Journey

comments on life, thoughts on God, my journey and oh the STUFF that gets thrown at me

It started with a …

hairband. Never thought it would end up with me in a supermarket car park praying for something, a word out of sight, a notion, a piece of wisdom carved in rock I could carry with me. I was fleetingly plumbing the depths.

I lost my hairband. I lost my identity. My life was that hairband. I threw it on and people thought I had groomed and the bits that stuck out were a new coiffure style not yet encountered (on the planet).

Hairband was less than a month old. I probably wore it every day for two weeks and it became a part of my morning routine. Dress, throw hairband on, grab keys, gulp coffee, go. I have this down to five minutes but I can do it in three if pushed.

I had cast hairband in a starring role. I have done much visualising of my future, casting a net over buildings and imagining me in those architectural nightmares. It is part of the coaching, life skills, communications guru stuff I have gone through in the last while.

Hairband was supposed to get me ready. It is part of the routine except that on Wednesday in Dublin I left it behind in the guest house and arrived at college sans hairband. Everyone noticed. Well actually that is a slight exaggeration, no one noticed. It was in my head that what was on my head mattered. But it is my head so to me it mattered.

I missed hairband, it added structure to my exterior. The hair is a woman’s crowning glory and hairband was my crown. Because it was all about the paintwork. It reminded me of the Year of Self Control. I learned so many things in that year about other people and their perceptions and also after nine months discovered why I was to focus on self control.

It wasn’t about the money, clothes or coiffured hair. It was about sitting and listening to some news that rocked my world without reacting in “old self” ways. A number of years previous to this I had not learned this valuable life lesson and sought out numbness in all the wrong places. I remember the morning I so wanted to go to church but family ties meant I caught a plane instead. I guess I did have the beginnings of knowing where to turn but not the gumption to halt proceedings.

My world rocked on its hinges, fell off the axis and smashed. The history I had built my life on disappeared and a new history began to appear. A history that took time to form and questions raised and answers sought. But it is formed now.I didn’t need a hairband for that.

What is it about talismans, necklaces, brooches and hairbands that make us feel more confident? And was this what I was pinning on that hairband – confidence? Surely not, after life coaching and guru communication sessions. Surely now was the time to stand confident in Christ alone. For an hour or so I smugly agreed I did not need a hairband.

And then I left the confines of the building into a howling Dublin wind and realised the real reason I needed a hairband was to keep my hair out of my eyes. So I bought a new one and wore that to the meeting. It was not about hairbands.

So what brought me to the supermarket car park? I lost focus, and navel gazed too long. I was remembering a similar journey three years ago. Could my pride allow me to go through the door? I sent out a prayer request for urgent covering as I sought God’s opinion. The answer I got was yes there will be humility involved but He would protect me from humiliation.

I continued on the path that would teach me more about humility than I had expected and with no massive cost of face. I was just myself and fielded the questions and answers with the ease God has given me. Confidence comes from God not a hairband.

Jeremiah 17:7

‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him’

Such confidence we have through Christ before God.
It is with His confidence I continue walking along a precarious path. I was reminded of the delicate veil between old and new when talking to someone stuck in a moment this week. On one day this week I met some struggling and someone hiding behind a facade of propriety. And I looked at myself through a different lens, where was I on the line of “in it” and “over it.” This took me down a few different routes of self discovery and awareness.
And I got here ….
Focus
Focus
Focus
on God alone, Christ alone, Spirit alone
and all those “troubles” will stay clear.
through writing this piece I realised I sang and stole lyrics or concepts along the way so …
It started with a kiss never thought it would end like this
stuck in a moment
stranded at the drive thru – branded a fool
brain drain

Recall for recall

I got a letter today, recalling my vehicle for a small adjustment and it got me thinking about life and the need to recall. There is, of course, the wonderful example of Mary who treasured up memories to ponder on later. She could at a later time reach into her treasure chest of memories and be encouraged and soothed by special times.

How can one word have two radically different meanings?

Recalling in relation to revoking, or bring back was first used in 1580’s French and thirty years later it began to be used in the sense of bringing back to memory. Eidetic memory or photographic memory is the ability to totally recall events as if they were in front of you.

I have always struggled with this photographic memory I had no need to hone. It was just there, not always wanted. I think it sometimes annoys people that I remember clothes, stance, words.

Last year someone clearly said something to me that knocked me a bit, it didn’t floor me or make me curl into a ball. But a few months later when they denied or forgot they had spoken those words I wondered. I could clearly recall them and yet they couldn’t do the same thing.

{editor note – I had written this some months ago}

When I recall now distant memories from my childhood, I wonder how much is skewed by my perception or whether it is coloured by others perceptions. For example I had an ace day once with my dad on the dodgems at a local fair in some kind of town or village. When I got home, for once I gave up the information of where I had been and how ace it had been. Stony silence was followed by “he only took you because he wanted to go”

But now I wonder… why the stoniness… why the fair?

Did I actually experience this event or has my perception been so skewed?

I sometimes long for a letter to come to recall me to the factory to be reset to default settings.

 

plot{lines}

The news hit me like a tidal wave that took not only my breath but also my entire history away. My childhood had been like walking across a never-ending stretch of quicksand. I had to keep moving or I would sink without trace.

 

So who am I? This person with no history. How do I rebuild a new history that is not a tissue of lies from other people but a true reflection of what really happened for all the people concerned.

 

Alopecia and vomit stained overcoats, where was the love? How did the participants in my coming into the world actually get together and why? What made them stay together beyond a year or two?

 

I was reading a story and lost the plot, it disappeared and I didn’t know where to go to find it. I walked in Dublin and cried on the tree lined avenues, the red brick semi-detached houses made me feel more alienated than ever. I walked to my train on Wednesday, again not wanting to go home. Because I didn’t know how to be the me they knew anymore. I was a different me and they found that hard.

 

On Thursday I went to Ballybunion with Lorelei and we walked on the beach and I realised I didn’t lose the plot because that plotline never existed, it was their imagination.

 

My reality is not in their imagination and so now it is necessary to go back to the beginning and work out a real plot. I shall scrutinise all the characters and it may be a time for some pruning. Too many characters can spoil the plot.

 

I remember reading someone’s blog, I think it may have been the white space author when she had a complete epiphany and had to rewrite her history and that is what I have to do. But I never expected this. I wanted the Disney story of being brought up in the wrong home. Or being sent to Mallory Towers, I would even have accepted “care.”

 

Throughout my life I have wanted those things, because I did not belong to the historical framework of my family and I knew it. Somehow, deep down I knew I was being fed untruths, not the full story, lies and deceit. But I always thought it was because underneath the solid rock of our shared history was something so awful “about me.”

 

The freedom I feel now is like a 51-year-old weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It isn’t my fault; there is no one to blame. We were just child pawns, in a very grown up game of chess. My brother and I are known for picking up our ball and leaving the playing field. My sister stays on the pitch crying out for us all to come back.

 

Weirdly then, it is I who wants to bring some peace and clarity to all our lives, I want to give a voice to people who have had no voice. I want to explore with them what it means to live, truly live. And maybe, just maybe I will share.

An NCT of my Spiritual Life

Earlier this year my car needed an NCT. I don’t drive it much but for the six months before there had been an orange light which in my mind meant lots of money. NCT’s are vital to ensure safety on the roads and to keep emissions within acceptable limits. But I also knew it might cost me a great deal.
I had these questions running through my head…

What will it reveal?

What work will need to be done?

Occasionally I think about taking an NCT of my spiritual life. But the same questions arise: 

 What will it reveal?

What work will need to be done?

I know it will do me good but …

Thinking about prayer life, Bible reading, and spiritual disciplines, never mind fasting, silence, solitude and I begin to get a bit nervous. Perhaps even shades of inadequacy and guilt even arrive, uninvited.

Jesus talks about when we …

Pray

Fast

Give

Some of the basics of a healthy spiritual life are part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus does not say “if we pray” there is an implicit imperative of “When …”. But we can adapt how we do these things to our lifestyle. 

As we go through life we enter different seasons, I was reminded by a really good friend recently, how for her a friendship can be for a season but then she lets the person go. For me, I go through seasons but the people I pray for do not diminish but increase in time, i.e. My friends list increases.

For each of our seasons we have to find a rhythm that works for us and engages us in meaningful spiritual practices. For me there is no point aiming for some really high church value, I am not going to engage for long and I am not going to sustain any commitment. For another person, a daily prayer offered by the C of I may be the right springboard. So the rhythm that I choose has to be authentic to who I am. 

Secondly it has to be releasing and life giving. Many times in my life I have started something that appeared to give energy but within a few days drained and depleted me. It has to have relevance to my life so although I tap into resources created by Ignatius, Benedict and Lawrence I skew them to fit into my life. Some of these real spiritual guys got up at 3 and 4 just to fit in their daily spiritual discipline. I am never going to do that, but I find 5 in the summer and 6 in the winter appropriate for me.

At that time in the morning it is all about prayer, on my knees or lying face down on the floor (insert holy word for this that I don’t know) I might read one verse of scripture to help me or a phrase. I pray about my day, about people, situations, and most of all I talk to God about him. I guess the psalmist would know the word for it. Sometimes it can get a bit lamenty and the possibility of a pity party ensues but because I guess I am on my knees I remember who it is all about and it is not about me. 

I read my Bible as I eat breakfast. Two new routines for this year and tied together, at least for five of the days. I don’t rush this time, my porridge won’t allow it. It would burn my lips. So I read slowly, meditatively whilst slowly eating spoon after spoon. The rhythm of reading, eating and breathing working together for my good.
There are many practices out there regarding spiritual disciplines, a new way each time I look at the shiny new books. The disciplines have not changed, but how we apply them, make time for them, dare I suggest prioritise them in our lives. 
One of my favourite misspellings is practice or practise. I love the fact that when writing these words within the realm of spiritual disciplines it can be very telling of where we are at within this sphere…

I practise spiritual discipline continuously, all day every day. I am not a “holy joe,” it just feels right to spend as much time as possible in God’s rhythm. My practice is all about the spiritual disciplines. So I am noun and verb into the spiritual disciplines.

There are a number of ways in which this way of life has impacted my daily comings and goings. Amazingly my new transportation device has had the biggest impression and I find myself faffing all day long.

Faffing is probably the wrong word, as it is an intentional living. But I am sure from the outside it looks like faffing. For example admin jobs that should only take ten or so minutes seem to take hours as I pray for each individual and situation. 

There are areas, as there always are that need improvement. I could fast more effectively, for sure. I could be more intentional in my giving, and do more with less.

It would have been easy for me to ignore the orange light, put off the NCT and carried motoring on. But I think it was necessary for the car and for me.

What will it reveal?

What work needs to be done?

All the distractions in the world need to be pushed aside, a quiet place found and an opening up of my heart to the rhythm of God to point out where the orange light is and where perhaps there is a red light. It will reveal where I could do better and it will be useful to me as I journey on. 

P. of R.

I met a girl today whose point of reference had been ripped from her grasp and she looked  and sounded lost. The empathy I feel for such people kicked in and I found myself saying “I am so sorry that happened to you like that, I wish I had been around for you to talk to” 

She was a little girl lost, in a sea of grown up waves crashing down unmercifully on her body. She didn’t know how this new reference point was going to play out. Her life needed to be rewritten with this new lens attached. I saw her pain, it almost visible as she jerked in her seat, thrusting her body forward then throwing it back. Her arms like tentacles could not stay still. She lurched from topic to topic. I prayed for her, what else could I do. I could not rewrite her history for her, I was too busy checking in with my history to see what impact {if any} this piece of information might fit.

For me, the news made sense. It wasn’t that it explained a whole pile of stuff. It did coat everything in a layer of honesty. Because that made sense, that my whole life was somehow a lie. Or without full disclosure. But now I had that information it slotted in like the keys in the movie “city of Ember” allowing clarity to flood in my consciousness. 

I choose not to name the information here, I choose to leave it anonymously in the background, I choose to love the lost girl and the found girl and I choose to be kind and love myself in the wake of the discovery.

Publish

When I write I don’t think about publishing or books {although technically I publish here each time}. My concern is with getting down on paper {technically – screen} whatever has come into my head as quickly as possible before my aged head forgets the thought.

From time to time someone comes alongside and whispers “publish” in my ear and for a few seconds my head turns. For the longest time it was about fear; fear of failure & fear of succeeding, fear of criticism and fear of my name becoming known.

It is not about fear anymore. It is about perspective. In 2 Corinthians 8 we meet this person:

And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.

This brother is praised for his service to the gospel. He is famous for exalting the name of Jesus, not his own. He is nameless. His name is not important. The important thing is that in his life and work – Jesus is exalted and he gives Him all the glory.

I heard about this guy earlier in the summer and something clicked, I had tried to explain over a dozen times this year alone why I was not comfortable with publishing being the aim and failed miserably. But now, I had a verse in the Bible to help me.

At the weekend I shared a few poems with a great bunch of people who were more than kind and full of encouragement {that I have been told to remember} and some asked could they share the poems with their home groups. The words ‘publish’ and ‘book’ were said and I explained it was not something I was aspiring to.

Later on in his second letter to the Corinthians Paul says:

But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’

And I guess that is where I am at, my writing reflects my life in Christ. I do not need to be ‘published.’

There is a German hymn that Charles Wesley translated into English that says “Let us in life {and} in death thy {Your} steadfast truth declare and publish with our latest breath {with each breath} thy love and guardian care {Your love}”

That is the kind of publishing I want to see – all over this land… speaking the name of Jesus, doing life according to His will, being steadfast in faith… giving the Lord Almighty all the glory.

 

Hiatus over

I was supposed to write the great novel of all novels this summer. I was to start on July 1st and write 1500 words each day and yesterday I would have finished. But life had a way of messing me about. I was in such turmoil and pain on June 25th that I did not notice two weeks go by and then it was too late to start. {wasn’t it!}

I decided I would catch up and use a notebook to write rather than laptop or tablet. I bought a pen and notebook. I opened the book, pen in hand expecting the story to flow from my brain to the page in one long fluid movement. But it didn’t happen and I put the pen and notebook away, it wasn’t the right time to start. {was it!}

Every now and then through the summer I would contemplate the missing manuscript. I was kind to myself, I did not berate. Few people knew of my intention so I did not have to publicly humiliate myself. I was good about it. Well not completely…

I was a little disconcerted that I couldn’t write, because it is what I do. I put down on paper stories and poems that come from situations and people, I steal conversations from coffee shops and weave them into a tellable tale. And I had stopped. Not just the actuality of writing it down but I had stopped the rhythm in my head that floated in and out of prose and poetic form. It’s the only rhythm I possess being clunky and clumsy in real life, bodily function.

In my head I can pirouette with a stanza and waltz with a new word, found on my travels.  It it was all gone, as the song goes, I was pretty vacant. I remembered the first time I lost it and that took me on a different path this summer… One of rest and refreshment, of drinking in the word of God, of feeding on sermon after sermon. I practiced the disciplines and did not much of anything else. I did not want to lose connection, and live without God’s rhythm feeding my own.

I was patient {I know … So not me} and I waited on the Lord. Last night he opened up within me such a fire of rhythm I could not use words to give it justice. And now, I know my rhythm is back. I see stories bouncing around and I am spoiled as to which story I use first. I am letting the songs and poetry out first so that the stories can take more form. This marks the return of the rhythm and the stories unfold.