Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I'll never fit into that!

"Keren, this is YOU!" "Goodness, Anthea, I'll never fit into that!"

It is late morning and the four of us - Anthea, Jackie, Rachael and I - have just had a leisurely breakfast. We meet regularly to enjoy each other's company and stay connected; a group of girl-friends who all have God at the centre of their busy lives, and whom God has wisely knitted together. We laugh a lot and depart again feeling loved and cherished.

This morning our breakfast venue is an old house whose three sections comprise the coffee shop, dress-hire, and upmarket second-hand clothes. Browsing the clothes, we begin in the kids' section, but soon drift across to the racks of lovely, gently-used, designer clothes. There are soft leather boots, cute hats, every length of jacket, blouses and dresses of every colour...There is even a room full of men's clothes. We look, touch, exclaim, encourage... And then Anthea finds the "little black number": a simple, fitted dress that falls in soft folds, with a glittery embossed pattern.

She is adamant that it will fit me; everyone else joins in. I appeal to the shop-owner: "But it looks like a size 10!" She agrees. But the others insist: I must try it on. Laughing, disbelieving, I do so, sure it will NOT fit.

But, gentle reader, my perception of my own body is WRONG. My dear friends are RIGHT: the beautiful dress does indeed fit, like a glove.

I am still trying to assimilate the mental shift caused by that dress. Can our perception of ourselves be so very wrong? What else do I "see" about myself that is incorrect? - that does not match reality, the facts of "me"?

God is gracious; He puts people around us who show us our true selves; and he himself calls us "friend". Won't you join me in "fitting into" that image of yourself, like I fitted into that dress? Be clothed in this truth: you are indeed a friend of God.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The man I never met: Gugu Zulu

So here I am, weeping over someone I never knew...
What is THAT about?

Well, in part it is about how a voice on the radio becomes your friend. He comes into your home, bright and cheery, and gives you a connection to a world you would not otherwise enter. In Gugu Zulu's case, he commentated on all sorts of motor sport - for me, a link to childhood days when my dad and I used to watch Grand Prix together on TV.

Gugu Zulu was also a local boy "made good" - a rally champion and later TV commentator in whose success everyone somehow shared - we were glad that this man had done so well.

And he was simply a nice guy. His life should have been longer, reached more people; he should have been there to see his child grow up...

Part of the tears are anger too, at this loss of one life.

He died doing something he had planned for and was excited about: a climb up Kilimanjaro, in honour of Mandela, who was surely his hero, as he is many of ours.

Maybe, once we stop weeping, we can honour Gugu Zulu: by being kinder, laughing more, and going after our dreams.

His was a life well-lived.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bubbling over...or bubbling under...

Create, create, create! - do something, sing something, paint or draw or plant or knit or tidy up - just DO something with that feeling of... of... what, exactly? Words like "fizzing" come to mind; but that sounds joyous and uncontained, and this feeling is not those things. It is deeper, stronger, and even, perhaps, darker. When the need to create is unmet - the thing not drawn, the poem not written, the page left blank - that creative urge turns muddy, sours my thoughts.

YET... yet... it does not, will not, leave. The staying-power of the need to be creative: THAT is new. In the past, it has gripped me for a day, or perhaps two; now, it has stayed for a week. I feel as if I am missing some clue as to WHAT this impulse is urging me towards - what is it that I must do, to satisfy it? "Start writing a book" - yes, but what about? I have so many ideas, yet none seems able to bear the weight of that word "book". "So write a chapter - see what happens!" Yes, well, maybe that would work... Maybe just writing this page is a key, a turn of the kaleidoscope that will reveal the next pattern...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A kaleidoscope of serendipity

I am about to start job-sharing.
I am about to start job-sharing with one of my dearest friends.
I am about to start job-sharing with one of my dearest friends at a time when I need extra income.
I am about to start job-sharing with one of my dearest friends at a time when I need extra income and she needs a break from her job.

Each time I turn the kaleidoscope through which I view this piece of my life, a new, positive aspect appears.

I'm sure there will be times when I don't "enjoy" the job - invoicing, checking statements, and so on.
I'm sure there will be times when my friend and I misunderstand each other, or have conflicting needs.

I am also sure that God has provided this opportunity, and that THAT will sustain us both in the hard times, and energize us in the easier times, and bring peace (fruitful living) all round.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easy Easter

This Easter has almost slipped by unnoticed. Shops are open, it is the middle of the school holidays - just another long weekend, with time to plan a family get-together.
When I was growing up, Easter was an occasion. The choir practiced new songs, the priest wore a different colour robe (vestments?), there was a build-up to Good Friday with its austerity and sorrow, followed by a real sense of celebration on Easter Sunday when "The angel rolled the stone away". Even the songs were different and special, more meaningful because only sung on this one occasion.
I fully understand the idea of celebrating the Cross and the resurrection "every day"; yet also see some sense in this one, special weekend when everyone - Christian or not - pauses to reflect.
I am sad that my children don't know some of the glorious Easter hymns I learned - songs full of truth and triumph, like this one:

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Saviour, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.
Then up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph oe'r His foes!
 He arose victorious from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign; 
He arose, He arose, Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Colour and form

Does shape affect colour? Looking out at my garden, I would have to say it does. The deep pink roses are a round, bright disk against the background of their leaves; those leaves in turn are a complex display of white-green (reflecting the sunlight) and almost-black (the deep shade behind the plant).
In front of the rose-bush, the fine-leafed lemon verbena offers less solid blocks of colour, and a more yellow tinge.
Right at the back is the very bright lemon tree. Even its leaves are yellow-green, shades of the fruit to come, with the brightness of a child's pastel-box. Here and there the contrast of a dark strip of branch makes the leaves stand out even more.
The variety of greens is simply astounding - all the more, as I realise how they are mixed and contrasted with so many other colors.
At such times, so in awe of this colour and filled by it, I think perhaps my very soul is green...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I am conscious of breath at the moment - or rather, lack of it. My throat feels tight and I realise my breathing is shallow. But I am not ill. Or am I?

I am anxious. This horrible feeling of constriction and being closed in is a very real part of being worried and anxious. 

I make an effort to stand taller, breathe deeper. The physical change helps my mental state, a little. Like the fight to breathe deeply, the fight to push worry aside is an ongoing, breath-by-breath effort.

"Do not be anxious about anything. Instead of worrying, pray... And... Jesus... will come and settle you down..." That's a mix of NIV and Message versions, I think, of a scripture I once knew better, in Phillipians. Time to learn it again, it seems. Watch this space!

Monday, February 8, 2016

VW CC farewell

This sleek, well-engineered vehicle has served us in the best way possible: it protected Steve in an accident. When another car drove across his path and they collided, the airbags deployed and the seat-belt tensioners tightened, and he got out and walked away.
Arriving to collect him after the accident, I opened the door of the damaged car to retrieve the usual items a car seems to gather - old receipts, a few business cards, cell-phone plug-ins - and the sharp smell of smoke and chemicals was a strong reminder of the damage done.
We spent most of Monday in a round of visits and phone calls to the police station, GP, and insurance broker. It was only on Tuesday evening that I felt that I was emerging from the experience - coming up for air, as if from under water.
All week since then I have had a growing sense of the need to stop and take stock, to re-assess our busy lives; but the busyness has taken over, with hardly a chance to draw breath between business trips, school tasks, teaching, helping elderly parents, and just "doing life".
I still plan to find that "down-time", to carve out a place where we can just sit and look at each other, and share dreams, and agree on what to add to our lives, and what to discard. For now, it seems enough that I can hear and feel the cool wind, see the sun is glistening off the palm trees outside the window, and feel a sense of wholeness.

Monday, January 25, 2016

That's lovely - well done!

These were the words that a wonderful lady often repeated to her family and friends; words that I can hear being said in her kind, gentle, firm voice. Her family had painted them on her wooden casket, part of a creative, colourful tribute to this great Woman of God.
On Friday 22 January we spent two hours saying goodbye, with songs, tributes, laughter and tears.
There were no awkward moments - it mattered not when the candelabra had to be re-lit several times, or when the organist was a little slow. A sense of love and gratitude pervaded the place, through the tears.
Such opportunities strengthen all of us, as we build collective repositories from which to draw. After such a gathering, you come away with new resolve to pray more, and be kinder, and plough more into the lives of those nearest and dearest to you; new resolve, too, to be more hospitable and open-handed to everyone.

I had worn this bracelet, which represents the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit:

The text for the sermon was that same "fruit of the Spirit", as Elizabeth truly displayed. This bracelet already had a special story attached to it; now it has another. Yet again, I am thrilled at God's blessing and grace.

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sports Day

Depending on your sporting ability, the heading you've just read will have made you cringe and curl your toes, or smile broadly; or maybe it will have had you sighing nostalgically.

I only really learned to throw and catch a ball by learning with my first toddler. In my school years, therefore, sports days for me were limited to shouting from the stands. On the few occasions I was forced to run a cross-country race, I toiled along plumply in my red scratchy gym-slip, with burning chest and flaming cheeks, coming last with one or two other friends who either genuinely were as slow as me, or elected to spare me the embarrassment of being ignominiously LAST, instead of just rather humiliating "in-the-final-group". Winning a point or two for one's House was no compensation for this torture.

Now, I find myself toeing the line, encouraging my own two boys to take part "because you should". This year I have the added ammunition of "It's your last year at primary school!" to fire at the older one. Thankfully, they are as athletic as I was not (ok, I'll pause while you re-read that). The younger one - tall and long-legged and fast - even took part in an exciting all-ages relay race, under the floodlights, right at the end of the day. This made our determined "We WILL stay to the end this time!" well worth while. AND our team won! Cheers and warm feelings all round.

I am thankful that I can share such times with my boys, as they learn patience and stick-ability and team spirit. There are new memories to replace my old, solitary ones. However, I remain thankful too that sports day comes but ONCE a year.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


It is not the first day of the year, it is the third; but it IS my birthday, so that seems like a good place to begin. My birthday gift to myself is to begin this blog again; maybe it is my gift to you too. It is wonderful to be given gifts - sweets from my two boys, an unexpected and generous book voucher from my husband, together with words of appreciation that I know don't come lightly and easily for him. Then there was the gift of a visit to one of my favourite places: Butterfly World. Every lush plant and bloom is a treasure, each creature a delight. There is something to see at every turn; and then something more, as your eyes search the foliage for bright wings or curious bright eyes.

The whole day went smoothly, with very little of the bickering and shouting that we all sometimes resort to as a family. What a blessing. Maybe I should treat every day as my birthday, letting the small troubles wash over me, being more peaceful and contented.