Post-mortem of a friendship

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I saw you the other day. You were with your husband, whom I barely know, and your child, whom I’ve never met. I saw you, and I was filled with the usual mix of hope and dread. Hope, that you would come over and say hi. Dread, because if you did, I wouldn’t have a clue what to say. But you didn’t, and I left, experiencing the usual mix of relief and sorrow. Relief that I wouldn’t have to find the words to cover the years and spaces between us. Sorrow over the death of a friendship.

If someone had asked me when the sickness in our friendship began, I would have said it was when we stopped living in the same place, but, on reflection, I can see now that the symptoms were there long before. You see, both of us assumed that we would be friends forever, and so both of us took the other for granted. Perhaps you more than me; because I realised one day that I was losing you, and I didn’t want to let that happen. But by the time I realised it was already almost too late.

So I fought. I fought hard. I wrote and emailed, texted (I didn’t call. I don’t like unplanned phone calls). And I received some responses, but it always seemed that they were half-hearted promises, never fulfilled or too late to make a difference.

You have to understand that I don’t blame you, because in the end, I gave up. I couldn’t keep fighting because it hurt too much.

I recognise, too, that the last missed opportunity was my fault. We had actually made plans. I was meant to drive over to see you. But then the day came and I was sick. And as I am being honest, I need to tell you that part of the sickness was out of fear. My life was a mess at that time, and as much as I wanted to see you, I didn’t want to have to explain, and I didn’t have the strength to hide all the stuff I was dealing with. So I cancelled, and you were lovely about it. You said we’d try again soon, that we’d meet in the middle, both make a trip to cover the distance between us. And this meant so much to me, because all I’d ever wanted was for you to meet me halfway.

And that was the last time I heard from you.

It was your birthday a few weeks ago. Social media reminded me. Even if it hadn’t, I would have known. The date is etched into my mental calendar. And again, I faced the dilemma – do I acknowledge it or not? I tried to remember if you had acknowledged mine. In the end, I let it pass. Once again, I was at a loss for what to say.

Maybe I’m a coward. Because the truth is, I have no idea how to fix this, and I’m scared it’s too broken, and I know I can’t do it on my own, and I’m scared that if I try, I’ll get hurt again if you don’t make the effort. Sadly, it becomes easier not to try.

And I’m sorry, I’m sorry that in the end, history and shared experience have not been enough. I’m sorry that I’ve given up, sorry that maybe you didn’t even notice I had. Sorry for any awkwardness if you should come over to chat next time.

Who knows, maybe one day this will all be forgotten. Maybe there’s a chance it will be like old times again.

So you must know, I forgive you. And I hope you can forgive me.

Book Review: 31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer

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by Jenn Sprinkle and Kelly Rucker

(Note: in case the slightly stereotypical pinkness of the cover doesn’t make it clear, this is a devotional aimed at women – although that it is not to say that men may not get something out of it as well)

I was made aware of the impending release of this book just before Christmas via an online community of which myself and the producers of the book are a part. I immediately knew that the purchase and shipping of this book from the US would be a very good and necessary use of some of my Christmas money. I then waited impatiently for its release and for international shipping to bring it to me, as I knew I needed to read this book.

Those regular readers of mine with long memories may remember I mentioned that I had started this book back in March, at the dawn of essay season (if you are interested, you can read that post here). Those of you who can count may realise that if I have only just finished the book this week (which is in fact the case) it has taken me a heck of a lot longer than 31 days…! But the funny thing is, I found I was reading each prayer on the day I was meant to. If I had stuck to the schedule I had intended for myself, some of the prayers would not have impacted me in the way that they did. Thankfully I was gracious to myself, and allowed myself to take the time I needed.

As you may have realised, my life is pretty hectic, between working and studying. I also find that studying theology has at times actually made me feel a bit distant from God as I get too academic and forget the reason for studying is to know and love Him better. So I used this book as a daily breather between my day job and my studies, to give me a few moments of peace and focus on God before getting to grips again with the essays. This was so needed. Essay writing is stressful, and it was also our busiest time of year at work, so this book gave me the little bit of space I needed each day to stop and rest and reflect.

Each prayer is on a different topic, and not all of them will be relevant to everyone, but even the ones that I didn’t think would be actually did have something to say to me. The prayers are followed each day by a page of Bible verses related to the topic and a few questions for reflection. Some days I answered the questions in my journal, others I just used them to stimulate reflection which led to writing my own prayers.

The introductions and final section of author biographies gave an insight into the process of getting the book out there and made me feel connected to this amazing community of ladies – it showed me how much they care about their readers.

I know I will keep coming back to this book and rereading it when I am in seasons where I need that daily peace. I also have a long list of people I want to lend it to (or even give a copy as a present!)

If you are a busy person who needs to refocus on God, or a lady who struggles with feeling inferior, or someone with a heart full of dreams who needs to find some focus, I am convinced this book will really help you.

This book is available on Amazon or direct from The {well} Studio.

My Awesome God

My awesome God!

Beyond anything I can understand

More than minds can comprehend

Showing us things unseen

Making the unbelievable believable

We’re waiting for You

Hungry for You

Crying out for You

And boy do You turn up

and turn everything upside down

Defying explanations

Exceeding expectations

Stretching imaginations

So we see more

and want more

and seek more

More of You

This is a poem I wrote on Sunday 4th December, 2010, after an amazing evening at church where some pretty exciting things happened. I’ve moved on from that particular church now, and but I love rereading this poem and remembering all the amazing things that God has done in my life.

Recently I’ve been studying the Exodus and certain aspects of the Law given to the Israelites at the dawn of their nation. I used to get really frustrated at the Israelites and how quickly they forgot what God had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt. Throughout the Law books in the Bible, one phrase is repeated over and over: ‘I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt’ – the Israelites are meant to keep the Law as an appropriate response to what God has done for them.

I say I used to get frustrated, because one day I realised I do the same thing – we so easily forget the good things that happen in our lives as soon as the next crisis comes along. This is why testimony is so important – sharing what God has done is encouragement to others and keeps it more firmly in our memories.

This was an instruction to the Israelites too. One of my favourite brief passages in the Old Testament law texts is this section from Deuteronomy (6v4-9): ‘“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’

So find ways to remember what God has done for you. Write it down, tell a friend. Keep His words and promises at the forefront of your mind by leaving yourself notes, putting up posters, setting a reminder on your phone… If you have other suggestions please comment!

It is so important to keep reminding ourselves of all that God has done for us, to keep us trusting when the tougher times comes, and to keep us celebrating His love for us. The God we serve is awesome indeed.

Book Review: Scary Close by Donald Miller

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Greetings friends!

Apologies for the extended absence – between work and studying I haven’t felt like I’ve had the headspace for writing anything other than coursework. But I’m back now and promise to continue to post infrequently until the end of June, when my course finishes for the summer. After that I will have lots more time for writing for fun and you may see a bit more of me… until the autumn when I will have to start studying again…

But that’s future Ceri’s problem. For now I bring you…. a book review!

Scary Close by Donald Miller

I read this book a few weeks ago whilst on holiday. It was a pleasant tonic to my usual diet of fiction, which can get a bit heavy and fantastical sometimes.

Donald Miller is easily one of my favourite non-fiction writers. Reading his books feels like you’re sitting down to a chat with him over coffee (or tea in my case). He is charming, calming and conversational as an author. It never feels like he is lecturing you, like he is an expert with knowledge to impart. He writes as someone struggling with the journey of life who wants to share the wisdom he has picked up along the way. This is the most personal of his books that I’ve read, which makes sense as it is about being more real with the people around you to build strong and deep relationships.

I needed to read this book. One of my words for this year is ‘relate’, and I am really trying to invest in my friendships. I drank this book up, I had to force myself to put it down a number of times so I could reflect on what I had just read. A number of times I was moved to read that someone else had felt and experienced similar things to me and could share them so openly and humbly. Other times I thought, ‘Huh. That’s why people act that way’ or ‘Maybe that’s why I do that too’. It was challenging and comforting all at the same time.

My only real criticism of the book is that I like narrative, and I sometimes struggled to identify the timeline of the events in the book – the chapters jump back and forth in Don’s life and it wasn’t always easy to work out how the different incidents fitted together. But I think that that was partly the nature of the book as a memoir and it didn’t detract from the book’s message.

I’ve browsed through some of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and was surprised to see a common criticism was Don’s supposed ‘name-dropping’. Throughout the book he mentions conversations with different people who had given him advice on his journey, some of them I had heard of, more of them I hadn’t. This didn’t bother me because each of these friends gave good and helpful advice that furthered the message of the book. I saw it as a man thanking his friends for the wisdom they had shared with him.

One of my favourite things about the book, I must admit, is the accompanying soundtrack which can be downloaded for free from the scaryclose.com website (I’m not sure if you have to have bought the book to get the soundtrack but I expect that this is the case). Some of the songs are referenced in the book and it is helpful to be able to listen to them as Don explains why they meant something to him at that point in his life. There isn’t a song on the album I don’t like and some of them are fast becoming favourites.

If you ever feel like you are hiding your true self and want to be more real with people, read this book. If you are in a cycle of bad relationships, read this book. If you just want to be a better friend, read this book. You will be encouraged. You are good at relationships.