Tag Archives: life

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

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.

I can’t stop!

8 Mar

I have so much.

There is quite a long list of things I want in my head. My mind is like a schoolgirl, easily distracted. Research article – reading – reading – God time – oooh, Facebook – I’d love some mango. There’s my ridiculously fragmented thinking ^.

But then I got to thinking. Actually – actually – there is more that I have than what I want. It’s not quite that I have more than I want – at least, that is not what I’m trying to say. But if I listed what I have that I am grateful for, and what I want that I would really like to have… do you know what? That first list would be longer! And not because I am gracious and content or anything like that.

Because He gives.

Because He gives, I have…

a relationship with Him, His love.

a course I am enjoying

the ability to read and study

a job I love and a possible extension of it for next year

Marmite, and peanut butter, and golden syrup, and definitely more chocolate than I ought to have

people who give me all of those things too

and then those people for themselves

a mother for a best friend

more best friends in my life in far away places, which means I get to dream about visiting!

resources to read my Bible and study it

the Holy Spirit to convict me of what it means to me

a bike to get home and save time!

several different kinds of perfume

and the smell of vanilla!

the cushions I wished for

a week in Paris 😉

love

TWO pairs of boots (two!)

THREE if you count the ankle ones

Skype dates for the weekend

dinner and photography date for tomorrow

FaceTime date tonight maybe? (no, they’re not all boys :P)

three friends getting married

more shoes and one red pair (I am so lucky :D)

someone who sends me flowers 🙂

parents who brag about me rather erroneously 🙂

two yummy, cuddly dogs

flu-lessness!

an apartment to myself

in a beautiful house

a camera I enjoy

friends who care to protect me, make sure I’m okay

friends who’ll rescue my hard drive for me when I’ve been an idiot about saving my data

someone who’ll meet me in another city when I announce I’m going to be there in one hour to run an errand

friends who’ll offer to pay for my hard drive if other friends can’t rescue it

a conversation in which I was literally asked to share the gospel

redemption for even such as I

everyone who preaches and teaches in this wonderful city

the debates, the freedom to question, to seek the truth

the freedom to know that God is above our seeking and we see darkly

longer hair 😉

salvation

gifts of the Spirit

slowly the fruit, in spite of me

forgiveness for failure

forgiveness for failure from my family

patience from God

patience from people, despite my lack

a toaster and kettle of my own

tea and toast.

I could go on but I think I’ll go get some of that last, because it has become so obvious my nose is in it tonight 🙂 – His love keeps on giving.

Lessons from a father

24 Jan

Today is for my dad. You might already know that my dad and I have a fraught relationship. I have learned so much from my heavenly Father, that I sometimes forget what I have learned from my father. Growing up, he did love me… and I have learned good things, beautiful things from him. I will not show this to my father because although he has talked about our relationship to others and to me, he would feel it presumptuous in me to do so. He has said this before. But too often, I have held on to the barbs that hurt, the little lines, the marks of childhood, teenage and womanhood… because it was hard to forgive, but it is so hard to forget. Today, I’m ignoring the thorns that came with the plucking. And I am opening a box of pressed petals… birthday cards, lessons, laughs.

“Always read a chapter of the Bible in the morning, before you do anything.” That has come to be translated in my life as beginning the day with God, so you’ll get through it with Him. Every morning, to this day, I try. And if I don’t, I know nothing feels right.

“Keep your eyes on the ball. Don’t move them anywhere else.” Philippians 3: 13-14

“Got to put a shirt on to pray.” OK, this one’s funny. It made me laugh and it annoyed him that it made me laugh :). But it reminds me to give God my best and on the other hand, it reminds me of why I smiled too. I want to be naked before God, open to Him, vulnerable to His probing my heart and my hurts. But I also want to make every effort to give Him everything, to give Him my messy best. I don’t want to reduce grace to an excuse, but honour it as God’s greatest gift.

Generosity. My father never liked to be caught out without being able to give to people who asked. It irked him if he couldn’t, like duty undone! It has taught me to not be proud of my giving and let my ego be hurt by having less, but to trust God to bless me to give more. It has taught me also that giving is important. I have learned that giving is for closed doors, and that need is more obvious than we want to know. That not all who ask need and not all who need ask. Would that we did all ask our heavenly Father! I have learned more from his actions than my father ever sat down to teach me, but I have learned it well.

One day, when I was 15, my father said he was sorry… to me. That was the only time. I asked him not to, and we both cried. That wasn’t the end of our fraught relationship – I’ve said ‘sorry’ too for unthinking, reactionary words but it wasn’t. Yet it is one of my most precious memories.

It has taught me to say sorry, even when it is such a bitter thing to do. It needs to be said, and if you were wrong or unloving, you need to love again and seek peace. It. IS. Necessary. Even after healing, sometimes not always, hearing someone say that they know you were hurting is comfort. And you could give that to someone.

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