Protecting the extraordinary.

I’ve recently been reminded of the cycling adventures I had as a teenager.
Balancing conversations whilst cycling hands free and eyes closed.
I remember on one occasion my lovely friend combined hands free cycling with hair brushing. Simultaneously I combined hands free cycling with eyes closed cycling. I trusted my friend to guide me. She trusted me not to trust her when she needed to brush her hair.
Needless to say we lost our balance and wobbled into each other and we both ended up a tangled heap in the road.
I remember our laughter and tears. Both battered and bruised we picked ourselves up and continued our journeys home. Neither of us prepared to explain to our parents how we came off our bikes.
I still cycle hands free but with my eyes open. I still cycle with my eyes closed but keep two hands firmly on the handle bars.
The other evening I experienced worship which was “ hands free “.
No service sheets, all responses where said by one person on our behalf.
No words to read, or misread, no responses to stumble over. It really was a place of freedom full of love and possibilities.
This paper free service took me right back to my teenager years of hand free cycling.
It reawaken a crafted space that in its simple creation allows myself to go deeper with God.
To step back on the path of discovery, to ponder the words that echo around me drifting to a place of awareness.
A place of wordless, imageless prayer.
It’s this place that I seek when I pray. That draws me inwards to God. This place might be cycling hands free, digging the garden, or just simply sitting in my own home.
I used to believe that prayer was words. That all prayer had an audible sound, a solid firm shape. A pattern of compulsory words. Yet the more I journey the more I learn that prayer is more than words. It can be the thin places that God has gifted us. My thin place will differ to another’s. A place from which I feel the radiant transparency of love, infused with a deep moment of silence from which all unspoken words and concepts are tidal.
It’s a place I Instinctively and habitually return to. My own personal place that protects my extraordinary. Opens the doors to the most
inaccessible places on earth, weirdly these places can almost be the most accessible places of my mind.

The spirited wind that ruffled my hair as I cycled hand free as a teenager was the early beginnings of a transformative spiritual practice that would sustain me .
Two risk taking teenage girls cycling hands free, have guided each other, supporting each other into adult life.
I have realised this friendship has prepared me and helped open myself to Jesus. It opened for me a path of adventure to follow my my deepest desire.
To understand that our risk taking may end up not as planned. I think back to myself and my friend in a tangled mess of bike and bruises. The gap of silence in which our tears turned to laughter. The unspoken words from our parents when we returned home battered and bruised. Those inner words of love that are parents never spoke.
I’ve come back as a adult to the thin places that feed the gentle gap between thoughts and words, a place to rest with God.
An inner silence, a stillness reinforced by a familiar habit of searching for a deeper stillness.
The places that taste and smell of creation. A conscious return to a unconscious place. Where my imagination traces pictures that have yet formed words.
A precious rediscovered energy, a gathered moment in time that held my breath and ruffled my hair.
A physical reminder of the breath of God that breaths within me. A tactile sensation of the wind blown Spirit. A mysterious force that guides my heart to prayer. That generates a core of outwardly focused energy.
When I stop focusing on what’s expected of me. When I follow my heart I bring myself to God. Letting go of the patterns of life that dampen my imagination, the words that confuse me, letting go of the handle bars that balance and guide me.
Closing my eyes I Listen to a silent love that prepares my soul ready for a purposeful action. A risk that’s so empowering it’s wrapped in love. A love that in which ordinary people can do ordinary things.

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What’s in a Tear.

Officially it’s a drop of water, containing elements which gives tears their characteristic salty taste.
Emotional tears also contain hormones which can improve our mood or ease our pains.
Tears release stories and emotions, expressing what our heart cannot say.
One single tear released in love is more powerful than a thousand tears cried in anger.
Just one single tear powerfully acted in the film “ Joker “ realeased me from the person I used to be.
In the opening few moments of the film before the story even starts, we watch the artist ( the clown ) applying his craft.
We see that familiar white clown face, with a coloured Blue  diamond painted over the eye.
Than a solitary tear escapes from the clowns eye. This single tear travelled through the perfect hues of White and Blue. Leaving behind it’s own imperfect trail. A tear trail …
God spoke so powerfully to me through this single tear locked into a frame of film.
It was in that moment that I realised  that this tear held the person I once was.
I was once a makeup artist. I would have scrutinised this tear from a technical view.
I would never see the true tear.. I saw the actors craft and the makeup artists skill. I saw lighting and editing. I saw film.
I questioned the products used, always looking for makeup continuity errors.
As that tear rolled I was released from thinking that way. Releasing me from the person I used to be.
In that one single tear; I saw emotions, I saw pain. I wanted to know the story behind the tear. Each tear holds more than we can ever imagine, more emotions more pain. Some tears hold stories that are just to painful to be told.
That one tear encapsulated my story. It was a tear that I was unable to cry myself . In the cinema God took that one tear and cried with me and for me.
I don’t miss the person I once was . Today I only see a life with Jesus . Sat in the cinema I said my goodbyes to the person I used to be.
It was not a time of my choosing, or a film of my choice. God spoke to my heart through the Jokers tear.
A tear that confirmed to myself that my recommendation for ordination training was real, realistic and from God
To serve God is a freedom thats full of creative energy, to serve is to remove chains and release love.
It is LOVE that inspires me and drives me to serve God . Only love can make such a choice. How different it is to serve another for love’s sake than it is to serve out of obligation or duty!
Jesus comes into the world not to be served, but to serve. He comes not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him.  He “empties himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” He does this for love.
When we love we want to serve. We long to be given some task that will contribute to the good purposes of the one we love.
A mother longs to serve her children – out of love. We willingly set aside our own desires and preferences, we lay down our lives, for the sake of those whom we love.
I am a chosen servant of Christ.
I will make the wrong choices, I will mess things up, I will cry, laugh and seek those on the margins of our community. To be a voice of comfort and a voice of truth. I will freely and willingly give all of myself to God’s creative purpose.
Only love can make this choice.

James 2:5

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters. God chose the poor people in the world to be rich in faith. He chose them to receive the kingdom God promised to those who love him

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Take risks. Be vulnerable

My silent scream in Asda today went unnoticed. I screamed a painful frustration of mixed emotions. Brokenness released into a haze full of love.
A intimate brokenness that is fully understood without a word ever being spoken. My unspoken words are heard, my brokenness is soothed by tears so full of love.“ I know I’m loved”.
God has transformed my heart, opened my whole body to listen to silent conversations within myself. Conversations so complex they become knitted into my being. Unspoken words that are so rich in love they become visible. These are my conversations with God.
Gods word is so beautiful when unwritten. It becomes void of differences, it becomes one spiritual language of love.
I’m stood nervously listening to God on the blurred edges of the vocation journey. Discerning Gods call for me but also asking; what does that call means for my husband and family?
The path that God has called us to walk along is a bumpy one . I can’t walk on this path alone, in life my husband and I walk together, we choose together, we discuss together.
We choose the paths that we know. We walk together trying to support each other.
This journey is challenging us both to walk a different path in ways we do not know or understand. It’s a path that is not of our choosing it’s a path that I trust .
I expect my husband to walk with me. Yet these paths seem so ridiculously difficult for those closest to us .
I’m asking my husband to step out in faith with me, for his steps to parallel my enthusiasm for this unknown journey.
This journey grows anxiety from what we don’t know and can’t know, especially what will happen. Fearing uncertainty, focusing on what knowledge we have as something to grasp.
Holding so tightly to the person he used to know theirs a fear in the reality of knowing the person that God knows.
In all my sadness their is love, in all my pain their is hope, in my brokenness theirs a hunger for knowledge. God invites us together to step out in faith.

I’m hurting today, the pain between us is real and possibly avoidable. “ it’s ok not to be ok”.
We both seemed trapped in non stop questioning, endless conversations of reasoning. The rights and wrongs, the what ifs in our quest for certainty.
Together we can’t see a way through these questions alone. What excites me, scares him.
I’m so happy to wonder in the blurred haze and delight in the unknown. Act with freedom and inhibition, unconcerned about what others may think. Get down low and get up close to look at all I have yet to see. Try it out. Take risks. Be vulnerable.

I am taking risks with our relationship, pushing what’s familiar, journeying together discovering what unfolds. Keeping it simple being gentle with ourselves. Today just being is enough. Just being together with the God who is mystery.

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Isaiah 30:18 The Message (MSG)
But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.
He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right—everything.
Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones

I’m tired.

I’m tired of holding it together.
Being the one that has to be strong.
Fighting for the simple things and feeling I don’t belong.

I’m tired that I am trying
To be the best person I can be.
I’m worn out by my limitations.
That keep on holding me.

I was tired when she prayed for me.
Cried when she held my hand.
She whispered I was good enough
To step into this strange land.

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I’m scared.

Its the enormous hugeness of God, asking me to step out of my comfort zone. That vastness and endless seam of love overwhelm’s me.
I’m scared.
My heart beats so fast, my eyes fill with tears. I know God loves and believes in me. That’s what scares me. God who sees all believes in me.
I don’t know how to do this.
The old me would just slip away into the distance, remain silent and hidden.
I can’t hide and I don’t want to hide.
Yet I can’t join up my own thinking, I fumble my words. My brain goes runny, I say the opposite to whats in my head. I look at the emails: the words, the process of exploring vocation, my mind going into a panic. It’s beyond my thinking, but not beyond God.
I want to find the courage to embrace the feelings that I have instead of being scared of them.
God is calling me to “be more” and “do more” with my life than I could ever have imagined. God’s dreams are bigger than my own. I know that I can’t do this by myself. I am being challenged and stretched. I want to be the person God wants me to be and that petrifies me.

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Jeremiah 29:11 (GNT)
I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.

Black Dog Called Depression.

Day 35 -Lent Challenge – Lead

This blog is acknowledging my life living with the Black dog called depression. The Black dog is not mine, it’s attached its self to my husband. It lives with us and is part of us. It’s real. That’s why it’s included in my 40 blogs.
I have written two stories, both true. For those that have not lived or cared for someone with depression, I hope this helps gives you some understanding as to what life can be like.

Recently some friends brought a puppy. It was a very much loved new member of their family. This golden ball of fluff arrived in their lives looking and acting like the perfect family pet.
He’s such a funny little character loved and enjoyed by everyone that visits them. When the family are at home he’s a joy. As soon they all get ready to leave him at home on his own things start to take a turn for the worse.
He gets anxious paces and makes funny noises. As the getting ready in the morning intensifies so does his levels of anxiety increase. Tension starts to rise between dog and owner.
When eventually they leave him in the quietness of the house he does what all young dogs do.
He’s chewed what he can. Pooed where he should not, and generally gets into terrible trouble.
The owners soon realise the dog’s behaviour cannot continue.They see their short-sightedness in buying a puppy and working full time. They love this dog and want to do all they can to relive its stress and anxiety. They arrange a dog sitter, friends and family help when they can. Dog sitting on evenings and on weekends so everyone had a good quality of life including the puppy. They consult an animal behaviourist. Learn signs of anxiety and take steps to eliminate them.They add routine to their day. Giving the puppy space to explore and play.
They no longer fear coming home. They no longer dread opening the front door.
They never blamed the dog for its behaviour they understood the reasons behind the behaviour and addressed them.

Reading the above story nothing surprises us. We know and understand that leaving a puppy alone for long periods of time is not good for dog or owner. With love time and patience they grow up and become the family pet we hoped and dreamed of.

I am going to tell you the story of the Black dog ( depression ) that lives with us.

24 years ago I feel deeply in love and married my husband. I walked down the aisle a young bride looking forward to married life. We looked the perfect couple. Young happy and in love.
The Black dog ( depression ) joined our family- it becomes attached to my husband. To start with it was more of a nuisance than a problem. With a few simple changes, it was manageable.
We learned to live with it. As we got older the dog grew up and got bigger. It would become a nuisance, causing embarrassment and upset.
It becomes so big that it forgets its manners, being rude, snapping and growling at all those who came near him/ us.
The tension in the house caused more snapping and growling. Going out without the dog become harder and harder.
We seek professional help. The Black dog refuses to go. The more tension I put on its lead. The more it bites and refuses to do even the basic tasks. The Black dog has imprisoned us in our own home. It refuses help. When the dog finally shows weakness, the help that we receive is difficult. The services are busy and overworked. They don’t have time to see past the growling. Each appointment we see someone new. This causes defence behaviour that looks aggressive.
Our friends stop visiting us. Why would they want to spend time with a dog that does not want to engage with them? A dog that does not wag it’s tail. A dog that does not play.
The hardest part for me is leaving the Black dog home alone with my husband. I fear what it will do. I fear it will take away my husband, that it will totally consume him to the point of no return. I fear its greed will be to much for my husband to cope with.
I fear opening the door. I dread coming home to the quietness of the house not knowing what it’s done when I am out.

The trouble with the Black dog it’s invisible. It’s not an imaginary dog it’s real. Because people don’t see it they fail to understand. I don’t blame them, but many blame and judge my husband. They see the behaviours but lack understanding.

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So how do I cope?
Pray
Prayer is my biggest way of coping. I pray when the Black dog is sleeping. I hold my husband first thing in the morning and pray. When it’s bedtime again I hold my husband and pray until God holds my exhausted words until sleep takes me too .
I pray that we can put a “lead” on the Black Dog. That it can be managed, disciplined and controlled.

Gratitude.
It’s being grateful for the little things and thanking God. It’s the littlest things that give hope; a hug, a smile, positive conversations.

Love .
Being honest and open to those that love us. That honesty also has to be respectful to my husband. I have friends that know and understand that life is hard. It’s so important for me to have a couple of special friends that I can trust. These friends are good listeners, they don’t judge. They love us and pray for us.

Love – Faith – Friendship.

Day 30 – Lent challenge – Friendship

This poem is for a friend. It tells of our journey together.

Love – Faith – Friendship.

Friendship of colours painted on faces.
Blended with glitter and sparkly dust.
Henna flowers on the backs of our hands
Hugs of glitter crafted in love.
Friendship, painted, splattered.
shared.

Bold colours blossomed.
So we grow.
Journeying as families
We loved
Through tears we said our goodbyes

Harsh times.
Vulnerable hurting.
Anchoring our hearts in pain.
Holding firm you kept us secure.
You understand our pain.

Quietly empty our hearts longing.
Stopped and stunned empty silence .
Roots form.
Intertwined with leaves of children’s laughter
Families standing together.
We blossom.
Grow.

New beginnings -fresh laughter.
Breakfasts cooked- films watched
Sunrise blocking out our pains.
Renewed charged.
changed.

Nourished by just being.
We breathe.
Nurtured by prayer.
love.
Faith.
Friendship.
We share.

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1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Good News Translation (GNT)

4 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

8 Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.

My Glamorous Grandmother.

Day 28 – Lent Challenge – Endure

This blog is for my other grandmother ( dad’s mum ) I don’t have many memories, only stories passed down to me from those that knew and loved this remarkable lady. I don’t know about her faith but I do know she had a huge loving heart that endured pain and suffering at the hands of others.

My grandmother was glamorous like a movie star ( that’s what I have been told) She feel in love with the most glamorous young bachelor in the small village. They both had a huge personalities and enjoyed a party.
They married and had two boys that loved the freedom of living in a rural village by the sea.
My grandfather was a merchant seaman, spending many months at sea. During the war years his many months turned into years. My grandfather spent 3 years of the war in Rio De Janeiro, after falling into the hold of the ship and being to badly injured to return home.
The three years in Rio was unpaid sick, leaving my grandmother with no income. She worked as a nurse at the local hospital plus war time factory work. Holding down two jobs while bringing up two small boys during war time could not have been easy.
She was supported by her mother and the community in which she lived in. She worked hard and still found time to support families that where struggling. Always going that extra mile to support those that were hungry or in need.
Her marriage was turbulent and emotionally abusive. When my father a teenager my grandfather came home for good.
The man that spent his life on the ocean waves was soon spending his days along side his wife. They both drunk heavily and partied. My grandmother was a functioning alcoholic and no angel.
They eventually divorced when my dad was about 16. My grandmothers drinking got worse.
For all of this my grandmother was an amazing woman. She endured years of unhappy marriage to my grandfather.

When I was about 6 months old she went to a residential hospital to dry out. Supported by friends family and colleagues from the hospital that she nursed.My grandmother dried out.
She lived another 6 years, long enough for me to form beautiful positive memories. Long enough to see my sister being born. Long enough to know we loved her.
This story is a story that does not want to be told. It was hidden from me until I was about 18.
Until today I imagined my grandfather in his oil skins at the helm of the ship bringing food to a starving Britain during the war. I learnt today he spent most of the war in Rio De Janeiro.

God was with all of us on this journey. My love for my grandmother does not change knowing her story. Her story is a part of me and my journey. It’s connecting with her story seeing God at work in our lives both past and present.
I keep on my dressing table a book of common prayer that belonged to my great grandmother. It was a gift from my grandmother in 1922. Reading from this little book reminds me of my journey with God is just beginning. That God does not often do what we expect him to. God endings aren’t always the happy ever after we dream of. It’s not always a ending we understand or even want to understand. It’s a ending of new beginnings .

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Psalm 30:5 Good News Translation (GNT)

5 His anger lasts only a moment,
his goodness for a lifetime.
Tears may flow in the night,
but joy comes in the morning.

Melting points.

Day 24 – Lent Challenge – Refine.

Trying to find a person that fits the word refine is not easy. The more time I give to this the more I realise the refining that is beyond the human. Refining comes from God.
It’s the hollowing out, the deepness and deaths being refined by God takes us. The tears that flow and keep flowing as God hollows out our hearts.
It’s painful..
I’m writing this blog the morning after mother’s day. Feeling totally exhausted by the whole day. My heart is crying and confused.
Mother’s day reminds me the that the pain has a purpose. God uses the pain.
It’s the pain that shapes and moulds us. Theirs no hiding from it, nothing is hidden from God.
It’s a change to the core. God tells us he will take us through the fire to refine us like silver and purify us like Gold. The melting point of silver is 1761 degrees. the melting point of pure gold is 1945 degrees. Pain is that hot temperature that causes pain, melts our hearts.
I am angry and struggling with myself today. Angry that it took pain for me to find God not Joy. That’s why the tears that don’t want to stop today.
Tears full of why. It’s almost as if the tears stop the refining fire getting to hot. Gods way of stopping me boiling over. Allowing me to stay held in the crucible that is Gods love. The crucible that holds my heart in the fire.

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Psalm 56:8 The Message (MSG)

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.