Fabrication sounds like falsification – but I don’t mean that. It is more about a construction to grow my life around for a season – a bit like this rose trellis; the idea is to enable growth rather than shut it down, to give freedom and spontaneity an underlying support.
Some of us prefer to plan and organise our lives, keep everything tidy, and others like to just go with the flow: Myers-Briggs calls these different ways of dealing with what comes at us ‘judging’ and ‘perceiving’ – words that seem to have been chosen just to confuse the issue! As I mentioned in the post A slight change of plan – written at a very painful moment in the middle of the ride with Sam and Jessa last year – I am a ‘J’, but I really need to relax! To complement my restrictive tendencies, Martin is a ‘P’ – but boy, is his life chaotic without me clearing up after him and telling him what he is supposed to be doing! We all need balance, of course, and to grow in our areas of weakness.
Anyway, it is typical of me that coming back from holiday with a sense of ‘resurrection’ and the newness of Spring underway, that I’ll look ahead and make some plans for what is coming up next. Whether it’s a birthday or New Year, a new school term or even a revision timetable before exams, we all have times where we map out the days; at boarding school we all drew ‘end-of-term worms’! I just take this to extremes, marking my life’s path back over the years as well as remembering little details of synchronistic events. It’s all part of my coping mechanism to give our journey – perhaps particularly since Sam became ill – some significance, clarity and direction, while hoping it is God who is marking it with and for me. Sometimes there can be no other explanation for the way things turn out, which is more than encouraging – and if I hadn’t been alert to it in this way, I would have missed the whisper of the Lord, “I AM with you.”
So, this framework I’m fabricating now is the 21 days I mentioned in my last post. As you’ll know if you’ve been around a while, I often find 40 day/week/month markers and try to take note of the anniversaries of important events, so you will frequently find me, when prompted, flicking through the pages of my diary or examining the year planner and counting the days and weeks. I’ve written lots about this in past posts – When the bough breaks or Close the door behind you shed a bit more light on what I mean. It was just yesterday I was reminded of my old post 20:20 vision and started wondering again what 1st August this year may bring… but in our lives it’s still a bit too far ahead to see.
But I like to ‘Stand at the crossroads and look’ (Jeremiah 6v16), looking down the road of the years. I suppose, as well as examining my ways and re-assessing – where was I? how am I getting on?‘ – and ‘looking for the good way’, it is also about seeking patterns and meaning, searching for clues in the signposts. When I facilitated the Lent prophetic course last month one of the sessions was called, ‘Wilderness and Journey’ precisely because I am convinced this can be a helpful spiritual practise – not for superstition’s sake, but because it is Scriptural that God speaks into our lives in this way just as in any other. So I got the people on the course to draw out their journeys from birth to now and mark in where the important events came and if there are patterns to discern and learn from. For some people, including myself, there are regular repeating cycles of desert periods and fruitfulness – often every 3, 4, 7 or 10 years – and discernible steps up to new levels and maturity.
On a more pragmatic level, I always mark the time between the end of one holiday and the beginning of the next one – most simply because it is always nice to have something to look forward to! Yes, I know most people only have one annual holiday, but again this is a coping mechanism in our lives with Martin’s pressurised job and constant stress. I can only live in bite-sized chunks – it is simply impossible for us to look more than a few months ahead because we don’t know if Sam will suddenly become ill. So I look as far ahead as I can, work with that and plan in the treats to keep us going. Even if there is nothing significant about a particular season, at least it keeps my mind tidy; to use another gardening metaphor, it is like digging a straight row to plant my seeds in, with canes for the runner beans to grow up.
I remember an example of this inter-holiday “I’m a desperate housewife, get me out of here!” approach: in 2009 it was exactly 70 days between Martin and I going away to California on Sam’s birthday and me returning from a trip to Brittany with a friend, during which time I was out of the country more than in it. Nice one, you might say – we were especially blessed that year, enabled to do things we have not been free to do since…
From the calculation of this significant round number I concluded it should be a time for ‘rest and restoration’ as it was for Israel after the 70 year exile (Jeremiah 25v11; 29v10) We certainly needed it after Sam’s illness and initial brain scan with all the uncertainty, and I wrongly thought that during that summer Sam would be restored, his ‘ADEM’ would get better and we’d be over the crisis. I was encouraged and threw myself into enjoying my holidays… but my interpretation was partially faulty because I had forgotten the other aspect, of the land being left abandoned for 70 years and becoming overgrown and desolate. It was quite difficult with Sam needing to go in and out of hospital in our absence at least twice, but we did need that reprieve to set us up for what was coming in 2010, when everything went to another level.
We see in part and interpret in part: it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stay open – and accountable and humble with it. So here I am doing it again and this time the days between our planned Easter and summer trips to Brittany add up to 55. I certainly like the idea of a season of ‘double grace’ – 5 denoting grace in Scripture – and I will be 55 myself in July too, but this time I won’t be presuming too much what that looks like. Though I am grateful for a time of relief as Sam moves fully into his house, who can tell what we may need grace for?
So first off, and provoked by events in Sam’s journey including his 25th birthday coming up, I have put in this framework of 21 days – a Biblical ‘Daniel fast’ and a focus of prayer for the next 3 weeks up to the Ides of May. Like I said, you will have to wait and track with me to find out more about why 😉