LESS is more

Playing with words for this week’s Five Minute Friday post:

They say that
Less is more
But I’m not sure
For who wants to be
Charmless
Faceless
Hopeless
Faithless?
Nevertheless
There are times
I want the world to be
Harmless
Changeless
And I wish I were
Fearless
Even
Reckless.
It seems
The less there is of me
The more room there is
For You.

Come and join us at the Five Minute Community here: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2020/03/12/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-less/

Times and TABLE (Five Minute Friday)

I remember the day we bought it.

Newly married, some relatives had ignored our gift list and rolled up a surprising amount of cash in a flower vase instead. So we headed to our first vintage shop and treated ourselves to a matching dresser, fiddle back chairs, and a glowing pine table.

Fast forward twenty five years to a larger house, the chairs and dresser are still an integral part of our dining room. But the table, battered by dinners and drawings, tantrums and homework, surpassed by the need to host more guests, lays dismantled at the back of the garage, buried by garden cushions and fitness equipment.

From time to time, my husband pleaded to get rid of it but I couldn’t bear to abandon the wedding wishes and memories etched into it, hoping at the back of my mind that there would come a time when it would come in useful again.

Today, turn your eyes two hundred miles westward and you’ll find a quaint kitchen diner in a 1930s cottage, perched on a hillside with harbour views. Sanded down and top waxed, legs painted a fashionable off white, the old table has found a new home where its proportions fit perfectly and it coordinates beautifully with mismatched pale wood bar stools and restored Ercol dining chairs.

Once more, it is at home.

In a world that celebrates Marie Kondo’s minimalism, there’s something to be said for a little bit of hoarding and holding on for future use, for repurposing and reimagining, for integrating old and new.

And I wonder if that can be true for us too?

Sometimes I feel like that table in the garage, battered and beauty lost, outstripped by something someone younger and more modern, purpose gone. Sometimes I’ve endured the harsh sanding away of the scars left by the damage life has brought me. Sometimes I’ve been forced into stillness to resoak in the goodness that had slowly leeched out of me, to gradually build up a new protective coat against the daily elements. Sometimes I’ve been brought to a fresh place to flourish in a life I hadn’t envisaged.

Renewal and resurrection – as true for tables as it is for us.

To Think of Others BEFORE Myself

PURPOSE

I think my life’s purpose is
To learn to love
And to learn to love well.

At first I only had to
Reflect and imitate the love shown me.

Then after some tentative steps
I gave myself in baptism to
The full immersion of my whole self
Given to another.

Now I practise the
Daily
Hourly
Minute by minute
Prioritising of others’ needs
Before my own.

It isn’t always easy
I don’t always feel like it
I frequently fail.

And yet this is my life’s purpose:
To learn to love
And to learn to love well.

I wrote this poem last year and I was pretty satisfied with it. But, reading it back now, while I’m still recovering from a period of depression, I realise the sentiment, and the theology is incomplete.

One of the reasons I have lacked resilience to deal with unexpected traumatic events has been that I have been increasingly running on empty. Putting others’ needs always above my own has gradually depleted my reserves until I ran out completely.

It’s a particularly easy trap for a Christian to fall into. We believe in service and unselfishness and sacrifice.

Were you a Brownie who learned the Brownie law:
‘Think of others before yourself and do a good deed every day’?

Or do you remember the acronym for finding joy as prioritising needs in in this order?
1. Jesus
2. Others
3. Yourself

My trouble was that by the time I had done my morning prayer time (Jesus), then worked beyond my designated hours without a break (Others), and looked after my family (more Others), there was no time, let alone energy, to do anything for Your/Myself.

I’ve been challenged to look at this differently.

What if J-O-Y is better viewed as a triangle than a list? With Jesus at the top, Yourself and Others on a level at the base?

The Message translation of Jesus’ reply about what the most important commandment is this:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22.37-8)

‘Love others as well as you love yourself’. Not better than you love yourself. Not before you love yourself. But as well as you love yourself.

How well can you love others if you don’t love yourself much?

One great reassurance I’ve had whilst being ill has been the frequent reminder that I am God’s child and He loves me very much. And that He loves me because of who I am to Him not what I do for Him. So if I want to be like Him, how can I not reflect His love for me? How can I not take good care of someone He loves so much?

My counsellor repeats that self-care is essential if I also want to care for others – I need to prioritise it and make space for it. Sometimes that means uncomfortable, unfamiliar choices: saying no, delegating to someone else.

But looking after myself, making time for what does me good – yoga, gardening, resting – plus working more slowly, in a more considered way – taking a few moments to think before automatically saying yes or offering help – these will all make me better at my job, better as a wife, mother and friend. It means I will have more energy to do what I am called to. It means I won’t deprive others of growth and success. It means I will set a healthy and realistic example.

Or, as RuPaul puts it:
“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Can I have an Amen?!

(Writing again this week from a prompt by Five Minute Friday https://fiveminutefriday.com/2020/02/27/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-before/ )

This Was Not What We Imagined

With my mind elsewhere today, I’m sharing a poem I wrote a while ago that I think fits this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt of RISK.  I love considering the parallels between our modern experience and Bible characters; it brings the characters closer, personalises them.

This was not what we imagined
This was not how we expected pregnancy to be
The timing all wrong
Me with my new job
And you before your wedding day
We had no preparation for the anguish and distress
My nonstop vomiting exacerbated by anxiety
Your risk of rejection and scandal driven disgrace
But we each had our Elizabeth
Our place and voice of refuge
And we thanked God for her

It was not the birth we hoped for either
No familiar faces surrounding us (except his)
Only the support of strangers
No security of homely surroundings
But unkind smells of disinfectant or dung in the darkness
I ached for a window in that long night
For a glimpse of the natural world outside
Of sky, of starlight
You had your Starlight
But did you get your glimpse outside
Of the universe on tiptoes outside your door?

When I needed help
God sent me a tall smiling doctor
With a voice to believe in
And an Alien faced midwife banshee shouting
God sent you men more used to delivering livestock
With a story of angel song
Still ringing in their ears
But your little lamb had already arrived

And after the excitement of announcing our boys’ arrivals
Telephone for me, celestial choirs for you
We found that first moment of stillness
Babe in our arms well sated
And we wondered
And pondered
God’s good guidance
And possible plans

 

SAL

If you’ve never been to the Cape Verde islands, you’ve missed a treat. Off the coast of North West Africa but previously a Portuguese colony, it has a laid back Caribbean-style vibe. We were fortunate to go there in 2011, before mass tourism from the UK started, staying in a small mulit-mnational complex built around the Old Harbour in Santa Maria on Sal rather than one of the isolated all inclusive resorts that dominate the island now. 

When I saw the Five Minute Friday prompt this week of RELIEF, I found this poem that I wrote from our time there. Our evenings were spent exploring the great choices of restaurants – seafood and ice cream are my stand out memories.  Apart from walking the occasional day trip, our days were spent in much needed relaxation – sunbathing, swimming, fishing, reading. This poem describes those days. I hope you like it.

SAL

Heat hangs heavy in the air
Weighting me down on the sunbed
Too hot to move
Too hot to plan
Too hot to think
Deceitful wind disguises the sun’s strength
Unhampered by an overcast sky
Skin silently sizzles
Despite well lotioned defence

Oh the lightness and freedom of the cool pool’s relief
All heat and heaviness instantly forgotten
Or the sway of the sea’s hammock
As eyes rest on the soft, silver grey
Of slow motion fish
Pulled and released by the tide
As I lazily snorkel
Over their dappled world

DARKNESS and HOPE (Five Miute Friday)

Well, this week’s prompt word of DARKNESS from Five Minute Friday https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/12/12/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-darkness/ seemed horribly apt as I woke up to the UK’s general election results this morning (although I know not everyone will feel that way). And I’ve been going through my own darkness of difficulties and depression recently. In both situations, I am deciding to focus on the opposite. This means I have been grappling with the elusive and slippery concept of HOPE so here’s one of a few poems I have written recently about it.

HOPE (2)
Hope is a small brown shrivelled thing
Papery and wrinkled
No bigger than my thumbnail
Waiting to be thrust deep hidden in the darkness.
First tearing away ivy invasion which
Stealthily and steadily threatens to
Overwhelm everything else,
Then digging and pulling out weeds,
Roots everywhere,
And stabbing the hard soil into submission
Over and over again with the trowel
Until the earth softens and gives
To make space far enough down
For hope to grow.
Covered over
Patted down firmly
With nothing to show
No evidence
Just bare earth.
An act of faith or bloody mindedness
To wait and believe
Through long cold days
That roots will spread and establish,
Find nourishment in the dark,
And stubborn shoots will spear through iron earth
Proving winter’s passing.

(There won’t be any Five Minute Friday prompts in the weeks of Christmas and New Year but I still plan to write a weekly blog post then so do come back and check them out).

PIGEON’S WING (Five Minute Friday: RUSH)

I’m late posting this week as I changed my mind about what to write and then had to fit it round family pre Christmas commitments. Thanks for being patient.

PIGEON’S WING

When you’re in the depths of despair
Or depression –
When I am in those depths –
All the energy sucked out of me
Like circulating water
Hurrying down a plughole,
Sleep chased away nightly
By worries in battalions
Mown down by the musket fire of logic
Only to be replaced by another line,
Exhausted, overwhelmed
Thoughts, tasks, actions, all jam like traffic to
A standstill, edge forward, standstill and edge again
No end in sight.

But in this enforced, unasked for gear change
I discover beauty I would have missed –
The exact leaf shade of autumnal wisteria,
The pink, blue, and lilac in a pigeon’s grey,
The moon’s corona explained by my boy
The calming rhythm of a row of knitting
The magical transformation that creates a loaf of bread –
A whole world in the small, the overlooked, the ordinary

And I wonder what really counts –
Deeds impacting many
Politics and philanthropy
Scientific discovery and invention
Career and dedication
Or knowing the exact colour of a pigeon’s wing?

Hope you like it. If you’d like to read more inspirational writing from the lovely Five Minute Friday community, you can find it here: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/12/05/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-rush/

ACTIVE (Five Minute Friday)

For this week’s link up https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/10/17/day-18-active/ I’ve gone rogue and written about the opposite of the prompt word.

Resting not quitting
Recovering not vegetating
Restoring not surrendering
Pausing not passing out
A lull not a let up
Respite not retreat
A stop but not a standstill
Downtime not defeat
Unwell not undone
Resolutely resting
Actively not quitting

(Motivational Mug Mat from the wonderful https://quiltsofhope.com/ – please check them out)

Boscombe Looking BACK

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/08/29/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-back/ reminded me of a poem I wrote about one our favourite places. It’s only an hour and a half’s drive away and great to escape to for a weekend, a day, or just an evening’s walk along the prom in any season.  So this week I’m sharing that poem with you:

The low late light is too dazzling to look at directly,
Obscuring all into silhouettes at most.
But look the other way
And see what golden beauty the blush glow casts
On large and small:
Myriad minion suns burst
From the gorse covered cliffs;
Skyblue sea silver broidered with waves;
Rain clouds lined with hopeful edges;
And my beloved’s face reflects
The outer and the inner light.

 

5,213 MILES

While you are distant
I have been to the garden centre with my credit card
And bought a trolleyful of plants
While you are distant
I have treated myself to two new pairs of shoes –
Needed but felt the extravagance
While you are distant
I have not followed your vegetarian diet
While you are distant
I have not had to rearrange the dishwasher contents once
While you are distant
I have gone to be bed and read for as long as I wanted
Before sleep
While you are distant
I have spread across the bed and slept
Like a starfish child
While you are distant
I have woken to the pain of memories
Without your arms to hide in
While you are distant
I have cursed the eight hour time difference
When our waking routines don’t chime
And exalted at a few snatched minutes of conversation
At opposite ends of our days
While you are distant
I have counted the hours
To your return.

This post was written in response to the Five Minute Friday prompt ‘Distant’. For more great writing, visit https://fiveminutefriday.com/2019/07/18/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-distant/