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bestkeptsecret

ASBO Jesus hits the nail on the head, and makes a neat mental link for me with my previous post.

Well, BK did it, and I couldn’t resist so here’s everything you never wanted to know about me.  Thanks to BK for leading the way, it’s been great fun doing it. 

1. First thing you wash in the shower? I begin at the top and work down…

2. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again? Absolutely (it was my little girl, and before that my husband)

3. Do you plan outfits? Well, I don’t close my eyes and randomly select clothes from my wardrobe/drawers, so in that sense I do plan.  Do I spend time thinking through combinations of clothes, and weighing up relative pros and cons?  Virtually never, and it stresses me out when I have to do it (like picking out what to wear for a special occasion because I always discover a wardrobe deficiency somewhere

4. What are you craving right now? Sleep

5. Do you floss? Tried it, strangled my tonsils (suspect I need to practice)

6. What comes to mind when I say cabbage? Slugs (as in slugs ate the cabbages I tried to grow last year)

7. Are you emotional? At times. 

8. Have you ever counted to 1,000? Don’t think so, but I’m pretty sure I know how it goes… 

9. Do you like your hair? Sometimes.  It looked nice yesterday for some reason, today not so much

10. Do you like yourself? I don’t know how to answer that honestly.  Counselling here I come!

11. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush? Don’t know.  I’ve heard he’s a personable guy, and might be good company, but I’d probably get indigestion from all my inner seething.  It would be interesting to get an insight into someone who so recently (and disastrously) shaped many world events.

12. What are you listening to right now? The distant sound of a radio, and various fans around the place trying to cool it down.

13. Are your parents strict? Well, I’ve been an adult for a long time, so their strictness doesn’t really factor into my life these days.  But when I was younger, they were moderately strict and probably could have been firmer with us.

14. Would you go sky diving? Categorically, no.  Why jump when there’s a perfectly good plane to stay in?

15. Have you ever met a celebrity? Celebrity is a relative term, so when I was younger meeting a local radio DJ counted as meeting a celebrity, a little older and meeting people in bands I liked was really exciting.  A couple of weeks ago we were close enough to Jamie Oliver to (nearly) touch him.  He didn’t speak to us though (someone else was talking to him at the time, I like to think he’d have had a good chat otherwise….)

16. How many countries have you visited? England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, France, Andorra, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, USA.  Think that’s it.  We’ve not been abroad for a few years now, lots of UK holidays these days.  Hoping to go to Italy for the first time next year, and I still look longingly at our guide books for a return visit to New York, or San Fran, or a first visit to New Zealand, or Canada or Alaska.  Or any of the Scandinavian countries…the list of ‘would like to’s is really long.

17. Have you made a prank phone call? No.  I’m more of a prank recipient, and have always hated it so wouldn’t do it to someone else (unless it was a really close friend I knew could take it?)

19. Do you have a cell phone? Like BK I can only acknowledge it to be a mobile, but yes.

20. Can you use chop sticks? Very badly, so I prefer not to.  Don’t want my food to go cold / land on the floor.

21. Are you too forgiving? No.  Can you be?

22. Ever been in love? Yes.

23. Last time you cried? Can’t remember

24. What was the last question you asked? “Can I have a kiss and a cuddle?”  (context: saying goodbye to my daughter at nursery this morning)

25. Are you sarcastic? hmm…sometimes. 

26. Do looks matter? Define “matter”.  In the grand scheme of things I’m pretty sure looks aren’t important, but in the everyday world they do affect things (e.g. us getting upset because a child in my daughter’s class called her fat, and even more heartbreakingly, our daughter reassuring us it doesn’t matter.  But her feelings were still hurt, and she’s still little so we don’t want her to be worrying about stuff like that)

27. Do you like your life right now? Yes

28. Can you handle the truth? I’d rather know the truth.  Handling it can be another matter

29. How often do you talk on the phone? Not much, I’m not much of a phone person.  Love texting since I got my new phone though, but calls are expensive

30. Where was your profile picture taken at? It’s part of a piece of art I did a few months ago, so it’s come straight out of my head… 

31. Can you hula hoop? Used to be pretty good, but not so much these days, although I have the occasional secret practice with my daughter’s hula hoop when no-one’s watching…

32. Do you have a job? Yes, but I’m leaving in 6 weeks to pursue a different kind of life, for a while.  Very exciting!

 33. What was the most recent thing you bought? “The Guardian”, a bottle of diet coke and a tub of grapes from Scotmid.

The last 3 weeks have been so beautiful, and so full of blessing it’s hard to know how to begin to describe it.  We returned from a 10 day trip to Cornwall at the beginning of last week, and as a family I think we’re still awash with gratitude and general chilled-out vibes.  It’s not usual for us to feel the benefit of a break much beyond the time the break lasts, and I think there are several reasons for that being a little different this time.

Firstly, this holiday was in the company of my parents and also some very dear friends who we see far too little of because of geography.  Somehow, what could have been a bit of a disastrous mix (my parents and our friends didn’t know each other, we just hoped the size of the holiday home we’d rented would allieviate any ‘in your face-ness’) just really worked.  My parents are having a hard time because of my mum’s recent cancer diagnosis, and my dad in particular has become very tense and over anxious.  Our friends are in that early stage of parenthood when you are negotiating your way through life on very little sleep and facing a new parenting/management challenge every day.  Yet they all just got on so well, and actively enjoyed each other’s company – and so, of course, did we.  And there was that extra sense of delight in seeing two separate groups of people we love taking pleasure in each other.

Being in Cornwall itself was a massive blessing (we were in the same house, in a wee village called Helstone near Camelford, just last September with another wonderful family we are really close friends with – the fact we returned less than 9 months later and are currently seeing if we can organise another trip in October speaks volumes about the place).  I found real refreshment in being somewhere both unfamiliar – that ‘where are we now?’ feeling – and like an amplified, uber-version of the Britain that we know.  Plants and landscape somehow the same but not quite (greener, more abundant, both more friendly and more dramatic). 

The chance to be ‘at the seaside’ was an unalloyed delight.  This time round our daughter was thrilled beyond measure to be near any of the beaches we went too, and as someone who grew up on or near the coast in various parts of the UK  I loved seeing her share the same joy at playing on the beach, in the sea, in rock pools and so on.  I went wading into the sea with her (neither of us in swimming stuff) more times than I care to remember on this holiday, and yet neither of us really minded getting wet clothes, sand in unmentionable places and hair bouffed by the lively coastal breezes.  And there’s nothing like drying off in hot sun to compensate for wet underwear…

I also had massive fun rediscovering bodyboarding on this holiday over a couple of afternoons, something else my daughter and I have discovered together this last year.  I confess I cannot take pleasure into the getting into and out of a wetsuit, and nor can I truly take pleasure in the photos of me in a wetsuit either:

DSC04278

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… I think my husband and daughter look pretty good though.  One aspect of being in and part of the sea (the Atlantic Ocean no less!  sounds much fancier than my ‘native’ North Sea) is something I’ve read and heard people who surf talk about quite a lot, and there are some really good quotes too:

P9100082 

(Thanks to my husband’s blog for this photo taken at The Tubestation last year)

In other words, there is a well-documented spiritual connection we seem to find with the ocean.  I’m alternately afraid of and in love with the sea, and personally I think that’s a pretty healthy state of affairs as it can be a dangerous place (and like many of my generation it’s hard to leave the spectre of ‘Jaws’ behind – I long thought it was just me but have discovered it’s a reasonably common thing!).  Yet to launch yourself across a breaking wave as you head a little further out, a little further out, to lie bobbing peacefully on a bodyboard and let the water carry you up and down, to gaze in silent respect as rolling waves crash together from opposing shores of a bay and merge to make a foaming mass of water is to find yourself in a place of wonder and of peace.  The other aspect of playing with a bodyboard that I liked a lot was just that – it was play, and it was completely acceptable to play wholeheartedly.  I am coming to believe, from my position as amongst other things a playworker and playwork trainer, that play can also be a time of spiritual connection.  Sometimes the Godness of the world he’s made is just there to be seen and experienced and rejoiced in.  Playing in the sea was, for me, an experience of the Godness of his world.

Pretty much the highlight of the whole week, if we had to pick one, would be a week ago, when we spent Sunday in Polzeath, first going to church at The Tubestation, which you will learn more about from my husband’s blog so I won’t repeat it here but I do urge you to check it out, then hanging out for a bit there afterwards and being given a fantastic and completely unwarranted gift by our friends of a beautiful piece of art.  We spent much of the rest of the day just playing on the beach at Polzeath, then each of us got to surf or bodyboard as we chose, and all of this was sandwiched with the eating of lovely icecream and yummy chips.  It was a perfect day.  If there was one day that left us seriously trying to figure out how to make a move to Cornwall so we could become part of the community in Polzeath and get involved in The Tubestation, then that was it. 

And now, back home in Edinburgh, back at work, back amidst the worries and mess of normal everyday life, it seems like a dream that we’re still somehow carrying with us.  Life is good today.  Tomorrow my mum begins her treatment for the cancer they found a few weeks ago, and my prayer above all else is that life will somehow continue to be good, even through that, for all of us.

I’ve not felt too much like blogging for the last few weeks.  After having a bug that just bugged and bugged, I got back to work and life at full tilt, and my brain hasn’t had too much capacity to hold on to thoughts for any longer than it takes me to think them.  I began to wonder if I’d had some kind of attention-deficit bug, with lasting effects.  But finally, tonight, at the end of another full and challenging week, I find myself getting to the heart of the matter.  My thoughts have in fact been focussed on a couple of very specific things, which have consumed all my energies – but weirdly I didn’t make the connection with my ‘bloggers block’ until today.  I can only write about one of them just now…

A few weeks ago my mum found out she has a form of cancer.  It’s effectively a kind of skin cancer but is in a place where it could give her some pretty nasty problems if it were to become just a wee bit bigger or spread beyond the surface of the skin.  Surgery will be a last resort as it would in all likelihood leave my mum facing a life reliant on medical support and intervention.  So they’ve been looking at the ‘best of the rest’.

The outcome, we found out this week, is likely to be good, so that’s encouraging.  However, (and I have no previous experience of cancers to draw upon so don’t know if this is typical or atypical of the cancer she has, or other kinds) the process she needs to go through to get to that good outcome is going to be horrendous for her.  She will get a couple of doses of chemo topping and tailing the bulk of her treatment, which is radiotherapy for five days a week, for five weeks.  The oncologist warned her it’s going to be excruciatingly painful, and she’s going to feel really poorly for a good while (she’s already in pain now, so not much to look forward to there). 

How are my parents coping with this?  My mum sounds stoic and resigned, my dad, well he sounds frightened.  And it is frightening, to face pain in the hope of a restoration of health but without guarantees.  To find yourself wondering how much pain you can bear, how you will respond to this unknown dragon.

I see us and we are all lost children in the woods, holding hands as we gaze fearfully into the dark night.  We are wondering which is the right path to safety and what monsters we will have to face down on the way.  We are wide-eyed with worry and just want to be back safe at home where it is warm and secure and there is a locked door between us and the scary world.  I want to close my eyes to make it go away, and yet these night when I do that all I find is the picture of my mum, small and purse-lipped and she tries to find the strength to cope with this. 

I wonder what God sees when he sees my mum, and my dad? I wonder what he will do?

[kreativ+blogger+award.jpg]

How exciting!  Lucy has given me a blogging award (along with some of my other favourite bloggers too, I feel very privileged).  Here’s what I need to do in exchange:

  1. Post the award on your blog, and link to the person who gave you the award (done that, and please check out Lucy’s lovely blog)
  2. List seven things you love
  3. List seven blogs you love (just seven?)
  4. E-mail or comment on those blogs to let the people know you’ve given them the award

Seven things I love?

  1. My little family – husband and daughter, and the collection of special toys who play such an important part in our four year old’s life that they Had Better Never Get Lost
  2. Following Jesus (although, to be absolutely honest, there are also times when I grind my teeth with frustration at how this works out in my life)
  3. Our church and in particular our small group, not forgetting the friends, near and far, who are extended family and form our daughter’s God Squad (because we couldn’t choose between them when it came to thinking about godparents, they’re all so amazing and special to us)
  4. Painting, drawing, making. I do this in spurts of energy and then long periods elapse where it just gets sidelined…
  5. …but the compensation is I get to work somewhere I can enable children, adults, colleagues to be creative and that is often enough
  6. The sea.  It scares me but I love it.  Beautiful sandy beaches are great but I’ve almost always lived in proximity to the North Sea, and so it’s the wind-swept dunes and grey thundering waves that make my heart beat a little faster
  7. Books.  I love reading, and always have way too many on the go at once, so it takes me ages to get any one book finished unless I’m using it as a ‘comfort read’ when I’m feeling low or as a break from more challenging reads.  I confess I also love books as objects (our oversized living room bookcase is testament to that), and am trying hard not to be envious of one of my colleagues who is also a book-lover and collects first editions.  THAT would not be good for me.  Maybe one day I’ll go and visit her books. I mean her.

Seven blogs I love (Nb. Lucy’s already namechecked a couple of my favourites, so I’ll let them enjoy their awards from her and award seven completely different ones)

  1. I have to mention my husband’s blog (The State That I Am In). It’s a fantastic blog with a strong musical undercurrent. I would love it even if he wasn’t my husband, I promise!
  2. Fourth Space is the blog of one of our small group friends.  It’s so thought-provoking, lots of creative and analytical thinking and processing (for both blog author and blog reader).
  3. Have you checked out Coffee Shop Journal? It’s a really great read, reflections on life, faith and more, book reviews and thoughtful applications of lessons learned, and always written with grace and humility. 
  4. The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus is in many ways (for me) the perfect blog.  All pictures!!!  I don’t know how he comes up with these fresh, funny and often cutting images so frequently.  Man or machine?! No machine could be this creative and offer such a human and humane perspective on the world.
  5. Without Wax (I even love the name of this blog) is another thought-provoking look at the world through the eyes of Pete, a pastor at Cross Point Church in Tennessee.  He uses video clips and other resources really well, and has got a massive readership judging by the average number of comments each post seems to get.  It is also one of the blogs I read that reminds me that there is a cultural difference between our two countries, which I really enjoy being exposed to.
  6. New Life From Old is the blog of another small group friend.  He doesn’t post too often, but always has something worth checking out.  He’s a scientist and is rigorous in his examination of faith through this lens.  He’s really creative in how he works this out in his life and the world (although I don’t think he’d use that word about himself), and deserves massive respect for his engagement with difficult and controversial issues.
  7. Last but not least I’ve just got to mention Wish Jar,which is the blog of author, illustrator and guerilla artist Keri Smith.  I LOVE her work, and every time I read her blog I get exposed to something I’ve never come across before.

I hope you enjoy checking these guys out if you’ve not had a look before.  (By the way sorry about the weird mix of fonts and sizes, can’t seem to fix it today for some reason.  Hope it’s still readable)

I came across this today in my sick-bed internet wanderings (This is my third mini-post today, can you tell I’m getting bored of being unwell?!).  I had heard of Galgael before, and although I’m still exploring what they are about, I’m really drawn to the work they do, the life they lead in Govan.  This little Youtube clip gives a flavour.

There’s a real model of community, of shared life and the sharing of hope, the restoration of dignity and the practical sharing of skills.  We need visionary people, like Colin MacLeod,the man who started up Galgael, so much in our world, and we also need generous-hearted people like those who joined with him to share and to realise the vision.

I have just been having a browse through Keri Smith’s blog “Wish Jar”, and found a link to this artist, Bas Jan Ader.  Go to ‘Selected Works’ and watch ‘Fall II’ (I tried to put a direct link in to it but it wouldn’t work; but I’m sure you’ll enjoy a little look around his website anyway).

Fall II

Fall II

After a brief hiatus my husband has resumed cycling to work, this time on his new, fit for zooming at high speed, bike.  Watching the film clip made me thankful we don’t live in Amsterdam, one less thing for me to worry about as he sets out in the morning…
I’ve not come across Bas Jan Ader’s work before, although reading about him now it seems like I really should have.  Apparently he’s explored the concept of gravity a lot in his work.  I found myself wondering if this particular piece was fun to do, or if the person (is it Bas Jan Ader?) landed in the canal and came up with a mouth full of dank water and bits of litter hanging of them.  And it’s thoughts like that that make me realise why I’m not ever going to be a ‘real’ artist with work on display at the Tate Modern (well that, and lack of talent…)

There definitely is an art to joy, since it is not always a natural state for us. (BTW I’m over myself and my doom and gloom last week,  apologies for the self-pitying – pretty certain it was illness related)

So it’s exciting and challenging to be part of The Art of Joy this spring.  A group of us, friends and fellow small-groupers from MBC, dreamed what felt like a big dream and we now find ourselves galloping towards lots of great activities which suddenly need organising and thinking through.  I am newly appreciative of the diversity of our small group, the skills and talents that there are which are all required to make such an undertaking happen.  There don’t seem to be quite enough minutes to deal with everything, but collectively it feels like we’re making progress. 

There’s going to be a lot happening, an art exhibition going up this weekend with an official opening before the end of March, a therapeutic art workshop, knitter natter for anyone who likes or wants to try out knitting or crochet, a fantastic closing event featuring two great bands and a stand up comedian… and that’s only what we’ve got planned so far!  We’re aiming to bring a bit of joy and light using the arts and the fantastic creative gifts of people in Edinburgh and beyond.  Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting new people, getting alongside people in a creative way and exploring how the arts have the power to make connections which are often unexpected, and almost always intriguing.

Check out The Art of Joy’s website to get an overview of what’s happening and find out how you can get involved. 

I’m wondering if we could do some guerilla joy-bringing too.  How would the people of Edinburgh receive it?  How do I receive it?  Do we welcome unexpected joy with open arms?  With suspicion? With pessimism?  Do we welcome joy with gratitude and expectation of further unanticipated wonder to come?  A masterclass in joy-giving and joy-receiving might be no bad thing in our world.

Several years ago a friend lent me the book “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy (which, incidentally, I enjoyed) and when we later spoke about it one of us, I can’t remember which now, mistakenly called it “The Small Things of God”.  This slightly more whimsical title appealled to both of us immediately and, amidst laughter, the book was instantly renamed for evermore.

It’s still a phrase that comes to mind often, despite the fact that I’ve lost touch with that friend over the years.  (She lives in India now, I wonder if she ever remembers the book and our conversations about it?)

I was just looking at the blog of Without Wax and his reflections on “Celebrating Monotony”.  It strikes me that the small things of God are those mundane little blessings we overlook so easily.  I am seated in my warm kitchen, cup of tea at hand, almost brand new laptop beneath my fingertips, knowing that my daughter is sound asleep in her lovely bedroom down the hall, and my husband is blogging away on our pc upstairs.  It’s a Friday night in Scotland in January, nothing much going on, and I’m freshly thankful for that.  I wonder how many of the minute details of our lives, embroidered by God to communicate his love and care for us, pass us by without thought or thanks. 

(I read this back and consider that this is a very middle-class (yikes!) western-world kind of reflection.  I wonder what I would have said if I were a Christian living in poverty in a much harsher part of the world?)

I suppose the small things of God, the little blessings and graces he has furnished our world with to ease our passage through it, are in evidence everywhere.  It would be a wonderful thing if I could make my way through life bearing that in mind, with a thankful heart.

What are the small things of God in evidence in your life?

It’s funny how sometimes you stumble across the same thing again and again in a short period of time.

Autism is still on my mind, this time via Deep Church’s blog.

I recommend you read the above link and complete the campaign request.  It’s armchair activism, and this time it could change everything for so many families and individuals.

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Go to the Barnardo's Believe campaign website.