Time to start looking ahead?

And so it comes – the end of the idyll that was our summer. A summer’s worth of weeks. But now it’s time.  Time to return. Yet - time for a new thing.We felt it, American daughter and I.  Just a few days ago. The air is different, we said. It’s hotly glorious, sky clearly blue. But a change is coming. We know it. We can feel it. We can sense it. It feels good and right and timely.  Welcome, even.

So we put away our shorts and strappy tops.  There was the ceremonial binning of much-worn well-loved worn-out summer sandals. The joy of rediscovering favorite shrugs and cosy sweaters and proper shoes.  The purchase of a new woolen skirt and dressy pumps to accompany it and exultation in that feeling of being well-dressed after a summer of short shorts, skimpy skirts and simple sandals.

It’s time. Time to grow up again. Time for routines and schedules and restoring order.

And yet. And yet there lingers a love of lazy summer days, of daisies, doing whatever whenever. However. It will return, we promise ourselves: next year, it will come again, but for now we are content, with our summer memories and still-golden tans, content to let the summer go, thankful for all we have done and all we have been and all we knew, for those eight long weeks.

I pull on long pants, slip a shrug over my shoulders – and drive with the roof down still, enjoying natural air conditioning after the hot, heavy, closeness of the                                                                  humid summer air.

 

Anticipation. I almost long to sharpen my pencils ready for the new school term, to begin a fresh exercise book with its invitation and expectancy and openness and possibilities.

To write my name on a new fly leaf and know I can begin afresh, in a new place with a new desk and new seat.

Time to return. Yet -

time for a new thing.

The promise is there.  I’m doing a new thing for you, says God.  Don’t you see it?

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18,19)

God says

CHANGE YOUR FOCUS:

STOP LOOKING BEHIND!

START LOOKING AHEAD!

Walter Brueggmann writes of this action of God:

“It is remarkable that Israel is told to forget the old exodus narrative in order to notice the new departure. The ‘new thing’ is not only more contemporary, but also more spectacular and exhibits the power of God in more effective ways. In these verses all the accent is upon the new experience which pushes the old memory aside. It may be worth noting that in the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, in so far as Christians are concerned, the same accent is upon the new at the expense of the old. Our God is doing a new thing.”

Our God is doing a new thing.

Because the past won’t sustain us. God says, Forget the former things, I am doing a new thing.

The children of Israel had seen God have many victories in their past.  It had been a good past. Leaving Egypt. Conquering the Land of Canaan. Fighting off prospective conquerors. Surviving a split in their country.

But all their previous victories were doing nothing for them in the present. They needed a new work, a new miracle, a new victory.

So the question isn’t: what has God done? There’s no doubt about that!

The question must be: What new thing is God doing right now?

The children of Israel had a choice to make. They were in exile, looking back at former glories.  And looking back wasn’t helping. Yet all they could see in the present was problems, and their own powerlessness. They didn’t like where they were at the moment, and yet they didn’t seem to trust God to change things for them nor to want to be open to the possibilities He had in mind for them.

And so there is a choice:

They can continue as they are, nostalgic for what has been, yet not happy in the present, not trusting the Lord.

Or they can focus on what God wants to do in their lives. And God wants to do a new thing.

Can I see possibilities if God is in charge of this new thing?

This summer is the end of two years of mourning.  I am returning – to the memories, to the second anniversary of The Day, to the return of what must become normal-but-without-her. Can I see possibilities if God is in charge of this new thing, this new life, this new beginning which is now offered me.  A chance to start over, sharpen the pencil, open the new page, take a new seat.  A new vision, a new calling, a new frame of mind.

Claim the new thing HE is doing for me.  In me.  Through me.

Returning – to a new thing.  It’s in the air around us. Routines. Schedules.  School. It’s time.  Time to return to God and to the new thing He is doing.

O gracious God

Give us wisdom to perceive you

Diligence to seek you

Patience to wait for you

Eyes to behold you

A Heart to meditate upon you

And a life to proclaim you

Through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen.

 

Nostalgia, Chocolate and Cakes

WEEK THREE DAY FIVE

 

I am writing a daily blog (Monday to Friday)  on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotwold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 

 

I have to bake a rich dark fudgy chocolate cake.

Not for me, you understand.  For our annual college reunion.

When we first began to do this each June, it was a black tie affair, usually at a London restaurant.  People had left Cambridge and were working their way up various corporate ladders or into Chambers.

My husband and I were in the church, even then. Some years we just couldn’t afford to go.

Now, we are all retiring, or about to; becoming grandparents; on second or in some cases third marriages.  Life changes. Two took early retirement and were ordained into the Church of England as unpaid assistants.

 

So much for those heady days as Cambridge students who were going to change the world.

Tomorrow we are gathering once again.

In wellies and waterproofs.

On someone’s organic (naturally) farm. They’ve dropped out  - to make cider and live off the proceeds of former success.

And we are having a bring and share early supper. 5.30pm. Perhaps we all prefer to retire early these days, not drive too late.

Or for several of us, to be bright eyed and bushytailed at the 8am service on Sunday morning.

 

I have been assigned the chocolate cake. My problem is, which recipe to follow.

Nigella’s “serves 12 or 1 with a broken heart.”   I made that for the youngest daughter years ago after a particular heartbreaking end to a romance. Holidays from Durham University.

Delia’s chocolate truffle torte.  As a family, we enjoyed it for dessert on Christmas Day for years and years – remembering the first year when the shops all sold out of liquid glucose. Christmas in Stamford, Lincolnshire, for twelve years.

Mary Berry’s American Chocolate Wedding Cake.  Three layers of decadence.  I made that for the elder daughter’s wedding, cooking it in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, seven years ago near Bath, for we were living in the States.

Good Housekeeping’s White Chocolate Cake Sensation.  My son’s twenty first birthday at Lumley Castle near Durham. I learnt to temper the chocolate and carve it to make decorations.

And then further back: the Stork Chocolate Cake recipe of my teens – does any one ever use Stork margerine these days? The recipe is copied into my old recipe book, tatty and smeared with  - marg, probably.

I pick up recipe books, flick through ideas – and another recipe drops out.

Vegetable Diet, it says.  Looses 4lbs in two days.

Sublime to the ridiculous. But I remember that diet, too; sometimes it was even just grapes and water for 2 or 3 whole days.

No wonder I was so slim in those far-off days – a stone (14 lbs to the Americans!) lighter than now.  My doctor recently told me off for being so thin in my 30’s and 40’s and suggested that it was a contributing factor to the osteoporosis.

IS that an excuse to indulge?

Back to choosing a chocolate cake recipe.  Time for a change?

A NEW RECIPE.  Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake, made with Maya Gold Chocolate. “If chilled overnight it will be dense, fudgy and wicked.”

Sounds perfect.

 

The Lord promises,

The former things have passed away.

I make all things new   (Rev 21)

Our God is in the business of new things, of change in order to bring completion and perfection. And that includes you and me.

 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”  And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  (Rev.21:3-7)

 

 

 

STARTING OVER

Week One: Day Two Yesterday evening was cold.  So very cold.  We shivered as we sat in our studies on what used to be the ground floor of the Vicarage.  The church boiler is broken; there’s no money for a new one; and it was icy.

The Vicar came upstairs to the Vicarage flat.

Shivering.

He spotted an unfinished bottle of mulled wine still sitting on the shelf, waiting to be warmed and consumed.

I sat on the sofa, shivering still, glad of the radiator at my side – and gladly too held out my hand  to take the steaming ruby liquid.  It should be Pimms right now, I thought, the warmth of the hot mulled wine seeping into my chilled blood.

The second (small!) glass slipped down easily too.

Comforting, defrosting, soothing.

The Vicar left for PCC.  My daughter called me on Skype and I laughed to tell her of the Mulled Wine.

-      but you said no alcohol, she accused me. In your blog, getting ready. No alcohol!

 

So I need reminders.

I need accountability.

 

 

I’ve started a chart.  With ticks as I have no gold stars to embellish it. There will be gladness of heart to see each square as positively done.

Maybe a reward for a week’s worth of YES?

And the memory is physically with me today; after half an hour on the powerplates yesterday I have aching muscles in places I had forgotten I had muscles.

A good reminder to carry with me all day.

I need a reminder of the Lord as well.

A verse from the morning’s readings, to learn and to carry and to dwell in as I walk and travel?

 

I’m glad I bought a useful little pack when in the States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my Gratitude Journal.

 

Time to start again properly on the second thousand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It feels like a new beginning.

Each day is a new beginning: we get to start over.

 

Praise God that He makes that possible!

 

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT)

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;
 his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
 therefore, I will hope in him!”

 

 

PODGY PENNY

 

 

 

'Morning, Penny, nice to see you!

She charged past me in the church side aisle, intent on delivering small fry to children’s ministry.

Did my face show any emotion?

I could barely choke out an answer.

 

It happens every time.  Every time I am called Penny.  That rising bilious feeling. The denial of the name. A refusal to allow it to define me.

Podgy Penny.

That’s who I was. A small round personage, chubby, filled with a desire to please:

Good girls eat everything on their plates. Waste not want not. Anything left and you will have it for breakfast.  The starving children in Africa would be grateful for that. We can’t afford to waste food.

I ate.

And ate.

 

My mother was proud of the name she had given me.  Penelope Jane. She had chosen it long before she met and married my father, for it was the name of someone she admired, an older woman in the office where my mother worked when she was evacuated in the war.

A tall, elegant woman, I was always told. Beautiful.  I know nothing more about her. But when I arrived, I was given her name.

I was born on my maternal grandmother’s 70th birthday. Your present, my mother told her: one penny. And so the diminutive became the norm. Penny.

And Penny was a good girl. Penny ate what was put in front of her. And so Penny grew. And grew and grew. Round as well as up.

My father was fond of me, I know. But at the church jumble sale I well remember him auctioning me. I was four years old. Lifted on to the White Elephant stall.  Who will give me one penny for this Penny? he cried.  They laughed at their young curate and volunteered their pennies for his Podgy Penny.  I raised a lot of money that day as they turned out their purses and donated their pennies in my honour for the church funds.

(It was a VERY long time ago; pennies were worth a lot more then)

I was mortified. I was worth a mere Penny.

But  Topsy -like, I grewed. The friends at Primary School called me Podgy Penny too.

Children can be so cruel sometimes.

 

But then we got a dog and I discovered a love of walking with her. And I had a bicycle for a birthday and discovered a love of riding with the wind in my hair and a sense of freedom.

Exercise. And my legs grew faster than anything else.  Suddenly I was the tallest person in the school. Still slightly podgy but still growing.

Nicknames stick however.  Maybe - especially -  within families.

But as my early thirties approached, I made a decision. No longer was I Penny.  I would be tall and elegant, the full Penelope Jane.  So I simply refused to answer if called Penny.

Whether my husband or my mother, my friends or my colleagues, all had to relearn me by a new name.

Penelope.

My birth name.  My baptismal name.

Me.

And as I changed from Podgy Penny to Penelope, I tried to shrug off those feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.  Learned the story of a faithful, long suffering Penelope who sewed and embroidered and remained true.

Became a little more like the Penelope I was meant to be.

My name is Penelope.

I am not Podgy Penny.

And I do not have to eat everything. (But that is another story)

* * *

God gives us new names.   He gave Israel a new name, just as he had to Abram and to Sarai.

The nations will see your vindication,

   and all kings your glory;

you will be called by a new name

   that the mouth of the LORD will bestow(Isaiah 62:2)

 

And one day, we will each have a new name.

Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)

A new name, given by the Lord and known to Him and to the one to whom He gives it.  A new secret nickname: it’s what the Father names His child, and it’s known to just the two of them.

That speaks to me of such intimacy. Such love.

It contrasts so strongly with the uncertainness of this life  -  its nicknames, its hurts. Its imperfectness, its misunderstandings.

Where  sometimes I am unsure even of my own identity.

I will be known by my Heavenly Father, called by His name for me, as He whispers to me what He has written on the white stone.

Just for me.

A new name.

I am so excited!

 

What will my new name be?

He knows. He knows.

Just as He knows me already through and through –

His Penelope.

 

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. (face to face) All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.             (1 Corinthians 13:12)

 

 

 

 

FINDING FUN

The book stared back at me. Dared me to pick it up. Buy it, even.

It’s blue – always a favourite colour. And written on the front in large capitals:

START YOUR OWN HAPPINESS PROJECT – GUIDE INSIDE.

New year.

New me?

 

Can I ever feel HAPPY again?

Resigning from my beloved work in ordained ministry to concentrate on getting well again, emotionally, spiritually, physically.

Recovering from the dark heaviness of depression and post traumatic stress syndrome which has clung and clawed to my shoulders for sixteen months.

Removing the burden of the guilt of not working - a first step to accepting this major life change, this living with What. Happened. And. Cannot. Be. Undone.

 

And joy. Can I find joy again as I learn to give thanks and find the grace in each moment?

The book leaps into my hand. I start reading as we drive away.  I am hooked from the start, wanting to know if it’s possible for me too. Knowing I need to work out my own salvation because it is God at work in me.  So I begin. January.

 

But I read fast and furious, wanting to know next month and the one after; and the book tells of discerning what made its author happy when younger.

I am instantly eleven years old.  Gawky and geeky, losing the immense podgy penny-ness. Happy, cycling freely and fast; devouring books faster than my parents can buy them for me, scribbling stories of my own creating, racing with the dog along the beach.

That was me. That joyous little girl.  Where did she get so lost? Can she be refound in a new me?

 

Regroup. Remember. Reform.

What counts is whether we (I) have been transformed into a new creation. (Gal 6:15, NLT)

 

That happy girl.  She read. And read.  I have not, for a year, been able to read.

Can I find my reading me again?

Might children’s literature be a hidden treasure?

 

The project tells of a new book group; of the joy of rereading those much loved gems of childhood.  My heart leaps.

Can I do it?  Commit to a book a month with friends?

 

Narnia. Green Gables. And Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents. Should Mallory Towers creep in? And the Lone Pine Five and my complete set of The Chalet School? All 58 of them?

Did anyone else read Dorita Fairlie Bruce and Mary Louise Parker and Elsie Oxenham? Even their names weave an ancient spell.

The Secret Garden and The Little Princess.  Noel Streatfield.

Alice and Katy.  The mayday Queens in The Abbey. Heidi of course.

 

And more, so many more.

They are on my bookshelves still.

 

Could we meet and enjoy? Find some fun? Eat food from the books?

Would you come?

 

A New Thing

The End of Summer

And so it comes – the end of the idyll that was our summer.

A summer’s worth of weeks.

But now it’s time.

Time to return. Yet -

time for a new thing.

We felt it, American daughter and I.  Just a few days ago. The air is different, we said. It’s hotly glorious, sky clearly blue. But a change is coming. We know it. We can feel it. We can sense it.

It feels good and right and timely.  Welcome, even.

So we put away our shorts and strappy tops.  There was the ceremonial binning of much-worn well-loved worn-out summer sandals. The joy of rediscovering favorite shrugs and cosy sweaters and proper shoes.  The purchase of a new woolen skirt and dressy pumps to accompany it and exultation in that feeling of being well-dressed after a summer of short shorts, skimpy skirts and simple sandals.

It’s time. Time to grow up again. Time for routines and schedules and restoring order.

And yet. And yet there lingers a love of lazy summer days, of daisies, doing whatever whenever. However. It will return, we promise ourselves: next year, it will come again, but for now we are content, with our summer memories and still-golden tans, content to let the summer go, thankful for all we have done and all we have been and all we knew, for those eight long weeks.

I pull on long pants, slip a shrug over my shoulders – and drive with the roof down still, enjoying natural air conditioning after the hot, heavy, closeness of the humid summer air.

Anticipation. I almost long to sharpen my pencils ready for the new school term, to begin a fresh exercise book with its invitation and expectancy and openness and possibilities. To write my name on a new fly leaf and know I can begin afresh, in a new place with a new desk and new seat.

Time to return. Yet -

time for a new thing.

The promise is there.  I’m doing a new thing for you, says God.  Don’t you see it?

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18,19)

God says

CHANGE YOUR FOCUS:

STOP LOOKING BEHIND!

START LOOKING AHEAD!

Walter Brueggmann writes of this action of God:

“It is remarkable that Israel is told to forget the old exodus narrative in order to notice the new departure. The ‘new thing’ is not only more contemporary, but also more spectacular and exhibits the power of God in more effective ways. In these verses all the accent is upon the new experience which pushes the old memory aside. It may be worth noting that in the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, in so far as Christians are concerned, the same accent is upon the new at the expense of the old. Our God is doing a new thing.”

Our God is doing a new thing.

Because the past won’t sustain us.

God says, Forget the former things, I am doing a new thing.

The children of Israel had seen God have many victories in their past.  It had been a good past.

Leaving Egypt

Conquering the Land of Canaan

Fighting off prospective conquerors

Surviving a split in their country

But all their previous victories were doing nothing for them in the present. They needed a new work, a new miracle, a new victory.

So the question isn’t: what has God done?

There’s no doubt about that!

The question must be:

What new thing is God doing right now?

The children of Israel had a choice to make. They were in exile, looking back at former glories.  And looking back wasn’t helping. Yet all they could see in the present was problems, and their own powerlessness. They didn’t like where they were at the moment, and yet they didn’t seem to trust God to change things for them nor to want to be open to the possibilities He had in mind for them.

And so there is a choice:

They can continue as they are, nostalgic for what has been, yet not happy in the present, not trusting the Lord.

Or they can focus on what God wants to do in their lives. And God wants to do a new thing.

Can I see possibilities if God is in charge of this new thing?

The summer is the end of my year of mourning.  I am returning – to the memories, to the first anniversary of The Day, to the return of what must become normal-but-without-her.

Can I see possibilities if God is in charge of this new thing, this new life, this new beginning which is now beginning.  A chance to start over, sharpen the pencil, open the new page, take a new seat.

Claim the new thing HE is doing for me.  In me.  Through me.

Returning – to a new thing.  It’s in the air around us. Routines. Schedules.  School. It’s time.  Time to return to God and to the new thing He is doing.

O gracious God

Give us wisdom to perceive you

Diligence to seek you

Patience to wait for you

Eyes to behold you

A Heart to meditate upon you

And a life to proclaim you

Through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen,