Where have you been? 

Hi there! 

This is just a quick post to reconnect and answer those who have been asking where I’ve gone (I know, a year between blog posts is a bit much, sorry). 

The quick answer is that I’ve been living life. Late last year, I became senior pastor of the church we’ve been part of for the last 11 years. Whilst this has been one of the best adventures of my life so far, it’s also been an incredibly steep learning curve, so I’ve been giving myself the time and space I needed to find my feet. 

I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about my little blog and I’m realizing that the things I’m passionate to write about are changing, so this means that my blog is going to change too. In the coming weeks and months, I’m going to be focusing on women in leadership, spirituality, social justice, and life issues. 

I understand that some of you won’t want to go there (& that’s okay), I just want to say thank you for reading my previous work. It’s such a big thing to put yourself “out there” creatively, and I count it an enormous privilege that you invested some of your day in reading my words! Thank you. 

For those who are sticking around, I can’t wait to hear from you! In a week or so, I’m going to start a series of letters to women, from women who are leading in their spheres. 

Xo

Siobhan

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Letting go of my “why?”

I’m sitting on my front steps, sipping tea and listening to The Beatles sing “Let It Be”. I’m soaking in the Autumn sun and for the first time in the longest time, I am at peace. The last twelve months were a relentless journey through the storm. I lost my sister, I lost my peace, and I feared I would lose myself. Whether you want it to or not, grief changes you. It changes the way you view life, the way you view family, yourself, and ultimately the way you see God.

I have lost everyone in my family of origin (with the exception of one brother, and my precious nieces and nephews). I thought I knew how to do loss. When I was told that my sister’s cancer was untreatable, I knew what to do. I would make space for her to walk her final journey the way she wanted to. I would tell her that I love her. I would put my arms around her so that when she was gone, I could remember what her arms were like wrapped in mine. I would cry in private so she didn’t bear the burden of my grief along with her own. I would shield my children from as much pain as I could. When she was gone, I would grieve her, and then I would pick myself up and move forward, and I would be okay because I knew how to lose.

Except this time there was no going on. This time, when I searched for strength, all I found was rage. I found myself screaming at God; “Is this all you created me for? Did you make me just to display grief and loss?” I screamed out the same “why!” that is screamed by hurting people everywhere and I wondered who I would be at the end of this journey.

That’s the thing with grief isn’t it? We all want to know why. We all want someone to tie life’s messy, painful ends into a neat bow. We think if we know why it will somehow make it better, but when it comes to grief there is no explanation that could make it better. So what do we do in the face of all this pain? We can resist it, push it away, and refuse to bend to it but ultimately it will break us. Or, we can bend beneath the weight of our grief. We can let it be, we can cry our tears, groan our groans and let the river flow where it will until it runs its course. We can accept that there are some things we will never understand. We can acknowledge that this part of life feels unfair. We can allow ourselves to sit with the pain and let the river wash around it. We can raise our hands in brokenness and tell God, honestly, how we are hurting.

That’s what I am doing; I am letting the river flow. I’m letting it wash away the unanswerable. I’m coming to understand that God does bring good out of all things (not that it negates or justifies the pain) – it’s just that he pours love on the hurting. I’m giving up my preconceived ideas that grief must have some higher reason or purpose. One day, God-willing, I will be face to face with Jesus and I don’t think the why of this will be on my list of questions.

I think on that day, my request will be this; “Show me”.   Show me the places you held me in the middle of that nightmare. Show me, the ways you wrapped me in perichoretic love so that I could catch my breath when I thought the pain was killing me. Show me, how you created space for me in the storm. Show me, the tears you cried over my heartbreak. Show me, where you were when I needed you. Show me, how you put me back together again. And in truth, I know he has done all these things. When I picture that day, I believe he will show me. I believe it won’t be in words. I believe it won’t be a theological explanation of the fall of humanity. I believe it won’t be a pat answer tied in a neat bow. I believe it will be Jesus’ nail scarred hands wrapped around me, soothing my heart. I believe it will be his tears dripping on my head as he holds me. I believe I will see.  I believe he will show me the depth of his love and compassion for me. I am content that the only answer I may ever have is the embrace of Christ. It’s enough, more than enough.

And so here I sit, in the sunshine…

…at peace….

…at last.

Small Days – a storehouse of memories.

When you bring that brand new baby home for the first time, no one tells you that time will fly.  No one tells you that you will blink and they will be 10, that you will sigh and they will be teenagers, that you will wake up one day and they will be adults. Our baby is turning ten soon and I’m learning to treasure every small day because I know that sooner than I would like, he will be grown. Here is my letter to him…

Dear Joel,

One day the Lego boats will disappear from the side of the tub. One day I won’t hear the sound of your small feet running to my arms in the night. One day my face won’t be the one you look for first. One day you will tend your own bumps and wash your own clothes and I will stand to the side, proud of the man you’ve become.

One day I will close my eyes and smile because right there, in my heart, I have stored up all your small days. I will close my eyes and remember when you fit in the crook of my arm so well and I’ll let the smell of newborn you fill my senses. I will close my eyes and laugh about the days you were small enough to stand under the table with your little fists clenched and face purple, wanting your own way. I will close my eyes and wave you off to school again and sigh that even then the days seemed to pass like lightning. I will swell with love for the little boy who came home broken-hearted about the cruelty of others. I will hug that little boy again and feel the jab of that day. I will be proud that you didn’t let the opinion of others define you. I will close my eyes and draw on a thousand memories, a thousand moments of joy, love, laughter, tears, overcoming, and growth. A thousand memories that are mine alone.

And between now and then, I will tell myself to savour every moment (even the ones that make me pull my hair out). I will tell myself to really listen when you tell me your stories, because this is the only time that your voice will sound this way. I will tell myself to laugh at your silliness and love the way that you don’t know how to behave “properly” yet (and pray that you hold on to some of that silliness forever). I will remind myself never to be the first to end your hugs, because one day I will be wishing for just one more small moment with you. I will build memories that are full of you. I will tell myself to linger in these small days because one day, the Lego boats will disappear from the side of the tub.

Message send failure. 

I’ve saved all the text messages my sister and I sent to each other this year.

I thought it would be comforting to be able to look at them when I’m sad and know that we connected when everything else got stripped away. I saved them but now it’s a bit of a double-edged sword because somehow my last message to her went astray. It didn’t send and now when I look at my phone it has her name and next to that is the line “message send failure”. And I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. I’m not sure whether to be distressed or comforted. You see I know she would agree that in some ways “message send failure” sums up our relationship perfectly. We spent a lot years trying to communicate with each other but neither of us were very good at getting the message across. It was only in the last months of her life that we managed to strip everything else away and speak the same language. The only language that’s left when all else is taken – Love. 

I’m so grateful that we had those moments. Moments where we could look at each other and know that nothing about the past mattered except that we loved each other. Not perfect love, real love. Love that doesn’t need the other person to live up to your standard. Love that sees all the bumps in the road we walked together and all the cracks in each other’s character and says, “that’s okay, you are still beyond precious to me”. So I suppose that in the middle of the pain of saying goodbye to my sister I’m learning about love. I’m learning that love lowers the bar to include us all. I’m learning (in my sister’s words) that “imperfect love is still love”. 

Maybe, most of our lives could be summed up as a message send failure – each of us speaking a different language and neither of us understanding the other- but really, that’s okay. That’s okay, because when I scroll past the failure I can see the heart. I can see her message to me “hey bub, love you” and I know that whether the text got there or not, the message finally did and really there was no failure….. 

  

Not What We Shall Be

Martin Luther once  wrote We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road.”

We are not yet what we shall be… 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, partly because we now have a teenager at home and life is interesting (insert challenging, hormone drenched, funny, frustrating, and occasionally infuriating). The thing is that I keep looking at him, especially when his behaviour reminds me of an episode from the Twilight Zone, and it’s so clear that he is not yet the finished product.  This beautiful boy, who is driving me slightly crazy, is not yet who he shall be.  He is a work in progress and because of this I have patience.  He is a work in progress and because of this, when his behaviour is challenging, I can still find him fascinating, because of this, I find his mistakes easier to forgive, because of this, I find his victories so exciting. 

 
Driving him to school yesterday something struck me. I am so comfortable about giving him space to allow him to grow at his own pace but I wonder, have I ever acknowledged that I am still growing too? Have I ever realised that my family and my friends are not yet who they will be either? Or do I expect perfection from them? Do I expect both myself and others to be the finished project for no other reason than that we are adults? I think I do. I think I have bought into the myth of the grown up – the person who has done their learning, who has answered life’s questions, and who is therefore “done”.  

But are we ever done?

Every day we learn more about ourselves (some of it good and some of it disappointing), about the world and about people. Everyday we experience new things and make new choices and feel new ways – we are never finished, we are never grown up.  So maybe we need to change the term, perhaps we should all be growing ups instead of grown ups. And I’m not just saying this in order to play with words.
If we recognize that we are in a process of growth, then our expectations of ourselves are more realistic. A growing person is allowed to make mistakes, a grown one should know better. A growing person can be shown patience and forgiveness, a grown one shouldn’t need either. A growing person can change the course of their life because they are still becoming who they will be. A grown person is done and they are stuck with who they are.  It is kinder to ourselves if we see ourselves as growing ups and it’s kinder to others too. 
What’s more, it’s not just kinder, it is transformational. My father was in the army when he was young and I remember him telling me that his commanding officer had an interesting way of dealing with larrikins – he would promote them. When I asked why, my father answered me that people will usually live up to our expectation. If we expect them to do poorly, that’s what they will do, if we expect them to rise to the challenge they may just do that too.  What would others do if we expected them to be on a journey of growth? What would they become if we cheered them on along the way and championed them when they were weary or falling down?  They might just see that they are not yet finished and run on along the road to greatness. They might just cheer unfinished us on too.  

Mercy 

Dear Andrew and Myuran, 

My thoughts have been with you all day today, in fact for a while now I’ve found my mind drifting to you and wondering how you’re coping. I’ve been praying for mercy for you both, I’ve been railing against the system that can call what is happening to you justice. I hope that those you love are holding your hands right now and even now, at what seems like the 11th hour, I am raising my voice with thousands of others and begging Mr Joko Widodo to show his greatness through mercy. 
Most of us have never met either one of you but we want to thank you because we have still been taught by you. We have learnt that we are only defined by our worst decision if we allow ourselves to be. We have learnt that people can and do change. We have learnt that sometimes our greatest achievements can come after the thing that seems to be our greatest failure. We have learnt that we all have choices and it’s our responsibility to make our choices count for something. Thank you for teaching us those things. 
Andrew and Myuran, your life counts and we will continue to cry out for mercy. 

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.