Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poetry at the Museum of Childhood

“Poetry in Motion” was out at Strathpeffer this afternoon. We spent an hour or so in the Museum of Childhood at the old railway station. The first task was to write a word or phrase about the first ten objects that interested us, something that stirred a childhood memory or a feeling attached to the object.

I had two problems here. I can say with hand on heart that I remember very little about my childhood. Currently I am reading the first book of Maya Angelou’s biography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. She writes with so much detail and depth.  It’s unlikely that I will ever write my own biography.  Certainly not the early years. Not only can I not remember much, but I think it was not particularly that remarkable. I have a feeling that the things I think I remember were stories told to me over and over again that I have made my memories, if you know what I mean. I don’t know where the dividing line between story and reality lies.

Second problem – the museum wasn’t about my childhood.  The people I was with poked and prodded the dolls and the marbles and studied the pictures of cutting peat and collecting clams on a muddy beach. They remembered leather satchels and Peter Rabbit books. It was an interesting hour – but not evocative of my childhood. I had dolls. I might have had marbles too. I never cut peat or collected clams. I remember the occasional afternoon spent gleaning rosehips from hedges.  I don’t remember ever tasting the rose-hip syrup they became.

I made my list of ten. It wasn’t a satisfying list or one full of surprises.

The next task was to choose one or two of the objects and write about them – the colour, the shape, the function and anything else that comes to mind.  I took myself off to sit in the sunshine at a picnic table.

The Pram

Hers was not small and neat.  It never folded away to take up as little space as possible on the bus.

She never used the bus anyway. There was something of the claustrophobic about her. She imagined the bus crashing.  She knew she would be unable to climb out of a tiny window should the bus come to rest upside down. She was a woman of generous proportions.

Her pram was big and black, fashioned out of iron and springs. It was a station wagon rather than a nifty compact vehicle. A nest on wings, if you will, housing the next generation of Wilkinsons, silent and wide eyed, rarely mewling.  Three girls and a boy.

She fretted about the next arrival, due in March. The pram couldn’t take five children.  She scrutinised the current occupants and wondered which one to evict.

She kept close to the edge of the road. There were no pavements. A hedgerow of nettles and brambles, punctuated with dog-rose bushes and pale pink flowers, brushed against the side of the pram.

She thought about her children and worried that just as some had inherited her blue eyes and mouse brown hair, they might also inherit her fear of busses.

The pram, big and black, iron and springs, the nest on wheels, was her excuse not to face her fear.

Chosen

Before a word
Was spoken
Before the world
Became
Before the Spirit
Hovered over the void
And order was carved
From chaos

You chose me

Before a spark
Ignited in the hidden place
Before bones and flesh
Became
Before cells
Multiplied and divided
And ciphers concealed in DNA
Dictated character

You chose me

Before light
Greeted birth
Before breath
Became
Before eyes opened
And fingers twitched
And a mother’s breast
Nourished

You chose me

Before I learned
Right from wrong
Before aware I
Became
Before sin engraved its name
On cruel words
And careless actions
And selfish ambitions

You chose me

Before You called my name
And claimed me
Before Your child I
Became
There was no beauty in me
No worth
No advantage
No reason for choosing yet

You chose me

In a world of
Fatherless children
Seven thousand million lives
Disconnected and drifting
I am humbled
Pressed to my knees
Amazed beyond understanding!

You chose me

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Holiday Snapshots

Last week was a visit down south to see family. Although I took the camera down with me I took very few pictures. I used to be a keen picture taker and worked my way up through different cameras and their levels of sophistication. I stopped printing off pictures with the arrival of digital cameras. Anyway, rather than drag you through pictures of people you don’t know, I will highlights some of the events of the week.

Most miserable day

I know.  Holidays are not supposed to have miserable days. And most people wouldn’t classify this as miserable. Tuesday was a very hot day. It was the kind of temperature that was good for the Costa del Sol but not for Warwickshire. Temperatures peaked at 33oC which translates into the high 80s or 90s on the Fahrenheit scale. I have lived in Scotland too long and become acclimatised to cooler weather. By mid-afternoon, my body really didn’t know what to do with itself.  I am convinced I have more sweat glands than anyone else and every one of them was overworked. It was nice to sit in the shade, but even nicer to sit in a room with a few fans shifting air. It seemed as if every part of me was dysfunctional. I can’t believe that I lived in Cyprus for five years in similar and hotter temperatures! Is it an age thing? This intolerance of very hot temperatures?

Nicest niece or nephew

It constantly surprises me that I am related to so many beautiful young people. There was a newspaper article yesterday about the UK population being taller now than a generation ago.  I think that the niece and nephew generation on our family might not be taller but they are a good looking bunch! I was probably quite good looking too when I was their age but middle age spread happened and other aging events.

All of my next generation are nice, but I will highlight two of my nephews.

It’s not often when we go down to visit that we see my nephew Tom. It was really good to see him.  He has a wicked sense of humour. He seems to have reached a place of liking where he is at in life – not the physical place where he lives or the people that he encounters – but just being himself. I like him a lot!

The other nephew, Micah, I hadn’t seen since he was a boy. We lost touch when his parents were divorced and I miss not having a hundred photos of him and his sister, Melody, growing up. I apologise if I stared too much. I do that sometimes.  In my head I had all these deep conversations about his dad, Michael, and the last week of his life in Spain. I reality I talked about Brexit and Scottish independence. It was nice to be in his company and his wife Angela is awesome, confident and friendly.

Most interesting meal

Was the meal that great? The food? Maybe not to my taste. Richard and Linda, my brother and his wife, help out with a cookery club once a month. It’s a multi-cultural thing. Someone had funding from the council to buy half a dozen plug in induction hobs, half a dozen pans and chopping boards and kitchen utensils. The idea was to teach people to cook healthy food. A local church offered a room and the use of the kitchen. It is a great way to learn to cook meals from different cultures.

We cooked a stir fry. Everyone chopped and grated and sliced and quartered different vegetables, threw them into a hot pan with different sauces and sprinkles of spice. Joe is a purist when it comes to stir fries – the spices go in first.  They didn’t stir fry Joe-style. We got to taste one another’s meals. Linda’s chickens had an abundance of left over vegetables.

It was the desert which I really loved. Fruit salad with meringue and vanilla yoghurt. The meringue was vegan. I had no idea you could make a meringue without egg whites. I am wrong! Chickpea water! How would someone even go down that path of using chickpea water? Creativity at its best.

Best afternoon activity

I discovered a shopping gene one afternoon. Clothes shopping has often been a bit of a chore. What looks good on a coat hanger doesn’t look good on me. I also have a little voice in my head that reminds me that I possess knitting needles and a sewing machine and tells me “you could make that yourself!” Let’s not rake up the knitting and sewing days – yes, once upon a while I could have made things, and did.

Linda and I hit the sales one afternoon. She was looking for bedding for spare rooms in readiness for sons and families to stay.  She wasn’t hostile to dresses and other stuff. She collected dresses and skirts and tops much as a bee collects honey before heading off to the dressing room to try things on. She came away with a couple of dresses and ordered other things to collect later.

I caught the shopping bug. The hot weather helped in the sense that what we had packed wasn’t suitable. I bought a pretty top – sleeveless – I don’t really do sleeveless.

I suppose what made it so enjoyable was Linda. She took her time looking through the rails. There was no sense of urgency or hurry. Time was there to be spun out. I wasn’t hurried from one place to another. I wasn’t required to make snap decisions.

More vegan deserts

One of my nieces is vegan. She introduced us to vegan alternatives to some of the stuff we eat. I was just about to say I could become a vegetarian perhaps, but not a vegan, but I like meat too much. Bacon sandwiches – there are probably vegan alternatives.  A vegan lifestyle doesn’t sit well with my basically lazy nature.

As well as the vegan meringue, we also tasted vegan ice cream. It’s not made with the usual ingredients but tastes very much the same. I liked the vanilla ice cream, but didn’t like the chocolate one so much.  

The whole week was one of healthy eating and we have managed not to fall back into the fish and chip takeaway and cake and chocolate eating rut from before. So, although I am not about to embrace veganism or vegetarianism, or the two/five diet, trying to eat better is a good idea.

It was nice to see the family. I miss them. I admit to thinking often about returning to Warwickshire – but I love Scotland too much, and Nicola, and life in a slower lane.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Written on Your Palm

Lord, I ask
I beseech and plead
Show me Your palm
Outstretched and open
Let me see my name
Written for all eternity
Let me gently trace
Each letter
With my trembling fingers
My name
Carved with love
Cut into flesh
By the nails on the cross
And stained crimson
By the blood of Your Son
My own name
Written on your palm

For I have forgotten
And need reminding
That You love me
That the trials that I face
Are light and momentary
That the yoke on my shoulders
Is not so heavy
That the silence between us
Will soon be broken
By a gentle word
That soon
I will be lost
In Your strong embrace

Tears
Cloud my eyes
So that I cannot see
So I must feel
My name
Written on Your palm

Chosen
Cherished
Precious child
Which name is mine?

I hear Your whisper
“All are yours.”

© Melanie Kerr 2007

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cheese Dreams

I am a vivid dreamer. 

Some dreams seem to be very obvious God-dreams. They contain something very profound, life changing perhaps. They have got God stamped all over them.

Other dreams I call “cheese dreams”. Nothing profound happens and they seem to be linked to something that happened at work.  I assume that it’s just the way the brain sorts out stuff from the day. They can be interesting, or not. They can leave a bad cloud hanging over me in the morning, or not. Does the fact that I remember them mean they are not true cheese dreams at all? Sometimes I sit down and pick the dream apart looking for some kind of revelation. Sometimes there is vague insight to be gleaned. Most of the time I put it down to cheese.

This morning I fell among dream interpreters. The intention was a cup of tea with a friend and a handing over of the poetry manuscript for book 2. She had offered to take a look at it and cast a poet’s eye over it.  I’m not looking for any major overhauls of any of the poems, just a gut reaction about whether they made the grade. I have a few poems waiting in the wings for last minute evictions.

Another friend joined us. Apparently I was sort of gate crashing their weekly dream interpretation meeting. The group was usually bigger than just the two of them, but it is school holiday time and people fluctuations were to be expected. It’s possible that it was just tea or coffee on the menu with a break from the dream interpretation side of things – but I tossed a cheese dream onto the table. I was expecting confirmation that it was a cheese dream and no more.

It appears that cheese dreams don’t exist.

I’m not sure what I expected in terms of dream interpretations. I think I was looking for eyes closed and silent prayer and a particular connection to the heavenlies that I don’t possess. I was waiting for “I think God is saying this…” Instead, they took out notebooks and asked probing questions and drew spider diagrams. They went online to hunt down the meanings of the names of the people in my dream. There were corresponding numbers and related Bible verses to explore. They made interesting connections. It was very different from what I had expected. Very thorough. Significant looks passed between the two of them.

I thought it was all down to my insecurities at work. The dream featured people at work being given slices of my responsibilities leaving me lots of time and nothing to do.  I was being overlooked or passed by, or replaced by someone, who in all honesty I felt knew nothing at all about how to do my job better than I could. In the real world much of what I do has been cut down to a minimum and I often feel like a spare part. I know that “they” said I was indispensable and irreplaceable when “they” denied me voluntary redundancy, but that doesn’t mean that I feel particularly valued at times.

I soon discovered as I answered questions and listened to the conversation between the two ladies that unlocking dreams is not always as obvious as it looks. Even if it is just about my insecurities at work, that gives me something to bring before God to talk through and see His perspective. My ladies were not content with that.

My boss, who in real life is so supportive, in my dream showed little concern about my plight.  After some research on his name and linking in numbers and Bible verses they concluded that he could represent God. We all have expectations about God and how He should act – yes, God is supportive. I have been doing my own research into the faithfulness of God for a poem to be included in the book. God is faithful to His purposes in my life not to my purposes. Times when God wants to push me on to a deeper awareness or intimacy can be uncomfortable times. He has begun something in me and He is determined to see it to completion and doesn’t always get my full cooperation. God not acting the way I expect Him to act is something I know in my head, but don’t always embrace in my heart.

There was no dialogue in my dream just a one sided commentary on how badly I thought I was being treated.  I said things and no one answered. I expressed my sense of betrayal and no one said anything. I thought my sense of betrayal was significant. My dream interpreters thought otherwise. The fact that there had been no dialogue about it meant it might not be that important.

They didn’t come to a settled conclusion about the meaning. They missed the usual crowd and the varied tossing of thoughts into the pot. They agreed that despite the dream storyline there was a very positive message coming out. There are, or have been, new beginnings.  It could be work related, or church related or Mel related. It could be specifically poetry related. They didn’t say hard times are coming, strap yourself in. They did say God will show His grace and mercy. And, of course, I should never doubt that God loves me.

What I really valued about the whole experience was the permission granted to express my fears. Dream interpretation wasn’t something done to me. In the context of trying to figure out what my dream meant there were opportunities to look closely at some aspects of my life, to prod and poke around my psyche in a safe environment. All my “negatives” were balanced out with their “positives”.

So, yes, it may not be just about the dream interpretation but providing that opportunity to really talk and explore the hidden part of ourselves.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Those Curveball Moments

The Urban Dictionary defines a curveball as “a particularly difficult issue, obstacle, or problem. Named after the equally tricky baseball pitch.”  A friend of mine was talking about curveballs last night at our Women Aglow meeting.

I almost didn’t go. Imagine the scene - the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and the three hundred men debating which inspired writings made it into the Bible and which didn’t. Think about that on a much smaller scale.  We are not talking about the Bible this time, but my second book of poetry. Working out which poems would make it on to the page and which wouldn’t has been a challenge. I’m still not quite there – the urge to tweak is strong. So, yes, saving the document, my precious manuscript, switching off the laptop and walking away – I almost didn’t make it! Even then, over my fish and chip supper I was still scrolling through the poem list in my head.

It surprised to me to discover that my friend and I share a very similar trait. It appears we are both nervous speakers – except that we are also very confident speakers too. In some situations we are shy people.  Out of our comfort zones we need to take the deep breath and launch out. Our comfort zones aren’t the same. I am comfortable speaking to large groups of people but not so easy with the one to one conversations.  My friend is the opposite – she does the one to one stuff brilliantly, but faced with the large group she is out of her comfort zone.

She talked about Joseph – the one with the technicolour dream coat. She chose not to read his story from start to finish, but picked out his curveball moments. Being thrown into a pit, and then sold into slavery by his brothers. Then to be accused of having an affair with the boss’ wife was not good either. Meeting his brothers later on when they came to Egypt for grain he chose not to take revenge testify to God’s plan for his life. God never approves of the evil that people do, but He works His own plans through it. Everything that Joseph went through was a part of God’s plan to make him into the man He could use, to put him in the place where he could best be used and in contact with the people he could have the most influence over.

I didn’t have a notebook so I couldn’t take notes – a shock to the system, a writer without a notebook! In one of the creative Bible communication course sessions the man leading the course scorned taking notes. He said that it was the responsibility of the speaker to make his word so memorable that taking notes should almost be an insult! I am not sure I agree with him on note taking. I take notes not because the speaker isn’t memorable but because weeks, months or perhaps years later I want to remind myself of the word. Whatever – I didn’t take notes.

One of the points made was about not allowing the curveball experiences to make us bitter or hard hearted. It is all too easy to build walls and tell yourself that you will not let them hurt you a second time – staying soft hearted is a challenge. We might never take revenge in any physical way, but thinking of the numerous ways we could cause harm to someone hardens our heart. We talk about learning through the experience but there is a right thing to learn and wrong thing. Letting God teach us the right thing is important.

She also talked about how easy it is to draw close to God in the difficult times. We have no solutions to the problem so we fall back on God. It is the times when all is going well when we are prone to let things slide. We think we don’t need God so much.

My friend talked about her more recent curveballs. Her son was diagnosed with Crohn's disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive system. He was admitted to hospital for treatment. She stayed with him for the two weeks sharing the same room. Theirs was not the ideal mother and son relationship, strained at times. The two weeks spent together brought about a new relationship.

She talked about the different people she met in the hospital – other mothers with sick sons, doctors who were praying for her and her family, those who had watched love ones die. God had put my friend in that place at that time to touch people with her words and her prayers. The curveball that the enemy would have liked to use for evil, God put it to good use.

When we are dealing with life’s curveballs there is always the opportunity for a wonderful witness to the power of God in our lives. So many conversations ready to happen, prayers ready to be launched, lives waiting for a touch or blessing. Too often we surrender the curveballs to the enemy and allow him use them to badmouth God or other people. Let’s wrest them from enemy hands and let God use them for His glory.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Me Because of You

I’m redeemed and stand before You
Dressed in a robe of righteousness
I’m amazed that I should be here
Treated as Your honoured guest
I am humbled that You chose me
Before the world began to turn
By Your grace I have been given
Blessings I could never earn
From on high You stooped down
To lift me up, to help me stand
You tell me I am precious
Write my name upon on Your hand
Undeserving yet You love me
Paid so much to bring me home
I am nothing, I am no one
Yet You’ve claimed me for Your own.