In search of spring

 

IMG_9102

We took a walk in the woods yesterday. It felt like spring.

The water of the mere was still, but for a few slow ripples stirred by the movement of birds: goldeneye, teal and widgeon. A pair of great crested grebes, in the shallows pulling at roots and weeds, looked like they might be getting ready to build a nest. Buds were sprouting on the dark twigs of hawthorn and there were lamb’s tail catkins hanging in the sun. Underfoot a delicate carpet of tiny green leaves were making a show, nettles, sweet ceicely, wood anemone, cow parsley, many textured, in every shade of green. Lesser celandine, gorse and coltsfoot; some of our favourite first flower of spring are yellow. Their shining faces bring out of hibernation all the humming insects and the bees.

Sitting in the hide with the window open and the sun shining on my face I came to think of images of spring and the power they have over us. We can be renewed inwardly when the  black branches come into bud and the first shoots of flowering bulbs stand proud from the cold ground. When the days grow longer we understand more clearly than before how a light has shined in the darkness and the darkness can never put it out.

The writer of the Song of Song said this:

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.

It has!

They do!

I will!

Spring will reign forever as a powerful image of renewal and hope in every Christian heart. Yet walking in the woods yesterday, it was not enough. I have done this nearly every year of my life. I’ve seen it before and been cheered by it before. I will be cheered by it again. But we have struggled and we have been troubled. It is not a casual thing, it is not easily swept away. It isn’t that the imagery of spring is inadequate only that we hunger for more; this bright shining light, this chance to see all things made new. We dig deeper, look more closely, wonder more ferociously, write with more care. We know that the beauty of the earth is never quite enough.

I prayed that God would speak to me in new and startling ways outside of cliches and well worn phrases. Or, I prayed that I would get beneath the thin skin of the too familiar words and images to the heart of the message, to the heart of me, to the heart of him. That I would know myself startled by this voice, truly taken aback by what he says, listening and watching for something more. That I would have courage when I am stirred by this beautiful world to know that feeling for what it is: a holy call to something more.

A holy call to something more.

IMG_9112IMG_9106IMG_9107IMG_9119

 

Yarn Along – March 9th

stitchholder

I’m reading The Museum of You, by Carys Bray. I really loved her first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley and she is also a local writer. The copy I have is a publisher’s proof and it feels quite special, a sneak preview before the official date of publication (June 16th in the UK).

museum ofu

Her first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley is the story of Claire, a mother who loses her baby and most of her faith in God. Claire’s husband Ian is a good Mormon elder who is ill prepared to understand what is happening in his family. His wife takes to her bed and his teenage daughter Zippy falls in love for the first time. In the process she begins to unravel some of the double standard inherent in relationships generally and in church life particularly. Whilst this is going on his youngest son Jacob is hoping for the miracle that will put everything right and their rebellious older son, Alma, finds his own miracle in the most surprising place. The final scene takes place on the beach not far from where I live and it caused some interesting discussions at home because my husband and I both interpreted the outcomes differently. But maybe that is one indicator of a really good read …

The second novel promises to me good like the first, though it was a little slow to pick up pace. I’m only 100 pages into The Museum of You and so far I’m totally convinced and engaged by the main character Clover Quinn and her mission to put together a museum style exhibit on the mother she never knew. I’m particularly intrigued that so much of the novel is set locally, with detail of streets and locations that are familiar to me on a daily basis. Not something I’m used to in a novel and frankly a rather unusual fiction reading experience.

When it comes to knitting I’m mainly making baby cardigans. They seem to bring so much pleasure to me and others. I think this is my sixth this year. I stick with white and love using vintage patterns that various lovely people have passed on. When I finish this one I’m planning on something a different; maybe a light shawl in some exquisite yarn or a summer cardigan in pink cotton (for me).

cardicloseup

cardidetail

cardiwithvase

PS. I just noticed that an audio book of Issy Bradley is currently available from Amazon in both the UK and the US for free. Can’t recommend it highly enough!

Today I’m joining a link up with other knitters and reader, hosted by Ginny Sheller of the exquisitely photographed blog Small Things.

 

yarnalong2

Live life like a mother

photo

An intense lesson in living, shocking enough to make sure you never live casually again. The first time you hold your newborn against your naked self, you are tired and slightly traumatised, yet strangely alive with passion and resolve. You will never live life in quite the same way again.

The over used notion of “intentionality’ does not begin to do this justice.

This is how so many women heard their first call to live life more fully. One small new life made you a mother, it gave you a vocation. You said would never be the same again and what you meant was you would live your life more fiercely now because of that little someone else. Suddenly the possibilities for joy increased, the opportunities for growth multiplied but isn’t this also true: so did the opportunities to be flung into wild living panic at a moments notice, to lie awake sleepless in unexplainable despair.

We learn some of the most beautiful lessons of our lives there between the night feeds and the groggy mornings trying to find a pair of socks that match, persuading the little ones out of the door amidst arguments about why you can’t take your comfort blanket to nursery with you, why you can’t wear the fairy princess costume to school. Didn’t we feel out done by first dates and Facebook fall-outs and teenagers who believed they were too fat or too thin? Didn’t we lose the plot over course work deadlines not met and lost bus passes, parties with alcohol and learning to drive? But somewhere, somehow we found the right words and when that failed we found the right silence. We showed up and we showed love beyond a simple hug and kiss. We were creative, resourceful and inspiring but mainly lost and always out of our depth.

Behind the closed doors of our family homes, amongst piles of discarded toys and the bags of outgrown clothes that never made it to the charity shop, we did the hard work of becoming more human and helping our children do the same. Overdue library books under the bed, longed for pets that need to be fed, a half empty fridge and still we put food on the table everyday, because kids are hungry beasts and who knew how much pleasure can be found in sitting round a table at the end of the day. Our plates were full and so were our lives. Achievement, success, hidden talents and reserves of strength found in surprising places at surprising times, but never more so than now.

I don’t want any mother to feel defined or confined by narrow definitions of what it is to parent as women or for any man to feel his contribution is diminished. I don’t want anyone to be excluded because they chose not to mother or didn’t have the opportunity to mother even when it was something they longed for with all their heart.

I only want to say that there is a quality in mothering that makes you come alive and small lesson in living that we should be sharing with the world.

Our world needs more resilience, more resourcefulness, more hope. “Live life like a mother,” I keep whispering to myself as I pick my way through the complexities of a too anxious life. Write like a mother, teach like a mother, love like a mother, grieve like a mother. The world could do worse that practise a little more of this good love, this forbearance of the hard things, for the sake of those who need our care.

Here are some of the things that motherhood taught me. This is how I live life like a mother.
Choose your battles
I wasn’t giving into them, spoiling them, pandering to them, I was choosing my battles. Choosing your battles means accepting that there is plenty wrong in this world and you are not big enough to change it all today. One small step at a time is the way to proceed, by choosing  the things that matter the most.

Be a grown up
A time comes when we are just too old to tantrum and throw the toys out of the pram every time things don’t go to plan. I still remember where I was when I realised I was the grown up in my family situation and that my children were looking to me, to draw the boundaries, make the decisions, extend the care and  make their world safe. They weren’t being demanding, they were just being children and suddenly I wanted them to enjoy this part of childhood. I wanted to create an age appropriate environment where the balance of safety and challenge fell on the side of safety.  Be the grown up to the people in life who are in need of this type of care.

Give others the freedom to be themselves
I always imagined that my first child would be a well behaved, gentle spirited girl, academically precocious and musically gifted. But my first child was not this and eventually I learn to stop trying to turn him into the fabled person I wanted him to be. Ultimately you cannot control another human being. You cannot dictate their beliefs , preferences or behaviours. As your children get older they will make choices that you feel you did not raise them to make, choices that you think are wrong. Sometimes you have to let them. In this world too many relationships are marred by manipulation and the desire to control. Find another way to play a part in the lives of the people you love. Control is never good.

Practise the art of imperfection
Life is messy. Children will only make it messier but once you’ve found a way to be comfortable with this you increase your ability to do well in other areas of life. Things go wrong. Mistakes are made. Learn a little resilience and give yourself a break. Your role is not to work hard to hide your imperfections from the world. Your role is to find a way of living that embraces mess and gets on anyway. It is very tiring putting on a show to the world that everything is OK when often it is not. It’s very isolating to suggest to other people that you have it together when you do not. Live authentically, wear your imperfections with ease and help others to do the same.

Be kind
Children need discipline and sometimes love has to be tough but how often did we make everyone’s life much harder with misplaced tough love. A battle with a toddler is rarely about who is right. You are almost certainly right but this is probably not the best time to making your point. I am convinced that its better to be kind than to be right and I’m willing to risk making a wrong call if necessary. So often we thought our zero tolerance approach would pay us dividends in the future and it only made the situation more intransigent. If in doubt, be kind.

Enjoy it
Despite the challenges, parenting should be fun, more love and joy that anything else. And this is true of life. I can not except that life is a drudge, a brief period lived in miserable suffering. I’m not a natural optimist, I’m just someone who has decided I need to live in pursuit of good things, rather than living to struggle with bad things. My children ultimately make this easier. They give me plenty of reasons to be glad. When seasons of life bring trouble I go in pursuit of beauty and joy more fiercely than before.

What has being a parent taught you about living life well?

.

What I’m into in February

What I'm Into

 

I’m linking  up with Leigh Kramer for the very popular “What I’m into” series.

IMG_9014

What I’m reading

Kate Atkinson – Since Christmas I’ve caught up on all the Kate Atkinson that I’ve missed since reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum sometime in the nineties. I loved Life After Life, but if I described the outstanding features of the novel it would sound like a gimmick. What KA pulls off in this book is truly remarkable. The work is built around a series of ‘what if …?’  and KA’s seamless handling of multiple possible outcomes in one narrative is a rare literary accomplishment. Compelling, utterly convincing and unselfconscious. Great characters, strong historical setting and multifaceted plot. Loved it along with A God in Ruins.

 

Margaret Atwood – Atwood is my main author this year and I have set myself the task of reading all of her novels and hopefully some poetry and non-fiction before Christmas. I thought The Blind Assassin was simply stunning and this month I have read the short story collection, Stone Mattress. These stories are engaging, entertaining and wickedly clever. Atwood’s mastery of genres, complex literary references and finely tuned characters are everything I love about reading contemporary fiction.

John Galsworthy – The only thing I knew about the Forsythe Saga before I started it a couple of weeks ago is the infamous rape scene which is intrinsic to the plot of these stories but completely inadequate in capturing the depth and breadth of a wonderful family saga told over three generations. This writing is a pleasing combination; everything I love about Victorian fiction plus added character consciousness one would expect from a modern novel

Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God – Andy and I are reading this in our own date night book club. Jersak is an Orthodox theologian and this is a helpful read for anyone who has trouble with those Old Testament stories where God take murderous revenge on his enemies. More generally the book offers a bible hermeneutic that helps them iron out inconsistent and unhelpful beliefs about about God that we may have inadvertently picked up along our way.

Michelle Paver – Our  book club book this month was Michelle Paver’s first adult novel, Dark Matter. Everyone in the group enjoyed this read but with a few minor reservations: some of us didn’t find it scary enough (it is supposed to be a ghost story) and others found the characters and the setting unconvincing. But we did all finish it and that says something about it as a good safe read.

Today I’m giving away  my copy of Dark Matter to one of my readers. All you need to do is like or comment on this post on Facebook or on the blog and I will draw a name for a winner, Monday 7th March.

dark matter

What I’m watching

I’m thoroughly enjoying my TV at the moment; long evenings knitting and catching up on favourites via the player are becoming quite routine. These favourites include, Dickensian, War and Peace, Call the Midwife, Shetland, Trapped, Happy Valley and The Night Manager.

On the internet

Loving my mom blogs at the moment and am earnestly in search of writer who can help me negotiate the tackiness of parenting older children. All recommendations welcome. In the mean time I’m mainly enjoying,

Vanilla Latte To Go – written by one of my playgroup mom, very funny.

We are that Family – on my radar for a long time and occasionally referred to, I’m now reading this regularly.

What I’m knitting

Baby cardigans. I have a vintage Peter Pan booklet with ten or so patterns that I want to try out and I’m slowly working my way through it. I wish all the babies of the world could be wrapped up warm in hand knitted cardis.

IMG_9059

IMG_9089

 

Favourite Instagram

IMG_9136

Most popular blog post

The dangers of Instagram envy