Tag Archives: Christian life

Fare ye well, September and early-October

17 Oct

These past four and a half weeks have been pretty vulnerable. Just a bit over a month.

Someone I cared about died, at the start of it. Her being sick for a while was a little ease-in. I cared about her, but she wasn’t immediate family. She was a missionary in India, had led an amazing life and told me she could be my grandma. I told her I’d like one – we visited every week. She was Welsh and 92. Then I left the country. And came back, very far from her. And I had refused offers from this wonderful lady to buy tickets for me to visit. I couldn’t – I would visit when I had the time and money. It was £200 and so I had to think about it, as a student.

Well, I did – in her last week, after several reports of her failing, I managed to visit her.

And came home. A few days later, she’d gone.

Then a couple days later, boy and I went to boy’s trial session for a job that I thought would answer a few questions. And despite incredible confidence, it suddenly felt like God didn’t want it. I cried.

Sure enough, a week later – no.

Then my top candidate for ‘people-who-might-like-to-employ-Writeroo’ called me for an interview. And rejected my application.

Then I went to this place that really doesn’t work for me, but to help a friend and old employer. I generally cry there. I did. The usual 14-hour working day doesn’t help either. Then I lost my railway card and tickets. I cried some more. On my way home, I fell sick predictably. Stayed sick for the whole week, still sick and have a few worrying things I ought to go to the doctor about but have NO time to. (Try teaching to earn a living, and making intensive job applications and struggling with stuff at home and living at a distance?)

I have to say at this point – I am SO grateful for God keeping me in amazing ways in this limbo place!

Dropped my laptop, and fell with it again. Major repairs – major money.

God was so good though – he provided just in time, and then I got some more teaching. This story is a testimony on my Facebook. So I don’t simply rant.

That week, someone fairly close to me simply cut me off. We had had a conversation which I thought was challenging to both of us on many levels, and would induce us to re-evaluate our decisions about how to live a Christian life. My friend, though, felt severely criticised.

I still pray for grace in my talk. I need it because I struggle so hard with this. Few people get you so that you don’t have to filter when you talk – that is, if you’re a Writeroo. Some of my best friends will say I already have that grace – when clearly I don’t. But what is it they say? Love is blind.

But I ended up hurting them incredibly. And I worry about healing it. God is absolutely redemptive, so he will heal this. But I struggle. Because I’m just not that lovable any more, am I? 😉 We are so silly in our fallenness – us. People. Human beings. I more than most! Hearts of flesh, all of us. We choose hearts of stone sometimes. Even when they lie heavy (and interfere with our digestion, in some cases!!!). We distance ourselves from the places we are most vulnerable in. I do it, to God’s presence, sometimes. It just hurts too much to be that challenged, to be seen honestly and to be treated as an ‘equal’ and a friend by God. And when he tells me what I am doing, reveals myself, convicts me – I run. I hide. And we do that in our relationships, too. I do.

Clumsy, silly me. So clumsy I hurt them more than I imagined.

Anyway, long story short… After ‘week of hard things’, another week of hard things followed.

This time – friend-related. Because being completely alienated from a friend, who then is depressed for various reasons including your ‘honesty’, and knowing that none of the others in the circle of friends has any access either – this is difficult. And he is such a dear friend and pretty much spot on, in so many ways!

And me being me, I prodded and prodded. My friend. My other friends. My friend’s friends.

And cried every night, because I didn’t know what was happening to this person.

And so clumsy, that we allow ourselves to be hurt and live in a sorry state for self – like me. Right now. This blog post.

It is my confessional, as all of these virtual presences seem to be becoming.

Housemate upset with something I said. Little thing, right? Still hurt a bit. Then I didn’t even get called to the interview of another job I had on my list of ‘most likely’ and this one was also on ‘most wanted’. This, despite speaking to people on the board, and being guaranteed an interview. Sounds like God. Yes. But at the time, I almost wished he wouldn’t. Funnily, he told me the afternoon of the evening I heard that… he would.

Managed to have another friend erupt on me. She then apologised and I smiled. But guess who doesn’t erupt, smiles, keeps it all in and comes home and wants to major-erupt?!

Had the Director in the school I’m temping in tell me I wasn’t as qualified as other schools thought I was, payment-wise – this after um 6 years of teaching AND and AND BEING director, before starting graduate work!

Two close friends (I will just call them friends) in the past two weeks have told me of having nearly suicidal thoughts, because they were depressed, and acting on it. Both after years of being friends – and I am shocked, and scared… and mad.

They went through more – I know this.

I don’t think one of them sees how much it has scared me and continues to scare me. It is something I must take on – not just put up with the knowledge of. Other friend, who is lovely, told of her friend who trusted her support when she felt like that in faraway China! Relationships matter.

Aunt got super-sick like she did a couple of years ago, and they predicted dire predictions. And God basically made her live. Like he does all of us.

Boy and I have argued over nothings – I LOVE discussion, and I love it when two people can challenge each other, and question each other and be a strong man and woman who forge and carve their ideas with faith and strength and confidence in each other. No, no – THAT I totally love. But little arguments that leave you feeling unlikeable or unresolved – Gah.

And finally, I am home alone. It is raining.

On the other hand, I love the rain. And maybe I’ll take a long bath, with entertainment in tow (iPlayer and book!). And forget about all this, and all I haven’t said.

Yes, maybe that’s what I’ll do. And if you’ve read this far, pray for me. Pray for the friends, boy, the family, the lovely, loving, wonderful aunt and a job. Yeah – actually, unashamedly – here it is: please pray for me ;). And I promise to return the favour ;).

Love.

Songs in the night

3 Apr

It’s one of those days. I bet you want to stop reading now… 😉 But it’s one of those days I really want to hold on to someone and cry. And no, I promise it’s not because I am just being a bundle of moodiness.

 

Work has been crazy – I am responsible for a community house of students at Oxford. And it’s been a pretty horrible day for the community with some serious letting down the side.

My supervisor emailed and asked me for more work tomorrow.

I am scared of all the things that are coming up in my life that I cannot predict and, for the most part, cannot help. Read visas and job applications.

Tomorrow we have a ‘community meeting’ to discuss this troublesome thing in the house that I wish I could tell you about, so you could be my collective, virtual someones to hold and cry!

And I am in the midst of a lot of personal upheaval involving someone quite close to me.

Aaaaahhh and the exams are closer.

 

 

But here is what I know:

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?

Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

Whether morning dawns or evening fades as it is now, O Lord, you are he who calls forth songs of praise. (Psalm 65: 8)

Trust.

29 Mar

Trust. Trust. Trust. Trust.

It’s like my mantra now.

I wish I could draw because:Image

 

 

Ok, I might be able to handle that. But er…

 

Image

Unconditional trust.

Undiluted breathing

28 Mar

I went to set up coffee at work today and it was quiet – no stretching out to meet and greet and welcome a new person.

But I offered to clean up the coffee afterwards. This morning there was some confusion and no one knew who was setting up, so instead everyone from our section of the college turned up to set it up. Or so it seemed.

It is a beautiful summer’s day today – despite it being spring – as if Summer couldn’t wait and asked for a house swap with Spring for half a week. So while Summer’s in residence, the British become colourful and ridiculously happy. They forget about these days of sunshine for the rest of the year. Sun?! Really?

But when she’s here, suddenly there is free time in the middle of a work day. Suddenly they want to smile at you even through your sunglasses. Suddenly it’s like someone took a sharp, serrated meat knife and scored through a cloud sheet in front of you and of them. And the awkward discovery of life just in front of you that you hadn’t noticed happens. Awkward but happy. You smile.

But inside the Wycliffe College staff room, there wasn’t a terrible hurry to rip any sheets apart.

And as I cleared away the dishes, an older gentleman – I’d met him before and recognised his friendly, unashamed Northern brogue – put his hand on my back while the last people left. Unusual in an Oxford college at a staff rendez-vous, but er I am not immune to charm…

He thanked me for helping clear up. Everyone seemed quite surprised and amusingly thankful at someone doing it off the rota – but the only other place I’ve ‘done’ coffee or tea for a group is at church. And there I’m not thinking about a rota… usually only about how to hide my face from socialising when I need to. *Confession alert. Memo for later*

QED Once I’m there, I love ‘doing’ coffee or tea. It hides your face almost as much as leading worship or standing up front does. *Definitely memo for later*

“And if you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today,” he said…

I hadn’t been wondering. I’d noticed, that’s all. But I straightened up from the coffee pots.

“If you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today, it’s because an ex-student is having a still-born this morning.”  

And there was community and love. Ripped open cloud sheets by the sun, with healing in his wings.

She had been a student and had worked there. Her mother had flown from the US to be with her when she’d heard what was happening.

There were a few things that crossed my mind. That I wanted the ‘still-born’ to be called a child or a little girl or boy. That I wanted to tell him to go and visit if he needed to – the coffee pots and work would survive. But he told me people had gone, and more people would go. And I asked for her name and I wanted to pray for her.

I cannot imagine the years of pain, of unfinished story that an unborn or a still-born child must bring. About as many years of joy as he or she does, I suspect, knowing if you do that they live in the arms of a bigger, greater Parent than we will ever be.

I’ve admired mothers and fathers who have loved their children through life and death. I am in awe of them when they see that joy – I don’t know if I would be able to.

In my mind, I have this picture. The babe in the womb takes oxygen from the bloodstream. She’s not ready yet for O2 straight. We’re not ready yet for the physical presence and glory of God straight. Not all the time anyway. But then those babies are, those people are. They’re breathing it in already and to us, it must bring joy in the rain.

 

Easter is not far.

Whatever things are admirable

27 Mar

I have been hearing, reading and listening and writing on how many people within the church and the ministry fall into the worst kind of temptation. And I have to say that I have seen stories so full of grace. And judgement tempered with grace. I just wanted to point one out to you.

And another, so full of honesty and the willingness to be vulnerable and repeat the pain over and over and over again in confession and explanation because they wanted to make it work. They loved each other and they chose to.

I think vulnerability is such a challenge. And I pray that I get given it in spades – I run from it. But there is no way that I can honour God with the people around me if I am not entirely vulnerable to them, and willing to be hurt.

I am so in awe of the pouring of grace that God gives in the messiest stories.

And then I’m in awe of the wonderfully healthy marriages I know – one where wife or husband always runs to the door when the other arrives (so beautiful and it gives me a heart-longing), another where every argument however often is made up, another where you would never find one without finding the other (no, not unhealthily tied together but openness and sharing of lives like best friends. I only need to text one.)

And I am in awe again.

How to get work done – fall in love

26 Mar

I was listening to this video on friendship with God and he quotes someone else (whom I had to look up and found was influenced by the 24/7 movement), who says “lovers will always get more work done than workers.”

You tap into something else when you have the complete, total love of someone. When they have yours. You’ll make things happen, you’ll follow, you’ll lead, you’ll make time for them, and for the things on their heart – if you have to lose sleep, lose everything else. You’ll do it. No?

My students are always good examples because they’re the people I live with 🙂 They’ll be up at 5 am in the morning after a 2 am goodnight from writing a paper. I see them toiling on their work and then suddenly a couple of them – not all, but the ones who are in committed relationships and miss-miss-miss their girlfriend or boyfriend. I’ll hear them outside my hallway again for a quiet spot to talk to the one person they wouldn’t miss for anything.

The thing is God means so much more.

Doesn’t he?

Shouldn’t he?

I don’t know, but I’ve shortened prayer time so often. I’ve slept instead of staying up and praying. Not even one hour. And I’ve always known it is wrong – that the first thing to be taken for granted, the first thing to be cut in on is the thing I love more than life itself.

Is this what happens to relationships even if it should not? You’re in love for about three months – depending on who you are, you stay in love for about a couple of years… Because that was how I was for years after being saved. And then you love but you’re not quite a lover anymore? You haven’t tapped into the intensity the speaker talks about.

You’re on track, you’re doing the things you have to do… You take the garbage out, you give a goodnight kiss, you hold the door but – you wouldn’t give anything up for it. You wouldn’t let yourself get uncomfortable. You’ve never denied love or lost it but your serving the other is a little… off the map, shall we say? My last post is part of all this thinking on the subject… As you can see, I fail.

I don’t know how grace extends to me but it does. And I know that I have never stopped loving and can only be more and more shocked and blessed that God loves me, and how. And yet – I easily forget falling out of my comfort zone into his arms. Feeling his presence for the first time. Knowing that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to keep this. Knowing there is nothing I could do.

And knowing that he could. He wanted to. And there was nothing he wouldn’t do.

Failings

25 Mar

I’ve realised that I freely point out what’s going wrong when I am good friends with someone or comfortable with them. I have spent the evening being convicted of this – I work on the assumption that I ask and find my comfort, just as my friends ask and find their comfort. And I love that.

 

But perhaps I am not big enough or gracious enough to let go of my comfort for any long period of time! And if I do that, if I fail to accommodate the people who sometimes need me, and only keep needing things for myself instead – I fail at being the ambassador for the post. The love I represent looks a whole lot different in its service than that, and I fail.

 

But redemption comes.

Love, Berries, your Facebook status, and God

25 Feb

Sometimes Facebook statuses that pretend to be public awareness campaigns do annoy me. When I put them in my status box, I know I’m doing it for the attention. There isn’t a single one of my friends that does not know of breast cancer or the importance of regular check-ups. What if the effect of these statuses (stata!) tends to be inciting overweening (ha! used that word!) teen male curiosity? Boo. 😀 But perhaps the point is to gradually make it so common an idea that everyone will one day say ‘Of course’ to ‘Have you had a mammogram?’

Well, at least, all the ladies.

The latest Facebook status rubric involving berries, no less, goes somewhat like this.

Blueberry: I’m single
Pineapple: It’s complicated
Raspberry: I’m a touch and go woman
Apple: Engaged
Cherry: In a relationship
Banana: I’m married
Avocado: I’m the “other one”
Strawberry: Can’t find the right one
Lemon: Wish I were single
Grape: Want to get married!

Pretty arbitrary, huh?! Although I do agree pineapples are complicated. Also that avocado simply shouldn’t be in there! If you know you’re the other, then you stop thinking about yourself as the other. You get out of it. You might even say ‘I was nearly the other, but I let go when I found out’ but seriously? Avocado?! Third – I’m pretty sure most women are a chunky smoothie of sorts on that list 😉

For the record (or actually for the lack of it, in this context) I’m a cherry. In the biggest relationship ever, with Christ. I’m also a blueberry. I’m also an unconcerned strawberry because I just believe I cannot. It’s God who’ll do the finding. And that’s fine by me. He has a pretty detailed list from me anyway, which He probably already knew 😉 But I love that it will make Him smile because of my silliness and trust.

In fact, for what it’s worth, my Facebook status is ‘in a relationship’ and has been for a long time! I guess I’m stubborn about the semantics, and reluctant to change the fresh, naive, smarty-pants answer a much, much younger me gave years ago. Because really nothing has changed from this status quo. It never will!

PS I just got the tag in my inbox 😉 Nice timing.

Seeing faith

20 Feb

I could have written this –

Questioning Faith.

My thoughts exactly.

Except I might not call it ‘questioning’. I’d call it what I just have. I hesitate to say more in praise of the writer because I’ve just said that could be me 😉 But I will say it is a beautiful post. In its honesty. I find that hard sometimes. The key is to know that you are fighting for your faith, not fighting it. Because He asked you to. And keeps His promise.

God is beautiful – Part 1

2 Feb

I think I should re-name this blog ‘God is beautiful’. After all the sifting and the raking, after the ploughing and the draining, after everything is stripped away from me, and I have nothing left but God’s voice to hear, as I stare into my hands… this is what I will be left with:

God

is

beautiful.

There is nothing higher or deeper than His amazing love for you, and His persistence in saving you from your own fears and distractions. Nothing. And when you ask Him how He can forgive so much, He says to you ‘Forgive what?’.

Your sins I will remember no more.

There is no way that I can ever deserve that love. Today, as I was sitting in my chair at work, I asked Him how I could ever be worthy of His calling.

I cannot. But He makes me beautiful because His beauty is sufficient.

He is able to keep me from stumbling, even stumbling, and to present me – me! – faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

And there is nothing to indicate it is only when the body has been stripped off. Not just when we think we’re not human any more and we are ethereal beings in some kind of new dimension… No, it is now.

Worship him. There is nothing else to do.

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