bench for most of the rest of the day reading books and listening to birds sing. I enjoyed the wild grass meadow that is our front lawn and breathed deep.

Day 21

I took the boys over to Woods Mill, one of our local Wildlife Trust woods. Annoyingly it was fairly packed with people but it was lovely to potter around, see a beautiful swan family, and get hissed at by the protective mother.

 

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30 Days wild: Day 6-14

A few to fit in here, but it’s good to remember that we have been actively enjoying nature and the beauty of the world we live in over the last week or so.

Day 6

We went to the Knepp Estate which is a wonderful rewilding project near us, lots of trails, wildlife and apparently the first White Storks to nest in the UK in 600 years.

Day 7

A local day of spotting bees, new flowers in the woods near us (son2 learnt they were called foxgloves and we had fun imagining foxes wearing gloves..) and some forest bathing before church.

Day 8

A lovely walk in some woods with a friend and her dog. Obviously we had to climb a tree. I also saw a beautiful rose in our garden and finished my assignment for my Spiritual Direction course which had enabled me to read loads of books about nature.

 

Day 9 

Each day we walk and read books. On day 9 we went to the ‘Picnic Tree’, which as the name suggests is a tree you can easily have a picnic in.

Day 10

I think it rained lots on day 10. Despite that I went for a lovely socially distant walk with a friend first thing and we found the snake of rocks outside the boys school.

Day 11

We had a lovely morning playing in the woods for a couple of hours before the rain came. I always think the woods are more atmospheric in the rain. 

Day 12 

I saw uber amounts of pretty on my morning walk, I think it was more of an angry stomp at the state of the world but there was much beauty around to make up for my black cloud…

Day 13

We did our usual cycle from Brighton Marina to Rottingdean. We found loads of dead crabs all over the beach but no live ones. I also had much fun paddling around with son2.

Day 14

Today we went over to Bramber Castle and walked around the river plains near it. Lovely to do a walk we’d done last year with significantly

less moaning this time. The boys are growing and able to walk further. I am so grateful.

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Books that I’ve read March-May 2020

Right, I’ve finally managed to write down which books I’ve read over the last 3 or so months in lockdown. My brain is fairly made of mush at the moment so I haven’t written comprehensive reviews, but here’s a flavour…

The Next Five People You Meet in Heaven- Mitch Albom

I really like the concept behind this book and the first one he wrote. You follow someone who has died through their encounter with five significant people in their life when they get to heaven. I found it really interesting thinking through encounters we don’t realise the significance of. An easy read but with depth.

Where the Forest Meets the Stars- Glendy Vanderah

This is such a good novel, lots to love about it. A story of someone encountering a child whilst doing some nature based research at a remote cabin in the woods. A lovely story of encounter and love on a whole load of different levels.

Sunny Side Up, A Story of Kindness and Joy- Susan Calman

I love Susan Calman and this is a journey through her finding joy after being involved in Strictly Come Dancing. Although she comes across as a bit simplistic at times this is good reading from how someone with depression comes to find joy and then encourages us all to be kind to each other. Lots here that resonated with me but I was left with a bit of wishing that she’d found a better hope than just the joy of dancing. I know dancing is a brilliant joy but I guess I always want to follow the breadcrumbs back to the source of the joy which outlasts and deepens the joy… that’s just me though…

3 Things About Elsie- Joanna Cannon

An intriguing novel about someone from the past turning up at Elsie’s old people’s home. Lots to love here in this gentle novel about time, the past and ageing.

An Alter in the World- Barbara Brown Taylor

Such a good read, I like books that make hanging out with God about the normal everyday experiences of life and the natural world around us. Beautiful, wise and super easy to read. A win.

Little White Lies- Philippa East

One of those thriller by numbers books. A fairly engaging story about a girl who had gone missing turning up again and trying to get reconnected to her family. A few twists and turns later and this book was one that helped me get back into the reading groove again in lockdown life.

The Land of Roar- Jenny Maclachlan

Son1 made me read this, it was a book recommended by our excellent local childrens book shop The Book Nook. It’s a tale of imagination, transition and good old fashioned adventure. I read it, he’s read it many times and we spent a couple of days reading it to Son2. Very good indeed.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope- Joanna Glen

SUCH a good book. I loved this so much and it was a complete surprise as I’d put it on my kindle fairly randomly. It’s follows the story of twins growing up and someone growing up in Burundi. How these lives weave together in Spain makes a beautiful story. It was also really easy to read and super engaging. Perfect for lockdown brain.

The Other Wife- Claire McGowan

Such a bad thriller by numbers. Two hideous gaslighting men. Two women vaguely ok as characters. One pretty bad plot. Oh dear.

Bridge to Terebithia- Katherine Paterson

I hadn’t read this classic story of a boy, his friend, an imaginary world and some tragedy. A beautiful book, not quite one for son1 yet, his brain can only cope with imaginary trauma involving magical characters.

The Way Under Our Feet (A spirituality of walking) – Graham B Usher.

Walking is good for our souls. Walking is a whole lot of help for our brains, bodies and life with God. This is a really lovely broad exploration of how wonderful walking is and the impact it can have on a whole wide spectrum of life. For the last month or so I’ve walked for an hour every morning. It’s definitely doing something good to my soul and awareness of God. Read this book if you aren’t convinced. He says things like this: “As we walk into a landscape we leave our mark on it and it leaves it’s mark on us; as we explore the outside so we explore our inner selves”.

Restoring the Woven Cord- Michael Mitton

I had to read this for an assignment I did for my Spiritual Direction course on Celtic Spirituality. It was a fairly broad overview of some themes. Some helpful stuff and some pretty dated 90s views on women in one of the chapters which was fairly cringeworthy to read…

The Celtic Way of Prayer- Ester De Waal

I really enjoyed reading this for the assignment. Probably because she’s a woman and I’m biased. But it was a really helpful deeper exploration into themes that make up Celtic Spirituality and gave a wonderful sense of encountering God beyond and deeper than our tribal boundaries which seem to entrench us so horribly at the moment.

The Naked Hermit- Nick Mayhew-Smith

Man goes and explores some Celtic Prayer rituals. Does it in an interesting and fascinating way. Reports back with some insights into mission and what it means to encounter God in the natural world. Kind of made me want to stand up to my neck in sea water and shout Psalms to God. Kind of.

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30 Days Wild 2020 Day 1-5

Each year for the last few years we have loved taking part in the 30 Days Wild challenge set up by the excellent Wildlife Trust. I might get back into tweeting each day about our wild adventures and my noticing of the wonderful amazing world we live in. For now though here are some highlights from days 1-5.

Day 1

We went to visit my parents for the first time since lockdown. We had a brilliant socially distant time in their garden and at a lovely park a few minutes down the road from their house. Leaving aside the emotion meltdowns we all had the next day at something that should have felt normal not feeling normal at all, this was a great start to our 30 days of wild. There were loads of streams to investigate and trees to climb, I think they could have spent most of the day there.

 

Day 2

I walked through a field of sky larks. Insanely wonderful.

Day 3. 

I go for a walk each morning to mutter to my Maker, be in the wonderful natural world and set myself up for the day with peace and an awareness of my connection to the earth we stand on. I love Stanmer Woods and these tall trees which seem so strong and stable in the midst of uncertain changing times. Recently I’ve been enjoying the eternal everlasting images we are given of God, especially as I’ve been noticing the fast change of the many flowers which flourish and fade so quickly. We get to be like flowers, God a bit more like these slow unchanging trees.

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Day 4:

We met up with friends for our first outdoor social distant fun. It was fairly wonderful hanging out in the woods watching the kids transform them into their imaginary world of play.  There are 4 kids in the woodland below. Promise. I also loved son2’s squeal of delight at finding new flowers in a place we visit most days. (Foxgloves?).

Day 5:

Today I found a new path on my walk around our local area, I found a field of poppies splashing a red square on the sky and I found some random pine trees. When I googled why on earth there were pine trees in a patch of wild at the back of Patcham I found out a Scottish builder had planted them years ago when the estate extending the village was first built. I also found a Yew tree and had a moment of praying a circling prayer as I stood in the circle of it’s branches. Later I took the boys to the woods and we climbed trees, revisited the site where we used to have Forest Church a couple of years ago and I spent lots of time wondering how we can get a patch of land on which to give Forest Church a new lease of life. It’s been a pretty good start to our 30 days. More to come either here or on my Twitter stream @faithinavan.

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Life in Lockdown week 9…

The Friday round up is back, that old familiar blog post style from when things were super bad in our world and I needed to record the moments of our days and my thoughts about life. It’s funny how things like that get forgotten in the good times and yet in the bad times there is a need to dig deeper, to find the gold thread in life, to document the reasons for hope so that you can trace the breadcrumbs back home. That’s what blogging does for me anyway, I trace the breadcrumbs back to my source and reason in this world (for me that’s my Maker in case you are wondering…) and I like that some of you come along for the ride.

It appears that we seem to have a great week followed by a really crappy week. This week was the crappy variety, my back was super sore again, husbandface is increasingly pale and twitchy (PTSD, anxiety and depression making a full on assault on his wonderful body again) in a way we haven’t seen for a long time, I hit some kind of crazy wall of tiredness and on Wednesday cried into my pillow for a long time. It’s hard this world, it’s hard in so many ways for all of us, and it’s ok to say that, to acknowledge the pain and grimness of this landscape. It’s ok to look to the future in fear and not know how to deal with that. It’s ok to mainline sugar. It’s ok to cry big fat tears. It’s ok to feel all the feelings.

And yet in the midst of all that, throughout this exhausting week, it has been good to notice the golden threads, the shining light against the dark backdrop.

Here are some:

Friends:

Now we are allowed outside with one other person I’ve made the most of some good quality social distancing walks with friends. I hate not being able to hug people but there is a huge dopamine hit from walking on the downs, sitting in the sun and drinking cups of tea 2 meters apart with lovely friends. I’ve appreciated all the people I’ve hung out with this week and am very grateful for such good friends.

Reading:

I’ve read a book. I’m slowly starting to read novels again and ‘The Other Half of Augusta Hope’ was a brilliant read. Full of great writing, other worlds to escape to and a wealth of interesting characters. Also easy enough to read which helps as my concentration levels are not what I would like.

Stopping:

I stopped. I don’t have any responsibilities this Sunday, apart from hosting the wonderful after church zoom chaos chat and after my weeping of Wednesday night I chose to try and keep myself sane and stopped working in all the little pockets of time I have when the boys are otherwise engaged with screens or audio books. I wasn’t sure what the use of taking time off was in lockdown but it’s helping me not have to think about anything else and enjoy the boys when they are with me and be able to read books in the downtime. Wonderful husbandface is sacrificing some health points by playing with them this morning so I can write and sit and drink tea. Slowly we will find our equilibrium again.

Music:

Music has always kept me sane. This week I’ve been enjoying again The Lost Words Spell Songs album, especially the utterly wonderful Little Astronaut song about Larks and feeling sad.

I’ve also gone back to Iain Archers song Everest, three years ago in the super bad period of husbandfaces health, we played this song over and over again. We first came across it on a One Church weekend away,  and nothing soothes my soul and makes me cry hope filled tears like the refrain, “Some other day, when my morning comes, I’ll be the one who waited all night” coupled with a bit of Psalm 130 and waiting as the watchmen wait for the morning. Out of the depths I cry and I am heard. We wait and we watch, I would love to see better health for my favourite and best but also I know there will be a better morning to come, the dawn will arrive and our hearts will weep glorious (to steal a line from a Stuart Henderson poem). We hold on watching for the dawn.

Frozen 2:

Not as good as Moana but it’s been our film of the week. Probably slightly better than the first one but a bit random and with a plot I still don’t quite understand (I either fall asleep in the important bits or it really is as bonkers as it seems). It does contain words that have kept me sane this week. One of the trolls says, in a surprisingly profound way (I actually wrote the words down when he said them) “When one cannot see the future, all one can do is the next right thing”. I love the simplicity of those words, the massive truth they contain and the relevance to our lives at the moment, all I can do is the next right thing. I have NO idea about the future but I can do the next right thing in front of me. Who knew there could be such wisdom in a film with a dubious plot about a river that holds memories, a talking snowman and a 5th spirit to go with earth, wind, fire and water…

Walking:

I’ve been slower this week due to the back issues but it’s still been really helpful to get outside each morning, listen to the Lectio365 app and notice the world around me.  I talk to God more and listen more. I breathe deep and return with more incentive to love and reach out to the small ones. There is so much beauty out there, it’s great to get out in it, I’m available for socially distant walks at 7am in the morning if anyone wants to join me.

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The one, the only, Jo Tilley…

It’s another significant birthday in our family life. This time in our wider extended Godfamily, as our boys call them. The amazing Jo Tilley is 50 today and as I love a list and a birthday blog post here are several very good reasons I and my family love Jo.

We’ve hung out with her and her lovely family a whole load over the last 12 years since I joined the same church that they and husbandface were part of. She was one of the first people we grabbed after church one evening to tell her that we’d got together. We became godparents to their youngest, the lovely Sam, who only finally thought husbandface might have been a grown up when he got married to me, before that he was just his big funny friend, who definitely didn’t get listed when we asked who the grown ups in the room were. We planned our wedding on their sofa whilst baby sitting for them. They prayed for us when we got married (and to set the record straight Sam did start eating his tie first before Husbandface joined in while they were praying, although you can see how you might think it was the other way round…).

Jo is the kind of friend you really want to have around. Time after time I have sat in her house drinking cups of tea and praying together, going through the ups and downs of church and family life together, analysing life together and being grateful for God’s constant love and care for us together.

She was part of a lovely group of women from our last church who prayed together each week and helped keep me sane in the early years of having children, reassuring me that all I was feeling was normal.

She is a brilliant Godmum, taking son1 and son2 when we needed a break, hosting son1’s birthday party when son2 had just been born and I was half crazy with sleep deprivation, constantly being generous with her time and space, inviting us over for lunch more Sundays than I can count so we could let our kids go crazy and fall asleep on her sofa.

She took son1 one Tuesday a month so I could attend a course in Spiritual Direction and find my way back to myself after the shock of having a child. She took him again the night son2 was born, being wonderful in swooping in at 3am to take away the confused small one slightly worried at the funny noises Mummy was making. She gave me a morning off a week from son1 in the first year of son2s life so I could rest. Her sacrificial friendship is an insane gift and one massive reason of how I survived those early child years.

She loves our boys and before school got in the way we would be over at hers once or twice a week, or more, loving the safe space away from our house. It’s lovely seeing her delight in them and they in her. They love her SO much and are always happy and themselves whenever we land up on her sofa once again. 

She and her family are the reason we ended up at our lovely church when our last church ended. After a few months of confusion about where we would end up she kept on telling me that this new place was so ‘us’. We gave it a try and the first week we went Son1 told us we would stay at this place because Jo was there. For him it was simple, we would go where Jo and her family were. They were home for him so why wouldn’t we stay? We stayed.

She’s super wise, if you ever get the chance to have a cuppa and a chat with her you’ll find someone who cares, who has deep wisdom to offer and a profound servant heart. (Oh and someone who is brilliant to laugh with).

I love her sacrificial way of life, I honour her and the choices she has made for the best for her family, I see her and all she pours out. I am deeply glad to know Jo and so grateful for her friendship over the years. I really don’t know how I would have made it through them without her and her family and their constant love. Especially their non minding of us coming over whenever, our boys piling cushions on her son and husbandface falling asleep in various locations in her house. She and her family have always been a safe harbour, a place of refuge in the storms of life, a solid provision of grace and generosity.

A blog post is really too small a way to celebrate this wonderful woman. But it’s a start. Jo I love you. Thank you for everything.

(We’ll be over for some socially distant cake later 🙂

Son1 says: “I love Jo because she lets me play in her house, and she lets me bounce on her trampoline, she comes to National Trust with me, she makes me feel happy, and there are too many more things to say, the list would be too long…”

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Life in lockdown… Weeks 5,6,7 and 8…

I couldn’t quite believe that it’s been 4 weeks since I last blogged. I’m sure it was last week, or actually maybe a few years ago. That’s the thing about time in lockdown isn’t it? So much confusion as to whether it’s going fast or slow or some swirly whirly thing inbetween. We were chatting to friends last night and one was talking about the need to journal and write down the mundane stuff, so that he had a sense of time moving and a record of what these weeks and months looked like. I liked that idea and so I’m back to recording our weeks. I think I’ll try and do this once a week from now on because summarising 4 weeks at once is going to be interesting…

Here are some of the threads though:

My course.

I’ve loved being back on my Spiritual Direction course every Tuesday night, I really like not having a 2 hour trip there and back. The potter to our shed outside is much more helpful than getting a train to London. I even love Zoom for the evening (I find it hard it most of the time but for this it’s brilliant). It helps that we all know each other and have hung out before. I feel much more vocal over zoom, something about all body language neutralised and so I don’t feel the worry over who should speak when and will anyone listen. We have lovely space to turn our screens off and mute ourselves so we can ponder well. It’s also helpful to have the chance to learn how to direct online, and in the practice time I love just seeing the person I’m listening to, rather than being aware of 4 others from my small group staring at us whilst we practice. It’s also a space beyond Brighton which expands my mind, soul and heart. I have to write an assignment soon on Celtic Spirituality and how it’s helping me with Spiritual Direction. I’m looking forward to working that out and soaking in the Celts for a bit.

Ups and downs and roundabouts (mainly caused by the intensity of life with my beautiful boys) 

I presume we are all going through the full range of emotions each day, I seem to be. This week those have settled down a bit but the three weeks before this one were very strange in the sheer amount of twisty loops my emotions were undergoing. My back gave out on me so I couldn’t run anymore which probably didn’t help with the downs. I felt super guilty about the boys schooling, I’ve since chilled out but every now and again wonder what we are doing with our time.

This week I’ve started to mentally clock when they are making connections, playing well with each other and on their own, noting occasional writing and all the conversations we have as we bumble through our rhythms of the day. That helps me see the big picture and see that they are doing ok. I’m not going to make them do much and I need to do work as well. For this season it’s ok that they learn science from Bill Nye the Science Guy, zoology and animal care with Secrets from the Zoo and that they learn about really bad 90s TV from the Power Rangers.

Son1 is reading more than ever and its fun sharing in some of the books he’s read and chatting about them. Son2 is usually deep in some imaginary world and again it’s lovely to see him being who he is (and sometimes a cheetah). I love these boys so much and in the good moments it’s a wonder and a delight to see them processing the world and a privilege to hang out with them. (we have deeply grim moments too but this week has been a pretty good one in their world).

Self Care in the madness.

Our really bad week a couple of weeks ago taught me again that for this season my boys will pretty much mirror my emotions. If I’m stressed, anxious and fizzy it’s a sure bet that they will be, often even more than normal. If I’m managing my emotional state well then I become a container and not a sponge for their huge emotions and we all function much better.

I used to freak out about that but lately I’m coming to see it means I just need to care for myself lots. So this week I’ve been out for an hours walk at 7am. Everyday. It’s better than running because I don’t hurt my back or disappear into the world of music. Walking helps me process, helps me be still, helps me talk to my Maker. I listen to the Lectio365 app for 10 min and then keep walking, there is then time to rant at God, enjoy the world, see green and hear birds singing loud. It’s doing good stuff in my soul, helping me in how I view my world and giving me gentle endorphins rather than the rush and crash that running brings. (I really want to run again but for now this is better for me.) Most of the times that the boys are engaged in quiet time (audio books are my saviour) or TV time I work but sometimes I get to read a bit of a book or snooze. Exercise, hanging out with God and reading have been my top 3 self care strategies for the last few years and they are back in place in good ways. Phew. My lovely sister in law also enabled me to go on an online retreat every other Thursday night for women in ministry. It’s provides a quiet, led, space for an hour every fortnight, space with people away from my context, space to see what God might be up to.

Husbandface

Still ill. We are in a weird odd time of it seeming to intensify in the last few weeks. It’s not fun. But the above self care helps me not despair, it helps me be ok with him having to be in a dark room lots, it helps me explain it better to the boys, it helps me delight when he can come and play on the beach with us or cook incredible food and send me to bed every now and again. He can work in this state because work is calming and quiet. Phew. (oh and I love this man and have no idea how to pray about all this, so if you pray send a few God’s way for us eh…).

Baking.

Friday we bake. Lemon drizzle cake, triple chocolate cookies, gingerbread men, fudge, sponge cake, fridge cake. We bake on Fridays for Saturday and Sunday treats (the weekend needs to feel different…). I like this rhythm.

Disney+

All Hail Disney+ That is mostly all I have to say. Also I love Moana. It’s SUCH a good film and I would love to coherently put all my thoughts about it into a nice essay on Celtic Spirituality and the echos I find in Moana. Sadly I have no time, but it would be a good essay.

People.

I WANT TO SEE MORE PEOPLE. I WANT TO SEE MY MUM AND DAD. I think we all have things in this area of life that we would like to scream out loud. BUT I have loved seeing the people who walk past our house each day and say hi, I’ve loved a few socially distant chats outside this week and I’ve really appreciated our lovely neighbours and road we live in. It’s brilliant to feel like more relationships are being built in our local area. I’m grateful for our friends who care for us, and the friends we chatted to last night who could notice how sick husbandface was, even through the weirdness of zoom which makes us all look ill, and who prayed with us.

Work.

I love our Church. I love working with Dave our Minister and Sam our Associate Minister, I like that if you change their names around I feel like I’m working with the 60s soul duo, Sam and Dave.  (Also I’m totally changing my job title to ‘Pastoral Minister’ soon, although I like ‘Pastoral co-ordinator’ as it reminds me that it’s not my job to do all the pastoral stuff but to help co-ordinate it. A vital difference. Maybe it’s just my ego that wants ‘Minister’ to be part of my job title, maybe I’ll process that in tomorrows long walk…) Anyway, I digress. It’s SO hard to know how to help our community well in these times but I like that we do weekly devotionals, a live stream on Sunday morning, the chance to have some chaos on zoom afterwards and that our lovely small groups are still trying to encourage each other through the madness. I’m not a fan of preaching to a camera rather than actual people but I’m learning new skills. I can even sometimes look at myself on camera and hear my voice and not hate myself.  I enjoyed leading my first contemplative service on zoom the other week and the chance to provide helpful space for people to engage with God (which seems to be one of my basic passions in life). It’s not easy trying to work and look after the boys and all the other stuff of life but we have a rhythm and it’s ok. I’m praying that when we eventually are able to meet up with more people from church that these odd times of having to try to cling together will have grown our relationships with each other rather than made us more distant.

Nature.

We are still walking our woods, still seeing the change each week brings, still love seeing what flowers are coming and going. The garden has things growing in it.  I adore being outside more than ever. Not much more to say other than this beautiful world we live in is helping keep us all sane. 

Oof. I feel exhausted writing all that down, but it’s good to see and notice what’s going on in this odd pandemic world. I don’t want to miss the lessons of these times or the ways we coped in this strange world. I want to see how we found our way to new normals and record the progress made. So when I despair, probably tomorrow because Sunday’s seem to be particularly prone to being despair days, I can look back and see the flickers of hope.

How are you doing? What are you noticing at the moment? What is good in your life? Where do you ache? Let’s catch up.

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Life in lockdown: Weeks 3-4

things sign.jpg

Credit to the wonderful Sarah Nolloth for this beautiful banner going up outside our church…

I started this series a couple of weeks ago, so I might as well carry it on. If only for a record of these days.  I find it strange to notice how many weeks are going past and how long this time has felt. It feels like much longer than a month ago that ‘normal’ life existed.

We’ve had a very contrasting couple of weeks. Holy Week was lovely, I felt full of energy and awareness of the One who made me, who walked this life as a human and who holds us in these times. Easter was a lovely focus for work and for our life as a family. I had kind of been building up to it for the whole of the first part of lockdown. Getting to Easter seemed like an achievable goal. 

No surprise really that the last week has been one of crashing, burn out, exhaustion, tears, a body giving up on my punishing run schedule for a bit (husbandface points out that going from running 15km in a week to about 35km might be a bit too much), breaks in routine with the boys, more grumps, shouting and a whole lot of wanting to give up.

The post Easter crash was pretty big around here. I was able to have a morning in bed on Friday whilst the boys and husbandface played with the super cool Nintendo Labo (combining high tech with old fashioned cardboard box modelling makes us all happy). I managed to shout out some prayer needs to some people from church and friends afar which helped me feel less alone. It also helped me be convinced again that prayer works and is a super practical thing we can do for each other in this odd place of not being able to rush around to be an actual physical presence of support.

I took the rest of the day slow and woke up today with some remembering of who I am and how loved I am (thanks to all who prayed, apparently prayer can work…). I cleaned the whole house (a sign that my mind is much better than it’s been all week) and we went up to the woods to find the carpets of bluebells that make my spring soul sing each year.

I am grateful to nature for doing the same old things regardless of this pandemic. The daffodils have been and gone, primroses are scattered all over the front lawn, the cherry blossom outside our house is emerging bright once more, the bluebells and forget-me-nots are now all over the estate we live on and the leaves are blazing luminous green on all the trees. I am so grateful for this time of year, for the never ending cycle of life which is helping me stay rooted in today. I am glad to be reminded that there are some unchanging certainties in this world and they come around year after year.

Lockdown continues.

This week we’ll attempt some kind of school type activity each morning and get back into our home learning routine rather than holiday routine (not a whole lot of difference to be honest.) We will enjoy our woods still,  I will continue to read The Animals of Farthing Wood from our picnic blanket whilst the boys climb trees and drink hot chocolate.  I might run on a slightly less insane schedule. I shall try and remember that God is my enough and able to help me in these times rather than just the endorphins (much as I love the endorphins).  We will clap and cry and wave at neighbours on Thursday night. We will pray for this situation to be resolved. I will sit with my boys in their sadness at missing their friends. I will feel my own sadness at this odd world. My course starts up again and I will learn a new skill in Spiritual Direction online (pretty good to have the opportunity to try that out).  Work will carry on in different, intriguing, ways. I shall reach out and be honest and we will stumble on.

 

 

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Easter Saturday

Pathetic fallacy is when the weather in a story reflects the mood. Dickens does it well in great expectations according to my GCSE memories. Sometimes the weather shows up for us. In hard times it can give us foggy landscapes, wild gales battering waves against a headland, lashing rain in the night.

Sometimes though the weather pays no attention. Frankly I’m deeply grateful that the last few weeks of lockdown have brought us sunny day after sunny day. The opposite of the pain in this world right now.

It makes it harder to remember the awfulness though. I’m sitting on the bench outside our house, the wood pigeons have started their late afternoon cooing, primroses, forget-me-nots, daisies and dandelions litter our front lawn, blazing colour. There is a gentle breeze cooling my skin. The sky is blue. There are hums of noise in the background but mostly this feels like a Sunday afternoon in the 80s. Quiet. Different. Beautiful. Endless.

It is this beauty in front of me which makes it so hard to remember the darkness. I’ve felt this way before. Way back in time I led summer teams of students in Eastern Europe, teaching English and Jesus. I spent lots of time in Poland where I had the strange privilege of visiting Auschwitz twice. Both times I felt so conflicted inside. Here was a place where horrendous things had happened and yet the grass was green. The sun shone. The birds sang. How could they? Why didn’t they stop in horror like all of us who visited? Why weren’t they too silenced by the darkness of human hearts?

I don’t understand how the two go together. That as I sit here I know hospitals are overflowing. People are dying without their loved ones. People are lonely and isolated. People are scared for their lives as domestic violence spikes in a terrifying manner. And still those birds sing.

And then I think I come to know some thing which might help in the search for why.

Without all this beauty pointing us beyond, lifting us to bigger things, dropping hope into our laps, I think we might go mad. If all the sadness was reflected in the natural world all the time I think we would sink never to rise again.

But the beauty is here. In the despair. In the questions. In the pain. The beauty is here and hope comes to us and whispers of bigger realities and bigger love. The stuff that will help us through these tired days. The stuff that will help us press through fear to love. There is such beauty in these strange troubled filled days. And I think we need it.

It’s Easter Saturday and I wonder if the sun shone all those years ago on that silent day of rest. Of quiet sorrow and sadness. I wonder if the aching beauty of creation confused Jesus’ friends emotions as much as they are confusing mine. I wonder how they sat with the pain.

I like this silent empty day, probably because I know the end of the story. There are many stories going on right now that none of us know the end of. Today, in all it’s confusing silent beauteous pain,is for those stories.

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Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. A strange day of sadness and wonder. Even stranger to not be able to share it in person with friends this year.

This year I’ve put together (with technical wonder from the husbandface) a devotional for our church on Gethsemane and the permission it gives us to feel our pain and lament in this life:

In it I reference the excellent Rich Mullins song: Hard to Get. It sums up all I feel about Good Friday, the pain of this life and, in a strange way, gratitude at having a God I can cry out to in the midst of pain.

And here’s a poem:

To stay.

To know you could have got down, walked away, had the power to make this stop.

To stare.

Horrorstruck.

Surely he can do it. Turn this around? He calmed that storm. He made Lazurus come back to life.

Why does he stay?

Why? He offered us hope and he turns his back?

Why. Why won’t you come down?

To stay.

To take on the darkness
To hold tight in the pain
To go through being wrenched from all I love.

To stay.

To gaze.

Seeing that pinprick of light at the end of this tunnel.
For that.
For that Joy.
For that one day soon.
For that slow dawn.

For the death defeated final shout.

For people pouring through the curtain into the arms of their Maker.

For hope.
For light.

I stay.

I will take this darkenss
which has never understood or overcome me.

To stare.

All is lost. This is the end.

A mothers hope destroyed.

Can I go back? Back to what?

It was all for nothing.
I will get back into my boat

To stare. At what?

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