Friday, 28 March 2014

Lent 4 - Risky walking

I don't really do walking.  Once for boyfriend's birthday we walked up a local hill, we did this with 2 puffs of my inhailer and stopping to sit on all but one bench along the way. It may have been then I dreamed up the brilliant idea of sn ice cream vending machine on every hill top. I'd obviously need a quadbike to get me to the top of them all.

Since I've stopped going on holiday with them, my parents have gone on a few walking holidays, especially with my brother.

I use my asthma as a reason,  but you may know I've run the cancer research 5k twice, firstly in 42 minutes, then in 36. I enjoy the countryside, but am happy to drive through. I would of course walk along the beach - they have ice cream there.

This week's reflection and image are based on lindersfarn. I've not been there but I assume it's like Iona. I've done a pilgrimage around the island. Iona is a special "thin" place.

The reflection talks about the importance of timing in our faith.  Getting to Iona is a task of timing in its own right, I remember dashing across Glasgow and then again to get the first boat and the ferry. Similarly throughout the year, and especially as I work for the church, I try to get to a number of different festivals and worship with different people and in different contexts. The phrase people use is being "feed."
In the same way when I've gone to many days without a day off or too many weeks without seeing boyfriend I can't go too long just doing things for God and not just being with God. Maybe even proved by the very last minute posting of this blog.

The last question about those you journey with. I have a few friends facing death of a loved one at this time.  If you pray, please do, God knows who they are.

And to finish with the prayer from the resource.

Lord Jesus, who resolutely set your face towards Jerusalem though the way was hard and lonely, strengthen my resolve to follow the path you have marked out for me at this stage in my life. May I take opportunities to be alongside fellow pilgrims as if in service to you.  Amen

Monday, 24 March 2014

Lent 3 - Risky butterflies

Butterflies are really delicate. I learnt this to my peril last week. I started Lent at a conference and one of the activities in Bible study was to make something that represented each one of us out of clay. Having spent the week carrying my MWiB bag around, and thinking that my level of involvement with MWiB and even getting to vote on the actual logo I thought I was probably allowed to make a butterfly and here it is.

The clay dried, all by itself, and when it was time to go home I packed it inside the sleeve of a jumper. 

Unfortunately my little butterfly didn’t make it home in one piece, here it is now.  Its wing broke off.
It made me think, life is delicate, sometimes we are roughed up a bit, sometimes we need a hug, sometimes it’s worse than that and we need help.

I watched this video recently. I love Upworthy, it is a very clever idea of bringing things together that deserve to be online. It's a video for a pregnant woman who finds out her baby has down syndrome.

The beautiful image of the butterfly on this week’s reflection brings out the beauty in the fragility. How often do we seek beauty? To make this point I'm not putting the picture here but offering you the link to seek beauty! 

There is much more that could be said, around disability, mental illness, terminal illnesses, or something else that touches you. Lets just remember to see the good when we can, find the beautiful and rejoice in the butterfly. 

The prayer on week 3's resource.
Creator God, I am amazed to think that you see such beauty and potential in me and yet give me the freedom to take risks for you. Help me to take flight for your kingdom’s sake. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

8-ish things I've learnt from my relationship

I should probably start by saying this isn't a Lent blog. So if you are expecting butterflies instead I'm sorry to disappoint you, but that will be written some point this week don't worry.

This blog started as a throw away comment to a friend after another all-to-regular phone call about my car accident about 18 months ago. My friend commented I was being amazingly patient, so I replied 'I was well practiced and that maybe I could blog, "how not having sex helps me put up with repetitive phone calls."'

You'll notice that is not what this blog is called but its where I started.

Let's start with some confessions.
  • As usual I don't have answers, just more questions. But I hope to share some of my wisdom I've learnt along the way.
  • Me and Boyfriend have been together 64 months and 2days today, that’s almost 5 and a half years.
  • I'm a virgin. As is Boyfriend.
  • There are probably many complex and deep reasons for the choices and decisions Boyfriend and I have made along the way that have got us to this point. I am by no means going to go into all of those, but here are a few things I've learnt, or what I think about things.

The L word is a big deal.

I blogged on this recently. This first time it's said it is a big deal, but it should continue to be. 'I love you' should be said as often as possible and with feeling. It doesn't have to be those exact words. For example when my dad calls me plonker at the end of a phone conversation I know he loves me.

Rules and boundaries make everything simpler in the long run

You may laugh but Boyfriend and I have a number of rules that make life simpler. Some are practical way of working long distance - if a phone call gets cut off for some reason the person who made the initial phone call is the one who rings again. The same works for setting physical boundaries - if you make them beforehand you don't end up being very confused and both getting each other's answer phone.
The important part is the communication to check rules still work. Early on it was easier to change rules, now it sometimes seems we do things because 5 years ago we thought it was a good idea. At the beginning we looked at what was ok for us then, and what we thought would be ok when we were engaged and then when married. I don't think 20 year old me thought we wouldn't be married by 25, but here we are. So revisiting rules and checking why we think and do or don't do certain things is important.

Love languages are so important

Having come across GaryChapman's love languages many years ago now, I think they show a lot about how we interact. The 5 languages are; touch, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service and quality time. Knowing both your own and that of your partner is vital to a healthy and stable love life.

Getting involved in their world

Trust is such an important part of any relationship. It can be more difficult in long distance. Jealously is something I've had to learn to deal with. Boyfriend has close female friends, one of the silly examples of when I've been jealous for no reason was just before my 21st birthday when Boyfriend was late home and I complained, only to find out, later, his friend was helping him print, cut and place the photo that lives in my locket I got for that birthday from Boyfriend.
My advice is become a part of their world; meet their friends, get to visit the places they spend their time, so you can picture where they are. Part of it may have been for selfish reasons, to warn others off, but mostly about seeing your partner in all that they are.

Patience is key

When people talk to me about patience, they sometimes mean sex, which I'll come to, but actually it's about other things for me. Waiting for Boyfriend to propose so I we can plan myour wedding. At the moment it's the living together that I'm wanting, someone to cook for, someone to come home to.
Long distance in itself teaches a lot about patience. We have been known to go up to eight (well somewhere between six and 10 we can’t actually remember) weeks without seeing each other face to face - technology obviously helps, but as touch is the primary love language for both of us, a skype chat, though lovely, is not a cuddle.
So I've learnt to be patient.
To answer my throw away comment, long distance, not waiting, is what has taught me most about patience.

Then there is sex

My mum's version of sex ed as I was growing up was "you'll wait till you're married won't you." It certainly wasn't really a question. So very early on, maybe even just before we actually got together we decided we'd wait till we got married to have sex. That was our decision for what was best for us. We have many friends who have taken different stances on this, and if that works for them then what does that have to do with anyone else. Though you are the one who's got this far in what is a very self indulgent blog about my relationship.
Maybe it's because I'm female, because I've had friends who are amazed Boyfriend has survived this long.
We aren't having sex because it's not important,  but because it is.
Maybe it's a pride thing now.
Being the good kids in a culture saturated with sex, is not always easy. But for us I think it's worthwhile. Part of  the decision is based on the belief that sex belongs in marriage. Yes the Bible teaches about adultery, which I read as sex should be within a union between two people, which is preferably marriage.

My view on marriage

For me, marriage is a journey, and on that journey different things are right at different times. In Doctor Who, the Doctor and River Song's lives are going in opposite directions. His first kiss is her last. After that in her lifetime was before that in his, so it was too early for him to kiss her.
Sex is an important part of the marriage relationship, and it has to start at some point. Facebook tells almost all of my friends, and man acquaintances that I'm in a relationship, a wedding will actually show less people my declaration of love for Boyfriend. But it's about the promises, to one other person forever,  in front of God.
In the same way we don't live together, and even when we did it was only for 3 months and we had separate space. Though to go off on that tangent, I understand the try before you buy mentality. When boyfriend moved in it was a decision and a balance between ethics and ideals with practicalities. It's good to know we can cope being in the same house though. 
Marriage is the whole package. Linking body, mind, soul, and bank account. Its making the decisions together, having someone to snuggle up with and watch a film after a rough day and someone to fall asleep in the arms of..

My last piece of advice if you can call any of this that, is be yourselves.
Be true to you and your relationship.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Lent 2 - Risky balancing act

I am with you always - BannerWeek two lent reflections based on this download. And the image is this one. 

It looks like a person walking on a tightrope though as you look closer at the image you see a person ready to provide safety.

Is your life like walking on a tightrope? Often it feels like my life is balanced and then something else gets thrown at me and it knocks me, it's then when balancing everything is that much harder. There has been a lot of death around at the moment, or friends dealing with terminal diagnoses. Its the days you hear that sort of news you hope you are on a pavement not a tightrope to start with.

I have a busy life. I have a full time job, a long distance relationship,  my voluntary work with MWiB and my local preaching studies. I had a weekend off this weekend and went to boyfriend's house with 4 other friends for a weekend of fun, games, food, gender stereotypes and general Methodist geekery. Was really nice to relax, and spend time with friends, and boyfriend after he'd had a particularly rough week. Sunday morning we went to church and the minister said instead of a sermon the service would be made up of songs, readings, meditations from the biblical characters' perspectives and communion. This gave me a chance to pick up my own reflections throughout the service. One story told was that of Mary and Martha. The line that struck me was in Mary's meditation which pondered on why Martha had to keep so busy and whether her busyness hid an emptiness? Are we so busy balancing everything,  keeping busy that we are stuck on our tightrope.

What is lent about? Do we give vices up to make ourselves feel righteous? But does it bring us closer to God?

One song we sang had the line
"Never let my heart grow cold." That is my prayer, that I'm never too busy trying to balance my life one step at a time to know that God has his arms ready to catch me.

The words accompanying this image, called I Am With You Always, on the McCrimmon website are: 
“Turn to Me, your Saviour. 
Put your trust in Me and in the power of My Spirit. 
Put Me first in your life, no matter what the cost. 
Open your heart to Me, in reverence and humility.”

Would losing control and falling off the tightrope into God's arms be that bad? Sometimes we need to totally abandon ourselves to God, life will still be there when we get back on the path, it just may look very different, a new normal.

One of the other stories shared in the morning's worship was that of the transfiguration. The characters both talked of their joy at the time and not wanting to return to normality after such an awe inspiring experience.
Sometimes we have an amazing experience and returning to normality is really difficult. Strong spiritual experiences are great, but if we see our general lives as time balancing on our own and not relying on God,  even though his arms are ready to catch us.

We often split our lives,  we separate our online and offline lives.  My Boyfriend tells me off when I talk about my job as my real life and my voluntary things as another part of life. There is a whole blog post on what makes up life and why our job is how we describe ourselves, but this is not that.

I don't know if this is what the writer or artist was aiming for but I think I'd prefer to fail and be in God's arms rather than struggle on alone. And be in God's arms in all that I do, and all the parts of my life.

To close, the prayer from the resource.
Saving God, you watch over me tenderly, ready to catch me when I fall. As I try to maintain balance in my life, help me to trust you. As I walk the narrow path of faithful commitment, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you. Amen

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Lent 1 - Risk the journey with me?

Each year I like to have a focus for my blog and this year I'm basing my blogs on the MWiB's (don't know who they are? I blogged about them here) Easter Offering lent reflections. All of which can be found here. My blog will be my thoughts and musings on each weeks reflection - there is also a more in depth Bible Study,  I'm not using them. I should also point out the views are my own, not necessarily those of MWiB as a whole!
First snow Reflection1 
Are you with me?

Each week has an image and questions to ponder. Week one is about journeys and has this painting. First Snow by Sarah Pye.

I've been on some physical journeys recently and had a number of travelling companions. My journey home from the Connecting Disciples conference started with a taxi ride with two people, and as they got on a train someone else joined me, this companion was someone I'd noticed early in the week but never had a chance to talk to, she was knitting which is how I noticed her. In our conversation we found out we had very similar jobs and only started recently. Together we successfully navigate Tottenham Hale station to get the tube,  2 stops later I had to leave her as we went our separate ways. This station I came across someone else, who had popped into my conference on Tuesday before having to go off elsewhere. This companion and I had a chat at the station and then due to some confusion on my part because the first class carriage was in front of where we were standing, we ended up in different carriages for the short journey. Getting off at the next station we reunited before his train home arrived.
After that my journey companions remained as strangers. Though that doesn't mean they didn't leave an impression,  the woman opposite me spent much of the 2ish hour journey laughing at something on her tablet and the man next to her was sleeping.
After a quick dash across a large station, including giving up waiting for the lift and moving quickly down the stairs with my heavy suitcase. I eventually made it home, and even ordered take away while on the train - isn't technology clever.

Looking at this image I wonder at what stage of the journey it is. It's getting brighter as you get further in. Maybe you are currently in the wood and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm mixing metaphors on purpose. On Monday I was in a friends car and she held her breath while we were going through a tunnel - she would have managed it if I hadn't made her laugh. Maybe sometimes we are holding our breath and the light just ahead of them means everything might just get a bit easier and we can breathe easy again.

The image is called first snow, I love walking in snow. Making my footprints stick. I was walking in the snow while it was still falling earlier in the year, that was less satisfying.

I'm looking forward to journeying through lent, I hope each week I will become more enlightened as the path becomes brighter as we "risk the path he trod" to the cross.

I'll end with the prayer from the resource.

Jesus, you know what it is to walk alone and to walk with friends.  As we enter this journey of Lent, give us the space we need to breathe and grow and learn; yet assure us that we are not abandoned in the wood.  May your peace settle upon us as the snow, absorbing our fear and pain and sorrow. Amen.