Wednesday, 30 September 2009
In the super feudal Russian society of the time life of a peasant mother was tough in many respects. Apart from the daily grind, poverty and harshness of the climate, feudal landlords had the right of life and death, they had the right to send your sons into the tsar’s army for an indefinite period of time more often than not never to be seen again, they had the right of the first night with your daughters. All of that was so much more painful for the strong emotional nature of the family relationships.
Yet in the middle of all these unimaginable for us circumstances the faith in God: powerful, loving and just remained unshaken. Looking at the dolls I was reminded of the importance of the ‘Sunday best’ and how treasured it was. I was also reminded of one of my CDs of Russian Cossack songs sung in deep beautiful bass and baritone voices and so moving…We have the image of the Cossacks as the wild riders of the steppes, hot tempered and ruthless fighters and so they were but listening to their songs you realise the deep faith that permeated their lives. A large proportion of the Cossack songs is directed to God in worship.
So here is the train of thought that led me to write:
You are so smart, so elegant-
They don’t see
My hidden chapped hand.
Show me, says He
You are so calm, so serene-
They don’t know
The turmoil I am in.
Tell me, says He
How are you, but
They don’t wait for the reply.
I’ll wait, says He
Good to see you, but
They don’t tell you why.
I’ll tell you, says He
All is well with my soul
Sunday, 26 July 2009
When K had his first birthday this card somehow seemed to fit. It was at the time we knew we were embarking on a challenge bigger than we had ever imagined and which was still unfolding before us. So inside a card that had this verse on the front, I wrote the first of a number of letters and notes to K. It is an ongoing dialogue that he may never understand, but it is part of “us” as much as all the other practical care stuff has been. It is part of our history. So here is this first little note, and then some that followed to give a little background to today, and where we are now.
Reach For Your Goals
8th June 1999
This card says something of what we are feeling on your 1st birthday. We hope for much, but are uncertain of what the future holds, and what the results of all the latest tests will be.
All we know is that it is in God’s hands.
All we can do is our best for you, and as you grow you must do the best you can for yourself.
With all our love…
Last week we all had a bit of a shock. I took you for a genetics appointment, and was told that your condition may mean that you would never sit, never walk and that you would possibly not survive childhood. Even though you have been so unwell, I was not expecting to hear this. It played to my darkest fears, and seemed to flatly explain why you were so behind all your development goals. I felt completely numb, and then settled into a kind of exhausted, embattled acceptance for a couple of days. Finally the “fog” started to clear, and I sat in the garden with you in the sunshine, and saw what was in front of my eyes; you, smiling. You just didn’t look temporary – and I prayed that we would all stay on an even keel, that we would go on believing that you were here to stay and live our lives in that light. Today I went to see nanny and granddad with you, and as we were driving along the M25 Eric Clapton started to sing on the radio. I cried like a hurricane was blowing through me…
Today a song reached into the depth of my heart,
And tears came with unexpected power.
It reminded me of you my sweet.
You, whose eyes gaze into mine, as rich as velvet, and so soft:
Holding me completely, I cannot look away.
In that moment I knew the pain of loosing you would be beyond endurance and understanding and reason.
In this glowing hour you have been all joy,
In this briefness that is so far ours you have enriched this life.
Precious one you are so fragile in your tiny form, your silent world
Cling tight to this thread of life which binds you and me together.
Keep loving me, in all your innocence, caring nothing for my faults,
And I, who so often seek perfection, gaze on at you in spite of all your flaws, and see but that:
The blindness of a love that knows something of the measure of a deeper beauty.
As you fight, I dare to hope that you will stay, and this season of uncertainty will be a memory. That you will stake you claim on mortal life and be all that you can be, in this dappled world of light and darkness.
Do you know?
My Dearest K,
I am sitting at home reflecting about the last few weeks and thinking that we have just climbed another mountain. It is just a month since you had the operation for a cochlear implant, and so much has happened in that time.
First we had to decide that the operation was the right thing to do. For me this was not easy. It took about a year to be sure – you are so frail, but in the end this was one of the reasons I decided it was the right thing to do – you – we – need all the help we can get. And you try so hard to follow what we say, you never stop looking and staring at our faces. Dad was sure from the beginning, he called it a “no brainer” – but it was he that sat by your bedside all night before the operation, wondering if it was the right thing, and if you would be OK. It was a kind of team work, his early confidence was what got us going down this route, and a years worth of studying the facts, figures and outcomes allowed me to rattle off enough information to keep us on course in the last minute of panic. I think it’s a boy/ girl thing!
Any way what I really wanted to say is:
Do you know that we did this because we want the best for you?
That we weighed up all the pluses and minuses and made our best decision.
Do you know that we love you, and want to give you every chance to thrive?
Do you know that all of us, your Dad, Amy and me, stayed with you every minute of every day? You were never on your own.
Do you know that in what lies ahead we will keep doing all that we can? We will pray for you, keep your appointments, do all your therapies, play with you and always love you.
1st June 2009
I can’t imagine where the time has gone! In the last couple of weeks I have been looking over pictures, letters and diaries from the last eleven years, and it is hard to say how we have got from there to here.
You have just burst through the front door, back from school, shouting that:
“May finished. June my birthday!”
And we have just studied the calendar and counted seven days until you are eleven.
I know that the last eleven years have not been easy for you or for me, but the “me and you” of nine and ten years ago are cheering their heads off for the “me and you” of today.
In Matthew chapter 6 the bible tells us:
“…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I think we have navigated a great deal of the last eleven years on that basis. I think you are the better student of this though, I do not think you worry about much; you are full of confidence and seem to expect good things. I on the other hand have learned to live in the light of this scripture, but it has been a hard discipline.
When you were 4 years old and we were going through a particularly fraught and painful time with a great deal at stake, I was constantly, almost frantically, calling on God for help. At that time God gave me a verse and I believe He spoke it over your whole life, for me to be done once and for all with all the worry:
“Be still and know that I am God”
It has come back to me time and time again as new challenges have come along, and I know it hangs out there in the future covering my greatest fears and uncertainties. But for now, for today, I want to do two things. I want to celebrate you, K. Celebrate our journey, and all you have achieved. You are still “all joy” even when you are not! After everything, how could it be any different? So before I go rushing headlong into party invitations and chocolate flake cake, family get-togethers and birthday presents, let’s just stop, you and me, and be so grateful for today. For the miracle it is on so many levels, and the journey that brought us here.
And then, I want to thank God for all he has given us. For your lovely Dad, and Amy, who have made this journey too. For all the times God has stepped in when we couldn’t “step” any more and for how all the near misses were always certain victories in His hands.
With love always,
Friday, 24 April 2009
Diadems of aquamarine
And golden dunes with crystal glint.
Blue blazing bright;
The radiant warmth from this early sun,
Chasing away the residual winter chill.
Dark cliffs clothing again
Their winter skeletons with radiant leaf
And emerald jewel,
Green glowing gild
The promised newness this season heralds.
Karen Mehta 19-04-09
Friday, 20 March 2009
The girls are getting impatient and keep asking when we will go home. And, guess who will be saddled with the task of buying that present…
She was not looking forward to this shopping trip anyway; Brenda is so difficult!
It’s not that she is ungrateful; she says all the right things when opening her gifts but weeks later you find out that the lovely bubble bath is still unopened in the bathroom, RHS membership is never activated, the amaryllis bulb withers sadly in the original box…..and so on. How do you cope with that?
The only thing that gets used are the M&S gift vouchers, and even that produces another pair of black trousers or a beige cardigan!!!
There is nothing exciting or frivolous about Brenda. Oh!! If only I could shake her out of her black and beige existence!!!
Come to think of it there is nothing frivolous about Adrian either. In fact it was his steady, placid character that attracted her to him in the first place. It felt so secure and peaceful compared to her own, tumultuous and unpredictable family life. But now, fifteen years later, she has moments when she feels it would make a welcome change if, now and then, he would surprise her with a ridiculous idea, extravagant gesture, a bit of silliness…anything to break the predictability and monotony of their relationship.
There is no point talking about it, or loosing your temper; he just does not understand what she means. At time she wonders if he even hears what she is saying. The best she can draw out of him is his gentle “yeah…yeah”.
They seem so much alike: Adrian and Brenda.
Adrian does not say much about their childhood or their parents and she often wonders what it might have been like growing up with an older sister like Brenda. He is so devoted to her and so protective. With all his mildness and malleability he will not allow a word of criticism of her behaviour. How come she inspires such loyalty???
Monday, 16 March 2009
From time to time I consider the miracle of being transported in this pressurised metal tube that traverses land and sea with hundreds of hot sleeping forms lying in uncomfortable contortion. My legs feel like sausages on the barbeque ready to spit and burst and my head aches with a dull throb as we glide between heaven and earth.
All is dark as the cabin lights are off and all port shades drawn to keep out the brightness of the day. Those who can sleep defy the time zones and claim their night whilst others like me wrestle with our wakefulness and try to obtain the oblivion of sleep that will blot out the strangeness of this suspension. The elegant silk suited crew are watchful like exotic birds hovering over a ploughed field. They walk up and down the aisles with trays carrying jugs of water and tiny plastic cups looking to rehydrated those who catch their eye.
Imsomniacs slide into a perfectly private world through the distraction of ipods, books, or laptop films. Others cannot escape so they watch every movement of the crew and register the faces of passengers who lurch to the back of the plane to queue for toilets.
A flight is never an end in itself. Who could endure this imprisonment without some grand reward waiting to repair the wounds to body and mind made by changing continent and time zone?
As the hours pass the deck grows ever darker as remaining solitary lights are extinguished and like the strike of a night stalker's cosh I succumb to fitful sleep.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
In Britain there is a great deal of store set in being “on time.”
Our nation is symbolised by a clock!
But I have come to think there is some virtue in “a little late.”
“On time” feels like a theoretical point in maths that great minds are trying to fathom – to calculate their way to – but haven’t quite got their yet.
It seems unobtainable.
I aim for “on time,” but mostly end up “a little late.”
Getting out on time is such a challenge in all our diversity:
One too old to worry,
One to young to care,
One who just doesn’t get it
Or one who’d rather not be there.
Trying to herd this group of independent individuals into the hall together and out the front door “on time” can create friction.
Better “a little late” in harmony, than “on time” in discord.
Some say “I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late”…Well honestly I wouldn’t… There aren’t enough hours in my day for that.
And what about the boy who came too early, and I mean too EARLY!
Only half ready, all skinny and small,
He couldn’t even breathe for himself,
And as for us, we weren’t ready at all.
Untold things might have been different if he had managed “a little late”
Karen Mehta 09-02-09
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
At last I feel as if progress is being made in my life. Sitting here in Starbucks with my latte and my magazine and an hour to waste seems like heaven to me after the turmoil of the last few weeks. . I breathe out a sigh of relaxation and survey the Starbuck groupies….a couple of mums with their kids…a teenager waiting for a date I think….an elderly man with his newspaper ..I felt I fitted in as the token single female.. Looking out over the supermarket I could see the late Saturday afternoon shoppers scurrying from aisle to aisle looking for the last minute reduced stickers and bargains.
As my eyes settled on the cashier nearest to me my heart missed a beat…Tom is there unloading a trolley .I let my eyes rest on him…almost feasting on the delight of seeing him again after so many weeks. He concentrates on unloading the trolley and seems lost in thought and I wonder if he is thinking of me. I slide myself lower in my seat just in case he looks over to the café and catches my eye, yet I watch his every move .
I tear my eyes away from his face and look at the conveyer belt …Actimel must be for her…Tom never drank it…Ice cream must be her secret eating ..Tom never ate that…Salad bag…she must be lazy..Tom always made his own salad….Full cream milk…silly woman..Tom wont use that for his coffee…Tom casually runs his hand through his greying hair and touches his earlobe in an oh so familiar way as he concentrates on the shopping. He is wearing brown cord trousers and I wonder if they are the pair we bought together at the January sales. I notice he isn’t wearing a tie but an open neck casual shirt that I didn’t recognise. He looks tired as if he hasn’t slept well for several days and I also notice he hasn’t shaved. I smile and wonder if he is trying to be “cool” I allow myself a moment to hold a memory of my teasing him about his designer stubble. The cashier is waiting for him to catch up with packing and begins to help him with the last few items. Tom thanks her and again I allow myself a memory of his almost insane politeness to everyone he met in the course of his day. He is a good man. I loved him. He hurt me.
I try to regain some semblance of normality to concentrate again on my magazine and to drink my now cold latte. But I am fighting a losing battle as all I can think about is what will he be doing now?..Where is he going?. Will he be going home to the house I once lived in.?.Will he be going to cook a meal in the kitchen I once cooked in..? Will he be watching a DVD in the living room where once we both watched DVDs .? As I try to quieten all these thoughts the one I am hoping will never surface breaks through..Will he be making love with her in the same bed where once we made love in? I am undone by this thought and lose the fight to stop the tears falling.
Tom is no longer mine…no longer can I lay claim to anything we once shared . He belongs to her , everything about him is now in her possession and I am alone . I am once more taken back to the day when Tom confessed to me that he no longer loved me All the progress I feel I have made in coming to terms with it is snatched away and I am once again bereft…laid bare…desperate…… If I could comfort myself with the cliché that men leave their wives for younger women all the time perhaps I could begin to rebuild my life and mend my heart. This small consolation is not for me. I am at odds with normality. No-one has done studies or published statistics or written magazine articles about my heart break. Tom has left the young woman…me…to return to his wife…. I have been left for an older woman one who laid claim to him even before I was born. I became the butt of so many jokes and teasing that I made light of it and no-one knew how deeply I was hurt. Today I had felt strong enough to venture into my life to begin again the rituals that make life bearable. Saturday Starbucks was one of the rituals that Tom and I never shared and I had felt confident that with this one small step I would be proving to myself that I could and would survive a broken heart.
I wipe my eyes…blow my nose…and ignoring any glances that come my way. I stand, somewhat unsteady, aware that the Starbuck groupies are watching me and wondering if they would be drawn into my small drama.. I walk towards the exit doors carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone. Saturday afternoon at Starbucks will never be the same for me again.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Cradling a large sweet latte in my very cold hands, I inhaled the reviving aroma of coffee with a hint of caramel, and settled back into the armchair to engage in the elicit pleasure of people watching. The coffee shop was half full of a mixture of young mums meeting up for a slot of sanity, work colleagues talking over business strategies, or sharing the inside track and the latest gossip, and I guess a few lonely people eking out a large coffee, so that for a while they could be part of something with a dynamic for more than one.
As I scanned the room my mind wandered from person to person and table to table, I noticed a colourful slightly eccentric jacket a woman my age was wearing, and became absorbed in meaningless speculation over where it had come from. I was interrupted in my cosy contemplations by the jarring noise of china and metal clattering on a ceramic floor. There was a sudden suspension in everything, the pause lasting for a second, before the wave of conversation moved on again, leaving the tired looking waitress to clear up in obscurity, free from the momentary unwanted attention.
I started watching the only person who had carried on uninterrupted by the mini drama, a young woman completely absorbed by the content of her laptop. I studied her face, not at all concerned that she may notice because she was so fixed on her screen. She had bright intelligent eyes, and although she was lost to her task, her expression relayed a pleasure in what she was doing. As her hands occasionally flitted across the keys, there seemed an urgency in her work. I realised there was a partial reflection of the screen in the window to her left, and I found myself squinting and fiddling with my glasses, trying to glean anything that might tell me more about what was so important to her. After about thirty seconds, I realised she was running PowerPoint, and was so instantly pleased with myself I grinned. She has a presentation I thought triumphantly, so enjoying that I had managed to work out this detail of her life.
With unexpected abruptness she closed the laptop and looked up. I lowered my eyes to my shoes, and started sipping coffee. Feeling caught out in my scrutinizing, I slowly looked up making ready to grab for the paper on the next table if I felt I needed the cover. She was looking straight at me, and before I could look away she gave a broad engaging smile. “I have a big presentation this afternoon” she announced, as she stood and straightened her suit. “I’m venturing into strictly male territory, but I’m going fully armed, all weapons locked and loaded!” I felt my eyebrows rise towards my hairline and my eyes widen in slight alarm. Not just caught out in my snooping, but now a semi-accomplice in some kind of hi-tech wholesale massacre of men.
“Take it easy on them” I offered “I’m sure they have no idea what’s coming through the door!” “Oh I think your right” she almost giggled, “and I’m going to savour every moment. Destruction in my wake; Triumph in my hand!” She tossed her car keys in the air and grabbed them back to emphasis the point as she swept passed my table. “Well you go girl!” I quipped (In a semi-instructional way, this girl was clearly dangerous to know!) She flashed a parting grin in my direction and sailed out the door into the sunlight.
I cast my eyes cautiously around the room again – this could clearly be a dangerous occupation.
Karen Mehta 03-02-08
Friday, 6 February 2009
And then, there was her name: Brenda Smith. You can’t get much more unremarkable than that. She often wondered why her parents chose it for her. It was not a romantic name nor an adventurous one. You just do not fall dramatically in love with a girl call Brenda, not in her experience anyway.
Brendas do not change the world either.
Was it the name that dictated the course of her life?
Perhaps if she was named Clarissa, she might have married a rich banker or an artist. She might have been living a life of parties in a luxurious apartment somewhere in London. Shopping in Harrods and having lunches in those exclusive and terribly expensive restaurants.
Or, with a serious name like Janet, she might have been researching how to prevent the disappearing of bees. She would have been travelling giving lectures and awakening the awareness of scientists and politicians around the world. Important people would listen and respect her. She would have been given recognition and awards for her work.
But, no, she was named Brenda and she had been spending her life working in the local Council Offices without glamour or recognition.
It used to trouble her very much but now it does not seem to matter quite so much.
So, she boarded the bus home with her shopping of three pairs of black trousers and two beige cardigans. She won’t keep them all, of course. That’s the good thing about M&S: you can try clothes at home and take them back for a refund or exchange later.
For one mad moment she toyed with the idea of exchanging one of the cardigans for the emerald green top that caught her eye. But it was only for a very brief moment. Beige is so much more practical.
Yes, there was nothing remarkable about her, except….her unfulfilled dreams.
I encouraged the group to follow this simple acronym: WRITE. To be warm, respectful, inquisitive, tentative and encouraging.
We were not "marking" each other's "work". We recognise that writing can evoke different responses from different people. We understand that our words and stories are part of us and yet separate from us. This reminds us to be rigorous with ourselves but gentle with others. As a wise man in my house says-if you have nothing positive to say....smile.
We read through the cameos and read out a favourite sentence, we reflected on our response to the way the author had drawn the character, the setting, the narrative, and our emotional response to the piece.
This is a scary experience to share our first attempts so over the next few days hopefully members of the group will venture forth and post their writing. So I will go first and introduce you to 'Tom' who I observed in a M1 motorway service cafe somewhere in the Leicestershire area on a return trip at the end of a long day.
As this is a blog with comment boxes we welcome you to follow our guidance and share your responses.
Tom sat comfortably in his world of rest. The headlines of the Independent were scrutinised then read. After a few minutes the paper was carefully folded and the next section deftly selected. Like a heat seeking missile Tom leafed through each section until he detected the sports pages. The cricket reviews were found and then read in depth.
Tom was sitting upright in the plastic motorway café chair. His dark donkey jacket was open revealing a red scarf warm over loosened shirt and tie. His dark, crumpled, three day worn end of Wednesday trousers bore the marks of long days spent on motorways and up and down office stairs. Legs are crossed; feet wear soft, black moccasins wide and worn, moulded by miles of steps. His cropped dark hair has strands of silver illuminated by the harsh fluorescent tubes of the service station lighting.
Latte in tall china cup is sipped over long intervals. The brown bag of crisps is slowly and steadily eaten without compulsion, all attention on the paper. Eyes remain locked on the report all distractions averted, Tom is oblivious as people scrape back chairs and sit in jovial groups with burgers and chips. The report is processed by diligent intelligent eyes; all actions are precise and measured with no excess.
A small white chocolate bar is opened. Snap as a slice is broken; chocolate, coffee, crisps, chocolate, coffee, crisps consumed as eyes remain on the paper. The chocolate is finished and the paper folded. Tom rises; he abandons the detritus of his motorway snack leaving half and inch of coffee in the white china cup.
Tom visits the toilets and washes his hands, a slim man in his mid forties who lives in a world of precision and ordered routines. As he walks towards his car he flicks the electronic key to the bleep as the car jumps like a loyal attentive servant. A quick glance at the windscreen and fuel as Tom slides into the seat. He estimates the time to get home and makes a mental note to turn on the news headlines in ten minutes time.
The car carefully navigates the exit route past the garage with overly inflated fuel, and slips into the stream of red and white snakes eyes and accelerates smoothly to seventy. Tom starts to think of home as he anticipates the enticing aroma of dinner with his wife and children. He will savour mundane details of everyday activities and the mini dramas that his sixteen year old daughter seems to constantly provide. He has already accumulated all the latest cricket scores and he will enjoy the post mortem of each innings with his son who is growing a love of the game to rival his own.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Standing by the lake I am ready to walk. I’m hesitant, full of anxieties, but ready to go. The lake is not the beautiful place I had imagined, it is dark, flat and lifeless. Like a limp cloth, waiting for the wind to blow and bring it life. I feel a little shudder as a sudden breeze carried a light spray of rain, with a jolt I start walking.
The children chatter, running and laughing – tinkling wind chimes dancing in the breezy sunshine. It makes the walk easier, but still the lake seems dark. No memories of sights, sounds or smells, just the need to keep going.
Then the lake is gone and instead the tumbling of water over rocks and stones and through trees; echoing like the beating of a large empty drum, hollow, heavy and slow. The gradient immediately sharpens and sitting waiting in the path are the bags for the day, heavy with the things I think I need to carry. One sack I but on my back the other on my front – I’m looking for balance. I start to climb, but not alone. Its good to have someone to walk with, it makes it easier to keep going and carry the weight.
We all move forward heading for a peak we must get to, but do not know and cannot see yet. Then a sack is gone, taken by another who is willing to share the load. Although the path is steep the climb is easier now, I look back at the lake.
We have climbed so high we are nearly at the peak. When I look back to the lake, it is full of the reflections of the mountains all around, and light bounces off its’ surface in all directions. I can see not just my mountain, my climb, but many others and the lake that was full of forboding, draining and lifeless - is beautiful.
Sunday, 18 January 2009
•Find our voiceWe had a prompt sheet to find out where and what and how we write and to explore possible types and genres of writing we are interested in pursuing. We talked through what we had each recorded and as we reflected this gave a sense of some of the longer term projects that individuals could begin.
•Support and take an interest in each other's work
•Pray for and speak prophetically to each other
•Try something new
•Expect to change lives through the words we write and others read
•Grow in gifting and anointing
•Consider our audience and the different opportunities publish and share writing
•Welcome others to the group
Next we played a word game intended to oil our vocabulary, and get our brains to work and with much hilarity began to see the unique take that we have on word associations.
Finally we were given two tasks to carry us through the next month. One was to make a start on our personal project and the other was to write a short cameo description of a stranger who we sit an observe in a public place for five minutes, so if you feel the gaze of observant eyes when you are packing your shopping or queing up to buy a stamp, be warned-you may be the subject of a piece of prose.
We closed our two hours together by writing and then reading a prayer for a member of the group, and in that short time together we already felt that we had connected and mutually encouraged each other to stretch and grow and expand our horizons.
This group is already growing as word gets out so if you think it may be for you then come along and give it a go. See you soon. Jacqui