You know when you buy a house, how you have a checklist in your head of what you want, and you are positive that you are going to find this house and certain that living there will make your life instantly more successful. Have you been there?
You see yourself entertaining large groups of creative friends eating your delicious paella whipped up in an instant from your inviting yet tastefully cluttered kitchen and laughing uproariously as they perch on your cosmopolitan grey Ikea sofa or take a turn around your mature garden, lovingly overplanted to entice the bees and co-create with creation. The sun always shines on the patio and dust never gathers on the bookshelves.
Is your reality like that? No? Me neither. Life is, shall we say, messy.
Now I’m very happy in my home. It’s not big, it’s not flash – the carpets have seen much better days having had ten years of children and grandchildren spilling red wine, puking, weeing and upending bottles of milk freely all over them. It's full of books and music and photos which gladden my heart. It’s also piled high with itsy-bitsy things which drive my husband to distraction and occasionally have to be tidied and purged. I feel safe here. And for someone who has spent her entire life looking over her shoulder, that is truly a gift.
The garden is shall we say, pocket-sized. It’s not good for a game of football. It’s barely big enough for a game of marbles and as it’s built on a slope, they’d all run downhill anyway. In these coronavirus times, we are spending a bit of money and having a pergola and some decking built so we can see our friends in relative comfort and say yah-boo-sucks to any pesky little germs doing the rounds as they don’t tend to thrive outside.
And it has a set of stepping stones which the grandchildren love. They go the length of the garden, and when you are four, it’s a right old riotous game to go from A to B, jumping from one to the other.
And that’s how my life feels now in so many ways. Stepping stones towards normality.
Step 1 – meeting my friend Helen this Friday for a socially distanced outside walk and a takeaway coffee from Costa (Get in!!).
Step 2 – seeing my beloved son and his little family in our garden on March 29th, even if the pergola isn’t finished by then.
Step 3 – treating my husband to a belated birthday pint in a pub garden on April 12th. We may have to schlepp up at 9am to find a table, but after several months of abstention, it will be worth it.
Step 4 - in May when my precious daughter may make it over from The Netherlands and I will be able to hold that little family tighter than I ever have before and listen to my three-year-old grand-daughter telling me all about speelzaal (playgroup) in her eng/dutch lingo.
And without wanting to sound too preachy – this is how my messy spiritual life is going right now. One step, then the next and the next. Jumping from the yellow to the pink to the white and finding each one holds my weight and I don’t sink into the ground.
Step 1 -sitting on my beanbag and talking to God (or Love – or whatever name invites and doesn’t alienate), every morning and noticing she’s awake, even if I’m not.
Step 2 - opening my Bible and reading a Psalm and discovering words so beautiful they make my soul sing.
Step 3- logging onto a Zoom Quiet Day with my Third Order community and being transfixed by the openness of the words, the language, the acceptance of everything in God’s creation because absolutely nothing comes outside her all-embracing total love.
Step 4 - holding out my hands to the Quiet Day closing words for tomorrow, ‘Come as wounded healer to make us whole,’ and realising that as I launch myself onto each stepping stone, Jesus is there with me,
steadying me as I regain my balance and find I can stand.
Overwhelmed by the nightly litany of human grief beamed into our sitting rooms, I just hunch down on my stepping stone and ask God to be there with me, holding my hand, whispering in my ear that he’s right there with us in all this chaos – in the unbearably sad news of Sarah Everard, the continuing daily death toll from the virus, which even though is plunging like a stone, is still taking heartbroken families down with it, the horror of climate change, the queues of hungry families at food banks, the desperation of the dispossessed trying to make it over the sea to safety.
Sometimes, even though you want to wave a magic wand and make everything right for everyone, you can’t, and you just try to make a difference where you can.
And sometimes you just need a place to rest while the water swirls at your feet and the current threatens to carry you away.
Stepping stones with God.