MU

had a fascinating speaker about MU in Burundi this week – her slides were fab, she was engaging, interesting, funny, sad – I had to skip out in the middle to collect boys but she didn’t mind – Jack has been nicknamed honorary member for noise! (she said lovely to see a younger member, I thought she meant me but actually thinking of Jack!) afterwards B presented me with a necklace he’d bought from Burundi seeds and beads – gorgeous heartbreaker, my elder son!

I’m putting this here to remind me to come back with some deeper response, which is still being worked out, when time to write properly.

(also need to write about half term properly soon!)

sorry for non-post!

playing about with the look

I really miss my strawberry skin background.
I tried the pink sandal one for a while to keep with the legally blonde image when the site first moved here, but the print was really small and some people said tricky to read.
I like the messy desk one, but not that the categories are at the top of each post. also not the snazzy phone, mine is oldfashioned with numbers on! hate those press screen ones, i seem to have the wrong type of thumbs.
I like the swirly blue one that birdie’s just moved to, but some of the titles disappear behind the comment button.
I like the planks and paint splodges on smudgie’s but again the writing seems to come out small and far away.
fussy so and so aren’t I?!

soon I’ll get back to what it’s really about!!

(oh dear, I’m starting to remind me of church… the image, the trappings, what it looks like, sometimes in danger of obscuring the actual substance, the real what it’s about….)

Really beautiful funeral this afternoon. A lovely lady from church, one of those wise, kind souls of few words but always apt. She really cared about people – if she asked after the boys it wasn’t just a polite formula but she’d listen, and remember, and ask you about it the following week. One of the most welcoming at Mothers’ Union, she told me not to worry about Jack creating, and if small people weren’t allowed at MU they were missing the point, and that he could teach some of the battleaxes what they were there for!

When she was ill a while ago she’d written her funeral, chosen hymns and readings and told the Vicar, and they were lovely optimistic looking forward hymns – O Jesus I have promised, I heard the voice of Jesus say, Be still, for the presence of the Lord, and (at the Crem.) the Day thou gavest, Lord, has ended. Unusually many for a funeral! During the second verse of be still, as we sang “is shining all around”, the rain stopped, the sun came through the stained glass and the wall behind the coffin and the cross was lit up with primary colours which danced on the gold handles of the surprisingly small box.

It was the first time I’d been to such a full service in the “daughter church” – a modern, multifunctional hall with a stage one end and the church bit the other, usually used for Tots, dancing, plays, community groups etc. I’ve been to occasional special or children’s services there, but with a smattering of about 20 in the congregation usually. This was so packed when the family came in the wardens who’d reserved the front three rows had to scurry to put more chairs out. the family looked overwhelmed at the turnout. A good reminder that church is everywhere, the people more than the building, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not in the most photogenic or oldest or traditional church, in fact sometimes even more so when it’s not.

A couple of weeks ago in Mothers’ Union we were told she’d come through her triple bypass really well, was in Morriston Coronary Ward but so much better and would welcome visitors, and was looking forward to going home. Last week at PCC we heard she’d died that morning. Initially sad at such a turnaround, after today I feel glad for her she’s really gone Home. such a sure, certain, optimistic faith, and a life of gentle encouragement, real relationship.

I didn’t know her for more than a couple of years, and never particularly closely, but a life that touched mine and the boys’ nonetheless.

Angel in disguise?

Today I met an angel. No, really, I did. I know, I thought the same thing, but hear me out.

I was helping my mother in law clear out some of my father in law’s things (to be able to move a bookcase to lay a new carpet) and ended up with three boxes of books to take to the charity shop. We love the new charity shop – it’s nearby, and there’s much more space, and a parking space. I pulled into the carpark, waved at Lemily, and started struggling to get the heavy boxes out of the back of the car.

I heaved the biggest out of the boot and left it behind the car while I went round to the back seat to drag the others out. I lifted one, and said oh golly and dropped it, and went back in for the third, smaller and easier to handle.

as I emerged from the car, the two boxes recently on the tarmac were nowhere to be seen. a chap was just going into the charity shop carrying something, but could one man really have hefted two large heavy cardboard boxes? (they were mostly hardback books.)

I carried the box I was holding into the shop and put it down on the two large boxes already by the counter. Someone held the door open for me, and I said thank you, and he winked and smiled. There was one old lady behind the counter, a couple looking at clothes and one of the receptionists sorting cds by the changing room. No strong book carrying man to be seen.

I hurried back out to see if he was on the pavement, or getting into a car, or anything anywhere, to thank him – might he have been the kind man holding the door? Had he completely disappeared? had he left that quickly? I was in the shop for about 30 seconds at the very most.

I went back in and asked. The shop people said they hadn’t seen who brought the books. they didn’t think anyone had come in before me. On the very rare off chance you are reading, thank you kind soul. and next time, wear your wings and let me thank you!!

Boys!

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are 16 months, nearly 6 or 40+, the purpose of a sullivan male is to throw a wobbly at the nearest tiredest female of the species. most of the time this is ok and dealable with (yes, I know, I used to wield language rather more carefully!) but there are times when I feel like knocking their heads together!

Jack is teething, walking, wobbling, wants to be independent but frustrated, and has resorted to constant wailing most of the afternoon. Benjamin is not the happiest in his class this year so after school he lets it all out which can be a bit of a strain. Dai is tired and worried workwise, not running as much as he’d like, and could do with some general cheerfulling up.

I juggle and struggle and smile and do my best to keep us all muddling along together more or less ok but occasionally am grateful for the space to let out about it here! Gah!! Sorry but thank you, that’s lots better!

I am reminded by Dith’s recent post – when all else fails, try prayer. Of course I should try it before everything else has failed, but that’s another casualty of the tired frazzled mum – being less good at keeping in touch with him upstairs. Fabulous speaker at MU this afternoon, but Jack in such a bad mood we had to leave early (we usually leave early to get to school on time, but even earlier than that!) so the deaf old dears could have a hope of hearing!

I know I complain, but do know I’m lucky and am grateful. I do have a fabulous family, but as the MU prayer says, “all the joys and sorrows of family life” – takes the grotty days sometimes as a comparison to show you how good things are most of the time.

I’ll finish with a quote from a very wise woman (neither a mother nor a boy despite her name): All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. – Mother Julian of Norwich.

Bikeday

brightest winter sun glistens
reflects from painfully bright blue sea
high tide, driftwood on the path
freezing crackles in the air
reddens our noses
autumn leaves around our wheels
steaming warmth of Verdi’s
icecream coffee pizza

tired legs up the steep home hill
back seat full of heavy sleepy baby
brave and brilliant boy pedalling hard
exhausted exhiliarated

four helmets, gloves and coats piled on the sofa
as are the boys
kettle’s on
home

Hope, experience and Despair

Over the last three days, three very different experiences of church.

Saturday I went up to the Cathedral for my first Diocesan Conference, as lay rep for our deanery (group of 7 parishes in a cluster, bigger than just church but smaller than diocese – sort of admin, sort of social unit). It was fascinating and uplifting. I expected a bigger version of a vestry meeting, mostly blah, elections, accounts etc. It was a bit of that – but then there was a visiting bishop who spoke inspiringly, movingly, hilariously – tears of both laughter and sadness – and some important stuff discussed in smaller groups to be fed back to the Deaneries for further implementing later in the year. I often feel after church meetings that we have just talked round stuff and will continue to propose discussions to look at possibly investigating further and not necessarily ever actually get round to doing… but not this time. It really felt as though different churches want to learn from each other, share good practice and bad experience, and move forward together bringing about the kingdom of God in Swansea and Brecon. Seeing the smattering of collared friends I only catch up with at these sort of gatherings was an added bonus – Nigel and Judith do you still occasionally pop in here?!

On Sunday we had a thanksgiving day in church after six weeks of a stewardship campaign, Giving in Grace (see givingingrace.org for details), in which I’d been quite involved in the planning, praying (and proofing!). Unusually, I was able to be in church for the teaching and preaching – my boys were more confident in sunday school and creche, and didn’t object to my slipping back into church to hear the service for a change. If I could only catch one sermon in 6 months, this was one to catch! It wasn’t too pushy or scary, just challenging enough, encouraging enough, optimistic… I felt uplifted by church twice in two days!

(I blame the weather as well; I’m really not that spiritually in touch at the moment, but cold, clear, sunny, gorgeous, last blow of summer really does it for me, perhaps that is overflowing into my mood!)

Tonight was PCC. Hmmmph. Regluar readers will know about my love hate relationship with pcc meetings (and if I’m honest, some of the other members!). I was impressed how quickly and easily we were nipping through some of the earlier items on the agenda, even seemingly controversial ones. Golly, I thought, we’re on a roll. Home by 9 after all? misplaced optimism I’m afraid. One innocuous little item of AOB – have to put a notice up about that; can’t put a notice up without a faculty – turned into a full blown slanging match that dragged on and was still simmering after the collection, the grace and even in the carpark!

Yup, Anglican church. Love it, hate it, am part of it. Plus ca change, plus rien ne change pas.

Housegroup – help!

I’ve recently tried going to a new housegroup – which is also confusingly mostly my old one – but now meets during school hours rather than in the evening, meaning I have a chance to plug in with them again.

It was good being on the edge. I was able – in fact almost encouraged – just to sit and listen, talk a lot less, not take turns leading anything… it was very different, but very good for me! I was just getting used to it, a back seat role, more listening and learning, and … BANG. God – and my housegroup leader – had other ideas. It is not for an alice to take a back seat for long! I suppose when I’m not having to do stuff, being relied on by others for stuff, it gives me the excuse/freedom not to go, when actually it’s good for me to have the accountability, the regularity, the commitment of being part of a group. even a very little part.

(aside – that reminds me of the body of Christ readings when people say I’m not an foot or a hand etc. most of my parts are very little! maybe the little fingernail, or earlobe, or tummy button. I don’t feel things would fall apart in a big way without me!)

Well, so, last week a couple of people expressed an interest in praying for each other as part of new housegroup. I kept quiet. Alice, would you like to co-ordinate/write/lead that sort of thing again?

Do I have a choice? Pamela used to tell me about celestial pokes in the ribs which would not be ignored.

I don’t mind, and I don’t not want to, but there was I comfortably uncommitted and now people expect and rely on and look forward to “my bit” … they say I’m good at it, they say I write and read and lead well…

If what I write encourages or speaks to them, that is God using my words or images, nothing I’ve done. I pray, then write. Sometimes I don’t even prepare it. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to say, or how it’s going to go. I don’t think it’s me or from me or mine to use or not use.

If I have a gift for using words to make pictures that encourage others to meet God, that is God’s gift, not mine. I am only an instrument, just the one holding the pen (or the tapping the keyboard, in this case).

I feel a fraud when people thank me or congratulate me or cry. I want them to thank or cry to God! I worry that they can’t see past me to the One who made me and any way I may occasionally have with his words.

but it’s not me.

I feel like a fraud when they want me to take the credit.

Reasons to get blogging again

1. 5 months?!? and last time I posted I said speak soon. who was I kidding? well, if at first you don’t succeed…

2. I was enrolled in Mothers’ Union the first meeting back after the summer. and no, it’s not all Jam! Jack and I lower the average age by a hundred just by turning up!

3. Talking of Jack, he is walking! Benjamin is also thriving, and loving having just started Beavers. He will be invested next week!

4. I need some accountability and in the past you fabulous wibfolk have been fab at that sort of thing. I need to remind myself, focus myself and keep at stuff. Also sometimes to be reminded and repointed at what’s the important stuff. Especially now I’m at home, prioritising the God stuff, me stuff, boy stuff, house stuff and juggling appropriately. Also when I write more, I seem to do more, paradoxically.

5. I just miss you really! It was good to see/hear some of you at Greenbelt and that reminded me that it’s been far too long. Where does the time go, once you have children? no excuse really.

anyway, so, I’m back. and hopefully will be here a bit more often and regularly over the next couple of terms.