You can’t rush risotto.

‘The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.’

 

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A rainy Sunday wondering what to make for lunch.  Looking for inspiration I ask my fourteen year old, “What do you fancy, darling?” She replies with the singularly unhelpful, “I don’t know, Mum – something really yummy!

Going down to the kitchen, I ponder my options.  I actually enjoy cooking which is fortunate (who hasn’t asked their kids the question “Do you really need to eat dinner every night?“). It’s a contemplative activity for me. When my hands are busy my heart wanders over a range of subjects, often in conversation with God.  Most often, cooking reminds me of process.

I decided on risotto.  Comfort food on a sombre day and all the ingredients to hand: onion, butter and oil, stock, arborio rice, bacon, a block of parmesan cheese.  Ingredients taken individually and raw that would be hard to stomach.  But it’s the melding isn’t it.  And the order.  And the time that needs to be taken.

There’s no rushing a risotto.  You have to wait for the onion to soften in the melted butter, and the bacon to crisp, before stirring in the rice.   Then the stock can only be added one ladle at a time once the previous liquid has been absorbed.  You have to stick with it and keep stirring.  Get distracted and you won’t get the result you want.

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You can’t trick risotto.  You can’t switch your pan over to a hotter plate and expect arborio rice to absorb the stock faster.  It won’t work.

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Making risotto is a process and requires patience. No amount of your children rushing in and saying, “When’s luuuunch?? Isn’t it ready yet??” will speed it up.  It will take the time that it takes.

I’ve cooked risotto countless times, so I have confidence in knowing that if I stick to the recipe the result will be fantastic.

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As I slowly stirred and ladled, the Lord and I considered parallels with the walk of faith:

  • A good recipe
  • The right combination of ingredients
  • The right order
  • Patience
  • Confidence in the result no matter how long you have to wait

Brilliant.

When lunch was finally ready, the kids loved it.

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And why wouldn’t they? In spite of the wait, it was delicious.

 

jsg/nov 17

 

 

 

 

 

Brother Lawrence wrote ‘Practicing the Presence of God’ relating his calling to

 

What if I’m wrong.

It’s often there, lurking in the back of my mind.  Stalking me at 3.00 am. Catching me out of the corner of my eye.

The insidious whisper of Doubt.

“What if you’re wrong?” “What if you’ve made the most awful mistake?” “What if you read all the signs wrong and ended up here?” “What if this isn’t God’s best for you but in fact – because of you – so very much less than His best?” “What if this place where you are is self-imposed exile?”

Doubt is the cold whisper at the back of my neck on the sometimes tortuous climb of faith.  “Look at the drop, Josie!  My God! You’re going to die!! You’re crazy, there is no purpose to this! STOPP!!”

Stopping won’t help, I’ll just be stuck where I am.

Closing my eyes won’t help. It makes it worse when I’m left to my worst imaginings.

I have to look at what’s in front of me, what’s around me. It doesn’t help to look behind me. And if I refuse to look now – really look – at where I am, how can I possibly glimpse the divine help I’m being given in the moment?

Doubt is wrongly described as the opposite of faith.  I disagree. I think Doubt is Faith’s springboard.  Doubt says, “Look where you are! Look where you are! How can this possibly be right?” Doubt forces me to look, to assess. Doubt is what gives my faith dimension and reminds me that it is faith.

Doubt strikes me into the crystal clear awareness of my situation with a freezing bucket of water.  Shows me how “bad” and how “awful” things actually are (or at least seem to be). Doubt clings onto me on the minute glacial step I’ve rested on for a minute and screams, “This is an impenetrable wall of ice! You’ll die if you fall! And you’ve still got a million miles to go up! You’re all alone! You shouldn’t be here! GIVE UP!!

I have two choices. I can quail, or I can look again at the only equipment I have: the ice pick of faith in my hands, the rope of hope harnessed to truth around my waist, and the boots on my feet.

Without turning to address Doubt lest I lose my balance, I say out loud, “OK! Let’s see how far these babies can take me! Just for today.”

I swing my ice pick with any strength available at that moment, and it digs into ice and finds purchase. Now I’ve got somewhere to go. Next, I look around for the next foothold of faith my boots can sink into.  Their crampons are God’s character, His faithfulness, His purposes, His forgiveness, and His unconditional love.

My other piece of equipment, the rope, was securely attached to the top of this mountain before I began my climb.  I know this.  So I hold it to steady me and pull me up. Sometimes it’s what I use to rest. And at others, when I flail or lose my grip or my footing and swing out over the abyss, Hope brings me crashing back to where I was already.  Bruised but safe.

This kind of progress can be painstakingly slow.  But I’m still moving.

Because here’s the thing, Doubt, as you throw your daggers at me.  What would it even mean to be “wrong”?  How could I know?  Would that make God “untrue”? I can’t evaluate based on whether things are difficult or not. Sometimes the hardest path in life is exactly where God means us to be. Look at the Bible, for Heaven’s sake! He’s on it, He knows what He’s doing, He’s not cruel. This climb is just HARD.

However I got to where I am, the point is I’m here now.

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And I’m not on my own.  I’ve been given what it takes to climb up.

 

jsg/oct 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothering As Falconry.

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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.

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I love her so.

 

 

 

jsg/aug 17

Playing the bass note.

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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 

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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