Monday, 23 December 2013

In search of joy: 2

It's taken me a while to get to a point where I could write this post.
Last year I wrote here
about being in search of joy.
But this year was bound to be different.

The darkness of last year's Advent was no more.
It wasn't the first Christmas without our loved ones.
The boys are happy.
I'm enjoying my new church and ministry.
Chris is fulfilled in his new role.
Christmas joy would be all around,

Well actually...

The truth is that it's been harder to find joy this December than last.
And I write not to gain your sympathy
But because I'm reminded how difficult this time of year is for so many.

The race to feel "Christmassy" is well and truly on.
What will help us in our quest for that Holy Grail?

Carol Services
Christmas plays
Winter Wonderland?

Well none of them worked for me.
And in my prayers last week I felt God say,
"Stop trying to create Christmas. Just let it happen."

And as I sobbed for two hours solid last Friday,
(Thank you to the lovely lady in Chichester Cathedral who supplied me with tissues)
I read this:

"You don't have to work for the coming of the Lord
- you don't have to work for Christmas.
The miracle is always that God is gracious.
You don't have to earn Christmas,
You don't have to perform Christmas,
You don't have to make Christmas.

You can rest in Christ.
You can wait with Christ.
You can breathe easy in Christ.
Open your heart to the miracle of grace.
He will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord...

You always get your Christmas miracle.
You get God with you.
(Ann Voskamp)

And so that's it.
My Christmas thoughts.
I have Immanuel
God with me.

Incidentally the lights have really moved me this year.
And the impact of candles on deep darkness is not lost on me.
I am reminded that my healing is not yet complete.
It may not be, this side of heaven.
The darkness of depression often threatens.
But Jesus, light of the world, is God's gift to me.
He knows what I need.
I trust Him.

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas.
May you know peace...
may you know love...
and maybe...
just maybe...
a little joy!

With much love

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Let's hear it for the boys!

I had to bite my tongue today.

I was in the hairdressers
And the lady next to me,
And her stylist,
Spent about half an hour
Talking about men.

Apparently the secret of her long marriage is pretending.
She pretends she needs her husband to do things.
She pretends she's not strong enough.
If she wants something to happen she plants the seeds
And pretends he's really clever to think of such a thing.

Half an hour earlier I overheard a group of women congratulating a poor, helpless workman
On his ability to multi-task.


Come on girls we can do better than that!

Now I know they're not perfect by a long stretch
But then neither are we.

Most men I know are decent human beings.
They love well.
They think for themselves.
They work hard to help provide for people who depend on them.
They may not always be able to multi-task, but sometimes I wish I didn't.

I'm not trivializing the reality for many women throughout the world
who are being beaten
and tortured
and downtrodden in a patriarchal society.
Who have no rights except those that men afford them.
We need to keep fighting that war on every front.

But we live in a civilized society.

I live in a male-dominated household,
And this is not what I want for my sons.

Women have striven for equality for decades,
But if the oppressed have become the oppressors
That doesn't make for a better world.

So come on.
Give them a break.
Let's hear it for the boys!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent: On feeling the fear

I went for an Advent Quiet Day today.
For guidance we were given the four songs of Advent.

The Angels

They all sang praises to God.

Songs of assurance
Of faith
Of hope
Of trust.

But there was something else that I noticed today.
In every case
Fear preceded the song.
Fear preceded the blessing.
In every case they were told,
"Don't be afraid".

One of my hang overs from my illness and loss is fear.
I can still do ministry.
I can still lead worship.
I can still go into new situations.
But fear grips me.
I feel anxious
And tearful
And afraid.

But God reminded me today
That feeling afraid is part of what makes us human.
It brings the 'fight or flight' response in us.
It's ok to feel afraid.
I don't need to be ashamed of it.
But fear needn't cripple me.

God has already fought the fight for me.
When I am weak
He is strong.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

On being surprised....again.

Well you've done it again.
And every time it takes me by surprise.
And how quickly I forget

Until I come into your presence with intent
And you meet me
And love me
And strengthen me
And bless me beyond my imaginings
Again and again.

As I list your gifts...
The little things in my life...
My spirit leaps within me.

And something
Bubbles up from within.

And you're here
And you're now
And you love
How you love...

Gratitude turns my heart to you.
And mechanical lists of the mundane
Become prayers of thanks.

And I'm surprised
Over and over by the same thing.

That you're here
That you're now
And you love
How you love.

And you meet me
And love me
And strengthen me
And bless me beyond my imaginings
Again and again.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Pilgrimage of Promises

I had a free day to myself yesterday.
I promised myself I could do whatever I wanted.
The only rule was I had to do it alone.

Now I love people.
I love sharing chat
And laughs
And coffee
And food
And more chat.

But yesterday was to be different.
Yesterday was my day for alone-time with Jesus.
A whole day without interruptions
Doing whatever I liked

But with Jesus.

When the rain cleared
And I saw the azure sky
And the brilliant sunshine
I decided to start up Reigate Hill.

I knew there were trees
And wide open spaces
And spectacular views
And there was Jesus.

We shared a lot, He and I.
There was intense prayer
And tears
And an overwhelming sense of being loved.

He reminded me that he is Healer.
And he took me to a place where 6 months previously
I had known deep, deep distress.

He reminded me that in that distress
I gained courage
And self-worth
And confidence
And his plan for my future was realised just a few days later.

And he told me that the rains were past
And spring was coming
And turtle-doves would be singing.
And I started singing the old song by Vera Lynn that I'd heard
'quite by accident' at the weekend.

"There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover
tomorrow just you wait and see.
There'll be love and laughter and joy ever after
tomorrow, when the world is free"

And there were tears
Of relief
And disbelief
And healing
And as I walked through the copse
And out the other side
I saw a view that I hadn't seen before.
It was bright
It was beautiful
And it stretched as far as my eye could see.

I learnt many things from Jesus today.
My first photographic blog is on the way...
But when I read God's promise to me
in it's place in Song of Songs 2:10-13
the tears pricked my eyelids again.

"Rise up my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one!
Look, the winter is past
And the rains are over and gone.
The flowers are springing up,
the season of singing birds has come
And the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.
The fig trees are forming young fruit,
and the grapevines are blossoming.
Rise up my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one"

God's. Promise. IS. For. ME.
His daughter.
His darling.
His fair one.
Such love.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Five Minute Friday: Grace

I love the word Grace.
If I'd had a little girl I wanted to call her Charis, which is grace in Greek.
But I didn't have a girl.
And Charis Sandford has too many s's.

But I digress.

I would love to be graceful.
To glide when I walk instead of clomp.
To have that aura of serenity that people have.
Especially tall people
Who are also slim
And have long legs
I hate them already!

And there lies the rub.

I do suffer a bit from the green eyed monster.

I realised last week that I'm great at weeping with those who weep.

But rejoicing with those who rejoice I struggle with sometimes

Especially if they seem to live a charmed life.
And are tall
And slim
With long legs
And are graceful...

You see??

The phrase "full of grace and truth" has been on my mind today.
I thought it described Mary, 
but it describes Jesus coming into the world.

The Word became flesh
And dwelt among us 
Full of grace and truth.

Oh to be like Him!
Full of grace and truth.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Five Minute Friday: Together

It's Friday. That day where we write for the pure joy of writing.
Then we link up here
Why not join in?
Today's prompt is TOGETHER

"We're all in this together
One sweet note that we are, we're all stars..."

I can still do the dance routine.
The one we learnt as a team
Ready to share with the children coming to camp.
There's a togetherness that comes from sharing that kind of experience.
When sleep is scarce
But laughs are abundant
And God-moments come from all kinds of places.

And this week I remembered another kind of togetherness.
The links between fellow-travellers
The connectedness
The encouragement
The sharing
The prayers

The tears that spring to eyes as I remembered
We truly are all in this together
We Jesus-followers
We Salvationists
We officers who form "the leadership team of The Salvation Army."

We know...
The joys
The sorrows
The pain
The blessings
The hardships
The loneliness
The camaraderie
The in-jokes

We know that God has promised never to leave us.
We're all in this together.

High School Musical anyone?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

On keeping perspective.

I am sticking my neck out on this one.
I don't do this often.
And it concerns a Bi-annual event which all Salvation Army officers in the UK attend.
It's held in a lovely setting in Swanwick, Derbyshire, so that's what we call it.
We attend one of five identical sessions which last for two days.

It's a place that holds many memories, good and bad.
There are apocryphal tales of terrible food and accommodation.
Of single rooms and one bathroom with no shower between 20 people.
That last is true.
I am enough of an old Major to remember...

I guess the thing that concerns me most is the statement of those who have already been this year.
"We're finally being listened to by leadership"

Firstly, as SA officers aren't we the leadership?
We're the ones who meet the people and make the changes and share God's love.
One question and answer session isn't going to alter that.

Secondly, the implication is that we haven't been listened to before.

Well I have.

I've known territorial leaders who were so pleased to see me, their arms were outstretched for a hug.
I've known leaders who have known my name, without my name badge.
And more than that they've known the names of my children,
Or at least what gender they were.

They've known where I live, and work, and minister,
And some of my concerns.
They've even known who my parents are, and how they are.

I've known men and women of God who have impacted my life,
and the life of the UK territory in which I serve.

Please don't misunderstand me.
I have heard nothing but good about the Terrritorial Commanders.
I love the reports that they're 'human', as in they don't seem to be standing on ceremony.
But they are just that.
Human like you and me.
Called by God to love and serve him.

I thank God for all who have gone before.
And I look forward to Swanwick.
We go on Monday!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

It's Friday. That day where we write for the pure joy of writing.
Then we link up here
Why not join in?
Today's prompt is ORDINARY

I love ordinary.
The everyday.
The normal.
A bit of routine.

Hanging out the washing.
Reading a book.
A cuddle with my boys
Working at the computer.

I once heard someone say
"Do the ordinary well. And be ready for the critical moment"

It was a long time ago.
But I remember.
It resonated.
And now
All these years later
I know the truth.

That with God nothing is ordinary
He transforms everything

As I watch
And wait
And look above
He changes the ordinary moments into God moments.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Forever blowing bubbles

"I'm forever blowing bubbles
Pretty bubbles in the air"

Sing along if you know it.
But if you're singing it at Upton Park,
The home of West Ham United,
You'll have to sing it
Very loud,
Very deep,
And with a London accent.
It's the law.

A few weeks ago a family led a lovely prayer time at our church.
They used the idea of bubbles being like our prayers.
As the bubble machine brought forth thousands of bubbles
They reminded us that our prayers are like bubbles.
We can't hold on to them.
We need to let them go into God's hands.
And when they burst that's like the moment of surrender.

I really liked that
Especially as through the service we kept seeing stray bubbles
Floating around as if from no-where.
Stray prayers...

Then at West Ham in the following week
There were lots of bubbles.
We were praying hard then too!

Last night I thought about a different kind of bubble
One that I place around myself in difficult situations.
Maybe you do it too?

I had to go to something that before our new roles,
I had always attended with 'my shield at my right hand'
aka Chris, my husband.

As I was getting ready my anxiety levels rose
I was glad that Mum came with me,
But that whole evening felt as if I was viewing it from within a bubble
Or more like a plastic shield.
I wanted to be part of it.
But nothing was getting through that barrier.
It was intended to protect me from tears;
But it ended up blocking everything.

Sometimes I think I'd like to live my life in my own personal bubble.
I could pop in there with my family and we'd be safe
Nothing could touch us
Hurt us
Harm us.

But in my quest to be 'real'
That wouldn't work either.
Being salt and light, sadly doesn't involve spiritual salt cellars.

I asked God lots of questions this morning.
And I have even more questions than I started with.
But isn't that the way?

And being in His presence helped
No surprises there.
God doesn't often give us answers;
But He gives us Himself.

Today has held much weariness
comfort food
hugs that say a thousand words
reminders that some things are still too soon...
And to be as gentle with myself as I am with others

And the bubbles?

I'll keep praying them
Singing them
Hoping them
And trying...
To release them into the hands of the one who holds me.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

On excess baggage and learning to trust.

Today I'm over at She Loves Magazine.

I love traveling. I love planning what I’m going to take, and which case I’m going to pack it in. I don’t like to show off, but I’m an expert packer. Five of us go on holiday for a fortnight with one bag of hand-luggage each. If you roll things really tightly you’ll be amazed how much you can cram in.

To continue reading, click on the link

Friday, 20 September 2013

Five Minute Friday: She

It's Friday.
The day we link up at Lisa-Jo's place.
Today's prompt is SHE.

She used to be a dancer
That girl over there.

Not ballet or tap
But in worship.

She never knew she could until someone saw potential
And asked the question
And the rest
As they say is history.

She loved the way it made her feel

And when she danced
She danced for the Father
Who knew her
Saw her
Loved her

She danced alone
In small groups
On small stages
And once at a top London venue

But still for Him
Always for Him

She never hung up her dancing shoes because she never had any.
But it all stopped after a while
New roles
and new responsibilities took their place.

And now that dancer is wrapped in layers
Of motherhood
And chocolate
And life.

She used to be a dancer
That girl in the mirror.

She dances rarely now.
But when she does she smiles
And laughs
And sings along.
And catches a glimpse of a future day
When the music will start
And she'll dance in the arms of the Father
Who still knows
Still sees
Still loves.

Monday, 16 September 2013

How do you do it?

A plastic measuring jug made me cry today.
You know how cheap and nasty they can be.
Actually it wasn't the jug's fault,
More a combination of straws and camels.

The day started at Frankie & Benny's.
I love a breakfast meeting
All that list making over eggs and bacon.
This one was with Ryan and Chris.
Our last free day together before Ryan goes to Uni.
Lots to accomplish;
And the realisation for me that my first-born
Is really and truly flying the nest.

I left them in PC World buying a laptop
And went on to Sainsburys to do the food shop.
I can never resist a wander round their home dept
And it was there I found a fleece throw.
That's its official title.
In reality I thought it could go on his bed at uni.
In case he gets chilly, officially.

In my mind it's soft and warm and comforting
In case he's a bit homesick.
And as I rested it against my face I was instantly transported to 1994
And my precious boy was snuggled up in his blanket
In my arms
Heartbeat to heartbeat
Cheek to cheek
Breath on breath

I did the shopping with a lump in my throat.
And on the way out remembered about the jug.
The price of 49p thrilled me!
But it was the final straw

You see
I know about the roots and wings
I know that love gives freedom to those we love
I know it's a rite of passage
I know we've raised an independent young man who can fend for himself.
I know he can even use the washing machine
I know he can cook ish
I know he'll be fine
What I don't know is this....

How on earth can you bear to let them go?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

For my sons.

Your life brought new life to mine.
From the first moment
That blue line shouted
I'm here!

Growing in secret.

You heard my heartbeat loud and strong.
And when I heard your answering one
I breathed

I never understood
What being Mum to you would mean.
That in caring for you
I would learn to love
How in loving you
I would become more of myself.

Thank you for helping me learn the craft of motherhood.
For the laughter
Tears that you bring.
And for the love
Deep, deep love.

As you set off on your new adventures
Know how proud I am of you
How amazed I am that you are mine
That in loving you, I grow closer to God himself.

Hold your head high as a child of God.
Be who you are
Precious and dearly loved.

Monday, 26 August 2013

September song.

My name's Karen and I'm afraid of September.
It's not an irrational thing.
September has form.
This month has often been disastrous for my family.

And last year, dealing with the sudden death of my father
Mean that when I think about the coming month
I feel anxious

And this Sept has lots of possibilities for fear
As between the five of us
Two of us are settling into new jobs
One leaves home to go to Uni
One goes to college
And one goes to a new school.

So you see?
I have every reason to be afraid.
And already the anxiety has started
And tears come too readily
And I want to lock us all away
And keep us safe.

I read a blog about Isaiah 51:12 today
"I, I'm the one comforting you.
What are you afraid of, or who?....
You've forgotten me, God who made you." (MSG)

And while it's not completely true for me,
It is partly.
I haven't forgotten God
But maybe I've forgotten what He's capable of.
That when He asks me to trust him
It's because I can.
He won't let me fall.
He knows what September holds.
And even if disaster does strike
He's got me.
And he's got you too.

And my September song?
"Our God is a great big God and he holds us in his hands."

Friday, 23 August 2013

Five Minute Friday: Last

Last year
On this day
We lost my Dad.

His heart failed
And he was gone.

Today feels strange.
I have tried to be normal.
But inside I feel numb.
Walking around like a zombie.
Struggling to answer straightforward questions.
Mind anywhere but where it's supposed to be.

It won't last.
I know this.
But today is a day of intense emotion
Vivid memories
And the painful reality that Dad is no more.

But his love
His voice that I can still hear in my head
His smile
His laugh
His big bear hugs
Every good memory I have of him
These are the things that will last.

"Weeping may endure (last) for a night...
Joy comes in the morning."

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

On choosing to forgive.

This is a bit of a tricky one.
I don't want to offend anyone,
But in the interests of honesty
And my desire to be real
I feel I need to write.

You see I can be quite good at bearing a grudge.
I feel resentment quite easily.
Jealousy rears it's ugly head too often in my life.

And over the past few weeks I've returned again and again to people I thought were my friends, but have hurt me.

You see I'm a nurturer.
My maternal instinct takes over and I want to fix people.
And that's what happens over and over.

I open our home
Our family life
And our ministry
to people that don't have the kind of support network I do.
Maybe it's a form of gratitude?
A kind of 'freely you have received...freely give?'

And I always thought that was ok.
It's who we are.
It's what we do.
If I was trying to impress, I called it incarnational ministry.

But the problem is that people move on.
Perhaps they don't need us in quite the same way anymore.
Their circle of friends widens.
But I thought I was a friend too.

Or even
when I've needed them to be there for me
They are no-where to be found.

And then the questions come
What did you expect?
Who did you think you were?
You were useful for a while but they've moved on to bigger and better things.

And that's when the jealousy starts:
Of their new lives
Their new friends
Even their new church
They always seem to come up smelling of roses.

And I hate myself for being that kind of person.

Today I was reading the psalms.
Mainly Psalm 18.
It speaks of God being our rock
Our place of safety
Our protector
Our defender.

It speaks of enemies who attacked me at a moment when I was in distress
but God led me to a place of safety. (v18)
'Attack' is a bit strong,
But I was in deep distress
And they were no-where to be found.

v46 says 'He is the God who pays back those who harm me.'
But the truth is I don't want revenge.
I don't want 'pay-back'
I want to change the way I feel when I hear their names.

So this morning I prayed for them by name.
And I parcelled all my feelings for them up
and asked God to take the burden from me.
I prayed for forgiveness.
For light and life where those dark places had been.

They haven't asked for my forgiveness.
And if you're feeling nervous reading this don't!
It's not you!

So I guess what I'm asking is this:
Can you relate?
Am I the only one?
Do you have any advice?
What do you do in these circumstances?
And if you feel I need to get a grip I'd like to know that too!!
Please post a comment on the blog below so we keep it all together.
Thank you my friends

Friday, 26 July 2013

Five Minute Friday: Broken

It's Friday.
The day we write for the love of writing.
5 minutes.
Today's prompt is 'Broken'

I heard the smash from the next room.
It couldn't be helped, the cupboard is too full of mugs
All stacked higgledy-pigggledy.
So a fall is inevitable.
Unless your reflexes are really good.
And your catching better.

I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't a 'special' one.
There are anniversary ones
Valentine's day ones
Mummy ones
All in there with the ordinary ones.

But it wouldn't be the end of the world would it?
It's just ' stuff'.
And mugs can be replaced.
And things can be glued back together.

And God?
He holds all the pieces of my brokenness
In his outstretched
Gentle hands.

He puts me back together over and over again.
And through my brokenness
His light shines more brightly.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

And grace?

Those that read yesterday's blog know my dilemma.
And today has been weird.

A kind of who am I?
Whose am I?
Who is mine?

And tomorrow I run.
5k as a novice.
I'll get a medal for the first time in my life.
And that feels strange too.

And my boy-man
The thoughtful one who oozes kindness from every pore
Comes and hugs me
And holds me
And says nothing
There are no words.

"And the real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time.
Like the wind, grace finds us wherever we are
And won't leave us however we were found."
(Ann Voskamp)

Just grace.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Five Minute Friday: Belong

Five Minute Friday

Today I'm not sure where I belong.
Yesterday I was the leader of a church.
Next Thurs I'm joining the leadership team at a different church.
Today I'm nowhere
Of no fixed abode
A lady of leisure
A shepherd without her sheep.

The truth is I know exactly where I belong.
Mum to my boys
Wife to my man.
Shepherds don't lose their sheep over night.
It's going to take some readjustment.

Daughter of the King.
Dearly loved.
That's who God says I am.
In His arms is where I belong.

Friday, 12 July 2013

A bit of Eschatology

So here it is.
In about 48hrs from now we'll have had our final Sunday as The Salvation Army officers in Caterham.
Truth be told, I'm dreading it.
I have been all week.

To put some perspective on it I'm the child of Salvation Army Officers.
When I was young we moved home and church every 2 or 3 years.
The place I regard as my home church was only mine for seven years.
And we've been here for 11.

Not long by some people's standards
But by mine...
That's almost a quarter of my life as leaders of this church.
11 years of
being fully present in this place.

And if I'm honest I spent a few hours on Tuesday in deep distress.
It was only later that I realised this was like another bereavement to me.
Another loss
Another change.

Wednesday dawned brighter.
I went to an exercise class.
And received the call that Nathan had injured himself yet again.
I knew it probably meant yet another trip to hospital.

So driving back I prayed
And the Spirit came
And he stirred
I prayed fervently
I laughed joyously
And I had to pull over before I was arrested for careless driving.

And our God.
God not in the past
Not in the future
but right here right now...

He sent our friends as his messengers today to tell us three things.

1. There will be grief but it will be OK.

2. This isn't an ending, but a new beginning.
He has wonderful things in store.

And most importantly, for me anyway,

3. The seeds we have planted over the past 11 years have roots that go deep.
They will not fail.
We have not worked in vain, even though the last year has brought changes in the church that we didn't forsee.

As we face our Last Things on Sunday
Please pray for us.

But join me in thanking God for his faithfulness,
his vibrancy and his promptings.
For friends that love us enough to share what He says.
And for the knowledge that he has it all sorted.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Five Minute Friday: In Between

I wore red lipstick today.
I know!

Apparently red lipstick suits everyone.
And we reserved types aren't bold enough with our lipstick.

I read it in a magazine.
In an article about women in their forties
Under the heading
"Don't tell me I can't...."

It's meant to be empowering.
And give us confidence.

I usually wear a kind of browny, bronzey colour.
Sometimes with a bit of pink gloss added for special occasions.

You have to remember I was brought up in The Salvation Army.
And in the old days we weren't allowed to wear make-up with our uniform.

So of course we didn't...

Actually it was a good lesson in how to apply make-up so it looks natural

Back to the red lipstick.
I wore it out for coffee with a friend.
But when I re-touched it just before Joel's prom photos
I wiped it off again.

I like my brown lipstick.
I like the idea of red...
But maybe I need something in between.

And the article in the magazine got me thinking in ways beyond the lipstick.

"Don't tell me I can't"

Live my life as God's child

Going all out for Him

Being the woman he designed me to be.

Circumstances may leave me feeling like I live in an in-between kind of place

But I am His

And He is mine.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rhythm

Five Minute Friday.
Set the timer for five minutes and write.
This week's prompt is RHYTHM


'And the banner man, held the banner high
With a 'Hallelujah' in his eyes
And I wish that I could be a Banner Man.'

If you can sing along to those words,
chances are you'll now be singing them all day.


My Dad used to play it on his record player.
I can still smell the vinyl
The slight crackle as the needle finds the groove,
And see him patting his leg in time to the music.

It's a habit he's passed on to me.
I can't hear a piece of music without
Tapping my foot

Or nodding my head

Or patting my leg

Or dancing if I'm really lucky.

I'm so grateful to my parents for teaching me about the rhythm of life.
And I don't just mean musically.

My musical tastes are not my Dad's.
(Thank the Lord for that)

But somehow they taught me that the beat goes on.
And I am part of that rhythm.

The tempo can change

The pace may slow considerably

Or increase to a rapid staccato

But stop

And pause

And you'll hear it.

You'll feel it.



Friday, 14 June 2013

Five Minute Friday: Listen

We took Dad's ashes to be interred on Tuesday.
His final resting place is All Saints Church in a little village called Sandford.

The village held so many memories as we passed through it

Granny and Grandad's bungalow

The garden equipment shop that used to be a garage we went to for sweets and comics.

The Post Office cum Village Shop that sells EVERYTHING.

The Village Hall where we used to go to 'Mothers' Union' with granny.
Mum, my brother and I were the star turn one week.
We sang, we played our brass instruments,
I even played the tambourine!
(The women must have been very forgiving....
Either that or it wasn't actually tea they were drinking...)

It was also the place where we celebrated my Grandad's 80th and 90th birthdays.

We passed the park we were allowed to walk to as we got older
to play on the swings.

If I listened carefully I could hear
the laughter of children
the tinkle of glasses
the bikes screeching to a halt
my brother teasing me
the neighbours ringing the doorbell inviting us to play
Granny and Grandad calling
Tea being poured
Butter being spread
Cakes being sliced

But when we reached the church the soundtrack changed.

This little church, set high up from the road was the centre of it all.

Here we all used to cram into Grandad's churchwarden's pew.
If we were good he let us help him give out the books.
We even rang the church bell once!

The smell of the church was partly age,
but also the scent of God's blessing
On hundreds,
maybe thousands of people through the years.

Of friendships made
Lives changed
Griefs shared
Souls won.

And it was here, we knew,
that Dad would be pleased to have his remains left.

It was a simple few moments.
Prayers said
Scripture shared
Tears shed.

And so we left him there.
In a place where Granny lay alone for many years
But Uncle Steve
And now Dad have joined her.

Our thoughts turned to others we have lost who are far away.
"So much loss, I can't bear it."
But we can.
And we have.
And we will.

The inscription on the original grave stone says
'I heard the voice of Jesus say
"Come unto me and rest"'



For in His arms we find

At the back of the church

 "You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless
until it rests in you."
(Saint Augustine)

Friday, 7 June 2013

Five Minute Friday: Fall

On Fridays there are a group of us who write just for the joy of writing.
No editing. Just write. This week's prompt is Fall

You know when something just doesn't feel right?
When you put your faith in something or someone but you feel you're not being heard?

There must be more than this?

All these months and years of trusting, and obedience, and this is it?

You know when it feels like maybe you're being set up for a fall?
I'm sure that's not the case but it makes no sense.

Well that was me.

I thought

I prayed

I questioned

I shouted

I cried

And God said
(Again through a friend)
"Whatever happens. I won't let you fall."

And He hasn't.

(To be continued....)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

20 years of ministry

I hadn't realised it myself.
I'm not very good with dates, and years, and anniversaries.

But yesterday my Facebook Timeline was full of it.
It's 20 years since we were commissioned and ordained.
28th May 1993
at The Royal Albert Hall, London.

As I listened to 'Our Songs'
The ones written for us,
and for the occasion
I became a bit nostalgic.

As I looked at the video
And saw my friends and colleagues
I almost felt a pang of grief
For the people we were
The things we shared.

But this is a letter to the 25 yr old girl I was then
From the woman I am now

"You made it!
By the skin of your teeth at times but you got there in the end.
And this ending
Full of brass,
and drums,
and singing
and laughter
and drama
and dance
is just the beginning.

In the years ahead you will know joy
Real joy
Laughing so hard no sound comes out.

Friendships that are only in their infancy here
Will become your anchor in the days ahead.

And people that you found it difficult to live with in this environment
Will return to your life
And you will laugh,
and share once more.
They will be the people who know...
When there are no words.

There will be sorrow.
Deep, deep sorrow.

Days when you feel so misunderstood you could scream.

Times when you could gladly punch the person that is standing in front of you.

There will be times when you want to take off your uniform and burn it.


No more.

Why does it have to be this way?

It's too hard.

And there will be moments when God comes so close it makes you catch your breath.
You can sense Him
Feel Him
Touch Him
And He'll knock you off your feet.

Times when he'll draw near in silence
His arms stretched out to hold you.

And there'll be times when He seems distant.
You'll think He's given up on you too.
But know that in the darkness
"When you cannot feel his hand, trust his heart."

And finally
You are beautiful
Truly beautiful
Not because of what you look like
But because of who's you are.
You are a daughter of the King.

And remember
It's not about what you do

Never that.

It's about who you are.
And you are His.

Hang on in there.

You can't

But He can

And He will

Trust Him"

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Five Minute Friday: View

Five Minute Friday.
Write for 5 minutes, just for the pure love of it.
No editing.
Just write.
Today's prompt is View


Nathan is getting really good on the trampoline.
Front drops
Back drops
Forward ones anyway.
The backwards ones are a different matter.

After falling off the trampoline the other day in the attempt,
he's been a bit nervous.


Yesterday I stood at the edge of the trampoline.
Watching him closely as he tried.

He improved but he wasn't quite there.

As he came close to the edge I opened my arms.

He saw me

Came towards me

And gave me a kiss.

I'd opened my arms to catch him quicker.

He'd come for a kiss because he loved me.

I spend too much time messing about

Doing my thing

Facing danger at times
Knowing God is on the sidelines waiting to catch when I fall.

Instead I should be running into the arms of Jesus.
In that place I am




Knowing who I am
I can go out into the world and do what I do.

The view might be different from that vantage point.

STOP Please click to share.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Stones cry out.

The pebbles filled the beach

As far as my eyes could see.
Different shapes and colours and sizes.

Ever since the children were small they've brought them to me.
Some I keep, and some I leave behind.
But look closely around our house and you'll see them.

Nathan brought me the pink one from a school trip.
The small, beautiful smooth ones are broken bits from a bigger shell.

Stones speak to me of

There's something about the fact that they've been
Formed over millions of years
that connects with my soul.

There aren't many certainties in life
but stones represent a steadfastness.
A faithfulness.

Recently I've started decorating them.
I told a friend I was looking for stones to put scripture verses on,
so he proceeded to try and lift a massive rock
"That's for Psalm 119..."

Scripture for me provides comfort
And solace
And strength.
So combining it with the stones makes sense to me.

This one was a gift from a friend.

Earlier this week I was stood on the shore.
The tide was out further than I had seen before.
Sand was beneath my feet
In place of the usual pebbles.

I had in my hands about five stones
Of all shapes and sizes.
And my thoughts turned to God
And my life
And the things I need answers to.
You know when you just want things to be settled for once?

And God said

"Empty your hands...

Get rid of the stones.

I've got something better for you."

And I said...


But they're really nice ones.
And there's a heart-shaped one
which would be perfect for our anniversary...

"Throw them down."

And I did.                                                                       






Even the heart-shaped one.

And I lifted my empty hands to God
And asked him to give me what he had for me, for us.

When I walked back up to where Chris was sat
he had about half a dozen stones for me to look at.
He rarely does that.

So I chose from what he had for me.

And the significance wasn't lost on me.

"As children bring their broken toys, with tears, for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because he was my friend.
Impatient though, I snatched them back
And said
"You are so slow!"
"My child" He said,
"What could I do?
You never would let go."

And on our way home we had to make a phonecall.
And guess what?
I don't have the answers to all my questions
But it would seem that God has it in hand....

Friday, 17 May 2013

Five Minute Friday: Song

It's our Silver Wedding Anniversary on Tuesday.
25 years.

I told someone the other day and she gasped,
and said, "You don't look old enough"
Which is absolutely the right response.

We're having a few friends over next Friday night to celebrate.
There will be food
And dancing
And fun
And song.

'Our song' to be precise.
As we met in the 80's,
Our song is 'Solid' (Ashford and Simpson).

It's the song we used to dance to at parties.
It's the song that made us laugh.
It's the song we always talk about when reminiscing.

Our 25 years together hasn't been perfect
You won't be surprised to hear that.

There has been much joyful song.

But sometimes the notes have turned dischordant.

Sometimes we've sung in a minor key.

More recently we have sung songs of lament.

But to mis-quote Gloria Gaynor
We have survived.
We're still standing (Elton John)
And we're still singing from the same hymn sheet.

So Chris,
If you read this.

Thank you for always being there.
For being a wonderful father to our three boys.
For being my protector.
My defender.
My clown.
My friend.

I love you.
And look forward to making more beautiful music with you!

That was then!

This is now!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Five Minute Friday: Comfort


Even the word is somehow....


I envision soft blankets
A cushion or two
Or six or seven.

The sound of waves pounding on the beach...
A river...
or at the very least a stream.

Family, or very close friends.
At least one little one who doesn't mind snuggling up.
My boys don't mind at home
But draw the line in public.

Back to the little one
Who cuddles in close
Tight hold
Cheek to cheek as I breathe in their scent.

The sun
Present, but not too fierce.
Warming, but not stifling.

Familiar but not overwhelming.

What have I forgotten?

My very old calendar has this verse for my birthday.
I read it today and smiled.

The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
And will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11


Oh and don't forget the chocolate!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Spinning around like Kylie.

I don't know if I should admit to liking Alan Carr 'Chatty Man'
He's a bit near the knuckle at times, but is also very funny and has great guests.

He makes me smile as he comes down the stairs at the start of the show and says
"What a week it's been!"

That's a bit how I feel at the moment.
"What's new?" I hear you cry....

The last few weeks have been quite eventful with

Revision (Not me, Joel)
Running (Yes me. I know!)
Important, exciting but confidential news.
Sleeplessness (Not me, Ryan)
Scoring goals (Not me, Nathan)
Dodgy knees (Me again.)
Wind and Rain
New things
Old things revisited
Teeth knocked out, again (Not me, Joel)

And so it goes on...

In the middle of it I had a bout of labyrinthitis.
It's nothing to do with David Bowie,
But everything to do with your inner ear.

So if I turned over in bed,
Or turned my head too quickly,
Or at a certain angle,
My world resembled the spin cycle on the washing machine

Think Kylie
"I'm spinning around..."

Isn't that what life is like for us all
Some, if not most of the time?
Who was it said "Stop the world, I want to get off?"

And is it just me that sometimes finds myself praying fervently
(Come Lord Jesus)?

I'm tired of earth
Bring heaven.
And soon!

A friend sent me a message earlier this week.
She prays for me when she feels God draws her to.
We laugh as she feels drawn most days...

But amongst the things she sent me that God had said to her was Colossians 2:1-3

"Know that I'm on your side, right alongside you.

You're not in this alone.

I want you woven into a tapestry of love,
in touch with everything there is to know of God.

Then you will have minds confident
and at rest,
focussed on Christ, God's great mystery.

All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge
are imbedded in that mystery and nowhere else. 

And we've been shown the mystery."

Our spin cycle continued.
(Not literally. A run cured the labyrinthitis..)

And on Monday my beloved Aunty Vivienne left this world.

I echoed the words of my sons for more than a few moments
"Why do bad things keep happening to us?"
"Isn't it another family's turn?"

And I added my own when I knew Vivienne only had a few days
"I can't tell these children any more bad news."

God says

"Know that I'm on your side. You're not in this alone."

And in Exodus 14:14 "I will fight for you".

God is on our side.

He will give us all we need.

Often, just a moment at a time.

We're not in this alone.

"I want you woven into a tapestry of love."

I can feel some more post-it's coming on!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Five Minute Friday: Friend

Five minute Friday.
Write. Don't check, or edit, just write for the pure love of it.
The prompt is FRIEND

I had a card from a friend today.
We started as colleagues.
Our paths crossed a few times.
But over the past year she has become a friend.

And as a friend
She knew what this weekend meant for us.
She remembered.
She acted.

But friends are all different aren't they?
Over the past 12 months our friends have been:

Some practical
Some ever-present
Some prayerful
Some encouraging
Some business as usual
Some helpless
Some distant
And sadly, some very noticeable by their absence.

I don't blame them
It's not been easy to be our friend this year.

But I thank God for all of them
And pray that the absent ones are not gone forever.

I'm also challenged.
"If you want a friend, be a friend"
The saying goes.

I pray my friends will always know where to come.
And if not, that I'll meet them where they are.
And when I fail as a friend
As I often do
That God will remind me of how blessed I am
And help me to reach out.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

In praise of trampolining.

I've just been on the trampoline.

It's not great practice for a woman in her mid 40's who has given birth to three children.
But I managed to escape without a mishap...

Back to the trampoline.
It's 10ft and it dominates our garden.
In some ways it's too big.
But it offers so many possibilities.

Today for instance:

Chris has been on it as part of his toning up for summer regime.
This is serious stuff.
I watched intently...

The eldest two boys and a friend spent half an hour on it while I sat close by.

And in that time,
We laughed
they played

they chatted
we chatted

we shared 'stuff'
we planned
we laughed.

A bit later
Our youngest worked out some of his angst on it.
It's tough being 11.
Then he smiled
And we laughed

I joined him,
We chatted.

I bounced,
He laughed.

And there we were.

Sharing life
Sharing love
Around a big bouncy thing in the garden.

And I was reminded that all is Grace.
It's not about where we are
What we are doing
What we plan or facilitate.

It's about being.
And in that place
God is.

I love my boys.
I love the men they're becoming.
I love listening to them as they try to work out their place in the world.

More than that I love that God is here.
Right in the thick of it.
Bouncing on the trampoline as we speak.

All is grace.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Five Minute Friday: Jump

Five minute Friday.
Write. Don't check, or edit, just write for the pure love of it.
The prompt is

I sat reading all the posts.
Jump is today's word.
My first thought was being 70ft up in Derbyshire.
Not so much as a jump as a shuffle.
But I was so high up.
And I daren't look down.
Even to find my foothold....

Just jump.

And today I ran.
For the first time in years.
I've thought about it.
Read about it.
Talked about it.
Procrastinated over it.
But today I did it.

Just jump....

And my writing?
Well that's been a bit quiet if I'm honest.
But as I read other people's posts about hop-scotch and puddles...
These great writers who seem to see right into my heart and mind
And write what they find...
I can't write like they can.
But they encourage me,
Love me,
Inspire me...

Just jump....

Jump when you don't know how secure the landing is.
Jump when you feel afraid.
Jump when you're not sure what God is saying.
Jump when you don't know what the future holds.
Just jump.

STOP 5 mins is up.

Monday, 8 April 2013

On hitting the wall.

It's Marathon season.
Every few minutes on any given networking site I see requests with links to justgiving.
If I'm honest I'm a little jealous.
Not necessarily of the Marathon,
But of the decision to do something,
Then putting in the work,
And then bringing it to a joyful, if exhausted, speechless, conclusion.

I feel as if I've hit the famous 'Wall' that marathon runners speak of.
My recovery has been good so far.
I can chat to people now.
I can laugh.
I can enjoy family life with Chris and the boys.
I can go to unknown places with less fear.
I can make arrangements and stick to them.

I'm doing more and more in Sunday Worship
Kids Stuff....
Reading Scripture...

Leading Worship and Preaching is stuff that energises me.
I've missed it.

And this Sunday I've offered to preach.
A sermon.
A proper one.
I know....

But you know, sometimes I still feel the fear.
The anxiety.
The raised heartbeat.
The quiver of my lip.
The tears springing to my eyes,
And rolling silently down my face.
The sinking feeling within me.
The hot flush.
(Though the last one could be something else entirely...)

Our future is still uncertain.

I know it is for everyone, but still;
Doors are closing gently, one by one...

I trust Him

Oh how I trust Him

But I still see this long, and winding road reaching far into the distance.
And I don't know if recovery
And healing
And ministry in it's fullest sense,
is at the end of it.

I know that God knows.
He knows that I know He knows.
It helps, of course it does.
And yet.....

These are the verses I've been given recently

Stand at the crossroads and look;
Ask for the ancient paths,
Ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
And you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16

PS I know the end bit says
"But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’"
I'm pondering that bit.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,
And he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in him and he will do this:
Psalm 37:3-5

So for now,
At this wall,

I will mainly be:









And ooh look, it's there again!

Join me?

Please comment at the bottom.
I'd love to hear how it is for you.
Maybe you've been there?
Maybe you are there?
Look forward to hearing from you.

PS I wrote this in Five Minute Friday style,
Even though it's Monday.
I just wrote, and wrote,
No corrections or adjustments.
These are the thoughts of my heart.

Friday, 22 March 2013

40 Days of Feasting: A new haircut

I went to a new hairdresser yesterday.
To appreciate the full significance of this you'll need to read my previous post here

Actually I'd been there once before.
They send me a text periodically with offers.
Money is tight and my hair a bit unruly,
so I took them up on the offer of 50% off.

When I arrived they brought me coffee.
In a cafetiere!
On a tray!
And the piece de resistance?
Two of my favourite chocolates.

Hannah, the stylist had cut my hair the last time,
so when she asked what I wanted, I knew she'd do a good job.

As we talked I decided to mix things up a bit.
After 30 years with a side parting and a fringe that sweeps across...
I now have a centre-parting....
And a full fringe....

In my previous post about my hairdresser I wrote in praise of knowing and being known.
But you know sometimes....
Change can be a good thing.
Sometimes it's good to do things differently.

As we approach Holy Week
And the end of my 40 days of Feasting
We're on the verge of change.

This change could be huge.
It could impact more than just us, but our family too.

But you know....?
I think it's going to be ok.

Palm Sunday to Good Friday and on into Easter Day
Brought massive changes for Jesus,
For His family, especially his Mother,
And for his disciples.

The tide turned very quickly from shouts of Hosanna
to Crucify Him!

But ultimately it was ok.
God had it all in hand.
When Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden
Asking His Father to change the plan
He knew it would be ok
Agonizing though it was

So He was able to say
I'll do it...
Because I know it's your will for me.

I wonder if God has things he wants to say to me over the next few days?
I wonder if he has things to tell you?
Change can be good.
Trust Him.

PS (Added a day later.)
I saw my Aunty today.
We now have the same haircut.
It's ok because she's cool and only 14yrs older than me.
So much for radical change....

Saturday, 16 March 2013

40 Days of Feasting: Because we're worth it.

I really like Nadia Sawalha.
For those reading who are not from the UK she's an actress/TV presenter/cook.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I like her.
She seems approachable somehow.
You know the kind of person you think you'd like as a friend?
Plus she's got a very dirty laugh
Which is something I really admire in a person!

Anyway, this post isn't just a tribute to her
But to a book she's just released.
The title grabbed me from the start

This is talking my kind of language...
In her first chapter, she talks about the starve, binge, starve, binge phases that have formed most of her adult life.
And one day she decided she had had enough....
No more quick fixes....
From now on she was going to cook, and eat delicious food that would nourish her body.

She writes about her own body.
And she could have written about mine.

My body is an amazing piece of machinery.
It has carried and borne four children.
It created a manna-like life force for my three healthy children
that would be all they required for their early weeks and months.
It nurtured.
It served.
It loved.

And in Nadia's words, it
"had waited patiently for me to stop hating it and punishing it and finally start treating it in the manner it deserved."

I love that.
My body deserves better than the treatment it gets from me.
If my body is a temple, it's going to rack and ruin.

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139

are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So here's the deal.
Maybe this was where my 40 Days of Feasting was going all along.
(Read original post here )

I am going to heed Nadia's advice.
I am going to cook delicious, nutritional meals which will sustain me.
I will not calorie count.
I will not weigh myself.
I will incorporate *dirty word alert* exercise into my life.

And my first goals are these...
If you're squeamish (or male) look away now
1. For my bras to stop digging in.
2. To be able to keep my belt done up all day without being in agony.
3. To stop needing oxygen every time I climb the stairs.

This is the covenant I have made with my body.
I am God's woman.
He created me.
He has plans that only I can fulfill.
I want to be at the top of my game physically.

Because I'm worth it.
And so are you.

I quite like this photo.
But it's not how I want to look!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

40 Days of Feasting: On Doing it Anyway

They say you learn something new every day.
I was about to blog about the 'Do It Anyway' Poem.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. 
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. 
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. 
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway.

And I was going to attribute it to Mother Teresa
She wrote it

But I'd always thought that too.
She had it on her wall in Calcutta
And it's usually attributed to her.

But today I discovered this:

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

And actually it fits in really well with my thinking.

I was going to tell you that I try and live by the 'Do it anyway' guidelines.
I may be misunderstood
moaned at
or feel side-lined
but I should do it anyway.

It's not about me.
It's about Him.

But sometimes I get fed up of being misunderstood, moaned at and side-lined.
It upsets me.
It makes me angry and frustrated inside.
But all the while I know that sometimes life's like that.
Especially for followers of Jesus.

And sometimes I feel like Peter in the Bible
"How many times?"
Isn't it enough by now?
I have to forgive?

Yeah I know.
I don't have to hold it all inside.
The Healer waits to take it from me.

But with every healing there is a scar.
And sometimes the scar really itches!

So I guess my point is this:
Doing it Anyway is difficult.
Sometimes impossible.
It's filled with 'oughts' and 'shoulds'.

But I forget, that if I am loved unconditionally,
then so are the people who misunderstand, moan and side-line me.

And one final thought
Mother Teresa seems to have based her poem on Dr Keith's work.
She has re-written it slightly and made it more spiritual.
But I wonder how he feels about it?
Does he rejoice that it is more widely known than he could ever envisage?
Or is he a bit miffed that someone else gets the glory?

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

40 Days of Feasting: On going through the process

I love the way God works.
Take today for instance.

I've been tired
Well fed
Teaching piano
Prayed for

And did I mention tired?

So I escape up to bed.
And I write all the questions I have in my journal.
There are some biggies
It's been that sort of day.

And as I transfer the thoughts whirling around my head
onto the page
I start to breathe again

And I note some scripture about peace.

I read the verse that just happened to be on today's calendar.
About seeing things as in a glass darkly.

Then I look at the blogs that have come through to my inbox today.
And guess what they're about?

Peace in the storm.
Trusting those in authority (interesting, that one...!)
Bringing my broken pieces to the God who has promised to put them back together.

And finally Jehovah-Jireh
The God who provides
But who often feels like a last-minute God
A bit like that ebay app that posts your bid at the very last second.

God isn't known for giving instant answers.
But he meets us where we are
Takes us by the hand
And helps us discover truth
In the space we inhabit.
I love him for that.

Monday, 4 March 2013

40 Days of Feasting: On Days like today

Today is the kind of day that you imagine a perfect English Winter day to be.
A beautiful blue sky
And sunshine

View from my window this morning

On days like today

I feel like I could do anything.

I feel bright




Take me to Black Rock in Derbyshire and I'd absail down it all over again.

My 'absolutely terrified' face

I wish they could bottle days like to day.

Or at least the kind of feelings they bring.

Perhaps they have.

But that would take me down a different road altogether.

As I was driving to see my mentor this morning
I thought of the question I'd heard at big Christian Gatherings;

"What would you attempt for God if you knew you couldn't fail?"

The thing that came to mind for me was


It's the next step for me after a year out of the pulpit.
It's my biggy.

It's also one of the things I love most about Christian leadership and ministry.

And if I'm honest I've got the itch.
I'm not quite chomping at the bit
But almost.

When I abseiled 70ft off Black Rock last June I was terrified.
I had to go second or I wouldn't have done it.
The adrenaline that kicked in at the top
Left me a gibbering wreck at the bottom.
But somehow I did it.
And I have the photos to prove it.

Do you know what I realised today?
The dread....
The fear....
The anxiety....
That has accompanied the most simplest of tasks for me in the past 12 months...

It's gone.

"Trust me" God said to me in March 2012.
And now
On this beautiful blue sky day
I see that it's almost come full circle.

"See God has come to save me,
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory."
Isaiah 12:2

That's me at the top!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

40 Days of Feasting -Enough

Just a little post tonight.

Do you ever feel judged?
Lacking somehow?

As if no matter what you do it's never enough?

Me too.

You know God NEVER sees us that way.

Grace says we are enough because He is.

Don't let the enemy steal our joy.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

40 Days of Feasting: On going for a swim.

We've been away for a few days.
We stayed in a lovely hotel.
We stay there quite a lot as a family member works there.
And the best thing about staying in a hotel?

Free stuff!

I love it all!
The teeny bottles of toiletries that probably belong in the value aisle.
The pen, the tea and coffee, the biscuits and the slippers...
And of course the buffet breakfast.
You know, the one where you tell the children to eat as much as they possibly can as you're not buying lunch.

In line with my 40 days of feasting I decided I would enjoy what was offered,
but not stockpile stuff so they'd replace it...
Or is that just me?

So it's been a lovely few days.

This hotel also has a Leisure Club.
Every day the boys wanted to go down and make the most of the facilities.

Now I love swimming.
In the old days (before children), I used to swim three times a week.
But now it often feels like too much effort. And the whole getting wet business....

On one of the days I sent Chris and the boys on ahead.
I was tired, and my magazine was calling me.
But as I sat there
In the desperately needed silence
I realised that we were very fortunate to stay in that hotel.
It was a real blessing.
The Leisure Club was part of that blessing.
And maybe, just maybe, I needed to push myself a bit.
Think how much my body needed the exercise.

It's a tricky one isn't it?
Not the 'to swim or not to swim' issue.
But the tension between rest, recovery and moving on.

Last night I read Psalm 16.
It's one of my favourites but these verses took on new meaning:

My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

The 'realm of the dead' has been a place we know well
But it's not a place to stay, and He hasn't abandoned us there.
Instead he draws us into his presence.

I want to be where God is.
Whatever that means for me in terms of my work, my leisure, my family...
That's where I want to be.

"You will fill me with joy in your presence"

And couldn't we all do with a bit of that.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

40 Days of Feasting: On Not Crying at Les Mis

I don't cry at films.
I told someone rather smugly once that "I saved my tears for real life."
Big mistake.
She'd been referring to 'Titanic'.
She then told everyone that I only had compassion for things that affected me....
Lesson learned.

So anyway I've seen Les Mis three times.
The first time was with two close friends.
One blubbed, the other didn't (and she's a real cryer).
Nothing from yours truly.

The second time was with Mum and my hubby.
Mum started crying at 'Empty chairs at empty tables'
It was only to be expected as she lives with Dad's empty chair every day.
I held her hand.
I got goosebumps at the end.
But no tears.

The third time was today.
Chris and I went again.
It was kind of a test I suppose.
I'd decided to blog about not crying at Les Mis anyway.
I smiled to myself when Corsette sang about her castle on a cloud where tears were not allowed.
I had song lyrics like
'All cried out' (Alison Moyet) and "Some just go too deep for tears" (Crystal Gayle?)
at the ready.

But this time was different.
I had several moments when I was 'on the verge' but nothing.
Then came the final scene.
The father was dying.
The daughter believed he would live.
Corsette's Mum came back to tell him it was time to lay his burden down...
To rest...
To be with God...

And the floodgates opened!
Tears streamed down my face.
I knew how Corsette felt.
I didn't believe my Dad would die either.

In my 40 Days of Feasting I am embracing the tears.
I cry loads.
I've even learnt to cry silently.
I used to be a real sniffler.
It wasn't pretty.

But tears are a very real part of who I am at the moment.
If you're talking to me and I well up, it's not you.
It's me.
Tears are healing...
Tears are cleansing....

And God?
God 'collects our tears in a bottle' Psalm 56:8
He knows our tears are of value
To us...
To Him...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

40 days of Feasting.

It's the first day of Lent today.
That will be why I cooked 37 pancakes last night.
Yes just for the 5 of us, Ryan & Nathan were having a competition.

I had the obligatory thoughts about what, if anything, I should give up...
Chocolate, cakes, biscuits, the usual suspects.

But after a chat with someone this morning I've decided to arrive at Easter by a different route this year.

Instead of giving up something I enjoy ie. chocolate,
Why don't I give up thinking that I have to put myself through it?
Why don't I give up using words such as ought, and should, and their opposites?
Why don't I give up feeling guilty about things I don't need to?
Why don't I give up viewing chocolate as something that should be forbidden because I'm overweight?

Why don't I start making time to read what I really want to read?
To be quiet when I have nothing to say?
To pray when I want to speak to the one who loves me best of all?
To rest when I need to rest?

Does that sound selfish?

Be honest.

Is it ok for you to let me do these things, but selfish if you were to do these, or their equivalents yourself?

Someone told me again today, that you have to have a sense of self in order to be self-ish.
Is it just me, or do you sometimes lose your sense of self too?

It's easy to do.
Especially if we have
people to minister to,
people to pray with, and for,
people who need our help.

So that's where I am on this first day of Lent.
Instead of 40 days of Fasting,
I'm embarking on 40 days of Feasting.
Not necessarily on food, though that may feature.
But more to give myself a break.
To discover again who I am 'in Christ'.
To draw closer to Jesus who, in the wilderness, drew closer to his Father,
and, it could be argued, discovered again who He was, and why He was there.

I'm done with beating myself up, or giving others that privilege.
I'm claiming my inheritance now.
I am God's Princess.
Let the Feasting begin!

Join me on the journey?
I have no idea where I'm going with this.
But I'd be glad of the company.

What are you going to give up, in order to give yourself a break?
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so we can journey together!