Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Back to basics

Morning, God.

I've wondered what to say. I've been sitting here long after my coffee's finished and I've been reading the brilliance of other people's thoughts and ideas and feeling totally inadequate and I've been chewing the side of my left thumb until it's bleeding and I'm not going to mention that to anyone here because hubby hates my finger-chewing and little Katy has started doing it too and I'm held responsible for that bad habit. 

As inspiration and good grammar are concerned, that was a pretty duff start.

I'm going through one of those phases (this is the second this year) where coming here and talking to you has become a difficult thing. I'm not sure why. 

Part of it is that it feels a bit as if I have nothing to say, yet too much all at the same time. I know that you've been speaking to me recently and I'm trying to translate some of those words into something that I can talk about and clarify and develop, but I'm finding it hard to nail down. Some is deeply personal and very important to me and I need to sit for a few hours, just you and me, and try to understand. I know that you're waiting, patiently for me to do just that. 

Thank you, Lord, that the invitation to talk, to listen, to lean, to sink a bit deeper into you doesn't expire. Thank you for not taking umbrage and withdrawing your offer of help and healing just because I'm too wrapped up in things to take you up on it. 

My train of thought is still boarding at the station.

I have a myriad of reasons and excuses; the children have been on holiday, my husband is working from home, the (somewhat unwelcome) change in my routine (oh, my precious routine. I read somewhere that routine can become an idol, and I found myself wincing...) All these things have disturbed my rhythm and I'm finding it hard to get it back.

I want to scream. Or cry. Or go back to bed. 

What I should do is just lay it all down - there - and leave it with you. 

Right. Here's back to basics. Profound insight is beyond me. Intricate word play also out of my reach. Humour - no, not so much, today. So, then, what shall I say?

Someone once taught me the structure of prayer, years ago, and it sort of stuck on a basic level. 

ACTS.  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

When in doubt...


Lord, it's a beautiful day and you are everywhere. 

You are in the sunshine and shade, the birdsong and the neighbour's cat stretched black and glossy, lazy on our garden bench. 

You are in the vivid, improbable green of the trees and leaves, chlorophyll singing health and new growth and bright June potential. 

You are in the church bells chiming ten, reminding me that one of my favourite places in all the world is just down the road from here; worship is not just for Sunday, but here, now, in my back garden, at this keyboard, in that greenhouse, that shed, that kitchen. 

You are in the blue sky, the pompom white clouds, the daisies and buttercups and irrepressible clover that makes my lawn very unhealthy but oh, so soft to bare feet. 

You are in the beautiful faces of my two girls smiling at me from last year's school photo propped against the fruit bowl and you are there in the sheen of ripe pears and apples. 

You are in the wind blowing the washing on the line and you there in the fragrance of clean sheets. 

Oh, my God, you are sitting on the spare stool to my right and you have your arm around my shoulders and you care not a bit if my words are profound or well chosen or even spelled correctly; you just revel in the fact that your precious daughter wants to talk to you. 

Lord, I do. I do. I love you.


My heart sinks when I realise that I don't know where to start. 

Alright, how about yesterday when I was so angry with my oldest daughter, seven-going-on-fourteen, who sulked and grumped around on a beautiful treat-day out and did her best to spoil it for everyone? I cajoled, I encouraged, I sympathised and eventually I threatened. I said things that crushed and wounded and I'm sorry. 

I can make excuses by saying that I don't know what I'm supposed to do when faced with incessant whining and whinging and rudeness, but it's no defence. 

I was mean, and I'm sorry. 

I'm sorry for the things I thought as well; I demolished her in my head. I'm sorry for the things that are in my head that nobody knows about but you. I stoke up the negative things in my mind until they glow hot and spill over into words. 

I am full of self. I'm sorry that I turned my back on you last night when you waited for me to come and chat at bedtime; I said, in a minute, in a minute, while I checked Facebook and Twitter, then my email, then Facebook again. I played a game on my phone, read the news headlines and dipped in and out of YouTube until I was slouched so low in bed that sitting up with my journal and a pen and comparing notes with you was too much for me. Maybe I always knew it would be. 

I'm sorry. I don't understand why I do that because I know for a fact that meeting with you at the beginning and end of each day makes things so much better on every level. 


So, so much to give thanks for. 

For days like today when the view from the kitchen window is full of colour. 

For the days when it rains so that I don't have to go round with my watering can in the evening. 

For bees and garden chairs and books and notepads and ideas. 

Thank you for my girls' painted handprint pictures that freeze in time the smallness of their palm-prints for sentimental people like me. 

For the nothing-like-it feel of a small hand in yours as you walk along to school. 

For sausages for dinner and for mayonnaise, because there is no food that is not enhanced with the addition of mayonnaise. 

Thank you for your faithfulness, for your mercy, for your fun; thank you for swings and roundabouts and shouts of joy. 

Thank you that as I sit here with the windows open I can hear the sound of children in the playground at Katy's school; it's a happy sound. 

Thank you for all the blessings of our comfy existence - for education and freedom for children to play and not have to work, for running water, for plentiful food and for medicines when we need them. 

Thank you for being there, always, no questions asked, without fail, always loving, always forgiving, always loving some more, asking from me nothing and everything at the same time. 


Right now, what's it to be? What should I ask you for in the state of mind that I'm in right now? 


Help me to find peace whatever the circumstances, will you, Father? 

I know that true faith and trust in you would mean that I'm not at the mercy of the prevailing mood of the household, whether that mood emanates from me or anyone else. I want to depend on you so absolutely that it doesn't shake me or throw me if someone else is walking round with a thundercloud of discontent or anger. 

I want to be someone who has her own microclimate of peacefulness and calm. Is that too much to ask? 

Unlikely this side of heaven? Surely not. 

Lord, help me get a better grip of the things I say. Irritation and bitterness spill out of me sometimes and I can't stop it - or I choose not to. I talk to other people too much and to you not enough. 

I read somewhere recently one of those little illustrated ideas that do the rounds on the internet and it said:

Have you prayed about it
As much
As you've talked about it?

...and the answer is no, rarely do I pray about things anywhere near as much as I talk about them. And on the odd occasion where I put serious prayer (by my standards, I note your wry smile), I realise that prayer does change things. 

So change me, Lord. Teach me to control what goes on in my head so that I can control what comes out of my mouth. Help me to grab onto you when I want to grab someone by the throat. 

Help me cultivate calm and find peace, rather than stoking up my temper and doing the devil's job for him, for I know that he would have me constantly irritated, annoyed, criticising and lashing out. 

Above all, don't let go of me, for without your hand on me I'm in freefall. 

Don't stop talking to me. Make me listen. Remind me, call me, tug at me. 

Make me more like you. 

Let it be.


  1. Love that 'your train of thought is still boarding at the station!' might borrow that sometime please.
    I was also taught ACTS as a prayer help and still use it 40yrs later.
    You might feel you have nothing to say but you have the same thoughts as so many of us, certainly me, and it's the little things in life that worry or thrill us.

    1. Thank you, Helen. Those things we were taught long ago are still there when the new stuff deserts us! Thanks for coming.

  2. Oh, Helen, if this poetic and profound work arises when you "have nothing to say", then God has spoken so well through your perceived weakness. There is so much here that I can relate to. What a good idea to go "back to basics" and allow the words to flow in a pattern of familiar prayer. I love what has come from your feeling of emptiness. Proof indeed of how God answers, points out His glorious Presence everywhere, fills us with Himself and provides such a rich offering to share. Thank you, my friend. So pleased I read this today! Blessings and love xx :)

    1. Joy, you leave such wonderful comments! Thank you. I'm really amazed at the response to this post - it's been so hard to write anything lately that I thought to myself that I'd just press 'publish' whatever I managed to get down. Thank you so much for your encouragement. It means a lot.

  3. A beautiful post and who says it's not profound? Your thoughts seem so similar to mine, it's amazing to me that I am not the only one who thinks like this!
    I too learnt ACTS at confirmation classes 30 odd years ago - it's funny what sticks in your head. I use it all too rarely, maybe your blog is a good reminder that I should give it a try more often than I do!

    1. It's a relief that someone else thinks like this! Thank you, Sarah. Re ACTS: the oldies are the goodies, it seems. :-)

  4. I've not heard the ACTS thing before. That's a good idea. Honest post, and encouraging for the rest of us mulching along too....

    1. Mulching along... lovely. Yep, I do a lot of mulching...
      Thanks Fran.

  5. This is beautiful. There is so much of this that I can relate to as a child of God, as a parent etc etc. I also find myself on twitter when there's something that needs prayer! Be loving to yourself, the only judge that matters loves you for who you are.

    1. Yes! I know He does. I keep forgetting, though, and wanting to be worthy of His love. I want to 'make God proud' or somehow live up to His love for me. But nothing I do surprises Him...
      Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

  6. Thank you for this. I've been feeling so like this. Very helpful! Back to basics it is then! God bless you

    1. Thanks Lynda. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. It means a lot.

  7. Helen

    I always love to read your posts - no-one says it like you do and you are anything but inadequate - your words flow so beautifully. It certainly sounds like God is working and this time of confusion often comes before a great step of faith. Stop trying to understand that is leaning on your own understanding - trust him, he is not going to show you the big picture - yet! Take the first step, even if it makes no sense, even if you don't know how it ties in with your dream or where it will lead, just take the first step - I feel you already know what it is - Just trust.

    1. Oh, Tania, thank you for being so lovely! Confusion - yes. Still working out what the step of faith might be but I do get a sense that something new is beginning. I'm listening hard and I keep saying, 'Yes, Lord'...
      Thank you for your words and your encouragement. Lots of love.

  8. This is beautiful, and echoes so many women's thoughts everywhere. Thank you for writing this out for us to read! It's amazing to me here in America to read another believer's thoughts across the sea and realize we are so similar in our struggles, and, thankfully, in our beliefs. You've encouraged me- thank you!

  9. Very honest and yet somehow inspiring. I love that you remind yourself to see God in everything, even the painful things...Have you come across Ann Voskamp? Your wriitng reminds me of hers...


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