Worried?

Bah humbug! I think Christmas is great. I have a few personal reasons for getting a bit emotional when it is here but I love the idea that this is the day (Note the use of the word “day” not month or epoch) when we celebrate the beginning of the adventure. Christ with us. Love it. But for goodness sake it is still only November. I have started shopping and planning (despite presence of Head of House tutting loudly at Elton John played in the shops for umpteenth time) and I think that’s ok too, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. It hasn’t started yet. Doesn’t it cheapen it a bit lengthening Christmas to six weeks? I know I’m proabably on my own but I’m still at the stage where I’m making a list, I’m checking it twice and then I’M GETTING ON WITH SOMETHING ELSE. Sooo many other things happening before then – mock exams, craft fayre, wedding to watch, meetings to attend, Fruit of Womb Two’s weekend away, good Woody Allen at the Arts Centre,decorating to do etc. etc. None of these Christmas related and, for me, none of them to be sidelined because Christmas is only a month away. And when they are done there will be Return of Fruit of Womb One, end of school term, food shop and food prep, visit of relatives, Work Christmas Do,  Carol Service, excetera, excetera – (said in Yul Brynner voice) all to be enjoyed as part of the general festivities. Like I said, I love it, all in good time.
While I am moaning though, has anyone else found it difficult to find decent Nativity Christmas Cards to send? It’s like we are Puritans or something and are not allowed to represent the image of the Lord. Your choice is Leonardo de Vinci like oil painting or a card done by Mexican children for charity who are at least catching a bit of what Christmas is about. However – try getting one from M & S or Paperchase. Fat chance.

Rant over. This is what I wanted to talk about.This is Lucy. Lucy is our dog. She used to be my brother’s dog and now she lives with us. For the past twelve months she has lived here quite happily. At least, we think she is happy. She eats, she runs, she plays and, given the opportunity, she chews expensive trainers. She only has two clouds on her otherwise idyllic doggy horizon. One is our other dog Morecambe. He didn’t ask for her, doesn’t want her and to be quite frank, wouldn’t miss her, were she to win the doggy lottery and move to the Bahamas. Lucy has dealt with her rejection issues very successfully and shows her contempt by eating from Morecambe’s bowl, lying in his cage, pinching the best spot on the settee and giving him fleas. (Dealt with now – never again – nightmare!)
Her other problem is – her nerves. Or Fear. Lucy is a very jumpy dog. I have no  idea where she gets it from. She has never been beaten. Occasionally she has been yelled at. (see trainers/chewing/expensive above) But that’s the most that has ever happened. Lucy, however, is like a grainy black and white film of a World War 1 veteran suffering from shell shock. A tiny hand movement to scratch an itchy nose can send her scuttling from her chair in fright as if she was about to get the back of my hand (as we say up North) Lucy jumps at the noise a margarine top makes when it is snapped off the tub. She even jumps at the little noise made by an early morning slightly pumpy bottom as someone moves around the kitchen putting the kettle on. (Or so I have been told) Too much detail there – sorry.
You get the idea though. Lucy has a good doggy life to live  here. She lives in a family that loves her (well except for Morecambe). We have open fires, long walks, comfy cushions and people who really like her (except for Morecambe) and still she spends each day scared.
I have to tell you, I can really identify with her. I know what I know what I know and yet, every day I stuggle not to fear. I disappoint myself with it. When I was ill a good few years back I promised myself that I would never be scared of rubbish stuff again. You think that when really scary stuff happens, it will make you immune to worry but it hasn’t. Daft stuff – What will people say if I do that? Is that idea any good? What if I try that and it’s a disaster?  If I am not careful it can cripple me. I don’t try new things. I don’t call people in case they are thinking “What does she want now?” (They don’t seem to be thinking that at all by the way) I can lose all sense of perpective if I’m not careful.
The cure? Well it’s a work in progress as you will have guessed but this is the place I keep coming back to.

Isaiah 41:8
 ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’ Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

Very rough translation for my purposes –  “Man up!  You are not on your own. Do what needs to be done and see what you can achieve. You don’t need to provide the strength – God does that. You’ll only regret it if you don’t”

Realise that Greek scholars will be spinning in graves now (at least those that are dead) but have to tell you – it works for me.


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)