Talenkynic arrives in Dromdrevc

It was decided I would die on my birthday, my parents and the guardians agreed. Death was to take place in the Quuadravik. The town square. All the ritual killings took place there and for my parents there was honour attached to the place of my death. Lesser children were killed by the Gorthachiv, the garbage hole, and disposed of immediately. My body would be in repose for a week, to allow celebrations and fraternising of the higher families.

My schooling stopped on the day the deal was set, there was a month for my body to be prepared for the day. Each morning I took a ritual bath whilst bitter herbs infused the water and honey, cleansing every part of me. In the afternoon my hair was plaited in the intricate patterns, one for each day, I carried a countdown calendar to my own demise on my head. Evenings were spent with the local guardian, it was their responsibility to ensure my mind, heart and innards were scourged of the evil that had brought this death penalty to me.

What crime did I commit? That of laziness, around the Quuadravik was the Path of Right Thinking, the local rule was: To step on the Path, a person must complete the entire Path before continuing their journey. I was walking with Dorinek, listening to his boasts, not caring about the unlikeliness of the tales because he had the most gorgeous blue eyes and they were concentrating on me. A classic case of girl meets boy, in being in this bubble of “teen love” I accidentally stepped onto the Path. I lithely jumped across as if I hadn’t touched it and continued gazing into those blue eyes. Dorinek told me to go back, he got all grumpy with me and stalked off, I didn’t see him again. From what I heard he immediately told the guardian of my folly and the rest is history.

So there I was on the afternoon of my birthday, plaited, dressed and ready for the procession to the town square when the great guardian arrived from Dromdrevc. My parents although quite high in our town, were not high enough for a visit from him on a death day. But there he was, and there I was and very shortly afterwards the two of us were in Dromdrevc in front of the guardianship…

The Turf Bank

As I bent down once again creating the stook at the edge of the bank I cursed my absent husband. It was the one place, and the one job that I missed him most, turf. Three hours so far today I had been stooping and placing sods of turf in the intricate design known as a stook, many hours this year I had spent turning and footing the damned stuff. It was his smell that surrounded me, his voice in my ear. Not sweet nothings, it is an extensive rulebook, little stories ran through my mind like the day he came back from the bog berating poor Jerry Pa.

“Girl, a fierce day at the bog, the wind would cut ye in two. Saw young Jerry Pa, what a scoundrel, his daddy would roll over in his grave to see him trat the sods like that. His turf’ll be so wet and heavy he’ll never raise smoke from his fireplace this winter. Took it straight off the ground and threw it into an abstract kind of a stook. Tis no way to treat turf. Treat it right and it’ll warm the coldest of hearts come winter.”

 

I remember when I first asked in all innocence what a foot was. He laughed heartily “Maybe the villagers are right about ye, a flighty young one from the city, knowing nothing about turf. Lil you’ll be at the bog one day, and I’ll tell ye, all in good time.”

 

I was from Cork city, a civilised place with gas to heat us in the winter and a coal fire on special occasions. I married Dan when I was twenty two, fresh out of college and full of life, Dan was a fully paid up member of the bachelor club until I arrived this year according to the old men gossiping after Mass, he was forty four.

We had first met when I was sixteen and running away from home because my brother, the sneaky little pup had stolen my diary and read it to the gang of kids we hung out with. Full of teenager-angst he told them all I had a crush on Timmy, the unofficial leader of our pack. My diary no more said those words than if the Pope had a baby, himself. So I was on the train to Mallow, with a bag of clothes, a tenner and a packet of biscuits. Dan, was just the man sitting opposite, nose in a book, he didn’t blip on my radar, owld one. The train had been getting up speed over the viaduct when it made a sudden stop. Dan fell forward over the table and we banged heads.

 

Through apologies and smiles, I noticed he had wrinkly lines around deep blue eyes. The guard didn’t come down to tell us why we’d stopped and we started to chat pondering on the situation ideas from cow on the track to alien attack, we had great fun laughing at the more preposterous stories. He had a flask of tea and offered me some so I got out my food store and we had a mini picnic. He was great fun for such an old man.

We became friends, he helped me through the tough teenage years by phone and by letter. Dan encouraged me to continue my studies and he began a courtship, old-fashioned courtship of me, during my college years. The day of my last exam, he swept me off to Kerry and proposed in The Square, Listowel. We married months later, no children were to grace our step but he was a good man and I still missed him five years on. Crying softly to myself I bent down and continued the ritual of stooking.

enemies at the door

Psalm 13

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Do you have enemies? Is there an army about to invade your teritory? Are you stuck in the middle of an adversary’s land, unable to break free to your home? These images are from a different world, a world of swords and fighting, combatants to the death, aren’t they?

There are times in everyone’s life when the world seems against them, when in speaking they are shot down, their actions are misinterpreted. There are situations that are difficult, at some points they seem impossible, unsurmountable problems line up like a never ending hurdle race.

I have a friend who lives like this, once she overcomes one hurdle there is another in the way, she cannot get out of the hurdle race and with each hurdle another piece of baggage is added. This woman is so burdened, and every day becomes more so.

The startling thing is she is comfortable in this place, she likes having enemies, she enjoys the battle, in passive resistance she is queen. A victim that encourages the tag victim, I meet her every now and then, she always has a tale to tell, of how she has been wronged, of how she was right.

She is safe in her insecurities, she is at home with a warzone in her neighbourhood. Have you ever felt comfortable in this place, unable to get out of it because it is familiar, it is normal, it is your normal. From the age of eleven I embarked on a journey that would change history, for me. I am not a king or queen or celebrity, I was not trying to change any one else’s history, only mine. I was reckless in my pursuit of this enemy. I was also, as it happens, not very good at it, so I spent a lifetime pursuing something that I was useless at.

In hindsight of course I am glad I was failure, but at the time, it just dragged me down a little bit further. When my world collided with my friend’s fifteen or so years ago we embraced each other’s issues, we showed each other where we were going wrong and how to change it. We were fixers, we could fix other people but we couldn’t fix ourselves.

My friend has me on her enemy list now, I don’t blame her, she sees that I have become someone new and it scares her, she can’t relate to me anymore because I am different, all my hurdles are mere one foot fences to step over. Yes they still exist but I am not racing alone anymore, I have a running partner, someone who offered his life for mine, someone who has given me boundless love.

I no longer race in the pursuit of death, and that for me is ironic, I am assured of eternal life and yet I can wait patiently now to receive it. I watch my friend, I want to help, but I know that like me, she has to make that leap herself, I can be there for her, I can listen to her tales of woe, I can watch as like a magnet around iron, she brings, she encourages more burdens to her. I pray for her, and I hope that one day she asks the Lord into her life, so she can rejoice and be glad.

Dear Lord

Thank you for answered prayers, though I came to you kicking and screaming for many years, when I came broken and bare to the core, you held me. Lord as stuff happens in my life I know you are there shouldering the brunt. helping me through each situation. Lord I pray for this friend and for all the people in my life who don’t know you, who shun you, who ignore you, I pray that they too will turn and see the Light, see the Truth, see You and open the door and let you in. Thank you Lord for this new creation that I am, that you created, all glory to you, Lord, all praise to you. Thank you for the amazing grace and mercy you continue to bestow on me as I mess up, thank you for the love, the never ending, never changing love that surround me and is in me. Thank You Lord for pitching your tent in my heart.

Amen

changed

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

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What is your heart looking like today? If you were to imagine a reflection of it, which is what other people see, would it be the soft pulsating organ, or would the reflection look like grafitti on an abandoned warehouse, or would it be like a pile of rubbish hidden behind bars or perhaps the reflection of a crumbling aging wall, tired from the journey, wanting rest?

The love, grace and mercy we have received from God should be apparent in our lives, not just on Sunday when we are as a congregation on our best behaviour, but that best behaviour should be apparent all day, every day.

It should be the way we are, to our children, to our parents, to family, to friends, to enemies and to any random person we meet in our everyday life. The check out person, the bank teller, the teacher, the pupil, all can see the reflection of our heart, let us make it a beautiful reflection.

Sometimes stuff happens that makes us revert to type, how other people have seen us in our past comes to the fore, we have to fight against that and keep our hearts and the reflection of our hearts as it is now. The broken hearted, remade into a soft loving heart that lives in the grace and mercy we have received and that wonderful love we have been given for free from the Lord.

Staying calm in the face of adversity makes the adversary unsure, the work that is going on in them is not from God, so being still and staying calm un-nerves them, they can’t understand it, they don’t “get” the difference in us because they expect someone different. I was at a lady’s house once a couple of years ago, she vehemently attacked me for being still whilst the conversation was going around, but in my stillness I was given a glimpse of a horrific ordeal from many years ago, long forgotten, not even on my radar of stuff to deal with, at her hands. In her vehemence I saw the real her, not the lady she presented to the world, I caught a glimpse of her heart and it was ugly, I saw images of extreme brutality, of extreme violence and all coated in sugar.

She has no idea that the thirty minutes I spent with her led me down a path, a wonderful blessed path of redemption, of forgiveness, of love because I didn’t want the reflection of my heart to have Myra Hindley in the mix, I couldn’t live with that bitterness and hatred and I realised I needed to change so I didn’t end up scared, alone, full of barriers and walls.

That was 2003, and it has taken me on a wild journey but I can honestly say my heart is soft, and nothing can change that unless I allow it. I have been made into a new creation, for which I am eternally grateful, and now facing a situation that doesn’t make human sense to me, watching a drama enfold having that question in my head, “Why do bad things….?” and being able to remain at peace, be still, rest in the arms of the Lord, waiting with patience, the answer will come, the words needed will come. Even facing the unthinkable, with the Lord makes it so much easier to bear.

I look back, just over 20 months to a similar situation, how it took me completely by surprise, the emotional response, blind sided by how much I loved this person. Today, I pondered had I instead of becoming soft had become hard because I was able to cope better. And the answer came, no, my heart is soft, I am not hardened to the situation, I have been prepared for this time, but more than that, this time I have my head resting against the shoulder of the Lord, the strength is not my own but the Lord’s. The emotions are the same, I am distraught and yet able to continue my daily life. The difference was noted, and I was able to share my faith with someone else grieving.

Faith, hope and love, along with the unending grace and mercy, allows us to be a true reflection, not distorted by things blind siding us, not distorted by the past, not distorted by momentary reactions in the present. Yes, we are going to get angry, be hurt, grieve, but we can let them go, we can place those emotions at the foot of the Cross and we can continue unburdened by them. We can see the rays of light through the cloud that help us and strengthen us enabling us to carry on.

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Socks

There is something extremely intimate and personal in having someone put your socks on. There is a trust placed in the sock putter on that they will achieve ultimate sock satisfaction. On the other hand there is something humbling about being on your knees putting on socks.

I remember when my children were small having a wrestling match to get socks on, they wanted to be footloose, not hemmed in by socks and shoes, I’d chase them round the house, and inevitably it turned into a game that we ended up in a heap in giggles,  enjoying the moment, forgetting the socks.

I have been sock putter on, massager of legs, wound checker, dressing changer, wine deliverer, cook, washer up, duster, sweeper, post collector, newspaper deliverer, grocery shopper, freezer filler, plant waterer and feeder, washer, dryer and ironer for a week to my mother. I didn’t notice any of the chores, sure there was nothing else to do, until there was a third party in the room, and suddenly from the reaction on the third party’s face there was something not right in the tone of “Susan get Julie some wine.” I polished and cleaned with gusto, trying not to notice that items were re-placed by fractions of millimetres, that dishes were checked for cleanliness, cutlery and glasses for sparkle. Trying to be I suppose the dutiful daughter, coming out of love, caught up in all the feelings from a life time ago not of giggles, heaps and forgotten socks.

Yesterday, she waited until my siblings were present before raising her right hand with two socks in the palm. I just got on my knees put on the socks and the shoes and got back up again, my sister had her mouth open. In that orifice I could see she would never stoop to put on socks, she would never succumb to the love that was needed to care for someone usually so brittle caught unawares by the frailty of surgery, she would never do what I had just done. Looking to my oldest sibling, my brother, the pragmatic philosopher, the I am trying to be as intelligent as you by putting you down all the time, brother. He was aghast, a ghostly, ghastly, aghast. Whether it was seeing me, the independent, no one is going to tie me down, I am doing it my way or no way, in such a humble stance. Perhaps the nuance in movement needed to create the reaction in me of falling to my knees, surprised by the hand gesture calling me immediately to task, or like my sister unable to slump to the floor at the foot of the person that caused so much pain for him as a child.

Being on my knees is natural to me, natural to me in my new normal, natural to me because I bask in the glow of the love of the Lord, my Lord, my Saviour, and that love, that overwhelming, never changing, always equal love, has helped me breathe in and out when I found that hard, has helped me stand tall, taller than I have ever been in the face of adversity and has strengthened me and helped me get down on my hands and knees and put socks on in love.

Mothers’ Day in Manchester

We had a family gathering today, it is not something I am keen on, but sometimes due to illness or death the clan comes together. The family in question is my mother and my siblings, one male, one female. I am always at some point in the day cast as the baddie, the one who argues, the one who causes “an atmosphere”, the one that sticks out like a sore thumb. I have defence mechanisms for such occasions, I speak only when spoken to and keep my answers to a minimum of words. The least said, the less chance of being the one in the wrong.

I am forty six years old, the youngest of three and when we get together I feel ten and the cuckoo in the nest. Our starters hadn’t arrived today when I was told to “Stop it” through gritted vicious teeth. Today though I stuck up for myself and felt better for it, “Did you really just tell me to stop it, seriously” That wasn’t the start though, when my siblings arrived I was mid-tweet, so on bringing them up to the apartment I returned to finish it. “Put that away” I did as I was told and closed the laptop, both siblings got their phones out within seconds and ebayed, facebooked, tweeted or looked at their reflection, no comment. I sat quietly, the two siblings picked up magazines and began to read. I went out for a cigarette. The wrong thing to do, why do I always do the wrong thing. It is wrong for me to have my laptop open, it is wrong for me to leave when there is no conversation.

Of course things could only go downhill from there. When it was suggested that my husband wasn’t that tall, I replied, “No, he’s shorter than me, so not tall,” for some reason the conversation continued about his height culminating in me having to say “He’s taller than me, the same height, he can be whatever height you want”

I ate my starter slowly, not for any particular reason, it was a very nice tomato and basil salad and I was enjoying it. “Was I finished? Was I leaving it for my main course?” No I was just taking my time. I watched my siblings, my sister was being sarcastic and ironic, everything a joke, but with a nasty bitter aftertaste. My brother was silent unless spoken to, as was I. How did I get the flak? How did I manage to get cast as the baddie again? It all goes pear-shaped, and it is my fault.

Let’s blame me, we’ll wash over the sarcastic comment followed by three sets of laughter aimed at my faith, we’ll gloss over the pointed remarks about my not working, we will even forget that no one bothered to thank me for bailing them out this last week. What we are left with are barbed comments, my defence and that yet again, I am the worst daughter in the history of the world.

Dear Lord, thank you for accepting me into your family, in the crook of your arm I can rest, not for a few seconds respite but for all eternity. Thank you Lord that for the past week I have looked after my mother with the loving care needed. Lord when things go pear-shaped and there is no one to turn to for support, you are there, when the world is full of support, you are there. Lord you are amazing, thank you for the changes you have made in my life. Thank you that I can shed off the mantle of being the worst daughter, that for you I am equal with everyone else, we are all your precious children. We are loved. I am loved and I love you. Thank you Lord, amen