Hard Won but Never Lost

For me, friendships are hard won. I don’t make friends easily. If I count you as a friend then, boy oh boy, you are a rare and exotic creature. If I count you as a friend you are also a creature with great longevity. Long long longevity.

I put people off. I have, I’m told again and again, a fearsome or daunting persona. It’s all rubbish, but that’s how I come across, so there aren’t battalions of eager people queuing up to befriend me.

Friendship is commitment, not for my friends but certainly for me. I don’t expect them to feel about me as I do about them, some will, but some won’t. That’s not my business. My business is to value, cherish and ENJOY them. Celebrate them. Think about them. Accept them. Be open and honest with them but most of all to care about and pray for them. That’s friendship.

Some relatives are friends but that’s relatively rare (see what I did there?) and, with a family fractured by death and military service, I didn’t know my relatives. Apparently there are over 35,000 people in the world with the surname Gannon so some of them must surely be third cousins fifteen times removed, but I haven’t got a clue about any of ’em! And I don’t want to. I have enough trouble with the people I know without going out and scavenging for more. When you’re 70 you hesitate to get a new dog, so I certainly don’t actively search out relatives who might turn out to be serial killers or mad old women wheeling a pram full of chihuahuas dressed in baby bonnets (Sorry, personal fear there.  I think it’s how I might end up)

I’ve been reading Thessalonians, and what’s struck me is the warmth of that book. Paul sounds positively amiable. It’s a total love-in. I used to think that Paul was a didactic misogynist but I was oh! so wrong. He’s a good friend, a good good friend. He’s the sort of friend we need, because like His master Jesus, Paul is straight, uncompromising, anything but soft. But it’s taken me a while to realise that he could be a friend. That the epistles of Paul are already acts of warm friendship.  To get to that point I had to read and read and re-read his work, look behind his words to find the man. His teaching is from God, I never doubted that, so I’ve always listened and tried to obey, but now I see the man who said the words that God gave him. And I see the love he had for those he wrote to. The love of Christ.

Why do I recoil from soft people? I love warmth, and affection but ‘softness’? No. Blah. Softness implies the lack of backbone, integrity. I imagine foam rubber, or a waterbed, all wobble and wobble and no structure.  Jesus was strong and true, a cornerstone, a rock, a plumb line. There was no fooling Him and he never compromised. And yet as I read the New Testament I see that He was loving and gentle.

The English language confuses gentle with soft. There’s a difference.

This afternoon I had a moment of clarity. I was driving to the supermarket and thinking of a friend and wondering why I trusted this person. Me, who finds friendships precious but rare, and usually concealed behind a mask of  ‘don’t-care-either-way’. And I realised that in this person, younger than me, very unlike me, I see Jesus. The coolness and straight-talking, gentleness and discipline, affection and wisdom of Jesus. Not all of it of course, humanity pokes through undeniably (or as Mr Trump would have it ‘bigly’). But it all amounts to the love of Jesus and I can trust it. I can trust that in this relationship I will be held accountable. If I veer off down some dead end, I’ll be hoiked back.  As I see Jesus in this friend, so I now see Jesus in Paul. I know I’m separating the person from the writing but the two are not the same. One is divine and one is human, and the unity is Christ.

So, although I’m a bit befuddled today, a bit emotional and tired,  I’m going to clear my brain and sit down with my new good friend Paul. I’m going to listen to what he has to tell me about my walk with Christ, and I’m going to be thankful that I’ve found this friend. Hard won, never to be lost. In his words, straight from God

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”

If that’s not a prayer of love, I’m a kipper. And I’m not.

 

 

 

Every good thing…..

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, or why I’m going there. Maybe we’ll find out as we jog on. I may say some banal things, come to some obvious conclusions, treading a familiar path and you’ll turn away, yawning. But at least with a blog I don’t see the yawns… so, feel free!

I’m asking myself again why I write a blog. Is it because I desperately need someone to talk to? If so, that’s not quite what a blog is, few of you respond in any way and when you do it’s understandably concise, reflective, and you’re not able to engage in a real discourse with me. So, why do I blog? Is it because I think I have great wisdom that must be imparted? No,  I have precious little wisdom or wit, and I really don’t mind because if you’re bored you’ll stop reading. Do I blog because I’m an empty vessel (and we all know that empty vessels make the most sound) ? Or do I blog because my head is so full of notions and half-thoughts that I can keep track of them only if I write them down? Yes, that’s partly it. I complete my thoughts only when I write them. Is that weird?

OK. I can cope with being weird.

I want to talk about ice. And pleasure. You regulars know that I have a dying friend and concern for her is filling my life just now. So, listen, death is nothing to fear, we all know that, but we all know – all, universal acceptance  – that the process can be bloody awful. My friend, I think, I pray, is over the worst of the awfulness and now she is sleeping more and more, pain free, nausea under control and just weary. The bad days are done (again, we pray). So now, while we’re all knackered, emotionally done-for… her sister grey and anxious, her son pale and shaken …. my friend is sleeping. Thank God. Thank God.

Yesterday she could barely speak, her mouth dry, the mouth preparations just not doing the trick, and she was desperate for water but could take only the barest sip, unable to swallow. So I went home and took some ice and smashed it up with my little hammer (she would have laughed to see me bringing out my tool box, a huge great manly tin thing in which there is a screw driver, a jar of screws and one hammer. She and I both love absurdities). Then I sat on her bed and fed her the splinters one by one. That was bliss. The expression on her face, the tiny murmurs of appreciation, the whispered ‘more, please’ was bliss. Bliss.

Look at us! Look at you and me. We have so much. We have strength and breath and robustness. I have the energy to write this, you have the focus to read it. Bloody hell, I walked on the beach for two hours this morning, sat on a log, joked with a poet, I’ve made and drunk two great mugs of strong coffee…..  and I bet you’ve all done the equivalent. But I’ll tell you what, my little dumplings,  whatever your day has been thus far, and whether you’re in a mansion or a hovel, old or young, loved or lonely, you and I do not know the bliss my dying friend experienced yesterday, or the gratitude she felt  as she said “Thank you, Lord, for this … it’s so delicious.”

Lying there, dying there, slipping away from us, fighting to breathe…. rejoicing in the tiniest slivers of ice in her poor parched mouth…. “Thank you, Lord.”

That is the grace of God. Right there.

On the beach this morning I read a verse with the word ‘contend’ , and then a little later again the word ‘contend’ and I realised that the writer, Paul, was talking about prayer. I know what the word means, it’s a common word, but it was interesting to see it used and emphasised in this way.

Contend: ‘struggle to surmount’
‘assert something as a position in an argument’

Paul was talking about prayer, and as I prayed and thought about not just my dying friend, but many of the people I know, I understood that prayer is contending. It is. Truly. If you have ever prayed for something you desire with all your heart and being, your soul, you will understand that to pray is to contend. As I sat at the bedside yesterday and turned to God for help I was contending. When she asked me to read a Psalm, she was contending. When we prayed together, her lips moving silently to finish the ‘amen’ we were contending. We were struggling to surmount.

We were struggling to surmount.

And in Christ we did. When we contend in Christ, we triumph. He triumphs in us.

It reminds me of a history I read just a while back in 2 Chronicles (I’ve not got a great understanding of the Old Testament, but I’m learning that its lessons are wonderfully relevant), of when the Moabites were going to attack Judah and God sent this message “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”’

That’s what I said to my friend. Do not be discouraged. You don’t have to fight this battle.

Why not? Because it’s already been won. Jesus has triumphed over death, His own and hers and mine and yours, if you know Him. And if you know Him there is joy and bliss to be had, in even the smallest sweetest, hardest thing.

 

 

Church… what a pain.

My late husband was brought up in a very strict Presbyterian family and he always struggled with the idea of church.  But I, brought up in an RC environment, I just celebrated the idea of it! George loved God, and was a prayerful and kind man but a structured church was an anathema to him. We went to Bible school and I loved loved loved it, but he hated it, and we left after one term. I was left hungry and wildly frustrated – I’d only been able to take one class a week because he was ‘the student’ and I was just the wife, but I longed for so much more. I’d have signed on for years! But don’t misunderstand me, he  loved God with a calm quiet certainty and serenity that I didn’t have.  The day he died began with him praying in the early morning sunshine. Afterwards, in deference to his wishes and initially wanting to bring our daughter up as he would have wanted, I didn’t go to church for the next 22 years! When I finally started to attend regularly, I was just thrilled, excited, desperate to find out more, to learn and follow and belong.

I sort of managed it. But in doing so I think I confused the church with God.

We are used to hearing the phrase ‘separation of state and religion’ but I think we need to talk about or even admit that there’s a chasm separating God and Church.

God doesn’t just talk about love, or promise love, He doesn’t ape care. He doesn’t dissemble or worry about saying the right-on thing. God is straight and true and direct. His first priority is His own glory, He makes no bones about that;

“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”

” For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
    for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
    so as not to destroy you completely.
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
    I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
    How can I let myself be defamed?
    I will not yield my glory to another.”

But He  makes it abundantly clear that He has given His all for us, the children of His love:
Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.

And I could never argue against the meeting together of Christians:
For where two or three gather in my name, there I am, with them. 

Nor will I ever argue against prayer:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

But I am less keen on the idea of church:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Christians should do more than say the right things. We should do more than tell each other that we are praying for their needs.  Of course, we should pray always for each other but also always show our care in practical worldly ways. The people around us should be our priority. There are lonely people and despairing people, dying people and people in real need, unable to drag themselves out of the mire. They need help and there’s precious little on offer – a card and some soft words maybe, a bunch of flowers, a doleful statement of care on a Sunday morning? Is that it? Really? Is it enough that our caring is well meaning and ineffective, fitted in around our own comfort and well-being?

No. That’s not good enough. Not according to Jesus. He wants sacrifice. He wants us to love each other as a priority. To step out of our smug little, snug little lives and go to those in need, spend time, listen, talk, care.

Care. Not ‘pretend to care’.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, love your neighbour as yourself.”

You know the parable of the Good Samaritan? He wasn’t lazing in a deckchair when he saw the battered and bleeding man on the roadside. He was on his way somewhere. Doing something. Busy. He put himself out for that wounded stranger. His love wasn’t emotional. It was practical. It cost.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Whenever a Christian says something critical of the church, he or she will hear many many well worn arguments, encouraging them to stay mum- the chief of which goes something like “If we could find a perfect church, as soon as we joined it would cease to be perfect.”

That’s so lame. The next person who says that to me will see my eyes roll, and a pulse throb alarmingly in my temple…..

Of course one answer to these inconsistencies in church life is to do what I would dearly love to do: leave our church in a huff when it doesn’t go quite as we would like.

That’s one answer. You heard about the man stranded on a deserted Pacific island for years? Well, one day he was spotted by a passing boat and a sailor rowed ashore and greeted the stranded man.  After a while the sailor asked, What are those three huts you have here?”
“Well, that’s my house there.”
“What’s that next hut?” asks the sailor.
“I built that hut to be my church.”
“What about the other hut?”
“Oh, that’s where I used to go to church.”

I don’t want to leave my church. I don’t. I’ve only just found a way to survive in a church. But I do want to change and become more Christ like and I want that for my church too. Just as I want to be transformed, I want my church to be transformed. Not slowly and resentfully, grudgingly, but by the power of God. Amazingly. Bravely. Boldly. Joyfully.

And efficiently.  I look at some the things we do and some of the things we don’t do and I am impatient and arrogant and frustrated. Not ever so Christ-like, then. But in honesty and abandoning the temptation to soften this with fake humility, I have to admit there’s a level of passion and commitment, and organisation, in worldly enterprises that’s missing in the church. That’s not just frustrating, it’s discouraging, and limiting, and a lousy witness to outsiders.

Jesus was the first person in the Bible to mention the word we now know and translate as ‘church’. It was from the root of ‘ecclesia’ or ‘meeting’ but it’s become, in English, the word ‘church’. So, do I want to leave what Jesus has given us? No.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

He said our good deeds should be seen. He didn’t say our prayers and hymns should be heard and admired…. he didn’t say our pious verses in greetings cards should be seen by others… He said ‘deeds’. And I know full well that deeds aren’t always busy bustling things. Sometimes  the best and kindest deed is to sit with someone and listen to them. Sometimes the best and kindest deed is to scrub a floor, but sometimes it’s just to hold a hand.

And it all starts with me. When I see need I want to meet it. Run to meet it, head on, regardless of the cost. And I don’t do that. I don’t. So far I haven’t.

I don’t ever ever EVER want to promise people that I will pray for them, or send my ‘love’ to them, if I then can’t be bothered enough to spend time with them.  But there are only 24 hours in any day so how will I do this? Only by the grace and enabling of God, cos flip me, my bloggies, I’m a selfish cove. I am. But God will change me, as He will change His church. Because I am His church.

That’s a depressing thought. Everything that’s wrong with my church is wrong with me.

What a bummer!

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Sitting with a sick friend today we were talking about our lives, looking back over the years, and I realised that the phrase ‘new every morning’ is not only about the day, or about God’s goodness, but it’s about us. We have a fresh start every day, every hour, every minute. If we submit to God, we see our waywardness, we ask for His forgiveness and help, at that moment the past is done and dusted and we are NEW! New.

Thank God for NEW. The church is made new.

“Brothers and sisters… one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead,  I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”

So, here I am, forgetting what is behind, pressing on to what lies ahead. The day when the church (which quite annoyingly turns out to be me), will be as one with God.

Hey – while I’m on about stuff discovered … have you read Psalm 40 recently? It’s only a shortie and it will touch even the hardest old heart. Here’s a bit of it;

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

He has set my feet on a rock, and given me a firm place to stand.

Wowser. What a God!  After a life like mine, full of change and danger and derring-do and silliness….  my feet are on a rock.

Look to the rock from which you were cut,
to the quarry from which you were hewn.”

Sunday tomorrow. And CHURCH! Yayyy.

Erm. I think.

 

 

 

Just a quickie

Life is suddenly full and yet I need quiet and silence and yet I need to talk about stuff and yet there’s no one to talk to ….. so I’m squeezing you in, between the doing and the being, to say that I wallowed in a pity-me moan this morning. After a sleepless disturbed night I was out of sorts and barely coping. Read on…..

Every day I read a ‘devotional translation’ of Isaiah  (translation by Alec Motyer)  a poetic translation, and there are phrases that tighten around my heart and keep me there, reading and re-reading them day after day until, sated, I can move on. Today it’s day 67, looking at Isaiah 61 and I think I may be stuck on day 67 for a week or two. Listen, listen;

The spirit of the Sovereign Yahweh is upon me – 
because Yahweh has anointed me.
To bring good news to the downtrodden he has sent me:
to bandage the broken hearted,

to proclaim liberty to captives, 
a real opening-up to those who are bound…..

to give them  –  a head-dress in the place of ashes,
oil of delight in the place of mourning,
a wrap of praise in place of a spirit of listlessness.

Hmm. Are these italics beginning to annoy you? Maybe I’ll find another way to mark out scripture. Anyway, anyway, listen;

God has given me a head-dress and I’ve chosen one of  feathers. A great band of them, huge plumes of brilliant hues, stretching around my head and down my back all the way to my flat feet, like the old sketches and early photos of Sitting Bull.

God has lavished me with the oil of delight so I went mad and self-indulgent and decided it would be the essence of Chanel 5 in a huge beautiful chunky bottle, nestled in a white and black box of superior card.

God has given me a wrap of praise and it’s pink cashmere, the softest warmest cashmere imaginable (I already have this in reality and in the here and now- given to me by two mad writers last year).

So today I have no ashes (guilt and shame), no mourning, and you can jolly well forget any thought of listlessness. Here I am, at my desk, be-feathered, smelling fabulous, cosy as toast.

When self-pity rears it’s gruesome head, when I find myself looking at the church and whining, when life is unfair and it’s all about me me me, I’m going to reach up and touch my feathers of acceptance, breathe deep and smell my delight in being loved, swaddle myself with praise for God.

What the hell is the matter with me? Why don’t I turn to the word before I start the whingeing? When will I learn?

 

 

A Tender God

“he will swallow up death for ever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces”

That’s from Isaiah. Revelation echoes that promise;

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Roll on the day. Roll on the day.

I’m saying goodbye to a dear friend. It’s a long and lingering goodbye, and she’s in pain and distress, grown frail. I’ve known her for only about three years, but we rub along nicely, very different, we don’t have the same interests or the same approach to life, but we like each other and share an irreverent sense of humour. I will miss her.

I thought I would take this death in my stride. I’ve lost so many that surely, surely, the farewells would grow easier, familiar? I was wrong.

And I’m just a bit fed up with death being for everyone else but not for me. My turn. My turn. Enough of this bloody life. Enough already.

Of course, if you know me you know that last bit isn’t true. It’s a three year old child having a tantrum, that’s all. Forgive me.

This death hasn’t arrived suddenly, shockingly, out of the clear blue sky; and it hasn’t smashed a child on the rocks, or a young man in his prime… it hasn’t burst obscenely at a crossroads by the hand of a drunken driver…..it’s crept up towards us slowly, whispering its warning, and we have prepared. We are prepared. But no, we aren’t. But no, we haven’t. I’m not prepared to see my friend lying so tiny in a too-large bed, or for the hand that trembles in mine, skin breaking and bruised. I’m not prepared for the wrench of my heart when her breath is laboured and her eyes are dull. I’m not prepared for the quiet murmur “Oh, Luce, what will we do? What will we do?” I’m not prepared for her wrack of pain, the medications, injections, indignities, for her distress and her tears. I’m not. And I thought I was.

Oh, Luce, what will we do? What will we do?

We will trust God. We will. I will trust my loving God. More than that, I give her up to Him. In the brief moments when she is too ill, too weak, to trust Him, well, then my trust will cover us both. Fiercely.

Fiercely.

I see my helplessness and her total vulnerability, and I find a fist pressing on my heart, shortening my breath, dizzying. I can think of little else, care for no one else, in this world today there is only this dying friend. And God.

Yes. And God. I’m suddenly filled with joy, that God is the God of tenderness, mercy, love.  That God is the God of the sickroom, roadside, hospital. God is the God of the broken hearted and the fearful. And He is enough.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Roll on the day. Roll on the day.

 

Oh! Oh! Oh! Listen!

Yesterday I went to England, and I remembered what I’d forgotten, or forgotten to remember;  how green that lovely country is, how the hills fold and dip, how the hedgerows are different from Welsh hedgerows, bigger, older, the trees fatter somehow. Remembered that there are places where hares still dance, where farmers leave land unseeded around every field for flowers to grow and wildlife to thrive, remembered lark song (why are there no larks here in West Wales? Do the kites and buzzards get them all?) Man,  it was good being back there, even so briefly. Early as usual, I parked the car and sat in the gateway to a wheat field….

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Does that seem no big shakes to you? Probably not. But now I live where the hillsides are pasture for sheep and cows, and there are very few fields full of barley or corn or wheat,  shimmering in sunshine, dancing in the breeze. And no hares. Positively no hares! I sat there for a long long time, just thanking God for that day, for that special hour, the sunshine and the healing warmth.

This morning, back in Wales, the dogs are still in kennels so early routine is different, and I have a holiday feeling! No demanding furry creatures desperate to get down to the beach… so I made a second cup of coffee, and padded bare-footed to the table to open my Bible. Nowt odd in that. All over the world thousands of people are doing the same thing, but now the idea grabbed me, thrilled me, the image of a thousand people doing that very same thing, maybe more… a million? Too much? The consciousness of people all over the world doing the very same thing at the very same time, turning to God in praise and expectation  filled my senses with delight, brought tears prickling to my eyes. Tears of gratitude.  Two thousand years after Christ,  half a world away … a world that’s hardly recognisable to the one He lived in… and yet here we are. Here we are, ready and listening, and drinking in His every word.

And then I opened the book, and look where the ribbon was:

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TWO whole pages of red letter words. Two pages of Jesus Christ talking to me down all the centuries across the lands and seas and rivers, mountain and cities and every culture…. a journey of immense distance, unimaginable time…. and here He is. His word. To little old me, bare footed, scruffy,  once lost and now found, sipping coffee, lost in wonder, awe and praise.

The words of God! Savoured, recorded, translated, guarded, remembered, passed down, to nourish and instruct, guide and comfort, govern and delight.

I mean COME ONNNNNN! If that doesn’t excite you and challenge you…. pinch yourself. Check you’re still alive.

She dwelt among the untrodden ways.

I’ve lived here or hereabouts for 14 years and for the last 8 have been toddling off to the beach every morning, to walk the dogs, sometimes paddle, always pray (well, for the last 5 years) and meet up with fellow dog walkers. I’ve often heard people talking about the rare orchids growing wild in the dunes but I’ve never seen them although I’ve kept my eyes peeled at this time of year. I know they flower for only a few weeks and that they’re very small but I was beginning to think that they didn’t exist at all.

The other day I was plodding through the dunes to the beach, carefully avoiding the dips and holes dug by rabbits and badgers and rats….. but not carefully enough. David Suchet was reading the Gospel of John to me, and for a moment we lost reception so I looked down at the screen to see that annoying little clock thing telling me that it was buffering, as I stepped into a dip and went flying. It happens in a split second.  You’re up and about and then you’re down and out. Winded! But, you know, I’m really really good at falling. I’ve done it quite a lot in my time, and it never worries me. I sat on the grass and the dogs jumped all over me, the sky looked down on me, the birds sang and I laughed. Ridiculous woman, sitting on the grass in the dunes, breathless and snorting, bounced upon by two small dogs. Ludicrous woman. As I sat there, with my phone flung a few feet away, David Suchet started reading Chapter 7 and I realised that I had to think about somehow getting up.

I have two damaged shoulders (years ago I tumbled down a spiral staircase, ricocheting off the sides several times on my way – told you I was good at falling) and last year I had bursitis, and sciatica (that wasn’t a great summer!) so my mobility when upright is great, but when prone, it’s not so wonderful. How to get up? If there had been something to hold onto, no problem, but there was nothing but grass, squirming dogs and……

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YES! Orchids.

That set me off laughing again. Ridiculous woman, sitting amongst wild orchids, unable to move. I just marvelled at the beauty of that tiny flower. These spikes are about 6inches high, that’s all, and to see the colour and the markings, and to know that no human hand planted them… and all they do is give glory to God, and maybe a moment of shelter or shade to insects… or whatever their purpose is… made me feel privileged, not foolish or silly or clumsy, just privileged. And I remembered one of Wordsworth’s first lines “She dwelt among untrodden ways.” but that was all I could remember.

I thanked God for those orchids, for the chance to see them, after looking for them for so long.

It took me about ten minutes to get up, I think. Chapter 7 had rolled on into 8 and 9 and maybe even 10. I tried it with my left leg bent… no good, that was the bursitis hip. Tried it with the right leg bent.. better, but my shoulders don’t push…. I can’t lock my elbows…. I know! Crawl to the bend in the path where there’s a shrubby thing and pull yourself up on that….. nope… the shrubby thing isn’t on this bend…. how far can I crawl? Oh, come onnn, Luce… get a grip. Launch yourself. Pain is but a fleeting thing… and if you fall down again, so what? Try….

By the time I was upright the dogs had wandered off, bored. I took this photo of the orchids and made my breathless stiff-legged way up through the dunes and then down to the sea, my knees green with grass stains. Like a very clumsy four year old.

It’s strange to be 70 years old, going on 12.

I never thought I would live this long.

I don’t feel 70.

I get really bloody furious when the world treats me like I’m 70.

Bloody 70!

“No one wants you when you’re old and grey” the song says… well, stuff that!

I mean, it’s crazy to be this old and still feel this young and unfinished. I should be feeling a bit rounded and polished by now, shouldn’t I?

When we reached the shore I spent a few moments just letting my arms hang loose,  my knees lock straight, my toes enjoying the delightfully cold water…… getting my breath back, and again, lost in wonder again, I thought about the tides which I don’t understand, and the pull of gravity, which I don’t understand, and about the effect our fat little moon has on this fat little planet of ours and I said to God “I don’t understand a flipping thing! I’ve got to my three score years and ten and there’s so much I don’t understand, or know, so much I’ve never even thought of. How can I have lived in this world for 70 flippin’ years and yet I know so little? ”

And then I thought  “You know everything you need to know. You know that God is there, even in the untrodden ways, even when you can’t get up, even when you’re old and daft and breathless. His glory is there, visible in everything, from the big blue sky to that small shy orchid.”

So I thanked Him for everything that morning, the sea and the sky and my cold toes, and for Pip who was chasing birds in the distance….

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When I came home I looked up the Wordsworth poem and it’s about someone called Lucy! I don’t think she bore any resemblance to a fat dog-walker in trainers and a bright yellow jacket wallowing on the ground like a stranded beetle. I think his Lucy was a lot more gracious and graceful than that. Here she is, for your delectation:

She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways

By William Wordsworth

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:
A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!