I choose you.

I choose you.
I dug you up and moved you.
I knew you would take over, I knew you would spread and thrive in my garden.
You are greedy, feeding, chocking indiscriminately you grow.
Excluding light, depriving nourishment, yet I let you grow.
I choose you. I planted you.

I have spent the morning weeding my garden. One particular troublesome plant took up most of my time. It’s a plant that I desired and wanted. I knew it was a bad idea when I planted it. My want was bigger than my horticulture knowledge. My want was bigger than the hours needed to maintain this thug of a plant.
Removing and reducing this plant I was suddenly stuck how it was like forgiveness.
The plant was a problem that I was able to deal with. It has to be dealt with otherwise it will outgrow and destroy my garden.
It will stop other plants fruiting, it will prevent seeds from forming, it will overpower.
Kneeling in the garden digging out its invasive roots the power of Gods grace was overpowering.
That connectedness to the soil, to life and how fragile it can be. How much we need to nurture and hold creation.How God is in everything we do.
Removing this plant, decreasing its size, is not about control. It’s about acknowledging it’s spreading nature. Understanding that its roots run deep. It’s a woodland plant not really suitable for the garden. It’s doing what it was created for, to grow and survive.

In reducing its size I make space for light and fresh growth.
Reducing this plant was totally for my benefit ( not the plants ) Just as forgiveness is not for the other person but for me. Forgiveness gives me space, that allows me to grow. Forgiveness removes the choking thoughts and emotions, it breaks me free from the roots that trap me. Forgiveness allows light and warmth back into my life. Forgiveness is not an emotion but a choice that I must make. As with the gardening, it’s a choice.
My plant will keep coming back, keep trying to take over my garden. I will never stop having to reduce it. Just as all my life I will need to turn to God and ask for forgiveness. Without forgiveness, my heart will harden and I will fail to trust and see the beauty that surrounds me.

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Matthew 18:21-22 The Message (MSG)

21 At that point, Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
22 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

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Providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

Day 37 – lent challenge – Wait
Today’s blog is for my college lecturer. His enthusiasm, passion and love for growing seeds.
He taught me the basic principles of horticulture. Which today is igniting me to grow faith in others.
Seed dormancy, germination, growth, fertilisation , cross fertilisation, companion planting, weeding, pruning, gardening, nurture, growth are horticulture terms.
The more I explore and learn about faith the more my world of horticulture and my God worlds join up.
Before we even grow seeds we need to prepare the ground. The more time and effort we put into preparation the higher our germination rate.
Ground prepared without love care and attention might produce some growth but it’s not producing healthy robust plants.
It’s the plants we buy in supermarkets as opposed to plants grown by ourselves or local nurseries.
The supermarket plants are grown to look good, be showy. They are not always grown for a long and fruitful life. If you look closely at them they are all very much the same, no individualism, trained and pruned to grow at optimum pace.They often have poor root structure and are not able to sustain themselves long term.

The plants grown ourselves or at a small nursery are growing in conditions that are familiar to them. Climate is local and encourages growth, they have not been stressed by moving around. They have been grown with love in conditions that remain constant to them. They are often plants that show some individual traits.
Individualism is something the gardener wonders at. Sharing with other gardeners the diversity of nature. As a gardener, I get so excited when my plants do something out of the ordinary. (I mean flower early or a colour I did not expect ).
If the supermarket plant showed such individualism it would be lost in quality control.
I was taught to grow seeds with passion, to sow in the correct medium/ soil according to the seeds needs.
Seed compost contains little nutrients, we want our young seedlings to be hungry for food. Looking for food they put down lots of strong healthy roots. Roots that will sustain them.
Roots are key to growth. I always marvel how you can chop some plants down to the ground and yet it can regrow. Often that new growth is stronger than before.
Plants that are allowed to grow quickly often flower early and die. They put all their energy into flowering instead of developing roots. We need to encourage roots to look for nourishment, to grow deep to ensure survival.

Roots are the key to growth holding and storing energy/love for growth.
I was taught when buying a plant however wonderful it looks if possible remove it from its pot and check its roots.
A plant roots to me is like our heart. The stronger Christ makes our heart the more it can withstand. The more love it can give and the more fruit it can bear.
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I love this image that shows the roots of a tree spreading out. They never stop growing, never stop providing nourishment. Spreading out beyond the canopy of the tree.
God is working in our hearts growing and changing us. It’s that growth that we cannot see that I find so amazing. It’s on that growth /faith that we rely on.

My faith is still at the stage of putting down lots of roots. Still in the seed compost, hungry and growing. A few wobbly shoots have appeared but need support.
I am excited to see what happens when I get planted out in the garden of creation.
That’s something that does not happen in my timing, it happens in God time.
Gardening/faith is all about providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

1 Corinthians 3:6 Good News Translation (GNT)
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.

 

A mother’s longing.

Day 22 – Lent challenge – Longing.

Today’s blog is for a family broken and destroyed by a mother’s longing to have a 2nd child. They had very little support and life spiralled out of control.
Pregnancy loss, miscarriage, grief, still birth are all words that consumed my friend. They become her everything and in doing so cost her everything including her own life.
I spent a lot of my time as a child and young adult with this family. Being alongside them, caring for their daughter as they battled with grief and loss. When the second child they longed for was born post natal depression took away the joy and the happiness of bringing home their miracle baby.
Unknown to me at that time, pregnancy loss and that longing would not be stranger to me either. I too would experience that deep personal lonely pain when your baby dies.
I remember one day feeling totally consumed, grieving by yet another miscarriage. I asked myself why aren’t you satisfied with one daughter? Why is one child not enough for you? Through my tears grief and pain I thought of my friend and her family. Her daughter and son growing up without a mother, a husband without a wife. It made me realise that this last loss threatened to totally overwhelm me. That repetitive loss snowballing the pain into something bigger than ever before. It was affecting my ability to be a mother to our child.
I started to think that I should look at what’s in front of me rather than what I longed for.
The reality of a pregnancy that would last more than 12 weeks was now only a very dim hope.

Tomorrow is mother’s day and this family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
This mother’s day our church is having a mother’s day runway service. It’s is the first year that I have a space to acknowledge my babies on mother’s day. A safe space to grieve to runaway from the flowers and the smiling mums. To be with people that find mother’s day hard for whatever reason.
The hour long service will include liturgy, poetry, music and stories acknowledging the bittersweet emotions surrounding Mothering Sunday. It’s a space to hold and be still, share my pain and the pain of others with God. Inviting the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.

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Psalm 40:1-3  The Message (MSG)
1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God

Love.

Day 20 – Lent challenge – Love.

This blog is to my parents – They are all 40 of my blog tiles and so much more. 40 words of love and thanks to my wonderful parents.

1. Learn – Dad thank you for all the hours we spent at the allotment together.
2. Remember – Dad remember when my baby hedgehogs escaped into your bed in the early hours of the morning. Thank you for seeing the funny side. (mum did not)
3.Breathe – Mum and Dad you breathed your life into me .
4.Hospitality – Mum you are the queen of hospitality. I still have so much to learn from you.
5.Receive – Mum and Dad you welcomed and received my husband into the family. Thank you.
6.Listen – Mum thank you to reading to me.
7.Search – Mum and Dad sorry for stoping out so late that you had to go out looking for me. The sunset that night was beautiful and worth getting into trouble for.
8.Faith – Mum and Dad thank you for not forcing my faith. You allowed me to discover it myself.
9.Follow – Dad thank you for the lovely cycle rides around the country side. I would follow you for miles, listening to stories of your childhood.
10.Joy – The joy I felt when I came home from school to find you had been to the dogs home and brought home lucky a little collie cross.
11.Despair – Mum you always say you despair of me. I love that you understand my scatterbrain.
12. Hunger -I was always asking for some new pet. Some ridiculously impractical others not so. I remember my hunger strike for a pet mouse. Not sure how long I lasted but I never got the mouse. Thank you for saying No to me and the mouse ( The mouth turned out to be pregnant )
13. Refresh – Mum and Dad thank you for being such wonderful grandparents to H. For the holidays and the baby sitting. We valued that time to be together as a couple as much as H enjoyed her time with you.
14. Journey – The holidays we had where always eventful. Our unreliable cars only just getting us home was all part of the fun.
15.Family – Mum thank you for being the granny to our foster children. You have treated and loved them as you have loved us.
16. Still– I love the stillness of water. Our trips to abbots pool were always a favourite. The joy of collecting tadpoles and watching them grow.
17. Celebrate – Mum and Dad I celebrate your marriage and your love for each other.
18.Ask – Mum and Dad thank you for saying no to me.
19. Forgive – Dad thank you making lots of rabbit hutches for all the baby bunnies. For forgiving me when I went to work and the boy bunnies got into the girl bunnies as I never shut the door properly,
20.Love – Thank you for your unconditional love that I never once questioned.
21.Deliver– Mum you have delivered the church magazine for over 40 years. I always loved this monthly ritual. We would stop for coffee and biscuits and share conversation.
22.Longing – Mum I know you long for some sort of reconciliation between me and my sister. I pray for this too.
23.Challenge – Thank you for always believing and encouraging me in all that I did.
24.Refine– Mum I am so much like you. In looks and ways just slightly different.
25.Live – I am the 4th generation to live in our village. Mum and Dad thank you for give me such a good foundation in life.
26. Sacrifice– Thank you for being wonderful parents. You gave everything for us to have a happy childhood.
27.Fear – The only time I can remember fear is when we lost my sister for 3.5 hours on a busy beach. With the tide coming in police coastguard all involved in the search.
28.Endure – As a family we have said goodbye to so many, friends and family. The pain of this has made us stronger.
29.Questions – Thank you for answering my questions with honesty.
30.Friendship – Mum thank you for supporting my friend when her life was difficult.
31. Retreat– Dad your garden was your place to retreat, thank you for sharing your space with me.
32.Remain -Dad you might no be here, but a bit part of you remains with me.
33.Give – Dad my favourite Christmas gift was the dolls house you made me. You secretly worked in the garage to build the house of my dreams – Thank you.
34.Accept – Dad we had to all accept that you had cancer and that it had spread beyond treatment. You never gave up. You never gave us false hope. You helped us come to terms to a life without you.
35.Lead– Dad you lead me down the isle. Thank you for making our wedding day so wonderful and perfect .
36. Review – Dad you always reviewed you work, checked and double checked everything. I loved that about you. I love my sister is the same yet I am the opposite to both of you.
37. Wait – As a family we loved to fish down the docks. Rods out feet dangling over the dock wall.Their was something in the waiting in the not knowing if we would catch anything.
38. Hope – I always had hopes and dreams. You never said I could not, you never thought my ideas were to wacky.
39. Freedom – Mum and Dad thank you for the freedom to learn by own mistakes.
40.Begin – Thank you for having me baptised.

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When I asked my mum for her favourite bible passage, hymn that comforts her she emailed me back a few lines from Dear lord and father of mankind.

Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

To ask over and over and over again.

Day 18 – Lent challenge – Ask
When I write my blogs I normally find a bible passage that fits my blog. Mark 10 13-16 always stands out to me. Today it spoke to me in a different way.
My thinking is far from joined up but here’s a go at why it made me think about the second child that we fostered.
So today’s blog is for a 2.5 year boy that came to live with us for only 10 days.
This little boy never stayed at the centre of anyone’s world. He had no voice, no power to change things. No person to trust.
He made me aware of the pain caused to families by parental imprisonment.
No one looked at life through his eyes. No one tried to make things better for him. Paper work and produces just kept getting in the way of this little boys simple request to be with his mummy.
He knew what he wanted and constantly asked for it. Without raising his voice or getting angry he would just walk to the front door and ask for mummy key (he called her mummy key as he associated her with prison keys).
This little boy had only one thing on his mind. The relationship with his mother who could meet his needs.
I could physically meet his needs as his foster carer. But I could never be his mother that loved him unconditionally. No amount of toys and games could fully distract him. It was obvious to him what he needed to do make his life whole. To ask over and over and over again.
I think what I am trying to say is the system kept my little boy away from the unconditional love of his mother.
We fill our lives with so much we become that system. Keeping ourselves away from the unconditional love of God our father.
We have a choice to be with God. To pray to listen to him or just to be. He will not turn us away he loves us. The bars we create between us and God can be removed just by asking.
When we have a relationship with God our heart becomes whole. We receive his grace. Grace pours out love and kindness to all who trust in him.
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Mark 10:13-16 The Message (MSG)
13-16 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

 

Celebrating love.

Day 17 – Lent challenge – celebrate.
This blog is for my husband.
Twenty four years ago we stepped out of the church and into the world as husband and wife. We honestly had no idea what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams.
It’s been tougher than I ever imagined. The truth is marriage is hard work. Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible, more deep joy than we ever realised existed.
Our love has changed over time but it’s never gone. 
I have loved when I did not feel loved. Been so scared I could not function. Cried tears of pure joy and tears of my own making.
Our hearts have been broken by love, soothed and healed by love.
All the things I loved about him when we were dating I still love. His sense of humour, honesty and the way he makes me laugh. There’s often a right way and a wrong way or a different way to do something. I normally head full on towards the difficult way. The path with most resistance.
I will crash through brambles wade through rivers. Often repeating the journey to put right my mistakes.
My other half will get out a map out and plan. But he follows me silently though the mud and brambles, I love him for that. We are opposites and he is annoying normally right.
We are both discovering and learning what it means to be loved by God. Sharing God in our lives has been something I never ever thought we would do.
I have seen a side to my beautiful man that I never saw before. Jesus unites us in our thoughts and he is our standing with us.
Celebrating love, marriage and that God reaches us all in different ways.

Ruth 1:16-17 The Message (MSG)
16-17 But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”

Brief encounter with love.

Day 13 – Lent challenge 2018 – refresh .
My Auntie K keeps coming to mind when I think about faith and the word refresh.
I think it has something to do with how real she was to herself and God.
She recorded her thoughts and prayers in dairies. The two diaries in my possession record the wars years 1939 -1940. She records air raids, birthdays, the church services she attended with her mum (my great grandmother).
She also tells her another story. Her brief encounter with love. Her life becomes increasingly complicated because of falling in love with a man that was not hers to love. They meet secretly, fell in love, bringing about unexpected consequences.
Her scribbles telling of the conflict in her mind. Concerned about the pain that she would or could cause others. She battles with her faith. She knows it must end.
She acknowledged the pain love caused. She worried her writings might be found. One diary entry tells how she must stop scribbling.
She wrote out prayers that asked for strength, she turned to scripture for guidance.

The old lady I loved struggled with life “messed up”. When we mess up, which we do and will, God loves us just the same.
Her scribbling provided her with a place to of load her thoughts and feelings. I treasure these diaries as her gift to me.
She tells me that when things go wrong it’s God we turn to. She tells me we mess up.
Theirs something in all of this about not denying who we are being real with God. In that realism we form a closer relationship with God.
When we give voice to our complaints, our worries, our bitterness, or our fears, we aren’t telling God anything he doesn’t already know. We are laying ourselves bare before him, holding nothing back, and asking him into our lives.

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Psalm 73 – Good News Translation
26  My mind and my body may grow weak,
but God is my strength;
he is all I ever need.