Last year when I chose as my words for the year, ‘take hold’, I was very aware that there were a lot of good things in my life but I didn’t seem to believe that they were mine to firmly grasp. I had promising work prospects, a good (restored) marriage, a faith community, but I was observing them rather than securely claiming them as mine.
Despite not really believing that I was entitled to them, or that I was worthy of them, at the start of 2016 I began to ‘take hold’ of them. Holding on to those things meant letting go of others. It meant prioritising them above other opportunities and demands.
I did that, and in this past week I’ve seen the work aspect of that initiative reach a significant point.
I took hold, and it was mine to take and I can now see and believe that.
I put myself in a place of faith, believing that God could and would bring change this year. It took me until the 13th December to see the outworking of the truth that God wanted to reveal to me. In eternal terms 11 months and 13 days is a blink, or maybe half a blink, but in human terms it felt like quite a long time.
This week I’ve been reminded to trust God even when I can’t see the path ahead clearly and when the answers don’t seem to come quickly enough.
What was ……
A few years ago, when things were really rough in my marriage I asked my husband what he liked about me. It wasn’t a long list, and he included in it that he liked talking with me about my work. I found his response hurtful and it made me angry. I didn’t want someone who only found me interesting because of my job.
I am not great at asking my husband for help. I grew up with brothers, worked in a male dominated field and I realised a few years ago that one of my life mantras was ‘I’ve got to be better than the boys’. With an outlook like that it was always going to be hard to let my husband take care of me, or help me with things.
What is …….
Today my husband came home from a few days working away, and after we’d caught up, I said:
‘I need your help’.
I wanted to talk about my work with him. I wanted his insight and advice.
As we sat and talked I marvelled at the fact that we could have that conversation.
I am taking hold of what is.
And ‘what is’ is a relationship where we talk about everything and we share our lives completely. I know that this man will never think less of me for being exactly who I am, and that he loves me so much he wants to help me live the best life I can in any way that he can.
Today I was so grateful that I didn’t throw all of this away. I am so glad that we worked hard and found that we can give each other what we need and be fully ourselves.
We could not be more different but our marriage is ‘what is’.
I aimed to write here every day for the last 50 days of the year. Today is Day 23, and it is five days since I last posted. Maybe a weekly post would be more realistic!
I haven’t written but I have been taking hold.
It’s been interesting – as I’ve spent the past three weeks with a more intentional approach to ‘taking hold’ of the life that is truly life, I have found myself happier and more contented. My work has been progressing better than it has done for a long time; family life feels more relaxed; there has been space for spontaneity and community; and I’ve probably opened my bible on more mornings than not.
What God promises is true. He is the giver of Life.
I am journeying to the end of 2016 hoping that by the time I reach the end I will have let go of the things which steal my joy and limit my life. I want to drop them by the side of the road and not run back to pick them up.
I want empty hands.
I want hands that are free to collect flowers and hold the hands of others. I want to be able to pick up the tired children and carry things for the people I’m walking with. I want to use my hands to love and serve, to comfort and to care, to nurture and to cherish, to give, but also to receive and hold on to the good things which are given to me.
I wonder what your story is ? Not just the story of the past few years. Not just the story that begins at the point where you messed up or it all went wrong, or the terrible awful happened. No the story before that time. The story of the good times.
When I think of ‘my past’ I’ve been falling into the trap of only going back a few years to the time my own ‘terrible awful’ took place (readers of The Help will now have a very particular image in their minds ! sorry 🙂 ). The painful events of that time, when marriage vows were broken and the pain was unbearable, stand in my memory like a huge mountain, and it’s hard to see past it.
I have children. Before they were born I had time to make things, and no.1, and the cousins who preceded her, were all made rather beautiful blankets as a welcome gift. I began no.2’s blanket a few months before her birth, and then, well , life. The blanket has remained unfinished for more than a decade. It sits in a bag in my wardrobe, a reminder of lovingly made preparations for a much loved child.
Yesterday, under pressure from my children, I got out some of the things I made in those long gone days. They were admired and my youngest in particular was incredulous having had no idea that I could make things! I took out the blanket and although the pattern has faded over the years, and it’s a little hard to work out where exactly I am in a rather complex piece of work I began again. By the time I went to bed it was a little bit bigger and a little bit more beautiful.
It felt so good to pick up this bit of my past. To remember what life was like all those years ago. To see my life as an arc rather than a line. You see an arc goes over the mountain, a little bit like a rainbow, and I can see now that my past encompasses all of my past. I don’t need to see it as fragmented or broken. It’s continuous and I am still who I was, as well as who I now am. A little bigger and a little bit more beautiful.
On Sunday at church somebody said this,
‘You can’t expect God to give you new revelation if nothing changed when He last told you something.’.
The story in the bible we were learning from was when Samuel, the little boy at the temple, heard a voice calling him in the middle of the night. Twice he got up thinking it was Eli the priest. Eli sent him back to bed, but realised it was God trying to talk to Samuel. So on the next occasion Samuel said ‘go on God. I’m listening.’ And God gave him some information and instructions which Samuel passed on and I’m guessing the rest of his life was never quite the same after the encounter.
So I keep looking for things to change in my life, by the might of God, and yet I know that I’ve had some pretty clear instructions which actually I’ve not carried out. Why not ? They were too difficult. Or at least they seemed too difficult.
But I think that until I get working on those ‘too difficult’ things not much is going to change.
It’s the first Sunday of advent today. It’s 28 days until Christmas Day. We’ve officially entered the season of hopefulness and anticipation. Although I hate the cold and the dark which accompanies this time of year, I think it is probably my favourite time. I get butterflies in my stomach. Not because I can’t wait for Christmas day and turkey dinner and presents. Not because I want time off work with the family, although that is great. But because this is when I get excited right down to my toes about the utter miracle of love which is the incarnation of God.
We have a God who gave up everything Kingly and heavenly to be born as a crying, helpless baby so that we would see and know God. So that He could show us that we are understood. That we aren’t meaningless or a bit of a side show. No – we are made to know and be known by the King.
Yesterday we bought a Christmas tree and pulled all the decorations down from the loft. I have always been of the view that people who put up Christmas decorations in November are a little bit keen. Yes, I make my advent ring and we light candles each Sunday, but decorations and trees usually make an appearance the weekend before Christmas. This year I needed them early. I need light and hope. I need evidence of good things to come. I need a long celebration of anticipation and butterflies in my stomach and excitement down to my toes.
The world feels heavy. Syrians are being bombed to death. Racism and homophobia seem to be growing not shrinking. Poverty increases. On Christmas Eve we are having a party – people offered to bring food and instead we’re suggesting that they make donations to our local foodbank, because in this very affluent area we live in people don’t have enough money to feed their families. There is pain everywhere. This week I got a phone call from a friend at the moment she felt like ending her life. She didn’t, but her grief was palpable. All is not well with the world. We are not being our best selves.
I need Advent. I need this season of hope.
I am grabbing it with both hands and every day I will be thankful for the God who came as a baby to show that we are loved. I believe that one day all pain and suffering will cease. I believe that until then we are called to do all the good we can for all the people we can in all the ways we can.
So as I hold on to hope it’s not a nebulous concept. It’s about knowing that I am blessed and being a blessing to others. I heard about the #AdventChallenge today. You can sign up online and every day of Advent you will get an email with a suggestion of an act of kindness you can do that day. Every day during Advent you will be part of the hope of the season.
I’m going to sign up. I’m going to take hold of hope. I’m going to try to share it with as many people as I can, and this Advent I’m going to delight in every sparkling bauble and twinkling light as I remember that the great light of the world has come.