Next Slide, Please.

I am possibly the only person I know who has no saturation point for looking at other people’s photos.  I am endlessly fascinated by who’s in them, where they are, what they’re doing, what time of day and year they were taken, where in the world. Most importantly though, I’m interested to see what they chose to shoot and why.

Because photos reveal not just their subject matter, but the photographer’s point of view.  What do they draw my attention to? Is it all in focus or only partial? What connected with them about that particular view, those colours, that angle, that light?  What stories are represented in those shots?  What are the relationships captured in the frame? What’s their relationship with the photographer?  What has the picture exposed?

If you’re looking at slides instead of photos (a family archive, say) sometimes the slides melt in the projector (check), or it’s not possible to bring the image into sharp focus because the slide itself wasn’t sharp focus in the first place (check check).

Sometimes a slide will come up and be met with silence.  You just sit in the dark thinking, “What in the world was that?” You can’t make it out, or you’re not sure why the person took it, or it looks like a dud. Maybe the photographer is no longer around to ask.  Maybe you’re just left looking at it for a while, trying to work it out.

My life feels like that at the moment.  The Lord has brought me full circle and I’m facing all sorts of slides/memories in my family archive.  Most of them have me in them, some of them do not.

Many memories are lovely.  Others are ones I half-remember but don’t want to look at closely. Or I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to dig.

I’ll look at a memory I don’t want, a slice of life where we’re all caught in suspended animation and the remembrance is painful, half-buried and unresolved.  The temptation is to  say loudly to the Lord, “Yep, remember that!  Don’t want it!  NEXT SLIDE, PLEASE!

But it’s as if He’s not listening. He keeps the memory before me to gently say, “No, daughter, look again.  I want you to really look this time.  What do you actually see?  Can you find Me in it?”

No memory is unimportant and there are so many.  Yet, since God Himself is the photographer, He is there for me to ask what they represent. To discover His point of view. He is inviting me to view them no longer through my lens, but His own.

I have to breathe deeply and trust this is not futile.  This is me stepping into freedom and forgiveness, so I have to squint my eyes and choose to concentrate. To focus on the memory He’s brought close and personal right up to my face. Difficult memories that I think I know so intimately – those relationships, those events, those experiences, those words – in order to find what I haven’t yet seen in them. Himself. Within me, beside me, around me, beneath me, above me. There all along, just unseen:

My forgiving Saviour

My faithful Advocate

My Redeemer God

My omniscient Friend.

Slowly, slowly, the lights are coming up for me.

And I am beginning to see the whole frame.

 

jsg/aug 17

Mothering As Falconry.

lanier-falcon

I have a fourteen year old daughter.  She is loving, beautiful, witty, creative and brave.  And, boy, does she hate me.

She doesn’t hate me. But, boy, it feels real.

Many changes have happened in her life over the past few years.  Changes over which she had no control and little to go on except the sometimes tenuous belief that her mother has her best interests at heart.  On numerous occasions, however, the stress of our circumstances have stretched her ability to believe this beyond reasonable limit.

At me, she snaps; she flails; she lashes out; she tears; she attacks; she wounds; she hates.

But I know she also weeps, and feels, and hurts, and questions, and fears.

She is like an elegant young falcon the Lord has put on my wrist.  He has entrusted her – specifically – to my care until she is strong enough, old enough and wise enough, to fly away and thrive on her own.

She is attached to my wrist by a thin strip of leather around her leg. So she can fly a little — but must return.  Sometimes I let the leather out further and glory to see her spread those growing wings.  But then it limits the freedom she begins to discover, and she’s furious.   I draw her back to me and she stabs with her beak at the soft tissue of my forearm or lunges at my face.

OW.

However, the leather strip is attached at the other end to a glove given to me by the Head Falconer.  I wear the glove on my left hand for protection – both for her and for me.  The glove is Faith and it shields us both.  It shows me that it’s not just me and her in this to and fro of maturing.  She can flail and nip, but I’m equipped to protect us both from real injury.

And every time she wants to fly away but can’t, or wants to stay on my wrist but I make  her airborne, she battles me.  Yet with every battle, the muscles employed to flail and rail and flap are the same ones she will need even more so later on, when I’m not there. And these crucial muscles grow stronger and more developed each time (as do mine to steady her.)

Sometimes I put blinders on her eyes to protect her from things that would frighten her or are beyond her need to know.  She doesn’t know I’ve put the blinders on because I’ve protected her. She rests quietly on my wrist and I stroke her feathers and reassure her. Such gentle moments are sweet relief.

In her and my struggle, I should remember this: That I only get to keep her attached to me — firmly, wisely, kindly — until such time that the Head Falconer reveals she has grown ready to soar beyond my restraints.

In the meantime, I must see this back and forth for what it is:  a majestic and terrible privilege to nurture and train and comfort this exquisite creature to fly higher and farther than I could even imagine.

FALCO PUNCTATUS

I love her so.

 

 

 

jsg/aug 17

Playing the bass note.

Bass notes blog

There are times in my life – many times over the past few years – where what has happened seems to be one damn thing after another.

Unfortunately, I do not find currency in this.  I have no interest in being “Oh poor Josie!” as if people are expecting one more dreadful thing to come flying at my head. It irritates me hugely.  I am not interested in drama (somewhat ironic for an actress), and I long for the moment when news might travel far and wide on the airwaves prefixed by this, “Oh my word, how BRILLIANT! You will NEVER GUESS what has happened for Josie – she’s had a WIN!”

In the meantime, I sit with what is.  I am not disconsolate nor in despair. I have retained my sense of humour, I can mostly see the funny side.  I have good perspective.

And here’s the interesting thing.  I realise that because my life has so often played the bass note, I find that I can be the “go to” person when friends are in difficulty.  I either reach out to them, or they will contact me.

For here is the treasure of darkness.  Once you have sat in the ashes (and been willing to stay there knowing that, ultimately, God will bring it to good no matter what) you are willing to do it for other people also.

Oswald Chambers (as so often) puts it well:

‘You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you.’

It’s not that you are no longer impacted by tragedy or heartbreak, you feel it wholly.  But you no longer feel excluded from involvement by its enormity.  Because you know that actually there is nothing you can say to mitigate the circumstances, the key is just to show up. Just be present.  Be with.  Sit it out.

I think of the bass notes in jazz and how they ground the tune.  Carve it out, deepen it, enrich it, bring out every shade of tone and temper. They give the higher notes room to dance, to soar, to play around.  They give the music its frame.

Without them the score would be lightweight. With them, it’s breathtaking.

And when those bass notes play in your own life, those who will walk beside you become doubly precious.  Not simply because they know a part of your journey, but because they stayed with you through it, no matter how unending it seemed to be.

I cannot flee the music of my life, it’s my only one. Tellingly, as much as I think I might prefer to be a soaring high note, when I’m rigorously honest with myself I recognise that perhaps really I wouldn’t.

For the greatest riches of my experience have all come when everything else has been stripped away. They are the ones I truly cherish, because they came at a cost.

And of course the greatest gift through all of it is this.  It is indeed because of the bass notes that I have come to know that I know that I know that I know 

IMG_8994 (1)

that God is real.

 

jsg/aug 17

 

 

 

 

Decisions

This is the post excerpt.

And then she was free

Problogue (see what I did there?):

This is my new blog.  I finished my previous blog/incarnation in the early summer.  That character arc took me from married to divorced, Los Angeles to England with two youngish children in tow.  You can read all about it here: www.bashonregardless.wordpress.com.

This new blog is entitled: AND THEN SHE WAS FREE. Not because it’s unicorns and rainbows – the reality of freedom is far grittier than that.  I’ve burst forth from one cocoon to discover slowly slowly who I’ve now become (“I have legs?  Oh my word, I can see!”). But here’s the catch.  NOT into the old world I inhabited. No, no.  It’s a whole NEW one which clearly requires this new person I’ve become.  Old patterns fail fast, new capacities only begin to emerge and I want to cry, “Seriously? This is freedom?”

Yet I believe it is.

So, as I begin, I have come to some decisions.

I have spent a year feeling guilty for all that I have put my children through (divorce, transplant, multi-generational living). A year, I now realize, where I forfeited my right to be the parent because I simply felt so badly for the choices I was forced to make.  The right choices yes, but horrendously challenging ones.  Compromise, compensate, compromise.  Oh my word how the three of us have suffered on account of me.

It has been a year where, by force of necessity, the children and I moved back in with my elderly parents.  A sanctuary!  A safe place!  A kindness! But a time to recoup?  Well yes and no.  It turns out your childhood issues don’t go away when you return home as an adult. Either with your parents or your siblings.  And now there’s no escape.

It has been a year where I was determined to create new community fast, fearing isolation as death. I forged forward and was blessed to discover whom the Lord had placed in readiness in my path.  Sadly, not so for my children. Racism, alienation, and grief have consumed them much. And I have watched and grieved and felt co-dependently guilty as if, somehow, this were all my fault.

So now I emerge into Year Two.  How am I to make my way, like an elephant through the jungle, forging a path for my reluctant children to follow?  What must I decide?

  1. That I cannot live for anyone else. Elderly parents, unsupportive siblings, dysfunctional exes, friends with a different view, even my children.  I have to find a way to make this life work. I must focus and gain ground.
  2. Boundaries must be put in place. No more “anytime you need me, I’ll be there”.  It’s not possible.  I need to keep my eye on the finish line.
  3. That my schedule must be basic to succeed.
  4. That I need to close my door. To process what is truly needed and to reflect on what is left.
  5. To look neither to left or right, but to listen, watch and discern each step. There are wolves, alligators and swamps out there.

I have to say it’s not sexy, this life as a single parent replanted on the other side of the globe.  But is anyone’s?

I would love you to walk alongside me as I navigate this new way of being. Surely it cannot be as bad as where I’ve been. And if it is?  I’ve surely had the training to meet it before it meets me.

Forward.

Jsg/aug 17