All the Saints

November 11, 2014

Sunrise over Denmark

I was scheduled to preach the sermon at our church on 2nd November – All Souls Day. I was pretty excited about it. It was coming together well, words jumping out of the pages as I dug through my Bible to excavate the message I was hearing snatches of. The passage to be read that week was the opening verses of Hebrews 12.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us run…

But then we got the phone call, and instead of spending that Saturday practising my sermon on our balcony, we were walking with family behind the hearse, making the final journey in this life with my husband’s grandmother, saying goodbye in the best way we knew how.

I read a facebook post from Kelley Nikondeha some time around then, which spoke about how she valued the space created in the church calendar for All Saints and All Souls, as a time set aside for grief and lament. It was timely. Here was the reminder that we are part of a tradition that creates space for mourning, for coming together to cry unashamed tears as we swap stories of the ones lost to us – at least for now – and hold hands as we watch that first shovel of dirt be thrown into the grave.

From dust you came.

*

I’ve thought a lot in the days since about the idea of legacy. As one matriarch passed away, I was remembering my own grandmothers. My sister in law stood up at the wake, and spoke of food as she spoke of Mormor. It was a story of a life lived in simple connection to the earth, of nothing being wasted, of good things being shared, of treats for Christmas and birthdays, of gathering the goodness of the countryside. It was a story of hospitality and stewardship.

I recall my own grandmothers most often in two places: when I’m in the kitchen, or when I’m surrounded by family. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence of their shared generation and similar cultures, that all three women would leave such similar legacies, but I wonder if there’s not something more? There is eternal significance in gathering together around the table.

Here is community and family, here is abundance shared and goodness celebrated.

Taste and see. Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

*

Today is the feast day of St Martin of Tours. In Denmark, they celebrated last night, feasting on duck for Mortensaften, a nod to the humble priest who tried to avoid being made bishop by hiding amongst the rowdy geese who were not ashamed to give his hiding place away.

My parents in law were visiting this weekend, so we pushed the evening back a day further and Rasmus stood at the stove cooking our duck while I put our wee girl to bed upstairs. And then we ate together, celebrating the life of a man we actually know very little about. A Roman soldier. A man who gave half his cloak to a homeless man in a snow storm, and that night saw Jesus in a dream proclaiming that it was he himself that Martin had shared his cloak with.

I ate that delicious meal with family, sneaking upstairs every little while to check on my sleeping babe. And I thought of St Martin, the soldier, the generous tearer of decent cloaks, the one trying to hide from fame amongst the farmyard birds. For all he might have achieved as a priest or bishop, this is somehow his greatest legacy – this gathering together around the table, with food and family. He stands alongside Mormor and my Granny and my Nan to say, Come, let’s eat together.

St Martins' Day bread buns

 

*

If I have a favourite verse in the Bible, it might be this: “Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12)

*

The morning of St Martin’s Day, we eat man-shaped sweet bread buns – a German tradition according to my brief scan of the internet. And in that same scan, I discover that there is a new pilgrim route, running through Luxembourg to Trier in Germany, and named for St Martin of Tours. Here I was thinking this celebration was something I was importing to this new country of mine, but he was already here all along.

I daydream about walking his path next year, Kaya on my back maybe, perhaps some leftover roast duck in our lunch box to stop and enjoy on the way. Maybe I’ll invite along some friends, and we can talk on the way about the ones who went before us, the ones who’ve shaped us, the legacies they left.

 

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Love is patient

September 15, 2014

Love is Patient // Fiona Lynne

Life slows down radically when you have a newborn to care for.

She takes her time to eat. She takes her time to be rocked to sleep. When she’s in the mood for playing, her games are slow too – the same funny face or little movement over and over again. Dressing her is slow, as I gently persuade her to “bend this elbow, now straighten that one”.

My own activities decelerate too. Emails are written in stages, taking a couple of days to be completed. I add things to online shopping baskets and finally get around to pressing ‘order’ a week later. Going to the post office waits for the right moment when she’ll be happy taking a trip down the road with me.

I’m not used to this speed of life. I love to be productive. I love to be busy. When I had a job, I always got the most done under a time pressure. Tell me that this campaign brief needed to be written by next week, I’d procrastinate making cups of tea and re-organising the filing. Tell me it was due by the end of the day, I’d have that and about six other tasks done and dusted with time to spare.

Some days, I get so frustrated by this new speed. I want to be doing doing doing, and all this sitting around holding the one toy she likes while she inspects it intently for the hundredth time… Can’t she just learn to grab it already??

I’m currently reading my way through a book called Slow Church. Last week I read a passage where the authors quote from the book Compassion: A Reflection on Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill and Douglas Morrison. It said this:

“They define impatience as an “inner restlessness… (that is) experiencing the moment as empty, useless, meaningless. It is wanting to escape from the here and now as soon as possible.””

This was one of those moments when the words seem to jump out the page and whack you over the head.

I’ve tended to define patience as long-suffering, which I then redefine as the necessary ability to put up with really annoying people. This definition though, it brings it right into my world today. It brings it down down to that sofa where I sit shaking the owl-shaped rattle in front of my wide-eyed two month old’s face.

Do I really see these moments as meaningless? Recognising that I sometimes do hurts. I don’t want to feel that way about any time I spend with my precious girl. And yet, I’ve become so accustomed to a certain pace of life, a way of defining a moment’s meaning by how much it produces.

The authors of Slow Church went on to write, “If we as God’s people have any hope at all of slowing down and savoring the richness of life and God’s abundant goodness, then we have to address this impatience that lies deep in our hearts.” 

I picked up this book because its title appeals to me. I’ve spent time and effort the past couple of years, learning to appreciate the goodness that comes in the slow moments – over long dinners with good friends; in late night conversations with my husband on our balcony; on journeys to new destinations as I became happy to just get lost and see what will find me.

But I’m beginning to recognise that I’ve only been scratching the surface. This richness and abundance of life is available in every moment, not just the ones I manufacture and plan to be that way.

Maybe this is something I’ll start to learn through being a mother to my wee girl. She goes determinedly at her own pace. There’s no trying to speed her up or slow her down. She will choose to dwell in each moment for just as long as she needs to, pulling each fragment of meaning from it, without even realising she does so.

It’s not an easy lesson. I still feel the emptiness of not being productive as I’ve come to define it. But I want to fill up that emptiness with the true abundance there is to be found here.

After all, the first word used to describe love in that most famous passage, is patience.

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found treasure #2

September 8, 2014

A few more things I’ve found online recently that have stayed with me. First up, this sweet video…   Cleaning my Cup, by Kelley Nikondeha “Here’s the thing… leaning into the weightier matters of justice involves some invisible work. I need to address my own prejudices, repent of my own judgments, pluck out the splinters […]

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When the Holy Spirit is our Midwife

August 28, 2014

I had just finished throwing up for the first time (not the last) into a handful of paper towels when the midwife walked in. “I’m sorry. I threw up” I said to her, although that would have been pretty obvious from the vomit covering my t-shirt and bed sheets (paper towels not being particularly appropriate […]

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found treasure

August 24, 2014

Writing doesn’t happen to frequently these days. My head is still filled with thoughts and ideas and plans, but finding a moment long enough to write them down, sit with them, let them simmer on the page – those moments are few and far between, and then I also have to chose between writing and […]

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To the new mama (to myself)

August 23, 2014

“Often our expectations of how life should unfold get in the way of meeting things as they actually are… When we meet the unexpected with love, rather than opposition, we open the way for a more soulful path through life. In yielding my resistance I already find great healing. In softening my internal rules about […]

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I Am Becoming (on Motherhood) – a Guest Post

August 1, 2014

Karen and I “met” through Leigh’s monthly What I’m Into link ups. I noticed that she was based in Ireland and, always wanting to find more Europe-based bloggers, clicked over to her site. There I found someone with an open and beautiful way of writing that encouraged and inspired me. I also discovered that she […]

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right now – June and July

July 30, 2014

I missed the link up last month, but I guess I have a pretty good excuse. This month we’ve been figuring out how to keep our daughter alive and (mostly) happy. It’s been wonderful and overwhelming and chaotic and transforming. In mid June I finally said screw it and declared myself officially on maternity leave. […]

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On taking selfies

July 26, 2014

This first month with Kaya has been hard. Many parent-friends told me it would be of course but there is this thing about life that you can never truly understand something until you experience it yourself. The sleep deprivation + raving hormones + trying to figure out how to be a good mother to this […]

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Becoming Mama

July 18, 2014

Our little girl is over three weeks old already. I can’t quite believe it… On 25th June, just after midnight, my waters broke. Twelve hours later our gorgeous Kaya Grace was lifted out of the water and placed in my arms, Rasmus right behind us. We were totally smitten from the start and it still […]

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