faith, moments

What’s saving my life right now

February 2, 2017
What's Saving my life right now?

It’s one of my favourite questions to ask, ever since I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s amazing book An Altar in the World, which is one that I reach for at least once a month. She writes how, when invited as a guest preacher once, she asked what she should speak on and was told, Come tell us what is saving your life right now. It’s that implicit understanding that salvation is so much more than a ticket to heaven, that God speaks to us in the ordinary and the mundane; that God’s gifts to us might be a hot cup of coffee, a serendipitous meeting, an unexpected change of plans.

I discovered a poem by Mary Karr recently. It’s called ‘The Voice of God’, and she writes,

The voice of God does not pander,
offers no five year plan, no long-term
solution, nary an edict. It is small & fond & local.

And maybe that’s the first thing that’s saving me right now: poetry. It speaks to things that logic and prose struggle to form words around, and so poems are becoming good friends. Last month I discovered Jackie Kay and her beautiful collection Fiere, with its Scottish-Nigerian songs and stories. And just last week I stumbled over a poem called ‘We have come to be danced‘  by Jewel Mathieson, which took my breath away.

The knowledge that it is Imbolc tomorrow, which means we’re one step closer to spring coming, is saving me. It’s been a few years now that I have been quietly marking the dates on the Celtic wheel of the year (the solstices, equinoxes, and some of the cross quarter holidays like Imbolc) and I really love the rhythm it gives my year, the awareness of the seasons moving, and all the ways that I can live in step and inspired by those changes. Imbolc means “a stirring in the belly” and is a reminder that the earth is warming up again, that seeds are busy doing their thing under the ground, animals are starting the next cycle of life. And so there’s a question for me too – what seeds do I want to be sowing in this season? What might God want to bring to life in me right now?

Tuesday evenings are saving me. On Tuesdays, Rasmus arrives home early from work to put the kids to bed, and I hurry out the door while they’re tucking into their tea. I walk out with just a small bag – no nappies and snacks and bottles and changes of clothes just in case – and I get on a train that is headed for the City. I fight the commuters headed home for pavement space until I reach a small side street surrounded by tall glass buildings, and I push open the door to a church vestry. There, once a week, I gather with seventeen other people to learn what it means to be formed as a Spiritual Director. It feels like a gift and an honour every time I walk through that door.

London is saving me. Does that sound strange? I love raising my children here. I love flicking back through photos from the last month and seeing them full of museums and parks and canals and libraries and urban farms and overgrown cemeteries. Especially in the dregs of winter, it is incredible to have so much right on our doorstep to keep us interested.

 

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy. She hosts this link up once a year and I was grateful today for the chance to sit and think on it. What is saving your life right now?

faith, She Loves Magazine, Writing Elsewhere

Rise out of Rootedness (She Loves)

February 2, 2017

We left the sliding doors of our minivan open as we slowly drove away from the ranger’s station and into the forest. After the summer heat of Beirut and the coastal towns we’d been visiting the past week, this fresh mountain air was a relief and a balm. The breeze drifted through the car as we rounded each bend of the mountainside, carrying the smell of pine needles and honey.

Today our friends had brought us to see the great Cedars of Lebanon. They grace Lebanon’s flag, they appear in our holy scriptures—the very Temple of God was built by Solomon from their wood. But today, just 13% of Lebanon’s cedar forest remain, after centuries of deforestation by countless invaders and traders. They are an endangered species.

At the top of the hill we parked the car, and a ranger walked us through the glade of ancient trees, some many hundreds of years old. They are slow growing, these stunning trees, their trunks winding around and up with beautiful curves, like a woman becoming comfortable with the strength and allure of her own body.

And their roots go deep, roots that will allow them to endure the snowy winters and dry summers, to thrive in that mountainous terrain.

The memory of wandering under the ancient branches of those trees stays with me in such a vivid way that I can almost smell their pine needles still. They have been speaking to me ever since that trip, and this is what I have heard: we need to go deep before we can go high. But that going deep? It happens as life is going on—as bitter winters freeze us and warm summers satisfy us.

 

Read the rest of this post at She Loves Magazine … 

faith, motherhood

On choosing to have a DIY baby dedication

January 25, 2017
Oskar's DIY Dedication

When Kaya was five months old, we dedicated her and ourselves to God, in a little ceremony at our church in Luxembourg. I squeezed her chubby body into the only white dress I had for her, her godparents stood up next to us, and we promised to let God be our guide as we raise her, to trust her to his love and grace.

Fast forward two years, and our son, Oskar James, was already eleven months and undedicated. We moved country mid-pregnancy and he was born in the living room of our rental house a few months later. When we got here we did the good Christian thing of visiting local churches with the view to quickly finding one to settle in. But we haven’t settled. We visited some great churches, but for a lot of reasons the last few months our Sunday mornings have been more likely to consist of making pancakes in our pyjamas and building duplo towers. And we’re ok with that for now.

But it presented a dilemma when we wanted to dedicate Oskar. We could arrange to do it at one of the churches we’d visited, but the idea that most of the congregation would be turning to their neighbour asking, “who are they?” when we walked up front made me feel really uncomfortable. Our pastor in Luxembourg kindly offered to do it back there if we visited, and that community will always feel like family, so the idea was attractive.

One day I asked Rasmus what he thought about doing a DIY dedication. We’ll invite our family and just a few friends, I told him. We can use the same script that we had for Kaya (which I mostly wrote myself) and keep it really simple. I think I was a little surprised when he quickly agreed.

And so it happened this past Sunday. My family and Oskar’s god/guideparents came over, including our dear friends from Copenhagen. We waited until he woke up from his morning nap, made cups of tea and coffee for everyone and then gathered around.

Our living room is not big, and we were nine adults and two little ones. But that meant that the circle was tight. Rasmus and I sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. Kaya and Oskar trundled around between all of us – Kaya moving from lap to lap, Oskar keeping up the continual movement of a baby who has just achieved the freedom of walking.

We sat in that circle and made promises to our son. Rather than the more formal question-answer structure of a church ceremony, we chose to just speak our promises directly to him. We promised that our love would be unconditional, to try to be good at saying sorry, quick to forgive. We promised to model the radically inclusive and grace-filled ways of Jesus to him, and to pray for him continually.

And we spoke blessings over him, blessing him with the values we hope he will embody as he grows – with kindness, curiosity, courage, hospitality, and love, oh most of all love. 

My parents and sister prayed for us, and our friends confirmed their willingness to be an intentional and loving presence in Oskar’s life.

And then that was it. We asked Kaya what we should do next and her eyes lit up. “CAKE!” So we served up the cake that she and I had baked that morning in our pyjamas and I sat in that circle of love, eating my cake and feeling such a sense of contentment and peace.

Oskar is my holy interruption. I didn’t plan to be pregnant again so soon after Kaya, and I was not entirely impressed with the timing, coming as he did in the middle of an international move and pretty effectively squashing all my dreams for what our life here was going to look like. But I have never not wanted him. This past year has been intense and frequently hard, but it feels like perfect timing that we dedicate him just a month before his birthday. Now I stand with nearly twelve months of hindsight and it feels like pure grace to enclose him within this small circle of love, to proclaim him beloved.

If it felt meaningful, I recognised this week that it is because our own little circle of love was encircled in a deeper and everlasting love, the love of God. That love flows in us and through us to that toddling boy in our midst, and will sustain us and him as long as our hearts remain open to it, and even then it won’t fail. God’s love never fails.

 

Oskar James, you have been loved since long before you were born.  Your parents were blessed with your arrival and we consider your presence in our lives to be a gift of God. As a little baby your parents cover and clothe you in their love and with their faith. As you grow, may faith grow with you. May you find the presence of Christ your clothing and protection. And year by year may the knowledge of His presence be greater for you, that daily you may put on Christ and walk as His own in the world. Amen. 

(adapted very slightly from the Northumbria Community Celtic Daily Prayer)