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HELP: Driving Tests and Beyond
‘I lift up my eyes to the hills:
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121)
For nearly 30 years, I’ve referred to this as my Driving Test Psalm. It was the set reading on the morning of my 4th attempt to get my full driving licence and it seemed to speak directly to that event:
- Not letting my foot slip (on clutch or brake)
- Preserving my coming in and going out (of gears and junctions)
- Being the shade on my right hand (as if sat behind me all through the test)
Now I seriously didn’t take this as some miraculous promise that I would pass this time round but it did calm my nerves to know that I wouldn’t be on my own in the car with the examiner. And that did have a beneficial effect on how I drove that day. So I was extremely pleased later on to make the one call I ever made to his work, to tell my dad that I’d finally passed.
The timing was spot on. I believe God had been busy in the meantime, preparing others so that it was just the right time for our family that I gained this skill.
But I don’t believe God’s help is some kind of magic formula for success. His help is of the coming alongside type, the encouragement to keep going, the knowledge that we are not alone. I run various groups at work to help patients manage their symptoms better and, no matter what education and techniques I can pass on, the most regular positive feedback is from meeting others going through the same thing, who know what it’s like, and relieve the sense of loneliness.
And this is the help God promises. He knows what we’re going through is like and he will be our constant companion urging us on. Knowing we’re not alone – isn’t that what most of us want?
BUILD – Confessions of a Secret Country Music Fan
‘Hey baby, see the future that we’re building.
Our love lives on
In the lives of our children.
Something worth leaving behind.’
My kids like to watch (and laugh) at an obscure Irish Country & Western Music channel – it’s an interesting and somewhat niche musical culture. But they were shocked when I asked them not to channel surf past one music video because I want them to play it at my funeral.
It’s Lee Ann Womack’s ‘Something Worth Leaving Behind’ and it sums up my hopes for my life: that whilst I accept that I won’t make any major mark on world history, I can build a future legacy of love for those I leave behind.
It’s why I pray for my boys (sons and husband) every day. And that’s a legacy left to me by my late mother.
But futures and legacies don’t just happen; they need building: foundations built (thank you Mum) then daily bricks and mortar added, otherwise the project stagnates. Sometimes plans change or need extending. And it can be hard work.
I have a friend with five children, whose house is always untidy. She told me once that cleaning her house was less important to her than building memories for her children. I think she has her priorities right.
So, when my funeral comes along, I hope, with God’s help, that I have a built a legacy of love for my boys to take into the future and that, on that day, they can listen to a country song with affection.
This is my second attempt at this week’s FMF prompt. I wasn’t unhappy with the first but ‘protect’ is a big subject, prompted a lot of thoughts, and I wanted to write something meatier, something that wasn’t just about me. So here goes.
I love language – old and new words, finding out where words and sayings come from. So I looked up the origin of ‘protect’ and it’s from the Latin meaning ‘to cover in front’.
That automatically made me think about soldiers and shields: how a shield acts as defence against enemy attack but it also assumes we’re in a battle in the first place. Being protected doesn’t exempt us from danger, from ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’.
Shields of protection can come in human form. When my boys were babies, I became hyper protective and would physically place myself between them and any perceived danger – I would always walk roadside on the pavement or put myself between them and any suspicious looking stranger.
And that makes me think of God as my shield, my protection. He doesn’t magically make trouble or difficulty or even danger go away but He faces it with me, stands between me and it, covering me like a policeman on a raid, enabling me to move forward to attack the threat. The day before He died, Jesus prayed ‘My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one’ (John 17.15) – and there we are again, not an exemption from a trouble free life but a promise of protection in it. It’s a prayer I’m echoing for my boys as they leave home this autumn.
And I’m also reminded of a version of St Patrick’s Breastplate which I pray daily for myself and for my boys during their exams, for Jesus to be our shield – not just in front but more like the Roman Tortoise formation:
‘Christ as a light illumine and guide me
Christ as shield overshadow me
Christ under me
Christ over me
Christ beside me on my left and my right.’
Losing by degrees. That’s how it feels sometimes with my dad. Dementia is stealing him gradually from us, turning him from parent into child, pushing me into a role I don’t want,
Losing his ability to remember leads to other losses. He is losing the ability to make decisions, first complex, now simple. He has lost the ability to solve problems. He has lost his love of reading along with his ability to concentrate. Unable to shave accurately, take himself to the barbers, pick out his favourite tie to wear, he has lost his smartness. Needing help with the toilet, he has sometimes lost his dignity.
I have lost the dad I grew up with.
In his place sits a wartime teenager who ignored air raid warnings to watch dogfights in the sky and who stole ingredients from the school chemistry lab to build experimental explosives. Sometimes in his chair sits a child who lived through the horrors of malnutrition in the Depression, sent far away to children’s home to recover. Sometimes it’s a young man in his first job, telling of his girlfriend’s 21st (and not my mum).
I miss the man whose strong arms signalled security for me as I reach mine round him.
I’m sat in my beautiful garden, surrounded by birdsong and burgeoning plants that should fill me with hope and a sense of purpose. And all I want is for the world to stop so I can get off.
I want to escape. I want to hide. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing in the garden: hiding in clear sight, so well camouflaged by the ordinariness of being here that no one can see me (except the midges which are feasting on my bare legs).
I’m tired, Lord, really tired, Tired of being the sponge soaking up so many other people’s problems. Tired of the downward dipping rollercoaster ride of being a carer. Tired of being the responsible, sensible, practical, understanding one.
I know there is good stuff in my life. I know there are days when I do feel fulfilled, when I feel I’ve achieved something tangible with my time and effort. I know there are times, some of them very recent, when I have felt truly happy and blessed. I know I have a loving family and supportive friends. But today is not one of those days.
I want it to stop. I want to get off this endless carousel.
But I do feel less heavy for having told You this, Lord. Is this what it means to lay my burdens at the foot of the Cross? You’ll have to show me how to leave them there though. Or give me a better backpack for carrying them. All journeys need a place to stop and rest for a few moments. Perhaps pouring this out on paper here in the garden is mine.