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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.

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.

Serving in stillness (rest)March 30, 2017

This weeks theme is rest and it’s something I’ve actually found myself ahead of the ball on for once. I’m fighting for alone time but I’ve found a rhythm that, at least for the while, seems to leave me less exhausted and more excited than daunted about work.

I’ve let go of my expectations as I recognise what to invest in, it’s given me permission to trust God is still working when I’m not. Invest…these’s that word again, my word for the year seeping into my everyday. This process of investing may conjure up visions of building ones pile, or digging the earth and tending the saplings, but in practice it’s turned out to be much more about pruning. Perhaps you can grow beautiful roses in the dense jungle but they will be more appreciated and easier to tend in well pruned flowerbeds. And that’s where rest comes in, because last year I was trying to do so much and feeling so much personal disappointment as my to do list grew ever longer.

So my days are now in a pattern that build in rest and work and time to be open to the day. Zeljko often goes off to work at a friends house and I tend Adam alone for the later part of the morning. We play, I may get space to browse my phone or sort some laundry but it’s not what that time is for. Today we painted with bubbles in the dirt, tomorrow we may build a Duplo house to be saved from fire or go explore the canal and pick dandelions. After we’ve eaten a light lunch and I’ve sat the 30-45 minutes in a darkened room Adam is (fingers crossed) asleep.

Last year at this point I’d go rushing into the thousands of jobs I’d mentally been listing all morning, but no longer. It’s not healthy for me and I’ve no chance of finishing them even if I exhaust myself – I would have ended up resentfully picking up my toddler when he wakes, while realising how much was left wanting. Instead I use this precious ‘me’ time to listen to the daily meditation and a light workout on the wii. 20 minutes later I make a cuppa and settle at the computer for work. I know that limits my time, but I’m mentally, physically and spiritually prepared. In the houses stillness as I work I can pause to mediate over the words I listened to and if I need to stop. Memories and prayer needs and whispers of recognition seep through. Even though it’s such a short sprint I usually get enough done that it’s only print outs and excitement which draws me back to continue or tweak later in the day. It focuses me, the toys can be collected between games later, the washing up while Adam watches Bing, the vaccume may wake him anyhow, they are not the priority and so they sit abandoned.

After nap is tot-school, if we do it, then our evenings are family time – to cook a meal or watch tv, see friends, wander to the shops, city or soft play place. As spring makes it’s rapid journey on the way to summer, outdoors beacons us more. If I’d known my days would be so relaxed I’d have felt guilty for I know the funding that upholds my work, but slowly I’m coming to realise there is service in the stillness too, witness in the time to spare and everyday duties, work of the heart. Service does not need to be continuous to be effective, but reliable and regular and continuing. We place an artificial bridge between serving and action. We forget there is serving in our personal care, and not just in the cheesy ‘your body is a temple’ way. Rest is a commandment and a discipline, Sabbath is not just a day but a practice of living. Equally action can be a distraction, it can leave our heads so busy and bodies so weary we are unable to hear the still small voice, unable to meet the need when a friend asks us to come, unable to serve those nearest to us fully. Next week we’ll get to say yes to a friend who needs a someone to look after their son each morning, perhaps we’ll go see the newest parents in our friendship circle or God will surprise us with something unexpected… it’s quite exciting giving God empty space to fill.

Linking up with Velvet Ashes where the theme this week is Rest