23 November 2014

when a month is a wipe out

This has been a month of protracted sadness, more where the see-saw has been doing its up and down daily work as usual but it has been harder to bounce back out of the down parts. Hard slog and wrestling.

It is fast approaching those two months of the year when the journey to and from work will be in darkness, encompassing each end the light in between while I work the hours at the job which may or may not run into next year.

In the middle years of life I have greater self awareness than ever to know when the sad times are taking over and more self-help tools and other people walking the same walk than ever to deal with them.

I know this month was situational triggered, a small insignificant thing looking at it, which underneath has created currents pulling me helplessly this and that way. I have much to look forward to with the imminent arrival of a grandchild. Right now I fear I will not feel the joy when this happens.

I know I will rise again eventually, life-savers keep hauling me towards the surface. Singing  is restorative in a way that nothing else is (even when as this week others are bantering over the top their preferences on the finesse of presentation.) There was a glorious rainbow end refracting against broody skies last Monday, just a brief vertical show on the day six years after Mum died. Enough to remind me that I am remembered.

I have been quieter on Social Media and more under the radar in life for a while but like a lot of others (either on Social Media or in life) it mostly goes unnoticed unless I say something. Which is mainly awkward (for others when I say something and me when I don't.)

So for those of you who are complicated, quieter and more under the radar than usual...

Yeh darkness is doing its darndest to snuff out the light, but it is always light somewhere else and I am hopeful that sooner or later it will come back again.

22 July 2014

a big fat 3 good things

The checkout assistant waited whilst I rummaged through my handbag for my purse. Not surly, gum-chewing impatience, just a quiet, all-the-time-in-the-world patience. As I inserted the credit card in the machine she said ‘You do like butterflies and turquoise don’t you?’ It hadn't even occurred to me that I was all matchy, matchy and I was genuinely impressed with her attentiveness and observation.

This weekend just gone we visited our son and daughter in law for the last time before they move south, taking them and our grandchild-to-be an extra 2.5 hours away. I have mixed feelings about them being so far away but I know they have heard and prayed about the God-whispers calling them into a new chapter of their lives. (And should you southerners not look after our grandchild there will be wigs on the green.)

We attended morning service at the church where D has been working for the past few years. We have been there a few times before and in different contexts. The prompt to recount these things is strong. It feels good to be thankful, but I know in tiredness, vulnerability, and motorway traffic jams, gratefulness will easily evaporate.


26 years ago we attended just the one service in the same church when D was a baby himself. We stayed with the minister and his wife. She observed me with him and suggested I might have depression. She was the first person to ever mention it. Then I had no idea, but now I am grateful to her more than she will know. Young motherhood was one of those pressure points which made the depression rise to the surface. It is not until much more recently that I have accepted depression as part of who I am, not just another sorry episode of failure (except during the tired and vulnerable moments.)

Thankful she noticed.

Much more recently we went to another service at the church as a family, a rare free Sunday when we could all be in the same place with all our grown up children. The speaker was talking about times when money was tight for him and his family, when their children were growing up. Hand-me-down and severely price-slashed winter coats, familiar to ours in the years when we were still a clergy family. 

At the end of the service D turned to me and said to me ‘You gave up a lot so you could spend time with us when we were little and we always had everything we needed’ (Rough translation ‘almighty cock ups notwithstanding I think you did an alright job’ - I’ll take the compliment). I know that whichever way motherhood had been done, stay at home or working, the way would have been littered with mistakes on all sides.

Thankful he noticed.

And on Sunday just gone within those same old stone walls we sang these words:

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm, Your love is the anchor
My hope is in You alone

I was overwhelmed with thankfulness at what God has done with, for and through us over the years. In spite of all of us really.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us” 1 Samuel 7:12


This morning as I left for work a butterfly was gently flexing its wings on the wall by the front door. And then in the revoltingly overcrowded, standing room only train my nose was pressed up against the blouse of the woman in front (unobtrusive evidence and truly honestly not a selfie)

28 February 2014

the dogfather (on moving and closing sub-chapters)

On the walk home this evening, clutching my cup of Costa Gingerbread Latte, I passed the local recreation ground. As I did, a man walking a beautiful golden Labrador was just leaving the park and heading for a 4wd vehicle which was labelled‘The DogFather’ and in smaller letters towards the rear ‘dog walking, training and psychology’.

Today we finally gained possession of the keys to our new home and so it has been marked the closing of a sub-chapter of our lives. Over the last few weeks we have mentally been crossing things off on the calendar:

Him – my last commute when all the schools are not on holiday

Me – I tweeted this morning 'Last commute from this station 2day from next week will be an even less glamorous style of cattle wagon but more frequent #looking4positive 

Him – my last crawl through 40 minutes of traffic daily just to get to the motorway

Me – my last Gingerbread Latte from the Costa in the village

The train journey reading today was the final chapters of Rachel Held Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I particularly loved the last part where she looks back on the year with a grateful heart for all the things that have happened and lets those pesky sins that cling, float away downstream with crumbs of challah bread and a grateful heart.

I walked homewards, via the village and my heart similarly filled with gratitude. For what’s gone before and how we have reached this point in our lives. Middle-age (OK and some), having taken a circuitous route, but finally in possession of house keys *\o/*

(O yes and my phone has been vibrating very frequently with likes and comments since I posted the facebook status ‘Keys. We have’. Many friends have willingly prayed, willed, sent good vibes, felt and shared the house-buying pain.)

Inwardly singing my favourite words from Phatfish songs made tears prick my eyes as they often do:

How good it is to be loved by You

I will say of the Lord He is my refuge, I will say of the Lord He is my strength, I will say of the Lord He is my shelter and hiding place

I know for sure, particularly when I am mindful, I can look back and ‘see’ each of these things in and between every little detail along the way. Sometimes it has been hard to see forwards, to know what it’s all for. When solicitors have dragged their feet or 'forgotten' something (apart from their bills.) There have been times of significant debt in the last few years and sleepless nights worrying about that.

And moving into a new home won’t mean we have arrived. Nor will it be our perfect dream home in that all-eggs-in-one-basket manner that they hope for on the tv property programmes.

There will be plenty more curveballs in this life.

There will be days when I forget God’s goodness.

But for me today the DogFather and his strap-line was a particularly apt thing to see just before I turned the last corner and arrived home. 

26 January 2014

mess at the beginning middle and end

This will start a mess and end up a mess. I’ve tried to write it many times. I’ve wanted to be clever and disguise it as a piece of fiction writing, and I am in awe of the people out there who could do that. I want to write it to help me try and understand and process at least for a few minutes. But mostly out from the inside and onto the page.

I’ve alluded to the fact before on this blog that my Dad and I have a tricky relationship. I know I’m not the only one out there and I reckon many of us walk with a bit of a limp when it comes to parent child relationships that never come to full, healthy fruition for whatever reason. In this sense the reasons don’t really matter and to be honest I’m not sure I fully understand them all either.

I have read somewhere about older men whose wives pre-decease them, as they carry on through life they often shrivel and die inside. He will ask me often what the weather has been like locally to me, not because he is interested, but because he wants to tell me what the weather is like where he lives. And most of the conversations go that way. I don’t know how to change them to make them like exchanges you have with other people, to make them more fun, more interactive so I give up trying mostly.

So last night as often happens something particular he said got under my skin and triggered a regular chain reaction of thoughts. Mostly this escalates into an intense irritation. Afterwards a primal scream, a debrief with the Scotsman or a slug of wine can help me vent/make a bit of sense afterwards.

Sometimes the feelings in my head continue on and mirror Dad’s outlook. They hurtle round with abandon like gleeful recalcitrant toddlers in their small circles. I know it’s out of control. Dad’s trying to control me in his way, I’m trying to make sense of things by trying to get inside his head and control him back. 

Patterns, habits.

Dad is one of those text book people that people advocate that you give a wide berth or de-friend on facebook because they are hard emotional work and you can choose to walk away. Toxic is a bit too strong, but elements of that are there. I don’t feel I can walk away completely because he is Dad, but I can try and maintain healthy boundaries by limiting visits.

I would love to be able to write and say there has been forgiveness and reconciliation. I love to read stories of when that happens, but it is usually with a heavy heart because I just don’t see it on the cards. And each time the mess wreaks its havoc (which is pretty much each time I see or speak to him) there is an abject sense of failure again on my part that I have not done what I can or cannot do what I can to show love and to fix things.

It is in this broken and messy state that God continuously invites me to share the pain, lean on Him. Or I can choose to medicate the pain in unhealthy ways and He will wait for me. It’s rare when I do share with others that there is a ‘me too’, but I have a hunch there are a lot of ‘me too’ people out there. It’s hard when the parent is still alive to acknowledge and voice to others without feeling disrespectful. (Heck, a friend of mine with professional knowledge after a long conversation even ended up recommending alcohol when I asked advice on how to deal with the situation.)

One of our leaders shared a photo of a stained glass window in church this morning. It depicts a child with unknown hands on their shoulders. One hand is in a protective position the other poised to gently push the child on their way. God will always be gently encouraging me to pick up and press on with regards to my Dad, but as I do so His protection will never, ever leave my side for a moment. Especially in those moments when it really doesn’t feel like it is there.

I am grateful for the safety of Selina & Ruth’s space to write.

Just because.

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

9 January 2014

A letter to home

To me home, you are sometimes a funny old thing. Which town to put as ‘home’ on social media when you have moved from place to place? Where you are living currently, where you were born, where you spent secondary school (if you managed constancy during these years?)

I haven’t got the foggiest which postcode I belong to. Place attachment feels about as definite as my grandfather’s birthplace in ‘the cottages near the village pub’.

I’m certainly not from round here. After all this particular physical house was only ever intended to be a temporary, rental stepping stone towards a house that is for the first time fully ours. But temporary has turned into three years and onward progress sees patient patience hanging on by a thread at times.

We have found ourselves in but not of the community. Partly through choice we have not invested time and energy in getting to know people in the neighbourhood that well.  We assumed we would sneak in unobtrusively and move on fairly quickly. A kerfuffle with the front door lock when we moved in lured Bob at No.1 and his watchful eye over the road to investigate.

When I was young, unafraid and newly married I knew that an itinerant lifestyle was on the cards with the Scotsman going into church ministry. Then I found the prospect tantalising, going where God was leading and all the great, exciting things that would follow. It didn't take long for that bubble to burst because the child-like expectations I had in the early days of marriage were actually quite childish and soon developed into demands that others would somehow fulfil long buried unhappiness I didn't know I had buried as I was growing up.

Years have taught me that I really don’t like moving that much. Along the way I have lost confidence when it comes to making new friendships, trying to break into familiar, long established circles. I have also resented friends whose children have had lifelong friends because they have lived in one place - their way looks easy and mine hard especially when I have compared and not been grateful. 

It is still all where God has been leading, just not what I envisaged it would be all those years ago. 

We are all slowly but surely taking the long way home.

This evening I’m following the poet Ian McMillan’s (@IMcMillan) tortuously slow but poetic train journey home this evening via twitter “Back to Manchester. I left here at 1820. Still, time's an elastic concept. Going home via Huddersfield.” Yep, Huddersfield has been one of our staging posts along the way too.

Stability and home have been the greatest gifts to me from those who know and love me for who I am. Jesus, family, friends, a safe stronghold, the Kingdom and not a building of bricks or stone. 

Most of all a place where no-one has to impress anyone.

I had a work colleague who recounted how a leading actress in a TV series once used the loo in her house while filming was taking place in the area. The nub of the story was not that someone famous had peed in her loo but that the cat being in charge of all the comings and goings had been keeping a firm beady eye on all the proceeedings in the bathroom. An observation not lost on the actress either. (Lateral thinking led me back to this particular story because the TV series was ‘Where the heart is’. Home ..)

At the end of the day it’s the little ordinary things like this that really matter. The outworking of home in the every day and in the heart.

For the record on facebook I use the Midlands town where I went to secondary school as ‘home’ even though I was born in the South East and we and all of our children have lived in both the South and the North of England. Very soon we hope to become bone fide adopted northerners as we will own cobbles!

As far as I know I have never been watched by a cat while on the loo.

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