Finding a voice. Facing a fear.

There is a story told of the husband in his youth. Whenever family and friends would come round he would do his duty and he would come downstairs and sit with the company, however he would rarely say anything. One day when he was asked why he didn’t say anything his response was “I will speak when I have something important to say”. He’s still similar to a certain degree now, he’s not a fan of small talk, and would much prefer to be doing a job, but he’s getting better, in fact he is making it a goal of his.

I was about to write “I’m the opposite”, but I’m not entirely sure that is true either. When I’m with friends and family I can talk non-stop, although I’m also very happy to sit and listen. With strangers I’m not so good, although that is a strength of the husband. 

I have a very loud voice. Give me a stage and I will happily talk in front of hundreds of people. My job is essentially talking, well that’s the bit I enjoy the most anyway. Give me a blog site and I will share my thoughts. Why then do I need to… Find a voice. Face a fear?

In my last blog post Expecto Patronum I explored why I enjoy worship, and get lost in worship, and I think it’s partly to do with the fact that the words are written. Whenever I speak to a group of people I will have my talk written out. I’ve tried bullet points but they don’t work, I forget my key points. I feel safe knowing I’ve got the entire thing written down in front of me. In my lessons I know my stuff, and essentially have a script in my head. 

If I have the words, I have the confidence, I have a voice.

When I was at school I enjoyed my lessons, I especially enjoyed the discussions, even though I never took part in them myself. I liked to hear what other people wanted to say, I would listen to the variety of views, whilst quietly deciphering what I thought about the topic. Why didn’t I speak? The fear. I was afraid that I would be wrong. I was afraid that I would look like an idiot. I was afraid I would be ridiculed. Therefore it was easier to stay quiet. It may have been easier but I’m not sure it was beneficial.

Don’t worry I realise the irony that I now teach a subject where I actively encourage everyone to speak, and where I will often tell parents that their son/daughter would benefit from participating more. Although I do try to create an environment where they feel they have the strength to do so.

I am still the same today. I observe discussions on fb where people get irate and argumentative, but I never participate. I will talk with friends about frustrations and concerns I have in a variety of different contexts, when I am pretty certain that they share a similar view. Similarly I will share thoughts I have about improvements or new initiatives when I know that they are completely solid, the ones that are still in the process stay in my head. Well, the husband and E tend to be the only ones who hear everything!  However, it is rare that I will actually share the concerns or ideas with those who can make a difference, or offer advice and guidance. Why? The thoughts going through my head tend to be 

“what’s the point?” 

“I’m probably wrong”

 “it’s a stupid idea” 

“other people have probably got more important concerns” 

“what will I say if they question me?”

All of these things actually give a pretty strong message of how much, or little, I value myself, which is a whole other blog!

Over the last 3 months, when I have been stepping back I have really felt challenged about being a voice. Not just when I have a script, but when I might be going against the grain, when people might disagree with me, when I might be wrong. Not just when I’m in a group meeting, with the safety of others who I know are on a similar page, or when I’m being asked for feedback.

This is so daunting for me, it goes against everything I have ever done. I need to think about what it is im afraid of and work out how to address those fears. I need to learn from the husband. Currently my statement seems to be “I will speak UNLESS I have something important to say” and it needs to be “I will speak WHEN I have something important to say”.

I teach about inspirational people who risked their lives to be the voice that needed to be heard. Yet I seem to be unwilling to risk my reputation! Another starting point in the journey.

Just one small step

Every journey begins with one small step. That’s all. Just          one        small           step. But it’s so much more than that isn’t it? So often it is that initial small step which is the hardest of them all. 

Why is it so difficult?

It may be because you know it is going to be tough, it’s going to be a struggle, there are going to be times when you are going to want to give up. So maybe it is easier to not take the step in the first place.

It may be because you have absolutely no concept of where the journey will take you. You’re comfortable where you are, with what you know, why change it?

It may be because you know it’s going to be lonely or uncomfortable.

These are definitely some of my obstacles, physically and metaphorically. There are many reasons why it is difficult but it is necessary if you are to start or even continue with a journey.

Over the last couple of years I’ve had to make a lot of small steps, which have been part of one mammoth journey. Questioning vocation, changing churches, changing lifestyle, and running just to name a few. Each time it has been that little bit easier to make the initial, necessary small step. Why? Because although I know it isn’t necessarily going to be easy, it’s probably not going to go in the direction I think it might, and it’s probably going to be lonely and uncomfortable at times, it is also going to be rewarding, it is going to help me develop, it is going to give me confidence to take the next step.

It’s easy to stay where you are, in a place where you know and are comfortable. Sometimes those places are necessary but in order to grow and develop and participate in the journey we need to make that initial small step. It may be wobbly, it may be holding on to something else for support, but that initial step… who knows where it will lead? I’ve taken a couple over the last week, and I cannot wait to find out what is in store! I’m sure you’ll hear about it! 

Tapestry Perspective

I love cross stitch. There are many reasons for this. I find it therapeutic, it keeps me occupied, I love the looks on my friends faces when I give them the completed article, but most of all I love watching it develop with each stitch. Starting off with a completely blank Aida and some threads, and ending up with a beautiful artwork. Art was never my forte at school, I was surrounded by friends who were artistic, in fact I think all of my closest group of friends took art GCSE but I never got it. I’m not creative, in that sense, but I can follow a pattern.

I often sit there, thinking, “really? have I read that symbol correctly? Is that the right colour? It just doesn’t seem to fit, but… actually… it’s a necessity… it adds the right contrast, or emphasis. There are of course times when I have made a mistake, and I have to unpick loads of crosses! The picture above is a patchwork that is behind the alter at church. I don’t know the full story behind it but I know that it is loads of individual squares making up a beautiful rainbow. I’m pretty certain that when each square was being made the people making it couldn’t necessarily work out what part it had to play in the bigger picture, but each square is essential.

This is so much like life, whether it’s in our own personal lives, or whether it is our place in a bigger picture. I hate to use a cliche (well actually I don’t) but each day is a stitch in time. Not even necessarily a full cross, just a stitch. Similarly each of us are just a stitch. 

In one of my many favourite films of all time, Prince of Egypt, there is a song that Jethro sings to Moses. Moses has just found out the truth from his past, he has fled from Egypt, and is welcomed in to Jethros family. Moses feels worthless, and not worthy of any hospitality, or niceness, or welcome. Like in any good musical, this leads to a song. The first verse says…

“A single thread in a tapestry, though its color brightly shines,can never see its purpose, in the pattern of the grand design”

The title of the song is “Through heavens eyes.”

This idea that if we just look at things through our own eyes, then we’re not going to always see the necessity of things, or understand our own importance. We have to look at the bigger picture, for me, that is “through heaven’s eyes”

Yesterday I met with my spiritual director, as I’ve said before, I love seeing her because she puts things in a different perspective for me. I only see her once every 3/4 months, she doesn’t know anything that’s going on in between. She listens to the rubbish, but will often see the good that I’ve missed. I was meant to see her at the end of November, but I ended up seeing a doctor instead! So yesterday we were mainly speaking about what has been going on over the last few months that led to the events of the last month, but also thinking ahead to what is to come. She, like many others, was amazed that I hadn’t had any seizures – one of the glimmers that I need to be reminded about. She asked if I the idea of ordination had reared its head aging, to which I responded NO! And At one point I said “I think this (the whole situation, not just the last month) was necessary for me to fully cement my vocation in teaching”. She went to say something but stopped herself. Before she explained, I think I understood what she was going to say. She nearly suggested it was part of Gods plan, but instead said God uses all situations to speak to us.

I’m not going to get into a free-will/pre-destination debate. But I do know that some people will say that bad things that happen are part of a plan, part of a design. I do not believe that that is the case. I think bad things happen, and those things are often the things that make us stronger and make us who we are. This doesn’t mean it is a good thing, it just means it’s part of the bigger picture.

I know of two individuals who hate the word journey. I also know that o Stictly:it takes two, in the final show they had a count of how many times the word journey was used. I’m not sure why people don’t like the word because to me it’s the perfect metaphor for what life is.  Journeys often aren’t straightforward, but they are always moving, or at least heading somewhere. The direction isn’t always what we tank it should be, the terrain isn’t always easy but it’s going somewhere, and it is affected by where it has been beforehand and the obstacles encountered. When I think of journeys I think of summer holidays as a child…

If I think about summer holidays as a child, this would involve 4 of us plus a dog, a HUGE tent, loads of games, camping equipment, and many other things being squished into a car – that is very literal. There was the usual mixture of dread and excitement. Excitement of going on holiday, dread of being stuck in a confined space with my brother, and travel games which would lead to arguments. We were bound to get lost at some point, definitely get stuck in traffic, there would be heated discussions whilst putting up the tent. Once at the holiday destination there would many more disagreements, and probably getting lost a f ew more times, as well as my dad saying we’ll just go for a ‘little stroll’, and then on the last day the joy of putting the tent away, and fitting all the stuff, and us, back in the car. I am not painting a great picture, but I LOVED our summer holidays. I loved spending time with my family, playing French cricket every night, joining in with other families who were also camping. Having cooked breakfast every day. Playing boggle, doing the word puzzle in the newspaper. Going with my dad to do the washing up. Picking up all the leaflets of local attractions and choosing where to go each day. Listening to my parents talking when we had gone to bed. I am literally grinning as I write it as our holidays were fantastic, and some of my most treasured memories. Yes, there were inevitable down points, but these were completely overshadowed by the joy received.

A comment I received after my last blogpost was along the lines of ‘I don’t know how you keep your faith with everything that is thrown at you’ and I have to say I didn’t really know how to respond. I guess I know nothing but a life of faith. I sometimes falter, but my faith is a part of my being, and has always been a part of my journey. I think this is why I am able to look back and see how the tough times have actually made me, and been an important part of my journey. It also helps in my dark times, I know that I will come out of it and trust I will learn something of myself and my God from it. Richard Dawkins would say I look at life wearing purpose coloured spectacles – if I’m honest, I have no issue with that!

The most difficult time of any journey is when you appear to be stationary. My mum never used to go on motorways, so traffic jams were inevitable when going on holiday. Possibly the most frustrating part of the journey. You literally cannot see what the problem is, or how you’re ever going to move forward. The day before I went to the doctor I was at my house group when a lady asked me ‘what are your plans for Christmas?’ I didn’t have a clue. I was literally living every day at a time. I couldn’t see ahead, and then the next thing I know I’ve stopped. I know that this is a difficulty many people have, which is where we remind ourselves of jethro telling Moses to look at life through heavens eyes. 

I think I’ve probably lost track of metaphors by now. But the main thing I want to get across is a lot of time we cannot see why certain situations are happening, what purpose we have, what part we play, or where it is going to lead. But that is where a tapestry perspective helps, each individual stitch seems pointless, some seem completely useless, and annoying when you have to start a whole new colour for just one cross, but those are the ones that add the detail, the embellishments, the contrast. All are necessary for the tapestry of our life.