31 August 2013

theology of laundry

One of those ordinary weekends playing keepy uppy and tackling the laundry. This morning whilst folding, I remembered a laundry related story from years ago.

When our children were small, as parents Sunday mornings consisted of a manic couple of hours supervising the washing and dressing of two pre-schoolers and one just-in-schooler. At the same time we tried to keep an atmosphere that might maintain the previous hours of holy preparation prior to preaching (him.) Anything else was a bonus (ie that I might actually have my top on the right way round and for extra points a dash of make up approximately applied.) The reality was that our children probably picked up a number of words they shouldn’t have, from me.

One such morning in the middle of it all daughter (who was still too young to speak properly) started yelping once her leggings were on her legs. It soon became clear that this did not fall into the category of a tantrum and that she was actually making a genuine commotion about something on her leg. The leggings came back off and she calmed down eventually. After a time the leggings went back on again and the yelling started even louder and so the leggings came off once more. Only this time it became clear what the problem was.

A wasp dropped onto the floor.

The black and yellow striped blighter had probably crawled into the leggings whilst they were on the washing line the day before and dozed off. It didn’t take too kindly to being woken up and consequently had stung daughter a few times before any of us worked out what was happening. Needless to say by this point she and I were both equally distraught and both stayed home that morning and shared lots of cuddles.

The story has been re-counted a few times since, under the bad mother header. At the time I felt awful that I had not been able to work out sooner what was happening. (And perhaps almost as bad that I had not ironed the leggings and squashed the problem beforehand). Anyway short of installing and monitoring washing line CCTV, BBC TV wildlife-style, I couldn’t have prevented it.

I was reminded just this week too of some painful experiences of recent years when I saw someone at the station. A person whose inability to deal with their own pain meant that pain was meted out to others, including us. And the associated feelings from that time quickly came rushing back, making me realise it’s not all dealt with yet.

We don’t want those we love to be hurt and to be in pain. We don’t want to be wounded by others. And pain inflicted by others sometimes reveals things about ourselves that we really don’t want to see.

All the foresight and micromanaging cannot prevent pain occurring. Sometimes it just happens.

Most of the time we are a work in progress along the way, releasing it to our Father as we go. And that’s OK.

But the peace that follows after we’ve moved through it is usually the best.

26 August 2013

damselfly, dragonfly, damselfly, dragonfly (a letter to tuck in your pocket)

One of the best things about being out and about in the British countryside in sunshine in the late summer is the dragonflies. They flit and dart, and mostly their sheer, luminescent wings glint a thousand times more beautifully in the sunlight. As for some of those species that don’t possess the natural irridescent beauty the wonder is seen in their size, like miniature bi-planes dancing in their solo aeronautical displays. 

And are most are too fidgety to be photographed or identified.

Yesterday I was watching a blue-hued specimen and trying vainly to capture an image with the camera. For one shot the lens and insect were aligned but because of the creature’s speed its definition still merged with the blurred background. With the help of filters this was the best I could muster:

Many of us know relationships where the other person wants to rescue us, fix us and stealthily impose their opinion on us. For want of a better expression (and for all its potential sexist connotations) to them we are a damsel in distress. And for the most part if the circumstances or atmosphere becomes too difficult we can set boundaries and keep our distance. But if that person is a close relation for whom you care desperately if something were to happen to them, boundary setting is not quite so straight forward. Just difficult, messy and painful.

I don’t know what the technical difference is between a dragonfly and a damselfly and the ones I have seen have never kept still enough to co-operate with species identification. The cryptic twitter quote I made was something of a way to try and align these insects with thinking about people in our lives who are rescuers and do this because they know no other way and are driven by a strong need to avoid fixing themselves.

Whether or not the tweet made sense to anyone else is beside the point, because that doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The One who created us and the dragon/damselflies knows and understands. 

As if to emphasise it all I have seen a number of dragonflies elsewhere since yesterday, on the button tin as I was doing some clothes repairs last night

and again this morning on a cover photo on someone’s facebook profile.

If that is God’s way of saying ‘I get you’ that is enough for me.

And it is what I want to keep on the letter in my pocket, next to my heart.

Linking up with Ruth & Sabrina at #LettersTo (at Ruth's place this week)

23 August 2013

immensity beyond my grasp

The quote is via @twitturgies and the photo is Dornoch beach on the east coast of Scotland.

Almost 200 years ago, my 4x great grandfather Alexander Barclay left here and travelled pretty much directly 5000 miles south to St Helena (his story is here)

I love the sea, don't get to see it nearly enough and today I know it is all immensity beyond my grasp.

last (5 minute friday)

Joining with the writing flash mob that is Five Minute Friday at the home of the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. #FMFparty

Five minutes on last

One of the perks of being a clergy family especially when working in a small church is that wedding invites tend to come around quite frequently.  And the opportunity to share each part of the a happy couple’s day.

This perk has something of a double edge when it comes to the seating plan for the wedding breakfast because the clergy family are usually quite far removed in the pecking order from immediate family. Sometimes you are planned to be sat beside the people that the family are never quite sure who to put them next to (and yes I own up here, sorry Rev Pete that’s what we did at our wedding to you and your lovely wife.)

This was another one such wedding. We were seated on the periphery of the plan with our youngish children. Whilst waiting (as you do at weddings in general) our kids had cleaned out the favour bags  and were getting high on e-numbers.

The buffet had been organised by an Auntie who was enthusiastic but had little catering knowledge.  So most of the food was snarfed by strapping young men at the front of the queue, close relatives of the groom and you’ve guessed it, by the time the last got to the table there were essentially crumbs left. The bride was truly mortified for a while...

But that said, it made it a memorable day for different reasons and as if the tale of the reception itself were not enough, one of the children had to vomit in a hurry on the way home in the car (pay back for super speedy ingestion of sugar earlier.) The nearest vessel to hand was the box that had earlier carried the bridal party’s corsages (yep clergy tidy up after wedding services too!)

Thankfully real Grace comes in equal measure no matter where we are in the queue. 

18 August 2013

when it gets too loud

Each weekday morning at the station at approximately 7:29am the tannoy on the opposite platform starts to make the announcement for the next southbound local train. And without fail the London express comes thundering through drowning out all the calling station names. Then all that is left of the announcement after the cacophony passes is an almost apologetic ‘operated by Northern Rail.’  I’ve no idea how the timing manages to be absolutely spot on each day.


That is life reflection at the moment.  

I know my well-being is not great and hasn’t been for at least a few weeks now. Way too much medicating with chocolate. Life, work and social media feel like they are all drowning ‘me’ out. Half the time I don’t know what I feel, another news topic flares up or a hot subject whizzes around twitter and my senses short circuit.  And the monkey on the shoulder hops from foot to foot jabbering amongst other things ‘you’re just jumping on the back of recent blog posts on depression and mental health, copying others by thinking of taking a social media break..’

Truth be known I’m not sure what I will do, but I am on a list for counselling. I also think I feel for the first time that I’m not totally scared shitless at the thought of darkness loitering again. One of those seasons which comes around periodically and lets itself in through the door for a sit-in.

I want to be able to articulate ‘it’ perfectly but for sure I don’t always know what ‘it’ is

How can I explain what deep down I don’t know?


I have also longed to explain how music has often saved me in tough times. How my soul has a deep affinity with interpretation of the dots and lines on a page. I don’t know how a particular combination of sounds (harmonies) in music might move me deeply. That Chopin’s dark thoughts have probably mirrored my own. Perhaps it is the best way for some of those pesky feelings to be dragged up from the deep, from the coal face to the surface?  

Time and again when I’ve turned up and sat at the piano with heavy heart and began to move fingers over the keys, whatever the piece of music may be, I’m not the same as I was before I started the piece. 

When I prepare songs for leading worship on a Sunday it turns out I am not just playing them over to make sure I am aware of how things might flow from one song to the next.The very act of exercising physical, mental and spiritual muscles together is something which irons my soul.


The whole effort of trying to explain sometimes turns in on itself. 

And the perfectionist pitches in for good measure, screeching grammar, poor choice of words, no good, no-one will understand, too much me, me.

But I do need to create, write, to sift and to dredge. 

And even if I don’t come out with understanding, the creases are a little smoother and the noise is not quite so overwhelming.

#3goodthings [18 Aug 2013]

so three good things has got behind in the last few weeks.. onwards..

11-16 Aug (answers to prayer)
a friend’s operation being brought forward
my brother’s infected lymph nodes greatly reduced
confirmation that sale of our house sale should be completed within the next week (a 2½ year wait) 


17-18 Aug
viewing a potential new home
visit from son & daughter in law
God’s particularly amazing love in the old testament prophets

243 gifts

16 August 2013

small (five minute friday)

Joining with the writing flash mob that is Five Minute Friday at the home of the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. #FMFparty

Five minutes on: small

It’s funny as the generations carry on we all get slightly bigger. Not unlike Russian dolls, a slightly larger version of what has gone before.  All starting off from small.

The children all tower over me now.

I come from a line of small women on Dad’s side. Nanna was just shy of five feet and Nanny (great grandma) was even smaller. Nanny died when I was very young and for years I thought she was kept in the wooden hinged box in the loft room at Nanna’s. Such was the small mind concept of death at the time. It took years to realise that was not true.

The last time I saw Nanna she was curled in a foetal ball on the hospital bed, sleeping peacefully, breathing softly. I kissed the small, fragile, woman-child goodbye one last time, she resting in womb-secureness, just before she stepped over the threshold and into the light.

10 August 2013

letter to the one(s) who noticed

‘Wedding day arrived!’ a friend’s facebook status this morning. Her daughter is getting married today. A child’s wedding is a most precious and joyous experience. Knowing the story behind her getting to this place (adoptions and a late natural conception) I know there will have been an extra measure of joy at that wedding today.

Our eldest son got married last year and the wedding was conducted by Vic (not his real name.) Vic was a late replacement for the original vicar who had to pull out. He was relaxed about photography during the service (unlike the original vicar who had said a blanket no.) The photographer took a number of photos of Vic during the service in action, both men doing what they loved best. As a thank you the photographer gave Vic and his family a framed photo as a gift. Tangible gratitude in art form became a genuine treasure for Vic’s family when he died just a few months later.

As Jesus entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realised that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough. Luke 17:11-13 (msg)

And the mind can be a deceitful thing, playing tricks and telling you for sure that ‘no-one notices.’ Even when you know it is a lie hijacking and demanding full attention. It becomes a step on a muddy slope and before you know you are sliding uncontrollably towards the bottom, into the pit.

Ignored comments roll away empty, a whoosh of tumbleweed across a room

Sometimes you can’t articulate feelings

Some days you can’t see the amazing, challenging, moving and powerful that others are able to see, just the all consuming black or the dreary grey

At times it is just hard slog


That’s when you really want someone to notice

And then you can just about make out the chink of light that reaches into the pit. Either the friend who is giving you an empowering hand to haul you out or the one who is sitting in there with you until your heart is still and calm again (neither of you noticing muddy asses.)

Whether you are the One or the ones I can’t thank you enough.

This is for all of you xx

Linking up with Ruth & Sabrina at #LettersTo (at Sabrina’s Ruth's place this week)

2 August 2013

story (5 minute friday)

Joining with the writing flash mob that is Five Minute Friday at the home of the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. Writing not for comments or traffic or anyone else’s agenda. But for pure love of the written word. For joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker.

Five minutes on story

Forty years ago today on the Isle of Man, a small island off mainland Britain, a huge fire ripped through a holiday complex called Summerland. Fifty happy holidaymaker’s lives were lost.

We were on holiday as a family in the same town at the time. I was too young to absorb the impact of the situation and its awfulness.

It is one of those sad events that is perhaps not as widely covered as some others. Fifty lives whose stories were snuffed out agonisingly and many more who have suffered since from the loss of  a close  family member.

Photo credit: Neal Fowler (Fragile)

The fire was started by the careless discarding of a cigarette

How often do our careless words have a destructive impact on others’ stories? Changing the course of events and missing God-given opportunites to shower grace.

Let us learn to love well and not be a spark to a devastating inferno, one that burns up and suffocates another.

Be oxygen to draw out the best in each other's story and recognise the true value of our own.