and yet I am holding on to every little blessing.
In the past few weeks I have had 3 theatre trips ~ cinema outings ~ and eaten out numerous times. Doing part of my shop at a large supermarket and buying most of my petrol there means that I accrue many points ~ points are swapped for vouchers ~ and I hunt down the best deals that would afford us treats that we couldn’t otherwise afford. At the moment I am awash with ‘a main course or pizza = £2.00’ vouchers for Pizza Express. The children and I have been out a few times over the summer holidays and I have watched all their hearts grow Big and Kind and Strong.
Last week when we were on one such trip in Colchester all waiting to meet up at the said restaurant, I decided to show them how easy it is to help someone who is hungry and homeless. Only in a small way. But none the less awareness that they might not otherwise have had ~ by taking courage themselves, to help someone out when they can. There was a young homeless man sitting crumpled in a doorway ~ so I said we would surprise him by buying him dinner. We enthusiastically went off to the pastie shop and on the way passed the fruit stall ~ it was the close of the day. Eliza asked the stall holder if he had one banana (Slow G.I foods keeps you fuller for longer). He asked her if she wanted to eat it now or put it in a bag ~ and she told him it was for the local homeless man. That kind stall holder then proceeded to give her the banana for free! Delighted we went on to the pastie shop and brought the biggest pastie and a cup of tea. The children rather too excitedly rushed around to the homeless man crumpled in the said doorway only to find him gone ~ no other homeless person in sight ~ we failed in our mission. The food wasn’t wasted ~ the children by this point all had a few bites each ~ but clearly they were disappointed that they could not surprise and help the homeless man.
That night we went off for our meal and then on to the cinema ~ anything that wasn’t achieved was left seemingly behind ~ but unbeknownst to us, all that was left undone was like a seed germinating underground in the darkness, quietly stirring the soul in a way that only God can do.
The following week we popped into town to run a few ‘juggling money’ errands, and afterwards we decided to have some fun in castle park. On the way to the park the children spotted a homeless man sitting on the pavement begging ~ they asked if they might buy him lunch. Things were tighter this day ~ my pennies were in short supply, so I had taken a packed lunch in to town with crisps, fruit etc. ~ Each of the children wanted to be the one that gave up their lunch in order that the homeless man might get his. I was so proud of them. I stayed on my side of the road whilst the children crossed over with their big sister, and I watched as they sensitively approached the homeless man and asked if he might like something to eat and drink.
I passed through many emotions in those seconds whilst watching them approach that man. I felt nervous and apprehensive for them (I had no idea how the man would respond to receiving a handout from children) ~ and then as the man spoke and reached out his hand to take the parcel I felt imminent relief ~ and then a little embarrassment ~ as after the children had so cautiously, sensitively and tentatively delivered their food parcel, they turned on their heels right in front of the homeless man, and ran back to me at high-speed like over excited puppies bursting with pride at their successful mission, wanting their owners affection. The man then looked over to me and raised his hand in acknowledgment ~ and any embarrassment on my part was quickly erased.
As we went about our day warm contentment flooded me ~ and I felt blessed that last weeks seeds which had been silently (unbeknown to me) germinating in the children ~ had this week broken through into the light. Children so eager to do good ~ and to please ~ and to take such pure delight in simple little acts of kindnesses in such an innocent way. It made me contemplate upon cynical man ~ and Jesus’ Love for children ~ and despite so much sadness I know that I truly am so very blessed ~ because despite struggling at times to teach 5 children (and often feeling like I’m failing, especially when R doesn’t back me up) they teach me so very much more every single day in return ~ and every once in a while it glimmers in the darkness.
This year yet again we can not afford a holiday ~ However I did manage to pay for one of my children to go to Lourdes ~ an experience that will stay with him for the rest of his life. Taking a family away is very expensive ~ individual holidays mean that everyone at some point gets a break, and to experience their own wonder ~ but I do admit to feeling sadness (and even envy at times) when I see everyone’s happy family holiday flicks coming round on Facebook. Not just because for me we cannot go ~ but because of the broken sadness that is at the heart of our family.
My mummy is moving ~ she is buying a smaller property in a cheaper area as finance is tight ~ the sale of her house is now almost complete! For many years she has been receiving the wrong pension, and the pension office have finally just admitted their error and have back paid her ~ The amount they awarded her was far bigger than any money any of us have ever been awarded by anyone ~ and in her kindness ~ she gave each of her four children a small but generous sum of money for the family to enjoy over the summer. It was difficult here ~ all cheques were written out to husbands & wives jointly. Mum was unsure how to address mine (R and I don’t have a joint bank account) and all our finances are severed ~ but she didn’t want R to feel left out. We agreed that the cheque would be made out to me and that I would make happy memories for the children with the money. This summer this has involved a few trips as a whole family. Its been really difficult ~ putting on a brave face ~ outwardly enjoying myself for the children ~ whilst feeling incredible awkwardness inside. R & I have an awkwardness now that makes for interior uneasyness ~ conversation at most times are frugal, you notice this far more when others (including the children) are around, where then conversation flows easily. When alone there is an unspokeness that sits behind the collarbone ~ and often lies heavier still within the chest, the children help to relieve it. And at other times when R lavishes them with R’ness – it magnifies the isolation, torture, and sadness I feel within.
Yesterday we went to The Cabinet War Rooms and then on to see The Railway Children at the theatre. In many ways it was a lovely day ~ but in many ways it was filled with interior sadness on my part. I couldn’t give the children this on my own. I don’t know about things like Cabinet War Rooms! ~ I know about theatres ~ I know about the woods and chingswings over rivers ~ and churches ~ and magic and wonder ~ I don’t know about all those man things that middle-aged men know about. The children need that ~ especially if they are to exceed beyond all my limited expectations for them. They need someone to teach them about politics, news and current affairs ~ and someone to teach them about faith and hope. They need both someone to offer them formality ~ and someone to offer them free-spirit. Someone to show them methodology and someone to show them creativity ~ someone to administer reality and someone to administer romance ~ But most of all they need somebody that can help them translate one into the other ~ that they understand that encountering and holding paradox is the tool to decoding the map of life ~ and that the only freedom one will ever know is in translating the earthly kingdom ~ into the Kingdom of Heaven ~ by way of Love.
This month it happened first-hand for my son who went to Lourdes. He was one of the musicians (never having met anyone on the trip before, or never having played with the diocesan musicians before.) He knew the paradox of feeling incredibly nervous whilst feeling incredibly excited ~ of feeling immensely a part of something, whilst feeling immensely ‘alone’. He pushed a lady from our diocese around Lourdes one day, sharing the blessings of conversation and life ~ a week after returning home from such a life-giving experience ~ he was shocked to hear she had died. I went to her funeral ~ it was wonderful ~ One friend described it as being ‘very moving and filled with real love.’ There was such a mammoth sense of fulfilment ~ an elderly mother of ten with all her extended family – church family – and friends ~ all present ~ all supporting ~ all sharing with one another. She had lived through the loss of one of her children, and her husband ~ but had such a rich warm family life ~ such a strong prayer life ~ and a beautiful faith ~ somebody who so perfectly humbly and so insignificantly conquered life and death. What a paradox to see her life all come together at the end in death ~ so complete ~ so fulfilled ~ So full of God. God who is Love.
It makes the hole inside of me feel endless.
Today I lost my F.I.S.H shop ~ and that elevated feeling that has carried me the last few weeks whilst I lived in hope of solving all practical living arrangements here, by looking to serve others in outreach from a perfect and affordable new dwelling close by to the family home. It fell through whilst I was desperately (though unsuccessfully) trying to find a way to finance it. Somebody else’s offer was accepted. To feel my only chance of hope be swallowed up before me ~ was to suddenly sink beyond all hope. This was my one chance of making a break by making all things so very much better ~ by keeping my family united and together at the same time as securing my own life, happiness, and the next step in my unique vocation. I Am truly GUTTED for myself.
As I write this post I am currently aware that the last few weeks of dreaming of all that could have been ~ has carried me through the deepest despair of watching my beautiful best friend grow weaker and weaker and weaker. On more than one occasion I thought she wouldn’t make it through the night. But mothers are strong! The draining exhausting effect of being on call first hand makes me feel riddled with my own terminal disease ~ that of life and sadness and sorrow. I now yearn for this time to be over and done with ~ and yet I pray for miracles and for my friend to be alive.
As I simultaneously Exit the gruelling ‘first week’ of the EXX I find myself desperately in need of a retreat ~ a retreat which my Spiritual Director believes I deserve and encourages me to take. (We have a 3 week break!) She is the wisest kindest woman. She amazed me on our last session when through my tears she turned to me enthused ~ and warmly smiled with Love that extended from the depth of her heart ~ as she gently and kindly said that she was in awe of me, and of the place to which I had arrived ~ as she recalled the ‘great distance’ I have travelled in the ‘first week’ of the EXX ~ She says it is quite miraculous ~ but she also said it without devaluing (in fact only praising and upholding in value) any place that I had previously been at before.
When I embarked upon ‘week one’ I wasn’t really anticipating anything that I had learnt on paper ~ I wasn’t sure in total honesty that it would work for me ~ having already lived through the ‘first week’ so profoundly in real life – as I desperately awaited my reception into the Catholic Church. However it surprised me how it all came flooding back as I was meditating upon my sin and God’s forgiveness. I had a feeling of De ja vu ~ like I have lived through this part of the EXX before now in life without the EXX ~ So painfully and intensively. And yet still as I reflected back I had felt so very Loved held and blessed by God. ~ And yet at the same time paradoxically I realised how much work there was still to be done.
To learn the EXX and to live through the EXX are like living in 2 different worlds which couldn’t be further apart. Now as I move out of ‘week one’ of the EXX ~ somewhat exhausted and Loved ~ I try and rest in the pause ~ before the far longer journey of ‘week Two’.
At Mona’s funeral this week I felt Claire’s presence ~ in fact I have felt Claire’s presence on more than one occasion lately ~ as if she is there in my conscience ~ standing by my side as I accompany Maria in her final days? weeks? months? of her life. I thought about the happiness of Mona’s funeral ~ and the sadness of Maria’s to come ~ and then back to Claire’s funeral when something went incredibly wrong. I was feeling absolutely bereft at Claire not having wanted to see anyone after her diagnosis ~ especially me. That hurt me so deeply especially as she had known of (and had shared) my pain of another severed friendship that I was struggling to live with. And then at her funeral the queue going up to receive the Eucharist somehow changed from its usual order ~ and having stood up to receive my final Holy Communion alongside my dear friend Claire at her funeral ~ the priest stopped, looked towards me rather flustered, and said ‘I am so sorry the Eucharist has run out.’ Absolutely ridiculed, embarrassment and spiritually crucified again and again and again ~ especially after having lost my dear friend in such a cruel and lonely way ~ and whilst standing there, before everyone who knew, with my other very best friend who is dying of terminal bone cancer ~ and to be the only 2 people for whom the Eucharist had ran out on ~ and me trying so desperately to salvage the situation by telling the priest who was flustered ‘dont worry, just give us a blessing’ ~ whilst everyone behind us, who realised, was looking upon me with sorrow, pity, and embarrassment once again.
What a funny unpoetical poetic piece of writing this is ~ there is no justice ~ just paradox. The whole of life and death is just one big paradox ~ which rather makes the paradox of everything nothing ~ and in being so life and death are just a paradox of one another too. T’is all just tears watering falling seed.
Nothing is anything ~ but Love.
I am going to leave you with this beautiful relevent story that found its way to me this week. It is beautiful.
My Love to you All
One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor. They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
After their return from the trip, the father asked his son how he liked the trip. “It was great, Dad,” the son replied. “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Oh Yeah,” said the son.
“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.
We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “It showed me how poor we are.”
Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate on what we don’t have. What is one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession. It is all based on one’s perspective.
I’m thankful for what I have, not jealous for what I don’t. The more I understand about where I am, and understand what it is I want and need for my family and my children, the better I am able to make good decisions as a Husband and a Parent. When I’m aware of how my decisions affect others, I’m better able to make ones that are not only good for me and my family, but good for my community, my region, my country, and even our planet. Sometimes it takes the perspective of a child to remind us what’s important.