Monday, 29 February 2016

The weekend, a pause in Lent and a pause in life

We had a glorious weekend. The sun shone, and we realised that we were fully out in the world of Spring, fully out of hibernation! On Saturday we finally made it back to Castle Espie, lured by the prospect of a Lego Trail.
Castle Espie lies on the banks of Strangford Lough, and is managed by the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, who keep safe an important stretch of land for the migrating flocks who refuel here in Northern Ireland every year.
 However, for high octane suns, the Secret Swamp with its fairy doors, wishing tree, mud submerged tightrope, and indeed zipline were the icing on the Lego cake.
There were huge Lego birds and creatures in abundance, at strategically distanced points around the domaine, and there was music in the woods..
 .. but we did actually stop to admire the live things as well! 
Then on Sunday we had an evangelist from an Irish organisation called Crown Jesus Ministries who came to speak in church. His passage was II Corinthians 2:14 - 3:6. It was an interesting time. In work we are feeling a strong call to a clear witness, and there was much in the talk to inspire and challenge. But, in the context of a super few days with all my men, and with lots of friends who passed through the house as well, I thought about our domestic spheres and about the legacy we leave in the hearts of those we know. I thought about our suns, and hoped that I might be able one day to say,

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of human hearts.

I say this in gratitude to those who nurtured me. Despite all the ridiculously awful things that I have done, and that are heavy on my mind this week, I can be sure of grace and hope. So I hope that despite all the ridiculously awful things my boys tell me they have done, and that are heavy on my mind every week!, they will one day be a letter of Jesus to their spheres.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The last time I looked down and couldn't see my feet I was pregnant with a boy. This time I am not pregnant. I am a middle-aged, biscuit guzzling mother of two boys and daughter of two parents who works five days a week- school hours and term-time only- and who is hungry all the time. The disappearing feet were nonetheless a disconcerting discovery one morning this week in the shower.

For a few Lents I have deactivated my Facebook account. This is very easy and very, very effective. That is time you can tangibly retrieve and put to prayer or Bible reading. For another few Lents I have tried to deactivate my gorging on junk food to get me through the next chunk of the day. This has never been successful! I suppose endeavouring to put a spiritual slant on the fact that your clothes don't fit anymore is just not the right motivation.

I wish it was though. Those of us born into first world places and kind families push through into our earthly life with all good things on our side. And what do I end up doing? Bemoaning the first world problem that too much food in my belly means that none of the many clothes hanging in my wardrobe hang on me quite as roomily as they did two years ago. Clearly the fact that I now drive everywhere around my five square miles existence burning significantly more fossil fuels than I do bodily energy is not helping.

Before I went back to working five days I walked to and from their school with the boys, and cycled or walked to my evening library job. I did a little bit of housework everyday instead of collapsing onto the sofa at any given opportunity. I did spend some mornings praying and Bible reading too. I used to say that I didn't believe in exercise, but in an active lifestyle. It all seems very halcyon now!

I clearly need to practise some self-discipline. It makes me think of the verse in Hebrews, which I'd only ever considered as a rebuke to children or wrong-doers:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

I think that the way I'm living now is a form of wrong-doing. I am not respecting the body God has given me; I am not respecting the privileged position I am in with first world abundance of food and fuel. I think that if I lived more gratitude and generosity I certainly wouldn't eat my way through the biscuit tin every afternoon after school, and I would get us out of the car a bit more. 

I just think that I'd manage that if I was more worried about the world, than about my girth. And I'm not sure I'd deserve any righteousness and peace that came out of dropping a dress size!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

I like Lent. It's not much of a part of my Presbyterian heritage, and I'm not sure how I came to be such an admirer. I think I was in Belfast's big Christian bookshop one year wondering about Lent and picking up Delia's Feast for Lent, and there I was. Lentenised!

Six years in Anglicanism while Prince Charming led worship there helped, and now we do try in our own very small way to follow Jesus through forty days and forty nights of God. Certainly it has always been my experience that I have but to stop and find God rush to meet me. Father hurrying down the lane to take back the prodigal before words are even formed on lips.

It's half-term here this week, and I was struck yesterday morning by my reading of Jesus Himself getting up early or withdrawing to lonely places to pray. This time two years ago, on half-term, we had sold our house, discovered that the house we thought we were buying had been strangely sold to someone else, and were potentially homeless! There was nothing else on the market in the area that we could afford. Uncharacteristically, instead of weeping and wailing, I decided that I would get up early every morning of half-term and throw ourselves at God. Every morning that week I read about the importance of not worrying, of the birds of the air, read in Psalm 37,

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

By Tuesday afternoon the local godly estate agent rang me and told me to view a house that night. He told me that it was the answer to my prayers. It was. And six weeks later we were here. God moves. (He moves houses.) He moves mightily and every Lent reminds me of the great, good things He still does for us. 

This year on Shrove Tuesday Jo and I stood beside the book stall in our church halls. It happens to be outside the kitchen, and we were waiting to go in and judge the BB pancake-making competition. On impulse I took this booklet home:

This is our Lent time with Jesus this year. For just five minutes over dinner we read the passage and all have a little pray- out loud or not. And do you know, God has come rushing down the lane to meet us. This week the reading are all from Acts- the disciples about to go out and preach but first waiting for the Holy Spirit and His tongues of fire. I am thinking about work and our need to be overt in our witness there, Mattman is thinking about all the new languages he's learning at school this year, and all around us we have passages from Acts in church and even on the billboard opposite our GP yesterday. Jo asked why Acts was everywhere suddenly and I said that God had lots to tell us from Acts just now.
God speaks, and loudly, but it is very often in Lent for me, when I find Him rushing down the lane.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Not still Advent, but in fact Lent!

My goodness, doesn't time fly when you're doing Christmas, New Year, back to school, school exams for Sun 1, looking at new schools for Sun 2, hibernating, stretching and breathing on occasional bright days when the real sun shines blue, organising the gamut of everyone's appointments for approaching half-term!

Time flies. I embraced hibernation between Christmas and the end of January. There was little else to do with everyone so busy! It was a revelation, though, to stop fussing about what needed done, about what wasn't being done, and just reconcile myself to a month in the house surrounded by one revising boy, one Victorian project researching boy, and one very work-stressed daddy! There were cakes as well as revision timetables, it was warm and dry inside, and the weeks whispered past into daylight.

Prince Charming cleared the garage and declared it a boat shed. He and the boys and our farmer neighbour and a school colleague have been sawing and filing and surveying and drinking tea for many cold weeks now, and apparently the bits are ready to be assembled. This has been most exciting!

I cleared my head and declared a Year of Ants and Elephants. I'm still not entirely sure what this means, but it came from friends with whom I was discussing my myriad of unfinished crochet projects. We were weighing the relative merits of clearing big things or small things first. In their house they call this squashing the ants before you can squash the elephant- or something to that effect! Maybe you know of this concept already? Anyway, I am determining to squash an ant or an elephant every month: January saw the completion of my Africa Blanket, and this month I really must finish the tank-top that was started two Springs ago! In fact, the trousers with which I envisaged wearing said tank-top are long past their best!

I also hit on a reading project. Last year a friend made it to the end of 52 books in 52 weeks- impressive. Knowing from past experience that I wouldn't make it past this point in the year, I  thought I would try to read an Alphabet of Authors instead. So in January I read Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, made all the more poignant by Alan Rickman's death mid-way, and Saul Bellow's Him With His Foot In His Mouth.  I am coming to an end of Chris Cleave' The Other Hand, and have Vanessa Diffenbaugh's Language of Flowers lined up and ready to bloom.

The reason why I have not blogged any of this is partly because I have no camera bar the one on a tablet, and partly because I never find the time. Jo's preparation for the transfer test has been replaced by Interesting Homeworks and Days in School. So once a week for more than a month now I have been racing about with him making and sourcing Victorian costume (visit to Folk Park), snow items (Book Day: the Snow merchant), baking and decorating many, many, many buns (P7 Fun Day), and reading all about the Irish Famine, the Victorian Workhouse, Victorian toys....

Conscious all the while that time flies, and that my high octane suns are becoming their own men, circling their own orbits now, and providing sources of energy in other places as well as in mine. Thank goodness for books and crochet!

Wishing you all a gentle end to your winter, or summer! I'm hoping to post some photos and some book reviews and some tales of life outside the Meadowplace, but in the meantime, Happy February x

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