Friday, 24 September 2010

For my rainbow child

I pray that your life will be red.

That you will feel the warmth of the sun even on the darkest days because you will know you are loved.

That the heat of the love in which you’re enveloped will radiate out to those you meet.

That you will be cosseted against the storms as if wrapped in a duvet of the softest down.

That your heart – even though it may break – will never grow cold but will stay forever warm.

I pray that your life will be green.

That each day will be a fresh adventure for you.

That the world in all its aspects, from the smallest ant on a stone to huge breakers crashing on the shore, will never cease to be new and amazing to you.

That every morning for you will be the first day of spring.

I pray that your life will be purple.

That you will know passion that stretches and burns and aches and reaches for more.

That your heart will never be accepting of things that need to change.

That your spirit will rise to the challenges to be found by those who seek them.

That your soul will find fulfilment in the everyday, the ordinary.

That the ordinary will, to you and through you and with you, be extraordinary.

I pray that your life will be yellow.

That each day will be laughterday.

That you will find smiles in the small things, giggles in the silly and laughter in the foolish.

That your footprints will be inlaid with love and laughter so that whoever walks in them will feel better for having passed that way.

I pray that your life will be blue.

That you will know peace, the serenity of one who is loved.

That the reassurance that comes from that knowledge will allow you to love the unlovely.

That days of excitement will mingle easily with days of calm, when you return to the shelter of unconditional love to find waters to refresh your body, your heart and your spirit.

I pray that your life will be orange.

That your future will be brighter than you have ever dreamed.

That you’ll dare to dream ever bigger dreams, knowing that God is in them.

And with your hand in his I pray that you’ll stand on top of mountains and shout: I am loved.

For as sure as the rainbow is God’s promise to us so is the certainty that you are loved.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Twenty-second May, 2001

My mother would have been eighty today.

I only realise this sitting in college listening to a reading.

The poet, a tiny American professor, is speaking

of her mother’s seventieth birthday.

I don’t recall the poem.

Earlier the same day my son calls.

His sister has told him to, he says.

She’s worried because I’m sad.

Tangled threads, twisted together.

Meaning and reason

hidden in a knot.

After the bubble burst, and the thick red liquid

flooded the rivers of your mind,

drowning your memories,

you said to me, ‘You’re not Peter, are you?

you look like Peter.’

You forgot my name.

And now I have forgotten you.

Did you prefer tea or coffee? Red wine or white?

What was your favourite colour? Or flower?

Did you still dream of could-have-beens or

glimpse happiness from the upstairs windows of buses?

You loved to garden, I remember that,

to nurture and to tend. To party.

Eighty is worth a party. Tonight

we would have celebrated and I’d have

watched you gathering my children around you,

your eyes full of pride and love.

No hint now of past illusions.

If I choose to tread thorny paths,

or return to unlit rooms

will I find out who you were or why I am?

But for now I’ll do as the professor says.

‘Do something with it,’ she says, ‘you must.’

Wednesday, 3 February 2010



Got up. Made porridge and sandwiches. Dressed. Took children to school. Went to Sainsburys. Came home. Resisted temptation to leave shopping on kitchen floor and unpacked bag after bag after bag of shopping. Listened to the Archers. Walked the dog. Fetched children from school. Cooked dinner. Took son to football training. Fetched son from football training. Watched TV. Went to bed. Fell in gratefully, relieved to have got through another day. Thank God.

Thank God for his gift of the Holy Spirit who gave me the courage to get out of bed this morning.

Thank God for quashing the unknowable fears that overtake my mind at the prospect of a trip to the supermarket.

Thank Jesus that his name, silently mouthed in the frozen foods aisle, is a refuge from terror which threatens.

Thank God for the wonder of his creation and the dog whose need for exercise forces me to step out of myself.

Thank God today for the violets, fragile delicate blooms, not intimidated by more powerful neighbours and hard winter conditions. Against the odds, they return renewed and beautiful, time after time, a triumph of hope over reality.

Thank God for the victories of the day, small, insignificant though they appear, they made the difference.

This then is my life today.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-round life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

This then is my offering, my worship.

A litany of fears and anxieties; a shambling, pathetic offering to God.

I stand before him, a shuffling cripple, and say, ‘Take me as I am, I can come no other way.’ Weak and helpless, I can do no more, or no less, than call on him.

And in response he walks beside me, he holds my hand, he carries me. He wipes my tears and understands my fears - fears I don’t understand myself.

And he is triumphant. He turns my weakness into his strength. He offers hope that things can change.

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my saviour and my God.

(Psalm 43:4-5)

(Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Angel baby

It was Tuesday the 14th of May. I know that for sure because I wrote it on the calendar. I’m not very good at remembering dates so I wrote it down. I knew that one day somebody would ask me, when did you meet the angel?

I knew somebody would ask that, the same way that I knew it was an angel. That’s another question people always ask, how did you know it was an angel? I just knew.

When I woke up that morning it was as if the sun was shining right into my bedroom, directly onto my face. At first I thought I must have forgotten to draw the curtains before I went to bed. But I always close the curtains. I don’t like the dark creeping in on me. The curtains in the bedroom are deep red velvet. The lady in the shop called them cochineal. Before I bought them, I held them up to the fluorescent light. They keep out all the dark.

But this morning, this Tuesday in May, the room was full of light, a warm, gentle light. I wasn’t frightened. I knew the man sitting at the end of my bed had to be an angel. He wasn’t a fierce sort of angel, although he looked as though he could be. He had very strong cheekbones and deep-set eyes, the colour of the writing on Mothercare bags. His hair was black – Labrador puppy black. And it was a bit straggly.

He was smiling at me, a wide lovely smile. I couldn’t help smiling back.
I said, “You’re an angel aren’t you?”
He nodded.
“I can’t see your wings,” I said.
“That’s because they’re folded up.” He turned round and showed me. They fitted neatly together like the wings of a butterfly that had just come out of a chrysalis.
“Can I fly with you?” I asked.
“Maybe,” he said.

For a long time we just sat and looked at each other and smiled. At last I said, “Do you want something? Do you want a cup of tea or some toast?”
He said, “No, but I’d like to go for a walk.”

So we went to the park. I don’t know what time it was but it must have been early. The grass was dew-wet on my bare feet and there was no-one else around. Except for one old man sleeping on a bench. We crept past him so as not to wake him up. We went as far as the lake, not talking much, just smiling at each other, and watched the ducks.

The sun was rising higher in the sky. I said, “Have you been there?”
“Where? To the sun? No,” the angel said, “it’s much too hot. You wouldn’t want to go there. You’d burn.”
We watched a mother duck lead her babies into the water. There was one that was smaller than the rest and he was struggling to keep up. He was making a strange little squeaking sound, more like a mouse than a duckling. “Listen to him,” I said.
But then I began to hurt. I said, “Something hurts, it hurts here.” I held my hand to my belly. The angel picked me up, and ran. As he ran, his wings unfolded and carried us up above the houses.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I feel safe in your arms.” I did. They were strong, sturdy arms, covered in soft dark hairs. I drew patterns with my finger in the hairs and rested my head on his shoulder.
When we got home he lay me down gently on my bed. I was tired. I hadn’t been up long but I was very tired and I ached.
He said, “Go to sleep now.”
I said, “Will you be here when I wake up?”
He nodded and stroked my head.

I must have slept for a long time because when I woke I wasn’t in my bed. I wasn’t even in my own bedroom. I was in a small square room, with high walls the colour of wild primroses. There was one window in the room, a long thin window; and through it I could see another just the same, with the same rusty-white paint peeling off the metal frame. The sun must have gone behind the clouds because the air outside was grey.

I looked around the room. There was a small sink and mirror on the wall opposite the bed. The angel was sitting in the only chair. When he saw that I was awake, he stood up and smiled.
“Where am I?” I said.
“You’re in the best place,” he said.

It didn’t look like the best. The chair he had been sitting on was fraying round the edges. There was an old bruised-red stain in the middle of the seat. The material was paler around the edge of the stain as if someone had tried to scrub it clean.
“It’s the shape of Africa,” I said.
He followed my eyes, “Yes, you’re right, it is.”
“It still hurts,” I said.
“I expect it does,” the angel said, “but it won’t last for ever.”
“How do you know?” I said.
“Because I’ve seen it before.”
“Will it be all right when it stops hurting?”
He looked sad and began to speak but the door of the room opened and he stopped.

“Ah, you’re awake.”
The two women who had come in weren’t at all alike. One was young with blonde unruly hair that peeped out at all angles from under her cap; the other was older and she had her hair tied back tightly in a bun, like a schoolmarm in a story.
“Let’s see what’s happening, shall we?” the schoolmarm said.
The young one moved the chair to beside my bed and sat down. She took my hand and smiled at me. “It’s going to be all right,” she said.
“What is?” I said.
She just kept on smiling. I looked from her face to that of the angel. He was standing behind her watching me, not smiling.
The schoolmarm lifted back the sheet. She said, “Hold your legs up a minute,” and she slid something underneath me. Then she put up a shield. When I tell people that, they say, ‘a shield? You mean a screen?’ They don’t understand. She didn’t want to look at my face. I looked at the blank white shield for a minute then I turned away. The young one patted my hand and kept smiling.

The angel said, “Don’t worry; I’ll be here, just over here.” He went and stood at the end of the bed behind the schoolmarm. As I watched him move, I caught a glimpse of the older woman’s face. She was frowning; her lips forming words, “It’s already coming away. It’s half out.”

I turned away and gripped the hand holding mine; it squeezed my fingers in return. I wanted to look at the angel but I didn’t want to see the woman at my feet so I stared at the young one. She had stopped smiling. She glanced towards her companion, then leaned and peered over the shield. Her face wrinkled and she bit the corner of her bottom lip. I wanted to say, “It’s all right, don’t worry,” but the words wouldn’t come out.

It was over. No time at all. The pain in my belly had gone. The woman took down her shield and pulled the sheets back into position. She tucked them in neatly. I looked beyond her direction. The angel’s head was bent over. He held something to his heart.

I said, “Is it all right?” He lifted his head. There were tears on his cheeks. He nodded.
The schoolmarm said, “Yes, everything’s fine now. Don’t worry. It’s all over. There’ll be other times, other chances.
I said, “I don’t want another chance, I want this time again.”
“Chin up,” she said, “someone will be around soon with dinner, I expect you’re hungry.”
“I’m empty,” I said.
“There you are then, soon be good as new,” she said.
The young one pushed back the chair. She was smiling again. “I’ll ask someone to bring you a cup of tea, shall I?” Then they were gone.

And it was just the angel, my baby and me.
The angel said, “I have to go now, will you be all right?”
“You know I will,” I said. I turned over so he wouldn’t see me cry. “You’ll take good care of my baby, won’t you?”

The clouds parted long enough to let a ray of light into the room. It was refracted off the mirror onto the bed. A fragment of rainbow lay just out of reach.