Monday, 15 June 2020

alone


There’s something slightly lonely about waking up alone in an empty home on your birthday. For years, I’ve been cooped up on a big white ship or with others on the African continent somewhere or tucked up on a Cornish beach…. but today, alone. I think lockdown has shown me a few things about being ‘alone’ and it feels like such a negative word, but I don’t think it needs to be. I don’t mean to suggest it comes without its struggles or to dress it up as something it is not, but being ‘alone’ can be a beautiful thing. Who else gets to ponder in the deep quietness and hear the whisper of their Maker? He seemed to want to have a breakfast party together and so we did. Like an excited child, He woke me soon after 6. I didn’t have to dress up or even brush my hair. We shared some strawberries. He came real close and began to talk.

He told me why He made me and breathed life into the embers of my soul. It feels self indulgent to think about oneself, doesn’t it? It was. But it’s between me and Him and it was empowering and I felt the delight of His breath on my face. I chose to embrace it and it made my eyes twinkle. We have a phrase, me and Him, “He sees it all’ – He reminds me of it when I am frustrated or feel unseen or misunderstood. He whispers it to me when I feel alone and it settles my Spirit into eternity. His whispers hold the broken parts and somehow their fragility lets the light shine through, even deeper. Even if I’d been surrounded by the closest of friends, they would never have been able to get this close. What a lucky girl I am.



Lockdown loneliness has not been a negative thing for me at all. At the beginning, I feared it would be but it has been a joy to breathe, to feel, to somehow even be-friend myself. I can be fairly hilarious company and make some pretty funny jokes!! I’ve found pure delight in country lane walks and evening bike rides. I’ve felt exhilarated by freezing cold swims in the sea and I have received love in so many different ways. I opened my front door to find a handmade birthday banner, some wine and freshly cut flowers from my neighours. I’m not gonna lie, I cried. I couldn’t hold the tenderness of that moment. A tenderness that lockdown had boxed away and yet one that human life could not help but breakthrough.



As I think of all the pain in the world – the grief, the hatred, the <black lives matter> and wonder why such a phrase should even need to exist, I remember, too, that He sees it all and I pray that over every human I can think of. May each precious life know joy that can be found in being ‘alone’, of having the sight of  their Makers eyes on them, of knowing that His love changes everything and that, if you are willing, breakfast in bed with Him is an option open to all. Take a moment and let your Maker whisper. In Him there is purpose, in Him there is intimacy, in Him there is such vibrant beauty.

I’m thankful for my life, I’m thankful for all the ways I’ve experienced joy and love and I am filled with hope as I trust that the best is always yet to come. Who knows if my passport will get to see the light of day in 2020? I know Mercy Ships are just doing their best and whilst we wait, I won’t make that my goal, but instead I will learn to love and be loved right where I am. I will have more breakfasts in bed with Him, if I can.



And so I’m praying that I may never lose this joy of being ‘alone’. It’s beginning to mean something different and the negative connotations have gone. It’s a rich place, a secret place, a place free from distraction, perhaps even a favourite place. There is pain mixed in but pain that has led me to the most beautiful intimacy of all. It’s full of imperfection and it seems, perhaps, that is where the joy was hidden all along.

May you hear His whispers too.

Love always, KWW




Wednesday, 1 April 2020

pruning


It’s a bright sunny spring day here in England. The daffodils are swaying in the wind – sometimes found in tidy gardens and other times pickled beautifully along rural hedgerows. They kind of hold a smile and their bright yellow literally gleams at me and brings such joy. The cherry tree blossom is in bloom and the magnolias are starting too. The grass is a lush green and if you’re brave enough to go outside, you’ll feel the harsh cold wind carrying springtime birdsong. It is pure music to my soul in a season I had not imagined experiencing for the 9th year in a row. I’d literally boarded a train 3 weeks ago, heading for London Heathrow, when I saw the news that COVID-19 cases in the UK had reached over 200, which would mean I’d automatically get quarantined on arrival in Liberia for 14 days. It was a 3 day business trip which quickly got cancelled, together with the trips that were booked for Senegal and then the one that would lead me to Liberia for the next 6 months right after that.  
 
 
There are so many things to process and the recurring thought in my mind is: what does it take for the world to stop? I am saddened at the answer that is in my mind – because I think it seems to only be when things become personal that we start to care and the alarm bells call us to stop. I’m sure that’s not the whole truth, but the world hasn’t stopped for the 1000s that are caught up in the horrors of war or for all those with their own crippling battles that isolate them every day, or for those who die because they don’t have access to clean drinking water, or to treatment for malaria or to access to safe surgery. The world hasn’t stopped for the thousands of babies that get aborted every single day. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be stopping. But why haven’t we stopped before?
 
 

I’m writing as one of the lucky ones. No one I know has been affected personally and so I have the privilege of pondering without the pain of loss. I acknowledge that immense gift with deep thanks and my heart breaks for those who cannot say the same whether that's right now or for many years. Perspective is an interesting thing and as I consider my own losses in all this, I cannot help but think of those caught up in lockdown on floor 19 of a tower block where the violence or addiction or abuse now knows no daylight ceasing and the silent cries of those suffering unimaginable pain.

As life takes on a whole new twist for us all, we are learning to take one day at a time. In the last weeks, I’ve been pruning apple trees at mum and dad’s – delayed because the rain of the last months has prevented anyone getting outside for long enough! The delay means that some of the tress are already sprouting buds and their tender new leaves are visible signs of fruit to come. I asked my mum, ‘do I even cut the ones with buds?’. ‘Yes’, she answered, ‘…they need it. It’s good for them’. And so as I positioned the shears, I boldly chopped away and let the fragile new sprouts fall to the ground. After all that growing, all that trying, that is it! And so it got me thinking of this strange season and the pruning we have all been called to do. No bursting schedules, consumerism curtailed, no personal contact except for those with whom you live, no driving except for essential journeys, a feeling of loss of purpose, perhaps. And yet, of course, He always has purpose.

I’m considering what I need to prune, even the bits that are showing signs of life – are they really what God has called me to for now? As I consider the words – ‘it’s good for them’ – I realise I need it too. We need it. It’s good for us. It makes me wonder what fruit it is I want to grow anyway and so I ask God to reveal the bits that need cutting away. What do I need to make space for? Is it the physical or emotional piles of accumulated stuff – hurt – memories - that need a bit of a prune? Would that make way for more joy, I wonder.

 
One of my favourite's
 
 In terms of Mercy Ships work, I’m continuing to work from my home, going out for my once a day airing and keeping in touch with friends. I saw a real human today as I put my rubbish out and it was a delight! As Mercy Ships ponder and plan and figure out if we can pivot our programs in a way that will serve those who need them and how we can build our own systems and processes to prepare us for the future, I’m finding much grace is needed as we all navigate the unknown. I’ve also submitted forms to start working in my former ICU in Exeter and will await to see what that brings.

 
A bike ride away from home
 
I hope we learn from all this. I hope that we learn to stop and show some tender care even when it’s not so close to home. I’m really wishing we had stopped before now.

To those of you who aren’t up for pruning, or have even been brutally hacked away at already – this question isn’t for you. But for those of you like me, privileged to be healthy and safe, are you ready to do some pruning too? I heard a whisper in my heart the other day, ‘come to me for all that you need’ and I think some pruning will help me do just that.

Love always, KWW  
 
by Charlie Mackesy