I am….not a sunflower.

A sunflower is not; an over grown marigold, or a mutated daffodil, It’s not a freaky big plant that’s grown out of control, It’s not a bi annual, it’s not a tree, it does not sting, it’s leaves are not black and it’s flower head comes in many colours but never blue. It grows regardless of wealth or what people say or think about it.
At this point you may have noticed that this is a list of what the sunflower is not.
Its easy to focus on what we are not. To look at what we don’t have, but when we strip away the not haves, in our naked nothingness we start to see who we really are and something of who God is.

Let’s go back to the sunflower, I can’t leave you with a list of what a sunflower is not without telling you something of what a sunflower is.
Latin name: Helianthus annuus.
Helianthus is derived from Greek helio- (sun) and antho- (flower).
annuus means ‘annual ( completes its growing cycle in one season ).

Did you know sunflowers follow the sun. Its not something you might notice when you have a lone flower in your garden. If you are lucky enough to see a field of sunflowers it’s obvious they know which way to look.

Something I found out recently, is that Sunflowers continue tracking the suns direction long after the sun has set. Through 360 degree’s they ensure that they are always oriented in the direction of the sun.
Their unity is totally dependant on one thing. Their relationship to the sun.
Facing the sun these flowers grow tall, towering above the other flowers. Theirs something truly wonderful, awesome, and beautiful about the sunflower. It seems so sure of who it is, confident in it’s just being.

Who am I?
For me this week the question has not been who am I but – who do others think I am ( waiting for the pioneer panels outcome ) .

In this time of waiting I need to be more like the sunflower, turning to God, almost pointing God out to myself, reminding myself that God knows who am.
That it’s in my very core of my being to turn to God, not just in these days of waiting but in all that I am.
It’s a being-ness in which Jesus walks with me into freshly ploughed fields and whispers sow.
It’s a being-ness that calls me to put on Wellington boots in readiness to walk in a direction that I have never walked before.
My being-ness needs to follow God as much as the sunflowers need to follow the sun. It’s a natural God created being that guides me to a place of doing. In my being and doing I to turn to God, to seek and find the core of my very self.
When I turn to God in this time of waiting, I feel the warmth of love that I follow, I see something of my I – am -ness in myself and others as I turn to face the warmth of one who loves us all.

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2014

John 13:7 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

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Getting ready.

Train tickets purchased, overnight accommodation booked. Reading material has been sourced and journal purchased. A large selection of coloured pens are displayed on the coffee table.
Supplies are plentiful, tea, biscuits and a glass of wine for the evening. Best of all I have time to read, make notes and prepare for the one day pioneer selection panel (Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual Christian community).
I’ve made colourful notes comprising of an individual mix of badly drawn pictures and mispelt words.
I’m doing what I feel is expected of me. To study, gaining knowledge before I attend the panel . What I am reading is far from dull, the text is rich bold and exciting. My chosen method to study is dull and unimaginative. The typed text that I read remain as words that move from text book to my journal.
So over nourished with Christmas I find myself curled up on the sofa reading and writing. It’s easy to stay in my pjs and fluffy festive socks, it’s comfortable and warm.
I crave this warmth that the inside brings. It’s the inside that’s blurring my vision, it’s being inside that’s consuming my energy an dulling the imagination.
It’s time to squeeze my feet into Wellington boots (which seemed unusually tight due to my reluctance to remove my fluffy festive socks) and spend some time in the garden .
Outside my colourful notes become fully formed pictures. The energy that had been locked way was released into the space that is my garden. On a cold winters day this space is full of warmth and love.
A horticulturalists winter garden is full of anticipation of what’s to come. Impatient excitement holds God’s garden in this time of preparation and waiting.
The garden is waiting for the days to lengthen and the sun to warm the sleeping bulbs. The surface is littered with decaying leaves and a few hardy plants some of these plants could be called weeds.
You see weeds are just plants that don’t fit in.
People are not weeds but can be treated as if they were; pulled up, displaced never being given the opportunity to get their roots down.
I am not called to the fruitful, or the colourful, but to those that live on the edges of our community’s. Those that feel unvalued and misunderstood. Those that hold onto life in the most unusual places. Living in extreme conditions unable to grow.

As a gardener we remove the weeds in favour of plants we want to grow. It’s us controlling what grows in our gardens. What happens if we listen to God and start to grow Gods garden?( you might like to call what we grow a church).
When I imagine God growing my garden it changes shape, colour and direction. It becomes a garden with no boundaries a living breathing community full of mystery that some might even describe as chaos. Beautiful chaos that is diverse, a chaos with a sense of humour, a chaos that loves unconditionally, allows us the freedom to explore who we are, love that allows us to question . The garden would be and expression of God’s love for us, expressed through things like forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and gentleness.

When we garden with God we create the right conditions to grow a community that shows someone they belong and matter, not just to God but belong to one another.
In these conditions we grow and Flower.

Nicandra physalodes
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Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…”
Hebrews 12:2

Marcescence.

My phone keeps ringing, it’s a familiar number. The same questions are asked, the same answers are given. I know he will ring again and again
This poem is for all those that are caring for a loves whose memories are fading.

Marcescence.

I’m stuck in a season.
A muddled dimension of a shifted lifetime.
Growing in a space that’s confused by its place.
I’m lost and visible chronology misplaced.
Papery texture of my withered leaves brings to the landscape, a different me.
I am the unnamed tree that’s forgotten to drop its leaves.

Tucked away colours.
Red, oranges and sad shades of Green.
Mixed hues that confuse.
Whispering and rustling all through my leaves.
Blurred memories.
They scare me.

Leaves cling to their branches waiting for the first winter snow.
It’s not a choice, I have forgotten how to let go.
Embarrassed and afraid.
Theirs no where to hide.
It’s only summer that I feel deep inside.

I can’t see the frost that crystallises and grows.
I can’t feel the cold on my roots in the snow.
It’s a time of change in this world I can’t share.
marcescence marcescence
ITS RUDE TO STARE.

Woodland crunching, deafening sounds.
Unknown faces with a warm winter glow.
Standing in my long ago.
They struggle to except I have forgotten how to grow.
They tell me I am a majestic beach tree.
Standing tall and strong for the world to see.

I am the tree that’s forgotten to drop its leaves.
Do not despair .
Touch me gently, whisper through the winter wind.
I am listening.

Call me by name.
Talk to me.
I am grateful for your company.
Loved knowing
My beloveded believes in me.

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marcescence the name given when tress retention their leaves in the winter. From the Latin meaning to shrivel ( withering without falling ) no one can say with any certainty why it happens. most agree it has something to do with protecting the trees

Love that drives knowledge.

Undeveloped, disorganised, immature, lacks direction and fullness would be a fair description of the end of my garden. Yet this part of my garden has great potential. Its a place that one day will have cottage garden boarders. A meadow rich with native flowers, fruit bushes and fruit trees all giving a plentiful harvest. The glass house will be organised, uniformed, seedlings labeled, cold frames full of young plants getting ready to be planted out into the boarders.
Their will be an ambulant aroma of herbs ranging from the bitter to the sweet.
I can only see the faults in this part of my garden. I can only see the plants that have not thrived. I can only see what needs to be done. I can see it’s faults and in them my own.
It creates a restlessness, I fidget constantly drawn to the things that do not really matter. While often missing the things that do matter.
The garden moves and changes as I try and understand what this garden needs to be. The paths will one day find their direction. I will one day blend the colours seamlessly within the boarders. The fruit trees will fruit and the meadows will be a drift of pastel colours. But just not yet.
Something’s we are just not ready for, we can’t rush our growing or our learning . Wisdom and knowledge does not only come with age and experience it comes from love.
This weekend I meet the most magnificent Mulberry tree. The genus name of the mulberry is Morus derived from the Latin word mora meaning “delay” because the mulberry tree is one odd the last trees to bud in the spring. The mulberry could possibly be the wisest tree of all waiting until the frosts have pasted before safely budding. It’s a wonderful tree that is indigenous to Persia (Iran).  A tree that teaches me its ok to be slow. In the slowness their is a delayed beauty, a slowness of learning that I need to embrace. It’s a knowledge that needs to be felt as much as learnt, to dance in its mystery to journey in Gods love.
I learn when I climb over barriers to hug an accident mulberry tress. I grow when I watch the sun rise. The knowledge of love is in the cinema, it’s in my messy garden, it’s in the people that I meet and the encounters we have Jesus.
A timeless love that waits for us to flower. It’s a love far greater than knowledge. It’s a love that I surrender to, a love that brings knowledge alive.
Without love the knowledge will die, Its love that drives me to knowledge. It’s not knowledge that drives me to love.
Like the majestic mulberry tree I am also slow to bud. I am slow in understanding the written knowledge of Scripture. I am slow to write and slow to read. But it does not mean I won’t flower. It does not mean I don’t understand or love.
Wrapping my heart and arms around Morus nigra ( mulberry ) connected me not only with God but to myself, to be myself. To stay true to the love that grows in my heart. A love that makes me hungry for knowledge. Love that is rooted and woven within me and the community in which in live.

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Luke 17:6
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Wrestling with compost.

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.

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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.

Unbumped.

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.
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Psalm 139:13-18

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,

Hope.

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.

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