The spice of life. Zzzing!

I’ve got a job! When you’re 72 and you’ve felt increasingly useless for 6 years, with no relevance to the world at all, getting a job is a huge, glorious, giddying thing! There are forms to fill and clearances and references to get, but I should start in the next couple of weeks.  It’s a simple enough job, a care assistant in a home for the elderly, but it’s work I’ve done before and which I find satisfying and challenging and I couldn’t be happier. 

I hope I get some night duties. I love working at night, when all the world is silent, and peace wraps around us, when I am the only one up-and-doing in the whole of the United Kingdom (yeah, yeah), and there’s time to hold a hand, or to make a cup of tea, to whisper to the restless and to reassure the anxious. Night duty is fab. But whatever hours I get, I am so grateful for this answered prayer. 

While I’m on that subject – I’m discovering some unexpected aspects to prayer. ‘Aspects’ isn’t quite the right word but it will have to do. I’ve come to realise that prayer isn’t about words, or requests, nor is it only about longing, or our love (well, not just our love). It’s far more; it’s the wallpaper to our lives, the oxygen, the water, the lifespring…. It’s vital and constant. Prayer is a committed way of life appreciating the goodness of God, all his gifts and all his accessibility, and all the hours he has given us. Breathing can be prayer, a constant awareness of God’s presence and his part in our life, whatever we’re up to – laughing with friends, cheeking the milkman, putting out the rubbish, writing a blog, opening a bottle of wine, ordering a take-away (which I’ve just done – Yay!) …. all these things can be prayers when we do them in the awareness of God, his goodness, his generosity, his kindness, his guidance,  his presence. I think that prayer has to stop being something we do, and become something we are, or the place where we live, or the time zone we’re in. Or the blood in our veins. Too many metaphors and none of them quite work. Ah, well. 

Let me tell you about the takeaway I’ve ordered for tomorrow… it’s Mexican street food, authentic and wholesome and so very very tasty. I can’t abide spices but it seems that everyone around me loves them so I’ve ordered burritos and spicy chicken and something-or-other pork, and chilli something-or-other and nachos, all for my spicy friends and then I ticked the box for lovely naughty loaded (no spice) chips for me.  Yay! Roll on Friday night. Scrabble night with our bubble friends. All good things come from God and this take-away is going to be very very good. 

We are gradually emerging from lockdown, poking our noses out into the new day dawning, trying to remember all the things we used to do, looking forward to so much. It’s great to see the school buses trundling along the country lanes again, wonderful to see the littlies running down the hill towards the village school, great to hear the plans of the teenagers for University and holidays and meeting up….. not long now. Please, Lord, not long now? 

That’s made me smile. My confident ‘Not long now.’ followed by ‘Please, Lord, not long now?’ Because if we’ve been taught anything in the last year it’s surely that 

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
 
That’s Rabbie Burns, and a dialect-light version might read: The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, leaving us only grief and pain instead of the joy we had expected. 
 
We are not in control of the world. Our plans are hot air and nonsense. And I’m so glad! God is in control and he has it sorted. His love is all we need, in it we can rest, in it there is no fear, or anxiety or uncertainty. He has us. 
 
Later: I wrote all that this morning and this afternoon I have been kicking my heels in the cold drizzle, waiting two hours for my car to get its MOT test. I sat on a bench, walked up a slight hill, sauntered around the huge town (two streets), sat on another bench, walked through a churchyard… and there I found a gravestone that took my breath away. In February 1820 a young woman died two days after giving birth to a boy. Three days later he died. There they lie. So very sad. I was pondering this, and the death years later of her husband, imagining his life without her, as I wandered back towards the MOT garage and saw this new mural: 
We are the otters who live in the river

What a great image of joy! All credit and thanks to the artists, @peaceful_progress, and the patrons @WWFCYMRU

And then the garage owner took pity on me (I was sodden by now, much like an otter but not as graceful and certainly not a protected species) so he led me to a cramped and messy but very homely cubbyhole, out of the rain, where I could sit and listen as three Welsh men chatted and exclaimed, gossiped and roared with laughter. It was music to my ears. I didn’t mind one iota that they were doing all this instead of inspecting my car. I love hearing male voices and these three were deep and very Welsh, and wonderful. Totally unintelligible to my English ears, but that didn’t matter. Rain, and death, and laughter. Not a bad afternoon at all. The spice of life, laughter and tears, side by side.

And the car passed its test. Phew.

And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!”

John 16:33

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