26 Aug 2013


We spent a week of the Summer holidays on various beaches with a bunch of friends and an assortment of windbreaks, towels, buckets & spades, camping chairs, cool boxes and flasks of coffee. It was ACE.

One beach in particular was just breathtaking. We ended up there on one of the warmest days of the holidays and swam and played in the sea without wetsuits. Apparently the beach, Barafundle Bay is one of the top 12 in the World and we didn't even have to leave the country to get there.

After a few hours the tide began to creep up the beach. The gradient of the sand was such that there was a steep-ish bank and a ridge of sand about 30' or so from our camp.

Wouldn't it be cool, we thought, if we could create a massive sandcastle at the top of the ridge that would withstand the waves and allow the kids to STAND on top of it? The kids were too busy playing in the waves (and failing to save a long-since abandoned sandcastle from being swallowed up by the sea). But the adults in our group got to work. 

The spot at the top of the sand ridge was chosen and digging implements assembled. I don't know if you have had first hand experience of this, but adults can quickly build an impressively huge sandcastle without children getting in the way. We had a system. We had plastic spades. A common goal. Five of us chucked the sand on, and one stood on top and compressed the sand down, flattening it layer by layer and making it strong enough to support the weight of the 8 children we collectively own.

Within half an hour it stood imposing and strong on the beach. It wasn't an ornate or decorative thing, but it was fit for purpose, topped with a large flat sandy platform to accommodate 16 feet (maybe more- if everyone huddled up like penguins). The tide was still a few feet away and we still had time to save ourselves. Yay!

I scrambled up to join the bigger children. I pulled the smaller kids up one at a time. It was a squash. But it didn't matter because no one stayed long. There were still holes in the sand to be dug. And seaweed to collect. And it's far more thrilling to climb up a massive sandcastle then immediately jump down again than to simply stand atop it and wait for Sandcastle Armageddon. 


I didn't try it.

Once up there I stayed. Initially this was to pluck the smaller members of our group from the jaws of the approaching waves. But pretty soon (probably due to OCD-related reasons) it swapped and became a battle of wills in my head. If I get off of this thing before the sea washes over the top of it, then the sea will win. I don't want the sea to win. Therefore I will stay here.

When the sea is only a few feet away, but those few feet are slopey, waiting for the tide can take a lonnnnnngggg time.

Sometimes there were 5 or 6 of us up there. Sometimes I was alone. Although the sun was still shining, it was dropping in the sky and lack of movement made me shiver. The constant scrambling up and down of many small feet dislodged slabs of sand from the sides, so I patted them back in again. And waited for the end.

I was cold. And horribly sandy. If I could only get down and rinse off in the sea I could get dry and warm and maybe there was some hot water left for TEA?

But that would involve getting down, and then the sea would win.

By the time the waves reached the foot of the castle, some of the kids had got too cold to be wet and were already back in clean, dry clothes. Those left ran up the castle wall and waited for the structure to collapse.

But Armageddon was still a while off yet. We had built the sandcastle pretty high. The game of choice changed from climb up sandcastle and immediately jump down into sand, to climb up sandcastle and immediately jump back down into sea. It looked fun. But if I tried it, that would involve getting down, and then the sea would win.

So I froze a bit longer as the waves slowly eroded our fortress and (rather excitingly) flowed over the ridge and back towards our camp, leaving us stranded on our artificial island. 

After another 10 minutes or so the next wave washed over the entire sandy platform, and the game was over. The sandcastle had gone, but we had WON!!

The remaining islanders washed off in the sea and rejoined our group to a round of applause. When we turned to leave, all that was left was a flat expanse of sea and sand with only a broken spade handle suggesting anything had happened.

OK. F/Fwd to this Sunday and we are in church. Singing a song I've never heard before. Part of it went:

You are everything you've promised, 
your faithfulness is true
When we're desperate for your presence, 
All we need is you

I really struggled to sing this. Not just because it was unfamiliar, but because it wasn't true. At that point in time, if I had the chance to itemise the things I was desperate for I would have said:

1. For my in-box to be empty
2. For the rain to hold off so the 4 loads of washing I did yesterday can dry
3. For the children to be head-lice free (a process I embarked on this morning which took the best part of an hour and a half and resulted in 3 of us being half an hour late for church, and probably the reason why I'm not desperate for anything else right now).

What's wrong with me? 

Then I remembered the beach. And some other things too.

If I can:

• waste an hour and a half of my life sitting like a pixie on top of a pile of compressed sand in order to win a self-created mind game with the Atlantic Ocean

• complain to HMRC via repeated recorded delivery mail over 4 years, 2 MPs and several house moves until they finally lose interest in me and my alleged 'overpayment'

• find 90 seconds every single day to breed dragon pairs and collect fake coins

Then surely I demonstrate my capacity for stubbornness and persistence which can be channelled into something that means something. I just need to be obstinate about things that matter and not give up praying about stuff when it doesn't happen right away.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend's house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don't have any food for him!’ And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don't bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking. And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. (Luke 11, 5-10)

Just say an individual wave got disheartened from crashing into a huge sandcastle then just gave up? A single wave dislodges and rearranges several hundred thousand particles of sand and nothing more. But wave after wave after wave can do this.

And Play in the Sand

14 Aug 2013


We are in IKEA in the restaurant. A mid-shop snack is called for. We get:
• Dime bar cake (me, K and E)
• Peach Jelly (J)
• A mini strawberry flan for Madi (that J will likely end up eating because the only bit she really loves are the strawberries on top). 
There's a fair bit of mouthful swapping going on. I am not interested.

J: Try this mum- it's lush!
Me: No thanks.
J: But you LIKE jelly (This is true- I very much do) 
Me: Yeah, but just not right now. I'm in the middle of a chocolatey thing so it doesn't really go.
J: Then have coke in between.
Me: But I'd still be going back to the chocolate thing again right after a fruity thing and that's not right. 
J: Just mix them then- see! (He nicks another bit of my Dime bar cake, then takes a spoonful of jelly. Chocolatey Dime bar cake and peachy jelly are in his mouth TOGETHER!)
Me: Ewwwh! That is just wrong.

K laughs and compares my approach to food to life in general. I never realised before that moment, but in an instant I make the connection and know he's right.

I am a linear person. Begin, plod, complete, tick, move on.

But I also do right brain stuff and any creative exciting idea that steals into my head during a repetitive boring one will be given priority. Which is why I don't do interruptions that well. 

When there are 10 things to do at once which all are pressing to urgent, I'll pick the nearest one and get on with that. A triage system would be of benefit and let me schedule stuff in order of importance, but that wastes doing time so I just jump in and tackle the nearest thing first. 

Then when that process gets interrupted by the phone / door bell / a more urgent email / the need to cook tea, I get irritated and wish we had normal boring 9-5 jobs. Unless the interruption involves typography, high resolution images or emulsion paint. Then I embrace the interruption and flag the email until later. 

But I hate leaving ANY task half done, so my left and right brains are often in conflict. I have been known to leave a crying child for a good 5 minutes if I've almost finished the washing up and there's no haemorrhaging.* I will let the answering machine take a message if I'm halfway through any task involving addition or subtraction. And I hate waking up in the middle of a dream and missing how it ends. 

* Please be reassured. I stopped washing up when confronted by THIS.

9 Aug 2013

Clutter (pt 3)

I somehow missed The Matrix at the cinema and instead watched it a few weeks after it was released on a boxy 28" TV in my living room having borrowed a really poor quality video pirate from a mate at uni. 

It completely blew my mind. 

I'm actually quite glad I didn't see it on the big screen - I fear I would have completely lost myself and wrestled even longer with the disparity between film world and real life that a good movie or book always leaves me with. As it happened this particular film hangover lasted only until the next morning.

The construct loading programme featured in the film is an incredible premise. The construct is the default appearance of the Matrix - a massive ongoing computer simulation, which has enslaved humanity. Until programmed by the controller, the construct is endless- an eternal white expanse of nothingness with the potential to become anything and everything.

But until programmed, the construct is shapeless. The characters plugged into it are present and can interact with each other, but their surroundings are bare. There is nowhere to hide and no distractions.

Is authentic worship being in that head space with God? Where nothing else matters and you see only him?

Not the person next to you.
No actual or made up interruptions.
Just Jesus.

So much STUFF gets in the way that it's almost impossible to get to that place most of the time. My head is far more Where's Wally than Neo and Morpheus.

Stuff invades our heads from all kinds of sources and lots of it rightly so deserves time and thought and effort. But then there's other things on the fringes that refuse to remain there and if unchecked, gradually crowd into our souls until we've completely lost sight of that little red and white bobble hat.

And then as if everyday distractions weren't enough, sometimes the stuff originates from within the church, or through practises and traditions that are meant to bring us closer to him. (How much of what we do is an aid to intimacy with Jesus and how much of it is just religiosity to hide behind??) 

Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God's message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’ (Mat 7:21-23)

Whoah that's harsh...

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

I don’t want to be first on a list of values; I want to be at the centre of everything. (Jesus, The Shack)

And there it is. The antidote. Like a heavenly paracetamol+liquid brufen combo for the worst toothache ever. And a bit less daunting than confronting demons.

More of you
More of you
More of you
Amen x