Thursday, 30 April 2015

When your heart is turned upside down...

I prowl restlessly around the house,
Item by item.
I fill a bag with jigsaws,
progress, I tell myself.
Slow, but progress.
Each item I pick up has memories attached.
Woven into each fibre,
embedded into each cell,
yet visible only to those who look through the lens of history.
I pick up a child's pretty long sleeve t-shirt, complete with pin tucks and beads.
It doesn't seem that long since it was worn,
but it is now much too small.
Logic speaks to me with words of calm wisdom
"You have no need of these things,
they just fill space. They no longer fit.  Let them go."
Compassion adds a voice  "Others can make good use of them, let them go."
Sentimentality spins sugary snares
"Remember when..."
Fear fights "No-one else will value that top..."
Logic strikes back "That is irrelevant. It is not any use to you anymore"
Logic wins and that item makes the swift journey into a bag for the charity shop, followed quickly by most of the rest of the pile.

I hang the washing on the line.
Within a few minutes,
raindrops echo the sorrow within my heart, pouring out the anguish and pain
that is within me.

Seconds late the metrological mood has lifted and the sun is shining brightly,
reminding us that these are the final days of April and are as changeable as my moods.
Like the weather, I switch between optimism and pessimism.

The KHT decides that some labels would help.
"Virtual reality" is the preferred destination of this item...

I decide to join in the fun...

Tin - "empty"
Now what shall we put in there...

Vitamin tablets - label the full tube...
as opposed to the half full tube....
just because I can...

This is the diary that I never remember to write things in, so it is embarrassingly empty....
Clothed in red to identify its shame...

In case you didn't realise this reel of sellotape is empty.

The KHT points out that it isn't real....

Another day of highs and lows, of sifting and sorting,
The war will be won, but each day is a battle.
The present may feel rather empty and painful, but the future is far from empty, and on that I will focus, when hopefully my heart will soon be the way it is meant to be...

Ready to be turned upside down again by God,
for the things He cares about,
not the insignificant trivia of sorting domestic chaos!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The KHT who walks by herself

We were heading for a meeting, with plans to drop the KHT off on the way.  As we were chatting we realised that the KHT still onboard.
We passed a cat at the junction and did a quick diversion into a cul-de-sac to turn round.
"I always wondered what was up here." commented the KHT delightedly.
Having turned around we headed back down the road to the junction. By now the cat had sauntered across the road and was heading for the woods
"The cat that walks by himself, all places are all alike" declared the KHT
"...So who said that? I enquired, recognising it as a quote
"Rudyard Kipling she declared.
Then paused as she doubted the implausibility of the name...
Maybe it is Rudey yard Klipping
"No it is Rudyard Kipling, as in Kiplings cakes.
"Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes" recited my husband.

I feel quite sad that my daughter is like that cat that walks alone.  She doesn't really need friends, preferring her own company, free from the agendas and demands of others.  It also sums up her academic career.  She leaves school this summer, and although there have been times when the educational system has worked well, she has sauntered her way alongside the academic system, weaving her way through Maths, science, English and Art. Tasting languages - which she enjoyed, and Geography and History - she has a prodigious knowledge for facts capital cities, flags dates of kings and queens.  However, the work the exam boards require does not match her abilities, so she saunters away...In a few short weeks she will sit her exams and another chapter in her life will draw to a close.  Unlike the cat in the Just So story, she will leave a piece of her heart behind, as she has done at both her previous schools. She will long to return, to go back in time and revisit a place where she has felt safe and secure, and as the summer draws to a close she will face the challenge of settling in to a new environment, where I have every faith that she will soon be lapping up the cream.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

"Well You WOULD say that, wouldn't you?  
It is easy for you on your fluffy white cloud, surround by harp-playing harpies... 
You don't have to deal with what I have to deal with...
talk about difficult people!  
Why didn't you recruit a better team for me to work with? 
You know, some really creative types, 
with clear, analytical minds to avoid any unnecessary pitfalls. 
Good organisers would be useful, 
as well as some obedient servant-types, 
to do the setting up, 
washing up, 
and general clearing up.  
The team you have given me to work with are absolutely useless!  
I could tell you a thing or two about THEM
..and when I have more time, I will!  
Depend on it.  
What do you mean, you already know!  
Gosh they were quick to confess. 
I didn't know their thought processes could compute at that speed....
OK. They didn't need to tell you, 
you already knew.  
Hmmm. I get your drift, 
and I reluctantly concede, 
that attempting to point score against an omniscient God, 
is a game I am unlikely to win!  
Though the fact that you already know the outcome, 
means that it is not exactly a level playing field....
What is this?  
Well that  is hardly fair, is it?  
You have just been waiting for me to catch up...

Now what?  
You want me to be KIND?  
Isn't that just a tincey wincey bit soppy? 
Can't we leave that to the gushers?  
OK, maybe gushers isn't the most diplomatic choice of words,  
..and I agree compassion doesn't have to be in tidal waves, 
more of an emotional response to a tug of the heart.  
Yes, I have a heart, 
you made me with one, remember? 
Hmmm, you are just checking it is working? 
You are so kind....

You know, God, as I am sat here chatting to you, 
and being rather more honest about myself than I would normally dare to be, 
I feel as if I am being changed, 
dare I say it transformed, 
by your love.  
I am starting to understand that this is what you want me to be.
To be like you.  
Not harsh and critical, 
but gentle and understanding. 
Not rushing in, and devastating with a brutal assessment, 
but gently letting me see how things could be, 
and encouraging me. 
This is how you want me to be towards others, 
so that they can see you,
living in me. 
Thank you that you forgive me, 
help me to forgive others too.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Summertime Cinders

I confess that I am part of that generation, that doesn't like to go to bed in case they miss something.

I used to toddle off obediently to bed around 11:30pm. Sleep would elude me. I would lie in bed, getting more and more irritated by my state of wakefulness, while my husband snored.  As my husband would start his day around 6:00am, I would find myself trying to lie still, so that I didn't wake him - lark and owl are we! However, the more you endeavour to lie still, the harder it proves to be!

I longed to be one of those people who make a smooth and speedy transition between 'awake' and 'sleep' mode.  Alas, my fate was to remain awake, while my imagination tormented me.

I discovered Christian chatrooms, Iplayer, facebook games - wonderful ways to while away the hours, until I would slink of to bed, falling unprotestingly into the deep pit of sleep, until the rude shout of the alarm disturbed my slumbers.

One night I went to bed and our room was in unexpected darkness.  Surprised, I peered out of the window.  The streetlight up the road was still on, but the one outside our house was not.

This was the light which....

  • allowed me to watch the snowflakes dance their distinctive dizzy descent.
  • illuminated a stray fox, trotting brazenly down the middle of the road.
  • lit the way for the homeward procession of weekend drinkers, noisily making their way home, before the licensing hours were de-regulated and their rowdy journeys dispersed.
  • highlighted the amorous intentions of one drunk, when he mistakenly got too familiar with our neighbours car!
  • illuminated the activities of the partying youths over the road, when they decided to take a bed for an expedition down the road.
  • shone a light on the ambulance, on the night my neighbour's heartbeat came to a sudden, and unanticipated end.

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend hours staring out of my window.  These are just some of the things that I have witnessed over the years as I have glanced out, often at the response to unexpected sounds. Who knows what else has happened under the light of our streetlamp, and not been observed by me or any other.

With the council cutbacks many streetlights go off around midnight in winter and an hour later in summer.  The orange glow never bothered me. I quite like the friendly light.  Now I know the light will not be on all night it has become my curfew.  I find myself watching the clock during the post midnight hour, and as 1am approaches, I find myself hurriedly getting ready for bed -  loading the dishwasher, checking the doors, setting my alarm - all the little end-of-day routines we all have, before climbing into bed before familar orange glow is extinguished. It is just a game I play at the end of the day

I glance at the clock, 12:46am.  Like a Cinderella in British Summer Time I must flee, before the orange glow is extinguished, and darkness descends upon the street once more.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Questions, Directions and Contemplations

A warm spring evening. We were tidying up the front garden.
Suddenly my daughter said
"Come on, Mum, we need to go up to the top of the hill and watch the sunset."
I was happy doing jobs...
"By the time we get there, the sun will have gone."
"We could run!"
At her insistance I gave in, locked the door and off we went.
We live on the side of a small ridge, so it only took a few minutes to reach the road that runs along the top.
"Now we must cross over," she instructed, "so that you can take a picture."
So I did :)

"Where now?" I asked
"Oh no we just came for a short walk to watch the sunset."
"Lets walk on, and do the short circular walk." I suggested. And so we did. Pausing over the highway to watch the setting sun.
Sadly the Loan Shop across the junction from the school, has not gone away. it has just been refurbished.  Any loan should come with advice on how to get debt counselling and or budgeting training, funded in part by a tax on the profits of these organisations.
We paused over the highway to watch the cars heading towards the setting sun.

"Which direction is Whitchurch?" she enquired.
I gave a vague wave to the northwest.
"Somewhere over there..."
She gave a satisfied sigh.
Imagining a certain large house close to Whitchurch.

We wandered homewards
"I am sorry to ask such a disgusting question, but what is body fat?"
"Without fat, you would be just skin and bone..."
" Just skin and bone?  What about my organs!?"
"You would have those as well..."

We stood in silence,
as we watched the sun set
over the woods.
In front of us were the school playing fields,
protected by a fence.
Brambles formed their own
'crown of thorns'
"Maybe I could get at job at the school?
What do you think, I am enthusiastic and keen!"
"If there was a vacancy, you could apply."
"Hmmm! Maybe it would be simpler if God would just let me go back in time!"
"But you can never do that.
Life is full of moving on, to new challenges and opportunities."

We admired the cloud formations,
for each sunset is unique,
 a never-to-be-repeated display of creation, reflection God's glory.
How many do we fail to stop and appreciate?

We return.
I continue my tidying,
as the sky gets ever redder,
I complete my tidying,
to the accompaniment of birdsong.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Annual General Excitement?

About a month after my 17th birthday the Rector handed me an electoral role form and invited me to fill it in.  There was mutterings from some quarters, as I hadn't yet been confirmed (our parish isn't one that promoted confirmation of the very young, preferring to wait until folks could reason things through).

As a member of the electoral role I was entitled to attend the AGM, so I did. There was some mutterings from some quarters, "This is just the AGM, nothing exciting will happen..."  They were wrong. The OHP (cutting edge technology back in the late 70's) blew 1 or 2 bulbs and there was an election...

Shortly afterwards the parish church was closed temporarily to allow it to be modernised (loo added), and during this time I started to attend the nearer daughter church which met in the church hall. A new vicar was appointed to the daughter church, unfortunately the vicarage he was given was a couple of miles away!  The daughter church duly decided that it was time to establish an identity and so formed a District Church council.  Now we had two AGM's to attend....  Back then in those early heady days we were the early church. Anything seemed possible, even speaking in tongues, but not at 9 O clock in the morning....  The diocese built a vicarage next to the hall.  In time we built our own church.  Even more amazingly, we raised the money to pay for it!  No mean feat for a small church plant in the suburbs, with the catchment area of predominantly social housing.

We have matured and grown complacent.  Adopting a 3 year cycle means that only a couple of posts need to be filled each year.  No more mad rushing around making sure that people were encouraged to stand.  The advantage of this system is that after two terms, you get a years break before you stand again and this system prevents the whole council remaining in post for ever.  The downside is that no-one can ever remember whose term of office is coming to an end...

Tonight, is our church AGM. A time to look back on the past year, and look forward to the future.  In the year ahead we will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the church. I wonder what else we will celebrate?

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Great Escape

This morning was dedicated to further magnoliarisation.
However, the sun was shining, it was a beautiful spring day and so after lunch escape to the country was on the agenda. My fellow conspirator needed to collect an item from Droitwich, so off we set along the back road, delighting in the unfolding leaves, and glimpses of gorgeous golden fields of flowering rapeseed.  Suddenly we came across a sign telling us that the road ahead was closed.
"Oh no!" said we, "How disastrous! We will have to take a diversion, a meandering, exploring type of diversion, where we will get to see even more delightful countryside!"  Such suffering!

We followed a tractor carrying hay up a delightful lane.
No point in rushing, we don't want to be too close in case a bale falls off...

We discovered the church at Lower Bentley,

Alas it was locked.
I do like the door knocker, it gave the place character.
There was undoubtably more character inside,
as the church dates back to 1874,
but we didn't get to see beyond the green door on this occasion...

 We walked around the perimeter, peering in the windows as best we could, but all we could really do was see out the other side!

The meadows around had their first cut, giving the whole area the feeling of being a large garden, the red brick houses contrasting with the fresh green of the fields and the budding leaves of the trees, well the trees that were still alive anyway. This rather impressive specimen looks to have reached the end of its life - how long before it gets blown down in a storm, I wonder...

Our package was duly collected, and we headed home, via The Jinney Ring craft centre, where they do serve the most delightful coffee cake.  A sheltered spot was procured, and so we sat, enjoying the sun and the view across the Worcestershire countryside towards the distant Malvern Hills.

The antics of the ducks are good to watch -
especially when they decide to have a good splash!

We wandered through a pleasant avenue of blossoming trees, as there was a field of rape close by.

Bravely we crossed a dried up brook, using the bridge provided...
intrepid explorers are we....

Even the rapeseed looked as if it was
worshipping its creator...

Hanbury church looked down, from its lofty position, high on the hill.
I could tell it was unimpressed.
Visitors come, and visitors go.
The seasons pass.
Babies are born,
grow up,
get married,
bring their children to be christened.
Then when their allotted time has passed, they bring them up the hill again,
for the formal farewell.
Returning to place flowers  in their memory.  There is nothing new....

Two horses watch the strange activity of humans at leisure.

Also watching on are the curious cows, who stop to gaze over the fence,
before racing across their field

....full of the joys of spring.

...and that is no bad thing!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Alas Poor Ermintrude

It seems to be quite rude,
to dump poor Ermintrude.
My faithful steed that I passed on
when I thought I was done
with riding on two wheels.

Alas, poor Ermintrude
My bicycle became a unicycle...
though not designed to be thus
I must not make a fuss!
Beyond repair poor Ermintrude is broken.

Alas poor Ermintrude
You were named after a flowery cow
I remember now not why or how
that the idea sprang to being
but it really was a'moo'sing

Alas poor Ermintrude
it is time for you to go
and be recycled, don't you know.
What better end could there be
than to recycle a cycle you see!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Bins, Reports and Humbugs

As I sit contemplating the day,
it seems such a short while ago
that I was snuggled under my duvet,
Yet today has been a busy day.

I awoke to a text,
But before I even read it
I knew what the wording of the text would be .
One word.
Three letters.
Sent by myself, to myself.
My Thursday morning reminder...
I acted upon my text before I read it.
Just because I could.
Actually as you can see, the bin usually goes out BEFORE I go to bed.
Normally no text is required.

Work was busy.  Reports needed copying and collating and stapling....and the machine of course chose today to malfunction... Work was so busy that folks didn't realise that I was there, as I was hidden away in the vestry. To busy to be seen...

A quick sandwich and off to check arrangements for the local Hustings which our church was hosting this evening.  Something terrible happens to mugs in church halls.  We had to check that they were all fit for use, and give them a good scrub.

Home to hang the washing. It is still out. I have checked my phone - no rain due. Phew!

Back to the Hustings, sorting last minute odds and ends.  There was a good turn out and the candidates were listened to respectfully, though there were obviously some 'hot' topics, national - immigration and local - the future of the local hospital. I suspect those topics were raised at many hustings being held around the country.  Water and sweets were both provided for the candidates.  Interestingly, none of them seemed keen on humbugs...

And home, and relax.

Then I started to ponder.  "What would have happened differently today if I didn't exist?"  I say this not because I want every one to tell me how they couldn't possibly manage without me or to declare how wonderful I am.  Heaven forbid!  Instead I was reflecting on the impact we have on the lives of others.  As long as there is someone to see her off to school, my daughter would be content.  As long as the reports appeared, everyone at work would be content.  As long as there was someone to talk to my husband would be content.  If I didn't make sure that everything was set up for this evening, then I have every confidence that someone else would have seen the need and stepped in.

There is merit in blending in and standing out.  In blending in, then we remove the focus from ourselves, on to others, and on to God. However we are also called to be salt and light in this world, to be Jesus' disciples in the 21st century. That requires us to stand out, be different, to defend the under dogs, to speak out for the vulnerable.  To make sure that poor, don't just get poorer.

What will tomorrow bring?

I will find out in the morning!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The true Emulsion of Ecclesiastes

As the sun fades away 
and another day draws to a close, 
it feels as if the task we have set ourselves is impossible.  
The complications unending, the pitfalls loom like quicksand, 
ready to trap and immobile us.
I decided to look for some words of wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes...

"‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the teacher. 
‘Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.’ " (1:2-3)
Right now everything feels magnolia. It surrounds me, haunts me, drifts up my nostrils. An ever-present reminder that the task is not finished.

"What do people gain from all their labours
    at which they toil under the sun?" (1:4)

Why DO we bother?  Before we began it seemed like a good idea.  Now it feels like a trap.  Painting the Forth Bridge would be more rewarding, at least I would have a view (that wasn't magnolia...)

"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." (1:8) 
Yes, I am bored.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
 and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun. (2:11)

Yes, I am disillusioned.

" ‘The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?’
I said to myself,  ‘This too is meaningless.’ " (2:15)

I am condemned to being a fool. There is no hope, but at least I can write silly messages on the walls before I paint over them (in magnolia) and I can enjoy being a fool, even if it is meaningless, but as it is meaningless, no-one will care, unless they are a tyrant.
That will not matter either, for surely even tyrants are meaningless...but do not tell them...

'So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me." (2:17-18)
Yes, this task is meaningless. A new era will come, and there will be a movement away from the monotony of mediocre magnolia, but do not tell the magnolia, for such wisdom far surpasses its imagination...

"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:" (3:1)

Just my luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the magnolia season...

"So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?" (3:22)

<sigh>  I am supposed to enjoy the misery of magnolia?  Deep joy!

"And I saw that all toil and all achievement 
spring from one person’s envy of another. 
This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (4:4)
Stop wingeing  woman!  A bit of decorating and decluttering never harmed anyone!

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour:" (4:9)
It is true.  Teamwork works.  Where one works disillusionment sets in quickly. Where there are two you have someone to annoy, to take your mind off magnolia...Such wisdom!

As goods increase, so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners 

except to feast their eyes on them? (5:11)
Don't mutter, declutter!  After all, it IS all meaningless...

10 Whatever exists has already been named, (6:10a)

A good name is better than fine perfume, (7:1a)
The name MAGNOLIA, is better than the odour of emulsion...true ;)

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
    and patience is better than pride. (7:8)

Yes I WILL plod on. I cannot quit now, I will not give up. I will persevere, because I know the end WILL be worth it.  I hope....

Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’
    For it is not wise to ask such questions. (7:10)

Do not look backwards, for you can never turn back time, not for all the foolishness of man...

Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
    but one sinner destroys much good. (9:18)

I will make my peace with Magnolia - 
for actually, although I miss what it has covered,
I quite like it....

on a  tree!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Dreams and Celebrations!

Sunday was a day of celebration - firstly at church, celebrating again the Lord’s resurrection.

Immediately after the service we headed of to help a friend celebrate their 60th birthday - my sort of party - music I could enjoy, without feeling obliged to make a complete idiot of myself dancing to..

...and fantastic food!  This was the cheesecake and it was absolutely delicious!

Monday was completely different - a day of waiting and watching, listening and observing - a complete contrast with its predecessor.  

Painting done - zero, though my charming assistant gave the landing ceiling another coat, and hopefully that will be sufficient.

As we drove out into the countryside yesterday I noticed that the daffs are finished and the rape is appearing - I feel as if spring has passed me by while I have been sequestered within my magnolia exile.  It will all be worth it, I tell myself…

Meanwhile software issues continue to frustrate and irritate those around me.  The problem should be fixed, but for most it isn't.  Sometimes I wonder if software writes its own rules.  "Just who is the master and who the servant?" I find myself pondering….?

Tomorrow the KHT returns for her last term at school and all the pressure the educational establishment will try and throw at her.  The results matter only to them and their beloved league tables.  The grades are irrelevant to my daughter - exams do not measure the things she excels in, they only define her weaknesses, and condemn and exclude her.  
She has her dreams... "Maybe I could be an electrician, I saw a van in the supermarket car park…" Last week she wanted to be a pilot - you need to be happy riding a bike first I remind her.  
Who am I to shatter her dreams?  
Who are we to  destroy the aspirations of anyone else?  
Ideas come into our head, we try them, we test them. Some remain dreams, others dismissed in the cold and sober light of day, yet others will slowly become reality.  
Self awareness helps us to sift between the possible and the improbable, but at the back of our minds is always the thought that if the idea has come from God, then anything is possible, no matter what we, or anyone else thinks.  
God choses the most unlikely people, like me and thee, dreamers and realists alike.