Thursday, 27 June 2013

A day in the life...


A while ago I entered a competition. It was to write something, 500 words or less, entitled, 'A Day in the Life of a Writer'. It presented a challenge on several fronts:
  1. 500 words and I am only just getting started. 
  2. I still struggle to identify myself as a writer, even with a small 'w'. It feels too dangerous; as if I'll invite a torrent of contradiction and ridicule. If in a conversation and I'm pressed, I might own up to ramblings on a blog somewhere but I have difficulty making eye contact at that point and rarely actually let people know where to find my ramblings, should they wish to. Not in a face-to-face real-life encounter; too scary. I usually say, 'I'll send you a link via email.' And then I er...don't. 
  3. The competition was run by The Association of Christian Writers and every day that I hang around making humorous small talk with other procrastinators on the ACW Facebook page is another day that I risk being exposed as a fraud. Not the Christian bit, the 'writers' bit.
  4. So, sending a piece of writing off to be read and judged by people I so admire; well, when I finally got round to tapping the 'Send' button, I was wincing.
At this point, I'd quite like to tell you that after all that angst, I won. I didn't. Someone else's piece did, and it deserved to win, but (drumroll) I got an highly commended, and also, I'm told, a round of applause at a Writer's Day where the winners were announced. 
Yes I did. Me. 
So I must have written something (and it has 496 words, in case you were wondering).
So I might be a writer. 

Well, inspired by several other people who have added their entries to their blogs, here it is: 


A Day in the Life of a Writer
I am not a writer.

I’m just someone who writes. I write because I can’t not write, but for a writer I spend a lot of time not writing. I write with a digit in Facebook. I write while peering over coffee. I write, but I gaze wistfully at those more clever or poetic or published than I who seem to have said it all, and said it better, and I think, I am not a writer.

I write, because it’s what I do.

I write in my kitchen, at the island unit, looking at the trees in the back garden. From here the kettle is a short stride away; I can reach the fridge without leaving my perch. The fruit bowl is at arm’s length and the biscuits are in the cupboard behind me. Well, they were. There are crumbs on the keyboard.

Mornings are for mentally smoothing out a blank sheet of paper on my screen and planning to arrange words to communicate, encourage and inspire. Yes!

No. Mornings are for gazing out of the window, fretting over blog stats, rejoicing over comments, comparing myself unmercifully with others and making more coffee.

Afternoons are for watching the clock as my peace and quiet ticks away before the school run.  Decisively closing all programs on the computer but the blank page and being struck by delicious inspiration at about two o’clock only to  gather it all into a jumbled pile in my head at three as I dash to the school gates.

Early evening is for sitting side saddle at my island workspace trying to retrieve and nail down the late afternoon magic while the children roller-skate around me demanding snacks and promises while tea bubbles and burns on the cooker (two and a half paces away).  

Early evening is for closing the laptop with exasperation only to find that my best ideas come from my children. We are all just kids on a long journey. Are we nearly there yet?

Nope, there’s time for another story before bedtime.

Evening is for delicious, cosy quiet when the children are in bed.  For angst about what sort of distracted mother would rather write down strings of words than play Twister, and for pouring out my feelings with my fingers on the keys. Evening is for debating whether to take my laptop to bed where my feet will be warm and taptaptap while semi-recumbent or to leave the unfinished masterpiece where it is and turn to my books and pillow for consolation, motivation, inspiration.

Nighttime is for scribbling in my journal - thoughts and prayer, hope and despair. It’s for leaving it all with Him; achievements and intentions, creativity and procrastination.  Nighttime is for trying to switch off the brain that won’t kick in each morning.

It’s for climbing back out of bed and padding down to the blank page on the kitchen island computer and filling it with words.

I am a writer. Sometimes I write.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A black eye and a taste of heaven

Well, thank you for another year, Lord God.

Yesterday was my little girl's eighth birthday and she was more excited than an excited thing. We did all the stuff; we did presents, we did birthday-tea-full-of-treats-with-little-nutritional value, we did balloons, we did singing, we did blowing out candles. We did hugs and we did great big smiles. We did reminiscing, Daddy and me. 

I gave birth to Elizabeth after a rapid labour against all the expectations of the midwives. I had a single paracetamol for pain relief at about half past eight because the midwife who examined me thought I had a very long way to go and assumed I was a bit of a wuss to be asking about it so early in the game. When I got hold of the gas and air I left teeth-marks in the mouthpiece and nail marks where I had it clenched in my fist. Daddy arrived at half past nine fresh off a train from London and walked in nonchalantly just in time for the punchline. 

At 10.16pm, Elizabeth Lucy took everyone by surprise and was born on a plinth in an examination room on the hottest day of the year 2005, and all the fans were in use elsewhere. It was warm work.

I held my little girl in my arms and I was filled with wonder. Long fingers, a mass of light brown hair, button nose, little chin just like her Daddy's and a big black eye. She was brand new, moments old,  with a lusty cry before she was even fully born. 

Red and bruised, head slightly elongated, one eye bloodshot and swollen shut, little rosebud lips giving us glimpses of a little pointy tongue, the sharpest of tiny fingernails. Beautiful? Well, yes and no. Or more accurately, no - and yes, breathtakingly beautiful. A whole person made up of half me and half Daddy. Two of everything down the sides and one of everything down the middle. Breathing, crying, suckling, waving, kicking, snuggling. Fragile and yet so strong. 

I can't explain it, that thing that happened that night. The way that I went in to the hospital someone's wife and someone's daughter and came out still those things but now someone's mother too. Everything changed that night. The world tilted slightly and never righted itself; it's strange that nobody ever noticed but me. 

Even after the midwife cut the cord, Elizabeth was attached to me. She always will be. I tell her that she's my baby girl and sometimes she snuggles closer when I say that and other times she stiffens and tells me in no uncertain terms that she's not a baby, she's a grown up girl. She has a little sister, also my baby girl, and Lizzie sometimes feels the weight of older sister responsibility very keenly. Lizzie is my oldest, my firstborn, my worrier. She's my vibrant, energetic, imaginative, complicated, softhearted, fearless dynamo of a daughter.  

We found out last week after Xrays at the dentist that Elizabeth's adult teeth have not formed properly and many of them won't be coming. The dentist talked me through her Xrays and showed me the spaces in her jaw where lurking teeth should be. Her baby teeth haven't been a great success as a few of those formed poorly before she was born and so we've been hanging our hopes on their temporary nature, but alas they're going to have to last. She's got a decade or more of intervention ahead of her, poor love, extractions, orthodontics and implants, just to work on a smile. 

Elizabeth heard the dentist say that there was a strong likelihood that at the end of all the treatment, as a young adult, she'd have a nice smile. Afterwards, on our subdued ride home, she asked me, 'Isn't my smile nice now?'

That's one of those moments that made me catch my breath. 

Oh, my little love. I remember the very first smile, wide and toothless. It was the most wonderful thing I ever saw then, and still is, at eight years old with gaps and unevenness and trouble buried beneath the surface. It will be at twenty when it's wide and white and even and the braces are off and the implants are implanted and she's buried the trauma of the season-ticket to the orthodontist. If I were only around to see it I have no doubt that it would take my breath away at ninety five when only those implants remain and there are gaps once again. 

My heart hurt for her. Things weigh heavily on my Lizzie, her self-esteem sometimes is tissue-paper fragile and we work and we work to build her up. This problem isn't going away any time soon. The dentist told me that things were not as bad as they could be; there are many worse off. Of course there are. It's just that I don't want my little girls to go through stuff like this. And to be honest I don't want to go through it either; holding hands, drying tears, whispering love and encouragement and support as they struggle, just wishing that it was me, because it would be so much easier that way.  

I know it's not the way to bring up a brave, strong woman, but I'd spare her every second of pain and hurt if I could. And since I'm no stoic myself, it's nothing short of a miracle that I'd do that, and do it in an instant. But a miracle did happen that night when I had my baby. I became someone different when I became a mummy. I'm still growing into that person; I suspect it might take me the rest of my life. It's not easy.

Not easy at all, but often wonderful. I sat on the side of her bed last night at 10.16pm and I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead and inhaled the fragrance of her as she slept. When she was a baby I used to carry her with her head on my chest and I would breathe in her baby smell and I remember offering her to another family member to sniff because she smelled so beautiful. They smiled politely but they didn't get it. I wonder if it's just for me - some primal thing, some deeply profound connection just for mother and daughter? I don't know. I do know that from the moment I took my first breath as a mummy, it's my favourite fragrance in the world, matched only by that of her little sister. 

They say that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory - then maybe that's why. Last night I remembered like yesterday that night in the tiny room on the hard, high, narrow examination table, hot and exhausted and dazed, with my baby girl on my chest. 

Inelegant, undignified, undone. 

Nobody tells you these things about having a baby. Nobody tells you the true horror of the sleep deprivation. Nobody tells you about the dilemmas of high temperatures and endless crying and inoculations and school selection. No-one teaches you how to untangle baby-fine hair or comb for nits or do a French plait because that's what all the girls at school have. No-one tells you what to do when your baby girl is bullied, or bullies, or doesn't get on with a teacher. You play it by ear. 

It's a good job you don't get a glimpse of the soul searching that goes on when your baby girl has no confidence, or loses sleep to anxiety, or cries too easily when things go wrong. Was it me? My inadequacy complex was genetic? Or have I criticised too much, encouraged too little, corrected too forcibly? Crushed when I should have coaxed? Demolished when I should have built up?

Don't get me started. I'm eight years in to this motherhood thing and the truth is that I don't know what I'm doing any more than I did that night in June eight years ago. There's no instruction booklet and no map. I just feel my way. Sometimes we skip along at a lovely pace, everyone smiling, and the scenery is wonderful. I take lots of pictures and get very sentimental with souvenirs. Other times I get completely lost. I hit dead ends and unexpected detours and I have to crawl my way back. I ask a lot of questions and cry a lot of tears, inwardly and outwardly. 

 Nobody tells you how to do it. I think that's pretty normal, isn't it? 

But the most breathtakingly powerful thing that nobody ever tells you is that the whole world changes. 

The whole world changes. So much that I'll never forget a single detail of 10.16pm on that evening eight years ago and when I look down at the long, lean frame of my beautiful sleeping girl, arms flung out in her birthday pyjamas, my head fills with memories of first breaths, first smiles, first steps - and my heart swells.

Nobody tells you how much you'll love them. 

It's a little taste of heaven.





Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Letter to a stranger

Dear Stranger

I hope you don't mind me calling you 'Stranger'. I know that you are familiar but you're so different from me that you might as well be a new person. I recognise you because you look a bit like me in some ways, but in all the ways that matter, we're miles apart. 

You're me, a year from now. Or maybe two years, five years...ten years? I hope not as long as that because I want to be you, and I don't want to wait that long. You would know how long it's been, but I can't ask you, because I'm way back here. I just get a glimpse of you from time to time.

I know you must be older than me but you don't look much older. Your hair has more grey than mine, but you still do it the same way. A quick blast with the hairdryer and you run your hands through it; it's good to know you haven't come over all salon-fresh in the years that have passed. I can't decide if you have more lines round your eyes - I think maybe so, but it's not what I see when I look at you. I see a woman who smiles more. A woman who cares as little as she ever did about grey hairs, but it's as if the things she did care about have gone. The stuff that engraved those deep frown lines between your eyes - that's gone. It's gone!  You're transformed. 

Where are those lines? I can see them still, but they're not obvious. They're reminders of the days of worry and anxiety, but now when you look at them you don't try to smooth them away; you smile as you remember how hard it used to be to lay down troubles with God. How you used to hang onto your anxiety and how tightly clenched your fingers used to be.  I look at your shoulders now as you walk and you are relaxed, at ease with yourself. You're not tensed up like I am. You're swinging your arms, comfortable in your own skin. I see you've lost that habit of clutching your cardigan defensively tight around you as you walk. I wish I could do that, but I need to cover myself up, you see. 

I know you see - you have been where I am. You don't feel the need to hide any more. 

Here's the big question, and I'm trying to make up my mind. Are you thinner than me, future self? I hardly dare ask you, because right now, where I am, I hate the way I look. I hate it so much that it's taking over my life. I have an idea that God has something for me regarding my body image, my self image, my self esteem, whatever I should call it, but I don't know what it is, or whether I have to somehow work it out. I know that God doesn't want me to live like this, and when I see you so free and unselfconscious, I feel tears in my eyes as I long to be a woman like you. 

I look at you and I know that God has done something. Whatever precious gift He gave you, you took it, you unwrapped it and you put it on. You never took it off, did you? You're wearing it still. 

It looks great on you.

I think you are a bit slimmer, but it's hard to see. Somehow it's not what's important, is it? You walk along and your head is high and there's a contented smile on your face. You're happy being you. How do you do that? Where did that apologetic feeling go? How did you get rid of the long- held conviction that you are not worth the space you occupy? I want to know how you did it. 

Oh, it's such a comfort to me to see you like this.  I love it when I catch sight of you. 

You are a different woman. I know you intimately, I don't know you at all, but I want to know you because you look like the kind of woman who could help me. You look like the kind of person who would stop when you saw me watching you with despair in my eyes and you'd sit down next to me and tell me it's going to be alright. You'd confide in me that you haven't always been like this, and if things can turn out alright for you, then they certainly can for me. You've got a big smile, and although your teeth are just the same as they always were, you don't care any more if people see them. 

You've learned that your smile is more important than your teeth. You've learned that who you are is more important than what you look like. You've learned that food will never give you the comfort and reassurance that you've been looking for for almost all your life and you've made your peace with that, because your comfort and safety are found in God. I can see what a huge thing this has been for you. 

You've learned that you are precious and unique and loved; so, so loved. You've learned that your worth doesn't come from what other people think - and those lessons have been absorbed deep down in your soul. It's not just head-knowledge any more, not just theoretical. 

You believe it. You found the Truth, and it has set you free, hasn't it?

Finally, you're free.

I'm envious of that confidence that I see as you slip out of my sight again. I want to be where you are, but I don't know how to get there. It seems like a vast mountain to climb and there are days when I just can't imagine that it's possible. So when I see you and it's clear to all the world that you've made it over that particular peak, it gives me a bit of strength. 

I don't know how to take even the first step, but I know that in time, He will show me. I think - I hope - that it's going to be soon. 

He won't leave me behind. 

Thank you for giving me hope, stranger. It's been nice to see you. 

With love

Helenx



Linking up today with Ruth Povey at Letters To... 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

Amen, amen, amen. 

I know that this is true. 

How can I know? When faith is believing what we can't see? I don't know. Perhaps I don't really know it. But something inside me reaches for you when I sing these words and I think it's my soul. It's not a conscious reaction; it's instinctive. It's profound. It tells me that these words are truth. 

You are my solid ground. 

So many times I scrabble about looking for hope and light in other places but I come back to you every time. I lean on someone else only to find that they shift and they stumble too. I cast about for help, for advice, for support, for love  - and find that it only reliably comes from you. 

How often I fail to recognise that you are the only solid ground - other areas sometimes seem solid but turn out to be quicksand.

You remain firm. You never change. You stay put. You never let me down. 

You are eternal and everlasting and immutable and all those long words. 

The only problem is me; sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don't even forget; it's more stupid than that. Sometimes I just stop believing it for some reason and I try something else. I look to people for comfort, or to food, or to books, even to sleep.  But it never satisfies for long. I'm sad and worried all over again, I'm hungry again. I still have questions despite the texts. I am soon weary again.

But you are the One who stills fears, who brings peace. 

I stand in your love.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh

Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live


My God, what did you do for me? You gave up glory in Heaven to come and be one of us down here. You ate and laughed and wept and taught and loved and did all the things that you did and then you bled and you died. 

As if it were not enough for us to kill you, we mocked you as well. Insult and injury. No, we didn't know what we were doing. You were dying for each and every one of us and we either turned away or spat at you. Even your friends ran and hid. Your own mother watched you die. I don't have the capacity to understand fully what you did but the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end every time I sing this verse. 

You were light itself but you allowed the darkness to engulf you. You knew what would happen but you came and loved us and did it anyway. You, who never did anything wrong, who could at any point have called down lightning from heaven to stop the whole thing and prove your deity. 


You did this for me. 

For me. 

You love me so much that you would come yourself to do what was necessary to 
bring me home. I can never deserve what you did for me.


There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ


I am so thankful that your story doesn't end with your death. Many stories do end like this; someone does something noble, selfless; he gave his life for his cause, and those stories are wonderful, inspiring, even... but only one ends like this. 

You rose from the dead. 

You came to life again. If even death is not the end, there is nothing that can defeat you. And because of your amazing grace and love for me, I can say that death is not the end for me either, nothing can defeat me. 

There may be many battles but you have won this war. 

You bought me with your blood. You paid the price that needed paying and I am yours. 

Oh, my God. 

Nothing can stop me from one day being with you, because of what you did. You, the living God, the creator of the universe; you, who can see history from the beginning to the end, you, who are the context of everything, the thoughts and dreams and hopes of all your children - you made me free. 
'If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.'  John 8:36
Amen.

No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand


Oh Lord God I so want to live this way. You took away my guilt and yet I keep trying to take it back. You banished fear and yet I can't help hanging onto it. I am quite sure that the power of Christ is somewhat muted in my life, but each day I am trying to let more of it shine through me. I need lots of help.

I am a work in progress. I know that I'm not finished yet. I know that I'm not what I was. I know that I will be better, and most importantly I know that I am loved just how I am. You will never give up on me. You'll never shake your head impatiently and say that if I haven't learned by now then I'll never learn. You always, always, reach down and gently help me to my feet.

Try again. I am loved, imperfect as I am. 

Nothing can separate me from your love. 

Nothing can prevent me from being with you. 

I am saved and I am safe. 

No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from your hand

No power of hell. If you are for me, then who can stand against? I am yours and nothing can change that. All the rubbish that goes on in my life, all the mistakes I make, the voices in my head that tell me I've really messed up this time, it's no good, I'll never amount to anything... nothing matters. 

Only you. And your voice is the one that tells me, 'I am loving you, my daughter. You are precious to me. I will never let you go.'

The other guy? He'll never win. He can cause me no end of trouble but he can't win. I am loved by the true and living God.

I am amazed.

Whether one day - tonight, tomorrow? At the ending of the world? When it's time, when it's all over for me down here I will go home to be with you and I will see you with my own eyes. What a day that'll be. I will be bowing very low on that day. And I believe that you will lift my chin until I look into your eyes and I won't see any condemnation or reproach or disappointment. All there'll be is love;  I'll see how much you love me. 

And then I'll stand in the warmth of your presence with my arms raised high, surrounded by everyone who has ever loved you down through the ages and we'll sing this song until all of creation joins in. 

I can't wait.  

You are my God and I am your child. 

Thank you.




In Christ Alone 
Words and music Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
Copyright 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

Linking up with Tania Vaughan at Monday Ministry.


Friday, 14 June 2013

Give me Jesus

God, I'm exhausted. 

You know what this week has thrown at me and it's no surprise that I'm ready to call it a day. I'm tired and tearful and probably hormonal and at least I know that you're the one person who won't roll their eyes and put all this angst down to hormones; you invented them. You know what they can do to a person. 

Lord, it's been a crap week. Not to put too fine a point on it. Sorry.

I haven't even got the energy to tell you all about it - but that's alright because you know already. You were there. You think I can handle it. You're probably right, I suppose - what choice do I have? But I'm going to need some help. 

I came across this picture on the Internet. I love it. It's a beautiful picture of a sunrise and the caption is:


'In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.'

It turns out that it's a quote from a traditional spiritual song that I don't know which was famously arranged by a lady called Alma Blackmon. The words are very simple, and beautiful and the refrain: 

'You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus'.

That's about it. 

There have been a handful of times in my life, Lord God, when I've run out of... well, everything. Energy, ideas, patience, peace of mind. This week is pretty much one of those times. Bad news has piled on top of bad news and anxiety and worry linked arms and barged their way back into my head where they set up camp and made themselves comfortable. Fear crept in quietly and ominously and now huddles with them round the camp fire and depression and defeat are waiting in the shadows for an invitation. 

Give me Jesus. 

Lord, give me Jesus when I rise, and before that, when I lie in bed and stab at the snooze button and try to stay asleep because it's easier being asleep than awake. Give me Jesus when I come downstairs and start to nag the children about eating breakfast, brushing hair, brushing teeth, getting dressed, finding bookbags and finding shoes. 

Give me Jesus on the school run. Give me Jesus as I walk away into the grown-up bit of day which this week hasn't been a whole lot of fun. As I spend time with people I love, give me Jesus so that they can see Him, not me. 

Give me Jesus as I collect the kids and make tea. Give me Jesus as I run baths and find pyjamas. Give me Jesus as I put them to bed and then do it all over again. And again. 

Lord, Give me Jesus. You can have all this world, just give me Jesus. 

Lord, you can have all this world. I don't want it at the moment. It's a world full of broken marriages and pain and illness and hospitals and doctors and X rays and bad news and low self esteem and tears and waiting on hard chairs and lying awake at night not-knowing and filling the gaps with imagination that just loves to paint everything bleak and grim. 

It's a world full of shadows that are so dark that sometimes it's hard to see you.

It's a world where you are visible in the huge extravagant beauty of the first poppy blooming in my garden and in the promise of the flowers on the tomato plants and in the baby radishes peeping potential above the soil. It's a world of purply-grey stormy skies and lashing rain then watery sunshine and subtle rainbows and the smell of wet dusty ground. 

It's a world where those that have eyes to see and ears to hear can find you all everywhere - and all that's just lovely and great but right now it's not enough, Father God. I don't want to discern you in subtleties, I want to run actually, not figuratively, into your real, solid, faithful arms and feel the weight and strength of your embrace. To let my legs go as wobbly as they feel and let you pick me up effortlessly and hold me close like a little girl. 

Daddy, I'm tired.

I don't want to be strong. I want to give up. I want to stay asleep. 

I don't want to keep trying to communicate when I don't have words. I don't want to persevere with the goals you've set me, I want to sit down and not move. I don't want to make decisions and I don't want to explain bad things to small children and I just don't want to do any of it any more. 

I don't want to run the race, I'm tired and I want to rest. 

You can have all this world. Just give me Jesus. 

Amen. Just...amen.

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...

Adoration

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.

Confession

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. 

Thanksgiving

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. 

Supplication

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

Peace.

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. 

Amen. 
Let it be.



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