Thursday, 31 March 2011

where were you when...?

Do you remember where you were on 9-11?  When you heard the awful news that day?   

Or how you came to hear of the tragic death of Princess Diana?  

Does your memory stretch back to the death of the King – I mean Elvis but maybe there are some reading this who can remember as far back as George VI.

We were at the swimming baths on 9-11.  It was about half past three to four o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon.  The boys had lessons in the pool but all of us parents were glued to the TV set in the reception area.  Staring with disbelief at what was going on.  Adding to our number as others came in and stopped to watch the nightmare as it unfolded. 
The whole world was never the same.

When Diana died Andrew was away off shore.  I’d had a restless night with our eldest son who was not yet one year old.  He’d ended up in bed with me and sleepily I reached out and answered the phone as quickly as possible so not to wake the baby.

Andrew had been working night shift and had been watching 24 hour news as it happened.  He saw all the early news reports.  The uncertainty and speculation as the information trickled into the newsrooms across the world.

I held my baby tightly thankful that my little world was safe and praying for the two young princes left motherless.

In August 1977 we were on a family camping holiday.  Probably my dad and maybe my brother or I would have walked to the shop for milk and a paper.  Across the dewy grass of early morning.

“The King is Dead” would have been the most likely tabloid headline.  I can’t remember too many specifics, I was only 9 but I remember bits of the day quite clearly.  I knew then I wanted to buy an Elvis record and when the posthumous single “Way Down” was released I got a copy!  It was number 1 in the UK for five weeks in September of that year.

It didn’t change my world but it had an impact and even aged seven and nine my brother and I realised the significance of the event.

Why is it we remember deaths so clearly? 

Which deaths we recollect date how old we are and bring back a flood of other memories of the time.   It gives us something in common to remember the same date in history with someone although we were maybe miles apart.

The other day a friend of mine sent me a photo of where she was standing when she got a text to say Andrew had died.  I don’t believe it was a co-incidence where she was but a God-incidence.  She knew she had to take a photo and one day share it with me.

This is a paving stone outside the town hall in Inverness.

“He will guide them to the springs
of the waters of life:
and God will wipe every
 last tear from their eyes.”
It is a passage taken from Revelation chapter 21 verse 4 talking about heaven and it concludes
“There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.”
In my head I have an image of God leading me by the hand, in much the same way Andrew would have held my hand and led me around the garden.  God will bring me to the springs of eternal life, wipe away my tears and then give me back to Andrew.  We will both be whole, together and happy.
It’s something beautiful to hold onto especially when the tears start to flow, in the moments when all my brokenness is too much to bear and the the everyday troubles and worries of life overcrowd my mind.

Monday, 28 March 2011

from the church notice sheet

It was my turn to write something for the church notice sheet for April.  

My original thoughts were to write something about Andrew and how my life has changed this year.  Until a chance encounter with an old friend took my musings in another direction.

After I stepped back and read what I'd written I was proud of myself.  What I've written could have been written, last year or even in five years time.  It's not specifically about Andrew it's more appropriately about Easter.  

Easter is a time of death and resurrection, a time of new life and new beginnings something I'm beginning to embrace more readily.

It's another step forward and I'm still moving on!

An Unusual Easter Blessing

It was an unassuming, very ordinary mobile phone with no fancy features.  Left on the shelf for months, discarded twice in its life for a newer model.

Originally it was my phone, an upgrade from the “brick” that wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

Eventually the lack of a colour screen or ability to take photos made it less desirable.  However with a new cover it made a perfect first phone for our oldest son.

Inevitably he soon also wanted something more sophisticated and cool.

But our old phone has found new life in a most unexpected way.

A young man, I once had the privilege of teaching in Sunday School, put out a plea on Facebook for an old mobile phone he could use for work.  His job is as a youth leader.  

I caught up with him the other day and he explained my old phone’s new purpose.

It has become a phone for his youth group to text their prayer requests to.

My old phone number has been resurrected as a PRAYER HOTLINE!

This Easter praise God that he can make everything new and take all that we give him to use for his glory.

And remember when Jesus died on the cross and rose again he gave us all a direct prayer hotline to our Father in Heaven.

Hallelujah and Happy Easter!

Friday, 25 March 2011

One Sided Conversation

There are often surveys and article’s written about how many “minutes” in a day we talk to our spouse.   Actually I haven’t seen one for a while so there’s probably another due any day!  

With the daily pressures of modern living and every one going round in circles trying to get an ever increasing amount of “stuff” done, time spent together is squeezed.  “Quality Time” has become a well worn phrase.

I remember hearing some figures quoted once on the radio, Andrew and I looked at each other realising the time we spent talking together was well above average.

When Andrew was away he would ring me at least once every day!  His favourite saying was “anything else?” and I’d rack my brain to think of something new to tell him.

It wasn’t always easy.

He wanted to hear “gossip” and good news.

He hated problems and complaints.

He liked to know everything was ticking over without him and I was managing but still missing him.

He’d ask what the boys were up to.

He wanted to know if there had been any post.

This is a typical conversation based on what’s been happening here over the past couple of weeks but written in rhyme because I thought it was time for another poem!

Even though I’ve called this post “one sided conversation” I can hear Andrew clearly saying “anything else?” between every verse.  So I added his lines too.

Anything else?

Thought I’d write
                Just to let you know
I’m doing fine
Well, as well as can be expected
                                                I suppose

                                Anything else?

The days are getting brighter
The sun has been quite warm
Everything is growing
                But I miss the sound of you on your “tractor” mowing the lawn

                                Anything else?

The shower’s still dripping
Sometimes it sounds like rain
But I got one problem fixed
Did you know we had blocked drains?

                                Anything else?

I know you’d rather hear the “gossip”
But there’s not a lot to say

                                Anything else?

I can tell you of my walk
And what I spied along the way

Those new houses by the school
What was the last you saw?
Roof trusses sit like skeletons now
In a line of four

And you know the “home” beside them?
Was your Dad there for a while?
It’s all knocked down!
The stunning view would really make you smile

                                Any post?

On some days there’s a big pile
And on others there is none
Lots of paperwork to sort out
And more filing to be done

                                How are the boys?

The boys?  On the computer
Still shouting very loud
Good reports from school though
Made me feel quite proud

                                How are you?

Me?  I told you.
Yes I’m fine
and you think fine’s - OK
Not much else to report
I’ll write again another day

                Anything else?

No just this little snapshot
Of what’s been going on
And how our lives continue
Even though you’ve gone…

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


It starts first thing in the morning.  Before you even fully open your eyes.  As the first song of the day on the radio sinks deep into your consciousness.

Decisions!  Choices!  Alternatives!

What to wear, what to eat for breakfast, which fragrance of shower gel to use this morning?

Or is it just me?

I hate throwing open the wardrobe doors to discover that my choices have been limited because my favourite items are languishing in the washing basket or creased at the bottom of the ironing pile.  You see I know what I want all along and although I love creating a new look there are other times when I crave the comfort of the familiar.

Oldest son is in year 9, which is “third year” in old money.  The year of “options”, picking which subjects to take for the next two years at school.  He’s chosen well.  Ditching the technical and creative subjects he loathes and sticking with the subjects he enjoys.  

He’s thinking ahead to what would be useful for his chosen career – he wants to be a sports journalist.  He wants to commentate on football matches and get to go to as many sporting events as he can and get paid for it!

I wish him well and will help him achieve his goals in whatever way I can.  They are his dreams and desires and should be cherished.

Youngest son wants to be a Lego designer.  He’s creative.  Always building the most marvellous models.  His head is filled with the constant click, click, click of multi-coloured bricks being assembled into his own fantastic world!

His own choices at school in year 9 will be so different from his brother’s.  But I like that, the way both boys are a blend of me and Andrew.  Each one shares a pick and mix selection of our creativity, academic ability and sense of humour.

My own options are now far more vast than they have ever been.  I have the boys to consider in any choice I make but in the end I am the sole responsible adult.  That’s scary and liberating in the same breath.

I have been giving up and reducing the things I “do”, still there are not enough hours in the day!  Something always crops up to fill the time.

So I’m trying to streamline even more.  The “N” word that once so rarely formed on my lips is now my common currency.

In some ways I am like a stubborn child “I don’t want to do this, so I’m not going to!”  Should I stamp my feet too for dramatic effect?!

I’m sure everyone is full of opinions, how I should spend my time, my money.  If I do something a bit different I know I’ll get raised eyebrows and tutting. 

Does that matter?

Maybe I should look to the boys as my example.  They still inhabit a childlike world where anything is possible and their dreams of “what I’d like to be when I grow up” can still come true.

As adults that gets knocked out of us pretty quickly.

Andrew wanted to be a DJ but settled for a life off-shore as that would pay the bills and provide for us.  Dreams changed over time and although the DJ one was set aside I know he still pretended up in the den.  So often I would catch him up there with his headphones on in his own little world as real as the sporting arena and Lego universe our sons live in.

Perhaps my own options and choices should be coloured by my dreams and desires?

I want to write.  That’s apparent more and more as I sit and pour my heart out to you.  Where this will lead to I have no idea but I’m going to pursue getting published.

It’s just the same as when I look in my wardrobe and know what I really want to wear.  Deep down I know what I want to do.  However it’s all too easy to get lost when other things come in, take over and obscure the path we should take.

As you know by now I am a Christian and take my faith very seriously.  It’s my faith, family and friends that have seen me this far on my journey.

So once more I take comfort from the Psalms as I weigh up my options and make my choices.

Trust in the LORD and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD;
Trust him and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
And the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for him to act.

Psalm 37 v 3 - 7

Friday, 18 March 2011

"Let’s go for a walk in the garden.”

Andrew would hold out his hand.

“Come on; let’s go for a walk in the garden.” 

I’d abandon whatever I was doing and have to follow.  Sometimes we’d venture further and explore the neighbourhood.  Looking for secret pathways and being nosy.  Who was building what and how were those new houses getting on?

Mostly Andrew was quite content just surveying his own land. We are fortunate to have a larger than average garden.  Those of you who know me will be laughing at the understatement!  It is a special place even so these days I struggle to see all of its advantages as the enormity of responsibility closes in.

While we walked, we talked and always held hands.  They were special times. 
We spent so many hours together and I always knew we were blessed with Andrew’s shift patterns to get to spend so much time together.  Now it seems we didn’t spend nearly enough time in each other’s company.

I’ve been for a walk in the garden this morning, picking daffodils.  Some are fully open and bright like the sun.  Others are packed up tight, not quite brave enough to make an appearance.

The snowdrops have has their day now and are past their best.  I wrote about them in January.  We’ve all moved on since then.

New buds and leaves are forming on the trees and bushes.  Those determined oak leaves that were still clinging to the tree in December have long gone.

The seasons keep changing and now I find myself looking forward to the bluebells which will follow the daffodils.  I’m thinking ahead.

By then the grass will need cutting but let’s not dwell on that dilemma – cutting the grass was always Andrew’s job!

I also stopped in the garden this morning and sat in one of our favourite spots.  It’s become my place to go and talk to Andrew.  To tell him all my worries and how I am feeling.

Sometimes I just sit and cry.  In fact I think I’m crying more and more, certainly the tears seem to be flowing more readily and easily.  I always knew they were there but somehow I have managed to work out the release mechanism. 

As I sat I reflected on my week.  I’ve won some battles although there are many challenges still remaining. It’s an uphill struggle in places and sometimes all I can see is one problem after another.   My feet slip and the hill becomes a never ending mountain.

However today the sky is blue and the birds are singing. 

Today is a perfect day for a walk in the garden with Andrew.