Seven beautiful days …

 

Image

On Monday we had a sun blest day out in the English Lakes, double blessed because we had been disappointed when night temperatures fell to near zero and we abruptly cancelled our camping trip plans. We said a firm “No”!” to a hard work holiday where the kids woke cold at 2 am, didn’t go back to sleep and we were left to fill a long outdoor day on not enough sleep and little else.

I am learning that life is not supposed to be forever a trial, always difficult, an uphill climb. I am learning that you only have to open your eyes wide and see that there are gifts everywhere waiting to be found, even in the dull hopeless situations. I am learning it by counting gifts and pausing to name everything I know to be good.

Seven beautiful days … is my effort at sharing some small and not so small things that counted as a blessing for me this week.

A modest photo I took of an empty snail shell, but click on the photo for an amazing slideshow of living snails close up.

snail

Rachel Sussman’s surprising photo-journalism project – simply awesome facts about plants.(click on the picture to open a link to the full story)

plant

 

A thirteen year old Kazak girl and her hunting eagle.(click on the picture to open a link to the full story)

huntingeagles

Forgiveness where forgiveness was not possible – Rwanda 20 years on. (click on the picture to open a link to the full story)

rwanda

 

Children helping each other survive situations of extreme poverty and violence.(click on the picture to open a link to the full story)

syria

 

 

As you know I can’t resist a good blog trip uncovering stories of hope and transformation in corners of the world I’d condemned as poverty stricken and hopeless. I’ve been following this story closely and have to admit I’ve shed a few tears as I’ve read.(click on the picture to open a link to the full story)

 

haiti

 

One little girl learns to walk because her parents love her that much … (click on the picture to open a link to the full story)

eden

Finally, don’t miss this, the Easter message in song …

A safe house for stories

photo

Yesterday we all showed up at Su’s in the afternoon for a little cake and open house socialising on the first really sunny day of the year. I sat with Jackie in the swinging chair and we talked about how the sunshine was warming the soil and all of the veggies that she would be planting this year in her beautiful raised garden beds.

Yesterday we all showed up at Su’s like a cupboard full of chipped plates and cracked cups, a mismatch of odd crocks brought out for a larger than expected party of guests. In twos and threes across the lawn and quietly on sun loungers closer to the house we talk with new friends and old friends of holidays, family, home and work; small fragments of our story brought out to air in the glorious sunshine of that good spring day.

A few of us over red velvet cake and cups of tea got talking about our Five Minute Friday fellowship of writers, how we all came together, an accidental muddle of new writers, aspiring writers, secret writers and non-writers to organise a few words each weekend based on an improbable and random prompt. It is something we like to do, we have found a voice and an audience of great kindness and grace. We tell the stories and we read the stories. We use our words to help each other come out of hiding because each story is good and should not be left in the dark.  We won’t be going viral any day soon and the publishing houses are not queuing up to take us on, but there is more to say.

We have made a safe house for stories. We love to read the stories and would love to host your story here.

photo

 

What is Five Minute Friday?

We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that Lisa Jo Baker posts at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday at lisajobaker.com. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

The prompt this week is GLUE

I am delighted to share a piece from Sarah and links to blog posts by Steph and Debbie (click on the photo to open the link.)

 

GO

Glue – it holds things together. Seldom visible, it is nonetheless an important part of so many things. The outer, obvious parts, the exquisite crafts, would generally work if something were replaced. If I don’t have that fabric , I can use that one; if I don’t have a button I can use a bead. But if I don’t have glue, the whole project will fall apart.

I know people like that – the quiet unobtrusive ones who are rarely seen at the ‘front’ of an event, but who tirelessly hold things together behind the scenes. Not the people who are often rewarded or admired, but the ones on whom we depend without knowing it.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these ‘glue people’. So next time you thank the people up front, take a moment to look for the glue.

STOP

 

Good Friday

IMG_4019

I’ve no shortage of reading this Easter week and what I have is dense with worthy thoughts on the cross. But something in the day is calling me out from behind all the words. It’s not enough to read it aright or speak it aright, I want to live it aright. It’s not enough to have given thanks because I read it was good. I want to give thanks like Jesus gave thanks, with the cross in view and the grave staring up wide and black. I want to eat the bread and drink the wine like he did, giving thanks because I’ve counted the cost. Giving thanks is not a gratitude list that someone else taught me to write. Giving thanks is a walking, talking, follow me life that demands I come up close and say the words myself.

The man who said “Tell no one,” made for himself a small pantomime scene, on the back of a donkey, coming into Jerusalem in the style of Zechariah, an unlikely warrior with no real sword. Gentle and riding on a donkey he invited their cries, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!” He commanded an audience in Jerusalem on the busiest day of the year. The man who had sometimes tried to keep his presence a secret made sure that no one was missing this, then he disappeared into the crowd who wandered off to complete the business of the day.

I might have been there, watching from the back of that crowd. Living the whole thing from the corners of my mind, gathering and sorting the pieces; allusions to scriptures and the stories of all he said and did. Treading the road with the crowds, I would have watched as they laid the cloaks from their own backs to cover up the dirt. I might have shared my stories and thoughts with friends brushing a little dust from my own clothes as I spoke .

Some around Jesus imagined a band of mercenaries, insurrectionists, plotters and terror mungers, riding stolen war horses into the city and taking the Romans by surprise. Others imagined a different liberation, a closed religious community in the desert far from the confusion of politics, philosophies and competing ideas, a hiding place in which they could spend the rest of their days in peace. But Jesus was somewhere else.

On the night he was betrayed Jesus was busy rewriting history with a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, behind closed door, with an intimate bunch of friends. The crowds long gone in search of their own people and their own places to celebrate the Passover meal, we can pull up a chair and sit around that invite only table and watch from the front row as the story unfolds. We are the people once on the outside brought near. We know the location, the secret address and we come to share last things with a few remaining friends before everyone else has fled and left him for dead. As we watch him break the bread and drink from the cup we hear him give thanks and the distances shrink, times, place and realities: closer to Him, closer to each other and closer to our rest. Closer now to all the promises ever shared, He calls us to worship, to prayer and to find deep quiet intimacy from a safer place beyond the cross, resurrection day a few short hours away.

Five good things for families

IMG_1375

I thought I’d share some good things for spring time and Easter.  Just for fun. Here are easy crafts to make and do and add a little family creativity to the holidays. There’s even more here on the Pinterest board I made for Easter and you can find some Easter colouring sheet at Doodle Art Alley.

Enjoy!

1. Easter Crispie Cakes

If you’re making crispie cakes and adorning them with mini-eggs there’s no shortage of recipes to be found across the net, though these are so easy you hardly need a recipe. The instructions below works just fine even for barely supervised children, just remember to melt and add ingredients in the stated order to avoid the chocolate seizing up.

chocegg

 

Ingredients

200g chocolate

120g butter

6 table spoons of golden syrup

180g rice crispies

Mini-eggs to decorate

1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water or carefully in the microwave.

2. Cut the butter into cubes and add gradually stir in until it has melted.

3. Add the golden syrup one table spoon at a time stirring until thoroughly combined.

4. Add the rice crispies and stir gently ensuring the cereal is coated with the chocolate mixture.

5. Spoon the mixture into 24 paper cases that you have arranged in a bun tin.

6. Decorate with mini-eggs and leave to set at room temperature.

IMG_1453

IMG_1371

 

Alternatively you could make some cupcakes and decorate those with mini-eggs. Click here for a recipe and look out for pretty pastel coloured cake cases to make your baking look especially pretty.

2. Decorating Eggs

Last year Lucy and I bought dye that was specifically designed for eggs and if you can get hold of some I thoroughly recommend it. The deep dye eggs you see here were produced using egg dye and a black sharpie. I think you’ll agree the results are impressive.

IMG_1432

This year we used food dyes which produce a subtle and less even colour distribution across the egg shell.  I bought white ducks eggs from our local farm shop which show the colour off to its best advantage. I recommend boiling the egg in the dye then leaving them to cool and soak for 24-48 hours. Food colouring is cheaper than a special product and you probably have some at the back of a cupboard or amongst your cake decorating miscellany. Again we finished them using a sharpie and a few dabs of bleach.

blueeggs

sharpieeggs

 

Click on the picture below for more fabulous egg decorating ideas at Buzz feed.

eggpinata

3. Simple Easter cards

card

You will need:

White A4 card

Coloured tissue paper

Black sugar paper

PVA glue and scissors

1. Cut the tissue into inch wide strips.

2. Cut a small curved hill shape and strips for the cross from the black paper.

3. Assemble the card by glueing the tissue strips horizontally to create a sunset effect and sticking the hill and the cross over the top.

4. Donut tombs

IMG_1346

 You will need:

A paper plate

A ring donut

An oreo biscuit

Desiccated coconut

Green food colouring

Water icing

Paper, glue and a cocktail stick for the flag.

You will find instructions for this activity all across the internet. It’s pretty self explanatory apart from explaining that the water icing can be used to hold the thing together; stick the donut to the plate with a dab of icing and stick the Oreo across the mouth of the tomb with another dab of icing. The coconut is coloured with a little green food colouring to make the grass and the flag is assembled using paper, glue and a cocktail stick.

5. Spring texture garden

garden

We made this craft at toddler group before the holidays. A simple craft for small children, it is best made with a good selection of paper of different textures. We used sand paper, bubble wrap, foil and different types of craft paper.

You will need:

A paper plate

A purchased chick

A selection of papers, different colours and textures

Glue and sellotape

1. Assemble the garden by arranging the paper and sticking it down with glue.

2. Add the chick and attach with sellotape.

Enjoy your holidays!

 

 

 

On our egg rolling day

Yesterday was our egg rolling day and some lovely friends from church and other places joined us for fun in the park. After 15 years of rolling eggs I still haven’t managed to get over how much fun small children have rolling an egg down a hill, then running to retrieve it, over and over again. So, I thought I would share last year’s post on egg rolling day and what it means to be the church.

eggs
Today we will be the church in towns and villages, cities and metropolises in two hemispheres, across seven continents, rich and poor, black and white, male and female, young and old. We will meet in school halls, auditoriums, cinemas and converted warehouses, downtown, uptown and every place in between. In cathedrals and chapels, the flagging and flourishing, coming together, Royal, Holy, Chosen, declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness, every culture, every nation, every temperament and personality type, accepted and deeply loved by God.

In rows looking at the back of another person’s head as sun trickles through the coloured glass of stained windows or in a quiet circle of friends on fold-away chairs we will hush squabbling siblings who open colourings books and story Bibles as the first song begins. The music will be played, plucked, hummed, strummed and beat; melody, harmony, symphony, cacophony all to the glory of our great God. Called into His glorious light we will sing new words on illuminated screens and old words in Times New Roman text on pages of hymnals that feel like vellum between our fingers, their scent like bee’s wax from a thousand faithful servants who have polished these pews.

We will read from ancient scriptures in translation new and old, we will utter our ‘Thus says the Lord’, bow heads, pray and chorus ‘Amen’. Amen is what we mean for we are in agreement on these things. We are the people of God and we agree that this is good.

The preacher will preach from a text, in three points or no points at all, in stories imaginary and real. He will draw from traditions and commentaries and all the saints of old. He will tells the meanings of the words we crave like, love and joy and peace, fellowship, community and church. He will make us laugh and make us think, we will weep and sigh and leave challenged or softened, enraged or humbled.

Bread will be eaten, devoured by the hungry and nibbled upon by the not so bold, fresh and yeast scented, wheat of the field and warmth of the oven, a crusty loaf or a small white wafer, round as a moon. The body is broken and we are made whole. There is wine to make the heart glad and the heart is glad as only the forgiven can be. The peace will be shared between those who love deep and wide and those whose love seems to them too small. Hands will be shaken, a hug made, a smile, an arm around the shoulder and an offer to pray. Health, healing, provision come, all from the hand of the Lord.

Today we were the church me, my family and a few friends in the park. We met to eat together and roll our eggs down the grassy bank, to run to the bottom fetch back the egg, just to do it all again. All the rules were simple and all the children could play, everyone of them. The little ones would scramble and fall on their muddy bottoms over and over again, they would be carried in the arms of their fathers and helped when they stumble by children only a little older than they are now. The winner was the one whose egg has not cracked after tumbling through the grass ten, twenty, thirty, times. And everyone else they were winners too with prizes and sweets and we fed the ducks and play on the swings until it is time for tea.

This is my church and now we know each other a little better and love each other a little more. And here we are ready to meet and greet the poor and lost and lonely and all who mourn; to bring them a little bit of Jesus on a spring day in the park, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, small children, big children and our egg rolling fun and His good safe love.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9, 10 NIV)

Five Minute Friday: Paint

IMG_0089

GO

It is no secret to those of you who know me: I have suffered from depression.

At is worst, it has been a condition characterised by an inability to receive comfort or love from anything or anyone.

At times the only relief I could find was to sleep.

But as I recovered I began to find that in an art gallery, I could for a few short hours, experience a freedom from the inside of my own head and enough hope of healing to keep me sane for a little more time. In a gallery I found some pieces that were missing from my cold black life. I found colour, form, perspective, shades, compositions that held in balance conflicting views and most of all I found beauty.

I found hope and beauty in paint.

Paint: brushed and stroked, marked and manipulated, smoothed and textured, in dots and dashes, in broad sweeps and layers.

One small window painted in colours on a solid black wall. It loosed my tongue, swelled my soul and made me reach beyond the flat colour palette into the beauty of the beating heart of the God who lay somewhere on the other side of the paint.

STOP

IMG_0102

 

IMG_0103

This week several friends have submitted posts based on the prompt word PAINT. I was interested to watch two main themes emerging: finding the confidence to develop our own creativity and the positive impact of visiting a gallery.

Su has written about her own art and painting journey,

Debbie has started her own blog, At Home on the Rolling Sea and has posted a poem there

Steph has a post about her own art and trip to a gallery

Carolyn has written about her own creative work which is a significant part of her personal story.

And finally *STOP PRESS* a contribution from Karen,

GO

Paint is something that is a big thing in my life at the moment.  To paint or not to paint on a weekly basis?  Moving home and needing to freshen up is a chore to me.  I had time off work recently and paint is what I did along with some very good friends who came to give me a hand.  Painting with friends is so much more fun and so much less a chore.  Now one friend is trying to convince me to veer away from the safety of magnolia.  I am not yet totally persuaded, but may be converted soon.  Then the decision is what colour to paint?  There are so many colours and shades and variations on a theme, but  what I do like about paint is the persuasive art of naming it to conjure up an image like azure blue makes me thing of a Caribbean sea and waving palm trees, pillar box red or lime green the choice is endless.  If you want to discover my choice once I’ve done the deed, call in and have a coffee sometime.

STOP

And some wonderful quotes from David,

 

“Such is my relationship with God: on my gigantic canvass of life, I am the one throwing all of the brightly-coloured paints, creating genuine splatters, authentic whirlpools of colour, beautiful patterns, wonderful streaks and stains and wild accents; God is the one with the paintbrush who stands beside my canvass filling all the intricate and amazing details in between the whirlpools and the streaks! We’re happy together!”
C. JoyBell C.
“Once, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a ship for several hours, during a furious storm, so that he could later paint the storm. Obviously, it was not the storm itself that Turner intended to paint. What he intended to paint was a representation of the storm. One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.”
David Markson

 

There is still time to join us. you don’t have to be an experienced writer and you don’t even need your own blog. Our writing collaboration is demonstrating that we all have something to say and no one is excluded. So why not add your voice by following the simple instructions below?

 

  • Write for 5 minutes using the prompt PAINT, anything you like (free-fall) !
  • Email the piece to me and I will post it on my blog or you can post it on your own blog and send me the link
  • If you post on your own blog you can also use the linky tool at the bottom of Lisa Jo Baker’s post and share your piece there
  • If you share on lisajobaker.com you should check her guidelines and comment on the post that appear immediately before your own

5minutefriday

Wren

Because Andy set up a kitchen table office, in front of the french windows, overlooking our small back yard, he was the first to see the wren.

nest

The wren built her nest in an un-pruned, bed-head of jasmine, on a rotting trellis by the kitchen window. In a tangle of mis-spent vines that stroke and stray across the red brick wall of the house she layered up, cocoon-like, a spun wonderment of nest. She layered up moss, stalk, grass and stem with the remnants of dead leaves and the brittle white hair from the tail of a horse. For the love of one hundred small journeys back and forth, she spun before our watching eyes, stalk upon stem and feather-lined: a home from the dust. At the kitchen table office the work comes slow but good, we have enough. He typed out proposals, completed reports and answered his mail, whilst spent fibre was bent into a bed and summer leftovers formed the roof above the wren’s feathered head.

And then, one day, she was gone.

We both worked on through early spring days, him at the table, me out of the house. Long days and too much to do. Hearts can be discouraged but each night there is food on the table and our fine children sit with us to eat. They tell us their grades and their dreams between sips of juice and with mouths crammed full of hot potatoes, salad and dessert. They help us remember that we too have dreams and dead dreams can live.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says,

So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling.

Everything is meaningless – like chasing the wind.

I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.

So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 

Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest.

It is all meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 2

skyblossom

Daylight saving, the clocks go forwards. The evenings are longer and the daylight is more.  Leaving the dishes in the sink and the washing machine un-emptied I step into the yard with a mug of tea. It’s six o’clock and the birds sing loud and long into the shameless blue sky. The gravel in the yard shines rain-washed under my feet.  Hosta shoots stand proud in frost cracked terra cotta, rampant strawberry leaves tumble out of the raised beds onto the path. The rose is heavy with hard green buds, the ferns coiled tight, hyacinth flowers like stars, alchemilla mollis leaves hold globes of rain drops like a jewel. On the rotting trellis by the kitchen window stalks of jasmine, brown and dead, find a way to shoot and leaf. And then I take a look at the well spun nest …

I stare into the nest and the wren stares back.

The bird we thought had flown, she is there in her nest. She will lay eggs. She will sit on them, keep them warm. And in a few short weeks she will be feeding young.

Dreams die. Toil takes charge. Hope slips when our sight slips and we grieve what is gone instead of naming what we have. It would seem we did not look closely enough, we did not wait and watch. This is how we live in thin times: our eyes struggling to focus. This is how we live in thin times, because God is still good and grace turned up in a thousand shocking ways. Grace in the place you least expected it. You stared hard at the darkness and the face of joy stared back.  When you thought joy had flown, you stared into the black opening of an empty nest and hope stared back.

Grace showed up like a bird: one quarter ounce of beating heart, chiselled tail, black bead eye and speckled wing.

Here she is now on the garden wall with her little-big-voice song, a song she sings for all glory like the very stones cried out in praise. She does not labour nor toil yet Solomon in all his splendour was not so well arrayed.

And how much more does your Father in heaven love you?

How much more does He love you?

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work.

Then I realised that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 

Ecclesiastes 2