FoundationsOctober 16, 2017
‘Go’ said God, or did I just imagine it, did all the coincidences and happen-chances not add up to a shout. And so I went, with a little trepidation, with a spirit and determination to meet adventure. ‘Go’ I’d whisper as troubles rose, ‘go until…’
‘Stay’ said God, or did I imagine it, stay in this land that looks so different and yet familiar, stay with these limitations that your birthplace inadvertently bestowed. Stay where you will not find belonging in such a simple form. See I’ve made a path, a path that leads here, to this land, this city, this is where you shall dwell. ‘Stay’ I’d whisper as troubles rose, ‘stay until…’
‘Grow’ said God, or did my heart just do it without bidding. Grow friendships and conversations, smiles and tears, hardships and blessings. Grow a family, a community, a way of being who you are in this land, this town, this little patch of God’s earth. ‘Grow’ I’d whisper as troubles rose, ‘grow until…’
Then last year a new message came unbidden. A new message that did not whisper and build to a crescendo, but crashed suddenly, a cymbal in the still air. That message was ‘release’. ‘No’ I replied. but it was out of my hands, the rope had been broken, the fire started, the roots separated, the foundations rocked. All those threads and securities that had held promise for the one day fell, a myriad of Velcro hooks unlatching. My foundations wobbled so violently I drifted aimlessly.
Release is not a stage you expect to go through, it comes when you’ve sailed the seas of culture shock many times, when you’ve stopped referring to only one particular country as your place of origin, when you realise that it’s more than a just a few major events the ocean has separated you from. Release comes as the roots that once drew water from afar dry and crack and you mourn them each passing. Release is freeing as it’s painful, it stops the clock and puts it away in the cupboard.
As summer ended we made a new home space in a way that was slow and expensive and lasting. We kept justifying our doing so by trusting this was where we would remain for some years. Before I had gone ‘until’, stayed ‘until’, grown ‘until’ but now I’ve gone, stayed, grown and found a place to dwell. When I chose my word this year to be ‘invest’ I felt so adrift I craved security, it was, in some ways, a selfish word, a word that puts the emphasis on our plans over His. But as the year has progressed I’ve seen how my limited view needed to expand, how my ‘until’ mentality has had to be released, how my British identity has to uncoil, how my every progress is only fulfilled by his strength. As we roll into the final straight of the year I realise that this safe space was God giving me a new foundation, a new launchpad, an investment not into trinkets that will one day decay but into a community that I will no longer be passing through.
One day the call may come again, one day the whisper of ‘return’ may float in the air around me, but this year the word is invest, and so we build, secure, establish, and settle in for the journey of watching and serving the the world that moves around about us.
When totschool changedMay 14, 2017
Spring came, unfurling it’s opportunities to get out of the house and explore, it knocked our tot-school, upped our social life and lead letter Y and Z to spread their merge activities over more than a week each. With letter ‘Z’ now finished I thought I’d share the beautiful and unexpected continuation to our journey.
It started with a request from a friend, to take their little boy (6 months older than Adam) for the mornings. The first week was a steep learning curve, my language faltered, my children’s ministry mind wanted to plan activities, the boys were adjusting and the house suddenly felt rather small. Out came toys to be scattered, tot-school went out the window as alphabets were not shared, and my cupboard full of art materials was scoured with a shaken head more than once.
Adam is confident with his letters, numbers, shapes and colours after our first trip through the alphabet. So, with the days changing, I happily pressed the pause button on the ‘formal concept learning’ in favour of ‘skills learning’ to hone gross and fine motor skills, interactive play, turn taking, instructions, etc.
I’ve just finished week 2 of the two boys in the morning, we had a bit of a break between weeks, and this time I was prepared. I’d found loads of ideas and yet what transpired was setting up a 2 part activity morning. Free play with the addition of a play prompt followed by a table time activity and then outside time if the weather allowed, food and final bits before nap wrapped up out time together.
We’ll alternate weeks between having corporate play mornings and weeks of just our little family. I’m hoping the quieter weeks will still hold at least one play prompt of creative activity, perhaps with a concept learning slant. However, for the next fortnight we have grandparents visiting so no tot school or corporate play mornings.
I thought I’d share our weekday corporate play mornings activities in lieu of tot school for this week.
Reversing the flowMay 13, 2017
As part of my year of investing I’ve been trying to invest in my spiritual well being a bit more. It’s easy to pass the buck on this, onto the scripture I need to study for ‘work’, the time spent in church buildings, the ever filling prayer list, especially when personal time is precious. Truthfully it’s not a discipline I’m great at holding but pushing myself this year changed the way I saw retreat.
Last year I was blessed to get the chance to do the Velvet Ashes retreat and it was great, but this year I wasn’t alone. As the two of us sat in the rented apartment making our way through the material it felt like my thirsty soul, that had been fed through brief showers, was submerged in an ocean. My recent discipline of a daily pause to let scripture breathe it’s influence had changed the way I examined the beautiful material we worked though. I was more realistic and prepared to dream of moving the practices forward. I was surprised to recognise how much the daily repetition had changed the moments of silent struggle into opportunities for me to ask…
‘How can I connect with God in this moment?’
The more of motherhood I experience the more the pull and push and battle over priorities and time and focus grows. While I’ll willingly endure a hiatus to personal plans for my child’s early years, my mental health still needs a separate identity, my spirit needs watering, my relationship with a my saviour needs nurturing. The balance teeters on a knife edge.
For me the echo that will last from the retreat is not a lot of extra practices but rather turning that ‘pause moment’ sentence upside down. It’s not just about how I can connect, but also how I can allow God to connect with me. As part of our exercises we did some centreing prayer time, space where we just dwell in the presence of God without an agenda. It’s a practice I’ve found myself returning to. It’s a deep place and yet it’s so simple.
I didn’t realise how spent, exhausted and empty I’d felt even though I’d found space and rhythm and joy in life. It took the slow process of a truth seed planted and nurtured and protected to show me why. My energy, my faith, my enthusiasm was all flowing one way… out. I was frantically building my steps up to God and ignoring the ladder he’s already lowered down. I was parched and yet raising my diving board ever further from water. I need to learn not just to taste but to dine on God’s words, to dive into the wellspring, breathe in the ever present God and recognise he is in this space with me.
The space we get at the edges of life, the times to pause are so precious and yet so often filled running in the shadow of the rapidly falling hourglass sands. We get so wrapped up in out own reality our connection gets condensed into whispered arrow prayers. Clearly, some moments my heart is heavy and dripping with the need to share, but other times I’m learning to whisper in the quietness of my heart ‘Lord, I come to you’ and as my fingers uncurl and my eyes close I bask in the miracle of being a child of the divine.