One answer to this question could be that last weekend I was walking on the beach in Northumberland – and very nice it was too! I am fortunate enough to have a good friend with a flat in Alnmouth and as little Sally really wanted to go to the seaside again (yes, please!) and Martin was off to the States for a week to confer with haematologists from around the world I thought it was a perfect time to pay a long-overdue visit to the land of St Cuthbert. I’m also making the most of Sam’s continued absence, because who knows how free I will feel to gad around the country when he returns to the little house in the next street…
The photographer in me was champing at the bit, keenly anticipating clear blue skies, sunlight on the water and vast expanses of golden sand, so to wake up late on the first morning to a strange dimness and – pulling the curtains back from the high sash windows – to discover a covering of snow and grey cloud was a great surprise! Despite it being early December and the winter weather finally coming to our shores – in Scotland at least and how! – the forecasters had clearly said the snow wouldn’t reach as far south as NE England. So I actually exclaimed aloud, “this wasn’t supposed to happen!” – then smiled wryly at myself…
I was taken back to the day nearly 2 years ago in the neurosurgeon’s office when we were told of Sam’s cancer diagnosis. As shocking events go, that certainly ‘wasn’t supposed to happen’ – wasn’t in my life-plan at all; I wrote the poem Manoah’s wife to painfully capture the feelings of that life-changing moment. Surely, having come to terms with such a major unexpected turn of events and found grace for our roller-coaster journey since, a light smattering of snow shouldn’t prove an insurmountable obstacle?! It is all about expectations, isn’t it – expectations being disappointed and direction changed? How quickly could I readjust? How quickly could I put aside my own chagrin, accept the situation and make new plans? “Well this has happened – what do I do now?”
These 2 situations are not really comparable, of course and I did of course quickly accept that the sun wasn’t shining; putting aside disappointment we enjoyed the beach just as much in her winter clothes. The cloud cleared away over the rest of the weekend so I also saw some beautiful blue skies – perhaps appreciated them even more… I certainly took a LOT of pictures – my inner photographer was especially satisfied! You can see the best of them on these three links if you want to – snow, wind, waves, expanses of sand, sunlight on the water (a LOT of sunlight on the water…) It was a really good weekend and just the kind of break and rest I needed 🙂
Back in the car, on the motorway, back home – to a freeezzzing cold house! – back to reality and the question, ‘now where was I?’ But no time to think about it, swept along by Christmas shopping and postal deadlines, the demands of the laundry basket and an empty fridge, collecting Martin from the airport and welcoming him home… head-noise turned up loud, too much to do. What about my spacious place? What about time to write? Work looks like bank statements, trips to town and putting up the Christmas tree in time for Saturday’s party – there’s no time even to pray let alone blog! Meanwhile not writing for me means everything builds up inside, which feels a horrible mess: I become a mass of anxieties and even jotting down lists doesn’t really help bring clarity as there is no way I can possibly do everything on them!
Don’t panic! It’s called life – it’s called Christmas! Remember choices have consequences? Remember what you wrote only a few weeks ago about trying to change priorities?
“I have taken on a task and therefore a burden, so it is very easy to feel apprehensive and anxious: I have to keep choosing to put it down and trust the Lord. I have to keep choosing to discipline myself – to both rest and work, not to mention pray! I feel excited but also vulnerable – I have put my heart ‘out there’ and it is a risk. I have stood up to lead something… but am I on track? Will it be a success? Do I look stupid? Plus this prophetic prayer gathering is aiming high – national issues, big picture – which necessarily creates spiritual pressure too: I need support and advice, to build a team around me. With all that has been happening in our lives I could be forgiven for letting this go for once – but I am choosing to stretch, to invest, to make my life a prayer. The writing a course/book idea also adds pressure and I am not ‘getting round to it’ at the moment… Who put that pressure on? Me! All these feelings are also ongoing consequences of my choices…”
It seems having raised my expectations of myself I am now suffering from the impossibility of putting it into practise in the real world – especially at Christmas-time. Guilt over this is hardly helpful when there are so many other things going on just now – and Sam’s return coming closer as Christmas also moves in. Where was I , Jesus? And where are You standing? Are my expectations tripping me up again?
I’m glad the Lord knows me so well: it is always good to be reminded that I am not in control and I can’t do it! Life is an ocean and I am in a small boat, a coracle of faith, blown by winds and buffeted by waves – yet Jesus is both in the boat with me and walking through the storm towards me; He is the lighthouse and the coastguard, the overshadowing Presence. Like David in the Psalms, writing brings me back to this truth; despite the struggles and failures, despite shocks, surprises, changes and challenges, in the midst of overwhelming demands and dreams, Jesus always says ‘Come to Me, take my yoke, do it with me’.
To put it another way, ‘write left, write left! One foot in front of the other, grace for today, peace to rule in your heart, trust in the One who is doing it for and in you’. It is good to have my head clear and know what the Lord is saying and what I need to do next – and preferably when! – but when that is not possible, when blue skies are grey, I can still trust in Him to work out His purposes in me, to guide the little boat to shore and to look after the ocean as only He can. When I cannot see I just have to feel my way, holding His hand and listening to the peace that is always waiting for me inside if I let it.
So where was I? Where am I? Hidden in Christ, safe and trusting Daddy/Mummy God for what comes next… There may be as many changes in my altering moods and emotions as there were in the weather last weekend, but the truth of His promises, Her faithfulness and constancy, is the Rock.