Bigger Picture Thinking

No! This is good! Honest! Come back! I understand that for some of you who attended any youth meetings in the eighties, the title of this blog will have brought you out in a cold sweat. I too attended those meetings and they are etched in my mind like a Terrible Thing sold from the Terrible Thing Sale at the Terrible Thing Shop (to paraphrase Blackadder)
These were the days when people leading from the platform thought it was the height of Spirit Filled Worship to turn to complete strangers and yell “MY CUP RUNNETH OVER TODAY SISTER!” (It wasn’t) Or that we would all be released by turning to the person next to us and giving them a back-rub (We weren’t) or that turning up with no sermon prepared would give the Spirit room to move amongst us. (It didn’t)
These were nervous times for me because my then boyfriend who was one day going to be blessed enough to become Head of House would often feel that some of the more outlandish suggestions from the front merited an answer from the congregation. (A loud answer) I can feel the prickles of embarassment up and down my neck as I am typing. I know I am a miserable sort but I am happy in my misery and to be fair – I was never the most enthusiastic youth leader.
Anyway – to get back to bigger picture thinking. Have a look at the photo at the top. Darn purdy ain’t it? (Puts hands on hips in manner of dancer from Oklahoma) Lovely sweet photo of a squirrel in our park. La la la. However, if I knew how to work the camera properly and was able to pan out and take a photo of the bigger picture (see what I did there?) you would be able to see that this photo should be re-titled. “The Smell of Fear”. Because at the bottom of this tree two Jack Russells are snarling, barking and trying to climb up and reach said squrrel and tear it limb from limb. In fact, if it weren’t for Head of House doing sterling work by continually dragging them away – I am convinced that they would have worked out how to give each other a leg up to reach the poor thing.
Bigger picture thinking. Accepting that not everything is exactly as it seems at first. That person who really gets on your nerves by behaving so appallingly – is there a possibility that there is something going on in their life that you know nothing about? Something that means they can just about keep their head above water enough to funtion and not much else? That person with the  dodgy lifestyle choices who is never going to get on the front cover of “Really Good Lovely Christian People” magazine. Maybe she was making even worse lifestyle choices a year ago and is, in fact making real progress. That person who seems to go out of their way to make your life a misery? Maybe so miserable in their own skin and consumed with jealousy because they feel you are so comfortable in yours. (Believe it or not) I think you probably get the idea.
If I said now that it took me a long time to come round to the idea that its not all about me and how I perceive things, then if you listened closely you would be able to hear angels laughing snorty laughs because Heaven knows very well that I am nowhere near that level of self awareness. But, in the spirit of
Matthew 7:12
So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..

If you want people’s understanding of your bigger picture even if you can’t say what it is, then we have to try and think that others may have an unseen bigger picture as well and act accordingly. It may mean not being judgemental. It may mean counting to ten and smiling. It may mean keeping my your big trap shut as they say in the Royal Family. Kindness – that’s the key.

I would just like to point out that no furry animals were harmed during the production of this blog. In fact, after several hours of specialist squirrel counselling, we were able to prize its little claws off the tree one by one and we are expecting it to come down by Christmas. Probably.

I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to “rejoice” as much as by anything else – C. S. Lewis
Have a rejoicy week everyone. (I think you will find it IS a real word actually.)

A Normal Week

If you have come here for spiritual support, this is probably not the week. Sorry. Ever have one of those weeks when you check that you are not a week’s holiday missing? It has been a week severely lacking in glittering celebrity moments and more than once I have found myself thinking “I bet Liberace never had to live like this.” I think we’ve all been there.
This week fruit of Womb Two set off for school on Tuesday only for me to receive a call from the school nurse about an hour later. “She doesn’t feel well and she says she feels sick. Actually she is a strange colour.” I’m at work with no transport but it’s ok because I can phone her dad. Except HE HASN’T TURNED HIS MOBILE ON – AGAIN. Head of House doesn’t really like mobile phones – that’s ok. Far be it from me to lecture anyone about living in this century rather than one where people people wear crinolines, play the piano as their only entertainment and Colin Firth dives into pools. He is entitled to his foibles. We all are. EXCEPT WHEN IT INCONVENIENCES ME! So, after using my Hiawatha-like skills to track him down, he collects the girl and she clearly isn’t well. Apparently, we later find out that half the population of the school is evacuating their lunches and the school nurse is getting a bit wobbly with it all.  About this time I begin to feel a bit head-achy and nauseous. It’s going to be a long week.
Trip to see The Cloonster in Ides of March is derailed for this week at least. Ah well. Head of House has been on nights all week which is a bit weird. I have this fantasy of going to bed alone in posh PJs with hot chocolate (don’t know why – don’t really like it) and a copy of Shakespeare. In reality, I am woken at 2.30am as mobile buzzes. (Email from Next  2.30am- what is that about?) I have taken mobile upstairs for extra alarm insurance in case mine doesn’t work. When I wake up – I momentarily think that, as I always expected would one day happen, I am being attacked by giant spider which is sitting on my face. Turns out to be the Georgette Heyer Murder Mystery I was reading when I fell asleep.As I said. A Normal but somehow Long week.
Fruit of Womb One is settling in  in York. I have to tell you that usually I ask permission to share things my kids do with you as it’s only fair I think. However- he’s not here so “le titty – i’ll est tough” as they sometimes say in France. So the church he is going to in York is St Michael Le Belfry. Very famous, Spirit led, student friendly church. One of the things it is most famous for is being so close to York Minster – about five yards away. All I’ll say is that two of them couldn’t find it – after having visited once already.  York Minster. I’m fairly certain you can see it from space!! Young people eh?

God’s Invisibles

Autumn is a bit spectacular here at the moment. Warm and sunny. I have given in and started making a Christmas List. A bit. Not pressies – just all the stuff I have to do. Few more visitors than we are used to this year. Looking forward to it but I have to bear in mind that the takeaway won’t be open if I have cooking disasters so must plan ahead (for once). Head of House is looking at Master Plan to make dining table bigger by putting battons on big piece of wood to put over our table. He can be a bit strange when he’s been on nights.
I have no idea what is behind this. Maybe too much Cadbury’s Wholenut but I have been thinking about Uncle George. When I first became a Christian, Uncle George was one of the first Christians I met. He wasn’t really anyone’s uncle. I don’t think he had much in the way of family but everyone called him Uncle George. In the olden days, when you first became a Christian it was practically compulsory to be route marched into the children’s work at church and told to help. I remember I was fifteen and instructed to be a teacher in “Sunshine Corner” (You young Christians these days – you don’t know you are born I am telling you) For those of you who are not well versed in the ways of “Sunshine Corner” let me explain. Well I can’t really. I have a vague memory of about twenty smallish children as I led them around a pile of chairs telling them about the Battle of Jerico. I do remember that, at the appointed time, we shouted for all the children to bang drums and tambourines and blow into their recorders as loudly as they could. At this point my friend pulled on a string attached to a chair in the middle of the pile and – well – the walls came tumbling down as they say. It was a lot more spectacular than we had imagined to be honest but I don’t think any children were actually hospitalised. I’m almost certain about that. Probably. Don’t try it at home.
Uncle George played the accordian for Sunshine Corner. Sing along now

“Sunshine Corner – oh its jolly fine.

It’s for children under ninety nine

All are welcome – seats are given free.

Lichfield(Insert name of any place in the whole world!) Sunshine Corner is the place for me”

Simpler times….

So George would come to Sunshine Corner every Tuesday evening. He would be wearing a suit that had seen better days – his half mast pants a-flapping as he rushed in. His shirt would be a bit grubby and when you are fifteen and too cool for school – you barely gave someone like George a second thought. Yet George never missed. He was totally reliable, even though, to be honest, he didn’t like children that much. When it came to our National Conference every year George would give people free lifts to Minehead in his Reliant Robin. Driving wasn’t a particular strong point as I remember. They used to say that George had never been in an accident but that he had seen hundreds! But, if George said he would be there, he would be there. I think we all thought he was a bit odd. Not sinister odd, just George. The truth is that a lot of what happened in church could not have happened without him. But I don’t think I ever saw him up front in church or leading anything. He just got on with it because he loved God. He was as invisible as wallpaper.

I was also reminded of another story that CS Lewis tells. If you are a CS Lewis expert and I haven’t got this right, please accept my apologies in advance.

A man dies and goes to heaven. As he is being shown around by an angel. (And on your left is St Paul’s mansion. You are welcome of course but call first – he can get very busy of an evening. That sort of thing) Suddenly they have to step back as a procession is coming towards them. The man can see that the lady in the procession must be a woman of great honour as the angels are making a great fuss of her. He bows his head in respect as she passes but can’t resist winking one eye open to see who this great lady is. To his surprise he sees that he recognises her. Not as a great prophet or miracle worker but as a lady from his own church that he barely knew. She was, as he remarked to the angel, not a particularly important person. Why was she being honoured so?

The angel shrugged with some impatience and explained.

“You forget, God’s standards are not the same as the world’s standards. He measures things completely differently. She may not have torn up any trees in your judgement. Never got on the telly, never spoke at a conference, never sang on X Factor. Yet she lived a quiet life of kindness, servanthood and faithfulness. God will never overlook such things.”

Sometimes, when Bette Midler is singing “From a Distance” and is bellowing

“GOD IS WATCHING! GOD IS WATCHING US FROM A DISTANCE!”

it can seem a little intimitating I know.

However, if you are feeling a little small, a little bit ignored as you go about your life and as you do your best. It can be a comfort to realise that God watches. He appreciates and He doesn’t miss anything – not like the rest of us do sometimes. So be thou comforted as it proabably says in some translation somewhere. Have a biscuit and a cup of tea and a laugh at Kitty (as it almost certainly doesn’t say in ANY translation) You are loved and appreciated.

Wet

Blimey – I’m not saying it’s been raining a lot round here but some bloke with a big boat is trying to coax Morecambe and Lucy on board. It’s been half term all week here so daughter has been able to snuggle down every morning while shouting vague promises about finishing her essay on “The Crucible” under her door. We, as the breadwinners have been forced out into the rain every morning  – in my case only to find that the Community Transport users of Plymouth have looked out of the window and decided – “I don’t think so thank you” – phoned us up, cancelled and gone back to their one bar fire, Flog It! and a nice cup of tea – as any sensible person would.
There was one particularly memorable morning when I had to walk the hounds before work. It was like God was tipping out celestial buckets over us and, you may not have realised this but it is a physical impossibility to walk two lunatic jacks while carrying a brolly and two poo bags. (The thing is, you can’t hold the poo bags in the lead hand because they get tangled so you have to hold them in the brolly hand which means they are right under your nose and I am usually a bit delicate  for that kind of smell first thing)This meant some kind of hat was called for. So, creeping into daughter’s room (not too quietly, why should she get all the lie ins?) I pinch a beret. I slam it on and launch myself into walk.
One of the many distressing things that happens when you get older is that you begin to look more and more ridiculous in young people’s clothes. In this beret – daughter looks like something Johnny Depp would be chasing. I look like someone he would be chasing off his property. I don’t suppose the parka hood pulled over it helped. Oh well, at least I kept my hair dry. It doesn’t really matter what I look like as long as I am warm as my Auntie Vera used to say. I can’t believe I just wrote that – she was a lady who had a drawer full of rain hats! I promised myself this would never happen to me!
My monthly magazine arrived today and it is the Christmas one. It has caused me to reflect how different my life (i.e. a REAL life) is from their target audience. Or maybe it’s just me.

  1.  I read that Vintage is again very hot this year, especially when it comes to coats. This is good for me as it means that I can get last year’s coat out of the cupboard under the stairs and after a bit of a brush down I will be hot to trot fashion wise.
  2. Eye make up will be smokey again so we will be needing new grey and black tones, mascara that can actually give me 4-D lashes and some shimmering highlighter to offset the greys. Excellent. In response to this, I will be giving my eyeliner (free with daughter’s magazine – think it was called “Smack” or something) a bit of a sharpen.
  3. It’s time to look at Christmas fashion. There was a nice article on dresses for the Christmas party and a smart casual look so “you can shine as brightly as any decoration” on Christmas Day. I may well need to shell out on some big knickers to wear under my faithful LBD. As for Christmas Day, trust me, the combination of a steamy kitchen, a mother examining the stuffing for onions – she can’t do onions (Mum- it HAS got onions – it’s very difficult to make without – you said you would do without stuffing – I KNOW it’s not quite the same!) and various teenagers and dogs etc will make me quite shiny enough thank you.
  4. Christmas table decorations will be very natural and green this year. This may well mean another raid on the local graveyard to steal consecrated ivy. Is it wrong to steal from God’s Garden? Does it not let us off that we are celebrating something lovely? I can’t see God minding – he loves me.

Just remember sooo much of this stuff is nonsense. I love my magazine – it has nice stories and photos of celebrities buying wine gums but real people don’t live like this. Do not let these people who are trying to sell things steal a second of your time making you worry that you are falling short of their ideal. (Breaking news – they are not kept awake by the fact that you and I may be a bit wrinkly, they are not really worried about you. They are, however thrilled skinny by the thought that you will put a £140 skin cream on your credit card) Real life is a gift – however messy. You should be dancin’ – yeh. (apologies – Gibb Brothers)

Taking your time

Thanks very much to all those who have enquired about Eldest Fruit of Womb and his status in York. All seems to be settling down well now after a somewhat shaky start. Without going into details – just a few questions have to be asked I think about the drinking culture in Freshers’ Week. Eldest FOW is no teetotaller but he found it all a bit full on.
However, it is much better now and he is especially enjoying the cut and thrust of political debate. I am hoping, however, that as study progresses debate will become more sophisticated. As far as I could make out, the last “debate” descended into something which more or less ended up with Eldest FOW shouting “Step Outside Posh Boy!” But I can’t be sure. I wasn’t there.
As for us who have been left here – the dogs keep looking out for him as you can see and Head of House and my good self feel a bit like one of those zombies you see on the telly who are dragging themselves around the place having an arm or a leg pulled off. Something is missing if you know what I mean. FOW 2 is missing the general jolliness of home life with a sibling but, I think, is secretly also enjoying watching the X Factor abuse free.
I think this is something that cannot be rushed. It’s an important part of life and we can’t expect to move to the next stage in life like the great Tommy Cooper – (Just like That! – I’m wasted here – I tell you)
I work full time and I’m a mum and a wife and a daughter and a Christian and a friend and a dog owner and, (if the mood takes me), a home maker as well as a writer and a walker and a reader and a film fan and a football fan (not so much today – 1-6? Are you on drugs?) Like you I suppose, I am always up for a short cut. Something to help me fit everything in but sometimes, things of quality need time – whether it’s embroidering the Bayeux Tapestry or sitting and listening to a chum’s problem.
Much as I would sometimes like to, I have learnt that I cannot short-cut my way through life if I want to create anything of value. Multi tasking is ok if you are talking about doing supermarket shopping while chatting to a mate about Nancy Del Whatsit in Strictly. It’s not so good if you are talking about praying for something and only being able to fit any time alone with God when you are having a wee. Serious adjustments maybe called for there.
Much as I love doing this blog, I also know that in ten years time, it will probably be just static or something. If I want something more permanent, I have to find the time to slow down and create it with care. Because when we create something whether its a book, or a friendship, a lifestyle or a cushion cover, we want it to be worth something. We want it to be lovely and to enrich the lives of those who come into contact with it.
This film clip bit at the end is getting a bit regular now. Don’t expect it every week! But this does illustrate so well what I am trying to say. This cake is not what you would call made from scratch. I think even her mother would say it’s not the most appetising thing ever. If you are a particular fan of this American TV cook, please don’t be offended. Apparently, this lady is the American Queen of the shortcut. Hmm. Cake Anyone?