iggandfriends

Life, crafty stuff, long walks, thoughts, and little oddities.


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2nd February

The phone-call leads to a dash across the hills, then a rapid drive down into the next valley. The roads are not pleasant, but passable. Onwards to Aberdeen. Playing the waiting game for news, I head down to the sea. The waves are whipping up and over the seafront, and the rain hits with stinging force. Further out, the ships are queueing to come into port, hoping for a safe haven against the coming storm.


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10th January 2021

Frozen in time

I pass the ancient well on my way. The water trickles downwards through the steep hillside, emerging in a deep pool. The metal mugs still sits there on the edge, ready for those who want to sample the healing waters. Today, with the snowmelt, the well is overflowing across the path, creating a muddy quagmire. Further on, the shell of the old chapel still stands, surrounded by the kirkyard. Sheltered from the worst of the elements in this small nook in the hill, open to the river valley in front, across the snow strewn fields. A small stream rushes past, the edges still ice-bound. This ancient place has watched countless seasons pass by. A place of tranquility in the midst of the world’s current storms.


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6th January 2021

The temperature has stayed firmly below zero the whole day. My arthritic joints have been creaking in protest, despite the heating puffing away. The old oil-fired range was disposed of a year or so ago, along with single-glazed windows. The house stands a chance of getting warm now. The new boiler is outside the back door, in its self-contained metal box. On cold days – as today – it puffs away, looking like a dragon from the distance. A big green monster gobbling up black gold.

It is too icy underfoot for a walk. The slight melt has frozen, creating a glazed surface, glass-like in its smoothness. So I content myself with taking down the Christmas tree and hauling it outside to prop in a sheltered corner. In a day or two I will hang it with some of the wrinkled apples from the fruit bowl, add some fat-filled coconut shells. Provide food and an element of shelter for the birds, and a small delight for me.

Once the Christmas tree is out, the advent wreath is dismantled, and the Christmas cards are taken down and examined anew, it is time. The door is chalked for the New Year, the house is blessed, that all who come here may also be blessed. The wise men gather round the crib with their gifts. The stars hang up in the windows, and my diamond jewel lights gleam in the darkness. The Christ-child is revealed, Emmanuel, God with us.


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5th January

An odd, bitty, restless day.

Yesterday’s slush has frozen over, covered by a layer of snow. I put on my boots with their rubber crampons, grab walking stick, and head out into the cold. Round by the veg patch, to break the ice layer on the birds water, and pick up the feeder from the ground – again. The corbies have found it at last. Across the lawn. Out through the gate, the bottom making a shushing noise against the snow as it opens and shuts. On the road it sounds as though I’m wearing a pair of tackety boots. On the ice I crunch, like a child eating an ice lolly. Down to the river, to listen to the rush of water. Then back through the village, pausing to exchange greetings here and there. There is a restlessness in the air, a frustration. It seems as though we have gone down the rabbit hole again.


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Called

We are called

Called to walk from the brightness of dark

to the darkness of the Light

Surrounded by cloud that veils our view

Not knowing where the journey will take us

We are called

Called to be obedient to the silence within

to trust, to walk with God

Even when his presence seems far away

When obedience is a step of faith

We are called

Called to listen to the burning passion inside

to the fire which drives us ever on

Testing the urge which will not quieten

The silent whisper in the night

We are called

Called to sacrifice our lives on the altar

Trusting that God will accept the offering

Called to submit our wills, our hearts, our dreams

To the God who calls us on

We are called

Called to proclaim justice

To reach out loving hands

To speak God into the world

To love and laugh and hope.

We are called to be.


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On vocation

Ok, so it’s been a while (a long while!) since I blogged. But I’ve been doing some thinking recently about life and vocation.

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. As usual on that day of the church year, I drove into Aberdeen for the annual Chrism Eucharist and Renewal of Vows. My Holy Week would be so much easier if I didn’t go into Aberdeen on that day. I live an hour and a half away from there. So it means leaving my house at 9.30 to get there for 11, staying for the service, and then the lunch afterwards and then driving home, meaning I arrive home about 3.30ish. On a day which then has at least two services in the evening, in two different churches, which are at least 20 minutes drive from each other. It’s always a bit of a scramble. So why bother? After all, it’s not compulsory.

But I go. It’s one of the days which is a touchstone in my year, a pausing point. A reminder. Because, you see, I’m not a natural priest. You will have met ministers to whom the job seems to come as easily as breathing. Who communicate and preach and effortlessly navigate the murky waters of committees. Who are pastorally relevant; good with children and teenagers. I’m sure you’ve met them.

That’s not me. I come somewhat reluctantly to priesthood – I am a priest because I am called. For me, it is as simple as that. It’s not something I would naturally incline towards. When I first started exploring the whole ordination thing, I remember the look of puzzlement on people’s faces. And, if I’m honest, if my selection panel had said ‘no’ – if at any stage I had been turned down – I would probably have heaved a huge sigh of relief, rolled up my sleeves and go on with life. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think I’m a complete disaster as a minister. I’m ok at it, but nothing spectacular. I’d probably get an B for effort and a C for achievement. I’m not a natural priest.

This year has been particularly difficult in my area. We’ve had two fires in the last 12 months, both to major tourist attractions. Just after Christmas the valley was flooded by a wave of water : approximately half the houses in my small community were flooded. 50% of the shops. The golf course and caravan park were destroyed. The paths network was washed away.

Often there have been no words to be said ; nothing that can be done, apart from just being. Listening. Sitting. Watching and looking. Hugging. Crying with those who cry, and laughing with those who laugh. There has been a lot of questioning, a lot of anger. A lot of frustration at my impotence, my inability to do anything practical to help. It has been like being on a treadmill, with no view of the future. I have at times been physically incapable of doing more – yet there is still more to be done. There is always more to be done. I have ministered and been ministered too. I have been heartened by the solidity of this community. I have wept as the effects of the flooding seem to spread wider.

Yet. Yet what have I done to proclaim the Gospel? Where have I breathed words of God? How can I navigate through the next few hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Where am I to focus my efforts, to get my energy, to look, to listen, to act?

This is why Maundy Thursday is so important. It is a chance for me to remember what God calls me to. To remember that God works despite my inadequacies. To remember that it is not I alone, but I and God. That it is not up to me what happens next, but up to God. That in all that do and say and think I act with the help of God. As we go through the service we are asked various questions… and the answer is always ‘with the help of God, I will’. It is not I, but God. No matter what. Without God, I cannot, I will not. With the help of God, I will.


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Reflections on the harvest

With traveling, retreat leading and job-hunting, the last few weeks seem to have flown past. In fact, the last year has flown past! A year since my unpaid sabbatical year began. While leading a retreat down at Lee Abbey a week or so ago, I found myself mulling over what has been achieved and what has not been achieved. Although that might be the wrong way to express it. One of my strengths and one of my failings is that I’m good at planning and programming my life, and most of the time, I stick to the plan. I was determined not to plan the year away!  So I had vague plans for this year out – nothing definite. I was going to finish at least one of the books that I’ve been planning and writing for the last few years. Preferably two of them. I was going to do some other writing, do lots of walking, train for a 10K run, maybe look at composing some songs, practice my violin, spend time on my artwork, learn to make bobbin-lace, visit some of the places I’d always wanted to go…. the list continued!

I haven’t finished any of the books I’d started writing. I have written some other things instead, things that at the start of the year would have been completely alien to me. I have spent some time walking. I have learnt to make bobbin lace, and how to bead a bauble. I have sewn and embroidered. I have knitted a Shetland lace shawl. I can now spin wool on a spindle and a spinning wheel. The violin has spent most of its year in the case. I have been to some of the places I’d heard about. I have laughed and cried and had the space to do it in, discovering yet again who I am, and starting to discern what God is calling me to at this stage in my life. It has at time felt like being put through a wringer.

My life has lain fallow this year. Most of what I have seen, photographed, written about, has been influenced by factors outside my own life. Events happening in other people’s lives. Nature in all her many moods. The harvest that has emerged has been not of my planting, but of God’s. Some of it is barely discernible to me. At times I question if there has been a harvest at all! But some of those looking on assure me there is one. There is certainly a feeling that seeds have been planted, and will spring into life when the climate is right. In the meantime I must wait, and make sure the fields are nourished, protected and prepared.

The writing continues, the blogging will continue, as will the various bits of sewing, knitting, etc. I have Christmas presents to make. The job-hunting continues, the grind of filling in application forms, phone-calls, searching, looking. Not an entirely positive experience. The being with God continues. In all of this, I hold on to the fact that God has a plan for me, and where I eventually end up will be his plan for my life, not mine. I wait for the future.

In the quietness of the old church

Propped in the corner

Stands the sheaf of corn

Pale gold, gleaming in the light

Stirred by the breeze, it rustles slightly

The seeds are  ripe,

Ready for the harvest

For the planting

For the coming year

Waiting

For future to be decided.

sheaf of corn


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Angels wings

I wake with a mind full of angels

Of white feathers and halos

And of more.

Swords and fire

Fierce love.

Messages from heaven

Protection.

Adoration.

I rise, mind still buzzing

Glance out the window

Watch in wonder

As three swans gracefully swim past

Floating serenely on the sea

White feathers gleaming in the sunlight

Heads dipping in among the waves

This year’s cygnet protected

With a fierce love

I watch and wonder

What message God will send

By his angels

This Michaelmas tide.

swans at michaelmas

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  Psalm 91:11


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Butterflies and brambles

Under a brooding sky the butterflies play, busy about their business.  A flash of red and orange as a small tortoiseshell flutters past, coming to rest on a bramble. I take a slow step, then a second. A twitch and up they fly – not one or two, but clouds of butterflies, spiraling round overhead. Bright in contrast against the rainclouds gathered. Blissfully ignorant of the approaching storm they return to sip, getting heady on nectar and sun.

P1090577

NB – back up north this week, attending an interview for a post up here. If prayer is your thing, then please pray for all those being interviewed and all those doing the interviewing, that God’s hand will direct us all to the right decision for this group of parishes. Thank you.


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Opening

Almost imperceptibly, the garden wakes to greet the rising sun. From the tight clenched night-time bud emerges a new beauty. Slowly, very slowly, one by one, the petals open up. Unfurling in the light. Vulnerable. Hot red radiating out from the core. The sun travels onwards, moving across the garden. There the face of the flower rotates, blossoms under its touch. Centred on the source of light. The heart of life. Until, fully open, it worships with unveiled face.

ranunculus