Closet space

Today I tackled the task of unpacking my autumn/winter wardrobe.

As I bumped my head on the overhang in the little cupboard under the stairs, lugged the large red suitcase out and upwards, wrestled it (assisted by two overly-excited dogs!!!) onto the bed, opened it and groaned at the disarray that I discovered within, I mourned the loss of my very large and spacious dressing room back in South Africa.

The job of taking all of my summer clothes off their hangers and folding them into neat little piles (just don’t comment on my very obvious, vehement denial of the reality that they will be just as creased and jumbled as the winter ones after six months packed away) to be thrown out, passed on, or stored until Spring was tedious and, if I’m honest, a little disheartening.

Some of my favourites have worn too thin and will not see another season.
Some of my purchases this season have been plain desperate or ridiculous and declared me wasteful – or tasteless!
Some of my staples just seemed so boring and tired and old and I wondered if people had thought I looked that way each time I wore them.

And the work of unpacking started off no better!

“Why on earth did I even keep that?” I muttered.
“I wonder if that will still fit ….” I despaired.
Then “OOOOOOOH” as my fingers touched the warmth of merino wool and my eyes spotted the beautiful black ruched dress that I had bought towards the end of last season.

Suddenly, it was an adventure to pull out each garment. To find old favourites. To try things on and discover that they were in fact a little looser. To screw my nose up at a ghastly colour and wonder what on earth had prompted that particular purchase. To see how, in 6 months, I have changed. And how I have stayed the same. To put things in order, slowly. To accomplish something that I have been putting off since the first cool wind blew our way.

As I hung up the last few items, I realised what a spiritual exercise the afternoon had been because the whole rhythm of my life has changed since the cherry blossoms bloomed, then fell.

I wonder what this season holds in store for me. How, when next I lug that shiny red suitcase up the stairs, life will be different. What new things will have become old favourites? What old favourites will I have outgrown? What will I regret? What will I want to treasure and hold on to? What will I be ready to put away? What will I discover anew with fresh delight?

Are you due for a closet clean-out too?

Lenten letters

To my fellow pilgrims in this season of Lent

I love this time of year!
Palms. Passion. Pentecost.
The autumning of the earth as the temperature cools. 
Leaves donning their gold and orange colours.
Kevin baking his famous chocolate pudding for dessert.
Darkness deepening, lengthening,
inviting us to slow down and rest. 

It is, for many, a time of anticipation – an all-around-us reminder of the turning and re-turning rhythms written into our world by our Creator. Tess Ward, in her prayer book The Celtic Wheel of the Year, offers this profound praise to be offered on rising and resting in these autumn days:

Blessed be you Balance-Holder,
unafraid of the dark from which all newness must begin,
giver of light that draws us on and out into fullness.

(On rising)Help me to balance my need for outgoing
and restoring this day.

(Before resting)With thankfulness for my going out,
restore to me my rest this night.

The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) is the focus of our worship in this fourth week of Lent. It is a story of turning and re-turning; of a young man cutting ties with his family to seek adventure and pleasure and independence but finding himself full of loneliness and longing for that same family when times are hard and work is undignified and unrewarding and friends are fickle. Finally, when he is able to overcome his pride, his feet follow his heart which has turned towards the warm memories of home. He returns to his father’s embrace – and his older brother’s angry face. 

“It’s not fair!” is the anguished cry of the good and faithful son who had stayed behind to work the land with his father and restore their fortunes for little recognition or reward. And there he stands – outside his home, arms crossed in wounded indignation, denying himself the opportunity to share in the joyous feasting that is taking place just a few feet away. The son who had gone out is now restored. But what about the son who had stayed? 

Palms. Passion. Pentecost. Autumn. Turning and re-turning. Dark and Light. Going out and restoring. These are the rhythms written into our world, our life, our church by our Creator, or – as Tess Ward names God in her prayer, Balance-Holder.

I wonder how often we miss out on real joy
~ because we refuse to move and sway to these divine rhythms,
~ because going out seems risky and uncomfortable,
~ because we’re fiercely protecting what is ours,
~ because we want things to stay exactly the same.

May this week bring you opportunities to perceive God in motion and the courage to come to life in big and small ways as the Balance-Holder draws us on and out into the fullness of life together. 

Yours, in Christ,