Generation of Joy

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Is joy born, generated or created? Does joy exist only as one of the emotions? Or does joy exist in its own right and then, a ‘window’ in our soul opens and we perceive it?

I think maybe at least sometimes, it surprises us, thus our perception is that it exists in ‘kairos’, which we suddenly enter, apart from ‘chronos’.  C S Lewis’s  Narnia Chronicles illustrate the reality of truth as being independent of chronological time. I don’t really ask in order to introduce some philosophy on joy, rather, to explore common ground. Is this an experience you can relate to? – Being surprised by joy? C S Lewis wrote a book about it and he seemed to think so. Common ground.

I was not feeling especially joyful as I gathered poppy petals to press in the stream of pleasant jobs there are in preparing for a wedding. I have referred to this preparation time and why I’m writing about it, in previous posts. I felt simply calm, perfunctory as I laid the petals out after collecting them, onto papers where they’d be pressed flat under a rug between sheets of paper. Quietly, with a cheeky wink of innocent mischief, Joy came in, as a sister might, and sat on the floor beside me. The colours of the randomly laid petals were intensely beautiful, regulated in spacing to maximise the available pressing area. But there was an explosion in my senses that sparked a memory of an art exhibition of filmed explosions of floral arrangements. The exhibition was called ‘Flora’ and held in the Arts Centre in Aberystwyth in the summer of 2016. Common ground there is in simply exploring juxtapositions of flowers, their colours and how they impact us, disassembled, or even exploding!

I am preparing for the moment in a few weeks when these petals will be showered over a newly wed couple. It will be an expression of joy shared, love poured out with the blessing of family and friends when we, as parents, will let go of our respective ‘children’. Simultaneously, two individuals will be joined as a new unit. We will be illustrating joy with the tumbling of broken flowers.

Although this will be the end of the poppies in their natural form, the joy we celebrate when we throw a confetti of petals is for the marriage itself and what will be generated by this union. Parents in letting go of one child receive back two, with a different set of boundaries and responsibilities towards the couple from those that they relinquish as their son and daughter marry. The new couple will be exploring, evolving, generating new responsibilities and boundaries, and assuming some existing relationship ideas,  as their marriage strengthens. I anticipate it will be blooming marvellous, if  at times, a tad messy!

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The Imperfect being made Perfect

via The strange shapes of seeds of faith…

I’m reading Ephesians chapter 4 and listening to what God has to say from it as I prepare for my daughter’s wedding. Ephesians is a book in the Bible composed from a series of letters to a church in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul.

He says we must be unified in faith enough not to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. I think James also referred to not being tossed about by waves caused by lack of faith. If this was the James who was with the other disciples when a storm blew up and which Jesus stilled with his command, it must have been in his mind when he said what he did in verses 2 to 8 of Chapter 1.

I’ve always had a terrible attitude to the command to consider trials nothing but pure joy. I’m still working on that attitude. But today I have been helped by Rev Kenny, talking about the trial of loss or sorrow over sin. See what you make of it and read it for yourself. I was struck by the encouragement in it so see that faith is indeed alive and hope not extinguished when we cry, when we don’t stop pursuing the image of Christ being forged in our character, despite a setback. Big or small. Devastating or just frustrating. It is this that I hold onto and celebrate in George Herbert’s poem ‘Virtue’.

I said in the last post I’d talk about garments in this one. The importance of creating her wedding dress for my daughter has been significant in forming perseverance, patience and not a little inventiveness in me, if not her, over the last several weeks. I’ve been making it on my ancient and basic little Singer sewing machine. It was a wedding present to Rod and me from my parents in 1985. What a little workhorse it has been over its many years of use! Ann Marie designed her dress and we then chose a pattern that would guide me in cutting out the pieces. However, the shapes had to be changed significantly to make it like her design. I have spent more hours unpicking hastily sewn and beautifully finished, but wrong seams than it took to sew them and undoing is a humbling process, not to mention the consequential rescheduling of other tasks. The reward of finally getting the shape and fitting right only came after I had grasped the nettle of unpicking what I thought was beyond remaking; I’d worried that the fine and delicate fabric would be scarred by the many needle holes. This is all still a work in progress. The dress and the final image, the fitting of the bride for her husband. The allegory shows me how we can consider trials as joy, James, after all! Having a beautiful daughter portray the lifelong process for me as I endure my character’s unpicking to have princess seams resown has been such a figurative illustration in which I’ve been privileged to take part.

I have not enjoyed loss in terms of career, material security and have almost lost my faith over bereavement of people I loved. I do not intend to make light of loss and the terrible pain it brings us, but rather to let this happy preparation time be an illustration and pointer to the most significant elements of life and what it means to do things well. Making a success of our failures and losses is an option. James and Paul both say this in the passages I’ve been led to.  James: ‘Let endurance have its full effect, ask God for wisdom and expect to receive it and it will be given you’. (My paraphrase of Chapter 1 verses 5-6) Paul: ‘Don’t be like children tossed about, but grow up in every way into him who is the head, Christ, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped’. (My paraphrase of verses 14-16 in Eph Chapter 4) I assume Paul was speaking to normal people who experienced set backs too.

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A tiny but essential little piece of  sewing equipment called a ‘quickunpick’.

Diary of a Country Wedding.

Ephesians 4, 11-16 talks about how Christ gave the church people different skills and jobs to perform in order to get everything done that’s needed to create a functioning, unified church.

I’m drawing a parallel with that in how we are preparing for the wedding of our daughter, Ann Marie, and her fiancé, Mark, in a couple of months’ time.

I didn’t keep a diary of the wedding preparations of our other daughter Catie to Pete, specifically, and it is likely that any diary I did keep of the months leading up would have been sporadic and subject to the days as I experienced them, rather than intentionally observing the ways we worked together towards it and how life is interwoven with it’s own agendas, important but unrelated. So I found the momentousness of the day difficult to experience. It was happy, exhausting, beautiful, stressful when I was cut off by a carnival, holy and having huge, eternal but intangible significance: Catie and Pete became one in God’s pattern, and for me and Rod, she was no longer legally our next of kin, or vice versa. We have to comprehend these things in some way and make mental and emotional shifts. If these shifts could be expressed through a dance, I would have been portrayed as a clown in large boots falling over at all the tender and significant moments, blinded by the stage lights and imoblile when I was supposed to be making up an eight for ‘Strip the Willow’!

So I hope to prepare my heart and soul for this. I’ve been doing my little bit preparing in lots of external and practical ways, don’t worry. Two months to go is too late to start from scratch.

I’ve been growing the flowers for it and picked the first bunch today. I have to pick them in order to keep them flowering. I’m not sure about which will or won’t and how the timing will work, so am spreading the risk with a variety of strategies.

Mark, Ann Marie’s betrothed; (have you noticed how some words have been ditched for less committed sounding words? So I’m flippin’ well using them!) is having a great week this week. He hasn’t said so yet in so many words. But someone has to be prophetic if we’re taking tips from scripture!

Ann Marie has lots in the pipeline. She’s been organising the catering; (very excited about the potential horse box converted to kitchen,) the guests’ replies and co-ordinating all the different people who are going to play a part in making the day happen. There’s the worship leading for the ceremony, the celebrant minister who is a long time friend of Mark’s, marquee and furniture to buy and set up. Bunting, lights; cue generator, cue queue; portaloos. Strings and tangles of thoughts, connections and confusions run riot over lists spread around the workspace that is our home.

Rod has been the van man collecting chairs with Ann Marie from Cardiff. He’ll have a marquee carpet to collect in a few days’ time, we hope! Before that can be laid, there’s the ground preparation to do with Steve, Mark and any other willing hands.

Not much has yet been said about some significant garments! Next post. No spoilers.

The first flowers

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Amelia Delaney’s Last Day in Captivity

Amelia’s gaze followed her husband’s retreating back as he walked to the 2nd Mercedes on the forecourt of their Hertfordshire home. She barely heard the clunk of the car door as he closed it and pulled away. Breathing in she relaxed slightly, finished her coffee and considered her options, pulled nevertheless in the direction of the breakfast bar, filling the dishwasher automatically, clearing herself a space to think.

She texted Clara to say she had something else on, and sorry but couldn’t meet her later after all. More space. She liked arranging space around herself.

Unless of course, the clutter was hers. She walked into the extension, a wing at the back of the house that arced their garden on one side and overlooked the paddock and village beyond. Her craft room had been Gordon’s gift to her for her fiftieth birthday, although it had been four years in the making. She still marvelled at her luck that it was hers and felt at her happiest in it’s faithful, cool light. Somehow the door acted as a pressure valve, and the expectations and presumptions she had so far tolerated in her life were at least temporarily left outside it. Now she used the space to reconsider. What have I tolerated? How much space have I relinquished subconsciously?

Beyond the large table that ran the length of the room on the left, her eyes and thoughts were drawn by the painting she had been trying to complete. Her eyes probing the trouble spots, she tried to see them as if for the first time, looking for the obvious tip off. However, she found her concentration was nowhere near what it needed to be, or rather her peace of mind. So, she turned to the pieces of chair cover rumpled up on the table before her. The heavy roll of embroidered brocade she’d been allowed to order burdened the far end. At least another week would be needed to complete replacement covers for their conservatory chairs, more likely a fortnight once she threw in the committee meeting, her voluntary afternoon at the riding stables with the disabled riders, and she really needed to spend some time tidying the garden before it was dark virtually after lunch, doing the bits she didn’t want to leave to Derek, their gardener.

Amelia was not one who liked to leave things unfinished.

What has changed? she asked herself. Two days ago, the trust had all been there, between herself and Gordon. They had laughed so hard. She smiled, despite her discontent, recalling Tuesday evening. He had said he loved her. Now she felt like a toy rag doll, thrown aside in the face of greater priorities. It undermined her self-esteem so utterly, and he never seemed to get it. Time and again, she tried to wise up and keep a bit of her heart in reserve, to protect it from being trashed, but somehow that way, life was mere existence. Buy some time, she self-prompted. Do something to restore your balance. You can carry on with the chair cover. You always knew Gordon would as happily sit on a dustsheet thrown over the sofa, unless his mother was coming to stay, of course. She grinned to herself. But was it sad and futile to carry on making something only she would appreciate?  Yes, there’d probably be a few kind remarks from Gemma and Lionel, and Mags. And some witty, rude ones from Geoffrey. The thought of Geoffrey with his arrogance and stupidity made her shudder. She put the two pieces she had been pinning together down and went back to the kitchen, to put on more coffee. As she waited for the spluttering to finish, she reconsidered.  Her whole life, she had fought the urge to commit suicide, and the ugly old suggestion posed itself to her again.  Incongruously, the mental fight continued in full fury; or make chair covers. Because she had been able to conceive of how they’d look, and could do it, she’d embarked on it with great enthusiasm. And gratitude. How in her element she’d felt then! How could one careless suggestion pull her apart again?  She knew what Gordon thought; his little china doll was always too fragile and always would be. That cage had sometimes been invisible, faded to white in the light of happier times, but in the darker moments it surrounded her and she felt it always would while she was part of his life and therefore had to tolerate his assumptions.

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried to talk about it, and he had listened. He had not understood, though. He overlaid his knowledge of her, his familiarity with certainties she could never undermine or wrest from his determined place of security.

Yes, she thought. It is worth it. I am in my element here, doing these things. He and Geoffrey can sit in the horrid, fuggy sitting room getting pissed, telling each other how hilarious they are. Suffocating in their fucking, opiate old dogmas.  I’ll stay here and do this, being me. But first, I’m going shopping with Clara. He owes me. She texted her friend, showered hastily and left, scattering gravel as she accelerated the 1st Mercedes off the forecourt.

No Small Wonder

I first met you in my daughter’s voice,

Tremulous, sweet.

I first greeted you apologetically for a heart’s leap

of celebration.

Minutes later, I knew

That fleeting moment

Was eternal

As the destiny of new star-light.

Though your light is warmer,

Being knit

In fellowship fused with love,

And a patent

For royalty; The King’s hand

Hardwires you

In filigree glory, His heart teaching

As you listen to Him sing in your mother’s voice;

As you learn

The tenor of Love in your daddy’s laughter

And it’s unfailing rhythm,

present as heart-beat, soft as breathing:

A cradle of Truth.

Sweet and Sour.

raspberries

Under a sweeter sun these berries ripened

that now lie bruised, inert in the dish

to eat them is the process of forgetting;

into the avarice of disatisfaction

they bleed their red juice

onto the sour tongue.

Inured, love obscured.