Posted in Spirituality, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Let Us Go

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  (Luke 2:15 + 16)

Sometimes I wonder what became of the shepherds after this event. What were they thinking during those 30ish years that Jesus was not in the public eye? Did they talk to each other about the experience, wondering if it was even real?

And later, did they go to hear him teach? Did they come to him with their needs, with sick family members?

Were they there at his crucifixion? Did they see him after his resurrection?

Did any of them join his first band of followers?

We don’t know. Maybe some of them did. I hope so!

“Let us go!” would have looked so different in those seasons. No angels telling them where to go. Maybe no community to share the experience with, giving each other courage.

Instead the distractions of everyday life. The worries, the fears, the busyness. But also the memory of what happened. The longing to see him again. Wondering what it meant that he was the Saviour, the Messiah, as the angel had said.

What about you? What about me? What season are we in? What does “Let us go!” look like right now?

Sometimes it’s so full of excitement, of wonder. Other times it’s sheer discipline. Sometimes it feels like I’m clinging on for dear life (only to discover it’s Him holding me, not the other way around).

In some seasons, it takes a lot of courage. Going into a new place, a new culture, a new language. Being away from those I’m used to journeying with. Or realising He is calling me to new ways of coming to Him.

I wonder what happened to those shepherds. I wonder if any of them followed him. I hope so!

In the midst of challenges, of busyness, of questions, of great joy – let us go! Alone and in community – let us go! Today. This Christmas. Whatever that might look like for each of us right now.

 

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Books of 2018

In no particular order, here are some of the books I enjoyed in 2018. Have you read any of them? What did you think?

This year, I read along with quite a few of the Velvet Ashes Book Club picks, and those are marked VA.

 

THE PIANO TUNER by Daniel Mason

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If you enjoy being transported into a totally different world (in this case, Burma in 1886), I highly recommend this book! You’ll enjoy this tale of West meeting East, of discovery and misunderstanding, of pain and joy. (VA)

 

LITURGY OF THE ORDINARY by Tish Harrison Warren

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What a unique and intriguing way to look at life and its rhythms, and how they mirror (and remind us of) sacred rhythms! (VA)

 

WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech

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I don’t often read Young Adult literature and was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! “Walk Two Moons” is a clever, beautiful, moving story of loss, of love, of starting again – and of the emotions that go with all of those. It is so well told and completely drew me in. (VA)

 

ARRIVING WELL by Cate Brubaker, Doreen Cumberford, Helen Watts

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Five personal stories of re-entry, of building a new life after living abroad. Each one unique, yet with each one, I found myself laughing out loud, and tearing up, at different points. If you’ve experienced re-entry, here are some good people for you to hang out with.

 

MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES by Fredrik Backman

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I was worried this might be too much like “A Man Called Ove” but ended up falling in love with it pretty quickly! I enjoyed the layers, the way different stories are woven together, and how with each character, we find out more of who they are, and what has shaped them, as the story progresses. Highly recommend it! (VA)

(NB: for some reason, in the US this booked is called “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry”)

 

THE CULTURE MAP by Erin Meyer

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One of the most help, practical, yet insightful books about cultures and how they operate, I’ve come across so far! I learned so much and enjoyed the positive approach towards differences!

 

I am also working my way through the “Anne” series by L.M. Montgomery, and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I’m enjoying them both immensely, different though they are!

 

Over to you – what should I be reading in 2019?

Posted in Uncategorized

Still

A quiet moment at the end of the day. Sitting in my almost dark living room, by the light of the tree. Disconnected from the world, it’s a moment of stillness, a moment to just be. Not even reflecting, just being still, giving myself a moment to arrive in the here and now.

Not reading the latest news, whether global or from friends and family. Not distracting myself. Just enjoying the beauty of the tree, of the lights. Getting caught up in the wonder of the season.

The stillness of this moment brings peace into all that’s happened today. Fun times with friends. Stressful times on public transport. Information coming at me from everywhere. Cares and concerns that weigh on my heart and soul.

Stillness. A gift I don’t give myself often enough.

 

Linking to Five Minute Friday – Still

 

Posted in Spirituality

The Day Contentment Died

Fear. A new sensation. They had never felt this way before.

They heard wolves howling in the distance and instinctively knew they were in danger. They found a cave to hide in and waited for morning.
What a different place their world had been just a few short hours previously.
It seemed to make so much sense at the time. Just one bite of the apple and they would be like God. Turns out it was all a lie. That apple had been pure poison, destroying everything they had ever known.
Purity turned to shame.
Trust to blame.
Fellowship to hiding.
The Lord had come walking in the garden, like He did every day. But they could not face standing before Him. They were naked and ashamed, and so they hid.
Their relationship with each other – destroyed.
Their relationship with God – destroyed.
Their relationship with the rest of creation – destroyed.
Their world had been so full of treasure. Every day was full of joy and new discoveries.
And now? Now it was dark, threatening, uncertain.
Yet in the midst of it all, in the midst of darkness and fear, there was a still, small voice telling them there would be new treasures to discover.
Treasures of grace and mercy, of forgiveness. They had a first taste of that when the Lord, full of compassion, made them clothes. Nakedness and shame covered.
He made a promise that one day the power of the snake, the power of lies and deceit, would be broken.
They’d had a first taste but there would be so much more to come.
The poison powerful, invading everything.
Yet the treasure of God’s love more powerful still.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(This text came out of a writing challenge I did with some friends. Three images from Story Cubes, some connection to faith and 20 minutes.)
Thinking about contentment this week, I came back to this story. That day, contentment as Adam & Eve had known it, died. I don’t think contentment was ever straightforward. It was always a choice. When it took a while for a “suitable companion” to be found. When the snake suggested they were lacking and offered more.
Yet there was a purity and an innocence that died that day. Poison invaded the world. New treasures of grace and forgiveness were born. That’s the tension we live in, I live in.
I can celebrate Communion and marvel again at the miracle of a God who loves so deeply and gives so abundantly. Then I step out of church and contentment goes out the window because I have to wait a whole 6 minutes for my train. (I mean, what is the world coming to? Really not acceptable! Yup, I’m absolutely a spoiled Berliner!)
The tension of “holy discontent” because this world is so far from what it was meant to be. And “not so holy” discontent because things don’t work out exactly the way I would like them to.
“Do this in remembrance of me”. Oh how my heart needs to be reminded of love, of forgiveness, of hope. One day, the tension will be no more. In the meantime, I am thankful for the treasures to be found in the midst of the tension.
This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.
Posted in cross-cultural

Ebb and Flow

I love being down by the river. It’s exhilirating and calming in equal measure. The constant movement of boats – small ones shuttling people around the port, and huge ones taking containers and goods to the far corners of the earth. The lapping of the waves against the shore. Those predictable patterns of the tide coming in and going out, coming in and going out.

The piers in the picture above float.  So when the tide is high, the bridges only have a gentle incline and it’s an easy stroll back to the shore. When the tide is really low, however, they can be pretty steep. Ever changing yet familiar at the same time.

Life so often is like that river. There is crazy rushing around, and there are bigger changes. Just like the tide, there are some familiar patterns anchoring it all. The seasons. The different festivals and holidays we celebrate. The school year.

The beauty of having been around in a place, in a ministry, for a while, is being able to see some of those patterns of ebb and flow. No, the craziness of September and October will not last forever. There will be a different season, when things are slower, maybe even too slow. When the novelty and the excitement wear off, and it can feel like there is not enough water for our (metaphorical) boats to keep moving. Then the tide will come in again. Relationships have grown, we are able to understand more. There is a familiarity that helps us look beyond ourselves.  Summer comes around and with it a feeling that the tide is going out. It’s a season of good-byes, as friends, team mates, students, leave. By the end of it, we’re exhausted and ready for a time of quiet and of restoration. Before the tide comes in again and brings with it new team mates, new students, new ideas and ways of doing things.

And so the cycle begins again. Ever changing and yet strangely familiar.

At times, the unusual, the unexpected hits. Sometimes the tide is way too high, nearly flooding the bridge. Business as usual can not continue, our focus needs to be on the crisis, the stressful situation or relationship.

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But there is also the beauty of patterns among the many shifts and changes of life.

 

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Layers of a City

So often I walk the streets of this city without really seeing. Everything is familiar, always the same. Until suddenly it is not.

I had enjoyed a wander around one of my favourite craft stores. It’s a cool place, so many fun things to get those creative juices flowing.

As I was leaving, I turned around to take a look back at the façade (which incidentally is pretty funky). That’s when I spotted it. A memorial plaque telling me that on this very spot, there used to stand a synagogue. The building was destroyed during the Reichskristallnacht of November 1938. At my feet, an indication of what likely happened to the people who would have attended the synagogue. Stolpersteine commemorating (what appear to be) three members of the same family, all deported and killed.

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A sudden glimpse of the many layers that make up this city. There’s the obvious – the many tourists, the expensive department store, the fun craft shop. Then there is what has gone before. The things we normally don’t see, made visible and brought into the present.

So much else I’m not seeing as I walk through my days. Stories happening in the lives of individuals I encounter. Hidden people, hidden groups, hidden dynamics. Layers upon layers.

I wonder what those layers look like in my apartment, on my street, in my neighbourhood? What’s gone before – what joy, what sadness, what tragedy, what ordinariness? All of it has shaped the place, has shaped who and what we are now.

Posted in cross-cultural, Spirituality, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Echoes of Belonging

You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. (Miriam Adeney)

The beauty of a mosaic is in lots of broken pieces making an amazing whole. The beauty of calling different places home is that a part of my heart fits in each one of them. Yet it’s never the whole. Always there is that longing for somewhere else.

Scattered throughout my home, my routines, my life are echoes of elsewhere. I see them, I know they’re there. Others might not. It might seem like I belong here completely and yet I don’t.

It’s a beautiful longing, but also a painful one. Knowing that this side of heaven, all the pieces of my heart will never again be in just one place.

The painting above (by Sir John Everett Millais) so beautifully depicts Christ living that same reality. He belongs in this home, in this family. Yet there are echoes of the home he left – triangle shapes representing the trinity, a dove for the Holy Spirit. Every day of his life, Christ lived in that tension. Belonging in two places. For most of that time, others didn’t see that. His parents knew – maybe not fully – and treasured the words they had heard. His friends, the workers in the shop, the village? Not so much.

People who understand my reality are an incredible gift. Knowing that Christ walked this reality as well is my great comfort and a foundation that’s strong and sure.

 

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

Picture credit: Tate Britain