Tag Archives: God

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.

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Parenthood and childhood

19 Jun

I was just reading about school choices by parents – and yes, I read homeschool choices too. In fact, primarily those because blogging seems like a major outlet slash networking tool for those mothers!

And one of the comments on one of the posts said something to the effect that children don’t remember what happened when they were two, when they grow up. Do you?

No, the question tag was part of the comment too. And I had a very quick response – yes.

I actually do remember what happened when I was two. I remember walking into the rain on the terrace, falling backwards from the trike and someone running down the stairs and nearly flinging themselves over the balcony on the landing to stop my dad who was on his way to work… that, when you were barefoot, the floor in the kitchen was somehow a little different from the one in the bedroom with the power outlet under the bed and the unconnected plug that served as my mother’s or the maid’s stethoscope or mine, whenever we played together, the sadness on some days when the sunset came and the parents hadn’t yet… These posts I was reading were on separation anxiety. And while the commenter was giving good advice – “Go anyway. Your child does grow up and does learn to be her own person” – my instinctive reaction was that children perhaps do remember.

I remember.

I think children do remember. They hold these memories precious. And if you bring them up well, they know both the wonderful things you have done and given as parents and the things you might do differently. They also know the things they might do differently, if they were parents, given the memories they have as kids.

And after all, isn’t that the point?

I don’t think either extreme of the spectrum have it right – children are neither best served unguided, nor controlled. That sense of the child being a wonderful new person in Christ, as well as that sense of her being your responsibility the moment she steps into or forms into your family – both seem important.

The possibility of being a parent scares me sometimes. And I am often glad that it does. I’ve always wanted to adopt and the intentional choice and mission in that decision is such a symbol to me of the calling that parenthood is. Parenthood is a calling both for husband and wife. When it comes, it probably takes over everything else. Probably changes your choices about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Like God – he left his home, he left his place with God, he became a servant (becoming is a word for changing, he wasn’t only God anymore, he changed), he let them take his life if it would save the children… You practice for it when you marry someone, already. Too few people see that nowadays, I think. This is why I am glad that the idea of being a parent has not lost its fear for me.

But I’m just a 20-something talking.

Wilderness woes and wistfulness

11 Jun

In the coach station at Birmingham. I’ve decided to give my very forgiving blog some context and character. It’s a grey, windy day in Birmingham this morning, as I head home. I’m sitting in a cafe across from Starbucks (because they have better armchairs) with coffee from Starbucks and considering a refill.

I’ve had a bit of heart-wringing from Him for a few weeks. The way that I’ve been seeing the next couple of years has fallen through. I always knew it could – but you always know things can change with that superiority of a Christian who’s been there, done that, learned her lesson…

I think to myself: I got this faith thing down pat. I have waited and trusted so often, over so many, closely intervalled seasons, that I don’t need any more testing. 10 stars for me. 


And then halfway through one of those sentences, God pulls the rug out from under your feet. And you’re in a test again. At first, you don’t even realise. In my little boxed-in, ‘churched’ worldview, change means doubting my calling. But God said I would live here, do this, give my tuppence to this part of the world. God talked to me about this relationship. God talked to me about planning my finances. So how can this happen?

See, in my head I have a plan. I know what God wants (at least some of it) and I know how to get there. And I am incredibly stubborn about the way that it’s going to work. The problem is if it doesn’t work that way – if he asks me to leave, if he brings me back to Canaan after a 40-year detour in the wilderness but he’s only ever told me the Canaan part of his will and not the wilderness part… I’m a screaming, kicking mess. Because I *never* get that the wildernesses are not detours. It took me 15 years of my life to work out that although God promised the promised land, he actually first moved Abraham FROM the promised land. And then brought him back.

Nuts.

I’m writing this. But I STILL don’t get it. I don’t get the sovereignty, I don’t get the need to relinquish control, I don’t get the concept of doing all I can see and all that will keep me sane and giving the rest to God in confidence that he’ll work it.

Because seriously – who does that?! Who drags you miraculously into the place you think you’re going to be for the rest of your life, hints to you that that is a place that’s a pretty major part of your life. Ok, tells you this is what he wants for you. And then drags you out of it?!

And yet – he does. And it’s not simply a lesson in the wilderness. It’s God in the wilderness. Just like God in Canaan. And you shake your head and shake your head and say ‘No, no, no – this is where I’m meant to be for life. You told me. You told me.’

But all he really said was to obey.

I feel like I’ve been in the wilderness for a little while – and usually, when I expect it… you know, that’s okay! I’ve got my little survival bag and contingency plans. But I’ve been in this weird place for a few days now (yes, nothing dramatic) and I should expect that God never gives me expected things! And every time I have time to myself, my thoughts and my God – I remember all the promises, all the hurts, the little things, the big things, the distance, the slight distance from God – everything that the wilderness, if not the cause, is a reminder of. A big hulking symbol, unmissable because I’m in it dead centre.

And this is why this lesson is so hard. I can only obey. I cannot predict the obedience of others or the obedience of time and circumstance and the weather, for goodness’ sake. I cannot predict that the picture will come true. I can only simply fit my piece into that puzzle clumsily.

Clumsily is really all I can do. You might be able to do perfection. Today is one of those days I can’t even try.

And this is why I’m sitting here crying in a coach station, having cried through church, having cried through conversations, having cried through being told off, having cried through defending myself, having cried through being a pain in other peoples’ sides, because I have NO way to explain why I’m crying. So I have a Mac, a coffee, a tissue held to my face like I have a nosebleed, gratitude for the rain because it covers up crying people, and the funny urge to write a song and these two quotes from two favourite books, one of the books life-giving, one of the quotes rather like a hug and the other rather like a pat on the back and a reminder to get on with it. Because the wilderness is a blessing. Canaan is a blessing. Both are – in the strictest sense – merely wanderings until we see Him face to face. I would say “The show must go on” but this is much too life-like and God-like for that to be fitting.

This:

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your records?

Psalm 56: 8

And then this reminder from Anne Shirley that puts a smile on my wet face.

“Gilbert darling, don’t let’s ever be afraid of things. It’s such dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!” – LM Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars

PS to the last one!

16 May

This whole concept of Biblical femininity and Biblical masculinity is kinda rubbing me the wrong way.

A woman is not any less a woman if she doesn’t sew, stay at home, bake cakes and dance (okay, okay, some sarcasm there…). A woman, in fact, in Proverbs 31 did quite a bit of marketing and business. She provides, she goes out and supplies the merchants with sashes, she goes out and markets her wares (!) and and and – she speaks. She gives “faithful instruction”. She – get this – “she watches over the affairs of her household”. She sounds like she’s pretty in charge.

And a man is not any less a man if he doesn’t bring home the bigger income, or doesn’t equate to his ‘machismo’. It worries me when evangelical preachers say things like ‘man up’ and ‘be a man’ in some situation, and make it a Biblical mandate. There is not a specific set of ‘male’ traits and ‘female’ traits that the Bible asks us to have and to follow. We’re denying creation – he made us male and female. We don’t make ourselves male and female in different ways. We emulate the character of God, we are the whole woman God called us to be or the whole man God called us to be.

This feeds in a little bit to the fact that much of the question of gender and sexuality is culturally fed. And we make it ‘Christian’ in a way that seems so harmless but is still dangerous, because it allows to subscribe to gender in way God did not ordain by the way we asses ‘how’ male and female we are.

‘Biblical masculinity’ and ‘Biblical femininity’ seem to engender proponents and telly evangelists and a plethora of bloggers who become overnight experts. For the record though, I’m not indiscriminately against people in these forums. 🙂 I know there are several husband-wife duos out there who do offer an honest account of their every day learning if they’re bloggers with humility and humour and authenticity (like her and him 🙂 ), or a well-thought out argument and often a sermon and teaching on the subject, like this wonderful couple whose teaching I used to love (although it’s been a while).

I have stereotypes. You could call them dreams even – going to a dance ;), being chauffeured around a bit, being given flowers and chocolate and having someone eventually think I’m perfect. You do too – don’t you? But the thing is I know they’re my wishes, I know they’re my desires, I know some of them are fed by Disney.

I do not make some of these things a Biblical mandate. But I know and I see how easy it can be to make them mandates, and how hard it is to pull out the tangled hairs and threads of culture and context from the nature of who God is. Yet it is our call to constantly engage in this activity, constantly probe and do a winnowing of our minds and understanding to see him ever more clearly. And even as I say this to you, I know we will never be truly perfect – until then.

God’s got it covered

17 Apr

Rejection, betrayal are the two greatest fears women have. And you have had to deal with both. So many women can identify with you, including me (Let’s have coffee one day and I’ll spill the beans) But this didn’t sneak up on God; He has a plan for your future – I am living proof.

That’s a comment I read on a blog post over at (in)Courage. And it fell into place for me today.

At the moment, what’s on is probably what most other people might not recognise as major in my life. But everyone near me and/or who hear my daily outpourings are generally bringing me flowers and chocolate and little notes. My colleagues too – and one of them has had to go be with her family in London. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. But we get chocolates and visits and all that.

Oxford exams are really that big. Exams generally are a pretty big deal, being Asian and all…

Digression: In some parts of Asia, the suicide rates spike up in April and I have research to prove it. Still, taking as I do, my identity in Christ rather than cultural boundaries, I’m very grateful for my relationship with him and with the family I do have!

In addition though, I’ve had a student affairs spike. I’ve also had to negotiate a petty crime, and its fallout in the community. Plus a couple of personal hiccups as you’ve probably figured from that last post of mine 😉 For the record though, I haven’t had personal betrayal – no, not that.

And yesterday, God gave me a much-needed ‘moment’. I called a friend and prayed with her. And she kinda demurred at the prayer… This is a friend with whom I went to church, and we’ve been to a fairly charismatic (you know, pentecostal but not Pentecostal and a fairly traditional Anglican/Presbyterian church together. We’ve been in small group together. We’ve known each other for nearly seven years now. We’ve travelled together, visited each other’s homes. Um, you would assume that we’d be free to pray with each other. But I knew that she wouldn’t actually be so free to pray out loud, even with her family. She told me yesterday that I was important to her and the least she could do is take a day off and buy me lunch – in another city! I’d depend on her to listen in my horrible moments too. But all of this friendship-boasting to show that – no, it wasn’t the easiest thing to pray together.

But hey, I was feeling pretty selfish. So I got online, grabbed a hold of her and said she had to pray with me. That she had to try, and that doing it out loud was a token to ME not even to God, and that He knew her silent prayer but I didn’t. I was at a point of need. So could we please do that? You know – you get the point. I repeat myself generally, but I think this time you got it.

I wanted her to be there and.to.pray.with.me. It wasn’t a major thing. But it was something I didn’t want to do without – the beauty of communion and shared love for Jesus, the vocalising of trust in His provision.

Still I didn’t think it was such a big deal. I thought she’d stumble and pray but she’d pray and I’d have my… silly little token.

Actually, she didn’t stumble. I prayed. She prayed.

Then she said this:

I think you’ll appreciate a random of sequence of events without which this might not have happened.

And the story was this. Over the weekend, her boyfriend had told her she needed to practice to pray out loud. I mean – we all know she doesn’t. We all know she loves God. So then she was amused and didn’t understand and she probably rolled her eyes at the boy. But he made her practice AND pray about it and then said ‘You never know when you might need it.’

And there I was the next day – I wouldn’t have really grabbed a hold of anyone else, and said friend might well have said no, if she hadn’t been made to think about it and consider it necessary. And God showed her how he’d got me covered. And he showed me how he’d got her covered.

And that brings me back to that comment. While facing rejection, fearing it, or uncertainty or betrayal or hurt or simply even just the unknown – I’ve got to know this…

It didn’t sneak up on God.

And now, I’m sitting here thinking how un-random life is in some ways. How very God-like life plays itself out. And how, in a time I needed Him, He put a hand on my shoulder and said ‘I’m watching. I’ve got you covered.’

Shoqed.

Exams

11 Apr

 

 

That is what I look like most of these days.

But praise God for productive days 🙂 Yesterday was one! Now to wake up in the morning and do China! Woot.

Isn’t it ironic that I do education and I can talk about the pressure of assignments and performance and the testing of capability being contextual? 😀 Ha.

April, foolishness and Spring

7 Apr

TS Eliot – April is the cruellest month.


I’ve been thinking about this line over and over. When I was little (er, yes, vague literary references floated through my head when I was little and it probably made me a strange kid…) – anyway, when I was little, I used to think that meant that is was because of Good Friday.

And I struggled with that interpretation because was it a cruel thing to put him on the cross? The pain was cruel, but God was just. Is. Right?

But I’ve decided that April is the cruellest month because it reminds us of that sacrifice that, in so many hearts, goes unheeded. It is one thing to preach hellfire and damnation. But it is another to recognise rejected Father love. One screeches ‘Save yourself!’ The other whispers ‘Take My love’.

In Eliot’s time, it painted a picture of Modernism’s rather wholesale herdish rejection of Love.

‘April is the cruellest month’ because it brings the promise of Spring but there is NO resurrection within the world of the poem. It’s a disconnected, broken poem in form and content… The pictures are dry, dead summer and winter that hints at life. It teases about life but finds no fruition…
Our existence is fragmented without our knowledge of the reality of the cross and that is what the world has turned away from.
Palm Sunday fell on April Fools day this year. God chose a donkey to ride in on when Israel finally hailed him as king – the foolish things of the world and the weak to put to shame the mighty.
The foolishness of the cross is crazy, public love. He was looking at you on that cross. You.
When he said it was finished, when he said ‘Father, forgive’. His eyes never left your face.
Are you looking at Him? The crazy, foolhardiness of that radical act of love, of winning his bride – the foolishness of the cross – is its wisdom. What do we count foolish and what do we count wise?
It’s not quite a joke though – the cross. This – okay, this religion if you will, that people mock. Are we falling for the wrong joke?
Happy Good Friday and Holy Saturday, you.

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)

That girl

2 Apr

It’s been days since I wrote. I know.

I’ve been reading and avoiding reading. And worrying about the future, and realising that oh, He knows so much more than I do. He knows everything.

I’ve also been thinking about all the people that I miss. The fact that everything about this whole course and all the effort and resources depend so much on my getting the data, and of course, successfully not procrastinating for the exams.

And in the middle of all that, I am culturally dependent enough to look at a friend’s photography page and wish that I were that girl.

You know her – with the fire in her hair when she’s in the sun, and the beautiful eyes and the wonderfully poised social interaction. The person everyone loves and admires and respects.

Yes *shame-faced smile*. I’ve been that other girl – you know, the one that’s always wishing instead. The one that looks at stuff and reads stuff with a sort of unhealthy longing, as if my winter of discontent was never made glorious.

For a few days, I’ve reminded myself not to feel inadequate and alone because I am incredibly forgetful of grace. I used to stare out of windows and wonder what it was like to ever fly outside of your country. I cried because I could not (did not) go on a semester abroad and yet it was what God wanted. I used to cry about my family’s struggles as a child.

… And I am here. ME. Because God redeemed that not only to save the lost but to raise the bar as if we’d never stopped moving and moved even faster.

I’ve lived in two (ok, three) countries. Travelled to a couple more. My family has never lacked. And I’ve studied and worked abroad for six years. That’s quite a few semesters there. I have a life that is so much more than I’ve asked for.

So much.

I have so much to be grateful for.

And then I realise that this week we remember that it was ME he died for. And you. Because he made us and he saw that it was good.

You’re not inadequate. You are exactly who he wanted.

Deuteronomy 33:26.

So I’ve come here to say I’m sorry for not writing. Life has taken over, but I’m kinda sorry for when I let anything take over but God.

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.

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