iggandfriends

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


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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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Uphill climb

One step forward and two back. An old adage, but that’s what life sometimes feels like. Strolling on the beach is great, but then something will occur – not anything major; perhaps a change of mood or a change in the weather, destructive thoughts, careless words – and suddenly I’m climbing up a steep cliff, hanging grimly on as the slope seems to shift and move around me. Often the beginning of the struggle is indiscernible. Where did the scramble start? This is a questioning time in my life. While I am sure that God wants me here, in this time, in this place, often it would be have been easier to stay in my previous existence. Safe, secure, just getting on with life. Sure of what I’m meant to be doing and why.

Pausing is dangerous. It makes you think. And pray. And deal with issues you might not want to tackle. And pray again. How do you let go of the previous situation, how do you relinquish all the work you’ve put in? How do you stop? How do you be? And when all the labels, all the layers are stripped away, who is left underneath them? At times there is a deafening silence. I find myself reminded of Elijah in the Old Testament, who after wind and storm hears the still voice of God in that very silence. At times the only answer is an inward knowledge and calm that I am loved, wanted and adored by God. That the labels pinned on me by myself and society are actually not of any value to him. He has no need of them. It doesn’t stop the questioning, the thinking, the process of relearning to live. But it is there as a steady assurance. I am his and he is mine and that is all.

I saw this piece of driftwood on the beach today. I haven’t moved it into position. This is how I found it. Climbing the slope to the top. It reminded me that in my struggles, he is there with me. He has climbed this cliff as well, and now he climbs it again, with me.Climbing cross

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. I Kings 19:9ff

 

 


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Usefulness and wooden pigs

I’ve just finished doing the last two things in my diary – leading a couple of retreats. There is nothing else written in it. It is a complete blank. Nothing I have to do for anyone else. In some ways that is a wonderful freedom. In other ways it raises questions in my mind. One thing I’ve been reflecting on recently is how my sense of worth, of being valuable, is connected to being useful, to doing things for others. At the moment, on this year out, I don’t feel particularly useful. I’m not doing any pastoral work, or preparing services, or teaching about creative worship, or any of the hundred other things I used to do. There is a guilt factor in not being involved.

We’re very much taught by this world in which we live that our value is judged by our usefulness, by our productivity, by what we contribute to society. And my year out to reconnect with God is counter-cultural. Most people initially assume I’m going to go and do some charity work, overseas somewhere. Or that I have a great agenda of things to achieve. This would be normal. Targets and deadlines, doing good. Yet while I’m hoping to do some writing ( I have a couple of books underway), and some more artwork, they will be an added bonus. I’m trying to be, not to do. Trying to conquer my self-induced guilt when I sit and watch the tide come in and tide go out again. Allowing myself to appreciate the wind in my hair, the warmth of the sun on my face. Toasting bread on an open fire. I’ve been spending some of my time crocheting a nativity set. I could say that it’s good as it keeps my hands occupied while I think. But I’ve just been enjoying doing it. They’re fun. I was giggling at one of my shepherds who keeps falling over (I think he’s been at the whisky), and found myself apologising for it. One of my parents came out with a revealing comment ‘you are allowed to enjoy yourself’.

shepherd and sheep

It was an important lesson. I am allowed to enjoy myself. I do not have to be useful to someone at the same time. I do not have to be earnest and productive. I can just be and rejoice in just being. On a walk earlier today I passed one of the older buildings in Port William. It used to be the old slaughterhouse, and the owners have been gradually renovating it over the last year or so. In the garden, there is a herd of wooden pigs (ok, that’s slightly gruesome. A warped sense of humour at work). Just for fun. No other reason. Something that has no monetary purpose, no great artistic message, nothing useful. Yet it makes you smile as you pass by.

Sometimes, God just wants you to enjoy life. He wants you to enjoy being in his company, and he wants to enjoy your company. When you are not rushing around, or busy with other things. He doesn’t want you to earn his love, for he loves you anyway. No matter whether you are doing something ‘useful’ in the eyes of society or not,  you are beloved and wanted and adored by him. Full stop.

A herd of wooden pigs

Watches me as I pass by

Eyes seeming to follow me.

I wonder,

Do they come alive at night?

Under the sound of the waves,

Do they grunt and snore?

Do they trot about,

Looking for food?

Or for someone to scratch their backs?

Or are they just content where they are?

Watching the tide

Listening to the wind

Enjoying life,

By the sea

Contented pigs.

wooden pigs, port william

The pattern for the shepherds can be found on : 6icthusfish.typepad.com . The sheep is my own design and when I get round to it I’ll type up the pattern! NB 5  Dec 12 done it!  https://iggandfriends.wordpress.com/crochet-patterns/

More information on the wooden pigs can be found here: http://www.rtby.com/project.asp?7