9 months…

9 months we have been here. 

9 months of life lived, half unsure of whether we are staying or going, easing into the awareness that we are here and here we will stay. 

9 months of living life with family, cups of tea, dinners, conversations, sharing the hard, the reason for finding ourselves here. 

9 months of trying to learn what is going on for our youngest, trying to regulate and breathe deep, trying to dance the family dynamics and help my eldest be seen in this storm. 

9 months of different seasons, dark dark winter, blustery spring, the green endless light summer. 

9 months of new outdoor places to explore, sand dunes, mountain streams, beaches, forest parks, play parks, mountains, lakes, coffee shops and more. 

9 months of a new way of parenting, slowly dropping demands, feeling our way into what healthy screen time looks for all of us, enchanted by minecraft, addicted to roblox, conversations, pulling back, despair, frustration, understanding, seeing the benefits. 

9 months of watching the affect change has had on us all, the explosions, the rebuilding, the rupture, the repair, the walking into a new way of being. 

9 months of seeing that broken hearts mend, that home can be found again, that the storms pass and blue skies appear, that the blue skies go and cloud appears, that the weather can be weathered. 

9 months of visitors, people cheering us on, offering love and care in these transitions. 

9 months of stops and starts, of the glue gun phase, the hama beed phase, the watching tv shows all day everyday phase, the remembering we all love reading phase, the slowly getting back into bedtimes which work phase, the 3d printer phase, the memorising the whole of the horrible histories phase. 

9 months we have been here. 

When I wrote in my journal that we’d been here 9 months I was caught back into the world of pregnancy. 9 months is what it takes to grow a new life and birth it into the world.  I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing in these last 9 months. We haven’t really started the new life yet in many ways, the baby is being nurtured and grown deep within us as we’ve lived in transition for most of this last year. We didn’t know we were going to stay when we came over, and so everything has felt somewhat temporary whilst we figured that out. Looking into the next couple of months we’ll be starting more permanent rhythms, the boys are going to a new school, we are hopefully moving house and settling down in this land. Those things feel massively like giving birth. We’ll hopefully find community to be part of, be able to use our land for hospitality in the ways we love, we’ll have breathing space and time to nurture this new life birthing in front of us. 

In the meantime we wait. As I reflect on pregnancy I’m reminded that I can do this waiting for new life thing. 10 years ago and 8 years ago my Augusts and Septembers were full of waiting, full of anticipation of a life I couldn’t imagine. I can do the processing fear, the excitement so closely linked to that fear. I can walk around with the weight of pregnancy in me, leaning into now before the world will change again. Before son1 was born I used my last two months of pregnancy to read books, watch Spooks and hang out with my NCT group all in a similar stage of waiting. I prepared, washed baby clothes and tried to enjoy the peace before the storm. 

This summer feels similar. I don’t know how school will go for the boys, I don’t know how moving will go, whether we will find anyone to be friends with and share more of our lives with, I long for some kind of faith community and look forward to slowly finding people to eat meals with and talk about the presence of the divine. I hope for the future, I fear the future if none of those things materialise.

I wrestle with God as I did back then, knowing I cannot trust this author of me to make everything ok, but knowing that I have always found their presence to be enough in the storms I have lived through in these last 44 years. I wrestle for the presence rather than the perfect outcomes I would like. I am desperate to know it will all be ok and I am fearful that it won’t. I wrestle for the presence of the One who made my mountain playground, the One who made me, the Ones who wrote their love all over this world, the One who whispers to me in the cool morning air, who holds me as I hold my boys, who offers love through arms and texts of friends, who shows up in books, music, tv shows and in the steady presence of a huge dry stone wall on my walks in the hills.  

9 months we’ve been here. When I was pregnant with son2 Romans 8 in The Message was my mantra and hope, it talks of birth pangs, of waiting for deliverance and views this waiting as an important part of this process to new life. 

“That is why waiting does not diminish us, anymore than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting… meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting God’s Spirit is right alongside us helping us along.” 

I long for this waiting to enlarge us, to bring life to us, to make our expectancy more joyful, to not diminish us. It can be tempting to think of our lives as diminished since leaving the abundance we had in Brighton, what I’m starting to realise is that as we live and breathe out in this land that there may well be more space here for us to live an enlarged life, which feels different from a full on life. Space for breathing, reflection and invitation for others into that space. All amazing things which I am hopeful this new birth will bring. Until then we wait with expectancy. We enjoy the now and we wrestle for the Presence holding us in the birth pains. 

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Seven Slieves in Seven Months.

When we first moved over to Northern Ireland, back in November, I sat and stared at the mountains from our bedroom window, I saw the contours, the gentle meandering slopes and the stark rock formations. I watched and I waited. Each morning brings a different perspective on these hills. Some days they are outlines in the haze, some days every detail is clear. Some days the mist rolls on top, clouds hide then dance away and reveal the paths and summits in the distance. Sometimes they disappear altogether and are tucked away whilst the rain falls. I looked at them for 2 months and as I did I heard their call.

I hadn’t climbed a mountain in so long. 

We had children, I had a husband whose health was pretty bad for 4 years, then covid hit. Holidays were just about getting outdoors however we could, no time or space to dedicate to climbing mountains or long walks. They were about time with friends, times to get away from day to day life, times of compromise so we could all have a vaguely good experience.

I hadn’t climbed a mountain in so long.

I stared, I wondered if I could remember how to climb steadily higher and higher again. I knew I could walk, I’d been doing that for 2-3 miles each day for a couple of years. But my back was sore, I haven’t been able to run for a few years, I wondered if I would be able to go up. 

January came with sunshine and clear days. Routines were slowly established, I began to stare at our maps, at our book of walks in the Mournes. I tried to figure out the best introduction, the Slieve that could be fitted into a few precious hours whilst the boys were with their Aunty one morning. I plucked up my courage and planned a route up Slieve Meelmore. It looked straightforward and a good start to stomping up hills again.

I clambered up on a bright sunny day, I gasped in awe at the mountains all around me, I felt the nervous feeling as I drove down empty roads to the starting point. I was stunned by the silence, the lack of other people, the crags and mountain streams. I puffed and panted my way to the top proud that I could remember how to navigate and breathe. My back felt sore but not devastatingly so. I went back down and stared at my Christmas present from the husbandface, a picture of seven Slieve’s supposedly over 700m (let’s ignore that later people realised that Meelmore was just under at 682m). Which one would be next?

After a couple of lower level walks on my days off Slieve Bearnagh was in my sights. It’s craggy top sticks out sharply on the sky line from our windows and kept calling to me. I took the husbandface this time, enjoying walking with him and having someone to keep me confident as I stared at the steep incline in front of me with no discernible path after we’d made it to the top of Hare’s Gap. I was glad of his company on the hairy descent as well.

Slieve Meelbeg was next on the list, this time I took my Dad along for the journey, deeply grateful to be able to mountain walk with him again. I still remember his advice when I was little and trying out mountain climbing, small steps at a time, you use less energy than huge steps. 

After I’d done three I was hooked on doing them all. July came with better weather and more time to dedicate to mountains. The addiction grew.  

I took my sister in law up Slieve Binnian, I’d love to do this one again when it wasn’t covered with mist and with more time. I think it’s my favourite because of the potential views and amazing tors at the top. Also it’s really easy to get to from the Carrick Little car park, which is becoming one of my most loved routes into the heart of the Mournes. 

I went up Slieve Commedagh on my own, determined to climb it despite the large amount of cloud on top. The Mourne Wall is perfect for being able to go up some of the mountains with confidence in clouds, I love walking by its steady presence, glad of the clarity as the fog descends. I would love to do this one again on a clear day.

Slieve Lamagan was climbed in honour of my birthday. Husbandface was super kind in indulging my desire to climb it (another steep, lack of path scramble) and then extend our walk down the other side into a valley at the bottom and then round for a swim in the Blue Lough. So pretty, so exhilarating. The climb was the clearest this month and the views were breathtaking.

It seemed only fitting to then climb Donard a few days later. Especially as that neatly fitted into doing Seven Slieves in Seven months. From January to July. I decided to go up from the Bloody Bridge river, knowing there would be way less people than the more popular Glen River path. Also I’ve been up the path from the Donard car park loads and wanted to see different landscape on the way up.

As I climbed I gazed in awe at my new friends, the paths I’d been on, the many more to explore, the lakes I couldn’t see but knew they were there, waiting. I was stunned by the joy, the delight in mountains on my doorstep. I look at them differently now. I look up each morning and say hello, I know I’ll be back, wandering different paths, seeing how the seasons carry on changing and shaping the views I see. I respect these hills, and I am starting to know them. They are now friends and I am looking forward to expanding our friendship over the years. 

As I walked I was struck by two thoughts. Firstly the line from U2’s Zoo Station played over and over in my head ‘I’m ready to say, I’m glad to be alive’. Mountains make me grin with happiness. I love being out walking for hours on end. I love the achievement, the views, the vastness, the joy. I love the clarity it brings, the hush to the noise of my head, I love the isolation, the feeling that these hills are my friends. I am glad to be alive in this space. I am so glad we moved here. I am not afraid of saying that anymore. I am so grateful that these mountains are on my doorstep.

Secondly I think I realised that these mountains may be the mountains I need in this season of life right now. The Lake District and the Buttermere Valley have always been my first love but I don’t feel the tug anymore to get there at all costs. I think I may have moved on to a new love. 

Buttermere was clearly very important in my 20s (read about it here) and then there were the wilderness years where I thought I had to find my way back there with my family. But now I think we are finding a way forward into different times. These new mountains are ours together. The boys adore their slopes and may come to love ascending their heights (also they may not) but they do find great joy here.

I do not have to persuade them of the wonder of mountain lakes and streams and they have their own favourite places in these hills. I can go to the heights on my own, or swim in lakes with them. Husbandface can join me when he wants and I can be alone when I want.

The big revelation of my walk yesterday day was that I think I would be happy even if you said I could never go to Buttermere again, now I have the Mournes. Life has moved forward, moved on and I am so glad of these new friends I have found, this joy in my heart and this light in my eyes. 

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Thoughts from a weekend away…

I’m sitting in an airport departure lounge waiting for my gate number to flash up on the screen. I’ve drunk coffee. Eaten breakfast. Now my brain is buzzing with thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams and more. I feel alive. Awash with the simplicity of the weekend. 

I’ve been in London for the final day of my Spiritual Direction course. It’s been a beautiful weekend, a weekend of memories, of refreshment and quiet inside my soul. 

I’d forgotten how simple everything is when you aren’t being a source of regulation for someone. My hyper-vigilance has been turned off for 48 hours. I’ve travelled, sat on trains, read a book, stared out of the window and not had to think about how my closest people are experiencing that time, not had to try and prevent sensory overwhelm or negotiate us into a state of coping. I haven’t had to answer the call of ‘mummy’ at any point. 

I’ve just been still. 

I sat on a park bench and looked at trees. I went to my friends house and didn’t have to worry about how others were coping. I ate food I didn’t have any hand in preparing or thinking about what others would like to eat. I drank wine and talked to my amazing friend. We played music and laughed together. 

I spent a couple of hours travelling the next morning and it felt deeply refreshing. Despite it being busy London. I sat still. I walked without having to help anyone else get through the experience. 

Sometimes I forget how intense life is right now in this season. I forget that there is a lot of pressure squeezing out the thoughts in my mind. I beat myself up for not being able to be more productive or slumping zombie like at the end of the day. 

But life is intense. That’s ok. I love my family deeply and wouldn’t change them for the world. I’m also grateful for this time away. Grateful that I’m still deeply Kath beyond my role at home. I’m glad of being able to revisit memories of London in my 20s. I’m glad to drink deep of this well and discover I’m still here. 

I’m glad to be going back to whatever awaits when I get home. Two peoples nervous systems have been excellently masking all weekend, holding things together until I get back. They could probably do with a break. One will disappear to a dark room and one may shout and scream at me but only because he can stop holding it all together and let it out. I’ll release the husbandface to sleep, I’ll hold space for the youngest to rage if he needs it and I’ll snuggle up to his brother to remind him that he is seen too in this messy glorious painful wonderful life we live right now. 

I will probably then slump zombie like tonight on the sofa but I’ll know that I can still process through writing, I can still read, I am now a spiritual director, I am still an excellent friend.

I am not lost.

I am here.

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Ode to my bread maker…

There are some objects that can tell a story, one beyond their physical presence in our lives. When the story ends it is good to recite it. To remember the history as an ebenezzer (marker of Gods presence and goodness) in the ground.

And so to my breadmaker. 

I was given it when I left a church I worked for in my early 20s. I’d been there as a student worker for a couple of years and loved many things about it. For a start it was in Cockfosters (got to love that name…), it was where I started to learn to preach and lead services, it was where my ‘ministry’ was shaped, where I discovered that success is not about numbers but about loving those you are with and paying attention to the reality of God in our lives, it was where I inhaled a whole load of Eugene Peterson and found a depth to my work. It was where I hung out with students in North London, went to parties with them and saw their dance shows, it was where I saw the aching loneliness of life in halls and soaked in the mixing pot of cultures, spiritualities and humanity around me.

It was a place where I found delight in small children, meeting with my boss and family each Monday lunchtime and being loved by their 4 and 2 year old was one of the best things about those years. It was a place I learnt more about myself and look back with immense fondness at the love I was shown by the church family. 

It was also a place I struggled with singleness and the glut of friends getting married straight out of uni. (Ah Christian culture). I went to see friends with their new collection of shiny kitchen equipment, rice cookers, bread makers, all for people who weren’t me. 

Another friend and I talked lots about these things in our 20s. There was a strange pull in us to leave good things until we were married, until we had another life to share them with. Looking back this seems SO odd but it was probably the culture and family backgrounds we grew up in, the expectation that marriage would come early and be the heart of our lives.

I am thankful that we talked about this oddness and did something about it. Bought the picnic blanket that only married friends seemed to have just for us. Went on adventures with mates rather than wait for some uncertain future. 

When I left the church the vicars wife sourced the best breadmaker and it was their leaving present to me. I still don’t know what the thinking was behind it but it remains one of the best presents I’ve ever received. It said, you don’t need to wait until you are in a mythical relationship to have amazing bread, you can be you all by yourself and still experience goodness. It was a symbol to me that life was not about finding the other half of me but was enjoying the goodness around me now. 

I loved it. 

It also lasted (thanks Carol because you sourced a good one!). 20 years I’ve had it. It’s lasted through many of the wedding presents I got when I did eventually, to my surprise, get married. It’s kept us in warm bread and pizza dough for years. 

And then last week it vibrated off the countertop and died, as all things do. 

We replaced it straightaway because unlike the mixer, the microwave, and other broken things we haven’t got around to replacing, we use it weekly and I reckon another 20 years is worth paying out for. The new one is the same model but the more recent version (because who likes change?). It’s a lovely machine. 

And there you have it. To my breadmaker and all the richness of finding life here and now that it symbolised to me. May you rest in peace.

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Books I’ve read January – April 2022

It turns out that moving, going through a whole load of change, grieving the loss of a lot of things, experiencing a fair amount of culture shock, coping with being a regulating system for your youngest child and generally ripping up everything you know and trying to form a new life in a new place is pretty exhausting and not all that conducive to having the brain space to sit down and read (or use full stops and new sentences). 

I have read some books this year, not as many as I had hoped or usually do, but there you go. Here’s my thoughts on the ones I have. 

Are we having fun yet?- Lucy Mangan

I love Lucy, I loved her Guardian articles years ago, I love her sarcasm, wit and general observations on life. I loved reading this book, it made me laugh out loud and want to read chunks to the husbandface. It’s about a mum with two kids juggling life and work and school runs and the mental load etc. So if that’s you then I imagine you’ll love it. It’s middle class london life, Motherland territory so if you aren’t in the mood for that then steer around it. It’s a treat though for anyone in a very specific stage of life. 

The Man Who Died Twice- Richard Osman

Does what his first one did, lots of warm comforting intrigue, mild suspense, fun characters and very much a sink into an arm chair with multiple cups of tea for the afternoon cosy kind of a novel. There is a bit of mild peril/death etc but it’s a lovely read. (I know, I’m not sure how he does it either) 

Beautiful World, Where Are You – Sally Rooney

I wondered why I went for this one, I think it’s because Sally is an excellent writer and although I have really not enjoyed much of her first two books I wanted to give her another try. I may have worked out my issues with her characters and really enjoyed this one, possibly because they are further on in life, have some existential angst and some of the relationships actually work out. It’s a beautiful book, a treat to read and with some timely observations on life. 

Platform 7 – Louise Doughty

I couldn’t remember much about this one, except it was in that vein of novel that had a gaslighting horrid man in it. It blurs in my mind with all the others but was a fairly engaging read all the same.

Ways to be me- Libby Scott/Rebecca Westcott

The prequel to Can you See Me? A really helpful novel explaining what it’s like to be PDA (pathological demand avoidance, which is the trait of autism we think our youngest fits with). SO relatable and very much a soothing book to read to remember we aren’t alone and to have words to describe some of our life. Worth a read to see the world from the perspective of an 11 year old who is autistic with PDA. 

The Best Things- Mel Giedroyc

Oh Mel I wanted so much to like this. I read it and tried to engage but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s about a rich family falling apart and whilst I kind of liked the main character in the end there was too much fatphobic talk for my brain to deal with. I really wanted this to be a book version of Schitts Creek but it just wasn’t. Ah well. 

I am an Island- Tamsin Calidas

A beautiful, heartwrenching, harrowing read about the life of Tamsin who moved from London to a remote Scottish Island to take on running a croft. It’s so wonderfully written and deeply moving. She documents the break up of her marriage, the hostility of some of the people on the island and a deep dive into foraging off the land in a period of extreme ill health. It has moments where if it had been a novel you would have thought she was being too harsh on the main character, she faces a whole load of hard horrid times. Of course, being a nature memoir it has a chapter on cold water swimming. I couldn’t put it down and was moved and inspired by her life. Although I have to confess I’m getting a little tired of the chapter on cold water swimming in every nature memoir I read, I’m either going to have to take it up or put a chapter in my memoir about cold water paddling… 

4000 Weeks – Oliver Burkeman

An amazing book about the startling reality that we aren’t in control of our lives, we can’t do everything or achieve everything and we can’t control the future for us or our children. What now? 

I think I underlined most things in this book, it reassured me, it reminded me of freedom found when we accept that we are not in control and we can’t achieve all we want to.

He writes things like this: 

“Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie. You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.”

“The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control—when the flood of emails has been contained; when your to-do lists have stopped getting longer; when you’re meeting all your obligations at work and in your home life; when nobody’s angry with you for missing a deadline or dropping the ball; and when the fully optimized person you’ve become can turn, at long last, to the things life is really supposed to be about. Let’s start by admitting defeat: none of this is ever going to happen.”

“choosing curiosity (wondering what might happen next) over worry (hoping that a certain specific thing will happen next, and fearing it might not) whenever you can.” 

(I would LOVE this to be my parenting manifesto) 

I want to read it again because it was so helpful for remembering that all I have is now, this present moment. I really need to know that in the ways I relate to my boys. In spending my whole time fearing about an unknown future but enjoying them, helping them, engaging with them today, in the present moment, not because it gets them to some future thing but because it’s worth it right now. 

So much of parenting leads us out of the present moment and towards the future.  I am not in control of that future and frankly there are too many unknowns to even think that what we give them now will necessarily be relevant in their future (except maybe teeth brushing). Anything that helps me stop doing things to get to a mythical point in the future when everything is fine and bring me back to living this moment right now has got to be a good thing. Also it’s a book that reads like Ecclesiastes and I liked that. 

Gilead- Marilynne Robinson

The letters of an ageing pastor to his young son. Finally I read it. I loved it’s gentle warmth, it’s wistfulness and the wisdom, love and grace that oozes from the page. I’m glad I got round to sitting with it. 

The Storyteller – Dave Grohl

Dave tells stories about his life, much of this I adored and loved. I loved his relationship with his Mum, the tales of rock and roll living, the love of music. It ticked all my music memoir boxes. There was something a bit lacking though by the end and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was just a little too much of the rock and roll excess lifestyle, maybe I wanted more details of the Nirvana phase, maybe something else. Still, ignore me, it was fun and moving and light enough to breeze through in a couple of sittings. 

Girl A – Abigail Dean 

I am not sure why I read harrowing novels about horrid situations, maybe because they are gripping enough to get me back into the habit of reading again, maybe they are a quick win on my book list, maybe they are better than scrolling through facebook. Anyway, this is the perspective of Girl A on the horrid abusive father she had and the way she escaped and formed a new life, and what happened to her various siblings and their perspectives on the horrid past. Not a fun read. 

The Road Trip- Beth O’Leary 

Ah, I love Beth O’Leary, fun easy to read novels with intelligence, heart and lovely characters. Another great one. Perfect holiday read. 

Apples never fall- Liane Moriarty 

I kind of liked this one about a family in Australia as they grapple with the disappearance of their mother. Lots of flicking back to their pasts, how they were formed to be the way they are now and a pretty compelling story line. Worth a read. 

Changing our minds- Naomi Fisher 

A manual on self directed learning. I really enjoyed this, it was easy to read which helps me a lot when reading non fiction. It wasn’t too prescriptive and is one I want to return to lots to remind me of why on earth we are embarking on this unschooling journey (and why I’ve given up my blissful 6 hours off each day to try and live out our values when it comes to school). It’s a compelling read and worth it if you are contemplating ripping up the script the world has given you when it comes to education and trying something new. (or you know, don’t pull at that thread and enjoy your 6 hours a day when your kids are at school… once you pull the thread it’s hard to go back…). I won’t offer her arguments here, you can read those for yourself if you want to take the blue pill (or is it the red one?). 

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Green paths.

I walk on. Down a straight path 

Hawthorn hiding singing thrush 

The cold of morning 

still lurks underneath these branches 

Bird song takes me back 

Green grass, tangled brambles 

To the paths where goldfinch never 

Winged their flight, darting across to say 

Good morning. 

These woods look so much like mine

Yet this path takes a different course

Feels sacred, full of a different call

No golf course to my right but 

A vast tidal plain 

No majestic view, no best bench to sit on

But a straight green line ahead. 

Nature wrapping me in familiarity 

And yet I still travel into unknown 

Not knowing where the next step lies 

Aching for safety and known 

Where is the best place to dig down and stay? 

I don’t know 

But this green, vibrant, vibrating path 

Enfolds me, Calls me on. 

And whispers in my ear. 

You are here.

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Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is strange when you aren’t feeling the big joy wonder of delight at hope returned. I remember big praise events as a teenager, the high of singing ‘Thine be the Glory’ loud and long whilst our vicar joined the band on the organ and soloed away with joy. But these emotions cannot be forced. If I love anything about Easter these days it is that all our stories are found in this big story and some years we need the aching silence and the jump to the joy can feel too much. For me this year Today means I can weep my tears of grief knowing that they are heard, seen, known and loved. There is a hope which is quiet and holds me on this course. Which is not loud and exuberant but gentle and tender.

I know that others will need and feel the big fat joy this year and I know that in other years I will dance in that to. This year though I stand with Mary in the garden and cry, asking where my Friend is and I gaze over the water with Peter in desperate longing that it really is him on the shore. 

I love Jan Richardsons book of blessings ‘Circle of Grace’ and this is unashamedly influenced by her beautiful words. (And the wonderful line ‘how it felt when you stood in the place of death and heard the living call your name’).

For all whom the joy is jarring

For all whom the grin won’t come 

For all who can’t find the hoorah 

On this day 

For all who ache 

For all who can’t see the way 

For all who the Easter Saturday has 

Not broken into sure certain wonder

For all whom the jump is too wide

For all who need to sit in tears 

For all who need courage 

To be wrapped in love 

And hear the living call their name 

In this place of death, 

In this lost, lonely landscape. 

May this hope breathe gently on you

May you hear your name spoken with love

May you taste the droplet of hope for the next step on. 

May you hear the invite of ‘come and have breakfast’ 

But if you can’t 

Come sit and be still 

May you know you can come,

sit and breathe for a while.  

In this silence. 

Waiting for the Dawn

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Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. I’m sitting trying to find the meaning of this day again. I miss sharing it with others, I miss not having a fixed faith community at the moment. I miss Good Friday’s past, trailing from my teenage years of sitting in the shelter of Guildford Cathedral and soaking up the silent awful majesty of this day. 

And so today I pause. 

I breathe in the long history past, a cross, a man rejected, killed, friends who fell asleep and denied they knew him, a man alone in a garden wondering if there was another road to take, a mystery of curtain torn, darkness falling in the daytime, the divine ripped apart, the forsaken lostness, the cup drunk, the shifting change, the newness about to be forged, but first the fire, the stopping sadness, the silence, the end. 

Always the end. 

Before there can be a beginning

Always there is an end. 

I sit and breathe in this story all our stories are found in. 

Each year I need something different from this Easter wonder, this mystery, this clarity of view, this story to end and begin all stories. This year I need to know that all stories must have an ending before there is a new beginning. I feel the ache of our ending. I lean into the grief and the loss. I lean into the loneliness and know that somewhere there will be hope again, a new start, a path ahead. I wrap this silence around me and wonder. I sit waiting. I look at the most desperate of all places in this story and know that the end gave way to more than anyone could have dreamed. 

I hold all our endings and longings for new beginnings and I wait. No easy timeline for any of us but never the final despair. I hold onto hope finding a way.

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On mother love…

I know mothers day isn’t easy for anyone, it can be full of ache, grief and sadness. It can be full of disappointment at the lack of children, the pain of loss of mothers or children, the desire to be honoured well as a mother and the feeling of not being celebrated or seen in your mothering. It’s a whole lot of strange. It might be just to raw to think about, in which case ignore this post. But I think I wanted to find myself in the mother heart of God, to receive mother love and care myself as I ponder what it means to be mother and in other mother type relationships. 

Back in the early 90s I grew up going to a big Anglican Church in the heart of Guildford, my Mum worked for a charity called the Amos Trust and the man behind that charity went to our church, Garth Hewitt. There is a small subsection of English Christians who will know Garth, big on the Greenbelt scene and with a deep heart for justice. I think it was him and his songs which helped give me a context for life beyond white middle class Guildford. He was also slightly ahead of the game when it came to different expressions of spirituality and ways of experiencing the divine.

I remember when his album with the song ‘we need your mother love O God’ came into our house. It was probably the first time anyone had highlighted the need to look at the divine feminine (and was a super low key way of introducing that concept..). I wasn’t sure though, was this phrase allowed? God had always been described to me in terms of father, male, and, lets face it, the old man with a beard was never far from my mind when it came to images of God.

I knew those passages were there though, the ones where God said as a mother can’t forget the child at her breast, I cannot forget you. I knew about the mother hen gathering chicks. I stored away the thought, not quite able to deal with why this talk of the mother love of God still jarred with me. 

Looking back I think I absorbed the negative talk of our society about mothers. Nowhere were mothers honoured or used as a metaphor for good and wonderful. To ‘mother’ someone was almost a derogatory phrase, used to dismiss and scorn. I grew up in a world where women were fighting to be seen as more than just mothers (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and somewhere along the way I had taken the mother part as a negative, a thing to get past.  

And then I became a mother. 

Which is a phrase that I know is a privilege, an ache for some, an area which causes pain and trauma because of the past or lack of future. I didn’t expect it to happen. I had felt the pang for children before I found anyone to have them with. I was convinced I could never be attractive to someone who I could make babies with so I parked the thought. I hadn’t envisioned a life with kids in it, I wasn’t prepared and I was left with a sense of disorientation when my son was born. Who was I now? And what positive images could I cling to about being a mother? If the societal voice I heard was dismissive, where could I find what it really meant to be a mother?

And that’s when I came back to this phrase from the song I’d heard growing up. ‘We need your mother love O God’. I found the mother images of God, I clung to them in the long dark nights of feeding and desperate prayers for sleep. I clung to this God who would not forget me, who was fierce in love for me, who was awake in the night when I was, who adored me with the intensity that I adored this little face staring up at me.

I want to reclaim this mother heart of God, I want to lean into this image, to see God’s mothering of us bringing worth and dignity into the ways we mother each other (which is deeply profound when it occurs both within and beyond biology).  I want it to be a positive image in our relationships with those younger than us or in particular need of a mother kind of love. 

I want mothering someone to be equated with providing safety, comfort in the storms of life, a place to run to for shelter, a place where you know you will never be forgotten or alone, a place where we know we are always carried in the heart of the God who made us and formed us.

When my first son was born I could not get his face out of my head, when I went anywhere without him I felt a lack. I still feel that something is missing when I am on my own (Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy that aloneness but I always know there are two small people out in the world because I carried them and birthed them and I feel different without them close). I love that this God of the universe puts herself in that place, of vulnerability, of connection, of love.

I’m slowly working this image into how I see God, into how I experience God. I like to imagine God as male and female, as other and beyond, as tender and close, as many and varied images, I love the richness of all the different expressions of God. I get that parental images will not be helpful for many people, but for me, as a mother in this world, this mothering nature of God speaks deeply. I long to dive into it, to swim in the richness and wrap it around me like a cloak. I too often run from that part of me and yet it is at the heart of who I am. I am a mother to our boys, God’s mothering looks like fierce protection, deep compassion, never giving up love and more. I want to be a mother like that.

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Holding the tension of the joys and frustrations of life right now. A poem.

Life feels very much out in the wilderness right now. But it’s a wilderness, not a desert. There is life bursting all over the place and there are holes to fall into, paths that are overgrown and no clear way ahead. It’s a full on world of tension of all the happy and all the sad. An undefined place and I am learning this new skill of holding the tension.

And I am asked

How are you doing? 

And I sit, breathe, 

Try to put into words.  

How to explain this tension 

This season of joy and sorrow

Grief and wonder 

Delight and frustration

Fear and light 

Love and despair 

Closeness and loneliness 

Fullness and emptiness.  

Sunshine and clouds. 

And then, surprise 

I am holding them both 

These consolations

Desolations 

Always I’ve lived in the extremes and 

Now I walk this path 

Of here. 

In all it’s messy confused 

full depth glory. 

And you? How is it for you right now?

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