This week I had a conversation with someone who asked me the question ‘If you could do one small thing to move this situation forward, what would it be?’ This made me realise that sometimes taking action, no matter how small the action seems, is the catalyst for change. In otherwords, sometimes you just have to start!
My friend had been listening to my quiet frustration for some time. She had shared my pioneering dreams and vision. She knew that I had tried to pray and listen, tried to notice the ways God’s Spirit was moving. She knew that I felt stuck and unsure how to act. She also knows me well, and I have discovered that this was the crucial part.
She asked me what small thing I could do that would allow the pioneering dream I was nurturing to edge closer. She was wise enough to know that I needed an encouragement to take the next step and discerning enough to leave it to me to decide what that might be.
It is interesting that this week has been a week of similar conversations with many other people. Having those around us who we trust, with whom we can share our dreams and who will pray with us and encourage us is a vital part of the creative process. I have been reminded this week that God uses them to keep alive my deep passion that other people matter and to prompt me into action when I need it.
I have always loved sunflowers. I have a favourite mug with Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting on, I have sunflower coasters and countless other sunflower ‘stuff’ that makes me smile.
I often wonder why I love these flower so much. The bright yellow colour is a good start and the way they seem to nod their heads in agreement with my every idea and plan. The image of fields of sunflowers brings back memories of a cherished holiday, which in turn reminds me of family and warmth and a well earned rest.
I love the way sunflowers are at their most endearing, their most vibrant, when they are grown together. There is a unity of movement as a field of sunflowers gently sway together, a solidarity that I find helpful to reflect on at this point of my year.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I know that it is not good for me to be isolated. I am most alive and can make more of an impact for good when I am in the company of others. However, at this point of the year when I am often tired, possibly grumpy and in need of a rest it is easy to back away and forget that community is vital to my well-being and most beautifully demonstrates the love and hope that I cherish.
Dare to follow your dreams as far as you can, whatever your age
Dare to live honestly, in the rainy days as well as in the sunshine
Share, with outrageous generosity
And may the God of love, who is closer than your breath, live with you and bless you
I recently found something I wrote early last year and I have found it helpful to revisit.
I have been thinking a lot about being at home recently. Being at home in myself, being at home with God and being at home with those around me. What does that look like and feel like for me? How can I be generous with my ‘at home-ness’ to those around me? How does my journey with an ever present God change, when I feel free to be ‘at home’? And does my story connect with others in a different and more meaningful way when I am comfortable being at home, wherever I find myself?
I was at a funeral today for a lovely elderly gentleman in our local church. The church was packed and we heard stories from his life. What struck me most as I listened, was that he encapsulated everything that I value in life. He was gentle in character and incredibly kind.
Kindness is a value that is often overlooked, but my experience of spending time with people who are naturally kind is that they bring a positivity to situations. I genuinely believe that kindness is a powerful influence for change. If we simply put the word kindness into a search engine we find beautiful stories of the effect random acts of kindness have had on people.
As I listened to the tributes to my elderly friend, I found myself resolving to be more like him.
My cousin has been taking part in the Live Below the Line initiative this week. Thousands of people have been eating on £1 a day and raising money for charities and awareness of the way poverty impacts lives. I’m sad I came across the whole important initiative too late to register, but I can support the charities who work tirelessly to alleviate poverty by giving to those who have taken part.
Despite feeling as if I should know better at my age, there are still times when I catch myself looking at those around me and comparing myself with them. I still find myself noticing the fact that I am different from them and at times that causes me to feel inadequate. Sound familiar? So, for example, I currently work within an academic context and at times I feel inadequate because I don’t feel clever or articulate enough.
My friend Lizzie has written a beautiful post on saltwaterandhoney.org describing her thoughts and reactions to Mother’s Day. I wanted to respond.
I was lifted by Lizzie’s comment that those of her friends who are mothers should not be defined by motherhood. I loved her reminder that they are women who have so much to offer to society and the church, regardless of whether they have children or not. I love that because it’s open to us all. I am a woman who has so much to offer to society and the church, regardless of whether I have children or not. The same could be said of men, regardless of whether they are fathers or not.
It can be so easy for me to hide within my fortress of difference during times of stress or tiredness, in particular. In some ways it provides an identity for me, albeit a negative one! I am not a mother, I am not an academic and so on. I know that by focusing on what I am not I am building the walls higher, running the risk of isolation and loneliness. However, there are times when the sense of inadequacy can be overwhelming and there is nothing else to do but retreat, as a way of protecting yourself. I am grateful that I am learning not to live out of this place, but it has taken a while to be able to say this.
This is where Lizzie comes in. She is vulnerable and wise, giving many people a voice where they had none. She is not afraid to say that she is hurting, but does it in such a way that doesn’t place blame at the door of others. She provides us with a contemporary lament and shares with us her struggles, hopes and prayers. She shares from a particular context, but I believe she speaks into lives in a way that transcends context and heads straight for our sense of who we are. She offers a light to those of us who are familiar with the places she describes, where light is often missing. She brings the God of love into our lives through her beautiful words and I am grateful for that.