It’s strange how certain activities trigger memories that unlock a world I have yet to understand. Physical actions gently push my mind, nudging my world closer to the words that I struggle to comprehend. Words that need to find a place in my heart. Require a practical understanding so I can relate to them in my own way. So I can learn to pronounce, remember and recognise them. To understand what they mean to me and others. I need that word to become visual almost tactile to revival something of it’s self to me. It’s a slow often frustrating way of learning. Taking time with just one word, allowing it to guide me in practical way.
The word Koinonia came into my life this week. I must have heard it before but for some reason I locked onto the word and tried to unpick what it means to me.
I discovered my answers while wrestling with a large heavy bag of compost. It sounds the most unlikely of places but together my faith joined my gardening world and made their magical connections to Koinonia.
I was taught at horticultural college to shake, turn and mix a bag of compost before opening it. It’s hard heavy work that I often question. I wonder how many other people get hot and bothered turning over these brute sized bags? Theirs no written notice on the bag “ exhaust yourself by shaking and mixing bag before use”.
Yet I know by putting in this effort my seeds/plants get the best compost to grow in. In the wrestling I mix all the nutrients and soil types within the bag. Ensuring my little seeds have everything they could possibly need to grow.
I never lose the wonder in planting seeds. It’s the endless possibilities, a unison between the creator and creation. My role is to mix compost, seeds, water and love together.
It’s that mixing that connected me to koinonia. It’s a community of love in which we grow. Its a seamless interchange of mutual love which unites the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The more we live in communities of love, the more we can grow into the image and likeness of God who created us.
It’s that powerful incredible linked togetherness with others and God, at the same time being profundity at one with nature.
We are together as a family, as community. Expressing our need to be feed nourished fed and healed by God who is a community of love.
When wrestling with my compost bags, I mix love. Providing that micro community within my glass house. A community that loves, feeds and nurtures my seeds.
We are not as good as we could be at mixing ourselves. I never realised just how much we must move and mix within and outside of our community in order to grow.
Sitting in the same seat in church each week, doing the same things can slow down our growth, and the growth of those around us.
Sitting in the same seat has a lot todo with habit. When we do the same nothing changes, we expect the same.
Moving and mixing is difficult, it challenges us to sit among different people. To get to know someone new, to see a different perspective, to notice things we have never seen before.
When I walk into church this Sunday, I will sit somewhere different. Challenge myself and those who sit with me to change seats each week. Making us more open to change and growth. Mixing with those we do not know.
Maybe in that mixing we will build a stronger community. A Community that together can reach out to heal our wounded planet. A Community of love that grows flowers and fruits in likeness of God who created us.
Hebrews 10:24-25 The Message (MSG)
22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
This blog has been sitting in a notebook since the summer. These scribbled notes have been crossed out, highlighted and binned.
I have been drawn this week to revisit my scribbles, to try and unpick what I want to say.
We are in the middle of baby loss awareness week, It’s a special opportunity to mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or at or soon after birth.
Social media / news stories supporting baby loss week tell of the indescribable pain and heartbreak of loosing a baby.
It’s is a pain that never goes away: it changes shape, it produces less tears, it slowly makes way for laughter and a different life, but it stays.
We celebrate pregnancy we share our scan pictures, our milestones we share our joys.
Their is no room for celebrations when a pregnancy ends early, It robs you of your dreams and the baby you never got to hold . Its a silent painful loss, often unspoken, not shared.
The Unbearable pain of repeated miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies has consumed me for many years. Each loss became another story in my dark twisted fairy tale. Happy every after was not in my story, a dark fear and disbelief left me empty and morning.
Twenty Two years latter I celebrated these precious lives by being “unbumped”
The unbumping as we called it took the form of a body painting. A work of art, not on paper, but on skin, my not so flat stomach provided us with a wobbly canvas. A stomach stretched by pregnancy, scared by pregnancy loss and the emergency surgery to save my life, ending the life of my unborn child.
It’s taken me along time to have come this far, to understand that the answer to infertility is not always healed by the arrival of a baby. Our journeys though grief are unique to us, time is not a factor. Letting go of love was only made possible for me when I found my faith.
My faith has helped me to hand over of my grief and pain. To ask God to deal with it for me / with me. Understanding and trusting that God will hold onto our children forever, hold them so I can let them go.
Spending time reading and reflecting on psalm 139 has helped me to see just how much our unborn children are loved by God. How much love went into making each and every one of them. How beautifully wonderfully made they are.
It was from those reflections the unbump celebration became a creative visual celebration of the six children that grew in my womb.
My companion in this unbumping was a trusted creative friend. Putting time aside from our busy lives we spent a weekend together on our own mini retreat . A prayerful time guided by the Holy spirt, a creative space that allowed us to pray through art.
We focused on the gifts that pregnancy has brought to each of us . My wobbly skin canvas was being transformed by the flutter of brush stokes. These butterfly fluttering strokes painted 6 little perfect hearts into a heart shaped womb.
Each heart was joined to one another and woven into my life story.
The painting was more than I could have hoped for, the bitter sweet emotions that surfaced during the day where mixed with friendship and prayer.
Unlike a tattoo this beautiful work of art was only temporary. One of many moments that have helped in the healing process. Praying and reflecting on the day I showered my skin soothed and comforted by the heat of the water . The painted images slowly started to run and mix into each other. Watching these colours swirl and fade away I realised just how healing the process had been. Thankful for the opportunity to have celebrated their being in such a perfect and beautiful way. These little people have made my heart bigger, taught me how fragile life is, how precious each moment is.
The Bible is filled with stories about normal everyday humans who struggle, whose stories of pain and suffering are part of their journey.
I have yet to read all these stories, the ones that I have read tell of journeys full of pain, but in that pain is purpose and hope. We only see that purpose when we look back. I can only know see just how much God was a part of my life when I look back. God was with me I was just looking in the wrong direction.
The more I learn about a life walking with Jesus the more I start to realise It’s not always for us understand why . I will never why I could not carry our babies to term or why I suffered infertility after my last pregnancy.
Today I understand my life is richer for their being. It’s a life lived today as a christian filled with hope and love.
It’s a love that has started to free me from the grief of pregnancy loss, To embrace a future knowing I am loved by the one who created me
We are loved and stay loved, we are not measured on our success in carrying a baby to term. We are not measured by our failure to conceive . We are just loved and watched over, as we grow into the person we become.
13For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
Love : I know love heals, I know love hurts. I did not really understand just how much love gives hope.
Friday I attended a service of remembrance. There I felt and saw the love that gives hope.
Gods unquenchable, unstoppable love freed my heart opening my eyes to the abundance of love that filled the church with hope.
Hope allowed me to smile when I wanted to cry. To feel the wind of Love that comes from knowing God.
The words in the service echoed the words in my heart and mind. Weaving prayers, poems and memories with love so powerful it become visible.
Visible love traveled in conversations, It filled a church, It provided sandwiches, cakes and tea and coffee.
It’s no surprise the wonderful lady we came to remember was very gifted in making God visible. She really knew and understood what it took to love. She never stopped, even when she hurt and was in so much pain herself she still loved. She still smiled, still found time to make fairy cakes with chocolate buttons on the top.
Her love will never go away, she has touched so many lives that her love will last forever. The work she has done in our community’s will continue, taking on a life of its own.
She never changed the world, she helped change the worlds of the people she meet.
It was a privilege to have known this beautiful lady, that her world touched mine.
This picture was taken in 1976, a 5 year old little girl presenting the lord mayor with a flower button hole. The occasion was the grand opening of the church’s Christmas sale .
The picture is staged for the local press. Everyone smiling and the little girl is doing just what is expected of her. The newspaper cutting shows us how life has changed. Lord mayors opening the Christmas fete is surely something only happen in years gone by.
The little girl at the front is me .
I had forgotten until recently about this photo. I can’t remember the day of the church sale. I can’t even remember the photo being taken. But I do know I was a member of a church community that loved me.
The photo shows me before I started school, before the education system started to erode the person that I longed to be. I was painfully shy and that made me different. Struggling with school work, daydreaming, instead of engaging with the written word.
I was told I was not good enough, told I did try.
These comments shaped me, shyness slowly developed into fear, and lack of confidence .The fear of words and shyness would start to rule over me.
I have been reconnecting with my childhood journey of faith. The child that still lives strongly within me is taking me back. Showing me that God has always been with me .
We are each called for a particular purpose, we’re supposed to be wildly different. We are called to show God’s love for us. Show this love in our actions / doing things different, the way we spend our money, the TV we choose to watch, the conversations we have.
The coolest thing is when the Holy Spirit lives within us we connect to our creative child within ourselves. We never lose our sense of wonder our world just gets bigger and more full of love.
This week we had to make some really tough financial decisions. We cried as our beautiful old car was driven away by its new owner.
We reminisced as we packed up our scuba diving equipment ready to post out .
Looking around the garden I started to put plants aside, writing out price tags, attaching them to the plants that I had grown,loved and nurtured.
So much time care and love has gone into these plants, I decided they were not for sale. My plants are so much more than just a pretty flower they represent growth and love.
I sow the seeds but it’s God that grows them. I just provide the right conditions for that growth to take place. How could I possibly ask money for something so beautifully wonderful as the love that comes from God? I can’t .
I gave my plants away, asking only for a small donation ( to cover costs ) to those that could afford it. The donations I received will be spent on seeds. So I can keep on growing and keep on giving.
Each plant given represents love. Love freely given to carry on growing in someone else’s garden.
When you have God’s love it needs to be shared with others. As I shared my plants, I shared something of myself and my love for Jesus.
I have had a unexpected blessed weekend. Meeting so many new people, all with a interest in gardening all happy to take a little bit of love home with them.
Colossians 2:7 Good News Translation (GNT)
7 Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.
The community that greeted me the other Sunday morning, gave me a real sense of belonging. It was exciting to be in such a warm and openly friendly place. It felt liberating to be part of a community that I could openly share with others the week’s failures and successes.
The best part is they wanted to listen, they were sympathetic to my problems. Knowledge was shared with simple storytelling involving laughter and legend.
After introductions were exchanged we shared simple food and ate together.
This community overflowed with one common love and one common passion that contagiously spread throughout. We all spoke the same language we all choose to belong to this like-minded group of people.
I will treasure my first Sunday morning on my allotment.
When I asked “ how do you see the future church? I will think of myself on the allotment muddy and happy sharing bitter tasting salad leaves.
I will hold onto that openness and excitement in my memory for a long time.
I know that the allotment community won’t always be like this. Problems will arise, someone will use someone else’s wheel-barrow, allotments will become overgrown and this will all cause fiction between allotment holders: It’s real life.
All communities have their ups and downs, our church communities are no different. It would be so wrong to think we are perfect because we are Christians. We are people, annoying, funny, angry, happy, sad, flirtatious, depressed people and despite our differences we place ourselves and each other before God.
That’s what excites me about the church community we place ourselves and each other before God just as we are. When we meet as Christians we need to be real with each other. We need to be able to live our faith in our community’s as we are. Loved on our good days and bad days.
The church I belong to is a kind loving welcoming community. I value the teachings and the wonderful congregation that has supported our family for over 4 generations.
The allotment community just took it all to another level. My Sunday on the allotment felt like church, My little patch of mud is a God filled space overflowing with love and potential.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 Good News Translation.
5 After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants, by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. 7 The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow.
May God garden alongside you.
May your seeds bloom and flourish.
May you know the warmth from a winters sun, and the rain be a rich blessing.
May your harvest be a cornucopia of love.