It has finally arrived. The last day of Lent. I was pleased to see that today’s act is one that I could easily fulfill.
|Act 40: The Now and the Not Yet|
by Guvna B
|The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is a strange place. But it’s where lots of us live our lives – caught between mourning and moving on, between pain and joy, grieving different losses than death alone. If you look, you’ll find many around you in a place like that. Offer more than a half-hearted hug today. Help people encounter generosity in places of deep pain.|
Choose how to complete this act…
Think of someone in your world that has experienced grief in the past 12 months. Give them a random call, tell them they’re on your mind, and ask them how they’re doing.
Are you struggling with anything that you haven’t told anyone? Confide in someone you trust. Giving others the opportunity to help and support you is generous because helping people makes us feel good.
Think back to a difficult time in your life where someone was really there for you. Send them a text or buy them a small gift and let them know that you’ll be forever grateful
My immediate reaction was that if today was a working day I would go through the funerals I’ve done since arriving here and phone the next of kins to see how they are. But today is my day off, so that’s off too.
I think back to those who have helped me through grief in the past and decide that I can easily do the red option. And in doing so it will also finish the decision earlier in Lent to send cards to women who have been important in my life. (Can’t remember exactly which day that was, but I only sent one card and I’ve been aware that I didn’t fulfill what I said I would). I don’t usually send Easter cards but I have some stashed away and so I wrote one to each of two female friends and their husbands thanking them for helping me through difficult times, which have included working through grief.
Both couples have been in my life since the late 1980s and my attending St Paul’s church. David and Valerie were the vicar and his wife who was also deaconess (and later ordained). Margaret and Alan were a couple who attended church. This is what I wrote in their cards in addition to the Easter greeting:
To Valerie and David I wrote: “I also want to add my thanks to you both or the love and support over the years that you have shown me. Thank you for being there when I needed you and for offering the hospitality of your house (before you re-arranged it!) enabling me to have retreats and times away to be with God. The Batch Valley is still one of my favourite places. I hope it won’t be too long before we meet again. Have a good Easter – I hope you are well enough to enjoy it”
To Margaret and Alan I wrote: “I also want to thank you both for being there for me years ago offering your love, support, understanding, compassion an prayers. Two things stand out:
- when Margaret am to visit after my miscarriage and simply sat and held my pain in silent prayer and left a plant and card with Isaiah 43:1-4.
- when Alan wrote me a letter during my period of grappling with identity and TA counselling. I valued your words and encouragement to Elizabeth.
I have come a long way since those days. Thank you for being part of my journey. |I am now addressed as Elizabeth Jane by my beloved husband Terry! And I am able to be with others, silently holding the in prayer, when their pain is beyond words.
I even put a first class stamp on them! Such generosity!!! I normally reserve the expense of first class for things that are urgent. I also took to the post office an item I had sold on eBay for £26. It hadn’t cost me anything so that was all profit. I got £20 cash out while I was there thinking it would last me a few days. Not long after getting home the door bell went. It was someone selling things door to door. He was on an offender rehabilitation programme. Someone had given him a Gideon New Testament and psalms book a couple of days ago. We discussed forgiveness and fresh starts. He had brought up the subject of yesterday being when Jesus died so I took the opportunity to explain why he died. The young man was Catholic and so I suggested that he go to the priest for Confession and receive the forgiveness that is already there for him. I hope he does because he sounded genuinely sorry for whatever he had done. He said that he’d been to a church where they prayed in tongues and it freaked him out. And as I explained to him what praying in tongues is he said the hairs on his head were standing up….. he was clearly affected and I believe ready to come to faith. I pray that he does. After being shown his wares I thought I should buy something as the commission he receives enables him to pay for his accommodation, so I chose some self-sharpening scissors (someone told him paramedics use them). The cost £19.99 (shocked at how much!!!). I declined the penny change. Oh well…. I’d had £20 in my purse for about an hour…. the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
After a lunchtime drink with Terry I spent a relaxing afternoon, initially getting some descriptions etc ready for eBay sales of some books that DD No.2 has left behind and no longer wants. RHS encyclopedia of garden plants, flowers and perennials (total of 4 books) plus some others. It’s worth trying to see if they will sell, otherwise they will be Oxfam charity shop donations.
I then got on with some painting. I usually favour acrylics but because I will be going on a prayer and painting retreat in June and the list of materials to take includes watercolours, not acrylics, I think I had better get some practice in. I did a picture of some poppies, that isn’t too bad.
And so this final blog entry draws to an end. Yesterday I wrote that I would put on an extract from the book I’m writing, about forgiveness. I have decided that the Epilogue is the right piece to let you see.
At a weekend Life Stories retreat that seemed to be exactly the right timing for me during the sabbatical to finish writing this book, we were asked to reflect on our lives as if they were a river. We were to consider the life scripts, the narratives in our lives, the mix of dark and light… and let’s face it much of life is mundane and ordinary. What were the stepping stones and stumbling blocks, detours and mistakes; the things that have made me who I am? This Ignatian exercise is well worth doing and one that I found easy as I had already done much of the work. However the next day we were asked to bring to the group 2 ‘champagne moments’ from our lives: one major, one not so big. Initially I found this difficult. I wanted to avoid the obvious wedding, childbirth, graduation and ordination events.
Looking at the picture I’d drawn what stood out were the 3 waterfalls. I am glad to be me, the person I am now and I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t been raped (1st waterfall) or had the car crash (2nd waterfall) that then cleared the way for ordination. I didn’t want to drink champagne to the divorce (3rd waterfall) as that seems wrong. But how can I drink champagne to the man who raped me, who lured me into going to a non-existent party in a town 10 miles from home and then wouldn’t listen to my terrified No? How can I drink champagne to the man who was distracted or fell asleep at the wheel of his transit van and drove head on into my car at 60 mph? And yet, in a way, I am glad for those times. It is strange to think that although I could easily forgive the driver, for years I had carried the guilt of the former very deep within. It was one of my ‘if only…. s’ that I’ve been carrying. I had forgiven him, my then boyfriend who dumped me, and myself. This weekend I was able to dump the ‘if only I hadn’t been dumped and hadn’t got drunk and been stupid’ and say, ‘yes I drink champagne to those 2 waterfalls because they have made me who I am today’.
The other champagne moment I chose to share was when I made a coat. In the first year of secondary school we had to sew a domestic science apron using industrial nylon (it frayed like mad). It took all year as each step had to be presented to the teacher who invariably told me to do it again. She didn’t like me (I thought) and made a different girl cry each week. When I did Duke of Edinburgh award her disparaging comments on the report book were covered up and replaced by something more positive by the teacher in charge. So, this gave me a life script of not being very good at sewing/needlework. However when my children were young and we didn’t have much money I made many of their clothes and at one point even made myself a camel hair coat, which involved tailoring….. SO THERE, MRS X !! …. I CAN SEW. That’s a champagne moment of realising that I can do what I put my mind to.
I later added colour to the river in the picture. Each colour represents a ‘life script’ that has been gradually transformed over the years. These themes have been woven into my life, the poems and pictures, and are part of the warp and weft, the light and dark that make the beautiful tapestry that is me.
|Colour in river of life||Life Script||Redeemed and transformed = champagne moments|
|Red||I can’t sew||Yes I can – made children’s clothes and myself a coat|
|Orange||I am stupid and thick, my brother is the clever one||I got an MTh (with academic hood same colour as grammar school blazer’s braid)|
|Yellow||I’m a naughty disobedient girl, undeserving and mummy doesn’t love me (the yellow dress incident)||White wedding dress when I became Mrs Jones|
|Green||I’m only a girl so can’t be what I want (ie accountant)||Women CAN be ordained – and I was.|
|Violet||I can’t draw or paint||I can learn and develop – I am creative.|
These colours, together with the blue & indigo of the water make up a rainbow. A wonderful symbol of God’s promises.
Writing this book has challenged me. Dare I let people see my ‘art’? It isn’t very good. Dare I let people know some of the very personal things? Will anyone want to read it? I have got to the point of not needing to do it for my own healing…. praise God, that is done. But I do want to encourage others to risk taking their own journey of faith, of letting down the barriers and letting God in to heal and transform their negative voices.
I will continue with the art and play with paint as often as I can, not worrying about getting my dress dirty, not worrying about mistakes – after all, that’s how we learn. When I went for a walk on the retreat, down to the river, and I heard the waterfall at the weir I was drawn to stop and look. I had got to where I needed to be on that walk. I sensed God say that the waterfalls were key. Not just for my champagne moments, but for my creativity. Being creative needs energy, plus time and space. Energy comes from movement, be that water or wind. The first two of my waterfalls were times when I had no control, which is why they were so traumatic. The third waterfall was a time when I did have an element of control, or steering the course. So I changed it to rapids. I sensed God say that the Holy Spirit, the wind of God, will be the energy for being creative. Whenever I’ve been creative in the past it has been following a pattern or instructions (eg knitting, sewing, decorating special birthday cakes). I need someone to tell me what to do. God will inspire me. So I shouldn’t worry about what to do. He will guide me. All I need to do is ensure I make time and space in my busy schedule. If this is something he wants me to do – and I believe it is and that it will play some part in ministry in the future (perhaps when I retire) – then I should give it a higher priority than at present. Being creative is just as valid a use of time as serious theological reading.
I was thinking about the poppy picture I painted today. The choice of flower was because I’d picked at random a YouTube tutorial that was of poppies and abandoned the tutorial and did my own from an image on Google. Poppies are of course a symbol of Remembrance Sunday when quite often Jesus’ words are from John Chapter 15 are recalled: ” 12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And of course the greatest gesture of love the world has ever known is of Jesus laying his life down for us – for you and me. Tomorrow I will lead worship to celebrate His resurrection. The great joy isn’t just that he came alive again but that he enables us to experience new life of an extraordinary quality now as we put our trust in him and offer up our darkness and sin and receive the light and forgiveness that is Eternal Life. And when we know that quality of life it overflows to others around us, which is what this 40Acts has been all about.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.
Thank you to everyone who has ‘liked’ or commented on my posts.
May you know God’s blessings and peace this Easter season and beyond.