where I keep watch

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It is Friday night, and I have had takeaway, and wine, and some good comedy on TV, and then I take a call and I hear that a faithful woman who has battled cancer for many years is not expected to make it through the weekend.

I turn the TV off, I clear the kitchen, I shove brightly coloured plastic into baskets, I turn the washing around, and I wait, I wait, I wait, suspended for just a second between realities. I turn the music on and I begin to sing, because I don’t know what else to do; that’s how my soul keeps watch, that’s how I door knock, that’s how I plead, that’s how I love.

The lyrics are bittersweet, promising realities that she won’t see now, not in this lifetime, not amongst us, and although I know this is not the end it feels almost treacherous to sing them, but I don’t know what else to do so I sing on, with head bowed and volume lowered and throat constricted. I sing of love, of life, of trust, of strength, of weakness, of glory and of shame, and then a song comes on and I don’t understand how this is possible cos I’ve been through this playlist a thousand times, but I’ve never heard it before and the words arrest me, transfix me, spear me, bow me low:

“No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know could keep us from your love. 

No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough to keep us from your love.

How high, how wide, no matter where I am, healing is in Your hands,

How deep, how strong, now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands.”

 

I am watching. I am waiting. I am keeping the gate. I am on wall duty tonight. 

Safe passage, sister. Rise and run.

where I wait…

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It is late, and I am tired.

It has been a long day; a whirlwind of needs and emotions and tending to. But now the house is quiet, the quietest it’s been, and I need this time. I need the quiet.

My heart is jagged today. So I stay up late, again, to soak in this stillness. And I wait, and I weep, and I wonder. I wrestle with hopes, with fears, with regrets, with dreams.

I wait. I wait. I wait.

where I develop a craving for Matzo

We went to visit the church of some friends of ours last weekend. They started up a new church 4 years ago but, to my shame, it was the first time we’ve been to see how they were getting on.

The short answer is that they are getting on brilliantly. We loved our time with them; it was a great service and we felt so welcome. There was a bouncy castle for the kids, and tea and cake for the adults while you were listening to the sermon! Brilliant. All churches should take heed😀 I felt so proud to watch my friends at the helm of such a great and good thing.

It wasn’t just the cakes that made the sermon good. Being the run up to Easter, the preacher was speaking on the last supper, and on the tradition it draws on – the Passover meal. I’ve been around churches my whole life but I had sort of missed the significance of the connection, really. And we shared the elements of the meal together. Apart from the fact that I got to eat lamb and Matzo (oh, the Matzo) at 11am on a Sunday morning, which can only ever be a good thing when you are a carb hound like me with a weakness for lamb, here are my thoughts:

The Passover meal is the meal that Jews eat to remember The Great Exodus, where Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, where they had been living as slaves. He led them into the Wilderness, where they lost the plot a bit and wandered round arguing amongst themselves a bit (well, it was the wilderness after all, what do you expect😉 ) before eventually being led into Canaan and the Promised Land. That’s the potted version.

So far so familiar. But then the preacher asked the question, “What is your Egypt? What do you need setting free from? What do you need to leave?” and it brought me up short, really. I have never ever thought of the story in that light. We all have our stuff, don’t we. The stuff in our lives that isn’t as we want it to be. The stuff that is hard. The stuff that we want to be free from. The stuff we need to leave.

There are some specific things in my life right now that I think this applies to. I’m not going to share them here, because it’s not appropriate right now. But two things strike me. One; which I already knew but had forgotten a bit in the daily grind; is that God is plenty able to work miracles if He needs to, to bring us out of our Egypts. Whether you believe the parting of the Red Sea to be literal or figurative; the meaning is clear: He can make a way where there seems to be no way.

And the second thing is this: that He brought them out of slavery. See, if I was writing the story, I’d have probably left them there. I’d have had them working hard and diligently and eventually winning over their Captors and being given freedom in that same place. It is so ingrained in me that if something is hard you keep working at it and working at it until it eventually changes. We were big on faithfulness, where I grew up. We were big on integrity. Cutting and running generally wasn’t an option. But that’s not how this story goes. God removed them from the situation.

So if there are things in our lives that are unhealthy; that stifle us; that suck the life and liberty out of us; here is the message of Exodus: sometimes it’s right to stay and make it work in that place, for sure. But other times it’s ok to leave. It’s ok to choose life, and liberty again. It’s ok to pack your bags, quickly bake some unleavened bread to keep you going on the way, and go. Even if you don’t know where you’re headed to. Even if all that awaits you is a wilderness. It’s ok to be on that journey.

What’s your Egypt? What do you need to be set free from? What do you need to leave?

Happy Easter. May a thousand chocolate eggs be ever at your table🙂 x

where I get a tiny bit braver

Well, it is Day 4 of #oneword365 with #fearless today.

I have to say I have slightly regretted not choosing #complacent or perhaps #rest as my word of the year! Or even #sitdownandeatcake. I think I missed a trick there.

Fearless sounded so, well, fearless. So impressive. But the bit I didn’t think of is that being fearless first involves confronting and (hopefully) confounding our fears. And that in turn has meant that I have spent much of the first three days of the year feeling sick and panicky. Oh goody.

They haven’t been big fears, so far. Some of them were fairly inconsequential – phone calls I’d been putting off making, that sort of thing. I started running again, after several months of not doing any. I am not good at running. Getting back out there was a big deal for me. I’ve done two runs so far, in these 3 days. The first one was horrible, the second slightly less so. I can’t say I am enjoying them yet, but it does feel better to have faced that fear and got back out there.

One battle proved worth fighting. I hate haggling. I don’t haggle, I just don’t. Except now apparently I do. Wringing my hands with fear and self loathing at the keyboard, I went back not once, not twice but three times to a supplier asking for a better price on a big purchase yesterday. I ended the day nearly £900 better off than if I’d just done my usual trick of accepting the first price. You can’t argue with that.

What I’ve learned so far this week is that most of my fears so far have revolved around fear of failure, and fear of what others may think of me. I don’t want either of those motivators to drive me. I want better than that in my life. I am slightly scared of what may lie ahead (oh the irony) but I’m trying.

Only 361 days to go!

Where I choose a word. Or perhaps it chooses me.

“Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.”

So begins the homepage of oneword365.com.

When you read a post and your heart starts racing; when the blood starts pumping and the birds beneath your breastbone beat their wings, you know you’re meant to take notice.

One word? ONE word? How could I possibly? How can I ever? So many good words, so many valid paths, every season has its own, bluster bluster, blah blah, when my heart already knew the answer.

Fearless.

The irony of the fear just typing that word.

Fearless.

Can I, could I, will I be?

Fearless.

I must try.

where it is Advent, and I long for a morning that will not come.

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I can’t watch the news this week. I haven’t bought a newspaper. I am in hiding, in mourning, on the run from myself. But my heart knows, still. As soon as the first headlines came in, my heart began screaming and hasn’t stopped, since. I don’t give her air, but she’s still keening nonetheless and I know it would be wrong to stop her. To give her voice though, would be to turn the whole day, week, season over to her. So I am on the run from my heart.

26 lights extinguished. 20 that hadn’t even begun to burn. A community, a nation, a world shattered. Christmas trees coming back down. Presents bought and now suddenly obscene. Mothers with empty arms, oh the mothers. I can hear the keening. Surely every mother can. It is ever present. Underpinning all preparations, all salutations, it runs – a treble-bass thread of pain unending.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel, we sing. Emmanuel. God with us. Where WERE you? Where ARE you? we rage. If ever there was a time to step in, Almighty, this was it. Emmanuel, I can barely look you in the eye right now.

Advent. Season of longing. Season of waiting. Season of expectation. Season of hope. But everything I long for can’t be wrapped up into a stocking this year. I long for the clock to turn back. I long for trees reinstated. I long for empty hearts restored. I long for children back writing lists and overdosing on chocolate. Oh yes, this Advent is a season of longing all right.

I don’t feel much hope of morning right now though, Lord. It is dark down here right now. O come, oh COME, Emmanuel. I’m not sure I can forgive you, but you are the best hope we have, this I know. Rend the heavens and come down.

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.

Where I sleep in my clothes

Midnight chimes and the fiery furnace flung across my chest murmurs, and settles back into the panting that has punctuated our week. The Calpol is keeping up but only just, and she’s weak and tired.

I play guess-the-temperature, lips vs. thermometer, and smile a little as I win. Novice to pro in 4 years, these lips can tell within half a degree these days, not that you want them to, but oh, the things you learn.

Nothing to do but hold, watch, comfort, wait. Sleep has slid off the list this week. It seems easier to stay awake than to be woken, somehow.

Heaven feels nearer on these nights. The veil slips, the light pokes through and I can nearly sense the angels quiet, keeping watch too. These tiny fists, hot on my breast bone, this scorching  starfish, flung on me with abandon and determine. No other would do tonight, no respite, no chance to even change my clothes. Little limpet, I smile, and a memory stirs. Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you, I recall.

She is cast on me, entirely. No space exists between us and my chest is the only safe place she will countenance tonight. I ponder and wonder that I might have such confidence.

Heaven seems nearer when you sleep in your clothes.

where old habits die hard

“It’s habits that can imprison you, and it’s habits that can free you” – Ann Voskamp

When I’m down, when I’m troubled, when I don’t understand – I will give thanks.

When I’m harried, when I’m hard pressed – I will give thanks.

When I’m abundant, when joy is easy – I will give thanks.

When only questions are abounding, when joy is a memory – I will give thanks.

I will give thanks. I will give thanks. I will give thanks. For this old habit, this scandalous spirit lifter, this embarrassingly easy balm, this unfailing tonic dies hard in me. Long may it be so.

Ann Voskamp dares us to write a list of a thousand gifts. Three a day, for a year. I’m game.

Today I am thankful for the warm fire on beside me, the faithfulness of this stoopid dog with her head on my knee, and for little E dancing this morning. Precious gifts I don’t deserve. Thank you. THANK YOU.

I will give thanks.

To read more of Ann, which really, everyone should, go here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/

 

THIS is the stoopid dog🙂

where I tell you about this girl

This girl; the one I knew I’d have.
This girl; who confounds me utterly.
This girl; with bunches like paintbrushes,
This girl; who laughs like a sailor.
This girl; so soft and unyielding- steel threads below satin.
This girl; so knowing, so wanting, so irrational, so persistent.
This girl; who would row row row until every boat in history set sail;
This girl; who can do so much and yet so little.
This girl, who weeps for her treasures back even as she throws them at you (am I this hard to love, I wonder? Don’t answer that)
This girl; heaven’s fulfilment bound in earth’s frustration.
This girl; who mines a deeper tread in me; whose happiness is as easy as the sky and as elusive as diamonds;
This girl; who wants, needs, demands things from me that I am still scrabbling around to find,
This girl, who will surely move mountains (though if they have any sense they will just flatten themselves immediately on her approach)
This girl, who will wreak a terrible and glorious grace in me.
This girl, who knew what she was doing from the start and is just waiting for the world to catch up,
This girl, who smells of heaven, with the face of an angel.
This girl, so awaited, so longed for, did not, does not and will not come until she’s ready,
This girl. My glory, my desert wandering, my homecoming, my crown.
This girl, I have known her forever.
This girl, I am just getting started.
This girl, my girl. Lead on, darlin x