Handle with CARE

Some of you will have noticed my blog name: Princess of the Laundry Basket. My husband gave it to me after I complained about how I never saw the bottom of ours because it kept refilling as soon as I emptied it, as if by magic.

Nowadays I have three laundry baskets – so that washing can be sorted in advance into colours, whites, and delicates. It’s just a matter of reading the care label.

We’ve all had our disasters from not following the instructions: the exquisite wool cardigan that shrank in too hot a wash; the whites permanently tinged dirty blue by the new jeans not washed separately at first; the top twisted out of shape that wasn’t designed to be tumble dried.

We just don’t read the labels. Or we haven’t learned what all the symbols mean.

When we got our first tumble dryer, there were the circle and dots variations to remember. And the more advanced washing machines have got, the more temperature and wash types there are to learn.

Then there are some things that don’t even have a symbol. For example, wicking or waterproofed materials, like Gore-Tex need to avoid fabric softener. It’s something I have to tell my patients when I prescribe slidesheets to help them move – a hot wash and tumble-drying is fine but fabric softener will erode its essential slip and stop it working properly.

Sometimes I think people should come with care labels.

How many disasters would we avoid if they did? Or how much longer would people keep going if they were treated the way they needed every time? How much more would they retain their vitality?

Or perhaps they do have care labels. We just don’t always take the time to read them.

Do we stop and notice the expression on someone’s face when they reply, “I’m fine”? Do we look at their posture? Or listen to their tone of voice? Do we give them more time to expand on their answer?

Do we take a moment and remember their family circumstances or the nature of their work or the influences of their past?

Do we pause to hear God’s whispered nudge that there’s more than there appears on the surface and to handle someone with particular care?

After all, isn’t that how we’d want to be treated?

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

REPURPOSING

Overcast and threatening rain, we’re spending today of our holiday working on our house rather than going out. I know it doesn’t sound exactly recreational and yet it is exactly that. We are recreating to make our little home here more beautiful and practical and to our taste (rather than the previous owners’).

My beloved is resizing and fitting new blinds and curtains for our dining room and bathroom. And I am repurposing my late dad’s wooden filing drawers into a living room side table with storage.

It’s going to take a few days to complete. So far I’ve removed the old handles, wood filled some scratches, sanded it all down, and painted two coats of primer. Then there’s two coats of colour to apply followed by the decoupaging the drawer fronts with maps. That will be a process in itself with sizing exactly and several layers of glue and varnish. Finally, there are new handles to attach, map linings to fit inside the drawers, and the metal feet to spray in a matching blue. I’m leaving the rest of the inside as it was as a reminder of its past history and how my dad used it to file all his important documents in that methodical way of his.

It’s hard work but I am loving it. I’ve been planning this for a long while. My knees hurt from kneeling on hard tiles and my back aches from bending to get into all the awkward places. My nails are in a state. Paint speckles my skin and old jeans and probably my hair too.

But each stage is another step nearer to the finished piece, which is firmly pictured in my head. I’m learning new skills. And that newness may well show at the end but it will be an indication of the love that is going into the project. So I find myself smiling excitedly as I update my children with each task towards the final result.

I was going to wait until I finished before posting this – so I could show you that imagined picture made real. But I can’t help thinking about how life can be very like this process and, especially as a Christian, I am still in the middle of being recreated and repurposed. The older I get the more dents and scratches God needs to repair and fill. I think, I hope, many of my rough edges are being sanded down as I try to become more understanding of others and find there is so much more to learn about the world and the people who fill it. But that can be a painful process to go through. And as my life changes, from single to married, from mum to littlies to mum to adults, God is giving me new opportunities and old dreams to follow once more. The picture of my future keeps developing as I progress through new stages of growth and development.

So my photo this week is of my unfinished unit. Taken apart. In between stages as I can’t move on until this layer dries. Waiting for new bits to be added. Incomplete. Unfinished. A bit of a mess.

A bit like me.

But still a work in process. In the hands of a Master Craftsman with detailed knowledge of my potential and a clear vision of how I will end up.

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

… So I thought maybe you would like to see the finished product:

RESCUE Me

With echoes of Aretha humming in my head, this week’s prompt from (Five Minute Friday) reminded me of one of my favourite jokes:

A terrible flood drives a devout man to his roof to take refuge from the rising waters.

As he steps out onto the tiles, a neighbour calls across and offers him a place in their inflatable dinghy to escape.

“No thanks,” replies the man, “I’ve prayed and God is going to rescue me.”

The neighbour tires to persuade him but no avail so they sail off.

Time passes. The storm continues and the waters rise up to his windows.

The fire brigade approach in a rowing boat and call to the man to climb down to them.

“No thanks,” he replies, “I’ve prayed and God is going to rescue me.”

The fire brigade try their best to persuade him but to no avail. So they row on to find others instead.

Further time passes. The deluge continues and the waters rise up to his gutter.

A police helicopter approaches and lowers a ladder down, calling out through a loud hailer to come up.

“No thanks,” he shouts back, “I’ve prayed and God is going to rescue me.”

They repeat the offer but to no avail and eventually the helicopter flies off in search of others.

Time and the torrent continue. The waters rise up the roof and the floods take the man and he drowns.

When he arrives in heaven and meets God, he asks why He didn’t answer his prayers.

God replies:

“I sent two boats and a helicopter – what more did you need?”

It’s a good joke but particularly because it hits a nerve.

How many times do we ask for ways out of difficult situations but miss the answers God sends? How many times do we expect Him to reply according to our prescription not His? How many times do we expect Him to do magic or a miracle rather than remembering that the God of all creation also gave humans brains to use, enabled scientists to discover how His world works, and directs people to do His work and be His answers?

At the risk of controversy, I wonder if this forgetting is partly responsible for some of the antivaxxer response. It breaks my heart to read of fundamentalist Christians ignoring the miracles of modern medicine and basic education about how viruses transmit. Their faith in God’s magical protection against COVID19 seems to me at best misguided and at worst arrogant as they prioritise their own needs and wishes over protecting the vulnerable. I struggle to understand how it meets Christ’s instruction to love our neighbours.

But for all of us, how easy it is (maybe unconsciously) to limit our expectations of God. To keep our minds closed to how He may be moving in our world.

Perhaps it’s arrogance or perhaps it’s a sign of immature or anxious faith – we haven’t yet learned to trust Him to work in both mysterious and ordinary ways. Or we don’t yet realise that He is big enough and generous enough to work through all sorts of people and means. And so often, like the man in the joke, we only see His hand in action when we look back at events.

So let’s open our minds and eyes to His work. When I get to heaven, I don’t want Him to ask me what more did I expect. Do you?

What Makes a CITY?

I’ve written before about the city I was born and brought up in https://thestufflifeismadeofblog.wordpress.com/2021/08/07/where-are-you-from/ but it isn’t actually a city.

Most people think that it’s either size or a cathedral that designates a town into a city in the UK. And there is some truth in both. There have been periods in British history when this was the case: when the Anglican Church divided England into dioceses with a cathedral for each bishop or when the Home Office wouldn’t consider applications for city status for areas without a minimum population number. But neither automatically qualifies a place as a city.

No, a town only becomes a city by royal charter. It’s in the gift of the sovereign and it usually only happens on special occasions such as jubilees.

That’s why the London I was born in isn’t a city because it was part of Greater London, a conurbation of boroughs, towns and villages centred around the dual cities of London (known as The City or The Square Mile because of its size) and Westminster (a borough granted this status during the reorganisation in the 1960s).

In fact, one poor city, Rochester, lost its city status because of an admin error – when council areas changed and Rochester was combined with other local parts under Medway, they forgot to appoint new Charter Trustees so the charter lapsed and it lost its status. They realised too late to reinstate it once Rochester City Council no longer existed to appoint them and, despite a number of appeals, it has never been regifted.

And then there’s Reading: Britain’s largest town has been denied city status three times but that hasn’t stopped it going for a fourth attempt for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.

All this research into what makes a UK city made me think about the City of God and whether there are any parallels.

John in the Book of Revelation describes his vision of a stunning golden City of Light, its walls made of precious stones and gates of pearl. We don’t know how many people live there, only that Jesus promised:

 “You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home” (John 14. 1-2 The Message translation).

And it has no cathedral or temple because it has no need of a separate ‘house of God’ – God Himself lives there. He is its Light and its reason for being. He has given it its Royal Charter, if you like.

So how do we get to live in such an amazing place? Well, we don’t have to apply for a visa or a passport; Peter tells us we have an invitation from God Himself:

“by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God…So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1: 4; 10-11 The Message)

What are we waiting for?

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

DESPERATE Times

I was doing a phone assessment, exploring the causes of my patient’s fatigue and how best to use the limited energy she had left.

“How’s your mood?” I asked.

She started to cry.

“Not good,” she whispered, “I’m just going to get worse. I can’t see the point of carrying on anymore.”

Tears and gulps of air flowed down the connection.

I held my own breath for a moment, slowed my thoughts down about how to deal with such pain at a distance, with no visual clues and no chance to offer a comforting hand. I knew I needed to give her space in case she needed to say more. I recognised the momentousness of her voicing this feeling at all. And I knew I needed to listen well.

Depression, grief, exhaustion had sapped her of strength physically and emotionally, and drained the initiative and impetus to do the things that gave her purpose and fulfilment. She had no faith to give her hope for after death and life had lost its meaning.

As gently as I could, I probed what was most important to her in her life? Because this was the place to focus what energy she had.

Her family came the reply.

I posited how difficult it can be to let others care for us when we have been used to caring for them but also how precious those memories of the little times, those poignant moments near the end of a life can be for those left behind.  So to prioritise and treasure these. I hoped she would hear the idea of finding purpose through this that hung in the air between us. And with a little prompting, she remembered that her family loved her for who she was not how much she did.

I’ve not been in her shoes. But I have been in her family’s.

I know the pain of walking alongside a loved one for their final months and weeks. I know the helplessness of being unable to stop their deterioration. I know the sense of losing them bit by bit each day. I know the unreadiness for the transition from dependent to decision maker. I know the growing confidence as I became the reassuring parent and they the child.

And I know how much those harrowing times harboured diamonds to continue to reminisce over as a family later, pinpoints of starlight that that make us forget the indigo darkness that made them stand out. Even the grimmest, most desperate experiences can prove to be the most cherished. And there lies hope for all of us

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

Accountability

At each day’s start

We sit down

And go through yesterday

Together

But first

We sit still and quiet

Together

Mind settling

Acclimatising

To a new day

Remembering context

And perspective

Before detailing

Failures and successes

Troubles and celebrations

Some days

I don’t turn up

Too tired

Too busy

Too distracted

But you always

Welcome me back

Smiling kindly

At my apologies

Using them

To set new goals

More realistic

I have learned

Not to be afraid

Of your gaze

Your questions

Your examination

And I wonder if

That final reckoning

Will not be

A trial

With unexpected evidence

And verdict in the balance

But a going over

Of accounts

Regularly discussed

A summing up

Of what we

Already know

About me

And how far I have progressed

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

Where are you FROM?

My university cohort in York comprised students from across England and Scotland, from the Hebrides downwards. The only Londoner, I was the most southerly. Moving two hundred miles was an immense learning experience, not just in the academic sense but of the differences in perspective.

A frequent question was: Where are you from? And I was quickly made aware that my colleagues had no idea of the size of London. They assumed it was the same size as the city we were studying in. They pictured only the London they had seen on TV and in films: Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Big Ben. They asked me if I knew their friend in Brixton.

With decreasing patience, I explained that London was a series of towns, villages, and enclaves that had merged into each other. That it was better to consider it a county rather than a city. That its population was larger than the whole of ancient Yorkshire (which was now split into four counties), let alone York. That South London was actually in Surrey and North London Middlesex and each had very different characteristics. That asking if I knew their friend who lived on the other side of the river (i.e. the Thames, of which there are so many tributaries running through he capital) was like me asking someone in Scarborough if they knew someone in Leeds. That London had at its centre not one but two cities. And that the one they thought they knew wasn’t London at all but Westminster.*

I gave up telling of the exact town I was so proud to have been born in – famous for John Keats, Chas’n’Dave, and Bruce Forsyth – because no one outside of North London had heard of it. So I told them I was from neighbouring Tottenham, as the football club was so well known (and my grandad had worked there). Sadly, it also became infamous that first university term when riots made the national news. Friends assumed my family lived on the specific estate where these happened.

These days, I’ve lived in Hampshire longer than I did in London. And now that’s where I say I’m from. My kids were born and raised here and that anchors my belonging. I continue to work and volunteer and socialise here. My church is here. I’ve laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned here. I’ve rooted and grown here just like the garden I’ve developed over the years.

But I still live in a small town that no one else has heard of, apart maybe from the local motorway services, or for its neighbouring well known military town or international airshow.

And however long I live and love here, the core of me is still from London. No matter how much we have both changed.

And I wonder if that’s a bit like being a Christian? Or a human being generally?

That however long and strong we live and love on Earth, there’s still a core of us that originates and belongs in Heaven? That our roots are in God Himself. Or as St Augustine put it:

“Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

(* For my international readers, some geography might help: In area, York is 105 square miles, London 607, Yorkshire 4596; in population, York has 559 thousand residents, London 9 million, Yorkshire 5.4 million; on a clear day – and that’s unlikely – it would take an hour to drive the 22 miles from Edmonton to Brixton; it’s about an hour and a half to drive the 70 miles from Scarborough to Leeds)

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

DRIVE (Five Minute Friday)

Much of my town in England was built with an American design: a street grid system in the town centre was first developed in Victorian times and on the small estate where I live, we all have covenants on our lands that prevents us from enclosing our front gardens with walls or fences.

When my children were growing up here, along with many friends, it gave them an enlarged, joint playground. In the summer, it was common to see mums walking around the road, gathering their own to come home for tea. In the winter, snow made the boundaries even more blurred and perfect for snowballs and snowmen contests. Our front gardens became shared property.

Our own front garden was (and still is) a simple design: a lawn with central bed, a path, and a tarmac drive to the car port. It’s also on a slope. In balmy weather, it became a magnet.

The car port filled with children from 3 to 12 years old and every kind of wheeled toy you can think of: skateboards, scooters, a Cosy Coupe, and ride-on cars and fire engine. Then they took it in turns to race these down our drive into the road. Everything was shared. Little ones propelled themselves with their feet: Older ones leaned back, legs straight out in the air, and let gravity do the work.

Fortunately, it was a quiet, no-through road, with hardly any deliveries or any traffic that wasn’t a resident’s, who all knew to take care for ventures like this. And I often sat on our porch step with a cup of tea to supervise.

I look back on those days with such nostalgia. They have a haze of perfection about them.

All those children have grown now and most moved away. I miss the sunshine of giggles, the gratitude for cold drinks and biscuits, the excitement on their faces from such a simple pleasure, that childlike enjoyment of life.

It doesn’t take much, does it, really?

There are still simple pleasures out there to be enjoyed, if we just look and take some time to indulge our senses and imaginations: the scent of jasmine at night can take us somewhere refreshing, oriental; the warmth of a cup of coffee can fill us with gratitude for memories of shared times; a hug or a text can treasured for the connections they reveal and build.

Or I think there’s an old skateboard still under the car port and the drive still has its slope…

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

ORDER, order!

When I first saw this week’s Five Minute Friday word, the phrase that the Speaker of the House of Commons uses so often came immediately in my head, especially after the recent story of Labour MP Dawn Butler being removed for accusing Boris Johnson of lying. There seems so much verbal aggression in public and private life these days that this is where my thoughts went:

“Order, order!”

Trying to bring calm to the cacophony.

Too many voices shouting, arguing,

Clamouring to dominate.

Clashing views, clashing opinions:

An oral aural battlefield

In this parliament designed

For democratic decision making

***

“Order, order!”

How I long for calm

And consideration,

Respectful and dignified debate.

More attentive listening

And less self centred shouting.

More others’ shoes walking

And less anxious aggression.

More humility, patience,

And less boastful self promotion.

More building up

Than tearing down.

***

“Order, order!”

If only there were more kindness

In our world,

More mutual uplifting

In our communications.

If only there were more reminders

Of the good, the pure, the lovely,

The true, the noble, the praiseworthy.

***

What if we spent more time

Walking with the Lord

And letting the cool of His evening

Breeze through our hot heads

And hot words

To bring balm to our

Government and self government

In public and private?

What better world,

What order,

Internal and external,

Might we achieve?

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

Late Night Shower

On a too-warm-to-sleep summer’s night

I seek respite in the coolness of the conservatory

Where the quiet stillness rests airily on my skin

And rain begins to lightly tap dance on the roof

Washing away the day’s dust and weight

I hurry out to rescue my forgotten laundry from the line

But then I hesitate

While fast fingers unfasten mundane clothes

My face lingers in each luscious raindrop’s cool caress

Remembering the freshness of a wet Devon night

And the opera of an Italian nocturnal storm

Too soon the shower passes

Leaving only the sounds of distant planes and domestic plumbing

I wish the rain would resume

To give the clouds some purpose

And so I can feel its music once again

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday