month 1 of marriage; or dancing in Love-Light

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I had an idea that I would write some reflections every month during the first year of marriage. Somehow it has been a month already and while I don’t know how that has happened and feel no more like a grown up, I know that deep in my core I am thankful – deeply, utterly and overwhelmingly.

As a perpetual over-thinker and one guilty of taking life far too seriously, I *knew* marriage would be hard work. I solemnly prepared myself for the hard conversations, the compromises, the awkward friction and endless sanding down of splinters that would come from the mystery of two becoming one.

And while I know that all that still holds true, the biggest revelation in this first month of marriage has been just how much Light there has been. How good, how true, how settled it has felt for our two little lives to fall into step with one another. Something changed when we made those promises before God, each other, and those we love. As my mum reminded us in the sermon she gave at our wedding, there is something profound and important about hearing your voice make those promises out loud to the other, to hear the other make them back. Continue reading

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on autumn and brueggemann

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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

on finishing well

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.

from manger to margins

In all of the Christmas rush my thoughts were pulled back to these men. Men whom I can now call brothers, men behind bars and watching Christmas happen through interminable hours in front of a TV screen. Nose pressed against glass, unable to reach through and touch. Those who lament the ‘easy’ nature of the prison system in which inhabitants ‘even have TVs in their cells!’ demonstrate a worrying attitude to what constitutes living.

Life is whiled away in a space so small every crack is seared into memory. The white noise from the box numbs the senses where the drugs don’t, whilst serving as a constant reminder of the life they are not living. Christmas: family, table, celebration, Saviour.

We know Christmas can be hard for many people for many reasons. Any sense that our own feelings don’t match the neon joy blinding us from every angle at this time of year can make us feel pushed to the margins. How far outside the margin they must be feeling right now.

As my heart chewed this over, Jesus whispered again that it is for the marginalised that he has come. He comes in a manger, in a dirty forgotten corner of the town, God incarnate. He came for the margins, he dwells there still and he is coming back for them. From manger to margin – this is where we will find him this Christmas and always.

How I pray this will filter through the white noise and be whispered to their hearts during this season. Knowing that it is for them that Christmas happened at all. Joy of Emmanuel may you rise up in the margins, singing the eternal song which says: ‘I did this for you’.

desert instead of rainforest

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Advent this year has found me stuck on the idea of waiting. In many ways, it has been a hard wait. A desert wait. It was fitting that I happened to be reading Isaiah this month – as I found myself daily identifying with the Israelites as they waited. Through the interminable “how long, Lord?”, holding onto the promise of a Saviour. 

On this side of that Bethlehem night, I know that the promised Saviour is now Immanuel. The promise has been fulfilled – so the wait should be somewhat less painful, no?

Perhaps. But it would be foolish to presume that because we live on this side, the dull nothingness of the waiting is any more pleasant. This month, I have been waiting along with the Israelites through a spiritual desert time. Nothing catastrophic, dramatic , just a lacklustre dullness. Blunt edges and feet in sand. What made this all the more painful was that I was supposed to spend this month in a rainforest, not a desert. Continue reading

changing of a habit

P1040767Until last week, going climbing was just a nice excuse to see Ellie who I feel homesick for in busy London, discover new muscles and somehow feel more connected to John. Sure, my muscles would ache the next day but nothing that a coffee wouldn’t fix. But then last week, I spent the best part of a week after a climbing session feeling a raging ache that wouldn’t shift. It was an ache right to my core, and I could barely lift my arms above waist level. Although it was horrible and made me swear temporarily off climbing, it got me thinking. Continue reading