Tag Archives: Abide

By and large, what human beings want is resurrection without death, answers without doubt, light without darkness, the conclusion without the process." Richard Rohr

I have a confession. I did not want to go to China. If anyone had given me a good reason to stay home I would have willingly taken it. And if anyone has suggested I come home early I would have joyfully packed my bags and skipped to the airport singing songs of thanksgiving and freedom.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted to go in theory. I just didn't want to go in actual I’ll-have-to-live-this real life. It was nothing but the grace of God along with the prayers and enthusiasm of my people that got me packing my bags and on the way to the airport.  I knew  it would be a challenge and I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle it. But I also knew there was a high chance of seeing some things and learning some lessons that could very much change my life. I very much wanted the conclusion without the process of having to live through the difficult things.

Day one – “Alright, here I am. What am here to learn?” I was pretty confident that if I could figure it out as soon as possible then the rest of the trip would be much much easier.

By and large, what human beings want is resurrection without death, answers without doubt, light without darkness, the conclusion without the process.

We want the miracle of something coming back to life but without it having to actually die first. We want to know the result for certain but without ever wondering if its right. We want to fully appreciate goodness but without ever experiencing the pain. We want the end result but without having to work for it.

And right now I could add – we want the joy of risk but without the leap of faith, we want knowing that we can handle the routine of the 9-5 and slot back in to normal life (whatever that means) without having to actually do it. No, just me on that one?!

And why do we want these things? Because dealing with death, doubt, darkness and the process can all be so desperately difficult. We only have one wild life and who wants it to be filled with difficult things?

But the truth is, we never have to face any of those things alone. God is with us every step of the way in dealing with all these things and more. God prepares a feast for us right in the very presence of death, darkness, doubt - we are invited to sit at the table, in the presence of God and celebrate, even with our enemies banging on the door, baying for our blood and reminding us of our ever increasingly urgent to do lists.

O Lord, let me enter into your presence, and there taste the eternal, timeless everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my timebound anxieties, fears, preoccupations and worries.” Henri Nouwen

Is this not what it is to abide? To enter into the presence of God and let it remove all of our timebound anxieties, fears, preoccupations and worries? To keep our eyes on Jesus and abide with God through the tension of dealing with death, doubt, darkness and process.

So if, like me, you've found yourself battling through, hang tight - the table is set and the bunting is up. There's a feast prepared in your honour and God is waiting in anticipation for you to take your place at the table.

Come, have a seat, everything is ready for you.  Abide well.

marc-babin-484748-unsplash

So. How was your Christmas?

Mine was pretty much like the rest of this year – an absolute whirlwind of the loosely planned being usurped by the surprising. Though I learned the hard way that if you spend half the day holding small children and hefting a turkey in and out of the oven your arms will ache for atleast a week. Even brushing my hair is a challenge - sorry to anyone who has to be seen with me in public right now.

Christmas Joy: Getting to meet my 6-day old new favourite
Christmas JOY: Surprise visit from my 6-day old new favourite

I must confess, I was not ready for Christmas this year. I don't understand how its come and gone already, I'm still waiting for summer. I was the most Grinch of all the Grinchs and so reflecting on the reason for the season was not forefront of my mind. But what I did realise is that Christmas is all about abiding - Jesus came to abide (live/dwell) with us, so that we could abide (live/dwell) with him.

The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end of our separation from God. It changed everything. Jesus came to abide (live/dwell) as light in the darkness, offering us hope, peace and joy.

neonbrand-463099-unsplash

God was no longer as distant as before. But here. Present. With us. Immanuel.

And just a few short decades later the death and resurrection of Jesus would change it all again. Giving us access to a home we could fully abide (live/dwell) in together. Forever.

But it’s not just for the future, if nothing else, this absolute madness of a year has taught me that abiding is also for right here, right now. This very moment. Here. Present.

Everyday in China I asked God for the grace to make it through just that day. And the next day I asked the same. And the next day the same again. But I think what I didn't have the words to ask for was this:

O Lord. Life passes by swiftly. Events that a few years ago kept me totally preoccupied have now become vague memories; conflicts that a few months ago seemed so crucial in my life now seem futile and hardly worth the energy; inner turmoil that robbed me of sleep only a few weeks ago has now become a strange emotion of the past; books that filled me with amazement a few days ago now do not seem as important; thoughts that kept my mind captive only a few hours ago have now lost their power and have been replaced by others... Why am I continuously trapped in this sense of urgency and emergency? Why do I not see that you are eternal, that your kingdom lasts forever, and that for you a thousand years are like one day? O Lord, let me enter into your presence and there taste the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, occupations and worries.... Lord teach me your ways and give me the courage to follow them. Amen." Henri Nouwen

This is what abiding this year has looked like - an invitation to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, occupations and worries. To live fully loved, at peace, joyfully, on a foundation of trust.

Is this what I've been doing all year? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (pauses to breathe and then resumes hysterical laughter) hahahahaha.

No.

I had to go to China and back to figure this out, let me save you the journey and the planet the carbon emissions. Turns out sometimes abiding feels like a picnic in green pastures beside still waters.tanguy-sauvin-3118-unsplash

But also, abiding can feel like being on a rollercoaster, holding on to the edge of your seat, both eagerly anticipating what’s next and dreading it, uncertain whether to laugh/cry/vomit/all three, wondering why you’ve put yourself in that position AGAIN and why no-one told you it was a bad idea, clinging for dear life/faith/sanity onto the knowledge that God is good and God is with you always even if it doesn’t feel like it, and praying it will all end soon so you can get off and return to life on terra firma.

Christmas, a solid reminder than wherever we find ourselves and whatever is going on God abides with us. Our choice is whether we abide with Him at the picnic, the rollercoaster or elsewhere.

matt-bowden-515724-unsplash

This is it. There’s no going back. Flights are booked, anti-malarial tablets are ordered and I’ve had my Yellow Fever vaccine, supposedly (I didn’t feel the injection at all. AT ALL. The nurse told me that she’s very good at her job and even showed me the empty bottle. Apparently, I now have lifetime immunity to Yellow Fever. But I didn’t even feel the needle, so did I even really get the injection? So am I even really immune for life? Is my Yellow Fever certificate a lie? Don’t ever tell me this blog doesn’t ask the big questions of life).

Only 8 days to go. Nobody panic.

So, riding right next to Excitement is Lament because all these goodbyes have me realising all the things I will dearly miss:

  • My Favourite. Fortunately, he’ll probs thinks I look enough like my sister that when I see him in August he won't realise that I’m not her.IMG-20180101-WA0011
  • My Favourite’s 1st birthday, my Grandfather’s 90th birthday, my Dad’s 60th birthday and a fair few important 30ths too. ALL THE SAD FEELS FOR ALL THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO EAT CAKE and, you know, celebrate life or whatever.
  • My books. I HAVE NO WORDS FOR THE LOSS OF ACCESS TO BY BOOKSHELF. Do not even speak the K-Word to me (#deathtokindles).
  • My beautiful beautiful clothes. ALL THE SAD FEELS FOR ALL THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO WEAR BEAUTIFUL DRESSES AT BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND EAT CAKE.
  • Croydon – concrete jungle where dreams are made of.Croydon-skyline-sunset-from-mycitybookings.com_
  • Nando’s. And I only need two more chillies until I get free whole chicken.
  • Lemon Cheesecake with raspberries.gianna-ciaramello-466951-unsplash
  • Summertime London. The greatest city in the universe becomes even greater.
  • Tea. Of course I’m taking some teabags but it won’t be the same. It never is outside the UK and you know it.
  • Dairy Milk – see as above.
  • Music. I listen to music all the live long day. I have no idea how to get music on my phone. My brother is rather unhelpfully refusing to come down from York to solve this problem for me. I am about to enter a music desert. Pray for me.
  • Family & friends I guess. Whatevs. Never liked them that much anyway.
  • You. So if I haven't see you already then lets make it happen soon because this is the week of lasts - last Saturdays, last weeks at church and last chance for us to hang out.

ICYMI and you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about: I'm off to The Gambia for a few months to volunteer at a health clinic. Any support you can give would be greatly appreciated: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes 

By Jessica Hagy
By Jessica Hagy
This simple diagram has led me to so much fun and gotten me in so much trouble.
I love comfort. I love not having to embrace the difficult, the stressful and the uncertain. And yet…
Life outside my comfort zone has taught me things I couldn’t have learned any other way. Life outside my comfort zone has developed my character and helped me to grow in faith and hope and love.
Life outside of our comfort zone is both exciting and terrifying. There’s always the possibility of failure with a side plate of embarrassment and wounded pride. But there's also adventure beyond anything we could imagine.
Ever been asked what you would do if money were no object? Apparently, retire tomorrow and travel the world with my friends is not the response people are after. But maybe the question is too narrow – it assumes our only limiting factor is finance. Perhaps a better question would be: what would you do if you trusted even just a little bit more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt?
Would we be bolder? More adventurous? More generous? More loving? More forgiving? More hopeful? Would we find it easier to ignore the lies of doubt, fear and worry? Would we be more willing to push the boundaries of our comfort zone?
Jesus said he came to give us life in all its fullness. A fullness which empowers us to make decisions based on faith and not fear. Faith that God loves us beyond our understanding and there's nothing that can separate us from his love. Faith that God is with us wherever we go - whether we're riding the wings of the morning, going into a difficult situation or even to The Gambia. Faith that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good - whether everything goes well or whether we have to rise from the ashes.

colter-olmstead-407486-unsplash

Confession: This life outside the comfort zone is not the life I usually live - I like comfort, did I mention that already? Though occasionally, I dare greatly enough to start a chain reaction that means I have no choice but to leave my Empire of Comfort and embrace the terrifying, exciting, uncertain and unknown. Case in point: I've waved a fond farewell  to my colleagues and have quit my job with no plan  more detailed than 'travel/volunteer in the general Africa or Asia area.' There’s not much about this that sits in my comfort zone.
I keep being told I’m brave, I don’t know about that – brave, foolish, there’s a fine line between the two and given that it feels like I’ve set my life on fire and at least five times a week day hour I ask God what I’ve done and why I couldn’t be content to just be normal, it certainly doesn’t feel brave. Rachel the wild hippy with flowers in her hair would be disappointed at my inability to embrace this unknown. So here I am, currently navigating the outer reaches of my comfort zone – if anyone wants to come join me YOU’RE MORE THAN WELCOME - I have drinks, food and an epic playlist. The sunrises are amazing and the night skies are devastatingly beautiful. And I have a small idea of where we might end up. Everyone but my Nan and sister will love it!
luca-bravo-149740-unsplash
Sometimes I make myself sick because the very fact that I've written this post means I need to go out be be braver than I want to be. Well done Rach.
What would you do if you trusted even just a little more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt? Dare greatly team.

Dearest Reader,
This is it. I write from my deathbed. I don’t know if I’ll make it to tomorrow. EVERYTHING HURTS. I'm sorry but 50-year-old Rachel the Wild Hippy with Flowers in Her Hair will never invite you over for dinner.
And why? Because I was brave/foolish enough (it’s a fine line) to go for a run in the rain, the day after I actually did some Proper Exercise for the first time this year/since Christmas/since November/since my training buddy ditched me and my motivation and enthusiasm took a hike and I was ill and I was retreating and it snowed and I had to go to Nandos/brunch/lunch/drinks/dinner/party.
Such unfortunate timing as during yesterday’s Proper Exercise gym class/hour of torture I had an epiphany:
Maybe abiding applies to health too - what would it look to like to try and abide in health
Such a shame I realised this the day before my unfortunate and tragic early demise. Isn’t it ironic? But lucky for you, I have just about enough time left to impart my wisdom so you can LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.
My life. If I were blonde.
My life. If I were blonde.
I’m kinda nervous to write about health – totes unqualified in every way and totes aware of the shame, misdirection and lies that surround.  BUT NOW I’M ON MY DEATHBED SO I’VE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE. And if you massively disagree with what I say I give you my permission to protest at my funeral – amusing placards actively encouraged.
I'm not talking about fixing all our health problems. I'm not talking about switching up our whole life tomorrow. But I do mean the incremental changes that add up over a week-month-year-lifetime.
ABIDE IN HEALTH Y’ALL. Exercise regularly, eat less rubbish and more good stuff, drink some water and get enough sleep. Life circumstances, allergies, work, kids, underlying health complications… there are a million and five things influencing what this looks like for each of us – you do you. And for some of us, abiding in health will even include the joy of actually getting round to going for a smear test.
ABIDE IN HEALTH Y’ALL. What one thing could you do tomorrow?
Anyways, ‘tis has been a delight and joy to share life with such excellent and admirable hobbits readers. I don’t know half of you as well as I should like (and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve). I regret to announce this is the end… I bid you all a very fond farewell.
See you at the Pearly Gates,
Rachel  x x
P.S. Please tell my mother I want to be buried in my purple coat, Giant Heels and my Most Beautiful of Them All* £4 dress from H&M.
*strangers literally walk up to me to say how amazing this dress is. I kid you not, an actual IRL quote: “That dress is everything I want in life.” Pro Tip: H&M sales are The One.

2 Comments

Generally speaking, all my ideas are brilliant. I am not boasting - this is a fact.
Climb a mountain? Quit my job and set fire to my life without a plan of how to actually put the fire out? Dye my hair blonde? Yes, YOLO and what would Beyonce do?
I rarely regret my brilliant ideas because they are, by very definition, brilliant.
But, every now and again I find myself questioning my sanity and wondering what under heaven led me to that particular questionable life choice. A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat in my ‘cell’ in an old convent entertaining such a line of thought daily.
I was on a silent retreat based on the teachings of a long-dead Catholic Priest called St Ignatius of Loyola.  I'd kept coming across books and articles referencing his teaching and he seemed to have an intriguing take on what it means to follow Jesus. So, I figured I had nothing to lose from finding out more. As for the silence, I’m a good listener and committed introvert. I so looked forward to no small talk over meals and time to hear my own thoughts. I thought the silence would be a rather giant and delicious piece of cake I’d delight in eating over the course of the seven days of the retreat.
Hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha*stops to breathe* ahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha*cries JT a river of almost hysterical tears*hahahaha hahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
O how the mighty do fall (off their chairs from laughing at their own naivety) and question their supposedly brilliant ideas.
IMG_20180211_150400537 (1)
Home for the week.
Turns out, it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But it was so worth it. I will spend the next days/weeks/years pondering the many things I learned and the many new questions raised. I am so thankful my sanity took a backseat and let my curiosity drive us outside of my comfort zone.
Disclaimer: It wasn’t complete complete silence. For about 30 minutes every day I met with a spiritual companion who, lucky for them, got to listen to all of my rambling and helped me make sense of it. This 30 minutes was life saving. Also, we had two hours of teaching each day. And Mass. And prayers. And so we heard people talking, we occasionally contributed and we sang. But most of the day we didn’t speak, not even over meals – which could have been incredibly awkward but I ditched awkward a few years ago and life has been exponentially better since.
Silence. No phone, no internet, no TV and no radio. And yet you hear everything else – birdsong, doors closing, doors opening, mud squelching, cutlery scraping plates, wind, waves and rain.
IMG_20180216_145728957-EFFECTS
Let's escape to the beach beach. Let's go get away.
Things I missed:
  • Laughing. Surprisingly, I missed this the most. Sure, there were small things that raised a smile but not much to make you actually LOL. Not laughing was sad and painful and isolating. Apparently, I dearly love to laugh.
  • Being called by name. As the poet once said, what is in a name? Being known.
  • A week of Winter Olympics - whats not to love about an international platform for sports you didn't even know existed?
  • (Things I conveniently avoided: my sister's Birthday; Valentine's Day)
It wasn’t just the silence that was tough. The teaching raised some challenging questions that couldn't just be glossed over. Ignatius was all in:

Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will – all that I have and possess. You Lord have given all that to me. I now give it back to you O Lord. All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with your grace, for that is enough for me.

So, between the silence, the challenge of a life surrendered to God, trying to put out my life-on-fire and figuring out how to get the person sat opposite at lunch to pass the cheesecake without asking them, it was a tough a week.
And yet, I think you should do it too. There were 15 of us on the retreat, we found it hard in difficult ways but not one of us regretted sticking it out.
I learned so much about the goodness of God. I learned so much about the everyday gifts of life that I simply accept as standard and don’t even see. I learned so much about who I am when I’m stripped of many of the things I delight in. My understanding of my OneWord was turned completely. I have many questions about church unity and the lack thereof. I may even have started to put out the fire that is my life.
Don’t tell me you’re scared of what you might find in the silence. You don't face it alone, right by your side cheering you on, giving you strength when you think you've run out, and preparing a feast is the God who loves you more that you can possibly know and who cannot wait to meet you in the silence.
Dare greatly, friends.
IMG_20180212_121439392_HDR