waiting

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Last Sunday we helped lead our church’s very first ‘sense of space’ service – accessible worship space for families like ours, shaped by diff(dis)ability. We were so excited in the run up, happily busy with preparations and testing out of sensory bottles, coloured rice, sensory bin tables and writing lists and lists of ideas! We just wanted to do everything we could to begin well – to create a space that was safe, fun, interesting, sensory rich and God-filled, a place where families felt welcome and quickly at home.

Aptly we looked at the story of Simeon and Anna. Two who had been waiting at the temple for weeks, months, years, to see God’s promises come to pass.

How amazing it must have been to see an ordinary couple with a baby in their arms and for your heart to quicken as the Spirit let you recognize the one God was sending to fulfill all the promises his people have been waiting for! I can’t imagine the emotion of that very well… it’s huge, it’s intense, it’s electric. We tried to imagine him holding the baby and looking into Jesus’ face as he lets words of praise tumble out.

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“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” (Lk 2:29-32)

Waiting is something we’re not very good at really in this family. We’re not always that good at sensing timings and quite often waiting is basically a long string of ‘what’s the time?’; ‘How many more minutes?’; ‘Is it the time now?’; followed up by a whole load of ‘NOW!!!’. At the moment T’s ‘NOW!’ is all about an up and coming birthday, and party so we’ll be having this conversation for another couple of weeks or so!

Waiting can be emotionally exhausting (for everyone!). It’s an unknowing, a limbo time. Sometimes it’s emotionally exciting, intense and exhausting all rolled together. Other times, like a test at school, or a medical appointment it’s a wait filled with growing anxiety and stress at what’s to come that no amount of fidgets, relaxation techniques or sensory rooms can remove until the dreaded event comes and goes.

welcome with fidgets

(thanks Charlotte for the photo)

So what is it like ‘waiting’ for God?? In one sense we don’t have to wait in the same way as Simeon and Anna, Jesus has come, the Spirit is with us 24/7, to speak, comfort, lead, weep & laugh with us! In another sense though we do still talk about ‘waiting on God’, about stilling ourselves enough to become aware again of his presence with us in the everyday; about quietening ourselves enough to hear his voice whisper to us Spirit to spirit – no I don’t mean being outwardly, physically silent and still (though I do believe in miracles!!), I guess I mean being open and ready to recognize his presence and his words. That’s actually quite hard to explain and to model in a visual way to my littlies, but it’s something I want to – and to be honest sometimes it’s something they model to me as we remind each other he’s with us!

There’s also another kind of waiting for God of course, when we ask for something – either to be provided or to be fixed, changed or healed – when we say Amen and then wait for the answer… this kind of waiting for God is also a challenge sometimes. We have very fixed ideas about what answer we’re expecting, we have even maybe visualized that answer as we have been praying so we know exactly what we’re waiting for, hoping for and looking for. It’s difficult to accept that sometimes God’s answer is very different, it can be better than we’d hoped for but look different and be difficult to spot, hard to recognize. Sometimes it can be better than we’d been imagining but can seem to be the worst answer in the world – the ‘no’ or the ‘not now’ is very hard to accept, so hard that sometimes I don’t think we even realize that’s the answer we’re hearing loud and clear if only we were able to recognize it. (In fact because I know how difficult this is, there is a book coming!! watch this space)

At ‘sense of space’ we prayed together at the end by waiting – by giving ourselves a little breathing space to quieten our hearts and minds, and open them up to become aware that God was really with us. I filled a cup with the sand we’d been exploring in earlier and we watched and waited for God as the sand was poured slowly out. No words (you see miracles do happen!) until the final drop fell, and in the stillness the smallest in the room let out a slow ‘wow!’.

The Lord is here – his Spirit is with us!

Lift up your hearts – we lift them to the Lord!

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shifting sand

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The seasons change as surely as the tide comes in.

A new term begins.

New adventures, new challenges. Back to a different pace and different demands on our time. Groups begin again, homework will loom, clubs after school all fitted around vicarage life and ministry again as that too changes gear for term time. Just like being at the water’s edge as it comes in some of us rush in wanting the excitement of the sudden cold wave crashing over our feet and some rush in and then jump back as each wave hits; others hang back wishing we could face the inevitable a little more gradually, feeling a little more in control! I guess most of us fluctuate between the options…

Standing in the edge of the waves as they come in lets you feel their unsettling tug, shifting the pebbles and sand under your toes as it pushes and pulls. With each back and forth they are lifted and adjusted, re settled into new arrangements and places. Change is unsettling, unpredictable. It’s the beginning of movement towards the unknown.

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Change also reveals what is constant, what is trustworthy. In the anxiety and stress of change we reach out for something steady and safe to hold onto, and some things we try to rely on wobble and others prove safe and strong. I love the paradox of the verse in lamentations. God’s love is both forever new and forever constant, faithful. It is in the ebb and flow of the change as we follow after his call, and yet is the solid, steady safe fixed point we can cling to.

B & I have begun using the ‘she reads truth’ app at bedtimes. We have been reading about God’s permanence in a changing, shifting existence. Tonight we were prompted to remember together that no matter what out circumstances or feelings, God’s word, God-truth is fixed… through every page of the Bible we hear God’s mercy-full ‘I Love you, I am coming to you’. It remains. It’s trustworthy. We can cling to it as things shift beneath our feet.

This is the way God put it: “They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! (Jer 31:3 MSG)

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jer 31:3 NRSV)

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snapshot

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me next, my turn, can I, can I!

Thinking about my role as a Mum (peacekeeper, advisor, cheer leader, servant) for my gaggle of Kids…

3:05 – time to set off to fetch T from school. I am near the end of a meeting of diocesan reps talking about disability awareness in the churches in this area. Andrew is on pick up today. I exchange phones numbers and connect with people, hoping T will be okay with the change in plan… I had forgotten to let her know this morning.

3:25 – get back home. Quick check where (and how) everybody is. Has A got out on his paper round alright? What mood is T in? – it’s swimming lesson later, and the usual teacher is on holiday, will it be impossible or not? A clingy cuddle or few later and I’m getting swim kit ready, and ironing a shirt for Andrew & a dress for me – we’re all planning to be out tonight briefly for a farewell party for a colleague and good friend. Wonder (and fear?) how that will go!

4:10 – have checked in with B upstairs, she’s shutting the world out but okay. So tired at the moment though. Now time to get T into shoes again and walk to the leisure centre.

4:30 – Andrew is ready to drive us down so we won’t be late, now need to persuade T into the car. As I strap her in I’m letting her know it will be a different teacher. She’s had supply before and begins to try to work out which it will be – I know there’s no way of knowing till we get there and see, but nevertheless the trying to work it out has to run its course.

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4:35 – we pause to give best friend D a wave and hug on the way past the first waiting area, it’s the routine. Now we can go & get changed ready to swim. The usual cubical has it’s baby changing mat down, so we sort that and discuss at great length why it was left down & who had used it. Hair has to go in a bobble. Pick up the towel and go through to our waiting area.

4:45 – friend from school arrives and having seen, and found acceptable, the supply swimming teacher, she and her friend go to the bench ready for the lesson to begin. I take a minute to catch up with Mums – I can see T finding it difficult to confirm her name to the new teacher. She gets through it, and they walk to the pool.

5:15 – another good lesson, she gives it all she’s got. And she has done her best to try putting her face in water, and pushing off from the side unaided. She has had quite a few good tries at swimming independently on her front. It looks hard work on those hyper mobile joints and muscles of hers!

5:18 – the cubical we use is already occupied, and our bag has been moved. We find our things and we negotiate a different cubical. We have to use the toilet again before we can get dry and changed, which has its’ own checks and routines. We finally get back into clothes.

wisdom5:25 – Agreed time to meet Andrew for the lift home to be quicker than usual. We’re not at the door yet. T wants to get a snack from the vending machine near the changing rooms, it what we do every other week (and it’s that week) but we need to hurry. I suggest the machine near the door instead and reluctantly we set off. Andrew has come to find us and hurry us to the car (he’s got food ready for them and we need to be out again just after 6:30). T is finds it hard to deal with skipping the vending machine. I find it hard to keep us walking to the car at the same time as finding the right words and the right moments for hugs or space… so hard to know which will be helpful in each moment.

5:35 – home and sitting them up for tea. The paper round went okay, check; there will be homework to do when we get back with B, check; T hasn’t got an outfit in mind for the next thing which makes things a little easier in some ways, check; Andrew has had a phone call, someone needs a vicar tonight so we agree a time to leave so he can fit that in afterwards; go and get changed.

6:00 – nearly changed. B unsure what to wear. Invite said smart casual which is vague rather than definite but not free for all, tricky negotiations. It’s very tiring agreeing outfits that could be tried on, tiring for B to feel comfortable with a decision. At the same time I negotiate T into an outfit. Lose the battle over socks – flip flops will have to do! I carry on trying to be available to help B. T goes downstairs, can I hear more discussion about footwear?? B reluctant & ready. Time to get going. Grab a few extra distractions & fiddles for my bag. Andrew has persuaded T to let him brush her hair (second brush this week, it’s knotty!)! That makes me smile. Now to the car.

6:34 – who pushed (touched) who? Can I find the right words to calm this before we arrive? I worry, this may all go horribly wrong. Don’t want to spoil our friend’s evening if it does. We’re there. I remind them to hold the door open till they are all out of the car, I remind them about trying to behave quietly, sensibly, without arguing or hitting or kicking or annoying … We are greeted warmly at the door, drinks (glass cups – aghh!!!), hug with our friend – “there are puppies in the garden, come this way”….

8:00 – and we’ve done it… no glasses broken, no meltdowns, some conversations, puppies have been adored, photo with our friend, leaving the puppies behind achieved – to the car, and home. Next, bedtime for T, A needs to relax, want to find out how his day went, B needs to do homework – I’ll need to be there to support that, wonder how long Andrew will be & how it will go, never easy when it’s someone you don’t know…

It’s a small snap shot of a small part of an average, long day. What comes to mind as I jot it down is just how much I need wisdom for my actions, my words, my attitudes; discernment; tact & diplomacy! Thank goodness I know someone who loves to gift people with just those things…because today is another average, long day.

 

present in the moment

I’m tired! Nothing new, I know.

But Monday was still sunny and T wanted to play in the garden, with the bat and ball. For a while I threw, she missed then picked the ball and batted it back in my direction (mostly!), then of course I ‘ran’, fetched the ball and we did it all again.

After a short while I sat down on the grass while T fetched the ball for once. She came over and sat with me, and we began to get comfy and become aware of all that was going on around us. We watched a fat bumbling bumble bee crawling in and out of a flower, and the buzz it made when squeezing out. We saw it’s little legs laden with yellow pollen.

And God saw that it was good!

(Gen 1:10)

We noticed the colours of the wild flowers coming up with the lawn… clover purple, buttercups bright yellow , daisies white but blushed pink at the edges. To get a closer look I lay down on the grass, and T climbed on my back. And we began to relax and rest. As we watched and listened to the garden we saw a pied wagtail coming and going, collecting insects. Sometimes running, sometimes jumping or hopping, sometimes slow with the tail bobbing. T noticed it always went to the same tree when it’s beak was stuffed full. So we chatted about whether there might be a nest there. Was this the same wagtail each time, or was it mum & then dad taking turns?

They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! (Lk 12:24)

We enjoyed it for a while (maybe even 5 mins – that’s a remarkable time with T still & absorbed with me there too) and then we tiptoed over to the tree to see what we could see. Up in the tree directly above us, almost within reach were two soft grey, downy, fluff-balls with bobbing tails! Baby wagtails! T was so excited, we ran in to fetch a camera and each had a go at trying to stand very still and film these wonderful birds. What a treat!

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It’s always a treat, a gift to share a moment like that with one of my children. We wonder together at the beauty of God’s creation. It’s intricate detail, it’s variety. I wonder at the care over the detail, each little baby bird known and loved by it’s creator. Each bird designed and decorated in joy. T found a tiny feather under the tree and ran in to put it in her feather jar – each one collected carefully, each a memory of wonder and discovery.

A whole hour? Really??

Our church has been taking part in ‘Thy Kingdom Come 2017’ this week beginning with a prayer 24/7 style prayer marathon that will finish in time for our early morning service on Sunday, and our celebration of Pentecost.

Everyone in church had an opportunity to sign up for one of the hours in the prayer space – a whole hour?? I went with T for an hour yesterday, not the best timing 12-1pm – right when she’s usually eating lunch! Anyway, we packed biscuits and a flask of hot chocolate to keep us going if hunger got in the way, and we set off with Annie (favourite doll) quite ‘nervous-ited’ as T calls that funny mix of excitement and feeling daunted at something unknown.

It was less of an unknown to me, I had planned the room so knew exactly what would be there… and of course had made sure there were plenty of hands on things people of any age or ability could join in with.

We began the hour predictably, straight to the playdough mats. While she began we remembered the story of the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples as they prayed. And talked about how the Holy Spirit helped them share Jesus’ good news. We read the story of the wise and foolish house builders from a children’s Bible as T finished (and helped Annie finish) the playdough picture. And we began to wonder together what it means to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’…

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T knew the phrase from learning the prayer at school, so we said the whole prayer out loud together and she and Annie set off to another part of the room. To my surprise she didn’t stop at the library of story books & cosy tent with beanbags, she went straight to the table with the papers and odds and ends people might find helpful – blue tack, post-its, luggage tags, Bibles, felt pens, colouring sheets (yes, any excuse to design a new one!) & colour in booklets about the Lord’s prayer. I showed her the booklet she could make and how it might help her to pray, but she picked up the colouring sheet, sat Annie on a little chair, drew up another, chose a colour and then said ‘tell me about this wall Mummy’…

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Right next to us was a wall for drawing and writing onto, ‘The Kingdom of God is…’, with questions; what does the Kingdom look, sound, feel, taste, smell like? ‘Taste like???? how can it taste Mummy??’. I found the passage after the beatitudes with the passages that compare the Kingdom to different things. And read about salt! ‘Do you think we are supposed to be salty if we are part of God’s Kingdom T?’, ‘Ughhh! I don’t like salt!’. ‘Hang on though T, what would ready salted crisps (a favourite) be like without salt?’, ‘Yuk!’ said T. ‘It’s salt that makes them taste good, salt makes all sorts of tastes extra alive. Salt makes some things last better. And it can make things get better quicker sometimes.’ ‘Really? Wow, Mummy you should draw salt shaking all over the whole world then it will be better.’ I drew as I was instructed and we prayed for God salt, and God’s salty Kingdom people to make the world better.

Publication2We sat for quite a while, T colouring, me praying.

‘What are you doing Mummy? Are you still worrying about salt?’, ‘Not really T, just listening to what God might say to me as I talk with him’. ‘How will you know? Have you heard his voice?’, ‘Have you T?’. ‘It’s low low low, and serious… and beautiful’. ‘I think it’s also sometimes like this too’, and I laid my hand on her arm, ‘like that, safe warm..’, ‘With you feeling!’ T smiles, ‘Yes Mummy, sometimes’. ‘I think that when I’m talking with God and thinking with him he helps me with new ideas and thoughts, helps me see new things I hadn’t noticed or understood before’, I said. ‘So what do you need to draw there now Mummy?’…

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I asked T to come and pray for our town, we had wooden houses, trees, people & animals to put onto the map. We thought about places and people, and took turns to ask God to be with them, and help them. Then we saw the table with A’s globe on it, and we had to stop and look. A display of prayers from around the world. ‘Is there China?’, said T. She was fascinated by China when she learnt about Chinese New Year at school. We read the prayer from China together looking at it on the globe. And then the doorbell went – the hour was gone! It was a very precious hour, heartfelt conversation T, God & me.

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B’s colouring later in the day.