Continuing with the tree-theme, this morning I got into work early. Yesterday had gone pretty disastrously so it was with a distinct ‘eurgh’ that I stepped out into the cold to unlock my bike and cycle in. It was only when I rolled out of the drive that I saw it. Pink, orange, deep blues, shades of grey, gold… A blaze of glory, filling the sky. I let out an audible noise and stopped for a minute, feeling it warm me up from inside. I rode towards it all the way into central London, watching the colours shift as time slipped by. Continue reading
I’m curled up in the rich Autumn sunlight, looking at the last of the yellow leaves on the tree outside the window. I just noticed these leaves – lingering when all the others have fallen. Directly in the sun’s gaze, I guess the leaves know they’ve caught a good spot and are soaking it up, every last ray, for just a few more hours.
Autumn this year has floored me. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m taking more notice, but the leaves seem to have stuck around a lot longer than I expected. They began to turn not long after September, very much in line with our shift into a new season in every possible sense. Move outs, move ins, new jobs, new vocations, new routines. The leaves turned as we did and I was grateful for their companionship. Continue reading
These are golden days that we are in, and I love that we both know it. The spontaneous laughs of disbelief that we should we lucky enough to live for such a time as this.
And of course I will go all thoughtful in a minute with the usual prescribed dash of melancholia so before I do may I say: I think you are wonderful. I am loving dancing along the ridgeline with you – with grace in our hearts and flowers in my hair. I am so grateful to learn what it means to partner with you, learn how our lives and hearts intersect at this very sweet spot.
I could give you two versions of my 2014 so far.
Small-Talk: I’ve got the training contract with a law firm that I had tried hard – working night jobs alongisde internships while scouring the half-off aisles and eating near-compostable vegetables – to get. The boy I have loved since meeting him years ago in Uganda has moved from Canada to London and we are making a go of things. We can do normal things like meet for lunch and call each other at human hours of the day. Hello late twenties – I’ve got my stuff together!
Beneath the bedcovers: The start of a corporate career which surprised me as much as anyone and left me wondering what on earth God could want to do with me here. A persistent cough which burrowed its way into my lungs and decided to camp out for two months. The boy is here on my doorstep – he’s going to have to see it all. Oh dear.
It’s been hard to write lately. For one reason or another – mostly the whirl of transition over the past few months – it’s been difficult to know what to feel, let alone translate feelings into words. So there’s a backlog of a few half-written posts which I’m going to post anyway. Because what I love about blogging is the unpolished immediacy of it – the way it leaves a trace of real, messy-around-the-edges life. So if you get these into your email inbox – sorry that there will be a few at once! This first post from last week…
Last night – the last night altogether in No 7 – was extraordinary. In the two years we have lived together, four of us sisters, we have got it far from right a lot of the time.
In our busyness, we have failed to listen and make space for the other. In our selfishness, we have forgotten to reach out. Perhaps most of all, in our fear, we have been too quick with our words, too quick to the defence, too clumsy with our well-meant counsel. Four of us in a very small space meant that physically and emotionally we didn’t always give each other room to breathe and stepped mightily on each others’ toes as we tried to figure out this journey.
And yet as we gathered together around the low table in the way we have too many times to count, we were able to hold between us the precious thing which we have built together through it all. We’ve built something unique, we four. Bashed around the edges , yes, but hard won and durable.
We ate pizzas on kitchen-roll-plates as everything was packed up and poured the last of the endless supply of mystery wine into Hello Kitty paper cups from some picnic gone by. We laughed a lot. About things no one would understand but we need explain none of it. It was just us, and it was okay. Halfway through one round of laughter I burst into wailing tears which made people laugh even more. They know this is what I do.
We’d excavated the eucharisteo list from the aptly named cupboard of doom when packing so brought them into the pizza-hello-kitty melee. We’d had an evening back on the night when the Boston bomber was found where we listened to the news and crafted together various lists with numbers running to 600 and stuck them on the wall going upstairs – to write down 600 things we were thankful for over the course of a few months, inspired by Ann Voskamp. How good to remember the ways in which we inspired one another to live well, and to live thankful.
We were supposed to reach 1,000 but of course, being us, we made it to 595 before hurriedly having to take the lists down because we’re not meant to use blu-tack and our landlady was coming over. So they got thrown in the cupboard of doom never to be unearthed again until last night.
We dusted off a few lists each and began reading them in order. In the beginning it was just a funny and wonder-filled time of remembering the gifts which had strengthened each of us and the threads which have woven us together over these two years. Homemade bread, breakfasts together, staircase chats, sunshine walks, becoming stronger in body, mind, spirit.
As list went on we remembered the people who have always been there and continue to be now, causing us to give thanks for their unique reflection of Jesus. We learned new things too – like how Felicity is grateful for sunshine on a fairly constant basis. We drank in with wonder the ways in which we grew even just between 1 and 595 – how grateful hearts gave way to more gratitude, more joy.
As the list went on, we became acutely aware of the power of thankfulness. This is something we’ve often said, but it transformed us afresh as we heard the words of thanks dig into those deep places of our spirits. I couldn’t help but feel as this shift was taking place that the thankfulness carries a power that is not of this world. Ann Voskamp says the only way to break the habit of ingratitude is by practicing a new habit – of gratitude, chipping away bit by bit at the old. As we went through to #595, this is what happened. Our well worn habits of ingratitude, bitterness, regret were slowly chipped away by the glorious redemptive power of gratitude.
By the end, my heart was utterly full. With laughter, shared memories and a deep gratitude right down to my bones for the good hard work of walking alongside and propelling each other ever further into the arms of the Father. If ever I needed evidence that ours is not a life to be lived in isolation, it’s this. A community which taught me to love well, and to live more simply. They were the overriding themes of all of our entries over many months. In all we had written down there it was: we are all longing to love people well and live more simply because there we can – and have – tasted your goodness.
We decided to fill in the final five entries. All of our entries thanked God for the power of thankfulness and for each other – followed by one final joint entry for #600: “Finishing Well”. We aimed for 1000 and made it to 600 with full, full hearts. I’ll take that.
The deep chasm of loss only felt truly real as I sat in my empty room this morning after all my boxes had been taken downstairs, every last corner swept and still. So much has happened here. So much growth, loss, laughter, tears, time around the table, creating, talking into the night and figuring out what this one, wild life is about. My heart was breaking.
I couldn’t help but feel though that maybe these moments where are hearts are fullest are the times when they are most ripe – most beautiful – to be broken. For we carry so much, and we have so much to give away. What a blessing to be carriers of this joy – joy not of this world, but in every corner of this world, if we will seek it, and seek it with all our hearts.
May it be so.
Tonight I met with three dear friends – sisters with whom I have shared more than I could recount, with whom I have journeyed through good and through hard places. Two have recently moved cities – countries, even – and the third is leaving soon, so this was the first time we had gathered together in a long time.
As the excitement of reunion, knocking over of wine glasses through full on hugs and the essential catch-up-on-facts gave way to the rich, the this-is-where-I-truly-am, I felt my heart thaw and breathe deep. We savoured the minutes-turned-hours long after plates had been emptied and the lights dimmed. We discovered things about each other that even after all this time we didn’t know. We let our guards down and showed each other who we are, not whom it would be safe to be. Continue reading
During Easter weekend we spent some time in Knoydart, self-christened the ‘last wilderness in the UK’. In a way, it’s probably better to go to the second-last one as lots of people seemed to have the same idea as us in wanting to see the LAST one. But a day of walking back from the village into the mountains and the label rang more true.
I came home last night to find that there was a clip. Of John. On TV. He and a colleague were interviewed about the food security and poverty alleviation project they are running in India. Cue excited squeals as I jumped into Felicity’s room and sat through the premiere viewing with her.
This from Tsh Oxenrider today:
A few readers found it selfish, and I can see why it seems that way. It sounds like advice to put your needs before the needs of others. And maybe it means that, in some way.
But I read it as this: what makes you come alive is, in fact, what the world needs.
It’s easy to walk through the ins and outs of our weeks and months with a bit of numbing potion rubbed on our bodies—wake up, do this thing, then the other thing, rinse and repeat. Run errands, help with homework, log hours at the office. Day after day.
Now, there’s beauty in the everyday and in the small, so don’t get me wrong—I’ve come to appreciate the liturgy infused in my normal routine. But I often fail to recognize the liturgy itself, and that causes me to go a bit slack-jawed with malaise, too tired or too indifferent to the still, small stirring inside me that brings forth life.
But when I turn off the Spotify, when I stop the mental trails of dinner plans and play dates and work assignments, when I find a little quiet space for my brain and heart to do some dancing… I can sense a tap-tap-tap of life. I can hear God whisper to me ways and reasons He’s breathed into me life. And it involves, quite naturally, those things I can’t stop thinking about.
I’ve written enough, I think, on slowing down, on making space for rest, on simplifying and giving room for roots to spread. I can recite this stuff in my sleep. I long for this season to be more about living and breathing this stuff, seeing what the shoes feel like once they’re worn in and how to deal with the blisters on my toes. But that comes with the hard cost of seeing how far short I will inevitably fall.
Because there will be days – so many days – where I fall spectacularly, and find that I really am quite rubbish, on my own, at this simplifying thing. Utterly exhausted after a busy week and another coming up, I ended up 2.30pm, crumpled up by the bus stop in tears and needing the voice of a kind boyfriend coupled with the whisper I had stifled in my heart saying ‘Go home. It’s ok’.
The tears were from